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From the newspaper:

The Iowa City Citizen

Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa

Tuesday, 26 February, 1909

page 7, column 1-7 (full page)

Rev. J. C. Bantly and Family

Jennie (Williams) Hardy
, as written on the back. But could this be Mary (Williams) Philips? See More Photos >>

Matthew H. Carson

Emma (Thomas) Carson

Oliver Williams (?)

Thomas and Ann (Thomas) Williams Family

Oliver Thomas

Unidentified people that go with this group
More Photos >>

photos provided by Shirley Schmelzer
Fifty Years of Church Life Golden Jubilee of
Unity Presbyterian
Church, of Union Twp.
Johnson Co., Iowa
  The fiftieth anniversary of the organization of Unity Presbyterian church in Union township, Johnson county, was celebrated in an appropriate manner last Sunday in a special service at the church. This is one of the vigorous growing religious organizations of the county, and has contributed much to the character and worth of its citizenship. At this golden jubilee service the pastor, Rev. Harrison Scott Condit, delivered the following anniversary address:
  Members of the Unity Presbyterian Church and Friends: We are undertaking in this one brief address to cover the history of this church for fifty years. Of necessity we can only touch the high places as we rapidly move down the years.
  The New School Presbyterians had an organization several years prior to the present organization. But it had died out. In the spring of 1851 the first Sabbath school was organized that had to do with the present Unity church. It was held in the old log school house located about two hundred yards south of the farm home of Geo. Stevens. Mr. Holmes of Iowa City, assisted in the first organization. Lock Williams was the first superintendent, Jacob Sehorn librarian. The school continued about seven months.
  The following spring the Sabbath school was re-organized with the same officers. Allison Davis served as superintendent for one of more summers. Iowa City pastors occasionally preached. From Rev. Shearer's autobiography we learn that he preached in Sehorn's saw mill, on Old Man's creek, September 2, 1855, and administered the sacrament of the Lord's supper.
  In the spring of 1858 the Sabbath school was reorganized in the Union school house. That was the building that formerly stood on the corner south of the present church building. It is now used by Elder Davis as a corn crib. Mr. George Shelton, a member of the Episcopal church, was superintendent for several summers. The school had a good library. Much attention was given to the memorizing of scripture verses. The school rewarded the pupils memorizing five hundred or more verses with a book of their choice from the library. The Methodist people were active in the early days of the school. Mr. Gardner was superintendent three or four summers and Mrs. Gardner was the leader of song. After the church was organized, for a number of years, the M. E. pastors from Iowa City preached alternate Sabbaths with the Presbyterians.
  January 29, 1859, in answer to a petition that had been presented to the Presbytery of Cedar Rapids, which request had been granted, a committee of the Presbytery or rather one member of it, viz. Elder John Shupe of the first Presbyterian church of Iowa City, together with Rev. F. A. Shearer, who was then laboring as a missionary for Cedar presbytery, met the petitioners at the Union school house and proceeded to effect an organization. After a sermon by Rev. Shearer, the following were admitted as charter members of the church: William Hanlon, W. B. Hanlon, Charlotte Hanlon, Edward Williams, Phebe C. Williams, Allison Davis, Polly Sehorn, and Ann Mariah Williams from the First Presbyterian church of Iowa City, and Moses Hanlon and his wife Rhoda, from a church in Ontario, O. The newly organized church then proceeded to elect two elders by ballot. Moses and William Hanlon were elected. These brethren not seeing their way clear to accept the ordination and installation was postponed until the next day. Monday, the congregation met and after a sermon by Rev. Shearer, the newly elected elders, under a deep sense of their unworthiness, having signified their acceptance of the offices, where ordained and installed. A motion was made and unanimously carried to call the new church Unity.
