History of
East Grand River Baptist Association, 1855 to 1955

"Minutes of the One Hundred Annual Meeting." pp. 5-8.
Held with the Providence Baptist Church
August 26-28, 1955
 The first Baptist Association in southwest Iowa was organized in a blacksmith shop in Bedford, Iowa, Taylor county in October 1856. It was then called the Bedford Baptist Association, but it’s name was changed a few years later to the East Grand River Association. At this time the churches were located mostly near county seat towns and branched out from that. The first meeting was held in a blacksmith shop because it was the largest room in town. So they put down hay for the floor and made the place ready for a meeting house.

A man by the name of NYE was chosen as the first moderator. A pioneer missionary, Bro. JAMES SMITH was also present at the county as a missionary to the pioneers. He came here in 1854 when there were only three Baptist churches in 15 counties of southwest Iowa. After he had held a number of meetings and organized six or seven new churches, he saw the need of an association and with the help of other pastors, organized the first association.

The second association was held at the Vernal Church in Clarke county, Iowa. Bro. SMITH traveled over southwest Iowa holding revival meetings at Mount Ayr, Osceola, Centerville, Leon, and Decatur City, Iowa, besides various school houses, log cabins etc.

The third association meeting in 1858 was held at the Bathesda Church, Madison county, Iowa. The county was very much in the primitive state. Indians were thick everywhere, sometimes being friendly and sometimes unfriendly. They would come and stand around the meeting house while the minister preached. Sometimes services were held in log cabins with no windows at all and only one door which had to be shut. So a candle would be lit to give enough light to see to read the Bible and Articles of Faith. At times when meetings would be held one of the brethren would have to stay outside at night to watch the horses and carriages of those attending the meetings, so that no harm would be done them by some opposers to the revival. Many of these revivals were union meetings with Methodist, Christian, Presbyterian and United Brethren churches. In one revival meeting, the man at whose home the meeting was held was not a believer, but his wife was. On the last night of the meeting he came forward and told of his experience and was received for baptism. He requested to be baptized that night, so the group went to a stream close by and baptized him. The moon was shining brightly and it made a very touching service, and others were convicted and was converted to God’s Kingdom.

At numerous other times in winter, a hole would be cut in the ice and the crowd would stand around on the on the ice while those who believed were baptized and rose to a new life.

In September 1860 the Association met with JAMES SMITH was appointed by the Association to travel over these 15 southwestern Iowa counties as the Association Missionary. In September 1862 the Association was held at West Nodaway church in Page county, Iowa. This was during the Civil War. Notices were posted at the church to draft men for war, but a good meeting was held and Bro. SMITH was again appointed as their home missionary. The purpose of the Association Missionary was to go to the churches of the Association and hold revivals or to supply as pastor in case the church had no pastor. In 1862 he held a meeting at Decatur City, Decatur County, Iowa with some conversions and baptisms. THOMAS MILLER was pastor at Decatur at that time and it was during this meeting two of his daughters were saved. ELLA MILLER became a prominent Christian worker and she and her brother JAMES were the first ones from this association to graduate from the Des Moines Baptist College. She then went to India as a missionary. Later she was sent to Burma. This was the first foreign missionary from this association. Rev. ANTONY VANDERPOOL was the first ordained minister of the association. His work is still being carried on by his grandson, Rev. E. C. VANDERPOOL.

In 1863 the war was still raging and revivals were still touching hearts. Rev. SMITH began a meeting there was a funeral of a little child held at the church and when the people went to the burying ground Bro. HILDRTH, the pastor, left his Bible and hymn book in eh church. Someone found JEFF DAVIS’ name written in them and told the people what they found. The group concluded quickly that Bro. HILDRTH and Rev. SMITH were rebels and it caused bad feelings. Because some chose to think of these missionaries as rebels, interest declined and could never be of these missionaries as rebels, interest declined and could never be gained back again. A little girl had just happened to scribble the name in his books before he went to Hopeville and she didn’t know the harm such a little thing might do. But it worked against the meeting and also the association missionary. We see such a small misunderstanding can cause a great hindrance in God’s cause.

In 1877 the association was held at Ellston, about 10 miles west of Osceola, Iowa. Sister ELLA MILLER, the missionary to India and Burma to work more with the foreign people. Her father was still a preacher in the association.

In the first 22 years of this association, four associations had been formed out of the original group. Now there were about 80 churches and abut 4, 000 members in the 15 southwest counties.

Now we go to the 35th anniversary of the association held with the Camden Church west of Van Wert in August 1891. The following churches were present at this meeting: Bethel, Camden, Palestine, Central Grove, Caledonia, Pleasant Valley, Providence, and New Salem. Some delegates to the meeting were S. L. COX from Bethel, W. H. HAMILTON, JOHN STUTEVILLE, J. H. HENDERSON and GEORGE STUTEVILLE from Providence, JOSEPH BROWN, CLARISSA ACTON, and W. H. BROWN from Pleasant Valley; J. M. STILL and wife, C. R. STILL, and J. T. ROBISON from New Salem.

