Friday, July 29, 2016

The Little Brown Church

My favorite fashion blogger, Paige, recently asked me to guest post on her blog Sunday Best and All the Rest.  What better place to wear your Sunday best than at The Little Brown Church in the Vale?  I decided to share my visit there!
"There's a church in the valley by the wildwood, no lovelier spot in the dale;  
No place is so dear to my childhood as the little brown church in the vale." 

Travelling through Iowa in 1857, Dr. William Pitts noticed a beautiful wooded spot in the Cedar River Valley.  He thought it would be a lovely place for a church, and the thought would not give him rest until he wrote the hymn "The Church in the Wildwood" upon his arrival home.

Returning to the area five years later, Pitts was surprised to see a church being built.  The Little Brown Church was completed in 1864 in the little town of Bradford, near Nashua, Iowa.  It was painted brown because that was the least expensive color of paint available.  Dr. Pitts' singing class at Bradford Academy sang "Church in the Wildwood" at the church's dedication.  

Pitts sold the rights to the song for $25 to pay for his enrollment in medical school.  The song was forgotten, and the church closed in 1888 as Bradford declined.  Though Bradford was once the county seat, the railroad had chosen to go through Nashua instead, and the mill had moved to New Hampton.

How sweet on a clear, Sabbath morning, To list to the clear ringing bell;
Its tones so sweetly are calling, Oh, come to the church in the vale.
The Society for the Preservation of the Little Brown Church was founded in the early 1900s, and soon services were again held there.  The song "Church in the Wildwood" gained popularity, and became a signature song of the Weatherwax quartet in the '20s and '30s.  Soon the church became a tourist attraction and popular wedding location.

The Little Brown Church is now open from dawn to dusk for tourists, and services are held every Sunday.  A brochure inside gives rates for different wedding plans, and chairs and picnic tables are set up outside.

Behind the church is a beautiful little flower garden with a statue of Jesus holding a lamb. Moss grows on the roof, and the front step reads, "Let me live by the side of the road and be a friend to man."  Praying hands are carved out of a tree stump beside the church, and the bell from the Bradford Academy sits near a couple bushes.

There, close by the church in the valley, Lies one that I loved so well;
She sleeps, sweetly sleeps, ’neath the willow, Disturb not her rest in the vale.
Perhaps the only factor that broke the serenity of the scene was a sign near the door advising against Pokemon hunting in the sanctuary.  It makes one pause at the thought warnings are deemed necessary for people to realize it is sanctimonious to hunt imaginary monsters at historic churches.

Inside, there is a guest book.  My grandma (Yai ยาย) signed in from Thailand, her native country.  She currently lives in Nevada, but is visiting me for the summer.  We have had a lot of fun traveling together throughout Iowa. 

Souvenirs are available near the door of the church.  I picked up a couple postcards for a dollar.  Yai bought the Little Brown Church cookbook.  The organ to the side of the pulpit is an exact duplicate of the original organ, built of walnut lumber cut in the local woods.  It was made c. 1870 in Bradford at the Joseph Hazledine Factory.

There, close by the side of that loved one, To trees where the wild flowers bloom,
When the farewell hymn shall be chanted, I shall rest by her side in the tomb.
The Bible in front of the pulpit is opened to 1 Corinthians 13.  Photos on the wall show the congregation, the old Bradford Academy, William Pitts, Reverend John Nutting (who built the church), Abraham Lincoln, and others.

From the church in the valley by the wildwood, When day fades away into night,
I would fain from this spot of my childhood Wing my way to the mansions of light.
Above right is the "Littlest Brown Church," a 1941 replica which sits outside.  This was my second visit to The Little Brown Church.  I had visited once before as a small child, so it was a special treat to see it again.

Thanks to Paige for inviting me to guest-post on her blog.  Be sure to check out Paige's blog for great outfits, beautiful photography, and encouraging, thought-provoking messages.
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Come to the church in the wildwood,  Oh, come to the church in the vale; 
No place is so dear to my childhood  As the little brown church in the vale.
--William Pitts

35 comments:

  1. Bethany the church looks nice. Greeintingd=s from Europe

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  2. It's funny how much the Pokemon Go craze has invaded almost all areas of the community

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  3. Hi Bethany, I would love to see this little church. Thanks for the photos and info. While reading your post the words "little brown church" kept ringing a bell and I finally remembered Little Jimmy Brown. :-) The story in song would fit perfectly with this church. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtyx8wG8BsI

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    1. Oh, that is a delightful song--and so fitting! Thanks John!

