Churches

HISTORY
Coppin Chapel

1979

Fort Dodge Coppin Chapel A.M.E. Church is part of the national group of Coppin Chapels. 

Read More


The Early Catholic Church in Webster County

Prior to 1856, there were little Catholics within the state. A few mission priests traveled the prairies and wilderness on horseback from house to house to find the scattered members of the church. Among these men was Rev. Matthias Hannon, who came from the southeast in 1853.

Father John Vahey was the first priest to come to Fort Dodge as a regular pastor in 1859. He built a small cabin to live in and started building the first of the church from rough-hewn logs. Among those who helped cut and hew the logs were Dr. W. L. Nicholson, Peter Reilly, William Reilly, and John P. White.

In the fall of 1857, Father Vahey left. Father McCullough came and remained for the winter. He was succeeded by Father Ellwood who remained for about two years. After Father Ellwood, Father Marsh came in 1860. He was well beloved and gentle, and he remained until his death in 1865. His remains are resting in the Catholic cemetery north of the city. A gentler, kindlier, and more well-known man never stepped on the soil that constituted his parish, which extended from Fort Dodge to Emmetsburg and Spirit Lake on the north, and to Sioux City on the west. Often, in the dead of winter, he would drive with his ox team across the prairies to minister to those in distant parts of his parish. Father Marsh and some of his parishioners cut logs and lumber from the hillside near Arnold’s damn to build the first Catholic school in Fort Dodge.

After the death of Father Marsh in 1865, Fathers Delany and Butler came and remained until 1870. Along came Father Thomas M. Lenehan whose long and successful pastorate is a part of the general history of the state. He remained until 1897, when he was made Bishop of Cheyenne. Father Lenehan built the present Corpus Christ Church which was dedicated January 1, 1883. He also built the Old Convent and began construction of the present school.

Bishop Lenehan was succeeded by Father Campbell under a temporary appoint. In September 1897, Rev. P. J. Burke was assigned as pastor and remained until September 1903.

Rev. B. C. Lenehan, the vicar general of the Sioux City diocese, whose long and faithful service as priest earned him the honor of promotion as Monsignor, came in 1905. He was succeeded by Rev. James T. Saunders.





First Baptist

1871

The First Baptist congregation has been serving the Fort Dodge community for almost 145 years.

Corpus Christi

1859

Father John Vahey was the first priest to come to Fort Dodge as a regular pastor in 1859. He built a small cabin to live in and started building the first of the church from rough-hewn logs.

Read More


The Early Catholic Church in Webster County

Prior to 1856, there were little Catholics within the state. A few mission priests traveled the prairies and wilderness on horseback from house to house to find the scattered members of the church. Among these men was Rev. Matthias Hannon, who came from the southeast in 1853.

Father John Vahey was the first priest to come to Fort Dodge as a regular pastor in 1859. He built a small cabin to live in and started building the first of the church from rough-hewn logs. Among those who helped cut and hew the logs were Dr. W. L. Nicholson, Peter Reilly, William Reilly, and John P. White.

In the fall of 1857, Father Vahey left. Father McCullough came and remained for the winter. He was succeeded by Father Ellwood who remained for about two years. After Father Ellwood, Father Marsh came in 1860. He was well beloved and gentle, and he remained until his death in 1865. His remains are resting in the Catholic cemetery north of the city. A gentler, kindlier, and more well-known man never stepped on the soil that constituted his parish, which extended from Fort Dodge to Emmetsburg and Spirit Lake on the north, and to Sioux City on the west. Often, in the dead of winter, he would drive with his ox team across the prairies to minister to those in distant parts of his parish. Father Marsh and some of his parishioners cut logs and lumber from the hillside near Arnold’s damn to build the first Catholic school in Fort Dodge.

