Sunday, May 29, 2016

Church Keys - The Little Brown Church in the Vale

Greetings!  Today's key takes us just outside of the small town of Nashua, Iowa, to the church simply known as "The Little Brown Church in the Vale".  Our key to the church comes with a photograph and some information on the founding of the church.

The church shares an origin story similar to the Baldpate.  Just as we were started after the novel Seven Keys to Baldpate was published, the church was founded after William Pitts wrote a poem that he turned into a song, called "The Church in the Wildwood".  He was inspired to do so after visiting the scenic spot in 1857 and believing that a small church would look great on the location.  The church itself was first constructed in 1864.  Coincidentally, the church was painted brown, just like in the song, simply because it was the cheapest paint to coat the building in.

Mr. Pitts returned to the location in 1864, shocked to find a church that looked just like the one in his song.  The song had been forgotten, even by Pitts, but upon seeing the church, he tracked down the copy of the song and taught it to the church's choir.  While the church thrived for a few years, eventual economic downturn led to the community deteriorating, causing the church to close down in 1888.

The church remained closed until a dedicated group of people, working as the Society for the Preservation of the Little Brown Church, worked to re-open the location in 1914, and since that date, the church has been continuously operational.  The new community of Nashua was enough to help keep it afloat, attending services and holding Sunday School.  But, with the already unique past of the church, it was destined to be more than just a small community chapel.

Throughout the 1920s, a musical act known as the Weatherwax Brothers Quartet toured the country, using "The Church in the Wildwood" as a theme song for their group.  As news of the song and the real-life church spread across the country, the Little Brown Church became not just a small community of faith in small-town Iowa, but a tourist destination.  The location became popular for weddings in particular, which the church still hosts plenty of today.  By their estimates, they have hosted close to 75,000 weddings since 1914, averaging over 400 every year.

The key to the Little Brown Church has been part of the Baldpate collection since 1928.  It was donated to us by George D. Williams, who left a short poem to go with the key.
There are seven keys to Baldpate
But only one to the church in the vale 
Yet one by one, the couples come
To the door of the church in the dale.
Check out this key, and plenty of other keys for other churches, when you come to visit the Key Room!

Museum Curator