Community Presbyterian Church (membership 300) in Lawton, IA (pop. 1,200) is located in northwest Iowa near the borders of Nebraska and South Dakota. Lawton is seven miles east of Sioux City, IA (pop. 90,000) on east-west, four-lane highway 20. North-South Interstate highway 29 goes through Sioux City. Omaha, NE (pop. 300,000) is ninety miles south on I-29 and Sioux Falls, SD (pop. 150,000) is ninety miles north on I-29. Minneapolis, MN and Kansas City, MO are within easy five hour drives. Airline service is available in Sioux City. Sioux City has two major medical centers and a cancer center, one community college and two four-year private colleges. The University of South Dakota is located nearby in Vermillion, SD. Sioux City's Orpheum Theater and Tyson Events Center bring headline entertainment to Siouxland and sportsfans enjoy minor league baseball and arena football. Siouxland golf courses have been rated "Best Value" in the nation recently by a major golf publication.
Several religious traditions were represented among the families that first settled in Banner, Concord and Floyd townships. Most of the pioneers brought with them a great heritage of Christian faith. How to sustain that faith and instill that awareness of God among the next generations was one of the central issues they faced. Today's congregation is a continuing record of people from many backgrounds joined together for worship, learning about the grace of God and sharing God's love.
Research of church and community records reveals a succession of churches and congregations now joined into Community Presbyterian Church. The grassroots of the country churches are now growing in a suburban environment, but many of the family names recorded in the early years are still represented in the current roll. The early church lives today.
The first church services were held in the rural schoolhouses. The Church of God or Winebenerians are believed to be the first denomination locally organized. Several families trace their religious heritage to worship services held in the Eberly Schoolhouse four miles west of Lawton.
In 1887 sixteen residents of Banner and surronding townships petitioned the Presbytery of Fort Dodge... "for guidance in establishing and maintaining the means of grace and the preaching of the gospel." Several different denominations were represented in the petitioners willing to be communicant transfers to a developing church. Thirty-five friends also joined the request asking the Presbytery to "establish a church in their midst."
The Presbytery assigned Mr. W. E. Finley to this "neglected mission field." He established preaching places at Banner, Lone Star Fairview and Elliot School as well as two other unidentified places. At Banner School, one and a half miles northwest of where Lawton was later located, Wesminister Presbyterian Church was formally organized on August 7, 1887.
Through the generosity of the widow of James Kellogg, a plot of ground was given on the notheast corner of the intersection of what is now K49 and 130th Street. She provided a church building, furnished it and gave it to the congregation. Services were held Sunday morning. Christian Endeavor and youth group met Sunday evenings.
July 21, 1882, is the original charter date of the Ursinus Reformed Church. The initial membership was "four males and four females in all." In 1887 it was reactivated and fifteen people were added to the initial charter roll. Worship services were conducted at Friendship School located three miles southeast of Lawton in Floyd Township, section 11.
In 1896 the Ursinus congregation arranged to purchase the schoolhouse for $100. The school district retained the desks, leaving the committee in charge of renovation. The original ceiling was raised and replastered and twenty pews were installed. Ursinus Chapel was dedicated June 16, 1896, with all purchases and work paid for or subscribed during the remodeling project. Members of the Presbyterian and Ursinus congregations celebrated the new chapel with an ice cream and cake social.
In 1901 the railroad was extended to Sioux City, and the town of Lawton was established. Both Westminister and Ursinus churches realized the importance of a church to the community and bought lots in Lawton. The white frame Presbyterian Church was built and dedictated July 27, 1902, on the lot of what is now the northwest corner of of Maple and Pine streets. The Reformed congregation built on the corner lot across the street east. Their first workship service was held March 22, 1903. The rural Westminister Church reverted to the donating family and was recycled into constructing new buildings on their farm. The rural Ursinus Chapel was offered for public bids. It was purchased by the school district, moved into Lawton and converted back to educational use again.
Rev. Charlotte Woods of Morrison, IL, was visiting relatives, the Peterson and Law families, at the time Westminister was being constructed in 1902. Her church had a new building and had no further use for their old bell. She arranged for that bell to be sent to Lawton for the cost of transportation.
A higher proportion of silver than usual in the casing gives it an unique clear ring. This bell was moved to the present location and continues to announce the call to worship each Sunday. The first organ used in the Presbyterian Church was paid for by the sale of carpet rags; each lady was required to sew seven pounds of rags for this project.
On March 15, 1916, the decision was made to remodel the Presbyterian Church building. A basement was added, and the north end of the sanctuary was extended. Now there were twelve steps to the upper level. A two-level major addition was added in 1952 to accomadate the fast-growing Sunday School.
