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Shelby County


1889 History Index

Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties
History of Shelby County, Iowa




No better index to the character of a people can possibly be had than is afforded by the support given the numerous church societies. Each church spire tells of an advanced Christian refinement which any community should gladly support, and in which it should take a just pride. Iowa is fast coming to be noted for her many excellent schools, colleges and churches. The religious element most certainly predominates at Harlan now as in the early history, because it nobly supports the following church organizations: Baptist, Danish Baptist, Congegational, Christian, Latter Day Saints, Methodist Episcopal, Adventists and Roman Catholic.

The Baptist Society was formed in January, 1868, with the following membership: A. Blankenship, T. J. Colwell, James Lambert, J. Lambert, Mrs. M. Blankenship, Mary Blankenship, Angeline Blake, Lucinthy Colwell and Caroline Lambert. The different pastors are as follows: Rev. james Lambert, from October to November, 1869; Rev. Joshua Courier, from November, 1869, to December, 1871; Rev. James Lambert, the second time, from March until December, 1872; Rev. Joshua Courier, the second time, from January, 1873, to August, 1873; Rev. E. G. O. Groat, from September, 1873, to March, 1874; Rev. J. E. Rockwood, from May, 1874, to August, 1874; Rev. W. A. Darward, from December, 1874, to November, 1875; Rev. Gilman Parker, from January, 1876, to 1879; Rev. W. A. Welsher, from May, 1880, to May, 1881; Rev. Anthony Jacobs, from December, 1881; Rev. A. H. Post, from 1883 to 1886; Rev. N. A. Reed, from January 1, 1887, to 1888; Rev. J. F. Bryant, present pastor, came from Logan, Iowa, November 1, 1888.

At first religious services were held in the court-house, but in 1871 a chapel was finished, which served until 1886, when James M. Long, of Harlan, donated $6,000 toward the erection of their present beautiful brick church, which cost altogether about $7,000. Its donor gave his time as superintendent of construction on the same. It is a good sized structure, seating 450 people. It is heated by an improved hot air furnace. Its dedication took place August 22, 1886. Rev. M. D. Bevan, of Atlantic, preached the sermon. At one time the membership of this church numbered 130, but at present only enrolls ninety; the decrease is owing to removals and deaths.

The Congregational Church was organized originally in 1871 by a minister from Avoca. The first members, seven in number, were: James Harvey, Lucy A. Harvey, Sarah E. Davis, Miss Cornelia Holcomb, Mrs. Mary A. Wood, Mrs. Anna E. Closson, Mrs. Sarah Redfield. The first church held occasional services until 1874, when others were added, and in the fall of 1878 the believers in the Presbyterian church who lived at Harlan, together with the Congregational people, by agreement, formed a reorganized Congregational church, there not being a sufficient number to organize into two distinct societies. For several years this young church drew sufficient support from the Home Missionary Society, but later was unaided. So really the date of the present church at Harlan was November 10, 1878, when Rev. E. Adams came and organized the new society, which adopted their articles of faith and covenanted together. Twenty-three united at that time. The services have been unbroken ever since. The early place of meeting was at Long's Hall and in the court-house, but in 1881 they built a commodious house of worship in one of the finest locations of the town, opposite the public school building. Its cost was $2,800. It was dedicated Sabbath morning, July 23, 1882, at which time all the churches in town omitted services to be in attendance, except the Methodist people. The sermon was preached by Rev. E. S. Hill, of Atlantic, Iowa. The property was freed from debt before that day. E. W. Davis, of Avoca, had given the ground upon which the church stands. The trustees of the society then were C. C. Redfield, T. J. Robinson and M. K. Campbell. The various pastors having served this church, are: Rev. J. G. Sabin, from 1879 to 1881; Rev. E. S. Sherman, from 1881 to 1884; Rev. C. N. Sinuett, from 1884 to 1886; Rev. J. W. Geiger, July 6, 1887, who is still the pastor. He came from Des Moines, Iowa, and is doing much toward the upbuilding of the churc0, andh at Harlan.