After the death of Father Marsh in 1865, Fathers Delany and Butler came and remained until 1870. Along came Father Thomas M. Lenehan whose long and successful pastorate is a part of the general history of the state. He remained until 1897, when he was made Bishop of Cheyenne. Father Lenehan built the present Corpus Christ Church which was dedicated January 1, 1883. He also built the Old Convent and began construction of the present school.

Bishop Lenehan was succeeded by Father Campbell under a temporary appoint. In September 1897, Rev. P. J. Burke was assigned as pastor and remained until September 1903.

Rev. B. C. Lenehan, the vicar general of the Sioux City diocese, whose long and faithful service as priest earned him the honor of promotion as Monsignor, came in 1905. He was succeeded by Rev. James T. Saunders.





Read More


The Early Catholic Church in Webster County

Prior to 1856, there were little Catholics within the state. A few mission priests traveled the prairies and wilderness on horseback from house to house to find the scattered members of the church. Among these men was Rev. Matthias Hannon, who came from the southeast in 1853.

Father John Vahey was the first priest to come to Fort Dodge as a regular pastor in 1859. He built a small cabin to live in and started building the first of the church from rough-hewn logs. Among those who helped cut and hew the logs were Dr. W. L. Nicholson, Peter Reilly, William Reilly, and John P. White.

In the fall of 1857, Father Vahey left. Father McCullough came and remained for the winter. He was succeeded by Father Ellwood who remained for about two years. After Father Ellwood, Father Marsh came in 1860. He was well beloved and gentle, and he remained until his death in 1865. His remains are resting in the Catholic cemetery north of the city. A gentler, kindlier, and more well-known man never stepped on the soil that constituted his parish, which extended from Fort Dodge to Emmetsburg and Spirit Lake on the north, and to Sioux City on the west. Often, in the dead of winter, he would drive with his ox team across the prairies to minister to those in distant parts of his parish. Father Marsh and some of his parishioners cut logs and lumber from the hillside near Arnold’s damn to build the first Catholic school in Fort Dodge.

After the death of Father Marsh in 1865, Fathers Delany and Butler came and remained until 1870. Along came Father Thomas M. Lenehan whose long and successful pastorate is a part of the general history of the state. He remained until 1897, when he was made Bishop of Cheyenne. Father Lenehan built the present Corpus Christ Church which was dedicated January 1, 1883. He also built the Old Convent and began construction of the present school.

Bishop Lenehan was succeeded by Father Campbell under a temporary appoint. In September 1897, Rev. P. J. Burke was assigned as pastor and remained until September 1903.

Rev. B. C. Lenehan, the vicar general of the Sioux City diocese, whose long and faithful service as priest earned him the honor of promotion as Monsignor, came in 1905. He was succeeded by Rev. James T. Saunders.





Read More


The First Congregational Church was founded on February 29, 1856. On that day, Mr. and Mrs. William Plumb, Jr., Mrs. D. A. Haviland, and Mrs. A. J. Haviland met at William Plumb’s home. His home was one of the houses of the old fort. In that home, the organization was created. Officers were elected as follows: William Plumb, clerk; A. J. Haviland, treasurer; D. A. Haviland, deacon.

Sunday services were held at the old schoolhouse, which is just back of where the Wahkonsa school building now stands. Rev. T. N. Skinner, a missionary with headquarters at Webster City, met with them and preached their first sermon. At this meeting, they celebrated their first communion service. Rev. Skinner supplied the new church until spring, when Rev. William Kent, the first pastor, came from Waterloo. He served only a short time. Up until 1864, there was no regular pastor, but the church missionaries satisfied the needs of the church. The well beloved Father Taylor, the "Bishop of Iowa" ministered frequently at the church.

