Sometimes I stumble upon a mystery that catches my attention. That's what happened a few weeks ago after I received a covid booster shot at Mayflower Community. The nurse asked me to remain in the lounge of Montgomery Hall for a few minutes after the shot to make sure that there were no unhappy consequences. Discovering that all the seats in the lounge were already occupied, I passed through the lounge toward Montgomery Hall's front door and there found a chair. With no one to talk to, I cast my eyes around the unfamiliar space and noticed an unusual table in the entry immediately below the mailboxes that serve Montgomery Hall residents. I got up to take a closer look, and discovered that the table bore a decorative inscription taken from Christian scriptures (Matt. 28:20): "Lo, I am with you alway." Although Mayflower was founded by the Congregational Church of Iowa in part to provide for former missionaries and pastors, the clerical inscription still surprised me as the entryway gave no other evidence of religious service.
Moreover, the table surface featured a small dedication plate that remembered Lucinda A. Haskell Noble (1832-1921), who was, the inscription announced, "A faithful member of this Church."
Well, that was odd. For one thing, the table was not standing in a church, but in the entry of an apartment building. In addition, Lucinda Noble had died more than a century ago and some thirty years before Mayflower was founded. What the heck? I wondered.
And so began a winding search to learn how this table, built a hundred years earlier, found a home in the entryway of Mayflower's Montgomery Hall in Grinnell, Iowa.
Finding the obituary for Lucinda Noble proved fairly easy. Thanks to the digitized records of a northeast Iowa newspaper, I learned that the elderly "Mrs. Noble was a devoted Christian woman, [and] a faithful member of the Congregational Church of Strawberry Point" (Edgewood Journal, April 7, 1921). Glad to know what church she had attended, I was nevertheless further discomfited to realize that the table in Montgomery Hall in Grinnell had previously stood in a Congregational Church in Strawberry Point. Why wasn't the table still in Strawberry Point, continuing the remembrance of Lucinda Noble and her faithfulness?
|Undated Photograph Postcard of Strawberry Point Congregational Church|
Answering that question also proved easy. A newspaper article from March 1953 reported that the First Congregational Church of Strawberry Point had recently been razed. "A decrease in the size of the congregation and no hope for immediate comeback brought an end to the church," the newspaper explained (Dubuque Telegraph Herald, March 22, 1953). As further investigation proved, in fact the church had been closed already early in 1951 (Clayton County Press Journal, July 26, 1951; Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 25, 1953). Clearly the Strawberry Point Congregational Church had disappeared almost seventy years ago, so whom could I ask about the table? Even those who had been members when the church came down in 1953 would now be either quite elderly or dead. How could I learn more?
|Photograph from Dubuque Telegraph Herald, March 22, 1953|
|Undated Postcard of First Methodist Church, Strawberry Point, IA|
It was agreed that the Thimble Society of the Congregational Christian Church be empowered to dispose of the personal property in the church, all moneys so rec'd [sic] to enhance the Thimble Treasury, it being understood that receipts be spent to advance Congregational Christian projects (Congregational Library and Archive, Iowa Conference Records, Subgroup III, Church records, Series FF: Strawberry Point Congregational Church Records, 1883-1952, Church register, 1935-1952).
|Plaque Recognizing the role of Royal and Margaret Montgomery in founding Mayflower Home|
(entry to Montgomery Hall)
|Undated Postcard Photo of Buckley Hall, Dedicated September 1963|
|Example Announcement of Thimble Society Rummage Sale|
(Clayton County Press Journal, October 26, 1950)
|Wine pitcher from the Communion Service of Strawberry Point Congregational Church (2022 photo)|
|Detail from a faded photograph of the June 1955 Dedication of Edwards Hall|
(Drake Community Library, Records of the Mayflower Home #92, Box 10, Series 21,