Urbandale United Church of Christ: History

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This document was compiled in 2007 by Matt McCright.  Some sections of the document are reproduced below:

Pastors at Urbandale United Church of Christ

1919 Olive Green, “Sunday School” organizer, Urbandale School’s first Primary Room [1,2,3,&4th] teacher, Ordained Congregational Minister
1920 Chaplain Winifred E. Rob, of Federated Church, Beaverdale Preached at the first Afternoon services held at the two-room Urbandale School building.
1921 Reverend Tilder S. Sloan Assistant Pastor at Federated Church of Beaverdale conducted services at the two-room school until the new church was ready to use in late 1921.
1921-1923 Sherman Kirk – – Professor of Greek at Drake University.
1923 Mr. Dunbar [four months]
1923-1925 Harold Lamb – – Former Congregational Minister, Urbandale Dairy operator.
1925-1927 Sherman Kirk
1927 William [or Wallace] Kent – – Drake Student
1927-1929 Margaret Ross – – Drake Student
1929-1930 Melvin Lundeen – – Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church at 51st and Urbandale Avenue.
1930-1932 R. Frances Hall – – First Time Pastor, Ordained while serving Urbandale Community Church.
1932-1934 Clayton Shepard – –
1934-1938 W.S. Johnson – – Former State Evangelist for the Disciples Church and a Watkins Products Salesman
1939-1942 Waldo H. Reese – – From the Friends Church in Earlham, Iowa.
1942-1944 Omar Flugam
1944-1945 R.J. Cornell
1944-1951 Dr. Frederick Cooper — Former Pastor-at-Large for the Iowa Conference of the Congregational Christian Church.
1951-1961 Gayle V. Strickler [thru week of April 9 1961]
1954-1955 George Crosby [Assistant]
1961 [April-July] Rev. Richter [Interim]
1961 [May 13th] Rev. Leslie Chapman
1961-1973 Rev. Robert W. Hoffman
1973 Earl Nelson [Interim]
1973 Jo Barnes [Interim]
1973-1987 Rev. Richard W. Harbart
1986-1988 Fritz Bogar [Interim]
1988-1994 Rev. Pat de Jong
1994 Rev. Robert Molsberry [Interim]
1994-2003 Rev. Sue L. Gallagher
2003-2004 Rev. Tom Ingham [Interim]
2004-2008 Rev. S. Michael Pater
2005-2008 Rev. Emily Goldthwaite Fries [Associate]
2009-2010 Rev. Robert Butterfield [Interim]
2010-Present Rev. David Sickelka

Part One: The Community Church, 1919-1944

Forty-nine local residents voted in April 1917 at the closest country school to incorporate their community–a town called Urbandale. At that time it consisted of scattered homes and two grocery stores, radiating from the end of the Urbandale street car line at 70th Street and Roseland Road. The population was approximately 350 people, of which somewhat more than sixty were eligible voters. Histories suggest that the primary reason for incorporating was the desire for a centrally-located school building.

C.C. Olmsted and Jesse Tally, each with a family of six children, as well as Clide [J.C.] Whittmer, Otto Laverrenz, L.L. Talbot, and William Ekey took the most public initiatives in bringing about the business of planning and organizing. Mr. Laverrenz was elected mayor. The community quickly built a two-room school building at the corner of 70th and Monroe Court.

Mrs. Olive Green was in charge of the Primary room [grades 1, 2, 3, and 4]. She was an ordained Congregational minister. She felt that the children in Urbandale needed a Sunday School. In 1919, she made a formal plea for participation and began Sunday gatherings in the school house. The response was favorable and they were soon meeting regularly.

In the years leading up to 1920, Urbandale families generally attended the most accessible nearby church. Being only a short street car ride to the east, this was the Federated Church at Beaverdale. Federated’s pastor, William E. Robb, took a significant interest in the attendees from Urbandale. He learned of Olive Green’s Sunday School and discussed the possibilities of also having church services at the school house. The Hartsooks, Wixoms, Holmes, Walkers, Rowens, Olmsteds, and others were interested, and formed the nucleus of the original “congregation.” Chaplain Robb agreed to preach for them on Sunday afternoons until other arrangements could be made. He preached at the two-room Urbandale School for a year before a new church was finished.

Founding Members

“On December 5, 1920, a public meeting was called at the Urbandale Schoolhouse to discuss the organization and building of a Federated Church.” “Chaplain W.E. Robb called the meeting to order. After a short song service and prayer T.J. Rice was elected chairman of the meeting and O.M. Wixom secretary.” The anonymous meeting secretary continued, “after a short discussion Chaplain Robb moved that we organize an Urbandale Federated Church Association, the motion was seconded by O.L. Laverrenz. Motion carried.”

Each of the individuals announcing their participation were listed under the heading: “The following persons agreed to support this organization.”

The following officers were elected: Elwyn Walker, Chairman; T.J. Rice, Vice Chairman; Guy Stradley, Secretary; and O.M. Wixom, Treasurer. Five trustees were elected: A.R. Hartsook, Chairman; O.L. Laverrenz; John Hopkins; A.F. Wilson; and L.L. Talbot.

A committee to seek a permanent meeting place and to work with the trustees also were elected: Mrs. A.J. Lyons; Mrs. J.A. Eby; Mrs. M.P. Wickersham; Mrs. G.A. Rowen; Mrs. Elwyn Walker; and Mr. O.L. Laverrenz, Chairman.

The trustees were instructed to look up two or more locations for our church and prices of the same. After further discussion the meeting adjourned.

At the close of services held December 19, 1920, the group’s secretary recorded that thirty-one more people “came forward dedicating themselves to the service of Christ as charter members of our church.” During the services held on December 26, 1920, and January 23, 1921, more people came forward as charter members.