  Of the charter members there is but one now living, viz. Mrs. Ann Mariah Williams, of Marne, Iowa. She is a sister of our present Senior Elder Thomas O. Thomas. Special meetings were held the week following the organization, conducted by Doctor Shearer and on the following Sabbath at a meeting of the session over which Rev. Shearer presided by request, the following persons were received to the communion of the church on examination: Milton Davis, David W. Davis, Arminda Davis, Ellen Harris, Susanna Carson, Fidelia Carson, Mary M. Sehorn, Harriet Thomas, and Eliza Jane Williams. Of these there are still living the following: David W. and Arminda Davis, who reside at McPherson, Kansas. They celebrated their golden wedding on January 4th last. He is a half brother to T. T. and R. M. Williams and Mrs. Hardy, Ellen Harris residing in Iowa City, Fidelia I. Carson (now Mrs. Wood, a widow, residing at Los Angeles, California), Mrs. Emma Carson of Iowa City, who is still a member, Eliza Jane Williams (now Mrs. Hardy, the widow of a former pastor of Unity).
  Rev. F. A. Shearer, who had been for four and a half years pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Iowa City, had closed his work there and for a number of months was a missionary of Cedar Presbytery, preached a number of times for the new church.
  Rev. McLain, who was an early pastor at Iowa City, also supplied Unity a few times. Rev. John Hudson supplied for a short time about 60-61.
  Rev. Jonathon [sic] Osmond became the first regular supply of the church, serving Unity in connection with Fairview church. The first session meeting at which he presided was May, 1867, but from the recollection of the older members of the church and from Presbyterian Iowa, he must have preached here from 1863 to 1868. During his pastorate he resided in Iowa City and in order to support his family he also served as county superintendent of schools. He was a great student and a fine pastor but would not be classed as a great preacher.
  Rev. A. M. Heizer was stated supply following Rev. Jonathan Osmond. He served the Oxford church in connection with Unity. His was a short pastorate but a very successful one. He was a fine Sunday school worker and a faithful pastor. It was during his short pastorate that the church building was erected. He was present and presided at the dedication of the church on August 23, 1873. The sermon was preached by Rev. Samuel Osmond of Iowa City, a brother of the former pastor at Unity.
  The winter of 1870-71 the Sabbath school continued for the first time throughout the winter. The attempt was successful and from that time to the present Unity has had a evergreen Sabbath school. The young people of the Sabbath school organized a Concert club and gave entertainments to raise money to help build the new church.
  The following is a complete list of the Ruling Elders who have served this church: Moses Hanlon, William Hanlon, James P. Jones, Peter Mooney, Thomas Bowles, Robert D. Thomas, Thomas O. Thomas, Robert Davis, John Justice, Frank L. Lee, Thomas T. Williams, E. Fenton, Jacob L. Propst, Earl Custer, and William Breese. For the entire fifty years of the church's history, the Ruling Elders have been elected for life unless removing from the community and being dismissed to another church.

