Travel || Guest Post by Bethany

   Hello all! This week we're taking a break from the Bible study series, because I have a special post to share. My friend Bethany from Liberty or Death agreed to share with us about one of the places she has traveled to this summer. Enjoy reading about the Little Brown Church, and be sure to check out Bethany's blog!

P.S. I had to make the photos smaller to fit into my blog margins, so please click on the photos to better see details. ;)
The Little Brown Church
"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." 

Traveling 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.  Thank you, Paige, for the opportunity to share my visit on your blog!

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


  1. Oh Bethany...thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures and the history of this delightful little church. What a joy it must have been to visit...
    And I love the words to this sweet!
    Dear paige, how lovely to have Bethany share her visit with all of us! I enjoyed my visit to Sunday Best today!
    Many blessings to you and Bethany!

    1. So glad you enjoyed Bethany's post! :)

  2. Thanks so much, Paige, for inviting me to guest-post! :)

    1. You're welcome and thank *you* for posting! :D

  3. Wow, I really enjoyed this bit of history! Thank you so much Bethany for sharing! I would love to attend a service there someday. How beautiful

  4. Beautiful church. That is so nice they still have services there. Thank you for sharing;) Stephanie

  5. Such lovely photos ♥


Popular posts from this blog

Historical Fashion How To ~ Middle Ages

Vintage & Thoughts || Bridal Gown / Beloved by Christ

Outfit || Floral Autumn