This brief history was transcribed from the "Manual of the Congregational Church of Denmark, Iowa". There is no publication date, however it contains the Church Constitution which was adopted July 23, 1914. The booklet also contains Membership Lists and a history of the Denmark Academy. During the early years, the church was strongly anti-slavery, and Denmark was an important stop on the underground railroad.
The first meetings were held in a new school house that was 20 x 24 feet covered with split boards, a loose floor and unplastered walls. A substantial brick church was built in 1844 - 1845. It was destroyed by fire in 1861. The present church was built the following year.
Denmark was first settled June, 1836, by Timothy Fox, Lewis Epps, Curtis Shedd, and their families, and Edward A. Hills and Samuel Houston. In October following, William Brown and family joined the colony, and in 1837 William B. Cooper, Ira Houston, David Wilson, John Hornby and Charles Whitmarsh, with their several families, and also Hartwell J. Taylor, John E. Leeper, Orson Newton, Alonzo Burton and J. Gilman Field.
These founders of the settlement were all from New England but one. All had been brought up under Pilgrim influences and many of them were professors of religion. Accordingly in their new homes they erected an altar unto the Lord, and met together regularly on the Sabbath for worship.
Rev. Wm. Apthorp preached to them a part of the time during the summer of 1837, and the winter of 1838.
In the spring of 1838, that they might better promote their own spiritual welfare and that of their households, they took measures to secure a church organization.
Such as wished to enter into a covenant with each other and with God, as a Church of Christ, related their Christian experience, the ground of their hope, and their motives in wishing to constitute themselves a branch of Christ's visible church.
The examination was regarded as satisfactory; accordingly May 5th, 1838, thirty-two individuals assented to the Articles of Faith, and covenanted with one another to serve the Lord.
The occasion was one of great interest to this little immigrant band, not only from the fact that they were now to have a church home of their own, but because they believed themselves to be the first Congregational Church west of the Mississippi, though it was afterward learned that one was organized earlier in Missouri, which afterward became extinct.
A place of meeting was now prepared with great effort by the colonists, 24 x 20 feet, covered with split boards; a loose floor and unplastered walls. Rev. Asa Turner, Jr., who was present and assisted in the organization, by invitation of the church, moved into the settlement in July, 1838, and devoted to them one-half of his time; the other half being given to Home Missionary work in the Territory. Daniel Epps, Francis Sawyer, Oliver Brooks, Isaac Field, and Jonathan Bullard, with their families, were added to the settlement the same year, and others from time to time afterward. In July, 1839, the church observed a "Sabbath of days," commencing on Thursday and continuing till Monday evening. God was present by His Spirit and the occasion was one of deep interest, and of great importance to the future welfare of the colony. Many made profession and united with the church who were afterwards among its most efficient members.
On the fifth of November, 1840, Rev. Asa Turner, Jr., was installed pastor of the church by the Illinois Association, to which the Denmark church had belonged. This pastorate was a most remarkable one, covering a period of 28 years, building up the church and the Academy till both had reached a high degree of prosperity and efficiency, and terminating only when infirmities rendered it inconsistent for him to longer continue its duties. He was dismissed Oct. 22, 1868, and soon after went to live in Oskaloosa with his daughter, Mrs. C. P. Searle, where he died December 13, 1885.
His Installation Council also organized at the same meeting the Iowa Congregational Association, composed of the Rev. Asa Turner, Jr., Rev. J. A. Reed, Rev. Reuben Gaylord, and Chas. Burnham, licentiate, with the Denmark, Farmington, Fairfield and Danville churches.
In 1845 and 1846 the church was much interested in building a house of worship which was dedicated on the 8th day of July, 1846. This house was destroyed by fire in 1861, supposed to be the work of an incendiary. An attempt was made to fire the Academy at the same time. The present house of worship was built in 1863, the steeple not being added until 1872.
The same council which dismissed Rev. Asa Turner, Jr., October 22, 1868, on the same day installed Rev. E. Y. Swift as pastor, and he sustained this relation until November 21, 1881, living in the parish as retired minister until his death June 10, 1892.
Rev. Charles Hancock supplied the pulpit most of the time after Mr. Swift's retirement until July 25, 1882, when Rev. W. E. DeReimer was installed pastor, continuing the relation until June 1, 1884. Then Revs. C. Hancock, and E. Y. Swift mainly supplied the church until October 1, 1885, when Rev. A. K. Fox began his pastorate of seven years. Denmark was his home till his death July 31, 1912.