New church members were not making an academic pledge to some slippery concept. Nor were they simply agreeing to worship according to some shared beliefs. These pioneers made promises to supply the first $2,090 toward a new church — a structure that would be the physical center of community life for decades. Roughly twenty families subscribed for more than one hundred dollars each.

Events Calendar

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Sat 22

Private Lessons

February 22 @ 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Sat 22

Light Mission Pentecostal Church

February 22 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sat 22

Matu Bethel Church

February 22 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Sun 23

Adult Spiritual Formation

February 23 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am
Sun 23

Sunday School

February 23 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Founding Members

Mr. & Mrs. E. Walker
A.R. Hartsook
Mrs. A.J. Lyons
Mrs. J.A. Eby
Mr. & Mrs. John Hopkins
Fred Gehring
Mr. & Mrs. G.A. Rowen
Walter Bechtel
Mr. & Mrs. O.L. Laverrenz
Chaplain Robb
Rev. Sloan
Guy Stradley
F. Kozial
Mr. H.D. Lamb
Mr. & Mrs. A. Holmes
Mr. & Mrs. O.M. Wixom
L.L. Talbott
Mrs. E. Botsford
Mrs. Lewis
F.A. Wilson
T.J. Rice
E. Hopkins

Charter Members – 1920-21

Walter Bechtel
George Bernstedt
Mrs. Ed. Botsford
Mrs. J.A. Eby
Mr. J.A. Eby
Miss Rose Geering
Fred J. Gehring
Joseph Gehring
A.R. Hartsook
Mr. A. Holmes
Mrs. A. Holmes
E. Hopkins
Mrs. John O. Hopkins
Mr. John O. Hopkins
John Hopkins, Jr.
Walter Hutchinson
A.R. Hartsook
Mrs. A.R. Hartsook
Dorothy Hartsook
F. Kozial
Ray Kozial
Mr. Harold D. Lamb
Mrs. Jessie Lamb
Mr. O.L. Laverrenz
Mrs. O.L. Laverrenz
Eugene Laverrenz
Marion Laverrenz
Mrs. L.E. Lewis
Anna Lewis
Perl Lewis
Agnes Lewis

Charley Lewis
Mrs. A.J. Lyons
Bessie Lyons
Hugh Lyons
Ralph W. Pabst
Mrs. L.C. Quaintance
T.J. Rice
Virginia Rice
Chaplain Robb
Mrs. G.A. Rowen
Mr. G.A. Rowen
Rev. S.J.T. Sloan
Henry S. Harold Stewart
Earl Stewart
Guy Stradley
L.L. Talbott
Bertha Talley
Fern Talley
Gertrude Talley
Mr. Elwyn Walker
Mrs. Elwyn Walker
Mrs. M.P. Wickersham
Mrs. A.F. Wilson
Mr. A.F. Wilson
F.A. Wilson
Mrs. J.C. Witmer
Helen Witmer
Florence Wixom
Vera May Wixom
Mr. O.M. Wixom
Mrs. O.M. Wixom

Now that the momentum for building a new church was established, Chaplain Robb withdrew as pastor of the “homeless” congregation. His assistant at Federated Church of Beaverdale, the Reverend [Tilder S.] Sloan conducted services at the two-room school until the new church was ready to use.

The new church officers, trustees, and committee members selected a site that was described on the official plat map of Urbandale as lots number 48 and 49 of the Maryland Addition on the corner of 70th and Oliver Smith Drive. The lots were just a block north of the end of the Urbandale street car line on the west side of the street. The west end of the lot sloped steeply up from the street, which was an asset before 70th Street was paved. They purchased this land for $1,100.

In February 1921, the women of the new church gathered at the Wickersham home at 6814 Roseland Road and formed the Urbandale Community Circle. They defined their mission broadly. The purpose of the group was to be of whatever help possible in the community and to earn money to pay the interest on required church loans. Their motto was, “United for Christ and the Church.” Jessie Lamb wrote that they “usually had sewing to do at their meetings, helping busy mothers or quilting, making layettes, etc.” To raise cash, they “served dinners at the church, had bake sales and served lunches at farm sales. Dues were a penny a day.”

“Urbandale Community Circle”
1921 News Clipping

The women of Urbandale have formed a very strong organization intent on helping the proposed church. The first meeting was held, Feb. 2, at the home of Mrs. M.P. Wickersham. There were 14 present. A brief outline of the work was presented. A second meeting was held at the Lamb home, Feb. 16, 16 present. The day was spent making baby shirts and skirts for the D.M. Clinic. A meeting was held Mch. 2, with Mrs. Elwyn Walker, 21 present. The day was spent quilting. The members come to the meetings in their house dresses, knowing they can accomplish more work and feel they are all alike. A self-serve luncheon at noon is most enjoyable. Immediately following is the business hour. They have pledged a penny a day, payable at each meeting, which is held the first and third Wednesday of the month. All kinds of sewing, comfort and quilt work, also shopping for those that cannot do it for themselves, in fact anything that is a help, they strive to do. A complete list of officers and committees are given: Pres., Mrs. Elwyn Walker; V.Pres., Mrs. A.R. Hartsook; Secy., Mrs. Geo. Mead; Treas., Mrs. J.C. Witmer; Work Com., Mrs. Chas Anderson, Mrs. A.J. Lyons, Mrs. J.C. Witmer; Welfare Com., Mrs. E.F. Botsford, Mrs. Elwyn Walker, Mrs. O.M. Wixom, Mrs. J.H. Eby; Social Com. Mrs. Jno. Hopkins, Mrs. Jesse Talley, Mrs. Arthur Holmes; Miss. Com., Mrs. A.R. Hartsook, Mrs. H.D. Lamb, Mrs. Jno Mac Rae, Mrs. Otto Laverrenz.”

[to be continued]

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