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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project


Part IV

August 29, 2009.

High Point Methodist Church, Decatur County
photographs by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

By the mid-1880's, High Point was a fair-sized settlement of log buildings located on the Morman Trail. It was a station on the Des Moines to Mount Ayr stage line. Around the year 1858, the residents of High Point settlement began to look for a minister. Rev. Berry T. WILLIAMS was sent out by the Methodist Church to organize a meeting. The congregation meet in homes. In 1880, they began to raise funds for a church building. The hotel buildings were torn down to make way for the new church. Lumber and building materials were hauled in by teams and wagons from Allerton. The High Point Methodist church was dedicated in October of 1881.

High Point was later the station for the Pony Express Hotel and Post Office. Today, the High Point Methodist Church and a couple of houses are all that remain.

The High Point Methodist Church is located approximately 5 miles east of Leon on the north side of Highway 2. It is in impeccable condition, lovingly and devotedly maintained. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, I used to play the piano for church services there. It has since been carpeted and the plaster walls have been paneled. The belfry has been removed and the bell placed by the front entrance. A handicap entrance has also been built. It was good to see this church and its little congregation faring very well.

From High Point, we went back to Leon, then headed south on Main Street.

Hotel Leon
photographs by Sharon R. Becker

On the southwest corner of the intersection of Highway 2 and Main Street used to be a gas station of which the building is still standing. Directly south of the gas station is a 3-story brick building. At one time the words "Hotel Leon" was painted on the north exterior wall. It has long faded away. The wording is still visible on the south exterior wall, however. [There had been some debate on the Decatur County list group as to the location of the Hotel Leon.] It looks like the old Napa building across the street is now a motel, according to the sign above the entrance. The 3-story brick building on the southeast corner of the intersection used to be part of the Clarence BOORD building. I worked as a graphic artist for his son, Robert "Bob" BOORD, in the 1970's until the business sold to a company from Florida. The main BOORD building is now the Kort House, a bar and liquor store.

Going south out of Leon is the depot which has been restored. I haven't seen the depot in at least 20 years and was amazed to see it standing in full glory. I have never seen it looking this grand! I didn't take any photographs but made a mental note to come back when it is open to see the interior. Mike told me it has been restored to its vintage period.

Across the street directly west of the depot is an old barn that is still standing. When most of these Southern Iowa towns were established, many people kept a cow, a few chickens, and of course a horse or a team of horses. The original doors are still present in the barn.

New Salem Baptist Church, Decatur County, Iowa
photograph by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

New Salem Baptist Church is located about 5 or 6 miles south of Leon, going south on Main Street and following the main paved road as it turns and twists through the Decatur County countryside.

A congregation of 22 people gathered to establish the New Salem Regular Baptist church in 1858. A church building was erected on the Cannonball Trail, later known as the Leon-Pleasanton Road. The first church was made of brick and located on the top of the near near the present-day site. A 2-story frame church was built in 1975. A third church building was dedicated in 1900. When it was destroyed by a windstorm, the present-day church was built in 1934. The New Salem Baptist Church is the oldest Baptist congregation in Decatur County.

The belfry has been cut down and the bell mounted by the main entrance to the church. There are new pews and the sanctuary has been carpeted. A kitchen has been added opposite of the sanctuary with sliding wooden doors to separate the two. Off the east side of the church, an addition for Sunday School classes was added in 1958.

When my daughter attended Vacation Bible School at the New Salem Baptist Church, I thought the belfry was still intact. Sunday School and Vacation Bible School classes were held in the basement of the church.

New Salem Cemetery
photograph by Sharon R. Becker

A few feet from the east entrance to New Salem's Sunday school classrooms is the New Salem Cemetery, the land donated for a cemetery by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel McDOWELL in 1874. Rich LOWE of the IAGenWeb's Gravestone Photos Project once said that if there's a stand of old cedar trees, chances are there's a cemetery. This holds true for New Salem's cemetery. The older gravestones are located further up the hill on the eastern portion of the cemetery.

From the New Salem Baptist Church, we returned to Leon, and headed north on Highway 69.

I must say that Southern Iowa is in full glory, benefiting from plenty of rain, a lot of sunshine, and cool weather. A wonderful sight after seeing the devastation of a couple of ice storms.

150th Anniversary Mural of the Mormon Trail, 1846-1996. Garden Grove, Iowa
photographs by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

Mormon emigrants arrived in what would be named Garden Grove on April 23rd of 1846. The name "Garden Grove" comes from the pioneer tradition of planting a garden that emigrants who followed could harvest. At Garden Grove, approximately 600 Mormons resided in the town. Most of the settlers moved on to Utah by 1852, selling their land to newly arriving settlers and pioneers.

J. J. McCLUNG House & Green Gables Gift Shop
Garden Grove, Iowa

photographs by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

The James J. McCLUNG (1859-1949) house was built in 1908, and still has the original stenciling on the walls and the original light fixtures. The house was built by architects Sells, Wiley, and Charles F. Church. It has been added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

It was noted in the April 5th edition of the Leon Reporter, "Garden Grove suffered another bad fire at an early hour Tuesday morning, when the big livery barn of J. J. McCLUNG, Charles FISHER's barn and a number of small outbuildings were destroyed. Earl WAGNER lost four head of fine horses, which he had in the FISHER barn and an auto owned by George ROBERTS stored in the barn was burned. The total loss amounts to about $7,000, only partially insured. Garden Grove has no fire protection and the citizens are considerably agitated over their many fire losses."

Former Site of Garden Grove Town Hall & Library
Washington Park

photographs by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

On the east side of the old Town Hall is a lot that is identified as Washington Park. I have tried to find out more about this park to no avail. If anyone knows the story behind Washington Park, please contact me. Thank you.

We drove past the C. S. STEARNS mansion but I didn't take any photographs. The Victorian is under renovation and is looking very nice. The carriage house behind the mansion is gone. Only the brick chimney remains. I hope to come back and take photographs when the restoration work has been completed.

Weldon School, Weldon, Iowa
photograph by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009
My sincere apologies for this poor photograph. The location of the sun was NOT in my favor!

The Weldon School was built in 1895. It appears that it has been converted into an apartment building. When my daughter was an elementary student at Clarke Community School [1980's], the Weldon School had been carpeted and elementary classes were held here.

From Weldon, we drove north on Highway 69. Mike dropped me off at my home in Osceola and then went back to his home in Carroll.

Thank you, Mike, for a wonderful road trip on a glorious late summer day. I am tired but I'm still smiling, glad to see that Decatur County is doing well and thriving.

Contribution by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.

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