|Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886
S. H. Mitchell
Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa
Transcribed by Constance Diamond
Some few years prior to 1834, the date at which our story begins, in a revival of religion, it is supposed,
On the 19th day of October, 1834, Elder Logan and Gardner Bartlett arrived in the settlement. On the same evening, in the rude hut of Noble Hously, Elder Logan preached, it is believed, the first sermon ever preached in this part of Iowa, by an evangelical minister to a congregation of white people. On the next day after another sermon in the same place, by the same preacher, the following brethren and sisters were organized into the Regular Baptist church at Long Creek, Iowa, now the Danville Baptist church. Their names were: Enoch Cyrus, Rebecca Cyrus, Anna Cyrus, Frank Cyrus, Rachel Dickens, Mary Ann Dickens, Noble Hously, Naomi Housley, William Manly, Hepzibah Manly and Jane Lamb. The Articles of Faith adopted were those of the Brush Creek church, brought by sister Manly, and are still preserved in the records of the Danville church. Though somewhat crude in their phraseology, they are eminently sound and clear in all the doctrines that characterize Baptist churches at the present day.
Thus we have the record of the planting of the Baptist tree in the soil of Iowa. Before we proceed to note the successive steps of its growth, let us pause for a moment's meditation upon the time.
Fifty years ago! What changes have marked this half century in the world's history! What an epoch in the annals of our Baptist life! The greatest preacher of modern times, C. H. Spurgeon, was then an infant in his mother's arms. A few months before Barnas Sears had baptized that historic group, the hero Oncken and his five associates in Germany. By and by Oncken was to be welcomed, as our annals will show, under the shadow of this Iowa Baptist tree, and to water its roots with the refreshing stream of his own gracious life and words. One of the ministries of these reminiscences, we trust, will be to emphasize the preciousness of these sanctified associations of the great Christian brotherhood, to remind us of the connection we are permitted to have with the mighty movements of the age.
This Iowa Baptist brotherhood now, in 1834, begins its history with a single church and a membership of eleven souls. A few more may have been received before the year closed. One, still living, sister Chandler of the Danville church, then a widow and sister of Mrs. Manly, came within a week or two after the organization. Also Wm. Mathes and family. The visits of the Illinois preacher. Elder Logan, were continued, at irregular intervals perhaps, up to the spring of 1836. "Up to this time we have no record of any Baptist minister settled in Iowa.
The next record of organization is that of a church about six miles southwest of Burlington, by Elders James Lemen, Moses Lemen and John Clark, from Rock Springs, Illinois. The name at first adopted for this church and an incident out of which the name grew, are suggestive of a struggle already begun, which has since borne a rich harvest to humanity. The name chosen for this second organization was "The Baptized church of Christ, Friends to Humanity." It had its origin in Kentucky under the labors of Elder Clark who had formerly been a member of the M. E. church. When about to close his connection with that body he refused to take his pay for services rendered; the reason stated in his own words being, "It is the price of blood." When asked, "What shall we do with it then ?" he replied, "Buy a place to bury the negroes in," which it is said they did. This second Iowa organization was afterwards called "Rock Spring," and after a few years became extinct.
Of the Illinois ministers mentioned above we find the names of Gardner Bartlett, John Logan, Moses Lemen and John Clark, as missionaries of the American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1834. Some of them two or three years earlier.
In 1889 material for history began to increase, with the first associational organization. This we reserve for the beginning of the next chapter.
It is the characteristic of Baptist churches to seek association as drops of water flow into each other.
The third church organized seems to have been the Pisgah church, twelve miles north of Burlington, in 1838, and the fourth probably the Union church, in Lee county, not far from the Des Moines river, in 1839. In August, 1839, at the regular monthly meeting of the Long Creek (now Danville) church, they were met by delegates from the Rock Spring and Pisgah churches, and the first associational organization took place. The place of meeting was in a grove about fourteen miles west of Burlington. The entire membership of the three churches was less than ninety, the number of delegates present ten. "The organization was effected and the entire business of the meeting transacted, while nine of these delegates sat in a row on a log, and the Moderator stood before them supported by the back of a chair."
