Red Oak Grove Church and Cemetery Chronology
by Karen Safley Taylor of Springville, Iowa, with help from several others
October 1836: Washington A. Rigby, a young bachelor from Knox County, Ohio, became the first permanent white settler of Red Oak Township, Cedar County, Iowa.
March 1, 1841: The first Presbyterian Church in Cedar County (the 12th in Iowa Territory) was organized by the Rev. Michael Hummer of Davenport. It was called the Presbyterian Church of Red Oak Grove. The 10 founding members were John Chappell, Robert Dallas, Miss Sarah Dallas (later Mrs. Elza Carl), Elizabeth (Mrs. Charles) Dallas, John and Isabella Starack Ferguson, Robert and Elizabeth Pirie, John Safley, and Samuel Yule. Mr. Safley and Mr. Ferguson were ordained as elders, and Elizabeth Davis Safley (John’s wife) was received into membership.
Dec. 28, 1846: Iowa joined the Union as the 29th state.
Jan. 1, 1848: Robert Dallas donated an acre of land in Section 11 of Red Oak Township to the Cedar County commissioners (now called supervisors). The grave of Robert Pirie, who had died Oct. 31, 1846, was moved from across the road as the first burial in the new cemetery.
January 1851: The congregation of Red Oak Grove began holding services in the county seat town of Tipton, about 5 miles to the southeast.
April 19, 1851: Cedar County Presbytery approved the request of Red Oak Grove Church to move to Tipton and to use the name First Presbyterian Church of Tipton.
June 25, 1854: A new brick church building in Tipton was dedicated.
April 1858: Construction began on a Red Oak Grove church building, north of the present church site. Built by John Chappell and Jacob Snyder, the frame structure cost $1,000.
Late July 1859: The first service in the new church building was the funeral of Eliza Tryon Safley, 39, wife of James Safley. Mrs. Safley died of “consumption” July 25, 1859.
August 7, 1859: The first regular worship service in the new church building was conducted by the Rev. George D. Porter.
September 27, 1859: Presbytery granted a petition for the organization of a separate church at
Red Oak Grove.
November 1870: The first Red Oak Grove Old Settlers’ meeting was hosted by John Ferguson.
November 1871: The Red Oak Grove Cemetery Association was founded to care for the cemetery. (At the time, the county commissioners did not provide this service.)
About 1900: A manse (minister’s home) was built across the road and north of the church on land donated by Henry Britcher. The first minister to move in (1901) was the Rev. C. J. Fawcett. Earlier, the Red Oak Grove manse had been in the hamlet of Shiloh, 1/4 mile to the north.
1905: U.S. Representative Robert G. Cousins, a native of the Red Oak Grove community, presented an ornate wrought iron arch and gate to the Cemetery Association.
April 20, 1916: Mrs. Sarah Dallas Carl, 97, the last surviving founding member of the first Red Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, died at her home in Stanwood, Iowa.
1920 ( probably summer): Construction of a new church building began. Designed by Cedar Rapids architects Herbert Rugh and Charles Zalesky, it was built at a cost of $28,000.
May 8, 1921: The new church building was dedicated, with services at 10:45 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and the formal dedication at 7:30 p.m. This occasion was postponed twice because of bad weather. When the original March 13 date was stormed out, April 17 was chosen, but a freak April blizzard occurred. The Rev. C. E. Thomas was minister at the time.
October 12, 1941: Red Oak Grove Church’s centennial was celebrated with a morning worship service presided over by the Rev. Louis Penningroth. U.S. flags were then placed on the graves of founding members, and a basket dinner and program of reminiscences followed.
June 19, 1966: To mark the church’s 125th year, a morning worship service, a communal dinner, and an afternoon anniversary service were held. The Rev. Ralph Schenk was minister.
October 1999: A stately brick-flanked entrance gate was installed at the south end of the cemetery, donated by Hazel Safley Hughes and Dwight Williams Hughes of Cedar Rapids. (Mrs. Hughes was a great-granddaughter of John Safley.)
December 17, 2006: The final regular Sunday service was held at the church. The last minister was the Rev. Carol Lamp. There were 16 members, some inactive.
May 20, 2007: Responsibility for Red Oak Grove Church was formally assumed by the Red Oak Grove Cemetery Association, through arrangements with the Church Session and the Presbytery of East Iowa. A Red Oak Grove Reunion was held: an 11:00 a.m. worship service, a potluck dinner and the annual meeting, at which ownership of the church building was transferred to the Cemetery Association.
June 4, 2008: Articles of Incorporation were filed by Iowa’s Secretary of State for Red Oak Grove Cemetery Association, Inc.
September 2009: A 110-foot extension was made to the existing 170-foot driveway in the South Cemetery, and a new sidewalk replaced the old one along the south side of the church.
November 2009: Red Oak Grove Church and Cemetery acquired a web site, www.redoakgrovecc.org.
February 3, 2010: Red Oak Grove Church and Cemetery were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is our country’s official roll of cultural resources worthy of preservation.
August 2010: Two informational kiosks were completed at the northeast corner of the church and near the South Cemetery entrance gate. Designed by Zach Thumma and built by Esbeck Construction, the kiosks display maps with locations of graves and available plots. Funding was by private donations and a $4,000 Community Foundation of Cedar County grant.
August 2011: Two informational kiosks, at the church and in the South Cemetery, were completed.
July 16, 2012: Restoration of all 37 church windows was completed by Glass Heritage L.L.C. of Davenport, Iowa; cost: $27,716.(The project was launched May 19, 2011.)
complied May 2007; updated October 2010, May 2011, August 2011, and November 2012, by Karen Taylor, with help from many others