Local couple paints Pioneer Rock Church

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Above are before-and-after photos of one of the outbuildings located on the Pioneer Rock Church grounds. Barb and Dave Poggenklass recently spent two seasons repainting the interior and exterior of the historic church and its surrounding structures. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

The "Pioneer Rock Church," or "Ceres Church," named by local residents, is centrally located between Guttenberg and Garnavillo along Highway 52. The historic landmark was formerly known as "St. Peter's German United Evangelical Lutheran Church." 

The church has a history that dates back to 1858, when residents of Ceres, formerly known as Independence, grew tired of their weekly journey by foot to attend services in Garnavillo. 

Under the leadership of Rev. Paul Stockfeld, the congregation members organized themselves and decided to build a church in their small community. Historical records bear witness to the great hardship and scarcity of funds the determined group encountered. 

On Oct. 25, 1858, the cornerstone was laid. A hole was carved in the stone, and a round bottle with a glass stopper containing a copy of the church constitution, written by Rev. Stockfeld, was set inside the hole. It was noted, "The contents of this bottle have been removed, no doubt, by curious tourists." 

The last regular church service was held in 1927. An Ascension Day service is still held yearly. The church can be rented for weddings and the sheltered picnic areas can be reserved for use. 

Thanks to the dedicated members of The Pioneer Rock Church and Cemetery Association, the continued maintenance of the church, outbuildings, picnic shelter and cemetery leave the area in pristine condition. 

Dave and Barb Poggenklass

Dave and Barb Poggenklass of Guttenberg were recently hired by the association to paint the interior and exterior of the church and surrounding buildings. 

The couple, who have been painting together for 40 plus years, are both retired teachers. Dave, who taught music for many years in Guttenberg, is also an entertainer. He plays piano and sings at care centers and for special events such as weddings, funerals and birthday parties. Barb was a teacher for Head Start in Guttenberg. They both continue to substitute teach. Barb is currently the secretary at the Guttenberg United Methodist Church. They have three sons and six grandchildren ranging in age from 16 years to nine months. 

Barb told The Press, "The Pioneer Rock Church Association contacted Dave and I about painting the interior and exterior of the church. We were hired to paint the interior of the church, including the pews, altar and railing, inside doors, windows and pillars. The exterior painting included the windows, church doors, pavilion, storage shed, outhouse and pump. A considerable amount of surface preparation was needed before the painting process began. We purchased the paint for the extensive project locally and used latex paint. We used white for most of the project, red on the pavilion, and brown for the trim."

In addition to the painting project, the couple became tour guides. Barb commented, "Every day we were working up there, we encountered visitors. People we knew, visitors from out of town, out of state and even some former students. We were both amazed at the number of people who stop at the church everyday!"

The Pioneer Rock Church project became a two-season project. "Last year we worked on the interior and exterior of the church. This year we worked on the surrounding structures," she said.

Barb and Dave are looking forward to a little down time. Barb enjoys sewing, gardening and crafts. Dave is an avid fisherman and golfer. They both enjoy attending their grandchildren's activities.

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