The History of St. John’s - Iron River

The earliest religious activity in Iron River among Protestants was a joint one. The Protestants met in a two-story building where visiting ministers conducted the services. Gradually there numbered enough members in the village to form a “Community Church” for Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, and others.

Present Episcopalians can be thankful for coming to the area of Judge and Mrs. Young Campbell. They moved here from Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the 1880’s where they were very active in the work of Trinity Church. They owned “Campbell Hall” which was a large building for Iron River. Only the two hotels outclassed it for size. By this time, the Presbyterians in the “Community Church” had outnumbered the others; consequently the service took on more of the Presbyterian form of worship. The result was the Episcopalians and Methodists withdrew. With “Campbell Hall” at the disposal of the Episcopalians, the lower north floor of the building was partitioned off for the Mission. The east end of the room was properly fitted with an altar. To the right of that, a two manual pseudo-pipe organ, at first operated by a hand blower, was installed. The space to the left of the altar was filled with chairs to augment the west half of the chair-filled room. High up above the altar, on the papered wall, was the Biblical quotation “The Lord is in His Holy Temple.” Some artistic hand had cut the foot-high English-fashioned letters out of red paper, and pasted them there. The Rev. W. Ball Wright held the first service to in the Mission on February 10, 1891. He was Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Iron Mountain and held services here every alternating Sunday until he moved to Menominee - then he came every third Sunday.


Campbell Hall in the late 1930s

Besides the Campbells, other Episcopalians at that early date were Frank and David Young, who with their mother had come from Algoma, Wisconsin and Andrew Young, of Stambaugh, Michigan. That number was swelled by the Alex and Arthur Quirt families, Mrs. Andrew J. Boyington, and a mining official, Captain Roberts. The memorial stained-glass windows give evidence of these faithful members. The Mission had as its first organist, a communicant who carried the name of our town Doctors, Daniel M. and Frank Lewis, his son, around the world. In 1889, Dr. Frank Lewis Bond brought Carrie Jacobs from Janesville, Wisconsin, as his bride. She gave of herself most lavishly. In addition to her responsibility as church organist, she also organized community programs, made layettes for babies that Dr. Bond brought into the world, and started a Loyal Temperance Legion among teenagers. With the death of Dr. Bond, Mrs. Bond and her son Fred left Iron River and moved to Chicago, Illinois in order to earn a living. Thus St. John's lost its first organist.

Mr. Young Campbell then assumed the duties of organist, but soon was replaced by Marian S. Lorenz at a reed organ. Among the first children baptized in St. John’s were: Herbert Richardson, Katherine Grandy, Edna B. Sweet, Mary M. Sweet, Olive Blanche Sweet, Clifford Quirt, Charles Rogers, Joel Roydon Morrison, Clara Josephine Morrison, Helen Carson, Caroline Carson, Burt A. Boyington, Earl and Alice Minckler, Frank Lewis Bond, Lillian Marie Bond, Elsie Mabel Quirt, and John William Young.

St. John’s had its first resident clergyman, the Rev. William Tooke, in 1896. He was a musician and his wife was well-versed in chanting. He died in residence. Mr. William A. Cash, deacon-in-charge, presented Miss Marian Lorenz and three of the Tooke children for Confirmation, to Bishop Gershom Mott Williams on May 28, 1896 - his first Confirmation tour. The altar for that Confirmation service was a dry goods box. Mr. Cash married in June of that year and lived in one of the Quirt cottages, west of the present rectory. He worked daily with the carpenters on the building which is the present St. John’s. During this time Iron River and Crystal Falls shared a vicar with the rectory being in Crystal Falls.

The Sunday school had its yearly outing in the form of a picnic at the Quirt farm, the present day Bates Park area at Sunset Lake. Mrs. Lingley, a competent woman with the needle, had the “Little Guild” meet each Sunday afternoon making altar linen, and if the stitches weren’t fine enough, they had to be ripped. She was a Sunday school teacher and Superintendant for many years.

A large box stove provided the heat and Ben L. Quirt, a young boy at the time, had the chore of bringing wood into the church on Saturday. He got up in the wee hours on Sunday morning to light the fire.

In the early days, the vicar commuted between Crystal Falls and Iron River by horse and buggy or train. Early records kept by the vicars in the church books contain the following interesting notes: - no choir, no organist - good weather and fire (soft coal for the first time) - rector only present - bad walking- three in all present - no fire in church - machine went into ditch on way to Iron River. These remarks were from the late 1940’s: - Holy Mother church competed with the ski meet at Iron Mountain - a beautiful day, wonder where everyone was? Packers played the Steelers!!! (church attendance 15). Still a few years later: - Service downstairs, repairs on back upstairs after chancel arch, etc. installed - power off, no organ! - Opening day of Trout season yesterday - lots of sickness around.