In 1864, Rev. H. E. Boardman became the first permanent pastor. The yearbook for 1865 gives the following data: members, nineteen; received during the year, seven by letter and five on profession of faith; one dismissed, and one absent. One baby baptized; one adult baptized; eighty in the congregation; forty-five in Sunday school; benevolent contributions $32.00. In the year 1866, the Congregationalists formed a partnership with the Presbyterians, where services were being held in the Presbyterian Church. During this year, Rev. Boardman resigned, and Rev. C. F. Boynton began his ministry and remained until 1868 until Rev. Phillips came. However, Rev. Phillips was not pastor for long due to health problems, forcing him to give up the work. For a year, the church was without a pastor, and they continued to meet with the Presbyterians. A meeting on May 29, 1869 decided the Congregationalist should form a separate organization if Congregationalism were to be preserved.

Letters of dismission were granted to all who wished to join other churches. Nine Congregationalists remained: George Killam, Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Smith, Mr. and Mrs. O. P. Fuller, Mr. and Mrs. G. S. Killam, and Mr. and Mrs. G. S. Webber. Rev. David Wirt was called in 1869, and the following became members: Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Payne, William K. Laughlin, Jr., Thomas A. Laughlin, Mr. and Mrs. Clark Fuller, Mr. and Mrs. Bronson R. Merritt and daughter Miss Helen R. Merritt, Rev. and Mrs. David Wirt, and daughter Aliss Julia Wirt, making twenty-one members in all. For a while, services were held in Henry’s Hall, located on the north side of Central Avenue between Sixth and Seventh. Services were then held in the Child’s Block, located south of the present courthouse. Services were also held in the courtroom in the old courthouse.

In 1869, a new constitution was adopted and the following officers were elected: C. H. Payne, deacon; O. P. Fuller, treasurer; and G. S. Killam, clerk. The five trustees were Thomas Laughlin, L. W. Smith, O. P. Fuller, William K. Laughlin, and G. S. Killam. The congregation decided to build, so the following made up the building committee: Rev. David Wirt, O. P. Fuller, G. S. Killam, and G. S. Webber. During the same year, a contract for a building was given to B. D. Beach for $1,750.00. The location was the present site of the Carter Building, which was located in the middle of Tenth and Eleventh Streets on the north side of Central Avenue. This building was dedicated on January 23, 1870. Rev. C. F. Boynton gave the scripture reading and prayers. The dedicatory address was made by Rev. J. Guernsey. When the Congregationalists moved in 1887, the old building was used by the Christian Church and the Salvation Army. It was a plain, unpretentious brick structure that could seat, at the most, about three hundred people. The first baby baptized in the “little brick church” was Perry Page Killam. Hon. George E. Roberts, who was the director of the United States mint, was a janitor of this church building. The records show he received a salary of one dollar for a month's labor. Rev. Wirt resigned in the latter part of 1870, and for a year, Rev. William A. Patton and Rev. Julius House supplied the pulpit. In 1872, Rev. Thomas O. Douglas was called as pastor and served the church for two years. He was followed by Rev. D. M. Breckenridge, who remained for four years. During Rev. Breckenridge's pastorate, the church membership increased to one hundred and nineteen. In 1878, Rev. L. L. West became pastor. During his leadership, the present church on the corner of First Avenue North and Seventh Street was built. This structure cost $10,000.00, and was dedicated on January 1, 1887. Rev. Thomas O. Douglas and President William Brooks of Tabor College conducted the dedicatory exercises. Rev. West's pastorate was the longest in the history of the church, extending over a period of twelve years. He was succeeded by Rev. E. S. Carr in 1890 who served until 1894. He was followed by Rev. E. R. Latham. Rev. Latham served three years and in 1897, Rev. H. D. Wiard was called and remained until 1901. Rev. W. I. Suckow began his pastorate in June 1902 and continued until 1905. In that year, Rev. Reuben L. Breed came to the church and served until the fall of 1909 when the present pastor, Rev. Nelson Wehrhan, began his work.





First Congregational
1856

First United Methodist Church of Fort Dodge had its beginnings in the 1850's. This first congregation gathered to hear the word of God by Rev. Burleigh. The meeting lasted three days.

