Church

This article was published in the Iowa Postal History Society Bulletin no. 240 (Winter 2007). Permission to reproduce it here has been given by the author, Brother Leo V Ryan. C.S.V. and by Dr William Dall, Editor Iowa Postal History Society Bulletin.

Along Iowa State Highway 9 between Waukon and Lansing, Iowa, along the Lansing Ridge, the traveler comes to a village, never platted as a town, but announced by a road sign as “Churchtown”. It has always been called Churchtown by locals and on the Allamakee County maps.

Churchtown is located seven miles west of Lansing and ten miles northeast of Waukon (NE Sec 32, Lansing Township, 99N, R4W). The founding father of . Churchtown was Isaac Bechtal who sold off portions of his forty acre holdings for building lots for dwellings and business establishments.

Churchtown consisted primarily of a church (1864), a school (1878), the Calhoun Creamery (1898) and Decker’s General Store (1903). The United States Post Office Department recognized this village as “Church, Iowa” when a post office was established here on December 28, 1897. George Turner was the first postmaster. He served from December 28,1897 until February 15, 1899.

By then Churchtown consisted of several businesses including a blacksmith shop (William Lentz), a store featuring confectionery and notions (Mrs. Wm. Buege) and a general store. George Coppersmith opened his general store in 1899. That general store was to become the center of community business activity and also the Church post office for the next 47 years. The post office was discontinued June 30, 1947.

George Coppersmith succeeded George Turner to become the second Church postmaster (February 16, 1899 -July 12, 1903). The post office was located in his general store. In 1903, Coppersmith sold his general store to Benjamin (Ben) Decker, son of John A. and Mary (Eichhorn) Decker. John A. Decker was a Civil War veteran, a sawmill engineer and later a prosperous French Creek farmer. He was known by his middle name Adam. Benjamin (Ben) was born at Churchtown June 25, 1877. He farmed locally. On March 25, 1903 he married Anna Englehom and in July 1903 he purchased the Coppersmith General Store.

Ben Decker not only acquired the store but he succeeded George Coppersmith as postmaster. Coppersmith resigned July 12, 1903 as postmaster, the same date on which he sold his general store to Ben Decker. Ben Decker was promptly nominated postmaster on July 13, 1903 and assumed office on July 29, 1903. The post office remained in the general store, which became known locally as Decker’s General Store. Ben Decker continued to operate the general store until a year before his death in 1962.

Ben Decker remained postmaster for 44 years from his appointment by President Theodore Roosevelt until the Church, Iowa Post Office was discontinued on June 30, 1947. Ben Decker was the longest serving postmaster in Allamakee County.

His obituary notes that “he was widely known because of his mercantile establishment in the little town and highly respected for his courteous, fair and accommodating business methods”. The obituary also notes that “While in the store he served the government as postmaster for 44 years. ( 1 )

The activity of the post office can be measured somewhat by the compensation of the postmaster.

The following tabulation indicates Church Postmasters’ Compensation from 1899 -1911.

Church, Iowa
Postmaster’s Annual Compensation

For Odd-numbered Fiscal Years, 1899 – 1911
As Listed in the Biennial Official Register of the United States.

Year Postmaster Compensation
1897 George Turner – No Records before 1899
(December 28, 1897 – February 15, 1899)
1899 George Coppersmith $48.57
1901 George Coppersmith $110.57
1903 George Coppersmith
(February 16, 1899 – July 12, 1903)
$103.07
1905 Benjamin Decker $140.44
1907 Benjamin Decker $206.00
1909 Benjamin Decker $245.00
1911 Benjamin Decker
(July 13, 1903 – June 30, 1947)
$210.00

The biennial Official Register of the United States ceased reporting postmaster compensation after 1911.

Today, ofthe four Churchtown landmarks: the church, the school, Decker’s Store and Calhoun Creamery only one landmark remains.

