Group raising funds to restore historic Rock Creek Church
OLLIE — A fundraising campaign is underway for restoration of the historic Rock Creek Church, which is along 240th Avenue, north of Highway 78, about 3.5 miles southwest of Ollie.
Kenny Van Ness of Fairfield, who is helping to spearhead the fundraising effort, explained a decision was made in 2005 to start a restoration project on the 168-year-old church.
“At that time, a fundraising campaign was started to help with the many repairs,” Van Ness recalled.
Since then, the church has received a new foundation, concrete steps, roof, windows, siding, sheet rock and paint on the walls and ceiling.
“We received generous donations and a couple of grants to be able to do this work,” said Van Ness.
The group’s latest grant request was denied, but weather and time continue to take their toll on the little, white, wooden building, and restoration work needs done now.
“The doors and surrounding frame have all rotted and are falling apart,” said Van Ness. “We need to ask for help to raise funds for this project.”
Early estimates for the work have been $2,500 to $3,000.
Van Ness said some funds have already been raised, but more is needed.
Anyone who would like more information about the Rock Creek Church restoration project can call Van Ness at 472-2431.
Anyone who would like to donate to the project can send checks made payable to Rock Creek Church Restoration Fund c/o Kenny Van Ness, 1478 Osage Ave., Fairfield 52556.
Donations are tax deductible.
The church was organized in January 1844 by a group of Separate Baptists who moved into the southern part of Keokuk County, two years before Iowa became a state. The name was changed to Rock Creek Church in September 1845.
Construction on the church began in 1846 and was finished in 1850. Some of the material used in the church was brought by wagons from Burlington.
A cemetery, now several acres large and still in use, was started on the church grounds and many of the headstones date back to the early 1850s.
The headstones reveal a large number of deaths of infants, children and young mothers in the 1850-1870 period. The number of deaths raised rapidly during and immediately following the Civil War years 1861-1865.
One of the largest tombstones, which is near the church, was hauled in a wagon pulled by eight mules from Martinsburg over muddy roads.
George C. Talley’s tombstone is inscribed: “George Talley died August 1, 1863; age 29 yr. 5 mo. 27 da. Died as a martyr to his religion and political opinions, shot down by highway men at South English, Iowa, Keokuk County, while bravely defending the same.”
Because the population was sparse in 1850, church services were held only once a month and always on a Saturday so the religious service could be preceded by a business meeting; business was not transacted on Sunday, and that rule was taken seriously as the clerk’s notes state one man was excluded because of horse trading on a Sunday.
Regular services have not been held at the church for many years, but Rock Creek area residents want the historic chapel preserved for their descendants as a reminder of the divine faith of Iowa’s pioneers.
In the late 1940s, Rock Creek Church was reconditioned and redecorated by community residents. W.T. Bragg and I.O. Pickering, descendants of the original builders were in charge. They leveled the floor, constructed a new chimney, rearranged the rostrum, put on a new roof, wallpapered and painted.
For several years, Rock Creek Church and Cemetery were supported by the collections taken during the annual Memorial Day service, and in recent years, donations and fundraisers have been used for repair and maintenance.