Odebolt, Iowa - Bethel Methodist Church

Bethel M. E. Church History

(Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, p. 133)

Bethel M.E. Church  (Photo contributed by Marshall Fox)

Bethel Methodist Episcopal Church 1889-1917.  The church was located in Sec. 28 of Clinton Township along what is now highway 175.  It was demolished sometime before I was born in 1944 (but after rural electrification as seen in the photo).   Robert Evans and I now farm the land the on which the church was located. -   Marshall Fox  

A number of years ago the Bethel Methodist Church was a very active organization in Clinton Township.  This church was organized in 1874-75 by the following early pioneer men and their wives:  A. D. Peck, R. Wadell and M. Bartlett; also Mrs. Marks.  These were soon joined by these men and their wives:  B. H. Mummey, M. D. Fox, S. E. Smith and James Taylor; also by Mrs. Wappin, Oscar Draper, P. E. Bartlett, John Draper, Will Quirk, Tom Quirk, Joshua Mummey, L. Draper, Frank Story, Tom Down, Sr. and George Long, Sr.

In the early history of this church it was served by itinerate preachers, one of whom was a man by the name of McGilvena, who held services in the Mummey school.  For a time thereafter, meetings were held in the Marks, Taylor and Fox school houses, alternately.

On August 4, 1889 a church building was dedicated which had been erected on land donated by Oscar Draper and Asa Smith, 4 miles east of Odebolt.  A barn for sheltering horses and a coal shed with a toilet at each end were also built on the site.

As the church grew it was served by pastors from Odebolt and Wall Lake, so Bethel services were held Sunday afternoons because these ministers had their town charges on Sunday mornings and evenings.  Bethel Sunday evening League meetings were held under the guidance of some older adult members of the church and were well attended by the youth of the community.

In 1877 when Bethel Church was in its infancy, the first M. E. Church of Odebolt was organized and the following pastors served both charges:  O. H. Faus - - 1877; W. W. Brown - - 1878; D. M. Beams - - 1879; Richard Fysh - - 1880; William Preston - - 1881; Henry Brown - - 1882-1883; H. K. Hastings - - 1884-1886; James Hughes - - 1887; H. W. Mahood - - 1888-1889; J. B. Trimble - - 1890; and from Wall Lake; E. S. Johnson - - 1891-1892, who later became a Bishop to South Africa; J. H. Snow - - 1893; Bennett Mitchel - - 1894-1896, one of the outstanding preachers in the Northwest Iowa Conference; E. R. Mahood - - 1896; T. S. Bassett - - 1897-1899; James Bollz - - 1900-1902; Charles H. Kamphoefner - - 1903-1906; R. D. Acheson - - 1907-1908; C. N. McMillan (or MacMilliam) - - 1909; F. W. Whitford - - 1910-1912; E. C. Palmer - - 1913-1914; Ephraim Robbins - - 1914-1915; and W. E. Ellison - - 1915-1917.

A very active group of Christians worshiped in the Bethel church and many were later prominent workers in Christian service, among whom were John and George Southwell and P. E. Bartlett, who were outstanding ministers; M. Bartlett, a local farmer and preacher; A. J. Barkley, a missionary to India; Hattie Bartlett, who married Bruce Empey, and went to India as a missionary with her husband; Carrie Bartlett, a missionary to China; O. M. Bond, who became one of the great men in Methodism; Alta Wade, a devoted deaconess; S. E. Smith, a farmer, and a capable, enthusiastic class leader in the early period of the church, as were others.

One of the outstanding events in the history of Odebolt and Bethel M. E. churches was a revival meeting held in 1888 under the direction of J. B. Trimble and E. S. Johnson.  The children were permitted to play and run at large during the lengthy services - - which didn’t seem to bother the ministers or parents - - although services gradually became shorter.

Two regular attendants at the services in the Fox school house were Oscar Draper’s large Irish Setter, Leo, and a smaller dog.  People from far and near knew these dogs.  The religious influence to these dogs must not have been very great, however, as Leo had an incurable habit of stealing.  He was caught dragging a ham of Enfield Smith’s newly butchered hog across the fields.

During the early years of the church Grandma Southwell was a very ardent Sunday School teacher and usually quite capable of holding class attention.  One Sunday, however, as she was telling a Bible story she noticed little Willie Smith’s eyes were sparkling more brightly than usual, and upon inquiry, found that he was thinking of something else.  “My Paw’s gonna make me a little wagon”, he told her.  Nevertheless, in his more mature years he served for a time as Sunday School Superintendent at Union City, Oklahoma, and during this time, in response to a plea by his minister, who had taken suddenly ill, he conducted a funeral service.

In 1917 Bethel Church was closed, as [were] many other country churches of the day.  The increasing popularity of the automobile and improved road conditions tempted many to attend services in one of the nearby towns.  The church being located about equal distance from three towns, Odebolt, Wall Lake and Lake View, resulted in a division of the members of the congregation among these three places.

Some local people who can now [in 1977] recall having had a part in some of the activities of this church are Paul Fox, John Sauter, Chris Barkley, Louise Beeler and Emery Smith.

A special warm feeling lingered in the hearts of those who had worshiped in this small country church, lasting far beyond the years it served those who had worshiped there.

(Names and dates from the three sources used were not always in agreement.)
 Mrs. Emery L. Smith

(Transcribed by B. Ekse)

From "A Century of Living in Wall Lake, 1877-1977", page 105 -  (Wall Lake's centennial history book)  

The main points in the early history of the Bethel Society are as follows:  In the year 1875, at Mark's school house, four miles south of the Draper corner and the Bethel Church site, a "class" was organized and consisted of Mr. and Mrs. A.D. Peck, Mr. and Mrs. R. Waddell, Mr. and Mrs. M. Bartlett, and Mrs. Marks.  They had preaching services occasionally by a minister from Westside.  In the following year the class met at the Taylor school house, 2 miles west and 2 miles south of the Bethel Church site, for the convenience of other members living farther north, (Mr. and Mrs. B.H. Mummey, Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Enfiled Smith, Mrs. Nappin, and Mr. and Mrs.. James Taylor.)  In the spring of 1877 the meetings were held alternately in the Fox School (2 miles west of the Bethel site) and Taylor school and an exhorter by the name of Gould supplying the charge.  During the same summer, Rev. O.H.P. Faus preached occasionally and the presiding elder, L. Hartsough, visited the charge to see about sending a regular preacher.  No definite promise was made of support, as it was the year of the big grasshopper raid.  But the people agreed to share with the minister whatever God might see pleased to give them.  Thus, O.H.P. Faus became pastor, also preaching occasionally at Odebolt, Cook Center, and Wall Lake.  During the winter, a wonderful revival broke out at the Fox School House.  Among the first converted were John W. Southwell, Oscar Draper, Frank Story, George Jenkins, Jacob Brown, George Southwell and P.E. Bartlett.  The latter two were [became] Methodist ministers.  Following Rev. Faus these men were pastors of the Bethel Community:  W.W. Brown, Wm. Preston, R.S. Fish, Henry Brown, Cummings, H.K. Hastings, Jas. Hughes, H.W.L. Mahood, J. B. Trimble, and E.S. Johnson.  Under the latter's administration Bethel's history becomes identified with the Wall Lake charge.  The Bethel Church, however was built two years before or in 1889, under H.W.L. Mahood's pastorate and was dedicated Aug. 4, 1889.

(Transcribed by B. Horak)


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