Warren County Iowa Genealogical Society




    Ackworth Friends Church

    Ackworth Friends Church (aka South River Meeting), 122 College Ave, Ackworth, IA, 50001, first church erected in 1852.


    History Of Ackworth Friends' Meeting, by Mrs. Hugh BARRETT, is copied from History of Warren County, Iowa, by Gerard SCHULTZ and Don L. BERRY, The Record and Tribune Company, Indianola, Iowa, 1953, pages 119-151.

    There were members of the religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, as early as 1847, who held meetings for worship in homes near Ackworth, then known as South River. "Indulged meetings" for worship were held for a time under the direction of Spring Creek Quarterly meeting. When the quarterly meeting felt that the time had come to form a monthly meeting at South River, the Three Rivers Monthly meeting, composed of South River and Middle River Preparative meetings, was set up June 5, 1852. There were about forty members of South River meeting then.

    Since in the early days there were no paid pastors, the organization of the Friends' meeting was very vital to carrying on its work. The Meeting of Ministry and Oversight was composed of the elders and overseers and recorded ministers. This body had charge of the spiritual life of the meeting and did what corresponds now to pastoral work. The preparative meeting, which was a business meeting of the local meeting or congregation, was held once a month. This was followed by the monthly meeting, also held monthly, which was the business meeting of the several meetings or congregations that made up the monthly meeting. In later years each congregation came to a monthly meeting and the preparative meetings were dropped. The monthly meeting had two clerks, one who presided and one who kept the records in the form of "minutes." There were no motions made or votes taken. The group considered all business to be taken up in prayerful silence, then several rose and "spoke to" the matter under consideration. It was the business of the clerk to secure "the sense" of the meeting and formulate it into a minute of which all could approve. If even one person objected to a proposal, the matter was left and nothing was done until the feeling of the meeting was unanimous. Monthly meeting frequently lasted all day. No dinner was served, and as many came long distances, the children, especially, got hungry and so lunches were packed to eat on the way home.

    Quarterly meetings were business meetings held every three months by several meetings. South River was also a member of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends which met once a year. Preparative meetings that were at one time part of Three Rivers Monthly meeting were South River, Middle River, Indianola, Goshen, Rose Mount, Green Plain, Waveland and Smyrna.

    The meetings for worship were unprogrammed, and if the spirit moved anyone to speak, he was expected to bring a message. Many of the early meetings were completely silent. There was no music. When a member knelt in prayer, the congregation arose and turned facing their seat backs and removed their hats and bonnets which they wore in meeting except when speaking or praying. When someone spoke often and appeared to have a gift for the ministry, this gift was recognized by his or her "recording" as a minister. These "recorded" ministers received no pay but were recognized as ministers throughout the Society of Friends and were frequently "liberated" for service in other meetings and carried a "minute" expressing the approval of the home meeting with their work.

    Elias and Rodema NEWLIN, members of the Middle River meeting, were among the earliest ministers who influenced South River. Oliver G. OWEN was the first resident minister and was recorded as a young man of seventeen years. Other early ministers were John M. COFFIN, Catherine MORGAN and Henry WAY. The method of conducting business and the recording of ministers remain the same today, but for many years the church has hired a pastor and the worship service is similar to that in other churches. A short period of silence is still observed during the worship service when any who wish may speak or pray.

    The first meeting house was a long, low frame building standing just east of the present building, built about 1852. The second place of meeting was the academy building erected in 1869 at a cost of $7,000 and remodeled in 1908 at a cost of $2,800.

    Friends were interested early in education. Several subscription schools were taught in the old meeting house. The first day school, as the Bible school was called, was organized soon after the organization of the monthly meeting. In the spring of 1868 Jeptha MORGAN, Isaac STARBUCK, George D. HAWORTH, John TOMLINSON, Samuel OWEN, Jeremiah and John H. HAWORTH and others formed a stock company to establish an academy. A brick two-story building 60x40 feet was erected, the brick for the building being burned on the grounds. There was a meeting room for church services, and a hall upstairs and classrooms down. An Englishman, BRAITHWAITE, donated $1,000 for a library and the school was named for Ackworth Academy, the oldest Friends' school in England. Soon afterward the name of the monthly meeting was changed to Ackworth. The first school in the academy building was taught in the fall of 1870 with John CHAWNER as principal and Mila TRUEBLOOD, assistant. Other principals with their assistants were: Oliver OWEN and Ruth HINSHAW; Luther and Cora HADLEY; Dan HENLEY; Eli BEARD; Angie FRAZIER and Julian BEARD; W. G. STANLEY with the following assistants, Jesse GEORGE, Thomas ARMSTRONG, C. L. MICHENER, James R. HOWARD,* L. E. KENWORTHY, Esther HUNT and Hannah HUNT; and Harlan CARTER. The academy ceased to function about 1900 when public high schools were established.

    In the earliest day burials were made northwest of Ackworth. The first burial was made in the present cemetery about 1852. For many years there has been a Cemetery Improvement association which formerly held annual meetings. The Ackworth Academy association has held annual meetings since 1922 except for the war years. The one held in June, 1952, was the last.

    The church building was destroyed by fire December 25, 1924. The old walls were used in the rebuilding, which cost $7,250. The new building was dedicated August 16, 1925. At this time the basement was added by the ladies aid. The basement contains a modern kitchen, an oil furnace installed in 1950 and meeting rooms for the aid and Sunday school classes. The following is the approximate membership of the various church groups: Sunday school 106, church 135, average attendance at Sunday morning worship 60, Senior Christian Endeavor 17, Junior Christian Endeavor 15, ladies aid 25, missionary society 19, prayer meeting 30.

    “109 Years of Community Service” from the Indianola Record-Herald about 1956, contributed by Virginia WHEELDON

    It was June 5, 1852, when the first South River Meeting was set up at what is now Ackworth. Five years before that the members of or those with a leaning to the Quaker faith had begun holding meetings in homes about the neighborhood.

    So, the Ackworth church was just past 109 years old when the Ackworth annual homecoming service was held June 10, 1956. From a beginning when Iowa was only a year old and two years before Warren county was organized the Society of Friends four and a half miles east of Indianola has carried on and is still active and the dominant social force in the community.

    In 1869 an academy building was erected, containing a room for public worship, and the old log church was abandoned. The walls of the old academy building still serve as the walls of today's modern church.
    The academy was named Ackworth, a namesake of the oldest "Friends" school in England. The village surrounding it was then named Ackworth 10 years before the Chariton, Des Moines & Southern Railroad built a line from Chariton to Indianola (soon thereafter to be taken over by the Burlington) and established a station at Ackworth.

    The academy was closed about 1900, when high schools became general over the state. Nevertheless the influence of the Ackworth academy and the Ackworth church has been potent all over east central Warren county for more than 100 years. It is not necessary to repeat now what the Record-Herald has printed before, the names of people sprung from or influenced by the Ackworth church which have become will known in state and nation. Few communities the size of Ackworth can point to as many distinguished former citizens.

    The HAWORTHS, the HOCKETS, the CLARKS, the CRAVENS, names which made early Ackworth, are gone; but the Ackworth church goes on making for better citizenship, better homes, better people in the community it serves. The present pastor is Roger CREWS, a young man who preaches the same gospel proclaimed by the pioneers, still potent, still based on a firm faith in God and the Man of Galilee.