Churches

HISTORY
Coppin Chapel

1979

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

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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 Baptist

1871

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

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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.

Corpus Christi taken by Steve Kersten 20

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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





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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.





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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.





First Presbyterian

1856

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

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First Presbyterian Church was organized on September 22, 1856 by Rev. S. T. Wells, a missionary. The first members were Maj. W. Williams, Jeanette J. Williams, Samuel Rees, Eleanor Rees, and Andrew Miller. The first minister was Rev. Edward L. Dodder. Andrew Miller and Samuel Rees were ordained elders.

On July 21, 1856, William Wilson, Jr., of Philadelphia, of the firm of Wilson, McBane & Co.,

drew up a subscription paper soliciting aid "to build a Presbyterian meeting house in Fort Dodge." On September 22, 1856, the trustees received a donation from the proprietors of the town of lot three, block twenty-five, valued at $100.00. Money to erect a building was raised by subscription, and the church was completed and dedicated on February 25, 1856. The cost was $2,207.00. As the church grew, this edifice proved too small, and two lots were secured in 1880 on the corner of First Avenue South and Eighth Street for $1,600.00. Donations of $10,292 were raised. Work began the same year, and the church was dedicated on October 7, 1881 under the pastorate of Dr. Robert F. Coyle.

During the years 1861-69, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists held union services. The church has always been active in missionary work, and has supported a mission west of Moorland, at the Duncombe mills, and the Memorial Chapel on the corner of Fourteenth and Tenth Avenue South.

The Memorial Chapel was built by Mr. E. H. Rich in memory of his son, Willis Rich. The following have served the church as pastors: Rev. Edward L. Dodder, Rev. Lyman C. Gray, Rev. R. F. Coyle, Rev. Ezra B. Newcomb, Rev. J. Milton Greene, Rev. Phil C. Baird, and Dr. E. E. Hastings, who has been pastor since 1908. The belonged to the Presbytery of Dubuque, but now forms a part of the Presbytery of Fort Dodge.

First Presbyterian Church of Fort Dodge traces its roots to the very beginnings of the community. When the military post was abandoned in 1853 only a handful of civilians remained behind and the future was uncertain. It was only when the federal land office for North central Iowa was located in Fort Dodge that the economy of the new community began to boom. In 1855 and 1856 five churches were organized: Methodist, Congregational, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Catholic.

Credit for the organization of the Fort Dodge Presbyterian Church can be given to Rev. S. T. Wells, the first minister commissioned by the Board of Domestic Missions of the Presbyterian Church as a missionary and evangelist for the Synod of Iowa. Rev. Wells sent Rev. E.I. Dodder to serve as the first pastor in October of 1856. During the first two months, the congregation met in people’s homes but in December services were moved to the new but uncompleted public school.

The first members were Major William Williams (founder of Fort Dodge), Jeanette J. Williams, Samuel Rees, Eleanor Rees, and Andrew Miller. The first minister was Rev. Edward L. Dodder. Andrew Miller and Samuel Rees were ordained elders.

On September 22, 1856, the trustees received a donation from the proprietors of the town of lot located on the east side of Seventh Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue North. Money to erect a building was raised in the community and the church was completed and dedicated on in July of 1857. The cost was $2,207.00. The new church, like most frontier churches, suffered through difficult times. When Rev. Dodder left in 1861, membership had fallen to sixteen. Without a pastor, regular worship services were suspended temporarily.

In 1863, the Presbyterian Church and the local Congregational Church agreed to unite for worship and share a pastor. Under this agreement, which lasted until 1866, Presbyterian membership fell to only ten members. Over the next thirteen years, the church had eight different pastors.

When Dr. Coyle arrived, membership had reached 119 with 175 in the Sunday school. Under Dr. Coyle’s leadership a new church was built at 1st Avenue South and 9th Street, the largest church in the city, capable of seating nine hundred. With the support of the First Presbyterian Church membership, the Fort Dodge Collegiate Institute was established, the predecessor of Buena Vista University.

As the church began to grow, the building proved too small, and two lots were secured in 1880 on the corner of First Avenue South and Eighth Street for $1,600.00. Donations of $10,292 were raised. Work began the same year on a new building and the church was dedicated on October 7, 1881 under the pastorate of Dr. Robert F. Coyle.

Growth continued over the next few years as the church was blessed with several excellent pastors. Especially noteworthy was Dr. J. Milton Greene, who came to the church in 1893. He led the church to greater commitment to Christian outreach, including the organization of the First Presbyterian Calvary Church of Barnum in 1899. Under Dr. Green’s successors, the Rich Memorial Chapel was organized in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood and Sunday school centers near Duncombe School, at the gypsum mills, and at the brick and tile plants were established. Several women’s groups were established and successful efforts were also made to establish church youth groups.

