Another New Start
After 1933, the church was only used occasionally. In 1939, Mr. and Mrs. Jay Wilson's daughter, Dolores, pleaded with Rev. C. E. Lookingbill to reopen the church so she could go to Sunday School there. The Wilson's lived a short distance just northeast from the church. Rev. Lookingbill became interested and apparently the people of the community were ready and willing to do what was needed to have their church open again.
People of the church collected donations from the community and pledges of labor to reclaim the original appearance of the church. Men and women from the community and neighboring towns had an old fashioned pioneer "busy bee" day. That day 60 men and women came early and worked late. By night the outside of the church had been brushed and painted a first coat. The inside of the church had been cleaned, the pews, woodwork and wainscoting had been given their first coat of paint.
This is a photo of the some of the people who came for a work day in 1940:
(Click picture to see larger copy)
An article was published in the Nevada Evening Journal on September 27, 1940, about the " rehabilitation" of Pleasant Grove Church. These are some of the comments that were in the paper. "A group of 28 men and as many women and children gathered here, Thursday, for a day of real work. Ladders, paint brushes, hammers and saws were brought along by the men and when the afternoon waned, the old church, built in 1873, had received a new coat of paint and by tonight the new roof will be on"all work and funds for material being donated.
Later, it is expected to have another bee and excavate a basement which in time may house a heating plant. While the men were busy laying shingles and wielding the paint brush on the outside, part of the women were preparing the dinner, as the others were busy with paint brushes, cleaning and repainting the seats, wainscoting and other woodwork in the interior.
But that dinner "well it was one of the outstanding feeds in the lives of at least a couple of Nevada men who happened to drop in at feed time. "Never saw so much well prepared food in my life, and for once I learned that chickens were not all necks," remarked one of them. Workers were served a second feed about 4 o'clock and even then there was plenty left to pack in the baskets and take home for a snack for supper."
Soon, the people of the church had put on a new shingled roof, and had finished the second coat of paint to the outside and inside of the church. The walls were papered with a beautiful colonial pattern of wallpaper in soft grey tones. The wallpaper was donated by Mrs. Andrew Buland of Cambridge, who was a former school teacher of the community. Now, they felt that the church was a place to do just tribute to the old pioneers who built the church. A rededication was held in October at the church and there was an attendance of about 300 people. A former member of the community, Dean, C. F. Curtis, was the guest speaker for the day.
Rev. C. E. Lookingbill and Dorothy Bielefeldt appeared on Herb Plambeck's Saturday Farm and Home Hour to tell about the reclaiming of Pleasant Grove Church. This program was aired on WHO radio in those days and was a popular farm and news show.
A decision was made that the church should be raised and a basement put underneath. This was started in 194l, as near as we can tell, from the records we have. There is a record of donations for this project and also for pledges of labor to finish the basement.*(See list added later) The basement was dug by hand and with volunteer labor. People who helped on the project have told us that a team of horses was used to pull the loads of dirt out of the basement. A log chain was attached to a slip (sled) and the men would fill this with shovels of dirt and when it was full the team of horses would pull it out and it would be emptied and this process would start all over again. Concrete block were laid to form the basement walls. A floor was poured, steps built to the basement and the church now had a dining room and kitchen and also a better place to hold Sunday School classes. During 1939, electricity was installed in the church, in the form of Delco Light. Later the church was hooked up to the Rural Electric Cooperative power and is still serviced by the REC at this writing.
Once again the people of the church were busy. Ladies Guild was formed and their activities included selling lunches at farm sales, selling vanilla to raise money, holding bazaars, and serving chicken suppers, all this to help in the support of the church. Officers for Ladies Guild in 1941 were: President, Mrs. Bertha Johnson; Vice President, Mrs. William McCoy; Secretary, Mrs. Jay Wilson; Hostess, Mrs. Lookingbill. The new church improvements were paid for and a coal furnace was installed in the new basement.
In the summer of 1945, a bad storm soaked the wall at the front of the church and ruined the wallpaper. The wall needed repairs and needed new wall paper. The wall was repaired and new wall paper was put up by Dorothy and Glen Keltner.
Some of the best lecturers and ministers in the state came to speak at Pleasant Grove. I am told that Billie Sunday came through Story County and once spoke to a large group here. Gov. of Iowa, B.B. Hickenlooper was the speaker here one Sunday. Ida Honderd told us that 7 or 8 ladies of the church cooked the dinner that day for the crowd. The Story City band came and played early in the day. Just when they thought that they were through serving the huge crowd that stayed for the dinner, the Nevada Band came early to play for the afternoon meeting. Rev. Lookingbill thought that they should be fed, too, and so the ladies added more water to the chicken and noodles, made more sandwiches and coffee. The cooks did without, but the rest of the people got fed. This was in 1943.
Not only did people come to church in early days but, in 1944, a ground hog had managed to find his way into the church and, of course, couldn't find his way back out. Edna Hughes found the ground hog in the church and went home and got a gun and shot it. George Roberts, at another time, found a skunk in the church furnace room and had to shoot it. We have also had a squirrel visit in the church some time in the past, but he didn't care to stay. In an effort to get back out, he chewed on the woodwork around the window glass and left an interesting pattern there, which has since been covered with several coats of paint. Maybe, he heard about the fate of the other two animals who couldn't get back out once they got in.
During this period the congregation from the church had many of their own serving in World War II. A service roll was displayed on one wall in the church which held names of soldiers from the area who were in the various branches of the military service. Two of the names were followed by Gold Stars. The names on that roll that I have obtained were: Gene Walston, Walter Jacobson, Russell Buttry, Kenneth Hughes, Dixon Harper, Leonard Jones, Dale Sampson, Fred Matters, Donald Halverson, Earl Lee, James Matters, Harlan Harper, Carroll D. Doolittle, Carroll Arneson, Joe Alfred, Robert Alfred, Wayne Buttry, Merrill Johnson, Howard Johnson, Edward Hagerland, Charles Sampson, Floyd Clark, Robert Comfort, Donald Wakefield, Stanlery Gineskee, Eugene Arneson, Edward Eller, and Gordon Bivens.