In 1844, the Williams, Evans and Pugh families settled on the east bank of the meandering Old Man’s Creek in Iowa County. These three Welsh families were the beginning of the community, Williamsburg. The town was platted ten years later by Richard Williams. In the beginning, the town was a six block area with what is now Highland Street as the western boundary, Washington Street as the eastern boundary, Penn Street as the southern and Walnut Street as the northern boundaries. Lots were sold for as little as $25 and by 1855 there were six homes in town.
The Methodist Episcopal circuit began in 1867 with services held in various school houses. The first Methodist church building was built at what is now 605 Court Street, just off the southwest corner of the town square. The 160 foot lot was purchased for $100 on June 8, 1870, from Jane Starr and a parsonage was erected on the corner. In 1888 the east half of the lot was sold for $200 which was used as seed money to build a church. With a huge leap of faith, this band of 100 or so members set about raising the funds to move forward on their dream. The church was built that same year with a total cost of $1,800 and would seat 300 people. The clapboard building was dedicated on November 18, 1888.
At the close of the dedication service, the pastor met with the women of the church. He said, “All regulated churches have a Ladies Aid Society and I hereby appoint you as such a society to this church, and I give you $100 of this debt. You will have one year to raise it.” Through a year of cake walks, pie sales and gifts of egg money, this challenge was met by those early women of faith.
In 1894, it was determined the church building was inadequate to accommodate the growing congregation and a lecture room was added at a cost of $1,400.
The Rev. E.J. Pike and family served the church for six years, beginning in 1898. Rev. Pike’s term as pastor is noteworthy not necessarily because he was a fiery orator or a great source of comfort, but rather because of his wife. It seems that one of Rev. Pike’s most prominent contributions to our church was his wife’s recipe for Chicken Pie. The Methodist Church Chicken Pie Suppers were served by the women of the church for many years and Mrs. Pike’s Chicken Pie was renown throughout the area.
Again, the need for a larger building arose and on April 15, 1917, a farewell service was held in the church built only twenty years earlier. The following week it was torn down and work began on a new brick building. The cornerstone was laid on August 5th that same year. Work on the building continued for nearly a year and on March 24, 1918, the new building was dedicated. The entire cost was over $30,000.
In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church merged with the Methodist Protestant Church and became the Methodist Church. It was then decided to rename the Williamsburg church, St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Again in 1968, the Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren, resulting in the United Methodist Church (UMC).
As is a common fate with many country churches, declining membership and attendance resulted in a vote to merge Pilot Grove Methodist Church with St. Paul’s Methodist Church. The first union service was held June 21, 1959. Pilot Grove had been a part of the original circuit and was located four miles west and two miles south of Williamsburg. There is a plaque at the location honoring the years Pilot Grove Church served its members. The cemetery is still there and continues to serve many of the neighborhood families.
In the 1970’s a discussion regarding the physical condition of the church building was again initiated. After much contemplation and prayer, church members resolved to remodel, rather than rebuild, the church. One major change in the renovation was the removal of the bell tower. Since the bell was the oldest church bell in town still being used, there was some consternation about what should happen to it. A bell tower was constructed on the north side of the church to house the old bell. That remarkable bell continued to be used every Sunday that services were held in that building.
Another major modification throughout this renovation was the removal of the domed roof. Although beautiful, Iowa winters were hard on it and rainy day sermons were punctuated by the drip, drip of water into scattered pails and bowls. Many members of the congregation worked long and hard to bring beauty and function to the project. Hours of refinishing wood pews and altar rails were rewarded by the lovely honey oak finish. This remodeling project allowed members to stay in their beloved building for nearly thirty years longer.
After almost thirty years, it became clear to members that new paint and carpet were not going to solve the increasing problems the old building was encountering. The church was blessed with an increasing number of children with nowhere to hold a Sunday school class. The church was also in need of ample parking space and, more importantly, it was lacking handicap accessibility. After a church vote in 2003, church members resolved to launch a new building project and take the same leap of faith their ancestors had taken over one hundred years ago.
According to United Methodist regulations the current church location was too small for a new building and adequate parking. Therefore, the first major step was to find another property on which to build the church. Nearly five acres of land was eventually purchased at Clearview Estates, a new development located on the western edge of town, for a cost of $110,000. A land dedication service and a special event called “Harvest Sunday” was held on November 21, 2004, to finalize the fundraising efforts in order to purchase the land. Approximately $5,000 was needed to cover the cost of the land. That amazing event resulted in over $10,000 in donations.
