Warren County Iowa Genealogical Society




    Summerset Farmer's Chapel

    Summerset Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church, now listed as Indianola Farmers Chapel, 9020 160th Ave, Indianola, IA 50125, phone (515) 961-6637


    Farmers' Chapel history, written by Mrs. Lyle HARTSOOK and copied from the History of Warren County, Iowa, by Gerard SCHULTZ and Don L. BERRY, The Record and Tribune Company, Indianola, Iowa, 1953, pages 119-151

    One of the beautiful little rural churches in Warren County is Farmers' Chapel, situated five miles northeast of Indianola. This church had its beginning in Farmers' schoolhouse, where a band of sturdy pioneers met to fill the need felt for most of those early communities, that of a church influence in their midst. Interest grew apace, and soon the little schoolhouse was not large enough to accommodate the growing band of worshipers.

    So it was decided to build a church. To construct a really worthwhile structure at the end of the nineteenth century was a real undertaking, for times were anything but prosperous in the decade from 1890 to 1900. But a meeting was held; plans were made, and a board duly appointed. The minister at that time was the Rev. J. S. YOUNG, who with J. B. ASHBAUGH, William PITMAN and John McDOLE, constituted the building committee. The largest amount subscribed at that first meeting was $100.

    Among the early founders were Eli VANCE, Dan LEWIS, Bart TOWNSAND, Isaac PECK and many others of their caliber. Of the younger men there were Wilbur BROWN, Willis EICHER, George MADDEN and Steve HARDIN. This little band was very earnest in its efforts to better the community, very far-sighted in planning, as is shown by one rather peculiar circumstance. The land was donated from the corner of "Uncle Ben" FOWLER’S farm. The site is in the northeast corner of section 16, township 76, range 23. The recorded deed read: "This land shall belong to the board of trustees of Farmers' Chapel, and their successors." Thus they must have felt that this bit of land dedicated to the Lord should always be used for that sole purpose.

    The present structure was finished and dedicated in the spring of 1893. At that time the beautiful blue, spruce, which is illuminated every year at the Christmas season, was donated by George MADDEN, who lived on what is now the Marion SELLS farm, east southeast section 10, township 76, range 23. The white birch, which lived until just recently, was donated by J. B. ASHBAUGH.

    Among the early pastors were the Rev. "Mike" HORNED and Christie SMITH, with Dr. Emory MILLER as presiding elder. Looking back over the years from 1893 to 1952, one who has lived in the church all that time can see many faces and lives that stand out in bold relief in the history of the church. Many of the adjoining farms have been owned or rented all through the years by habitual church-goers. Some of the people who are working in the church today are of the third generation of Christian workers. Among the long-time teachers in the church school were Steve HARDIN, Mrs. Dodge CLARK, Mrs. E. G. BROCKWAY and Esther, who served many years in the church school; Willis EICHER, who served forty years as steward and choir leader; and Mrs. EICHER, the only charter member of the Woman's Society of Christian Service at the time of her death; Mrs. Ethel HICKMAN, who was superintendent of the Sunday school for eighteen years. Her father, William PITMAN, held that office when the Sunday school was organized, and her daughters, Alice and Inez, now Mrs. Leslie JENNER and Mrs. Everet SIMMERMAN, were third generation workers in the church. A group of loyal workers of past years were the families of Thad and Sam FOWLER, Nathaniel CORZATT, Park CREGG, William WILEY and Wilbur BROWN, George LINDAMOOD, Charles ECKELS, Euta SHULTZ, Miller WILSON, William HODGIN, E. G. BROCKWAY, Homer OGAN, George LAUCK, Lee PERRY, Everett SAMS, W. A. SIMONS, Carl ASHBAUGH, Harold STONE, Hillis ANDREW, Jay BEYMER and Bert BALES. These are some of the families who have been instrumental year after year, maintaining the church by regular attendance.