Today Churchtown has no church. The non-denominational Churchtown Church of Christ was founded in 1864. The Churchtown Church and its sister church, the Lansing Church of Christ were unique. They were the only two Protestant churches in Allamakee County which professed to be ofthe Restoration Movement as distinct from the Reformation Movement. They described themselves to be the only true New Testament “Churches of Christ” biblically based on Romans 16:16 “The Churches of Christ salutes you”. After 130 years the Church was dismantled in December 1995. ( 2 )

Today Churchtown has no school. The old Calhoun brick school built in 1875 was also dismantled in 1995.

Today Churchtown has no general store. The Decker Store and its successor “Ma and Pa Country Store” and gas station operated by Bernard and Dorothy (O’Hara) Ziemet no longer exists. The store was totally destroyed by fire on January 27, 1986 with the owners escaping through their second story windows and being rescued from the roof of the burning building. At the time of the 1:00 a.m. fire, the wind chill was reported to be 60 degrees below zero. ( 3 )

Of the four landmarks, only the Calhoun Creamery continues as the sole flourishing business in Churchtown. The town sign remains and a few homes, but, for all practical purposes, Calhoun Creamery is Churchtown. The mail is handled through Lansing, Iowa.

Calhoun Creamery was founded and incorporated in Spring 1891 by 20 farmers who owned 210 cows. It was called Calhoun after the school where the organizational meeting was held. Once established, 70 farmers entered 819 cows to produce milk for the creamery.

Calhoun Creamery celebrated its Centennial on July 24, 1996. By 1995 the creamery was producing milk valued over $17.9 million dollars. Hoard’s Dairyman magazine ranked Calhoun Creamery 50th in the United Stated and one of only two Iowa creameries ranked. ( 4 )

In 2006 Calhoun Creamery with between 90 -100 farmers participating produced milk valued at $26 million dollars. ( 5 ) In the October 2006 edition of Hoard’s Dairyman Calhoun Creamery was ranked 49th in the country. ( 6 )

The church, the school, the general store and the post office no longer exist in Churchtown. The Calhoun Creamery remains the sole icon connected with Church, Allamakee County, Iowa. The Calhoun Creamery continues as a permanent reminder of this once vigorous village located midpoint between Waukon and Lansing, Allamakee County, Iowa.

( 1 ) “Funeral Service for Benjamin Decker”, Allamakee Journal, Vol. LXXXIII, No. 36, September 5,1962, p.l.
( 2 ) Cf. “The Church at Church” in The History of Allamakee County. Iowa. Waukon, Iowa: Allamakee County Historical Society, 1989, p. 66 for a history of the Churchtown Church of Christ and a theological discussion of the New Testament denominational “Church of Christ” and its subsequent integration into other local Protestant churches.
( 3 ) Telephone interviews with Jerry Welch, Lansing and Sharon (Ziemet) Costello, Lansing, July 11, 2006.
( 4 ) “Calhoun Creamery, Church, Noting its 100th Anniversary”, The Waukon Standard, Vol. 128, No. 29, July 17,1996, p. 9.
( 5 ) Interview, Tom Baxter, Manager, Calhoun Creamery, July 7, 2006.
( 6 ) Creamery Rankings, Hoard’s Dairyman, Volume 151, Number 17, October 10,2006, p. 665.

About Leo V. Ryan, CSV

Br. Ryan is a member of the Viatorian Community and a native of Allamakee County. He remains interested in the history of the area, and has written many articles about it, particularly in the newsletter of the Iowa Postal History Association. AllamakeeCounty.com is grateful to have the joint permissions of both Br. Ryan and the editor of the IPHA newsletter, Dr. Bill Dall, to reprint Br. Ryan's articles.
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One Response to Church

  1. Kyle S. Moore says:

    Very fond of Ben Decker he always sold us kids 2 pieces of candy for a penny! It was a long walk to Churchtown on a hot summer day for us farm kids! Best place in the world! And the best butter too cause it came from my Dad’s cows! Paul D. Moore

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