Pastor of Unity Church.

The present Elders are Thomas O. Thomas, Robt. Davis, Jacob Propst, William Breese, and Earl Custer.
  The first record of a Congregational meeting is March 19, 1872. It was held at Union school house. The chairman was William F. Buck, and the secretary, John Coldren. The meeting was held to consider the matter of erecting a church building. A committee, consisting of T. O. Thomas and T. T. Williams was appointed to consult with a number of Welsh Congregationalists and propose that they pay five hundred dollars or more toward the building of the church and that they have the use of it one half of the time. They were also to have the privilege of selecting one trustee to fill a vacancy then existing. The plan was to build a church costing about two thousand dollars.
  A second meeting date, not given, but evidently held soon after the first records that the committee reported acceptance of the proposition with the following exceptions: (1) They to have a written lease for sixty years for half time, (2) The trustees not to be held responsible for accident to the building. (3) Alternating in use of the church, morning of one Sabbath and afternoon of the next.
  The amended proposition was found agreeable and a committee was appointed to circulate subscription papers s [sic] follows: John Coldren, T. O. Thomas, T. T. Williams, T. R. Davis, and William F. Buck.
  July 6, 1872, the church was incorporated. The trustees, William F. Buck, David H. Price, and John Coldren, signing the articles of incorporation for the congregation. October 9, 1872, the congregation met or rather as the records show, the citizens of Union township, and a building committee was selected as follows: Roland Reese, Henry Heiny, and M. H. Carson. T. O. Thomas was elected Treasurer and T. T. Williams secretary. The trustees wee appointed a committee to draft by-laws. So far as known they have not yet completed their work.
  October 26, 1872, at a Congregational meeting, it was reported that Rowland Reese declined to serve on the building committee. It would seem that Henry Heiny must also have declined although the records do not so show for at the close of this Congregational meeting the building committee were: M. H. Carson, D. R. Lewis, and W. L. Humphreys.
  November 9, 1872, D. R. Thomas was elected trustee to take the place of D. H. Price, who had resigned.
  January 13, 1873, at the Congregational meeting the trustees instructed the building commitee [sic] to let the contract.
  February 3, 1873, the congragation [sic] relieved the Welsh Congregationalists from their subscriptions. It is well to pause here for a little explanation. Over northwest from the present location of Unity church a number of Welsh Congregationalists had located. It was with them that negotiations had been pending to share in the building of the church. These Welsh Congregationalists of their own motion decided that the partnership planned might prove a source of trouble later on and so withdrew from the contemplated agreement. But they as individuals subscribed liberally to the building fund and united with the church becoming efficient workers in the church.
  March 25, 1873, D. R. Thomas resigned as trustee and T. T. Williams was elected to fill the vacancy. D. R. Lewis resigned from the building committee and T. O. Thomas was given his place.
  July 7, 1873, is the first recorded meeting of the trustees. Names are not given. The one item of business was instruction W. F. Buck to have some alterations made in the contract in regard to cupola. the minutes are signed by John Coldren, president, and T. T. Williams, secretary. It is probable that the trustees were: W. F. Buck, John Coldren, and T. T. Williams.
  August 16, 1873, the trustees met and appointed a furnishing committee for the new church as follows: W. F. Buck, T. O. Thomas, Mrs. Emma Carson, A. J. Tantlinger, and Mary A. Williams.
  The church secured a grant of four hundred dollars from the board of church erection at the time the church was built. This is the only indebtedness that stands against the church property today.
  More than three years passed before another congregational meeting was held or at least before any record is made of it.
  December, 1876, the congregation met and elected three trustees for one, two, and three year terms. M. H. Carson was elected for one year. M. A. Murphy for two years, and T. T. Williams for three years. From December, 1876, to December, 1890, regular congregational meetings were held for the election of trustees and to fill vacancies as shown by the records. From December, 1890 to December, 1899, there are no records of elections. Since that time, with the exception of one year, elections have been held. The present trustees are J. H. Thomas, John Hughes, and R. M. Williams.
  The first installed pastor of Unity church was Rev. David Brown, now pastor of our church at Hills, Iowa. He served Unity in connection with Oxford from December, 1873 to December, 1883. He is the oldest living ex-pastor. He is a man of a lovable spirit, a great worker, a splendid pastor, and especially gifted as a leader of the praise services of the church. He did a splendid work for Unity and is still kindly remembered by the older members of the church.
  Rev. D. B. Flemming was the first pastor residing on the field. He served the church acceptably for five years--from April, 1884, to April, 1889. He lived in Robert Davis's old house. He was a man of a fine mind, was loved by the people, but weakness of the flesh prevented his best work. His wife was a fine worker and organized the ladies of the church into a missionary society. At the close of their work the church built the manse.
  Rev. G. M. Hardy served the church from the spring of 1890 to the fall of 1893. It was after he came to the field that the manse was completed, and wise man that he was, in not wanting to occupy it alone, he wooed