    The church has trained some fine young people. In 1934 these boys and girls joined the church: Max ASHBAUGH, Eleanor and Ethelda BEYMER, Warren and Phyllis STONE, Martha Helen HENRY, and Mary Ellen, Ruth and Ralph PERRY. Max served four and one-half years in World War II, and he, Eleanor, Warren and Phyllis have married and live in the community.

    A younger group who joined the church in 1941 were Kenneth, Billy and Mary Louise SELLS, Alice, Eleanor and Richard STONE, Edwin, Harvey, Merrill and Dale HENRY, Beverly BULL, Alan Dean SPENCE, Merle HULL, Robert WILEY (later), Lester GATREL, Myrna HOWARD and Sue NICOSON. The church schoolteacher and MYF leader of this group for many years was Phyllis STONE CORE.

    The present group of young people includes Robert LABERTEW, Gary and Shirley SELLS, Chester ONSTOTT, John BLAKE, Patricia LAVERTY, Dixie SPENCE, Wilson WILEY and Galen GEARHART. Some of the present members of the church not yet mentioned are the families of Fay LAVERTY, Lowell ONSTOTT, Sam ESCHER, Marion SELLS, Mrs. Glen SPENCE, Clare WILEY, Ross GAMBLE, Roy HENRY, Orville HOWARD, Webb HULL, Wayne LABERTEW, Chester RULE, Mrs. Paul BLAKE and Mrs. Ivan BULL. Mr. and Mrs. Homer STONE have served as members of the church board for many years, Mr. STONE acting as a very capable manager of the business affairs of the church. Two older mothers have helped the church, Mrs. Johanne VANDERLINDEN and Mrs. Maud WRIGHT.

    During its first twenty-five years the church was the scene of only one wedding, that of Lou and Lola DUNN, who established their first home on what is now the Chester RULE farm, one-half mile west of the church. In 1938 Ile BATES and Glenn MAYNARD were married in the church. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bert BALES, who belonged to the church for forty years, were a good example of those good friends and "close neighbors" of the church whose home was always open to any need of the community. During the last ten years many of our young people have chosen the church as the place of their weddings: Warren STONE and Virginia CHANCE, 1943; Martha Helen HENRY and Lowell STRAHAN, 1946; Ethelda BEYMER and Ralph LEDLIE, 1945; Merle HULL and Betty BREUKLANDER, 1950; Richard STONE and Sue NICOSON, 1950; Myrna HOWARD and Duane OHL, 1951; Eleanor STONE and Jim SHERMAN, 1951; and Phyllis DALE and Dale CROW, 1951.

    Two full-time Christian workers have gone out from the church: Forest PERKINS, who became a Methodist minister, and Frank ADAMSON, who is a missionary in Shangugu, Belgian Congo, Africa.

    In 1943 the church observed its fiftieth anniversary. Many former members returned for the day, and letters were read from Mrs. Nora FLESHER DODDS and Mrs. Kate FLESHER LINDAMOOD of Staples, Minn.; Mrs. Miller WILSON of Salem, Ore.; Mrs. Marie Kaufman CLARK of Ledgerwood, S. D., and many others. In 1947 Mrs. Alice CRUMLY, a capable and much loved Sunday school teacher before the twenties, sponsored a reunion of her former class at the church. The original class of eighteen had expanded to thirty-five.

    In 1927 at the suggestion of Mrs. Ethel HICKMAN, a basement was put under the church, and later a new furnace and electricity were added, so that now the church is the social as well as the spiritual center of the community. Recently the sanctuary was redecorated, new waterproof paint has been put on the basement walls, and a bottled gas stove, divided sink, many shelves and cupboards, dishes, new tables and chairs and other equipment added. The Rev. Livingston WITTEN, professor of philosophy at Simpson college, is the pastor; Mrs. Marion SELLS, superintendent of the church school, and Mrs. Ivan BULL, president of the Woman's Society of Christian Service. Lyle HARTSOOK is the present church treasurer. Teachers of adults in the church school are Wayne LABERTEW and Mrs. Loraine EICHER HARTSOCK. Mrs. Dale HINES, Mrs. Fay LAVERTY and Mrs. Wayne LABERTEW have charge of the other classes. The women of the church organized the Ladies' Aid society in 1905, and it became the W. S. C. S. in 1941, and has always been a real help to the church and its work.