First German Methodist

1873

The First German Methodist Episcopal society was organized in 1873. At first, services were held in private homes and halls. In 1879, a lot was purchased, and a church was built on the corner of First Avenue North and Twelfth Street. Afterward, the lot was sold to the Christian Science Church. Currently, the church does not have an organization in Fort Dodge.

First Methodist Episcopal

1914

First United Methodist Church of Fort Dodge had its beginnings in the 1850's. This first congregation gathered to hear the word of God by Rev. Burleigh. The meeting lasted three days.

Read More


In the fall of 1851, in the hospital tent of the military post in Fort Dodge, the first congregation gathered to hear the word of God. The congregation consisted primarily of soldiers, a few carpenters, a few trappers, and frontiersmen. The meeting, conducted by Rev. J. A. Burleigh, a Methodist minister, lasted three days.

First United Methodist Church of Fort Dodge had its beginnings in the 1850's. In 1851, a traveling Methodist preacher, the Reverend J. H. Burleigh, came to Fort Dodge to minister to the soldiers, the carpenters and the laborers in and around a forty mile strip of neutral ground near the Des Moines River where a military headquarters called Fort Dodge was established. This first congregation gathered to hear the word of God by Rev. Burleigh. The meeting lasted three days.

By 1854 a Methodist Class was organized and the following year (1855) the Fort Dodge Methodist Church was organized, originally named First Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. S. B. Guiberson, the pastor, was sent east to raise money and through persistent effort and liberality on part of the public, the church was built. Within three years a white frame structure was built on the southeast corner of Seventh Street and Second Avenue South. Until that time the congregation had been meeting in a brick school house across the street. It was the first church built in the city. It was a large, roomy building, and its erection was an exciting development for the young town.

With twenty years passed and under Rev. Lozier’s pastorate, the church membership largely increased and the need for a new church became apparent. At a session of the quarterly conference held on May 15, 1873, the matter was up for discussion and a committee was appointed to formulate church building plans. This committee consisted of E. E. Prusia, Isaac Garmoe, D. M. Crosby, D. A. Weller, John F. Duncombe, N. M. Page, G. R. Pearsons and F. M. Grant. Within two months, they had raised two thousand dollars. With this amount, the trustees of the church decided to go ahead with the building. Isaac Garmoe, E. E. Prusia, D. M. Crosby, G. R. Pearsons, N. M. Page and F. M. Grant were appointed to the building committee, with Mr. Pearsons as chairman.

At a session of the board of trustees January 8, 1874, plans were submitted for the new building. The board chose Mr. A. V. Lambert’s plans, and he was chosen as the architect. His instructions were to furnish designs and specifications for a church building to cost not less than fifteen thousand nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars. The construction started soon after, and the foundations were laid by Patrick O'Conner. The cornerstone for the new church building of Gothic architecture was laid in 1874 at the corner of First Avenue North and Tenth Street.

The work on the church was carried on during fall and winter. Messrs. Mitchell and Sulzbach had the contract for the brick work, and Mr. Israel Jenkins had the supervision of the structure. The First Methodist Episcopal Church was first occupied for services in August, 1875, although the building was not yet completed. Lack of funds made it necessary to postpone the completion of the building. Under his pastorate of Rex. I. N. Pardee, the church building was completed and formally dedicated on June 3, 1878. The building costs total was just share of twenty-two thousand dollars. Fifteen years later, the parsonage was built at a cost of $3,000.

The date when the First Methodist Episcopal Church’s name was changed to First United Methodist Church is not known.

The present church building of Greco-Roman design, was built on the same site and was

dedicated in 1915, to become known as the "One Foot in Heaven" church because of a book of that same name written by Hartzell Spence, son of the Reverend William Spence, pastor of the church during its construction. An Austin pipe organ was installed and has provided music leadership through the years with a new console and pipework added in 1955. Additional work in rebuilding was continued in 1969, 1988 and 1992. The building features a beautiful center dome and a bell tower. Bells, eleven in number, were given in 1915 by Mrs. Jonathan P. Dolliver in memory of her husband and other family members.

