THE EARLY CHURCHES OF MOUNT VERNON
Prepared for the American History and Genealogy Project.
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Copyright (C) 2001-2003 by Sandra Sanchez
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The Second Methodist Church
Early settlers were scarcely settled before they received a visit from some Methodist circuit-rider. In 1840 all the territory of Iowa was one district of the Rick River Conference of the Methodist Church. Shortly afterward it was divided into two districts, the Dubuque District under the Reverend Bartholomew Weed, and the Burlington District. In the former work in Mount Vernon was begun August 26, 1840 when the Marion Mission was organized with the Reverend John Hodges as missionary.
From 1847 to 1850 the Reverend George Bowman was presiding elder of the Dubuque District. In 1850 he resigned the eldership to become pastor of the Linn Grove Circuit.
Bowman raised money in the East and built a church 40 by 50 feet. He then immediately began a great revival to reach the unconverted of the town. Scores of people were brought into the church, among them the leading men of the community: Allison Willits, Elijah Waln, William Hayzlett, Peter, Henry and Conrad Kepler, George Edgerton and many others.
A Sunday School was organized and was called the Evergeen Sunday School because it continued through the twelve months of the year.
Before 1850 the following had been appointed preachers to Mount Vernon:
John Hodges, Solomon Ingham, Jesse Bennett, John Hayden, J. Marion and P. Harrington. from 1845 to 1849 four men served the circuitas follows: Allen Johnson, John Walker, S.H. Greenup and L.C. Woodford.
Between 1850 and 1862 the following men were appointed preachers:
Joel Taylor, J.C. Ayers, A.B. Kendig, S. N. Holmes, J.T. Coleman, Elias Skinner, A. N. Smith and George Clifford.
In 1864 a new church was built at the cost of $7,800.00. The contractor was William Brackett.
The Ladies Aid Society was organized in 1854, and after a few years if uncertain existence, entered upon an active history of financial, social and spiritual administration.
The list of Sunday School teachers is a long one. Among those who spent long years of service were:
Mrs. Jessie Fogg, Mrs. Alice Rigby, Mrs. H.G. Simpson, Miss Amanda Whittington and Mrs. Meyers. In 1893 Mrs. Adelaide Ebersole began her long service of forty-three years as guardian and instructor of the little folk.
The Convenater Church of 1856
"Early Presbyterianism in Mount Vernon appeared in three branches", says Dr. H. C. Stanclift in his book " A Century of Presbyterianism in Mount Vernon".First of all there was the Old School, very Calvinistic and not strong on cooperation with other denominations- mostly Scoth Irish folk. Following them was the New School, more moderate and cooperative , composed largely of English people. Lastly there came the Covenanters, or Reformed branch, followers of Richard Cameron, a minister of the late 17th. century.
The New School began in the home of John Steward two miles west of town, with ten members, ministered to by the Reverend William Rankin, pastor in 1843. Among these were the Boyds, the Morfords, the Stewarts and the Downings. In 1856 the members changed the name of the Church to the First Presbyterian Church of Mount Vernon, and three years later erected a brick building 40 by 50 feet. However the building was never used as a church, and was sold. This branch merged with the Old School in 1870 under John Stewart as one of the elders.
The Covenanters organized in 1847 at Sugar Grove two miles west of town. The following fourteen members were at first received as members:
Jeremiah and Nancy Smyth, Robert and Nancy Smyth, Alexander, James and Elizabeth Smyth, George and Jennett Safely, Marth Craig, Margaret Corey, Robert Smyth, Elizabeth Boyd and Catherine and Susan Smyth. Jeremiah and Robert Smyth were the elders. For twenty years this group existed as a corporation but finally disbanded in 1874, uniting with the Old School.
The Old School began in a log school house near the John Kirkpatrick farm three miles north of town. A church was organized in Lisbon in 1854 but was united with the Old School in Mount Vernon in 1861 with a total of 32 members. The Reverend Edward Dodder was the pastor for seven years beginning in March 1861. In 1866 a new church was built and services were held on June 5, 1866.