In May 2005, a capital campaign was launched to fund the new facility. That single campaign drive resulted in $328,975 in total pledges over the subsequent three years. An amazing journey of faith and conviction was about to get underway.
After several meetings with various contractors, Bushong Construction was chosen for the project. Bill and John Bushong were truly a blessing to the church family. Their vision and patience were seemingly unlimited. Over the course of 8 years, the Bushong team had presented many plans and given plenty of advice. The members of the Building Committee and Trustees worked closely with them and greatly appreciated their guidance and advice.
On August 12, 2007, a ground breaking ceremony was held at the new building site. Alongside the members of the Building Committee and Administrative Council, were several other significant supporters that included the pastors, Mildred Jones, and Miles Edgington. Mrs. Jones was the longest standing member of the church at the time and Miles Edgington, 19 days old, was the youngest/newest member of the church. In fact, everyone who attended was encouraged to bring their own digging tool and participate in the ground breaking. Those in attendance were very excited for this project to be set in motion. If the crowd had been allowed to begin digging that day, the footings for the new church building may have been dug by garden spades and shovels!
At 13,600 square feet, this new facility houses four administrative offices, seven classrooms, kitchen, fellowship hall and sanctuary. The estimated cost is $1,133,000. However, this is only Phase One! Eventually, as finances permit, as our congregation grows and as God leads us, the Second Phase of the plan is for a larger sanctuary to be built to the south of the current fellowship hall.
So here we are today, June 2008, ready to consecrate the newest St. Paul’s United Methodist Church building. It has taken us nearly 150 years to get to this day and many, many, growing pains and leaps of faith along the way. As we look around our new church and see numerous new faces alongside the many familiar faces, and perhaps wishing some old faces could be with us to see what we have done, we must take a moment to praise, thank, and worship God. With faith in Him, all things truly are possible.
Of course, Sunday School has been a part of our church since its inception. With a multi-generational church, many former Sunday School students have grown to become the teachers and some have even seen their grandchildren become Sunday School teachers! Over the years, St. Paul’s has had several different forms of Christian Education for our youngsters. St. Paul’s has provided all day Vacation Bible School sessions lasting an entire week and we have had VBS sessions that lasted only one night. Many may remember the “Rosebud Room” filled with preschoolers and the balcony of the old church resounding with the pounding of many little feet. Sunday School has recently been updated to include classes for adults. Adult Sunday School has added to their spiritual journey with the many Bible studies and discussion groups offered throughout the years, proving that Sunday School is not just for the youngsters. Our youth programs have always changed and grown with the times. The emphasis is now more on mission work and praise worship than the camping and fellowship of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. Making our youth aware of their responsibilities as Christians in all aspects of the world is one of the best things we believe we can teach them.
What would church be without music? Viola Dubishar and Dorcas Furman at the organ, Gaston Phillips, Merwyn Jones and Dale Mayberry; harmonizing together, Linda Schaefer; laying down the law in choir, Flavia and Flora Leech’s sweet rendition of “In the Garden” and who can forget the amazing sound of Rev. Rachel Lieder-Simeon singing “On Eagles’ Wings”. Now, our two praise bands, Harmony and A Loud Voice lead the way for new voices to be heard in the contemporary service. The traditional service is blessed to have Steve Manning as choir director with Sue Heitmann serving for many years as organist. A generous donation of hand bells in the early 1970’s has led to many beautiful selections for our ears, as well. Charles Wesley had a love for music and through that love; he has inspired us to worship with our voices and musical talents. At St. Paul’s, music is the way God touches our souls on Sundays! Musical pieces heard in our church range from the traditional hymnal to Christian rock—making every generation connected in Him.
Submitted by Mrs. John H. Jones to the 1938 Methodist Church Cookbook. Mrs. Jones presented one of these cookbooks to Nadine Rogers Gardner, upon the occasion of her engagement.
Cook one fryer hen and take from bone. Place cooked chicken in the bottom of a baking dish with sauce. Spread crust over the top and bake at 350 degrees.
2 Tbsp. butter1 cup cream or milk
3 Tbsp. flour3 cup warm stock
2 cup flour1 cup milk
2 tsp. baking powder1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp. shortening
[one_half_first] J.R. Noble
John W. Potter
Edward C. Brooks
Charles W. Cochran
John W. Zerbe
D. Merle Hill
Harold B. Jones
John E. Shore
Rachel Leider Simeon
Carol A. Kress
James & Helen Parks
Rev. Esther Robb
Mrs. Edna Whitson