Through the years, members of the congregation were involved in the formation of other Methodist congregations including Riverside United Methodist (1892) and Epworth United Methodist (1906), development of Friendship Haven, a United Methodist related retirement center in Fort Dodge, creation of the Mission in the Valley, known as Urban Visions, the Lord's Cupboard - a food pantry housed in the church's office building and operated as an ecumenical project in the community, and a host of other projects dedicated to the ministry of Jesus Christ in this community.

In 1975 a medical clinic building to the north of the church was purchased and renovated to house our offices as well as additional class and meeting rooms.

The year 2003 saw extensive renovations begun on the 1914 building. New boilers, air handling and air conditioning were installed. In 2004 and 2005 the interior of the sanctuary and adjacent hallways were redecorated and newly carpeted. The chancel area of the church was enlarged.

In 2004, the congregation, led by its pastors, embarked on an outreach ministry - "Taking It To The People". An 18 wheel diesel tractor was fitted to bring the ministry of the church to people. Sidewalk Sunday School sessions, Worship in the Park, extended visits to other congregations and sites in other communities encompass an extended ministry outside the walls of our church.

In 2005, the congregation celebrated 150 years of ministry and mission in this community. Various worship services and program activities allowed us to "Remember our Past --- and Embrace the Future. The congregation gave thanks to God for members and friends from 1851 to the present day who have assisted in all the ministries of First United Methodist Church.

Sources:

*History of Fort Dodge and Webster County… by H.M. Pratt
*First United Methodist Church website





First Presbyterian

1856

First Presbyterian Church was organized on September 22, 1856 by Rev. S. T. Wells, a missionary.

Read More


In the fall of 1851, in the hospital tent of the military post in Fort Dodge, the first congregation gathered to hear the word of God. The congregation consisted primarily of soldiers, a few carpenters, a few trappers, and frontiersmen. The meeting, conducted by Rev. J. A. Burleigh, a Methodist minister, lasted three days.

First United Methodist Church of Fort Dodge had its beginnings in the 1850's. In 1851, a traveling Methodist preacher, the Reverend J. H. Burleigh, came to Fort Dodge to minister to the soldiers, the carpenters and the laborers in and around a forty mile strip of neutral ground near the Des Moines River where a military headquarters called Fort Dodge was established. This first congregation gathered to hear the word of God by Rev. Burleigh. The meeting lasted three days.

By 1854 a Methodist Class was organized and the following year (1855) the Fort Dodge Methodist Church was organized, originally named First Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. S. B. Guiberson, the pastor, was sent east to raise money and through persistent effort and liberality on part of the public, the church was built. Within three years a white frame structure was built on the southeast corner of Seventh Street and Second Avenue South. Until that time the congregation had been meeting in a brick school house across the street. It was the first church built in the city. It was a large, roomy building, and its erection was an exciting development for the young town.

With twenty years passed and under Rev. Lozier’s pastorate, the church membership largely increased and the need for a new church became apparent. At a session of the quarterly conference held on May 15, 1873, the matter was up for discussion and a committee was appointed to formulate church building plans. This committee consisted of E. E. Prusia, Isaac Garmoe, D. M. Crosby, D. A. Weller, John F. Duncombe, N. M. Page, G. R. Pearsons and F. M. Grant. Within two months, they had raised two thousand dollars. With this amount, the trustees of the church decided to go ahead with the building. Isaac Garmoe, E. E. Prusia, D. M. Crosby, G. R. Pearsons, N. M. Page and F. M. Grant were appointed to the building committee, with Mr. Pearsons as chairman.

