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Church History: 1874 to 1933
Compiled by Donna Jacobs


      It has been told, that at the dedication of the new church, several men of the community marched up to the altar and laid down twenty-five silver dollars each. This amount of money in those days represented many sacrifices for them and was an example of the belief these people had in their new church.

      Records show that the first minister to preach in the new church was Rev. Artemus Brown and he reported to the Methodist Conference in December 1874, that the new church has been practically paid for and is a permanent improvement.

      In the Methodist conference minutes of Aug. 19, 1876, the following report was made: We, the Trustees of the Pleasant Grove Chapel would beg leave to report to the quarterly conference, as that we had for the use and benefit of the Methodist Episcopal Church the Pleasant Grove Chapel. The Property is new and in a good state of repair and free from indebtedness and is estimated to be worth at this time, $2000.00. The Trustees: Charles M. Minkler, Thomas R. Hughes, George W. Sowers, J. E. Hoover and Adam McGloflin.

      The minister in November, 1882, was Rev. E. Kendall and in December, 1883, it shows the minister to be Rev. D. Thompson.

      According to Methodist records, Pleasant Grove Church severed their relationship with the Ames Circuit in 1886. At this time Pleasant Grove was served by Rev. Fegtley.

      * See minister list from Methodist Conference Records for years from 1855 through 1890, as prepared by Helen Black, Historian for the Ames Methodist Church.

      In Des Moines Conference records in 1888, it states that for the year 1886-1887, A very excellent revival took place at Pleasant Grove on the Gilbert work last winter, under the labor of Rev. Ostrander, one of the most faithful pastors of the District. The whole neighborhood was stirred for miles around and the society has been greatly built up. There had been no revival in the community for a great many years. Brother Ostrander's return to the work is much desired by all the people. The Pastor during 1889, was Rev. E. E. Raymond and Rev. J. S. Throckmorton in 1890.*

      The elements of mother nature displayed its effects in 1882, as the snow and rains posed problems for the church. In April, the pastor reported that we have two Sunday Schools in this charge. The one at Pleasant Grove, owing to the very bad state of the ponds for months, just is not in as good condition as would be desirable, yet we hope that with the returning of spring, a little better interest will awaken. In February, 1883, the pastor reported, At Pleasant Grove, school closed because of the almost impassable state of the roads. I have not preached to the children during the quarter.

The Trustees listed for Pleasant Grove for 1874 were: M.O. Minkler, T. R. Hughes, George W. Sowers, J. E. Hoover and A. McGloflin. The Trustees for 1877 were: George W. Sowers, C.M. Minkler, and Adam Scott.

      In 1886, Pleasant Grove was served by the Gilbert Circuit and after 1888 no further mention was made of Pleasant Grove in the Methodist Conference

      Records for the Gilbert Circuit. Apparently, some of the area meeting places (classes) shared ministers, as these classes are mentioned in records we have for this time period. The places mentioned in these records are: Lone Tree schoolhouse; Oak Grove Church; Bethel schoolhouse; Presbyterian Church, Gilbert; and Pleasant Grove Church. Times for services at these different sites are listed as 11:00am. Pleasant Grove, 4:00 to 4:30 pm. at Oak Grove Church; and 4:30 at Bethel schoolhouse. This was in years 1895 and 1896.

      Ministers listed for 1895 and 1896 were A. W. Harned and William. L. Cox. Rev. Harned was appointed minister in 1892 and 1893. William L. Cox was appointed in Sept. 1895. They were followed by M. J. Butterfield. Rev. Harned and Rev. Butterfield returned later to take part in homecoming events of the church.*

      Pleasant Grove Church since this period has been a community church and self-supporting and independent of any denominational ties. Pleasant Grove was referred to in those days as "The Little White Church in the Oaks." It was also known to be the most modern church in Story County because it was the only church that had a stable to protect the horses from the weather during meetings. I understand that the stable was built on the west side of the church yard, close to the road. Probably in front of our annex (outhouse). It is interesting to read that we were such a modern church at one time in our history because one modern convenience we do not have at the church yet is running water and indoor plumbing. Because of the proximity to the cemetery the earlier congregations could not dig a well for the church.

      A pump organ was purchased for the church in 1884 and is still in the church today. The first organist was Miss Libby McClain and beginning in 1883, Mary Kate Bickelhaupt became organist and continued to play for many years. Wooden pews were hand hewn and these are still used in the church. These are said to be unique as the backs and seats were cut from one piece of wood. The old school desk was moved to the church when the schoolhouse closed. The school clock is still used by the church also.

      Somewhere in the back of the church sat a pot-bellied wood stove with a stove pipe running the length of the church and up over the heads of the congregation to the front of the church. There it joined into the stove pipe of another stove, before reaching up to the chimney. I imagine that in the winter, the choice seats to sit in were not the pews in the middle. For many years, the church was heated with wood stoves and the people of the church would gather together for a day or two of chopping wood and hauling it up to the church for winter use.

      The church sits in a wooded area near the Skunk River so they would have easy access to firewood and in those days. Many wooded areas were divided into "wood lots" for people to have access to wood to heat their homes. As usual, this was a family project and we were told that while the men chopped wood, the ladies used this trip to clean the church. They brought along their lunches and made a day of it.

      Travel in those days was much slower and different than now. A horse and buggy was the best you could get or maybe a surrey with a fringe on top, if you were lucky. Some people remembered riding horseback or on a mule, or if there was ice, you could skate to church on the river. There was always a lot of people who walked. In winter, Abner Nash used to stop by each farm house along his way to the church and pick up all the smaller neighborhood children in his sleigh and take them to Sunday School. He would put warm bricks in the bottom of the sleigh to keep their feet warm.

