Our Legacy

The first religious service in Dickinson County was held on Sunday, May 11, 1857, two months after the Spirit Lake Massacre, at the “Gardner Place” one of the sites of the massacre.  The service was attended by fifteen to twenty settlers and was conducted by Doctor J.S. Prescott, a Methodist minister.

The Little Sioux Mission was organized by the Western Iowa Conference in 1858 and extended from Cherokee, Iowa to Spirit Lake.  Because there were no churches or schoolhouses in all this territory, services were held in private homes.  The Spirit Lake group had seven members and services were held irregularly.  Spirit Lake then became part of what was known as the Peterson Circuit, with headquarters in Primghar.  It was about this time that services were held in a country schoolhouse for the first time.

The first regularly scheduled religious services in northwestern Iowa were under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal church.  Through the efforts of Dr. Prescott the Western Iowa Conference of 1859 appointed a minister to come to the frontier.  This circuit was put in charge of Rev. Cornelius McLean with headquarters in Okoboji.  While there had been no regular ministerial appointments up to this time, services had been held by Dr. Prescott and such other ministers as happened to be traveling through the country.  The circuit, as established, was comprised of Emmet, Dickinson, Clay and O’Brien counties.  At each of the appointed locations on this circuit, services were held once every three weeks on either Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon.  From 1858, with the establishment of the Little Sioux Mission, through 1872, eleven ministers were circuit riders and preached in Spirit Lake.

In 1872 the Northwest Iowa Conference appointed Rev. William Preston to organize a Spirit Lake Church.  Rev. J.E. Cohenor was appointed to take Rev. Preston’s place in 1875, and the site, later known as 17th and Jackson, was purchased by the Spirit Lake Methodists.  On December 29, 1875 the first Board of Trustees was organized.  In the same year the Ladies Aid was organized with seven or eight members, and this group of dedicated women played an important role in the financial as well as spiritual life of the church.

In 1876 the construction began on a new edifice – the second church building in the county.  The first service was held there on the first Sunday of the year, 1877, and the church was dedicated on September 1, 1878.  In 1892 when times began to improve, and to accommodate a growing membership, an addition was built on the north.

By 1912 the congregation decided it had outgrown the 1876 church.   Though a symbol of pioneer courage, hard work and sacrifice, the era of its usefulness had ended.  A new location, known later as 18th and Gary Avenue, was acquired and the new building was erected.  It was dedicated on October 6th, 1914 and the mortgage was retired and burned in 1918.

Since then the Methodist Church membership has grown rapidly.  It was found in the 1950’s that added space was needed.  The Wittstruck Educational building was added for church school classes and church offices, with the Fireside Room for other activities.  The building was consecrated on March 9, 1958 and dedicated on March 1, 1964.  In 1970 the building known as Wesley Place was purchased and remodeled to further aid in the effectiveness of the program of the church.

Once again it became obvious, as the years went by, that a replacement was needed for the sanctuary that had served the congregation so well.  On June 8, 1976 the Charge conference elected a building committee to plan for a new sanctuary on the site occupied by the old building.  On August 21, 1977, the congregation held the closing worship service in the old building followed by a procession to Wesley Place, where services were held during the construction of the new sanctuary.  One and a half years later, at the close of the Spirit Lake Centennial Celebration, the new edifice was consecrated by Dr. Edwin C. Boulton, on June 24, 1979.  

The buildings on eighteenth and Gary continue to serve the Spirit Lake United Methodist congregation well and we are grateful to the courage and devotion of our pioneer fathers and mothers as we move forward into the 21st century as a community of faith called Spirit Lake United Methodist Church.

ATTACHED below is a list of the ministers that have served our church from the beginning starting in 1858 through 1872 as Circuit Riders of the Little Sioux Mission.
  The list continues listing the ministers that served our first church in Spirit Lake,  the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1872-1968.  In 1968, The Methodist Church denomination united with the Evangelical United Brethren denomination to become The United Methodist Church and we then became the Spirit Lake United Methodist Church.  All the ministers that have served us are listed in this attachment.    
(check on the attachment at the bottom of this page - Ministers Served.)

The Bell Tower

The bell tower was dedicated for use on June 24, 1979.  It rises nearly 50 feet above ground level.  It consists of three triangular columns held in place in relation to each other, above ground, near their top, by sets of heavy steel beams extending from each one, joined at the center of the triangle formed by the columns.  The bell from the original 1914 churches hangs from this beam structure.

The columns are made of ‘stressed’ concrete with exposed aggregate surface.  They are hollow in the middle to allow for the conduit that encases the cables for the electric carillon bell ringer.  The total weight of the columns is estimated at 38,000 pounds.   Each of the tower columns was made with a heavy steel equilateral triangle, nearly three feet on each side.  Once the columns were mounted and steel reinforced in place, concrete was poured to fill a triangular based footing seven feet deep.  This required close to 25,000 pounds of concrete.

The bell tower stands with the church as a reminder of Christian influence in the community and world.  The carillon bell rings three times each day as well as just before worship services on Sunday mornings. 

Download this file (Ministers Served.pdf)Ministers Served.pdf[ ]188 Kb

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