At a session of the board of trustees January 8, 1874, plans were submitted for the new building. The board chose Mr. A. V. Lambert’s plans, and he was chosen as the architect. His instructions were to furnish designs and specifications for a church building to cost not less than fifteen thousand nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars. The construction started soon after, and the foundations were laid by Patrick O'Conner. The cornerstone for the new church building of Gothic architecture was laid in 1874 at the corner of First Avenue North and Tenth Street.

The work on the church was carried on during fall and winter. Messrs. Mitchell and Sulzbach had the contract for the brick work, and Mr. Israel Jenkins had the supervision of the structure. The First Methodist Episcopal Church was first occupied for services in August, 1875, although the building was not yet completed. Lack of funds made it necessary to postpone the completion of the building. Under his pastorate of Rex. I. N. Pardee, the church building was completed and formally dedicated on June 3, 1878. The building costs total was just share of twenty-two thousand dollars. Fifteen years later, the parsonage was built at a cost of $3,000.

The date when the First Methodist Episcopal Church’s name was changed to First United Methodist Church is not known.

The present church building of Greco-Roman design, was built on the same site and was

dedicated in 1915, to become known as the "One Foot in Heaven" church because of a book of that same name written by Hartzell Spence, son of the Reverend William Spence, pastor of the church during its construction. An Austin pipe organ was installed and has provided music leadership through the years with a new console and pipework added in 1955. Additional work in rebuilding was continued in 1969, 1988 and 1992. The building features a beautiful center dome and a bell tower. Bells, eleven in number, were given in 1915 by Mrs. Jonathan P. Dolliver in memory of her husband and other family members.

Through the years, members of the congregation were involved in the formation of other Methodist congregations including Riverside United Methodist (1892) and Epworth United Methodist (1906), development of Friendship Haven, a United Methodist related retirement center in Fort Dodge, creation of the Mission in the Valley, known as Urban Visions, the Lord's Cupboard - a food pantry housed in the church's office building and operated as an ecumenical project in the community, and a host of other projects dedicated to the ministry of Jesus Christ in this community.

In 1975 a medical clinic building to the north of the church was purchased and renovated to house our offices as well as additional class and meeting rooms.

The year 2003 saw extensive renovations begun on the 1914 building. New boilers, air handling and air conditioning were installed. In 2004 and 2005 the interior of the sanctuary and adjacent hallways were redecorated and newly carpeted. The chancel area of the church was enlarged.

In 2004, the congregation, led by its pastors, embarked on an outreach ministry - "Taking It To The People". An 18 wheel diesel tractor was fitted to bring the ministry of the church to people. Sidewalk Sunday School sessions, Worship in the Park, extended visits to other congregations and sites in other communities encompass an extended ministry outside the walls of our church.

In 2005, the congregation celebrated 150 years of ministry and mission in this community. Various worship services and program activities allowed us to "Remember our Past --- and Embrace the Future. The congregation gave thanks to God for members and friends from 1851 to the present day who have assisted in all the ministries of First United Methodist Church.

Sources:

*History of Fort Dodge and Webster County… by H.M. Pratt
*First United Methodist Church website





Riverside Methodist

1892

Fort Dodge was growing, so dividing the First Methodist Church was needed. In 1892, the Riverside Methodist Church, located in West Fort Dodge, was organized. A church structure was built the same year. Rev. C. E. Leitzell was the pastor, ad he also was in charge of the Epworth Methodist Church, located at the corner of Eleventh Avenue South and Twenty-First Street.

Sacred Heart Parish

1897

Sacred Heart Parish was established June 3, 1897 by Arch Bishop Henessy. Father Edmond Heelan, rector of the Cathedral at Dubuque, was appointed to take charge of the new congregation.

