On August 13, the Mayor of Cherokee, Pam Pierce, along with a small group representing the congregation, read a proclamation declaring August 18 as St. Paul's United Methodist Day in Cherokee.
Currently the congregation size is around 700 people with an average of 200 attending service regularly on Sundays. For the past several weeks, guest speakers and former pastors have been invited to talk and share presentations about the Church.
The Church's History Committee - Joyce Pyle, Dee Taylor and Marlene Kelly- spent countless hours going over documents to prepare a thorough presentation.
Here is just part of what they prepared.
The history of the church began with a pioneer circuit rider named Orange Scott Wight. Born in 1826 he arrived here from Eastern Iowa at the age of 32. O.S. Wight, along with his wife and 18-month old daughter, crossed the Little Sioux River on a small ferryboat near the old white mill on August 18, 1858. He organized the first Methodist Class of six members in 1866 at a cabin four miles north of Cherokee.
While he lived south of Cherokee in Pilot Township, his circuit extended from Smithland to Spirit Lake and he made his rounds by ox team or on foot. Although people were constantly coming and going, there were few permanent settlers and the 1865 census showed only 20 people in Cherokee County.
Wight preached his first sermon at Peterson, where he heard there was a Christian group. The next Sunday on Aug. 29, he preached in Cherokee, at the home of Mr. Holbrook, who resided just north of the Nate Phipps home.
"When away from Cherokee a short distance in any direction, there was no sign of human habitation as far as the eye could reach and perhaps for many miles" as quoted from Pastor Wight's journal.
In the fall of 1858, Wight's young daughter died, and with the aid of friends he selected the burying spot on the high bluff near the south bank of Mill Creek. Through the years, his family increased and hardship was a frequent visitor.
During the summer of 1862, Tillitha Wight hid their children in the trees along the Little Sioux as the Indians were frightening the settlers regularly. O.S. Wight sent his wife and family east that winter, probably to Fort Dodge. He, three families, and soldiers were the only people here that winter. Subsequently, seven children were born to the Wights with only three surviving pioneer life.
By 1870, G.M. Binks was appointed Pastor, but the Wights continued to live here. O.S. died on August 7, 1912 at his home near Pilot Rock. He was buried next to his wife in Pilot Rock Cemetery.
G.M. Binks organized the first quarterly meeting of the Methodist Church held in the McLean Hotel, in the autumn of 1870, where church had been conducted, according to some records. In the fall of 1871, the first frame church was built on the very spot of the current church at a cost of $1,199. It served as a place of worship for other denominations as well. Catholic and Presbyterian churches were soon built and the area became known as "Piety Hill."
This was a period of rapid growth in the community and church membership increased as well. Under the pastorate of Robert Smylie, the original frame church was sold and on the same site, a brick church was built and dedicated in 1889. Conference records show a membership of 175.
The steady increase in population in the community continued and the church was running out of room by 1908. There had been 21 pastors during this 50-year period. In 1913, with a membership of 363, it again became necessary to enlarge. Additional lots, adjoining the original, were purchased and under the able pastoral leadership of F.S. Jory the present church was built and dedicated on February 21, 1915.
It took one year to build the current church with a cost of $50,000. The new church featured a totaly different architecture and the new structure was built with cream-colored pressed brick, with stone trimmings, Grecian in architecture with a north entrance and a large dome over the auditorium. The dome is 64 feet above the basement floor.
In 1920 Rev. McDae was pastor and he had the area around the church paved and on April 22 of that year the congregation burned the mortgage.
Subsequent changes include the remodeling to the chancel during the pastorate of Rev. J.A. Farnham in 1942, the construction of the west entrance in 1952, and the closing of the north entrance and the remodeling of the sanctuary in 1954 under the pastorate of Rev. J.E. Feller.
By congregational vote, the name of the church was changed from "First Methodist Church" to "St. Paul's Methodist Church" in 1947. In 1965 the name was changed to St. Paul's United Methodist Church.
The erection of a $200,000 Educational Building was another milestone. The Headley Building, which adjoined the church property on the east side, was purchased and this building, along with the former parsonage, which stood adjacent to the church on the east, were dismantled. The generosity and loyalty of church members and friends was evident throughout the next years as the Educational Building passed fro the planning and building stages to final completion in the summer of 1962. A special service for the Consecration of the Educational Building was held the summer of 1962.
In 1965, the Mosaic of Christ the Teacher, just inside the north door, was dedicated and is entitled "Learn from Me." The Mosaic was done by Herman Becker of Omaha, Neb. as a memorial to Lester Ary by Eva Ary.
In 1971, the sanctuary was completely renovated and the Heritage Room was also completed and in 1979 the church kitchen was completely renovated. In 1987 the parking lot east to the church was completed, with the Peterson Garage demolished to make room. The Hankens Library was dedicated in Memory of Ivagene Hankens in 1994. She and Don were always working on bettering the church.
The Church had an auction to raise money for the elevator. The elevator and two accessible restrooms were completed at the cost of $155,00 in 1997 and enabled the church to be handicapped accessible. In March of 2000, the sanctuary was dismantled for renovation and worship was moved to the dining room.
Then months later, on January 7, 2001, the renovation was completed, and services returned to a beautiful new sanctuary, complete with a new Gathering Room. A $400,00 loan was secured and total cost of the renovation was $657,000.
On July 1, 2007 the church welcomed Rev. Magrey deVega and his family to the church. Soon after a state-of-art video technology was added to the sanctuary and thanks to a gift from Esther Carson and her family, the pastor's office was redecorated. As of last May the church once again burned the mortgage of the $400,00 debt.
The history of St. Paul's United Methodist is a rich one that runs parallel with the community and the history of Cherokee itself.