Odebolt, Iowa - First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church of Odebolt

(Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, 
printed by The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, pp. 136 - 138)

Second church - Click to enlarge

The history of the First Presbyterian Church of Odebolt dates back to 1877 when two young missionaries, the Revs. A. K. Baird and G. R. Carroll, stationed in Sac City and Carroll, would occasionally ride horseback to Odebolt to conduct services for a group of worshipers.  These groups first met in their homes, but when a larger place was needed, they met in a store building - - the only one at the time - - at the corner of Third and Main streets, which also served as the town’s first school room.

Records show that Bert Allen Cranston, infant son of J. A. and Sara Cranston, was baptized October, 1877.  The first marriage recorded was that of William Sheldon and Leilah Treadway by the Rev. S. N. Vail on March 2, 1881.

On April 13, 1879, the Rev. A. K. Baird gathered together 13 people, the charter members of this church:  William Sampson, John Bruce, Mrs. Nicoli B. Bruce, Adam Kennedy, Mrs. Kate Kennedy, John Kerr, Mrs. Lizzie Kerr, Samuel Kerr, Mrs. Elizabeth Kerr, James Rogers, Mrs. Martha W. Rogers, Mrs. Schuyler Smith and James Waugh.  The formal organization thus took place.

The First Church

To accommodate the growing membership, a one-room frame structure about 40 x 60 ft. with belfry was built at the corner of 5th and Main streets and was dedicated May 8, 1881.  A pipeless furnace furnished heat, and it was lighted by hanging gas lamps.  In 1883 a bell was placed in the belfry to announce times of worship, and [it] also served for some time as a warning of fire in the community.

The Second Church

Some years later the growing needs of the church prompted the Trustees to purchase property on the corner of Third and Maple streets from W. W. Shanks, Postmaster, for a building site. On February 4, 1900 this second church building was dedicated.  The bell and clock of the first church were again used, and in 1916 the church was wired for electricity, and the two electric fans operated from pedestals along the wall were a luxury of the times.

Palm leaf fans were also handed worshipers to further aid their comfort. This building served well for 20 brief years until a fire on the night of January 22, 1920 demolished the building and most of the contents, including valuable records.

2nd church     Church fire
Photos: The second church had a seating capacity of about 300, a sanctuary, a Christian endeavor room, minister's study, primary room, a full basement and kitchen, dining room and furnace room.  It was destroyed by fire on January 22,1920  (Click photos for enlargement)

The Third Church

Plans for erecting a new church building at the same location as the previous structure were promptly underway.  This is the present building of pressed brick and stone trim.  The cornerstone, a gift from W. B. Wayt and Son of Sac City, was placed October 3, 1920 with Dr. T. A. Ambler, the pastor, assisted by Dr. M. Boyd, president of Buena Vista College, conducting the ceremony.  The following articles were placed in the copper receptacle within the stone:  a Bible; the latest issues of the Odebolt Chronicle and Odebolt News; the Continent, a church paper; a brief history of the church; a list of the names of Elders and Trustees; the Sunday School officers; the name of the builder and contractor; a list of names on the church service flag; and two pennies, an Indian head and a Lincoln penny.  It was dedicated to the service of God on May 22, 1921.

Photo:  The third church (right) had a floor space of 65.87 feet &  a well-equipped basement. The seating capacity of the sanctuary was 500. Capacity could be almost doubled by the use of the basement & loudspeaker system.  The brown pressed brick building with stone rim and art glass windows cost $60,000.

In 1929 the beautiful Chancel Art glass window depicting Christ in an attitude of prayer and supplication was installed, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Adams, and the light for night reflection was a gift of Mrs. Adams a few years later.  The words PRAYER, TRUTH, JOY, FAITH, CHARITY, HOPE, PEACE, LOVE, which form the border, symbolize virtues which all Christians try to attain.  A Hammond electric organ was dedicated in 1938.  In 1953 a new kitchen replaced the old one to meet the demands of the time, and in 1954 the chancel was modernized.  A new Hammond electric organ to match the modernized chancel was purchased during the pastorate of Rev. DeBeer.  Mrs. Jess Purdy has been [in 1977] the church organist and choir director since the dedication of the first organ.  She was pianist previously, and her faithful contribution of music to the church service has been greatly appreciated.

The many members of the congregation who rally to aid with necessary undertakings in the care of the church and manse buildings is most inspiring.  The present manse was built in 1951, the former structure having been sold and moved to West Sixth Street.

A list of ministers and years [to 1977] they served this church are as follows:  The Revs. G. R. Carroll, A. K. Baird - -1877; H. P. Fullenweider - - 1879; J. C. Gilkerson - - 1880; S. N. Vail - - 1880-1882; W. O. Thompson - - 1882-1885; William Craig - - 1885; S. B. Nielsen - - 1885; J. N. Elliot - - 1886-1888; H. H. McMasters - - 1888-1889; J. C. Melrose - - 1890; R. D. McRae - - 1890-1894; DeYoung - - 1895; E. E. Hastings - - 1896-1900; Alexander Gilmore - - 1901-1903; Wilson W. Tait - - 1906; David A. McLeod - - 1907-1910; Robert McInturff - - 1911-1914; W. J. Mitchell - - 1916-1918; T. A. Ambler - - 1918-1923; A. E. Aben - - 1923-1927; C. W. Pfeifer - - 1928-1932; S. M. Patterson - - 1933-1938; Glenn Morrow - - 1938-1941; Martin L. Tonner - - 1942-1945; Albert W. Peters - - 1946-1953; Peter A. DeBeer - - 1954-1964; Carl G. Boaz - - 1965-1967 and Joseph J. Lemen, who has been with us since September 1968.  [As of 1977.]