Read More


Sacred Heart Parish was established June 3, 1897 by Arch Bishop Henessy. Father Edmond Heelan, rector of the Cathedral at Dubuque, was appointed to take charge of the new congregation. On July 21, 1897, work began on a church costing about $4,500.00. On Sunday, October 24, 1897, mass was celebrated in it for the first time and on Sunday, November 7, 1897, the church was dedicated with solemn and appropriate ceremonies by Monsignor Ryan and a large number of priests. Rev. R. Slattery of New Hampton preached the dedicatory sermon at morning mass, and at the evening service, Rev. W. Halpin lectured to a large audience.

The two Fort Dodge congregations are now among the most prosperous in the state. In 1910, the Knights of Columbus erected their building on First Avenue South and Ninth Street. St. Joseph's Hospital, built in 1908, was dedicated March 21, 1909 by Bishop Garrigan.

When Father T. M. Lenehan came here in 1870, there was only the little old. Today there are two churches in Fort Dodge, two parochial schools and residences, a fine brick church, a school in Clare, and churches in Barnum, Moorland, Lehigh, Duncombe, Vincent, Coalville, and the church on the Lizard, almost on the Pocahontas county line. The parish he had in 1870 has now over one hundred sub-divisions but few of his old co-laborers are living.

The soldiers left the old fort in 1854, and fast upon the advancing and protecting rifle came the Catholic pioneers. In 1855, Mrs. Hannah Reilly and family came. They settled upon the north half of section thirty-three in the Cooper township. They received a patent from the United States government. This patent was held for nine years, and then they were evicted. George Crilly was another of the vanguard coming in 1855. He settled upon the quarter section of land that is now a part of Oleson Park. He, too, had a title from the government but lost his land. For many years, Mrs. Reilly and George Crilly fought for their homes. Mrs. Reilly's case went to the United States Supreme Court, and George Crilly stormed the chambers of congress pleading for his home. They both lost but bravely turned their faces to the future and began again. Mrs. Reilly died here in Fort Dodge, and George Crilly died a few years ago in South Dakota.





St. Mark's Episcopal 
1855

On July 22, 1855, a community meeting called together by Rev. Mr. Peet, rector of the St. Paul’s Church in Des Moines, organized St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

Read More


On July 22, 1855, a community meeting called together by Rev. Mr. Peet, rector of the St. Paul’s Church in Des Moines, organized St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

The first work of the congregation was to obtain a church building. Just one year after the organization, Bishop Lee offered to raise the remaining funds necessary for a chapel if Fort Dodge raised $1,000.00. The offer was not accepted. On February 17, 1858, the vestry resolved to build a church the next summer. Mr. J. L. Cheney, Mr. E. Bagg, and Dr. S. B. Olney were appointed the building committee. This building was a frame structure, standing just north of where Tobin College now stands.

The building was not completed until 1873-76 due to the panic of 1857 and the Civil War. This was made possible through the generosity of J. F. Duncombe, Webb Vincent, Beth Vincent, B. Grayson, H. Beecher, and Dr. S. B. Olney. On June 28, 1876, the church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. H. B. Whipple and D. D., bishop of Minnesota.

The church was destroyed by fire on January 5, 1892. Immediately, steps were taken for the erection of a new structure. The vestry headed by Rev. J. W. Paige and Mr. Leon Vincent were appointed as the building committee. In the early spring of 1893, Rev. Page died. On April 23, 1893, the vestry appointed Messrs. J. C. Cheney, Webb Vincent, Leon Vincent, and A. J. Arthur as the new building committee. On May 24 1894, Mr. C. B. Hepler presented a proposal to build the new church with a cost of $7,000.00. This was accepted, and the building was erected. In 1898, the chancel was enlarged and a new organ was installed at a cost of $2,683.00.





St. Olaf's Norwegian Lutheran
1891

St. Olaf's Norwegian Lutheran Church was organized on September 22, 1891 by Rev. B. K. Berkeland with twenty members. For three years, services were held in the Swedish Lutheran Church. During the summer of 1893, a movement was started to raise funds to build a new church. Plans were drawn and accepted. In September of the same year, the foundation was laid. The church was finished and dedicated the last Sunday in October 1894. The pastor was Rev. P. C. Danielson.

