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State Line Rural Methodist Church finds a new home

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 17th, 2012
Posted in Harmony Features

A crew from Progressive Movers begins to move the State Line Rural Methodist Church from its original 1881 location to its new home just north of the Iowa border.

Each year, buildings that once defined our communities are either demolished or left to fall into utter disrepair. The sagging economy doesn’t often have a place for these old buildings and those left to care for them often have no choice. Luckily for one area building, there was a local couple who simply couldn’t bear to see it go. “This is an exciting day,” beams Janice Huff. “It feels funny seeing it here, but it’s wonderful!”

Just three miles south of Harmony, off of Highway 139 on State Line Road, the State Line Rural Methodist Church was constructed in 1881, with a basement built in 1927. The church had been served by the same pastor as Harmony Methodist Church, but events at the facility ceased in 2005, when the church was closed and the congregation was consolidated with the Harmony congregation. Soon, the church body found it uneconomical to continue to care for the aging building and discussions about its bleak future began.

Enter Larry, who serves on the cemetery board, and Janice. “The church’s journey began about a year ago with just a thought as, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to save that historic old building before it falls apart?’” notes Huff. “There had been a previous offer to buy it, but the church body denied the sale. It’s a delicate topic. We talked to the members from the old church and it was voted, with the new church, that they would sell the building to us.” By November of 2011, the legal paperwork was signed with the intention that the building would move just 1000 feet southeast, across Highway 139 and State Line Road to the Iowa side, to their homestead.

Preliminary work for the move began with Peterson spending countless hours landscaping the eventual resting place of the building, moving soil, putting in a waterway and a driveway. Chad and Larry Wangen, from nearby Canton, assisted with tree trimming and removal. Then, Huff and Peterson began the tedious task of getting the building itself fit for moving. “Larry and I spent countless houses working in the old church basement. We needed to tear out the tin ceiling, stairs, cupboards, sink, stove, refrigerator, furnace and ductwork, plumbing, wiring, basement windows, woodwork, and some doors. Larry then had to remove the outside steps and dismantle the old west entrance. He salvaged the cement walkway and the old outhouse, which we now use as a garden shed.”

Work continued as the excavation and construction of the new building foundation began June 11. “Al Torgerson of TLC Excavating did a super job on digging the basement and then getting the cement work done for the basement walls and floor, along with Isaiah Kingsley and Pete Schartzentruber’s crew.” Three days later, and just into the hottest spell of the summer, the basement walls were up. After the heat broke July 10, the crews resumed work, pouring the foundation floor. “Gjere Construction supplied the conveyor truck to transport the cement to the basement floor saving some backbreaking labor that otherwise would have had to be done by wheelbarrow!” enthuses Huff. Rob and Harold Freerksen, of Rob’s Roofing, were then able to put the sill plate on the basement to keep the project moving along quickly.

The duo was somewhat taken aback, although pleasantly surprised, but other donations of time and materials that came as word of the relocation of the church became the community’s biggest topic. Don Anderson donated his time, labor, and the use of a boom truck to assist with the removal of the chimney prior to the move. Likewise, Kerry and Andrew Kingsely assisted with a heavy-duty appliance dolley, to move items out of the basement. Kerry and Jane Kingsley then donated floor jacks for the basement, as well as oil lamps that will be used in the building following its move. “The donations just kept coming,” notes Peterson. “I went to the hardware store to pick something up and was told it was being donated. I couldn’t believe it.”

The outpouring of generousity continued; a framed tin ceiling panel from John and Marsha Hanson, a patio door for the basement from Chuck and Deb Daskam for the basement, an antique, handwritten Methodist Church invitation from Marilyn Soland, and even some Murphy’s Oil Soap from Donna Barnes for cleaning in the church. Family of the duo also got in on the giving with Luanne Peterson, Larry’s mother, giving plant hanger hooks, as well as hosta and sedum plants, and then planting them at the new site along with help from Marilyn Soland.

Of notable interest, Peterson’s father, Lloyd, was confirmed in the church and his grandparents were members of the church. Isaiah Kingsley, who worked with TLC Excavating, is a great-grandson one of the builders of the church. Terry Wilford, son of State Line church members Arden and Judy Wilford, was the driver of the cement truck which poured the new foundation floor. It appears that even when it comes to nostalgia and community spirit, what goes around comes around.

By August 6, the original site of the church, just west of the Methodist cemetery, was ready to be excavated. Peterson, along with Progressive Movers, of Rochester began the daunting task of lifting the tile foundation away from the building and moving a portion of fencing. Using a network of hydraulic jacks and steel beams placed under the framework, which is typically controlled by a unified jacking system, the entire structure was elevated off the original foundation on Wednesday, August 8. It was ready for transport to the new site by 8 a.m. the next morning, despite drizzling skies on both days.

The 3-man crew from Progressive Movers worked quickly getting the building moved, despite a few creaks and groans from the building, which measures 24 by 36 feet, 28 feet high, and was estimated to weigh just less than 30 tons. Needless to say, the feat was an interesting one for the more than 30 spectators, many former church members, who gathered to watch the process. The crew was aided by an impressive, multi-directional hydraulic system, which allowed for the independent raising of portions of the steel framework, as well as fully oscillating wheels on the rear of the trailer section, which were met with both a few gasps and collective “oohs” and “aahs.”

At the new site, large wood beams stacked into piles, called cribs, were used to support the new steel beams during the placing of the building. Using a crawling apparatus, the building was then transferred above the new beams and lowered reversing the steps used to initially elevate it. By 4 p.m., just eight hours after beginning the transfer, the building was on its new foundation, the movers were packed up and leaving, and the misty day gave way to pouring rain.

A great deal of coordination took place for the move. Tri-County Electric was on hand to move two public utility lines, one which served the cemetery site and the other the Peterson homestead. In addition, Morem Electric was called in to move a private utility line at the homestead. No assistance was required from the county sheriff’s office on the rural roads. Progressive Movers also received accolades for their efforts. “Thanks to the crew of Jim Newell, Bruce Mills, and Jeff Nelson the move went smoothly, professionally, and quickly,” adds Huff. “They were excellent to work with!”

What does the future hold for the building? Since it is no longer a designated church, its name has been changed to State Line Reflections, due to the mirrored candle holders that will be in place in the building, its function as a place to reflect, as well as the “reflections of memories” that come from 131 years of history within the community. “We want to preserve as much of the building as is possible,” stress Huff and Peterson. “There will be no electricity and no plumbing.  We have had the thought of having candlelight or oil lamp events and possibly some nondenominational church services at the holidays, but it will also be a gathering place for our family, friends, and neighbors. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of all who cheered us on during this process!”

For more photos and video clips of the State Line Church move, visit www.fillmorecountyjournal.com.

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