Time Machine: Lincoln Church

Small congregation disappeared in early 1970s

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LINN COUNTY — The little church stood between Palo and Covington, northwest of Cedar Rapids, near the Linn County line, but its history predated the structure built in 1900.

A man known simply as “Lincoln” was a local landowner near whose farm grew the settlement of Lincoln, with its Lincoln school. The original church was organized after a series of revival meetings at the school around 1870.

The school house hosted Sunday school every afternoon at 2:30, with occasional services following.

The Lincoln Church became part of an Evangelical United Brethren Church circuit that included Union, New Buffalo, Lincoln and Kline. In 1899, a young bachelor, the Rev. J.R. Meloy of Patterson, Pa., took charge of the circuit.

After 30 years of having Sunday school and intermittent services in the Lincoln school, the little congregation began to grow and decided to build a separate church. The Rev. Meloy, Henry Kline and John Drake comprised the building committee, and Mrs. Elizabeth Drake led off the fund-raising for the building with a $500 donation.

George Clark donated the land for the church and the cornerstone was laid on Sept. 23, 1900, by presiding elder, the Rev. G.W. Mullen. The new frame structure cost $2,200 to build. To save money, the church was built without a full basement.

Bishop R. Dubs of Chicago came for the dedication on Dec. 9, 1900. The little church was debt free when it opened its doors that stormy day. Even though the weather was uninviting, the church was overflowing.

The church continued to grow steadily, adding a missionary society. The Rev. George Roths served as pastor in 1908. He later served as pastor at the Alburnett Evangelical Church.

One of Clinton Township’s pioneer residents, William Cornelius Langton, and his wife, the former Rosa West, were members of the Lincoln church. They farmed in the area for 60 years. They had six daughters and three sons, one of whom, Roy, took the photographs that appear with this story. William died in January 1918 and Rosa in June 1921. Their funerals were held in the Lincoln Church and both are buried in Palo Cemetery.

In 1920, the congregation added a basement as the first of many improvements over the years, including an oil furnace, a new piano and a modern kitchen in the basement.

In 1927, the Buffalo Evangelical United Brethren Church north of Cedar Rapids and the Lincoln church decided to share a pastor. The Buffalo church had a parsonage, so that’s where the pastor for both churches lived.

The Rev. L.T. Olson had been pastor of the 65-member congregation for about six years when the congregation celebrated the 50th anniversary of its dedication belatedly in 1951. Olson had formerly served the Second Evangelical church at 18th Avenue and Ninth Street NW in Cedar Rapids.

Lincoln church’s pastor in 1956 was the Rev. Samuel J. Hahn. He was a graduate of Westmar College in Le Mars and the Evangelical United Brethren Seminary in Naperville, Ill. He brought his bride to live in the Buffalo church parsonage in 1957. Almost 50 years later, after Hahn retired, he collaborated with artist Scott Patton on a book about biblical plants, “Stories Told Under the Sycamore Tree, Lessons from Bible Plants.”

A new oak floor was laid in the sanctuary in 1958, while the women redecorated the basement, which was used for Sunday school and meetings.

In February 1959, the Lincoln hurch, described as “midway between Palo and Atkins,” received an award from the Iowa Christian Rural Institute at Iowa State College in Ames. Its Merit With Distinction award recognized that in an era of struggle for small country churches, Lincoln Church continued to serve its community. It was ranked in a class for churches with 75 members or less. Lincoln Church had 71 members.

The church’s activities included a summer Bible school, a young people’s fellowship and involvement in community activities, including 4-H. The little congregation carefully maintained the church property.

A harvest festival at the church in November 1960 featured Dr. H. Hughes Dill of St. Paul’s Methodist in Cedar Rapids as speaker.

Both Buffalo and Lincoln churches again won awards from the Iowa Christian Rural Institute in 1961, Buffalo winning honorable mention for its programs and Lincoln again winning the certificate of merit.

The last time the Lincoln church listed an event in the newspaper or appeared in the area phone book was 1968.

It was abandoned some time before 1972 and was demolished in the fall of 1973.

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