St. Paul's German Lutheran

1861

The first worship service of the small congregation in Fort Dodge was held in the Leonard Fessel home on January 20, 1861 . The Rev. Dr. Frederick Fickenscher walked from Boone to Fort Dodge to conduct services once every 4 weeks.

Read More


The first Lutheran church service was conducted in the home of Leonard Fessel on January 20, 1861 by Pastor Frederick Fickenscher, an immigrant from Germany. The earliest entries of baptisms, marriages and deaths in the records of St. Paul Lutheran Church were signed by Pastor Fickenscher.

In 1864, a building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first St. Paul Church was erected. It was built of native gypsum rock recovered from quarries by members of the congregation. The original church was 24’ x 40’ by 16’ tall. The wood in the edifice was of black walnut. The church was also used as a school. The pews were made so that a drop leaf on the back of each pew could be used for the students’ desks.

St. Paul was the first congregation in Iowa to be affiliated with the Missouri Synod. The congregation enjoyed rapid growth from the years after 1864. Many Lutheran immigrants were arriving in Iowa during those years and became members of the church. Growth was so substantial, that in 1882, the congregation decided to build a new church on a new site. A plot of ground with a house on the corner of 4th Avenue South and 13th Street was purchased for $2,300. The house was used as a parsonage. A newly constructed church was dedicated on November 28, 1886. The church was built in Gothic style, measuring 99’ x 40’ x 33. The old church was converted into a school. For many years, church services were conducted in both English and German.

In 1924, members of the St. Paul Lutheran Church congregation contributed funds to support the newly formed Lutheran Slovaks Congregation of Fort Dodge. A new church was completed in 1926, now known as Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.

In 1928, St. Paul Lutheran Church participated in a fundraising campaign for the building of a Children’s Home, located at 234 9th Avenue North, completed in 1930. The organization was now known as the Lutheran Home Finding Society. By the early 1950’s the home had cared for more than 1,000 children. Lutheran congregations took direct responsibility for the physical care and spiritual nurture of these children.

In the 1960’s, society was changing dramatically. Children awaiting placement with a permanent family were being cared for in foster homes, so the Children’s Home was no longer needed. The ministry remained focused on reaching out to those in need. Some unmarried women who became pregnant were not accepted in their home communities and needed a place to stay until their babies were born. The Children’s Home became a home for unwed mothers.

Also in 1960, the St. Paul congregation decided to enlarge the church, add a new heating system and a new pipe organ for a total cost of $50,000. During the same time, the church helped to open Lutheran Hospital, now UnityPoint Regional Medical Center on Kenyon Road.

The church’s ministry continued to grow through the decades, but in 1999, the church was destroyed by a fire that was started by vandals. This loss was crushing, but the congregation rallied and began a fundraising campaign to build a new church, which was called “Ashes to Glory – Lift High the Cross”. In 2003, a cornerstone ceremony was held and the cornerstone that was spared by the fire was placed in the corner of the new building. A new church was erected, and in subsequent years, a new fellowship hall, church kitchen and hallway to the school and church library were completed under the direction of Pastor Al Henderson.

In October, 2019, St. Paul Lutheran Church suffered another tragedy. Pastor Al Henderson was assaulted outside the church and died from his injuries. The congregation and the community were devastated and heartbroken. Pastor Henderson was a well-known and much beloved member of not only the St. Paul community, but of the Fort Dodge community and the First Responders and EMS community, having also served as the pastor to local law enforcement agencies.

St. Paul Lutheran Church continues to be a strong leader and asset in the Fort Dodge Community. It continues to provide education, leadership and spiritual guidance to residents in the region.

Sources:

*St. Paul Lutheran Church History...The Messenger





© 2020 by Fort Dodge Community Foundation. Proudly created by SPIN.