In the 1920’s and 30’s St. John’s boasted a large and very capable choir under the leadership of the organist, Frederick C. Kemp. Members of the choir were Kate Youngs, Jane Youngs, Jewel Brown, Ethel Waffen, Marian Lorenz, Mrs. Walter Berry, Mrs. George Bain, Walter Berry, Ben Quirt, Oliver James and Alex James, Jr. Cecil Harding was the flag bearer and Bert Youngs was the crosier. Mr. Kemp also headed a community choir of English people, many of whom had migrated to America just a few years before. Members of St. John’s included in this group were Mr. George Bain, Marian Lorenz, Alex James, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Oliver James. Mr. Kemp served as organist and choir director almost continuously for over some forty years, retiring July 9, 1968. He was followed by Mrs. Madge Koehler 1968-1977 and Mrs. Mary Schwark 1977. Other people who have contributed their services at the organ are: Mrs. Luella Jeffers Amback, James Jefferson, Miss Linda Ongaro, Miss Mary Ann Angeli and Mrs. Ruth Buntrock.

The very small choir room was to the left of the altar and held only three or four people at a time plus robes. In the summertime choir members vested and went outside to make room for others until time of services. In cold weather the choir sat in the pews until the processional started.

Miss Molly Pryne, owner of a then-very-stylish women’s shop was an active Episcopalian. She died in 1930, and willed her shop building on Genesee Street in downtown Iron River to St. John’s Church.

With the help of Cornish wives from other churches in the community, pasty sales were held in the 1930’s and 40’s. They were looked forward to with much anticipation by the workers as well as customers. The proceeds from these undertakings made possible many improvements in the church structure.

In 1940, a Guild Hall was added to the south side of the building. This provided ample room for parish dinner and bazaars. Later the basement was renovated, with a kitchen installed. Then men formed a work bee and sanded and refinished the pews.

The 1950’s brought more improvements, including a vestibule and a new lannon stone exterior.


St. John's in the 1950s

An amount of money, bequeathed by Ben Quirt in 1953 to help a deserving boy interested in pursuing the ministry, is invested for that purpose.

The Quirt home which stood on Adams Street, one block from the church and which has since been torn down and replaced by a service station, was bequeathed to the church. Before its sale for commercial property, the house served as a rectory.

The undercroft of the church has served as the meeting place for community organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Girl Scouts, and Brownie Troops, as well as the Vestry, Church Women, Altar Guild, Sewing Guild, E.Y.C and Church School.

The longest pastorate was that of the Rev. Marcus Brown, who served as vicar of St. John’s Church for ten years, from 1926 to 1936. He returned to hold services during “interregnum” periods between pastorates.

Pastors of St. John’s over the years follow: The Reverends W. Ball Wright, H.C. Goodman, E.H. Earle, George Gibson, William McCauley Tooke, W.A. Cash, and Edward Warren, who served for short periods between 1891 and 1900. The Reverends Frederick Lake (1900), William Poyser (1902), H.M. Simpson (1910), T.B. Satchar (1911), J.E. Crosbie (1912), C.H. Walters (1912), J.H. Davis (1913), C.E. Jones (1919), D. Copeland (1920), Thomas Foster (1922), L.J. Baily (1923), S.H. Moffett (1925), R.H. Baird (1926), Marcus J. Brown (1926), O.M. Langley (1936), Robert Muir (1944), G. Phillip Jung (1948), Herman Page (1952), Lester J. Maitland (1957), S. Lewis Shaw (1959), C.C. Putnam (1961), William Newmarch (1965), Rueben Smith Lay Minister with visiting Pastors (1966), Reverends Thomas Lippart (1967), and William Smith (1971 to 1980).

St. John’s has had 26 vicars. The Rev. C.C. Putnam was the first rector when St. John’s was made a parish in April of 1964.

Mr. William C. Newmarch, a graduate of the Nashotah House Seminary, arrived in August 1965, to begin duties as minister. In December 1965, he was ordained into the deaconate and became a priest in June of 1966.

St. John’s was included in the missionary jurisdiction of Northern Michigan which was constituted in 1892. It was organized in 1893 ad became the Diocese of Marquette in 1895. The name was changed to “The Diocese of Northern Michigan” in 1937.

Altar Guild

In the early days of St. John’s Church the Altar Guild was comprised of women of the congregation whose duty it was to prepare for the worship of the church, to provide for the suitable and decoration of the Altar, and to take due and reverent care of its appointments and to care for the font. In the early 1930’s under the leadership of Miss Marian S. Lorenz, the group was made up of teenage girls who learned about the furnishings of the Altar and their case. Later, women made up this group and monthly meetings were held at which time the brasses were polished.

* Source: History of St. John’s taken from: Frames for the Future: The Iron County Centennial Book, pages 251-253.
** Campbell Hall was located across from where the Iron Inn building once stood and where the Iron River Vision Clinic formerly was.