St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Council Bluffs, Iowa, was organized April 17, 1856, four years after Council Bluffs received its town charter, with the Rev. E. W. Peet of Des Moines, Iowa, spearheading the effort. The early congregation worshiped in a small building on the corner of Broadway and Main Streets. It was nearly wiped out before it could get started by the hardships of the financial panic of 1857. Pledges could not be honored and plans had to be abandoned.
Dexter Bloomer, lawyer, and his wife Amelia came to Council Bluffs in 1853 from Ohio. We remember Amelia for the "bloomers" she made popular, which were reported to be more comfortable to wear than the hoop skirts of that day. Together they helped spearhead the organization of St. Paul’s. Dexter’s many writings help us know our early history. In 1893 Dexter Bloomer wrote, “Council Bluffs has from its earliest history been a rather hard field for Christian work. I remember when I came here Sunday was given up almost entirely to secular employments. The stores and shops and gambling houses were all open and it was the great day for hunting, fishing, shooting, and all manner of secular amusements."
The first vestry consisted of the following men:
John Beach Beers, speculator age 54; Horace Everett, revenue collector age 37; William Cowles James, lawyer age 24; Jefferson P. Cassady, land agent age 28; Dexter C. Bloomer, lawyer age 40; Addison Cochran, farmer age 39; Thomas P. Treynor, carriage maker age 26; Samuel Perin, and George M. Dodge, lawyer 30.
Until we could build our own building, services were held in the Congregational and the Methodist churches, then later in a room donated by Judge W. C. James. Our first building was at the present site of the Squirrel Cage Jail, completed in the spring of 1863. This building soon became too small, and in 1884 a lot was purchased on Center Street, now named 6th Street. Bishop Perry laid the corner stone for this building on April 8, 1884. Services were held in the Masonic Temple and in other churches until completion in 1886, the first service in the new Gothic stone building was held September 5th.
This building was torn down in March 1974 after the shoring up of a sinking foundation was found to be impossible. The county purchased the lot and the parish center. A new lot was purchased at 22 Dillman Drive. This building, which we joyfully use today, was completed in 1976 with the dedication and consecration held on Easter Sunday that year. We saved most of the stained glass and all of the artifacts, which are now in use in this new building: pulpit, baptismal font, brass lectern, ceiling lights, and more too numerous to mention.
“This is our past. The future is up to you, the members of St. Paul’s. Carry on!”
-- Myron Allerton
1891Pottawattamie County Bio Sketch of Rev. Thomas J. Mackay p. 522-524
1856 State - Pottawattamie County, Iowa census
1860 Federal - Pottawattamie County, Iowa census
Council Bluffs Nonpareil
1977 St. Paul’s Cook Book
The History of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church by Myron Allerton