      The ministers came from far distances in those days and the good men of the church took turns meeting the preachers in Ames, on Saturday, with horse and buggy. Some member families of the church would take turns boarding them until Sunday evening or Monday morning and then take them back to Ames to meet the train that would take them home. One lady remembers hearing her father tell about one minister who always wanted to stay at the George Sowers' home. The Sowers family lived on the corner across from the church. He particularly would enjoy Mrs. Sowers' breakfasts. Her father would recall the minister saying, "More cod fish gravy and buckwheat cakes, please, Mrs Sowers, mam." It must have been breakfasts like this that kept them coming back and also kept them warm in those cold winters and long buggy rides back to Ames.

      Families took turns boarding the ministers and a couple of the families mentioned in our records were the Ed Sanders, the Henry Jacobs and the Nobel families. One of the ministers who preached at the church was Rev. Main. He was staying at a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, while attending a convention and a man came into his room and tried to rob him. Rev. Main chased the man out of his room and down some stairs and the man turned, shot at the minister and Rev. Main was killed. Among the many ministers who came to Pleasant Grove was a woman from Gilbert, Iowa, named Maude Robinson. Many liked having her, especially the children, but some felt at that time, that the pulpit was no place for a woman.

      I was also told that they had what they called "protracted" meetings. I believe, from what I have heard that they are now known as revival meetings. The minister would come and stay for one to two weeks. There were meetings every night. People would come in from all over the area to hear him speak. Many were converted then and it became quite an emotional time. Their lives were much simpler then and this was an unusual event for them to attend.

      Travelers coming through the prairie by wagon at one time buried their baby in front of the church, just east of where our sidewalk is now at the base of the oak tree.

      On March 29, 1896, Sunday School Book shows: Sunday School Superintendent, E. W. Sanders; Assistant, Mrs. M. Smith; Secretary, Willie Smith; Treasurer, Fred Minkler; and Librarian, Genevive Minkler. April 5, 1896, teachers for Sunday School were Mr. Kimble, Mr. J. W. Bateman, Mr. E. W. Kimble, Mr. George Gum and Mrs. M. Smith, collection for that Sunday was 49 cents. On January 3, 1897, the Sunday School officers elected were: Supt., E. W. Kimble; Asst., E. W. Sanders; Secretary, Mamie Warren; Treas., Laura Morgan; Organ, Myrtle Morgan; Asst., Nellie Kersey and Librarian, Claud Sanders.*
      *More information from this book will be added to this site later.

      Church services continued uninterrupted from pioneer days until the first World War. The war changed the church attendance. The young men of the families were called away to serve overseas and the parents of the young men were so despondent, they seemed to give up. One of the boys whose family attended the church was killed in the war and the church closed, remained closed for a period of seven years.

      Church Secretary records from July 12, 1925, stated "Having been without services of any kind at Pleasant Grove since the epidemic of Flu, in the year of 1918, and when so many of our boys left for service in the World's War, it was decided to try and organize a Sunday School. Everyone in the community seemed interested and a goodly number met at the church and the following officers and teachers were selected: Supt. Mr. J. W. Matters; Asst. Supt. and Organist, Casper Thompson; Asst. Organist, Mrs. C. O. Dotson; Sec. and Treas. Mrs. T. R. Sowers."

      Teacher for Men's Bible Class: Ray S. Brown; Women's Bible Class, Mrs. Mills; Junior girls, Mrs. Ray S. Brown; Junior boys, Mrs. Benjamin Moms; Primary girls, Mrs. Charles Alfred; Primary boys, Clare R. Sowers; Young peoples class, Miss Katherine Moms. Amount of collection that day was $3.30." Signed by Mrs. George R. Sowers, Secretary.

      At one time, three sets of twins attended Sunday School at Pleasant Grove Church. They were the Nobel twins; the Tom Sowers' twins, John and George; and the James Sowers' twin girls, Sylvia and Sybil. During the 70's, Dale and Dolores Swanson's twin daughters, Jean and Joan attended here. Both Jean and Joan were married at Pleasant Grove.

      The community people opened the church again in 1925 and into the 1930's the Church and Sunday School again flourished. One listing for Sunday School during this time was: E. W. Sanders, S.S. Supt.; class teachers were: Mrs. Chet Davis, Mrs. J. W. Matters, Casper Thompson and Mrs. Mills. Through 1926 to 1931, once again the community had many young people. With a student pastor named Harold Bare ,the Sunday School and Church again flourished.

      Evening meetings were held once a month. Everyone took turns taking part in the program. Sunday School teachers included Mrs. Bessie Alfred, Mrs. Benjamin Morris, Mrs. William McCoy, Mrs. Lois Arrasmith, Casper Thompson, and Dorothy Sowers. A local newspaper was edited and read by Lois Arrasmith.

      During 1933 the church dwindled in size and closed again. I can find no reason for its closing then except for the small attendance and possibly the hard-times of the depression years. No regular church services were held again until 1939, although, the church was used occasionally during these years for other meetings, etc.



Additional historical documents:
Church History Main Page My Church, a poem by Stella Roberts
Volunteers, a poem by Stella Roberts A Tribute to Our Pioneer Folks, a poem by Dorothy Sowers Bielefeldt
Homecoming Association Church History: Founding Families
Youth Organizations Special Ceremonies
Church History: 1874 to 1933 Church History: 1939 to WWII
Church History: 1950 to 1964 Church History: 1973 to Today
Church History: Baptisms Church History: Early Membership Roll
Pastors and Official Members, 1892 to 1895 Record of Pastors