FARM TOWNS IN IOWA
This story isn't really part of my daily work, that is with farm livestock, grass, soil and bringing farm fresh food to cities, but it touches my heart because so many small farm towns are now a ravaged nothing. My own family farm town, Nashville KS is merely the skeletal remains. However I have been doing work with Roger TeSlaa of Inwood, IA for several years which has enabled me to make dozens of trips to the small dot on the map just a few miles south of MN and east of SD. The town itself doesn't have a stoplight in the whole town but there are signs of vitality here and there. Once upon a time there was a restaurant on Main St called CRAZY BOB'. It was right next door to Roger's business Nature's Best so I can say that I ate there for most of our work-related meals. Through that connection I met Crazy Bob himself and subsequently found out that he had been living in an old church right off of Main St. I took the pictures you see below several years ago whilst Bob was living there. It's spectacular, but also spectacularly run-down and I was afraid that it was soon going to be a ruin, or perhaps burned to the ground. Once a roof goes on a structure like this it's basically the death knell. During a particularly bad tornado and storm the entire steeple of the church was destroyed and lost. Roger said he remembered when there was a meeting room up in the steeple itself where some Sunday School classes were held. The steeple was never rebuilt. Roger said that there were several massive pocket doors made of hardwood that are valuable as salvage materials as they are no longer possible to make. Roger and his restoration committee was offered $50,000 a piece for them to be ripped out and hauled off forever. They refused. Just think how easily those four massive round stained glass windows could have gone to salvage as well.
Just last week I heard the good news regarding the future of this little church on the big prairie! . Roger told me that Bob is long gone from residence in Inwood, and that, through some of the stalwarts for the town, the Historical Society of Inwood is now in possession the building. And it's being restored! Sure enough, Roger said that there was 3-4' of rain water in the basement but yet much of the church is still intact. Flash forward a year or so and the new roof is installed and the basement restored. Roger was interested because he was a member of this Methodist as a child and has fond memories of the church. His Sunday School class planted a big pine tree in front that was decorated as the Christmas Tree for the community for many decades. Since the tree was neglected over the past 10 years or so, it died but the community is in the process of selecting and planting a brand new tree in the same exact spot. The restoration process has restored the sanctuary to it's original glory and the Historical Society has created a history museum filling the entire basement. Once the lockdown is over, it will be open for tours. I found out from Roger that the entire church has been rebuilt at least three times, and that there are original roofs under the visible roof.
The church is also unique in that when it was first constructed, back in the 1870's, it housed the entire cadre of Methodist Rider Preachers,, three of which resided in Inwood and took turns preaching and evangelizing throughout the western part of Iowa as well as throughout the Dakata Territories. One of the ministers remained behind and served the Inwood community. Mind you, this was during the last days of the Native American Nation and it was a wild and dangerous place for any traveler.
All in all, it's a total miracle that this bastion of the past still remains, much less that it is being restored! Oh, the stories it could tell! Weddings, funerals, baptisms, and celebrations of holidays and events throughout it's 150 wild and tumultuous years of American history. The reason it exists today is that it took activists like Roger and other friends. These elders of the community waded through all the legalities of purchase, fronted the restoration money out of their own pockets, and then, rather than hoard it for themselves or convert it into a couple of condos, they gave it to the Historical Society under the condition that it be preserved, cared for and that the sanctuary could once again be a critical part of a Midwestern small town. It's going to be a shining star once again.