The time came when it was apparent that the two churches, so similar in structure and faith, should unite. With the support of Rev. Lynn, 1922-26, the Reformed and Presbyterian churches united as Lawton Community Church. Both buildings were utilized; in 1939 the Reformed building was sold to Bethel Lutheran Church. Ministers were chosen from either denomination until 1941. Members of the Lawton Church participated in regional and national affairs in both denominations until the nationwide reorganization of the Reformed Church in 1941 led to a graciously accepted withdrawal. The Lawton Community Church has been under the cared of the Presbyterians since that time.
In 1962 the church was reincorporated as Community Presbyterian Church U. S. A. On June 24, 1962, the congregation voted to buy six lots on both sides of East Birch Street from Julius Bunning for $4,800. A new manse was built on the south side. Construction was done by Ralph Linquist; Ellwood Norton did the plumbing, heating and electrical work. Groundbreaking for the new church was August 10, 1969; they dedicated the building October 25, 1970, and the mortgage was burned April 7, 1978.
In 1906 the Reformed Church built a manse at what is now 207 E. Maple Street; it cost $1,577.90. When the two denominations merged, it became the property of the Presbyterians. When the new manse was built in 1962, the one on Maple Street was sold. Keith and Rose Newman have owned it for the past thiry years, have done major remodeling and maintain it so well. In 1971 the Presbyterian Church building on Maple was sold to John and Barbara Goodwin for $5,000. It now houses five attractive apartments and a business; it is also well maintained, a good addition to the town.
It is very apparent that the Sunday School has always held significant importance in our early churches. John H. Eberly, a long-time Sunday School superintendent, stated in an early history, "It was not essential nor important that in the 1880'2 a Reformed Church was established. Neither was it essential nor important that at about the same time a Presbyterian Church was organized, but it was of supreme importance that a church of Jesus Christ was established where God's will concerning men was proclaimed from the pulpit and taught in the Church School."
In the church's Centennial Book, 1887, was this item: "The earliest memory of a Sunday School class comes from Adlai Plumer (Ruby Wilson's father). He and his sister, Rose Grigg, walked two miles to the rural Westminister Church where one of his teachers was Mrs. J. T. Goldsmith, mother of the late Mary H. Peterson.
Sunday School attendance varied with the changing family size as well as the number of participating families; enrollment in 1961 was 168, in 1986 it was 65. Dedicated teachers have contributed thousands of hours of themselves in preparation and instruction.
The ladies of the pioneer churches also have a history that indicates they carried out the Lord's work financially and spiritually. Ladies Aid and Women's Missionary Society developed programs and served both the local community needs and sponsored projects in worldwide mission. In 1959 the Ladies Aid and Missionary Society joined as United Presbyterian Women, later to be named Presbyterian Women. In the early 1930's, the Presbyterian Church, on the national level, voted to ordain women elders. Lawton was among the earliest in the area to elect and ordain women to that role and service.
In earlier years the church choir numbered as many as 50 and were an active, talented and dedicated group, presenting unusually fine cantatas and musical programs locally and in other churches in the area.
It is significant that the beginning of the second century of our Lawton Church and the reunion of the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church U.S. coincide. Five people from our congregation attended the awesome reunion service in Atlanta, GA in 1983.
In 2000 Elliot Creek Presbyterian Church, Bronson, and the Lawton church voted to form a larger parish. They share a pastor; each congregation maintains its own building, worship service and programs.
Ministers serving the Ursinus Charge included: Reverend F. Wetzel, M. L. Frior, Parley Zartman, David Winter, A. Darms, George Walker, S. V. Rahrbaugh, L. L. Foust, C. C. Loehr and A. R. Lynn.
Ministers serving Westminister Church included: The Reverends W. E. Finley, C. Sinnett, A. A. Pratt, A. Redirus, Nathan Feathers, James Vance, DeWitt White, J. W. Carlstrom, A. G. Martyn, Z. W. Steele, William Walker, Ellroy Smith, William D. Jones and J. W. Turner.
Since the union, the Cummunity Presbyterian Church has been served by The Reverends A. R. Lynn 1922-24, Alexander Wimberly 1925-28, Archie Conde 1928-31, McNab Wilson 1931-32, Carl Grimm 1934-36, Martin Tonner 1938-41, W. E. Smith 1942-52, Merle E. Elrod 1953-57, George G. Cox 1958-60, Gary A. Thompson 1961-64, Carter Blaisdell 1965-73, Robert E. Peters 1973-98, Wayne C. Peach 2000-04, Margaret (Peggy) Hegeman 2006-2007, CLP Lorna Peters (Interim) 2007-2009, and Rev. Cynthia (Cyndy) Ripperger Sept. 2009-present.
A benediction of grace is found in Ephesians 3:20-21: "Now to him who by the power of work within us is able to accomplish far more than all that we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
This we pray, knowing that the church is people, not a building. Each of us, doing what we can, where we are, with what we have - sharing our unique gifts as enriched by God's Holy Spirit, enables us to be a community that serves each other and people throughout the world.
Submitted from various records.