The history of the Methodist Episcopal Church of this place dates back to pioneer days. In this county, as in nearly all new countries, the Methodists were the first to herald the truths of the gospel. To Judge Tarkington belongs the honor of first proclaiming the Methodist faith in this section of Iowa, having preached the first sermon ever heard at Harlan, December 3, 1859, at the first quarterly meeting of Harlan Mission, which was within the limits of the Western Iowa Conference. The first preacher who regularly attended this charge was Rev. Kirkland Card, who came in 1860, and received $100 for his services. Following him came Rev. N. L. Phillips, in 1861; Rev. James Leslie, in 1863-'64, at which date the Des Moines Annual Conference was established, making Harlan a regular station, from which time it has been constantly supplied. Those having served as pastors from the above date to the present are as follows: Rev. E. R. Latta, 1865; Rev. T. McK. Stewart, 1866; Rev. W. T. Smith, 1867; Rev. A. W. Taylor, 1868; Rev. W. E. Hamilton, 1869-'70; Rev. Levi Park and Rev. Hanke, 1871; Rev. William Armstrong, 1872; Rev. A. C. Smith, 1873-'74; Rev. C. Ashton, 1875-'76; Rev. G. H. Detwiler, 1878; Rev. D. C. Franklin, 1879-'80-'81; Rev. W. E. Hamilton, 1882; Rev. P. S. V. Vetter, 1883-'84; Rev. W. W. Ramsey, 1885; Rev. J. H. Seuseney, 1887, and Rev. W. H. Shipman, the present (1888) pastor.

The first class-leader was P. Springer, who acted in 1859. A church building (part of the present one) was erected in 1874, and dedicated September 27 of that year, Rev. Alexander Burns, D. D., of Indianola, Iowa, preaching the sermon on the occasion, using "Stand fast in the faith" as his text. In connection with these services the amount of $851 was pledged, all of which was paid within one year. In 1882 an addition was built to the original church, giving the present edifice a seating capacity of 350. The society, which now numbers 170, is in a prosperous condition and owns a good-sized parsonage near the church building.

Latter-Day Saints Church, of Harlan, is within the Galland's Grove Conference, a branch society of the Grove Township church. It was organized May 23, 1869, with Jonas Wellington Chatburn as presiding elder; Frank Wellington, teacher, and John B. Swain as priest.

In 1882 the society erected a neat edifice in which to worship. It is a frame building with seating capacity of about 500. It is provided with pews, is finely carpeted and otherwise furnished. The walls are of hard finish, presenting an even and substantial appearance. The church, exclusive of lots and interior furniture, cost $1,700.

At one time the society numbered seventy-five, but owing to removals and other causes it has been reduced to forty-five members. It should here be stated that this sect denounce in the strongest terms the doctrine of polygamy as taught and practiced by Brigham Young and his devotees.

The present officers of the church are: J. W. Chatburn, Presiding Elder; J. W. Salter, Priest; Nathaniel Boothe, Teacher.

The Christian Church was formed February 18, 1976, by Elder C. W. Sherwood, with T. V. Berry as first pastor. At one time the church had an enrollment of 125 members; at present it has 110.

In 1880 a finely situated house of worship was erected, at a cost of $2,000, the same being dedicated June 27, 1880. It seats comfortably about 275 persons. The first church officials (trustees) were E. Douglas, W. P. Chance and J. P. Wyland. Those serving at this time are John Ramsey, G. W. Fall and George Holdefer. The following named have served as pastors: Rev. G. B. Mullis, Rev. J. L. Felter, Rev. D. J. Howe, Rev. D. C. Morris, Rev. J. P. Lucas, Rev. O. H. Truman and Rev. J. R. Cornell. At present there is no pastor, but the church is about to employ one. This society owns one of the best pieces of church property in Harlan, and its members are a thorough-going class of Christian workers.

The Danish Baptist Church of Harlan was organized as a distinct society, independent of the American church, October 30, 1886, with a membership of seventeen. The first minister was F. C. Nelson, who came once in two weeks, until the spring of 1887, when arrangements were made with C. Carlson, of Atlantic, who still serves this people every other week. The society now numbers twenty-nine, most of whom reside in Harlan. Their people had worshiped with the American church for many years, but preferring to listen to and teach the gospel in their own tongue, they finally organized. Their church building was formerly occupied by the American Baptist, who conveyed it to James M. Long, founder of the town, in lieu of the handsome church edifice he erected for them, and he then donated the old frame church to the Danish branch. It is a house which was built in 1867 -- the first church in Harlan; it is 24 x 48 feet, and seats between one and two hundred.

The Roman Catholic society, consisting of about twelve families, is under the charge of the church at Westphalia. A chapel was built and dedicated the past season -- 1888. In addition to the religious societies already named, may be mentioned the Seventh Day Adventist church, which is about perfected, making in all more church organizations than one seldom finds in a town the size of Harlan, which fact is a good index of the moral character of her people.

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Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, August, 2015 from "Biographical History of Shelby and Audubon Counties", Chicago: W. S. Dunbar & Co., 1889, pg. 270-272.

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