HISTORY OF IRETON CHURCHES
The first religious service in Reading Township was held in the fall of 1870 in the country schoolhouse located in the NE 1/4 of Section 33. Rev. Batcheller of the M.E. (Methodist Episcopal) Church conducted the service. The Methodists and other religious groups conducted services in homes and schoolhouses throughout the 1870's.
The first church building in the vicinity of Ireton was the Pleasant Hill Church, a small Methodist Church built in the southeast part of what would soon be platted as Pleasant Hill Cemetery. In a letter to the Editor of the Sioux County Herald dated February 22, 1879, A. Granger described the church being built:
I will give you a sketch of what is going on here. The main thing that is exciting the people, especially in the west and north part of the township, is the building of a Methodist Church by that society. It is situated one and a half miles north of "Squire Sherman's". The size of the edifice is 27' x 37', 12 foot posts. The room will be 16 feet high on the clear. It will be plain and commodious, and a convenience long needed by the church-going people. It is called the Pleasant Hill church, and will be a credit to that and the surrounding community. The work is under the supervision of B. F. Granger, and is being pushed forward with energy and skill. The society will donate work toward the same and are anxious to complete it before seeding time. It will cost, when completed, from $900 to $1000. The society is under the care of Rev. Keister.
A cemetery was platted around the church in the Spring of 1880. After the town of Ireton was established in 1882, the Pleasant Hill Church was moved to the northwest corner of 5th and Main; however, the cemetery remained on "Pleasant Hill". The Presbyterians soon followed the Methodists in establishing a church in the new town. After several years of meeting elsewhere, the United Presbyterian Church was constructed on the southeast corner of 4th and Elm Streets in 1885. Meanwhile, the "German Lutherans" had constructed a church (later called St. John's) 3 1/2 miles southeast of Ireton in 1884. When Lutheran families near the new town desired a church closer to their homes, they established what would become St. Paul's in 1886. Their church building was located on the Southwest corner of 6th and Main.
In the northern part of the townships surrounding Ireton, several Norwegian families constructed the Rock River Lutheran church in what would be the village of Highland in eastern Eagle Township (410th & Dogwood) (although the newspapers of the times occasionally referred to the church as the Danish Norwegian church, descendants of the original founders believe that the church was entirely Norwegian in origin with services always conducted in Norwegian). A group of Methodists constructed the Center Chapel built in 1889 on the southeast corner of what are now County Roads K-30 and B-46. In 1894, a group of them were instrumental in the formation of the Mount Joy Church of God, also in Highland in eastern Eagle Township.
In the southern part of the townships, the German Baptist Church of Pleasant Prairie (commonly called the Dunkard Church) was built just across the Plymouth County line (south of Union Hill Cemetery) about 1901.
Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church became embroiled in a dispute over church doctrine and a group of its members formed the "First" Presbyterian Church in 1901. Their church was constructed on the northeast corner of 5th and Elm Streets.
Although settlers of Dutch ancestry were predominant in the central and eastern part of the county, the Christian Reformed Church in Ireton was not established until 1908. Their first church building was the former Center Chapel which was moved to the northeast corner of 4th and Ash. The CRC was followed by the First Reformed Church which purchased the former Dunkard church in 1912 and moved it to the southwest corner of 5th and Ash.
In 1911, an Ireton Ledger article called Ireton "A City of Churches". A century later, Ireton continues to have more churches than many towns its size. A slideshow of the various church buildings may be found below. But a church is not merely a building, it is worship and fellowship -- we'll let you discover those on your own.
Click on photo to view slideshow.
1st Ireton Church: Pleasant Hill Church (Methodist) built in 1879 in southeast corner of Pleasant Hill Cemetery. Moved to 5th & Main in Ireton about 1883. Was part of the compensation to the builder of the new church, who moved it to 302 Elm & converted it to a residence.Methodist Church (2nd building) constructed in 1884. Steeple damaged by tornado before church was occupied. Burned down in 1904. Circa 1899 photo.Methodist Church - 3rd building. Built 1904, burned down 1922. Built at cost of $11,000.3rd Methodist Church burning down on April 29, 1922Present Methodist Church dedicated on September 25, 1923. After 2 fires, they decided to build a brick church (since it is now 90 years later, it obviously worked!)St. John's Lutheran Church & parsonage. Church constructed on 8 acre site in 1884 (church owns 32 adjoining acres). German Lutheran now Missouri Synod.St. John's Lutheran Church, 3 1/2 miles southeast of Ireton.United Presbyterian Church, southeast corner of 4th & Elm, dedicated January 31, 1885United Presbyterian Church about 1910. The congregation disbanded between 1915 & 1920. Building purchased by Sinkey & Friederichs in 1920.United Presbyterian Church building shortly before being burned down.January 1997 - controlled burn by the Ireton Fire Department of the former UP churchSt. Paul's Lutheran - 1st church building constructed in 1886. Later converted to a residence at 508 Main Street.Second St. Paul's church building constructed in 1894 and remodeled in 1915.St. Paul's Lutheran Church dedicated on June 24, 1951. Education unit on south side was built in 1972.St. Paul's Lutheran Church with 1985 addition which housed a new entry, small elevator and restrooms.St. Paul's construction project - 2013. Adding a larger elevator and portico for dropping off guests.Center Chapel (4 miles north of Ireton). Dedicated January 6, 1889. Cost of $2,000. Congregation active until about 1903.Rock River Lutheran Church located at Highland, 5 1/2 miles north & 2 miles west of Ireton. Organized about 1886. Building moved off its foundation by wind in 1906.2nd Rock River Lutheran Church (Danish-Norwegian), Composite photo. 2nd building constructed about 1906. Congregation disbanded in 1930's. Building sold 1939.Mt. Joy Church of God located at Highland. Congregation organized 1894, church constructed 1895; congregation disbanded about 1918 and church moved to the Bonnema Farm (Dove Avenue).First Presbyterian Church dedicated in 1901. Congregation disbanded in 1961. Building was dismantled.Christian Reformed Church. Met briefly at the Ireton City Hall before purchasing the former Center Chapel and moving it to Ireton in 1908. Parsonage to the east.Christian Reformed Church - 2nd building. Constructed in 1911, burned in 1923. Former church (Center Chapel) was moved to southeast corner of 4th & Maple and used as Christian School.Christian Reformed Church (3rd building). Constructed 1923 and used until 1990. Dismantled.Christian Reformed Church dedicated in 1990. Located at 301 Maple, about a block northeast of the former church site.German Baptist Church of Pleasant Prairie or Dunkard Church, located in Plymouth County about 1 1/2 miles south of Union Hill Cemetery. Built about 1902-1903. Congregation active until about 1911.First Reformed Church (1st Building). Congregation first met in the Tarbox school west of town and briefly at the United Presbyterian Church before purchasing the former Dunkard Church in 1912 and moving it to Ireton.First Reformed Church (1st Building with Remodeled entrance).First Reformed Church dedicated on December 8, 1955 and re-dedicated on November 6, 1977.Circa 1910 Postcard featuring Ireton's churches: Methodist, First Presbyterian, United Presbyterian, Christian Reformed Church (a/k/a Holland Church) and German Lutheran Church (St. Paul's)1950 Calendar featuring Ireton's churches: Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, St. Paul's Lutheran, First Reformed and MethodistIreton's Churches Welcome You (sign circa 1980): United Methodist; St. Paul's Lutheran; Christian Reformed and First Reformed<>32 - 32