    Basically the ideals and aims instigated by that small band of pioneers in 1893 remain the same. The carriage, the canopy top, the spring wagon have been replaced by cars of every make and color, but still:

    "They come for miles to worship together
    On all occasions, in all kinds of weather,
    For the seed of that faith, often watered with tears,
    Has brought showers of blessing down through the years."

    “Fire Destroys Rural Church,” by Tom SUK, beginning of this article is copied from the Record Herald and Indianola Tribune, September 15, 2000.

    Investigators are trying to determine if a 107-year-old rural Warren County church was destroyed by lightning or arson early Thursday morning. A thunderstorm rolled through about an hour before the blaze at the Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church was discovered about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. An empty 5-gallon gasoline can also was found about 40 feet away from the southeast corner of the church, where the fire started. A witness who arrived just before the fire department said a basement window and a first-floor window were broken out where the fire began. The fire has been classified as being of suspicious origin.

    “Pastor leads two rural Iowa churches in rebuilding effort,” by Tom SUK, Des Moines Register newspaper writer, article believed to be from the Indianola Record Herald and Tribune, date unknown, article found at the Warren County Historical Society, 2014

    Indianola, IA – The Rev. Ted Lytton HATTON is trying to rebuild two rural churches in Warren County, HATTON serves both Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church and Center Chapel United Methodist Church.

    The 107-year-old Farmers Chapel Church, located three miles east of Indianola, was destroyed in September by an arsonist. Center Chapel, about five miles west of Indianola, “has not been treated well by time and termites,” HATTON said. The church is also too small for a growing congregation. Serving the two churches is a challenge, HATTON said last week. “It is a grueling and exhausting process. I hope I don’t have to build another church again,” he said. The new Farmers Chapel will be built on the site of the old structure. The new facility will be 7,983 square feet, compared with the old church’s 5,400 square feet. The new church will keep the spirit of an old, small white clapboard country chapel with its traditional style and bell tower. “They pressed us pretty hard for that. They wanted to keep that rural architectural look,” said Steve GRAY of SVPA Architects in West Des Moines, the firm that designed the church. “We want to honor our past and anticipate our future,” said Keith HENRY, chairman of the Farmers Chapel building committee. The design has been completed, but it will take from 60 to 90 days to seek bids and hire a contractor, he said. Construction may begin in the fall.

    Insurance will pay much of the $500,000.00 estimated cost of the new church, HENRY said. Setting a price for items destroyed in the fire was difficult. “We racked our brains about what was in this room and what was in that room,” HENRY said. Most of the 70 member congregation participated in trying to remember exactly what was destroyed. Many lost items were irreplaceable. Photographs, including a group picture of the church founders along with church birth, marriage and death records are gone forever, Henry said. “It was all lost and cannot be replaced.” Authorities still do not know who burned the church or why. The identity of the arsonist may never be known, HATTON said.

    Center Chapel will keep its heritage, but its congregation still feels a sense of loss. The church is unable to hold its growing congregation of 165 members, leaders say. The original Center Chapel church burned down in 1941. An old church was moved from Liberty Center to the current site on Iowa Highway 92 west of Indianola. “It was borrowed when we got it. It served us well,” HATTON said. The building fund for a new Center Chapel church is in its early stages, HATTON said. No construction timetable has been set. Don and Linda FREEMAN have cherished memories of the old country church. “We were married there and our kids were all baptized there,” said Don FREEMAN, who will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary next year.

    Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church, 75thAnniversary, June 1968, booklet at the Warren County Historical Society Library

    Farmers Chapel United Methodist Church, 80thAnniversary, July 8, 1973, booklet at the Warren County Historical Society Library