and won one of Unity's splendid your women, Miss Eliza Jane Williams. So Unity manse was honored in having as the first "Mistress of the Manse" one of her own daughters and a daughter of two of the charter members of the church. Mr. Hardy was a scholarly man and did a good work. Mrs. Hardy proved an excellent assistant and their work at Unity in not forgotten.
  Following Rev. Hardy came Rev. J. C. Bantly, who came from Walker and Downey churches in Dubuque Presbytery. He is now located at Kasson, Minnesota. Rev. Bantly was installed pastor the afternoon of Nov. 6, 1893, and served the church for eight years. He and his family are well beloved by the Unity people. He was a good preacher and an excellent pastor. The church prospered under his ministry. Many of the trees now in the manse yard were secured from the timber by him and set out to provide shade for pastors and their families who follow him. He has a reputation as a fine gardener also, outstripping many in the neighborhood in the quality and quantity of vegetables produced.
  Rev. J. R. Vance arrived on the field from Armstrong, Iowa, January, 1902, and served the church as stated supply till April 23, 1903. During January, 1902, Rev. Vance conducted a series of meetings in which there were about twenty conversions. Among them some of the best workers and supporters of the church today. While his service was brief, lasting only fifteen months, yet he accomplished a good work during his stay and is very kindly remembered by all of Unity People.
  Rev. Charles C. Brown succeeded Rev. Vance, coming to the field from Marne, Iowa. He began his work August 17, 1903. Was installed October 9, 1903. His father, Rev. David Brown, who was pastor from '73 to '83, being present at the installation and giving the charge to the people. He served the church for five years, closing his pastorate October 1, 1908. During a part of this time he was a student at the state university of Iowa City. The third year after he came the church reported to Presbytery for the first time, more than a hundred members. The number being 108. The last report under Mr. Brown's pastorate shows 129 members. During the five years he served the church a total of forty were received into the church on profession of faith.
  The largest Sabbath school reported to Presbytery was the second year of Rev. Bantly's pastorate. The total reported for that year being 114. The smallest number reported since 1894 was during 1905 when seventy were reported. With the exception of the first year of Mr. Brown's pastorate, the church contributed to all the church boards. That the church has grown in the grace of giving as she has grown in years is shown by the reports to the Presbytery. During the ten years form 1891 to 1900 inclusive, the total contributions for the church boards were $840.00. This included a gift in 1891 of $190 to the board of church erection. In all probability this amount or the larger part of it was to apply on the loan secured to build the Manse and should not have been reported as a gift. Allowing five dollars to count as a gift and substracting [sic] $185 from the $840 we have $655, as the net total to the boards for the ten years from 1891 to 1900. From 1904 to 1908 inclusive, the five years show a total contribution to the church boards and synodical fund of $703, or $148 more in the last five years than the former ten years. This is a showing in the right direction. Rev. C. C. Brown, like his father before him, was fond of music and made much of his talent in this direction to help on the work of the church. He also devoted considerable time while on the field in evangelistic work as a conductor and soloist for pastors in special meetings. His wife was a great help and did all her strength would allow for the good of the church. They will long be remembered by the people at Unity.
  The present pastor entered upon his work November 1, 1908. He was installed December 18, 1908. The time is too brief to record anything as history. So far as he may have a part in the development of the church, the future historian must record. He is pleased at the way the church is standing by him at the beginning of his work. Glad to state that since he came the church has been nicely frescoed and a fine new lighting system put in. Bad roads and weather has interferred [sic] seriously with the work but better days are coming. The Y[?]. P. S. C. E. has undertaken a lecture course this winter for the first time and are meeting with encouragement.
  It might be of interest to some to know that Rev. F. A. Shearer, D. D. who assisted in the organization of Unity church fifty years ago was later the pastor of the present pastor's parents and officiated at his baptism in his infancy.
  Fifty years of history are made. They were years of glorious achievements. Union township has been better as a place in which to reside because Unity has lived. The history of the next fifty years is not made up but a year at a time. Let us be faithful and have some part, be it ever so small, in making each year a glorious success. Two sons of former ministers have become pastors. One a pastor of this church, the other now pastor at Manning. I refer to Rev. C. C. Brown and Rev. Forest A. Heizer. So far as I know no others have been led from this church to enter upon the sacred calling. May God grant that the future years will lead many from Unity to enter the ministry and others to dedicate themselves to some form of missionary work that the world may the sooner be brought to Christ. If we cannot go I hope we may all do what we can to send. Unity's immediate future history is for you and I to Make. May it be a glorious record as recorded at some future date.