The Little Brown Church in the Vale – Nashua, Iowa

littlebrownchurch.jpg    The Little Brown Church in the Vale – Nashua, Iowa

This church is built of Limestone was quarried locally and by 1860 the foundation was laid. The church is well known for weddings, bus tour groups and religious services.

The building was enclosed in 1862 and not one penny had been spent to build it. All of the materials and labor were donated by the members of the area that desired to have a church.

When it came time to paint the building, the cheapest paint to be found was Ohio Mineral Paint, which would protect the wood but which was unhappily brown (therein the Little Brown Church in the Vale). With help from friends in the east, the building was finished, complete with bell, in 1864.

History was hard on the Little Brown Church. The railroad by-passed the town and a flour mill moved to New Hampton to be on a bigger river. The railroad and other industry moved to Nashua. The town, once the county seat, slowly disappeared. In 1888, the church building was closed, although the congregation continued to hold Sunday School every week at the school. Occasional services were held at the building. In the early 1900’s a Society For The Preservation of The Little Brown Church was started and by 1914, services were again held, as they are now.

History took another turn when the Weatherwax Quartet traveled throughout Canada and the United States in the 1920s and 30s. Their theme song was “The Church in the Wildwood” (the song was written by the first pastor of the church, prior to his acutally doing his ministery there, he had seen the building site and written the song) and they talked about the little church. After World War I, highways were improved and cars brought many visitors. When a School superintendent and a merchants’ daughter were married at the church, a new tradition was started. Over 40,000 visitors come to the Little Brown Church each year, and over 400 weddings are performed annually. In June of 2005, the 72,000 wedding was held at the church. The congregation is alive and well with an active Sunday School, youth groups, choirs, ladies’ fellowship, Bible study, a prayer chain group, and weekly services at 10:30 on Sunday. They remain, as they were founded, a Congregational Church, now affiliated with the United Church of Christ. The song continues to be sung in a little church that is painted brown and sits in the wildwood.

In 1998 the bell tower was completely restored. In 2000 with help from the State Historical Society of Iowa Site Preservation Grant Program, a new foundation was placed under the church. This project has enabled the church to be completely handicap accessible. Air conditioning has been added for the first time.

Location: just three miles from highway 218/27, the "Avenue of the Saints" connecting St. Louis with Minneapolis/St. Paul. And only ten miles from Highway 63 which goes from Waterloo, Iowa to Rochester, Minnesota with new city bypass routes. Both of these are 4 lane highways.

PHONE 641-435-2027 FAX 641-435-4897

Contact them to arrange for a tour or wedding.


  1. Richard L. Morgan says:

    I lead worship for 25 persons at our Redstone Highlands Memory Care Unit , They all have some form of dementia., THEY LOVE TO SING THIS SONG. iT REMINDS THEM OF THEIR CHILDHOOD CHURCH … Most of them are non-verbal, but I use music, objects and pictures to communicate the grace of God for them. Is there a large photo of "The Littke Brown Church:" I might have to show these beautiful people whose minds are gone, but whose souls remain. Thank you Dr.. Richard L. Morgan Redstone, 12921 Redstone Drive, Apt. 166 North Huntingdon, Pa. 156452

  2. John Wedeward says:

    LOVE THE SONG. My parents were married in that church in May of 1942, just before my dad left for WWII. My mom died in 1986, but I took my dad back last summer. He had such great memories for both of us and his grand daughter.

  3. Diane Icenbice says:

    Great story, my grandparents were married there September 16, 1929.

  4. Brenda Abbott says:

    My greatgrandmother worked for Dr. Pitts as his assistant and nurse. My grandparents, parents and other relatives were married in the church. Dr. Pitts is buried in the same cemetary as my grandparents and his home is in the same town that my father was born in. Fredricksburg Iowa.

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