First Presbyterian Church, established February 3, 1855
Since the nine men and women established First Presbyterian Church in 1855, our congregation has grown in love, faith, and service.
First Presbyterian Church of Marengo, Iowa was established before Marengo was a city. The original town had been laid out in August of 1845, as the seat of justice for Iowa County by three commissioners appointed by the Territorial Legislature. The original plat was near the center of section 25, townhsip 81, range 11, and was recorded in 1847. Incorporation as a city would be approved - first in May, 1856 and again in April, 1858 - but it wasn't until November 1859, with the election of city officers, that incorporation was effected, according to the "History of Iowa County, 1881."
The railroad, which had reached Davenport in 1854, was not to arrive at Marengo until October, 1860. The first school was a log schoolhouse, established in 1850, with a dozen pupils.
According to Alexander Danskin, the first elder of this church, who wrote a history of the church in 1887, seven of the nine original members came to this area in 1852 and 1853, from Huntington, Quebec, Canada, after settling there in 1829. Danskin's family included his father, George Danskin, Sr., his brothers and their wives (Ebenezer and Jane, Gilmore and Janet), and he and his wife Annie. The Danskin men and at least some of their wives were born in Scotland where the men had been weavers by trade. Alexander Danskin describes them as being of Covenanter stock. Covenanter was the name given to a religious group in Scotland bound by agreements, or covenants, to uphold the Presbyterian faith.
Alexander Danskin wrote these "foreigners," who found themselves away from church privileges and the house of God,
agreed to spend a part of every Sabbath together to worship God of their fathers in the hallowed exercise of prayer and praise as a substitute for the regular services of the sanctuary. In 1854, the Rev. N.C. Robinson was sent out by the Presbytery of Iowa City as their Presbyterial Missionary, and her frequently visited Marengo. These first members gladly welcomed their faithful missionary, and yielded their household worship for that of the public services of their fraternal faith.
Danskin continued his report,
The following named person constituted its membership: George Danskin, Sr., Ebenezer Danskin and Jane Danskin, his wife, Gilmore Danskin and Janet, his wife, Alexander Danskin and Annie Danskin, his wife, Mrs. Martha Slocum and Miss Eliza Clapp. Alexander Danskin, having been ordained as Elder in the Church from whence he was recommended, was chosen and installed as Elder in the infant Church.
At this time Rev. Joseph Lowrie began his labors as stated supply in this Church and also to Brooklyn, continuing something over one year. There were many accessions to the Church during his ministry. He left abruptly and took with him the records of the Church which have not been returned.
Danskin continues his report on the succession of pastoral leadership provided by several people through the years. He also provided details of various activities at the church. Here are some highlights:
In the spring of 1854, a union Sabbath school was begun; and from its formation it was carried on chiefly by those who afterwards became members of this Church. It continued as a union Sabbath school until 1863 or 1864 when it verged into and assumed the name of the 'First Presbyterian Sabbath School of Marengo.'
(The first church building stood on ground donated by) Mr. R. McKee. It was gratefully accepted as a good site to build upon. The work was soon begun, and continued in 'troublous times.' (This would have been the period of the Civil War.) ... (In July of 1861) the little congregation held preparatory services in the schoolhouse for the last time, after which they all repaired to the new church to make it ready for the communion service on the following day. They spent a happy as well as a very busy afternoon in clearing the floor of rubbish, tacking the glass in the window sash - they had not time to putty them, and fixing seats of rough plank. While the brethren were doing this work the sisters were just as busy, scrubbing the floor, washing the windowpanes, and the like. It was near midnight ere all this work was done, but it was one. On Sabbath morning they all met, joyful in heart, for the first time to worship God under their own roof, around the table of their Saviour. Never has more devout worship and praise ascended in this house than on that long to be remembered day. Although the ceiling and walls were unplastered and the seats of the roughest material, no pulpit, a common chair for the minister, and a store-box, covered with a tablecloth, to hold the Bible, it was nevertheless, the happiest season the Church had ever enjoyed; and it is questionable if such a precious, soul-refreshing season as that has been experienced since. (Note: this church was built on Lot 7 Block 20, Original Town, Marengo. This is on East Hilton Street.)
The congregation was beginning to feel cramped in the first building by the end of the year of 1900. In the spring of 1902, the trustees authorized the building committee to secure an option on the Groff property, the present building site, on the south half of Lots five and six, Block 25, Original Town, Marengo. The German Lutheran Society became interest in buying the old Presbyterian Church on Hilton Street. In February 1903, they offered $1,000 for the property. Presbyterians were receptive, but for the church and lot they wanted $1,250. Or, for $1,500, the Lutherans could have the lot, the building, and its contents except the organ. The Lutherans chose the latter. Some time later, the Lutherans, now known as St. John's Lutheran Church, moved into their new home on Court Avenue and the building on Hilton Street was razed.
The new building was dedicated November 20, 1904 and cost $11,666. Several improvements were subsequently made, including the addition of a bell in the tower, a furnace, bathroom fixtures, a telephone, finishing of the basement, rebuilding the front steps, and installing a heating stove in the basement.
The Estey pipe organ was installed in 1909. On the basis of $1,500 cost, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie agreed to pay half, or $750, if the church would pay the first half. Carnegie is known for his gift of libraries, including the one in Marengo. The final cost of the organ was $1,825.
The next large improvement was the addition of a new building that included the Fellowship Hall to be used for activities and dining, a stage, kitchen, pastor's study, bathrooms, and nursery on the first floor plus classrooms upstairs. Classes first met in the new addition January 5, 1958. Total project cost including interest was $95,658.
On September 21, 1969, the congregation dedicated a newly remodeled building. Improvements included roof and gutter repair, tuck pointing masonry walls, sanctuary remodeling, new pews, a public address system, and organ repair. Over the years, many more capitol improvements have been made and adjacent properties purchased or sold.
The church recently undertook a large project to repair all the stained glass windows. This project was the result of a very generous congregation who saw the beauty in the glass and felt the call to stewardship for future generations. We feel our stained glass windows help represent who we are in the community. People know us by these windows and it is our hope that as people see the light reflecting both into and out of our church, they will feel welcomed to join us as we come together to celebrate, imperfect as we are, that we are all God's creation: working, loving, laughing to the glory of God.