In 1892 the association met at Caledonia Church in Ringgold County and in 1893 it was held at New Salem, where Rev. J. H. EDWARDS of Pleasant Valley was elected moderator. In 1894 the meeting was at Pleasant Valley Church, Grand River, Iowa and in 1895 it went with the Providence Church, Davis City, Iowa. In 1897 the Camden Church again had the association. There were now six churches with pastors and two without pastors in the association. There were five ordained ministers and six licensed ministers in the association. It was in 1895 or 1896 the River View Church joined the association. In 1898 the association met at the New Salem Church and Bro. W. H. HAMILTON was appointed our association missionary. He made religious visits, passed out tracts, Bibles and New Testaments. He also held meetings in all churches of the association.

1899 found the New Salem people making arrangements to build a new house of worship. This year the meeting was held at the River View Church and two more churches were admitted to the association. The Highland Church west of Lamoni, Iowa with Bro. J. M. SMITH as clerk and the Burrell Church north of Davis City with A. P. LOCKHART as clerk.

In 1900 the association met at Central Grove Church, Tuskeego, Iowa. The Sand Creek Church asked admission to the association, which now made a total of 12 churches.

The Highland Church southwest of Lamoni, near Andover, Missouri was host to the association in 1904.

At Camden Church in 1905 the Davis City Church was admitted to the association and Davis City was host to the association in 1906 when the Freedom Church was admitted to the association. 1907 meeting was at River View and the next year at Pleasant Valley. This year we find the Davis City Church weak and in need. By 1909 when the meeting was held at New Salem, the Davis City and Highland Church were both disbanded.

In 1910 the association met with the Palestine Church and it was either this year or 1911 the Leon Baptist Church became revived again and asked re-admission. The Freedom Baptist Church, south of Pleasanton, Iowa was the meeting place of the association in 1912. River View again entertained the association in 1913 and it was at this meeting the first memorial sermon was preached by Bro. N. B. STILL. It was recommended this service be held in each year in memory of the departed loved ones of the association. The Freedom Church dropped from the association in 1914 when it met at Camden. The First Baptist Church at Grand River was admitted about this time.

The association met at Bethel in 1916. The Camden Church had dropped from the association roll and the Bethel and Providence Churches had been revived again. They had been in a low condition for some time. They had no delegates or reports to an association meeting since 1900. Rev. ELBA DALE was elected association moderator at this meeting. In 1919 the association was held on Friday and Saturday at the First Baptist Church, Grand River, Iowa. Now we had eight church in the association; Providence, Grand River, Pleasant Valley, New Salem, Palestine, Bethel, River View, Tuskeego; and it continued this way to 1928 or ’29 when we find the Tuskeego Church and Palestine Church were weak and soon dropped out.

In 1929 the Creston association asked us to join their association and after much discussion it was decided not to accept the invitation at this time. In 1933 a hard rain and mud roads prevented having the Sunday meeting at the River View Church. The discussion of uniting with the West Ford Baptist Association came up at the meeting at Pleasant Valley in 1935. It was again decided not to do this. The New Salem Church had again rebuilt after it was torn up by a windstorm and it was re-dedicated on Sept. 29, 1935. First Baptist Church, Grand River, Iowa again asked to unite with the association. They were again received into the association. The people of Providence had purchased the old Tuskeego Church building and had it torn down and moved onto the grounds. Immediately blocks and rebuilds the walls of their church. They held their first meeting in their new church in Nov. 1936.

At New Salem in 1937 the first Young People’s meeting was organized and Friday night of each annual association meeting as designated as Young People’s night. Time goes on and in 1946 Bethel again had the association and we found one more weak church. Pleasant Valley had not report, but the association was appointed to go to Pleasant Valley in 1947 in hopes of getting it revived again. By the next year the building was in a very run down condition and the meeting was held with the Grand River Church.

In 1948 Pleasant Valley Church united with the people of Grand River. In 1951 the association met at Bethel and the Clarkdale Church and Tuskeego Church were again united to the association. The people of Tuskeego had rebuilt a building on the same plot of ground as the old Tuskeego Church.

The Decatur County Church of Leon, Iowa was admitted in 1952 at Grand River. So now we have eight churches in the association; Bethel, Grand River, Decatur County, Clarkdale, River View, Tuskeego, Providence, and New Salem. The Bethel Church being the oldest organized church in Decatur County that still stands. It was organized in 1985. The New Salem Church will observe their 100th anniversary in 1958.

May God bless us all as we start work on the next century of progress in East Grand River Association.

– by Tonita Helton .

Submission by Sara LeFleur, Decatur County Historical Society Museum, January of 2014

East Grand River Baptist Association.

The Leon Reporter
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
Thursday, November 03, 1910, Page 1

The ministers, deacons and laymen of the East Grand River Baptist Association met at Tuskeego Oct. 29th and 30th, and organized a ministers', deacons' and laymen's association with T. O. Andrews, of Kellerton, as president, and M. I. Marshall, of Leon, secretary and treasurer. The meetings were well attended and a good time was had meeting with friends and brethren. The next meeting will be held at the Camden church, northeast of Grand River.

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, March of 2015
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