History of Ireton Churches
The first religious service in Reading Township was held in the fall of 1870 in the country schoolhouse located in the NE 1/4 of Section 33. Rev. Batcheller of the M.E. (Methodist Episcopal) Church conducted the service. The Methodists and other religious groups conducted services in homes and schoolhouses throughout the 1870’s.
The first church building in the vicinity of Ireton was the Pleasant Hill Church, a small Methodist Church built in the southeast part of what would soon be platted as Pleasant Hill Cemetery. In a letter to the Editor of the Sioux County Herald dated February 22, 1879, A. Granger described the church being built:
I will give you a sketch of what is going on here. The main thing that is exciting the people, especially in the west and north part of the township, is the building of a Methodist Church by that society. It is situated one and a half miles north of “Squire Sherman’s”. The size of the edifice is 27′ x 37′, 12 foot posts. The room will be 16 feet high on the clear. It will be plain and commodious, and a convenience long needed by the church-going people. It is called the Pleasant Hill church, and will be a credit to that and the surrounding community. The work is under the supervision of B. F. Granger, and is being pushed forward with energy and skill. The society will donate work toward the same and are anxious to complete it before seeding time. It will cost, when completed, from $900 to $1000. The society is under the care of Rev. Keister.
A cemetery was platted around the church in the Spring of 1880. After the town of Ireton was established in 1882, the Pleasant Hill Church was moved to the northwest corner of 5th and Main; however, the cemetery remained on “Pleasant Hill”. The Presbyterians soon followed the Methodists in establishing a church in the new town. After several years of meeting elsewhere, the United Presbyterian Church was constructed on the southeast corner of 4th and Elm Streets in 1885. Meanwhile, the “German Lutherans” had constructed a church (later called St. John’s) 3 1/2 miles southeast of Ireton in 1884. When Lutheran families near the new town desired a church closer to their homes, they established what would become St. Paul’s in 1886. Their church building was located on the Southwest corner of 6th and Main.
In the northern part of the townships surrounding Ireton, several Norwegian families constructed the Rock River Lutheran church in what would be the village of Highland in eastern Eagle Township (410th & Dogwood) (although the newspapers of the times occasionally referred to the church as the Danish Norwegian church, descendants of the original founders believe that the church was entirely Norwegian in origin with services always conducted in Norwegian). A group of Methodists constructed the Center Chapel built in 1889 on the southeast corner of what are now County Roads K-30 and B-46. In 1894, a group of them were instrumental in the formation of the Mount Joy Church of God, also in Highland in eastern Eagle Township.
In the southern part of the townships, the German Baptist Church of Pleasant Prairie (commonly called the Dunkard Church) was built just across the Plymouth County line (south of Union Hill Cemetery) about 1901.
Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church became embroiled in a dispute over church doctrine and a group of its members formed the “First” Presbyterian Church in 1901. Their church was constructed on the northeast corner of 5th and Elm Streets.
Although settlers of Dutch ancestry were predominant in the central and eastern part of the county, the Christian Reformed Church in Ireton was not established until 1908. Their first church building was the former Center Chapel which was moved to the northeast corner of 4th and Ash. The CRC was followed by the First Reformed Church which purchased the former Dunkard church in 1912 and moved it to the southwest corner of 5th and Ash.
In 1911, an Ireton Ledger article called Ireton “A City of Churches”. A century later, Ireton continues to have more churches than many towns its size. A slideshow of the various church buildings may be found below. But a church is not merely a building, it is worship and fellowship — we’ll let you discover those on your own.