Dr. Greene was succeeded by Phil Baird, a brilliant preacher and lecturer, and Dr. Hastings who entered the ministry after a career in law.

In 1916, Dr. Harless assumed the pastorate and served twenty years, the longest pastorate in the history of the church. During his term, membership grew and eventually exceeded one thousand, making it the 4th largest Presbyterian church in Iowa. In 1922, lots were bought at the site of the current church and a new building fund was started. The Depression of the 1930’s and World War II created financial hardships for the church, and plans for the new building were placed on hold.

Rev William Paden became pastor in 1936 and he brought a new vitality to the church. For the first time, focus was placed on families with the organization of the Mariners clubs. Church life was disrupted by the coming of the Second World War. One hundred and thirty-eight members served in the armed forces, roughly 15% of the membership. Others moved to new places to work in defense plants. In 1945, Rev. Paden entered the military as a chaplain and his position as pastor was filled by Rev. Harrison Hilscher, former missionary to China.

The return of peace brought a renewal for the church. The drive for a new church building was revived and in 1948 ground was finally broken. The new church was opened a year later in 1949. With expanding church programming, the congregation raised the money to add the East wing (the Commons) in 1970, offering staff office space, youth classrooms, a new kitchen and a commons for small church gatherings.

During the post-war, baby-booming 1950s, there was a revival of religion. Indeed, some at the time considered it a third great awakening. Then came the societal changes of the 1960s, which included a questioning of religious institutions. American culture changed drastically in the 1960s and 70s and the change was apparent in church life as well. Church attendance nationally declined and worship styles, which satisfied the previous generation, lost their appeal for the baby boomers and later generations. First Presbyterian responded by placing an increased focus on its youth programs, hiring full time professionals to expand the offerings.

Traditional styles of worship were also reconsidered and it was determined that an alternate style of contemporary worship might more effectively meet new needs. In response, the congregation purchased the former Jewish synagogue and named it the Shalom Center. First Presbyterian also committed itself to the construction of another addition, the Christian Life Center (CLC). Funds were raised in 2011-2012 and the new addition was completed in 2013. The CLC is a beautiful multipurpose facility that houses a new, more contemporary worship service for church members. It also was space used for large group meetings as well as youth recreational activities. A Hispanic ministry was added in 2004, which started its own church in the Spring of 2010. Vida y Esperanza Iglesia Presbyteriana was the first new church development of North Central Iowa Presbytery in roughly forty years.

In the first decade of the new century, First Presbyterian began two other new ministries that continue to enrich our community today. In 2003, the church began the KidZone Christian Childcare Center. The program has since expanded to include a three and four year old preschool, and care for children through elementary school. The ministry is a wonderful and valuable service to families throughout the community of Fort Dodge.

In 2004, First Presbyterian completed the Outreach Ministry Center, located across the street and just south of the church. This facility houses First Presbyterian’s wheelchair ministry and provides a space where people come together to work on a variety of projects for others. Through the tools and machinery in the OMC, members of the church are able to refurbish wheelchairs for Hope Haven International, help repair items for community events, and help others in need.

In the most recent years, First Presbyterian has mobilized numerous mission trips in other states and countries, helping the less fortunate while spreading the Gospel of Christ. In addition to these short-term mission projects, multiple members have begun non-profit ministries here in Fort Dodge and beyond including Gateway for Discovery, a women’s recovery home in Fort Dodge that opened in 2013.

The history of First Presbyterian Church is a story of commitment to advancing the ministry of the church by constantly striving to attract new members to the church and to embrace God’s Word. It is also a ministry that continually strives to reach and help people where they are in the community and even in other countries. This same ministry continues today and people of all ages are invited to join the First Presbyterian ministry and make their story part of the ongoing history of First Presbyterian Church.

Pastors through the Years

1856-1861 The Rev. W.I. Dodder
1863-1866 (The church had 8 different pastors during this time)
1867-? The Rev. Dr. Coyle
1893-? The Rev. Dr. J. Milton Greene
?-? The Rev. Phil Baird
?-? The Rev. Dr. Hastings
1916-1936 The Rev. Dr. Harless
1936-1945 The Rev. William Paden
?-? The Rev. Dan Ogada
1945-? The Rev. Harrison Hilscher
?-? The Rev. Dr. Gene Seikman

?-? The Rev. Gary Heinman
1990-2006 The Rev. David A. Feltman
2006-2007 The Rev. James H. Guyer (Interim Pastor)
2008-2012 The Rev. Jeffrey J. Martens
2012-2013 The Rev. Dr. Nancy A. DeVries (Interim Pastor)
2013-Current The Rev. Dr. Austin D. Hill





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.

Riverside Methodist Church now iglesia d
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.

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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





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.

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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.

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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.

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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