With the guidance of capable ministers, the several bodies and organizations within the church (adult and youth), including the choir, have been an inspiration through the years and a big factor in the success and harmony of the church work.

In 1954 a 75th anniversary of the church was celebrated with the presenting of a pageant relating the history of the church, a dinner, dedication and musical program.

As we enjoy the privileges and opportunities of life in this community may we recall the ideals and sacrifices of our forefathers when they founded our churches.

        Mrs. Emory L. Smith

(Transcribed by B. Ekse)

(from the booklet "Centennial Anniversary 1879-1979; First Presbyterian Church" )
page 2 and 3
"Also in the 1890's when transportation was slow and laborious there were people of Presbyterian faith who worshipped in rural school houses in their locality and came to town occasionally to worship or to have ministers come to their locale.  Among these were Highland Presbyterian Church of Clinton Township, five miles northeast of Odebolt, known as the McGeachy school and in which Rev. E.E. Hastings served in connection with the Odebolt church.  Of the members were the Currie, McGeachy and McCorkindale familes; The Mitts Assembly, seven miles southeast from Odebolt in Wheeler Township from which came the Kennedy, Bruce, Kerr and Rogers families;  The Cook Township, six miles northwest - Sunday School and a Ladies Aid - from which came the A.E. Cook, Worden and J. Anderson families.  From Salem Reformed church came the Raasch, Stommel, Hannel, Carlberg, Halboth and Hoefling families."

W.K. Shaw - Lydia Ellinger - Nov. 30, 1881
C.W. Sutton - Lucinda Taylor
Chas. E. Nowels - Bessie Bruce
Otis Stratton - Jane Ellinger
Frank Motie - Anna B. Mattes
John F. Coy - Maggie M. Horan
Jerry Lesher - Carrie Gruver
Andrew Bruce - Maggie McQuistan
George Boardman Cook - Kate Wheeler Sparks
Jas. Currie - Mary  Huston
Alfred Krusenstjerna - Ide Hoakinson
Proctor Coy - Mary Goreham
Chas. Burnside - Margaret Taggart
Albert Eugene Cook - Christine Drysdale Smith
Clay C. Patty - Genevera Ballard
Gysbert P. Van Marel - Robertine W. Hanson
John Mengis - Anna Platt
Anton Edward Gunderson - Grace Lucretia Goreham
Chas. Smith - Daisy Prichard
Edson E. Goreham - Mable J. Lester
Archie Cranston - Grace E. Traver
J.F. Umbarger - Winifred DeEtt Ballard - 1896
Earl Crandall - Blanche Newcom - Jan. 1, 1903 

Odebolt Observer. VOL. 2. NO. 7. AUGUST 17, 1881

Rev. S. N. Vail of the Presbyterian church, preached his first anniversary sermon last Sabbath morning.  He reviewed the labors of the past year, showing a most remarkable material advancement.  When he was installed one year ago, the church had but a partial organization with a total membership of but 16 persons, and a Sabbath school attendance of only 14 scholars.  The membership of the church is now 76 and the Sabbath school has 75 regular scholars with not less than a score of efficient teachers and officers.  The society one year ago was without a place of worship of its own, it now has a neat and commodius [sic] church entirely paid for, which cost over $3,000.  Mr. Vail stated that in the year just closed he had preached one hundred and forty sermons and had traveled eight hundred miles.  He congratulated the members of his church upon the large material prosperity with which providence had blessed their labors in the past year, and urged upon them the cultivation of spirituality commensurate with their temporal prosperity.

Church Celebrates 125th Anniversary
(Excerpts from an article in The Chronicle, Vol.113, No. 16, April 15, 2004, page 6)

     First Presbyterian Church in Odebolt will observe its 125th anniversary with special services April 18, 2004.  The Rev. Jim Sanders, Executive Presbyter of Prospect Hill Presbytery will be the guest speaker at the 10 a.m. worship service.  At 2 p.m. the public is invited to attend an anniversary program in the church sanctuary. A reception will follow in the fellowship hall.  Individuals will be able to tour the church and purchase historical memorabilia.

......... In 1963 the church purchased the Einspahr property to the north. For a while, the house was used for Sunday school classes. Later it was dismantled and the lot was used for parking.
    On Oct. 8, 2000, a ground-breaking ceremony was held for a new addition. The northeast corner of the building was demolished and construction began the following week.
     The exterior was finished to match the 80-year old church by using old brick, which had been salvaged and cleaned for reuse. Matching roof tile was available and was used to match the existing roof. By June 2001 the interior was completed and by fall the entire project was finished.
    The addition features an easy-to-use elevator, accessible restrooms, an office and a new meeting room. For easy access, a gentle sloping ramp leads from the east entrance down to the lower level into the fellowship hall, which has been partially decorated too.
     Other work done includes repairs to the south steps, a new roof on the north wing, new sidewalks and a new driveway.
     Dedication of the new addition was Nov. 11, 2001. The cost of the new addition was approximately $355,000.
     The church's current membership is 150. The Rev. Charles Bulger serves the congregation.

Presbyterian Church 2001
First Presbyterian Church, 201 W 3rd St, Odebolt, IA 51458
Photo by Charles Hanson -
Click photo for enlargement


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