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  4. Excuse me, I forgot in my previous comment to thank you for your replies to my comments in previous posts and replies to replies! :-) You are an amazing blogger! Take care and have a great weekend! We need to get on Twitter, or something, so we can keep in touch during the great debates this fall! :-) Are you on Twitter?

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    1. No, I'm not quite modern enough to have Twitter, but I do have Facebook. If you have an account there, feel free to add me! Have a great weekend as well!

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  5. What a beautiful place! It looks so peaceful and inviting. A great place to visit, stroll through and meditate. Too bad about the need to advise against Pokémon hunting. I would hope that common sense and decency would kick in here.

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    1. Upon seeing the sign, I wondered if they put it up as a preventative measure, or if people had actually been Pokémon hunting on the church grounds. I hope the former is true, but if the latter is the case, people do need a lot more common sense!

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    2. I cannot believe the stories I am hearing about this Pokemon stuff. It's amazing how it gets into everything.

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  6. A beautiful little church and well deserved of it's name, I'm glad it is still in use

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    1. The society that saved the church back in the early 1900s would be happy to see it frequently used and in good repair today!

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  7. What a lovely post of this beauty! Often I find dark brown churches in the Adirondack Mountains. Very nice inside and out,

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    1. That is interesting! Most of the churches around here are white, brick, or stone; so the Little Brown Church is a bit of an exception.

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  8. Dear Bethany!
    I am happy that you are visiting my blog and always leave a nice comment.

    Thank you very much, that thanks to you and photographs recognize unusual places and magnificent churches, whose never personally see.
    I wish you and your family a blessed celebration.
    Greetings from Poland.
    Lucja

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lucja. I enjoy seeing the churches you post.

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  9. i wonder what they call the top area? that is a very unique design. thanks for sharing!! hope you are great this weekend! ( :

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    1. Considering there is what appears to be a railing up there, I'd imagine there must be some sort of a door to the top. Would be neat to go up there...though I imagine the public is not welcome on top of the church!

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  10. Interesting color of the church. Not one you see often here in New England.

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  11. OH, Bethany! I LOVED reading this! I didn't realize there was such a place! I have loved that song since I was little. Mom and Dad had a record by the Chuck Wagon Gang singing this, and I listened to it often. Oh, this brought back so many precious memories! I miss dear Mom and Dad so much and those days gone by. It is just such a comfort to know that such a place truly exists and that it is open again for services. I think it is awful that they even needed to post such a warning about the Pokemon game...it seems to somehow distract from the solemnity of the place. You are right...it is sad that people don't even realize the need to be reverent in the house of God. We are so desensitized in these modern times...it breaks my heart. I can't thank you enough for this post! God bless you in a big way.

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    1. That's awesome! We have a collection of old records as well, and have the Chuck Wagon Gang on at least one of the records--though I don't remember what song of theirs we have. Glad it brought back good memories. Blessings to you!

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  12. Thanks for the backstory on this charming church. I know that hymn having sung it in church at some point.

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  13. I really like the simple look of the inside of the church, with the clear glass windows. It reminds me of a church we saw in Philadelphia.

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    1. As a tourist, I love visiting churches with gorgeous stained glass, but the Little Brown Church really doesn't need the stained glass with its simple, rustic charm. It's more of the type of place I'd feel comfortable at.

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  14. I'm now humming the hymn... I also didn't know that there was a real Little Brown Church.

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  15. I remember that song being played on the radio when I was younger & my Dad would often sing snippets of it so this was really great to see the original & learn of the inspiration behind it!
    Thanks Bethany!

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    1. That's awesome! Glad the post brought back good memories. Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. The song is one I heard in my childhood, but I was unfamiliar with the story of the song or the Little Brown Church in the Vale...or that it is in Iowa! Thanks for another interesting post, Bethany. xx

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  17. What a lovely quaint church! I didn't realize there was an actual church associated with that hymn.
    The Pokemon Go craze has gotten terribly out of hand. We can only hope it passes quickly.

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    1. It's something else reading the news articles about parents who abandoning their child, men falling off cliffs, and someone crashing into a police car playing Pokemon Go... It is crazy!

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