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The First Reformed Church is the oldest institution of Sioux Center, organized in 1877.

A story about the church (written by the Sioux Center News for the city’s Golden Jubilee in 1941) noted it was the largest church in Sioux County. The Jubliee news story noted that from 26 original members the membership of the church had grown to 705 communicants, with a total of 1,335 souls; 630 enrolled in Sunday School; an average attendance of 550 each Sunday; and 440 children and young people receiving doctrinal training nine months of the year.

The founders first met in a pioneer schoolhouse situated two miles east of the present church.  The Rev. S. Bolks and Elder J. Muilenberg of Orange City conducted the organization meeting.

The first church was named the First Reformed Church of West Branch, so named because its location was on the West Branch, a tributary of the Floyd River.

The members of the first congregation were: Jacob and Pecltje (Bronkhorst) Koster; Sander and Fennitje (Ten Houten) Schut; A. and Elbertje (Van der Pal) Franken, J. Franken; G. and Gijsbertje (De Mots) Rensink; J.W. and Hendrike (Klevvers)Te Grotenhuis, D. W. and Gerritje (Te Grotenhuis) Doornink, H. Mouw, J. Cleveringa, F. Cleveringa, A.L. Rensink, F. and Frederika (Rower) Kuhl, J. and Marie (Tiester) Grevenhoff.

The 1941 Golden Jubilee newspaper noted that families united with the church were officially visited each year by the minister and elders, a custom carried out by the congregation’s three ministers: Rev. James De Pree (1880-1910); Dr. F. Lubbers (1910-1930); and Rev. L. A. Brunsting (1930-article’s printing in 1941).  At that time 17 sons of the congregation had been dedicated to the ministry and Christian missions.

During the early years the organization reflected the hardships and blessings of its members.  The first matter was building a place of worship.  The first edifice was 14 by 20 feet and 10 feet high. A committee of Jacob Koster and J.W. Te Grotenhuis was chosen to buy grounds and material.

In September of the same year the building was completed and a resolution was made to accept an offering for the church and its enlargement.  Three years later the congregation needed more room and busily engaged themselves in securing funds to add a new wing (the first building is pictured on the webpage logo at the upper far left, painted by John Vander Stelt).  In the early 1890s, a second church building was erected (white church in webpage logo).  In June, 1902, this building was totally destroyed by a disastrous tornado that swept the community.  Incidentally, the pulpit Bible that had been donated to the congregation and used for more than a quarter of a century was picked up the morning after the storm without any damage and was the only property saved.

Members of the congregation immediately set about to build a new house of worship, and gratefully accepted the hospitality of the Christian Reformed Church, which offered them the use of their church building to hold services until the new church was completed.

Interesting historical briefs

•  One incident often told by Dominie De Pree brings to mind that the early day church building and its accommodations were none too good.  No up-to-date architect or expert carpenter had been consulted in the construction of the church and its seats.  The latter were not of the cushioned and easy backed variety, nor were they symmetrically arranged because of the different length of the seats.  None of the seats were fastened to the floor and they were pretty shaky.  One Saturday when the catechism pupils were sitting together in the seats, by some quick turn one of the pupils in the first seat tipped the seat backwards with all of its occupants and over turned the next and the next like a row of dominoes until all the pupils were on the floor and a wild scramble of arms and legs was all the pastor could see.

•  Cold weather brought its problems of making buildings comfortable for those who had often driven many miles through the cold.  A great potbelly stove with the word “Volcano” inscribed across the front door was the medium of heating the church.  One Sunday the stoker added considerable soft coal and slack to the smoldering fire.  All went well until the Dominie was well on the way in the sermon, when the stove exploded, knocking the stovepipe to the floor and flooding the church with soot and smoke.

•  Mondays were always seat repair days to the church custodians of the first church.  The seats were homemade and rickety and nearly every Sunday several were broken or came apart under the load of several occupants.  Nails and hammers were kept in the entry just for this work.

•  During the summer time, to make up for a shortage of seats, the members would carry their wagon spring seats into the church, and some would pull the wagon near a window and sit in it during the services.  The boys thought it a fine stunt to move the spring seats back and forth just enough to make a symphony of the squeaks.

•  The old church barn is a thing of the past.  At one time three barns, each accommodating 30 teams, were in the back of the present church building.  When the automobile came into general use they were torn down.


Brief History of Hollanders and Reformed Church in the U.S.

1628 – The Reformed Church in America was organized in New Amsterdam, now New York City.  In 1941 there were 722 churches in the denomination, of which 448 were on the east side and 262 were on the west side of the Mississippi River.

1870 – There were 65 Holland families in Sioux County.  More Dutch was spoken here than any other language.

1877 – The First Reformed Church of West Branch Township was organized with 26 individuals.  More Hollanders were migrating to Sioux County than to any other point in the United States, both from the Netherlands and Pella.

1895 – There were 4,325 foreign born Hollanders in the county, which was more than one half of all the Hollanders in the state.

1900 – There were 12,000 in the county and several churches were established in Sioux County by this time.

1941 – It is estimated that 75 percent of the population in Sioux County is either of Holland birth or of Dutch descent.  Churches continue to organize and the Reformed faith has shown a steady growth throughout the years.