Since that time the Church has had five pastors, viz:
Some of these years were conspicuous by their trials, some by their blessings. In 1842 a special season of refreshing from the Lord was experienced and thirty-five united with the church by profession.
In 1856 special meetings were held and twenty-five united with the church by profession. During Mr. Swift's pastorate about thirty united with the church as the fruit of a revival in 1872.
As the result of revival meetings held in the autumn of 1889, forty-two united with the church by profession.
In December, 1901, special meetings were held and seventeen were added to the church by profession.
On May fifth, 1908, under the leadership of Rev. J. M. Cumings the Seventieth Anniversary of the organization of the church was observed when the Rev. Thomas McCleland of Galesburg, president of Knox College, preached an historical sermon. Rev. T. O. Douglas gave an address on "The Church and Home Missions" and the Rev. G. C. Williams of Keokuk spoke on "The Mission of the Church." Dr. Hancock read letters of greeting from absent friends and former members of the church and told something of its early history. This was followed by a social hour.
The Seventy-fifth Anniversary was celebrated May third, fourth and fifth, 1913, during the pastorate of the Rev. H. M. Lyman.
The program of services began Saturday evening with an illustrated address by Superintendent, Rev. P. A. Johnson of Grinnell, on the subject, "Beginnings and Growths of Congregationalism in Iowa." Supt. Johnson again addressed a large audience on Sunday morning. His subject being, "The Growth of the Kingdom of God."
Dr. T. O. Douglas the veteran superintendent of Home Missions in Iowa who helped the church celebrate its fiftieth and seventieth anniversaries was present again and occupied the pulpit Sunday evening. His subject was "Denmark's Antecedents and Descendants." He declared that the work accomplished in and through the Denmark church was abundantly worth while.
After a splendid banquet in the church at noon on Monday, Miss Emma Cooper presented greetings from fifty-eight former members or friends.
Mr. Asa Turner, son of Father Turner, spoke very interestingly of early experiences.
Mr. Asa Turner Houston presented "The Church and Education," and Dr. Douglas gave very fitting and impressive closing words.
A hymn and the benediction concluded the services.
All of the charter members of the church have crossed the dark river. They were represented by their sons and daughters, all of whom are gray haired men and women.
Mrs. Maria Houston who united with the church in October, 1845, and in point of membership is the oldest member, was given an honored place at the celebration.
Denmark Academy Alumni List
In view of the close relationship between the Church and the Academy, a sketch of the former would not be complete without brief mention of the latter also.
The pioneer settlers of Denmark, being colonists from New England, desired to place the meeting house and the school house side by side. The original proprietors of the town, Timothy Fox, Lewis Epps, William Brown and Curtis Shedd, donated an undivided half of the town site for the purposes of education.
Denmark Academy was incorporated in 1843, the first institution of its kind west of the "Father of Waters." The present Academy building was completed in 1866.
For more than seventy years this Academy has endeavored to train the minds, to enlarge and mould aright the characters that have come under its influence. The work of this and kindred institutions has resulted in a public regard for education which has made possible the equivalent of an academic education at public expense. We find this provided for in a recent law entitled, "An act to provide for the tuition of pupils residing in school corporations which do not offer instruction equivalent to the four-year high schools of Iowa."
As a result of this law the Board of Directors of Denmark township was confronted with the proposition of paying to neighboring high schools, tuition for some thirty pupils. Likewise the Academy was threatened with a great decrease in attendance. The situation was admirably met by an agreement between the trustees of the Academy and the Board of Directors of Denmark township. A summary of this agreement is as follows:
The trustees donate to the township the use of the Academy building and the interest on the endowment; said interest to be used to employ the principal and to meet the expense of keeping the building in repair. The principal is chosen by the trustees. The township board of directors agree to employ assistant teachers and defray all other expenses incident to the maintenance of a standard four-year high school.
This agreement was first entered into for a period of three years. At the end of that time it was renewed for ten years and more strongly endorsed than before by public vote of the people of the township.
This union of the unselfish Christian "Spirit of the Founders" of Denmark Academy with the more modern idea of the Township High School has resulted and should continue to result in the future in a remarkably efficient institution for the making of men and women. An addition has been made to the name of the institution and it is now known as the Denmark Academy-High School.