The First Church in Ames
The group included two Baptists, three Congregationalists, and three Presbyterians. They were H. F. Kingsbury (station agent and postmaster) and his wife Mary, Lyman and Phoebe Pierce (farmers who lived near the village), Robert B. Shearer (carpenter) and his wife Elizabeth, Cynthia Duff, and John Whitlaw. Cynthia and Alexander Duff had purchased land in 1863 and then sold the piece for the original town of Ames to John I. Blair, an engineer who built a railroad across Iowa. Rev. White had recently come from North Woodstock, Connecticut.
The Congregationalists and the Presbyterians had a Plan of Union that originated in Connecticut in 1801. The two denominations cooperated in locating new churches on the frontier. By the end of the Civil War, only the spirit of the plan was still in place. Nevada, to the east of Ames, had established a Presbyterian Church in 1865 and Boone, to the west of Ames, was about to start one. A Congregational church in the middle in Ames fit the plan.
On October 15, 1865 the group adopted the resolution: "…We, members of different Evangelical churches, in good and regular standing in humble reliance upon Divine grace, and with sincere desires to promote God's glory, do organize ourselves into a church of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be called the First Congregational Church of Ames, and to be in fellowship with the Orthodox Congregational Churches of the United States."
Church services were held in the depot, with a buffalo robe thrown over a packing box for a pulpit and planks laid over nail kegs for seats.
Erecting a Building
The church was dedicated on October 7, 1866 with Josiah Grinnell, the founder of the town of Grinnell and a Congregational minister, presiding. At the end of the service, Grinnell said he would contact Oakes Ames, a congressman from Massachusetts and namesake of the town, to suggest he send a church bell. Ames sent a bell, cast in Boston in 1866, that still rings in the steeple.
By 1900 the congregation had outgrown the building and a new church was constructed on the same site at Sixth and Kellogg. The building was enlarged in 1930, and the east wing was added in 1958.
After the 1957 merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches nationally, the Ames church adopted the name United Church of Christ - Congregational.
In 2003 the congregation added an elevator in the west side of the church, and financed a Habitat for Humanity home. In 2008 the congregation remodeled the east wing of the church and gave away $88,500 to seven efforts from the Story County Community Dental Clinic to Camundongo Mission Station in Angola, Africa.
Extensive history of the church on Ames Historical Society site
Ministers Who Have Served the Church