Addition HistoryAdditional details on the history of DeWitt United Methodist Church
Methodism came to Iowa in 1833 at the close of the Black Hawk
War. Iowa, then the Black Hawk Purchase, was acquired from
Native Americans. On June 1st, 1833, the Purchase was opened
for settlement. Three months and twenty-four days after the
opening, the Illinois Conference appointed a pastor to Galena and
DeBuke Mission. In 1836, pastors were appointed in Davenport,
Dubuque, and Maquoketa. By 1837, 463 Methodist church
members were reported by the newly founded congregations in the
new territory. In 1836 the Iowa District was formed with seven
appointments. In 1843, the first Annual Conference was held in Iowa
at Dubuque. In 1843, the DeWitt Methodist Church was organized,
Under the guidance of Rev. John Robers, a local preacher. In 1844,
the Iowa Conference was organized at Iowa City with 37 pastors
appointed to churches containing 5,463 members.
The first Methodist class formed in De Witt was in 1843. The first
church was built during the ministry of Rev. Hulburt. As second
building was erected in 1860-61 during the pastorate of Rev.
Andrew Coleman and stood at the corner of 7th Ave. and 11th St.
Extensive improvements were made to the structure in 1864 while
Rev. Joel B. Taylor was pastor. The bell (which in the current bell
tower) was purchased for $270 at the time of remodeling.
In 1869, the De Witt church had 201 members and a paid salary of
$950. The membership dropped decidedly due to the removal of the
County Seat from De Witt to Clinton in 1873. But membership rose
steadily under the leadership of Rev. M.H. Smith, and was served
by a fine group of pastors through succeeding years. In 1909,
during the pastorate of Rev. J.K. Shiffer, a brick building was
constructed on 5th Ave. under the chairmanship of T.W. Large.
During William E. Butler’s pastorate in 1928 an addition was added
to the structure to the east. Fire heavily damaged the structure in
1933, and T.W. Large was again appointed chairman of the building
committee. Within months the building had been reconstructed.
Rev. Butler was followed by Rev. Will Kirwin. The congregation’s
ninetieth anniversary was celebrated by use of new choir robes
made under the supervision of Katherine Kirwin. Rev. Roscoe C.
Jerrell was the clergyman arriving in 1936. During this pastorate the
Ladies Aid and the Women’s Home Missionary Society were merged
into the New National Organization known as the Woman’s Society
of Christian Service under the leadership of Mrs. Jerrell. The Men’s
club was organized at the time also. Church activities being held in
the Iowa Mutual Insurance basement were moved to the newly
remodeled church basement. The first electric organ was dedicated
Rev. Fort was appointed in 1941 and distinguished himself in the
minds and hearts of the over one hundred servicemen he
corresponded with weekly during the war. Mrs. Fort was an
outstanding organist and worshippers would come to the service
early to listen.
Rev. Webster came to DeWitt in 1947. During his time as pastor the
kitchen was remodeled, new tables and chairs purchased, a new
organ and altar furniture purchased. While moving to their new
appointments in 1953, their moving van caught fire and most of their
possessions were lost.
Rev. Dana Boggie served the congregation from 1953-1962. The
present church building was erected during Rev. Boogies pastorate.
DeWitt was a growing town in the 1950’s, the church membership
was increasing and the old building on 5th Ave. was in need of
repair and expansion. It was a this juncture that Harold Walrod, at
an Official Board meeting, proposed that “we build a new church”. A
building fund was established out of memorials given after the death
of G.M. Smith. On Feb. 23, 1955, the official decision to build was
made at a Quarterly Conference presided over by Dr. Glen Hartong.
Charles Rasmussen and Ralph Minor were co-chairman. The
building committee consisted of A. W. Cobb, Carl Smith, Mrs. Helen
Mockridge, Ray Brown, Mrs. Edna Walrod, and Dr. W. H. Ash.
Arthur Hummel was named to the committee when he became lay
Ground breaking ceremonies were held March 16, 1958 and the
cornerstone was laid on June 22, 1958. Consecration services and
the formal opening was held Feb. 22, 1959. The former church
building on 5th Ave. was sold to the United Church of Christ for
$7,500 for church school use. The “Dedication Service” signifying
the burning of the mortgage was held Dec. 12, 1965. Resident Iowa
Bishop James S. Thomas was present for the service. Rev. Charles
Birchmier was pastor at the time.
In 1968, The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren
Church joined to form the United Methodist Church. For more
information on the history of the Denomination, visit www.umc.org.
Rev. Donald Carver next served the congregation. The new
parsonage at 103 3rd St. was built. Under Rev. Carver’s leadership
the ecumenical movement of Vatican II came to flower in DeWitt.
Rev. Cecil Wells followed in 1970, retiring in 1976 form active
ministry after 42 years as an ordained elder in the Methodist
Church. Rev. Orrin Potter was appointed in 1976.
In 1978 the congregation celebrated its 135th anniversary, inviting
former pastors to return. Bishop Lance Webb gave the Sunday
message. An Allen Digital Computer Organ was installed in 1977,
the outside lighting of the building was enhanced by installation of
amber arc lights in 1981, and a new dual burner furnace was
installed the summer of 1982.
New offices and a new fellowship hall were added to the building in
The DeWitt United Methodist Church has served the Lord Jesus
Christ in the town of Dewitt continuously since it was first organized