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Lima Church

16550 Heron Rd,
Fayette, IA 52142
Church Phone: 563-425-3225 
Church Contact: Patricia Baumler 563-425-3206

The Lima Church and Cemetery is a quiet, peaceful resting place overlooking the Volga River Valley. The church and cemetery is all that is left of the Lima community. The church is located at 16550 Heron Road, at the east entrance of the Volga River Recreation Area, one of Iowa’s beautiful state parks known for fishing, horse trails, and camping.


The History of Lima Church

The community of Lima used to be home to a school, general store, sawmill, railroad, and many neighboring farms. Lima was hoping to be the county seat for Fayette County. But, when Lima wasn’t chosen, losing by just 35 votes, the land that was set aside for the courthouse was sold for $1 to the Lima Union Church Builders for the church. 


Rev. S.D. Helms organized the first Lima Congregational Church in 1857, with his wife, and Mr. And Mrs. Ebenezer Hyde, and their daughter, Esther. As the community grew, the church membership grew to about 20 members. They met in a small cabin. Later, the church was disbanded. A United Brethren Church was formed, but that also fell by the wayside. 


In 1882, the Lima Union Church Builders Association was formed, and the main part of the present church was built. In 1914, the belfry and bell were added as well as the four stained glass windows that are still just as beautiful today. 

The church was heated by wood stoves until 1910. Rev. Tom Jones held revival meetings boosting the membership. In 1914 a 20 ft x 24 ft addition was added to the east side. Four stained glass windows were installed with the names of four early members: Hensley, Helms, Henry, and Stearns. The belfry and bell were also installed in 1914, and donated by the church members. 


Pastors during that period included John Dawson, Rev. Herrington, and T.O. Kent. In the early 1940s, Rev. G.W. Ukena, pastor of the Bethel Presbyterian Church in West Union, conducted Sunday evening services at Lima continuing until 1949. Since then there have been occasional Easter sunrise services and outdoor summer services. Memorial Day services with Wadena American Legion Post #631, providing military color guard, are held every May. Services at the Lima Church were held regularly until 1949. After 1949, occasional holiday services were held at Easter and Christmas as well as outdoor summer services. Currently, the church holds regular Memorial Day services in cooperation with the Wadena American Legion Post #631. Weddings, funerals, family reunions, and other gatherings are now held at the church throughout the year. 

Until 1986 there was no water at the church. Area farmers filled 10-gallon milk cans with water and hauled them to the church, first with tractor and wagon, then by pickups. By the 1980's the need to replace the outdoor toilets with indoor bathrooms became imminent if the tradition was to be continued. In 1986, a 10 ft x 20 ft addition was built to the northeast corner of the church. A well was drilled and water was piped into the church. 


Today the Lima Church and Cemetery continues to be used by the community for special events, family gatherings, tours, funerals, weddings, and of course, Lima Leaf Day. To purchase Lima Church items or to reserve the church for your event, contact Patricia Baumler at 563-425-3206.

Lima Leaf Day

Photo Credit: Stacie (Baumler) Gorkow

Throughout the life of the church, various dinners and festivals were held to raise money to keep the church and cemetery maintained. In the 1940s, the ladies of the church community began a tradition of serving a creamed chicken and homemade baking powder biscuit dinner. All the ladies butchered and cooked the home-grown chickens and made the gravy and biscuits. The biscuits were made in homes close to the church with a runner stationed at each place. In the 1970s the dinners were changed to the fall to encourage people to come to view the gorgeous fall leaves in the Volga River Valley. The menu changed to sandwiches, homemade pies, and ice cream. Lima Leaf Day became a popular event and is still held today on the first Sunday of October. The proceeds of this event include a meal, craft vendors, kids’ games, and a quilt raffle to pay for the mowing of the cemetery. Lima cookbooks, notecards, ornaments, and other historical items are for sale each year as well. 

Lima Cemetery

The Lima Cemetery is just down the road from the Lima Church on a quiet lane tucked into the hills and trees of the Volga River Valley. In 1865 the cemetery was laid out by the Lima Burial Group Association with some graves already there. Today, many families have chosen the Lima Cemetery as their final resting place because of its peaceful location. Every year for Memorial Day, flags are raised at the cemetery and veterans’ graves are marked with flags. Taps is played at 3:00 on Memorial Day at the cemetery.

The Lima Cemetery is known for a couple of monuments as well as the beautiful view of the valley. Both monuments can be found on the south side of the cemetery.

The life-size statue of Jim Crawford stands tall in the cemetery. Jim Crawford was a faithful and loyal farmhand who lived in the community. After struggling with alcoholism, his employer gave him the chance to change his ways and if he did, his wages would be raised because, even with his troubles, he was a valuable worker. Crawford took the advice and worked hard for the farmer for two more years before dying of tuberculosis in 1905. His sisters from Wadena insisted on giving him a fine monument. With contributions from the sisters, Crawford’s savings, and the farmer, a granite monument was ordered to be a life-sized image of Crawford in his favorite hunting pose with his dog and gun. It was quite difficult to find a firm that would be willing to carve the piece of granite and have it sculpted. The entire statue, from pedestal to peak, is one solid piece of granite, which is quite remarkable. Carved on the monument is the name of the man and the dates of his life, J.H. Crawford 1863-1905. On a bronze tablet on the face of the stone is a quote from Senator George G. Vest of Missouri, “The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this world is his dog.” 

John Thorpe, at the age of 29, died after being bitten by a rabid dog, just 3 days after marrying his wife Belle. John was six feet tall and weighed over two hundred pounds. One day, Thorpe was able to single-handedly lift a rock that had previously taken several men working together to lift. When Thorpe realized he was dying, he asked his friend to put that same large rock on his grave. His friends honored him by working together to place that very rock at the foot of Thorpe’s grave. The rock measures seventy-eight inches in circumference and it was no small task for the friends of Thorpe to lay at this grave. The bronze marker on the rock states, “I alone could lift this stone. John Thorpe”

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