The First 100 Years
A Brief Historical sketch of the Star Chapel Methodist Church
A century has passed since a few families in the north Empire Prairie community gathered to organize a church to fulfill their need for a place to worship. In the year 1877 Mr. Arthur Crouch and his wife, Alice, gave land on which to erect the church building. A deed was made by the Honorable David Bohnam who was a notary Public. Mr. John Sherman paid twenty-five dollars for the deed. The church was organized with Mr. George Claxton, Mr. Arthur Crouch, and Mr. William Johnson as trustees.
The church was built facing the East. It was constructed with pine lumber. There were five open beams that supported the building from the inside. Much of the lumber and building materiel was hauled from St. Joseph by team and wagon over prairie roads. However, most of the material came from nearby towns. Many farmers took stock and grain to town and hauled some materials needed for the new church building. Much of the labor was donated.
There was a small vestibule built on the front of the church with a belfry. High over the entrance was a wooden plaque with the date 1877 printed on it and a large star which indicated the name chosen for the church was Star Chapel.
In the interior of the building was placed a stove on each side of the room with a lengthy pipe to the chimney. The alter was in the West end of the church with the minister's pulpit and desk in the center. The choir was usually seated to the left of the minister and the "Amen" corner was to the right. The baptismal dish and goblets used to serve communion were given to the church by Mr. Antony Sherman.
The ministers were circuit riders in those days. They rode cross country from Rosendale to Star Chapel, Flag Springs and back to Rosendale. They were entertained in the different homes. Reverend Robbins was one of the early circuit riders. Reverend Showalter was a circuit rider, musician and hymn writer.
Preaching was held on the first and third Sunday mornings and evenings. Sunday School was held every Sunday.
One of the most outstanding revival ever held at Star Chapel was in the middle of the winter and lasted for six weeks. Reverend Mitchell was the pastor at the time. The church was full each night, even though families had to come by sled to the meeting. There were more than sixty conversions. At the close of the revival Reverend Mitchell was presented a fur coat and ten dollars in cash for his services.
Another well remembered revival service was held in Andrew Howitt's orchard in the summer of 1913. It was a union service with the Empire Prairie Presbyterian Church. Some of the early baptismal services were held at neighbor's ponds.
The ladies of the church organized an Aid Society in 1898. The women called themselves the "None-Such Aid." They worked faithfully to provide for the church. They were also active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) for several years.
About thirty-five years after the church had been built the congregation felt the need for a more adequate place of worship. The dream of a new, larger building crystallized and on October 18, 1916 at 2:30 p.m. the corner-stone was placed with reverend Trotter as master of ceremonies.
The basement was well under way when the corner-stone was put in place. In the corner-stone was placed a song book, Mr. Arthur Crouch's picture (he was the donor of the land for the church and cemetery), the two King City papers of that week, the names of the pastor, all church and Sundays school officers, Aid Society officers, and the building committee. The building committee consisted of Andrew Howitt, president; Myron Johnson, George Gibson, George VanNatta and James Christie.
The contract price for the new building was $5,422.00. During the construction, several convinces were added making the building cost about $6,000.00. It was all paid in full at the time of dedication with a surplus of $65.00 which was given to the Aid Society. The dedication service was held February 18, 1917. It was a bitter cold day.
While the building was under construction, worship services and funerals were held in the hall across the road.
Article from the Tri-county News, May 27, 1977
The oldest living church member is Andrew Bennett age 94. Bennett still lives on the land where he was born and raised, one and one-half mile east of Star Chapel. Bennett was asked how the church has changed through the years. He remembered that the church was the only place to go for entertainment and it was not uncommon for it to be filled to capacity with people standing outside.
He hasn't noticed much change in the young people who attend church, but detects a great deal of change in the ministry. The sermons of his youth preached "Hell, fire, and damnation." "I can remember being told, that if I danced, I would go to hell," he reminisced.
Mrs. Crouch also has many memories of Star Chapel. She remembers the general store and ice house across the road east, the lodge hall south, and the blacksmith shop which was on the opposite corner.
Mrs. Crouch recalls that the hall housed an occasional play, songfest, or oyster supper.
One of her favorite pastor was the reverend E.C. Petree who ministered to the congregation from 1901 to 1903. "He was a good and sociable man," she said and the one who performed her wedding ceremony.
Mrs. Crouch was asked for an explanation of the "Amen" corner. She said that there were two pews in one corner that were always occupied by the older men during the service, and they did render an occasional "amen."
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