It appears from the only data in my possession that Jonah Todd was Moderator, and Alexander Evans, Clerk, and that Hezekiah Johnson preached the introductory sermon. The name at first chosen was "The Iowa Baptist Association." This was afterwards, upon the organization of another, changed to the Des Moines Association. It did not, perhaps, occur to the brethren at the time that they should, in many years, be under the necessity of changing the name to make it appropriately descriptive.
As illustrative of the "unexpected" that has been constantly "happening" in the growth of this great region, I am reminded here of an incident related to me by one who was, if I remember correctly, present, at a somewhat earlier date. It was in Northern Ohio or Western New York. A Baptist Association was being organized, and it had been proposed to call it the Northwestern Baptist Association. It was then the farthest northwest of any Baptist organization. The name seemed appropriate, and was about to pass unchallenged. But there was one brother more sanguine than the rest who, with some hesitation, evidently feeling that he might be regarded as a little wild, drew himself up and said something like this; "Brethren, I don't know about the name. It maybe that the time may come when it would be a misnomer. Indeed," said he, "I should not be surprised if some of us should live to see the day when there will be a Baptist Association still west of us." This was scarcely more than two generations ago. Comment is not needed. VWe come now to note the beginnings of growth. The mustard seed has been planted in the garden of Iowa soil, and the branches have begun to put forth.
We take our first standpoint at the year 1840. The mother church is now six years old. To the four churches before named, Long Creek, Rock Spring, Union and Pisgah, have now been added one each at Davenport and Le Claire, and possibly at Dubuque and Keosauqua. Later tables place the organization at Dubuque in 1841, and the one at Keosauqua seems never to have had more than a very dim "visibility." The ministers who entered the State prior to 1840, were Alexander Evans, Hezekiah Johnson, Ezra Fisher and Calvin Greenleaf. The only account I have found of the last is that he was under commission of the Home Mission Society at Davenport, in 1839 eight weeks, and from 1835 to 1838 at Griggsville, Illinois. Alexander Evans was under appointment at Burlington and surrounding country four years 1839 to 1841 inclusive except less than half of 1841. Hezekiah Johnson was under appointment most of the time as an itinerant from 1839 to 1844. He came from Ohio in 1836, and left for Oregon in 1844. Elder Evans came from Indiana in 1839, and left for Oregon in 1845. During four years of this time he was pastor of the Long Creek Church. The spiritual activity of these pioneers must have been remarkable. In a history of the oldest Church, Rev. R. King says," One peculiar feature was its gradual and constant growth. Conversions seemed to take place through the entire year, and baptisms are reported at twenty-three regular monthly meetings, in a period of four years and ten months." In 1841 a Church was organized at Farmington, and also one at Muscatine, then called Bloomington, probably by Ezra Fisher. In the same year W. B. Morey is commissioned by the Home Mission Society thirteen weeks at Iowa City.
The next year, 1842, marks an epoch in our history upon which we may well bestow more than a passing notice. "In response to a call voted by the Des Moines Association in 1841, a Convention of brethren from the Baptist churches in Iowa Territory, was held in Iowa City on the third and fourth days of June, 1842, to consider the expediency of forming a Territorial Association for Missionary purposes." The names are preserved of twenty-five delegates who were present at this meeting, eight ministers, and seventeen laymen. The names are as follows: Elders Ezra Fisher, B. Carpenter, Hezekiah Johnson, J. W. Todd, M. J. Post, W. B. Morey, Charles E. Brown and Ira Blanchard. Laymen, Stephen Headly, Amos Matthews, M. W. Rudd, J. M. Choate, J. Brown, A. Denison, J. Parks, J. Wolf, R. C. Mason, Henry A. Ritner, Joseph Downing, E. Whipple, Henry Headly, John N. Headly, Wm. Elliott, John Potter and Benjamin F. Pike.
Of these Rev. Charles E. Brown is still living in Northern Iowa, his praise in many churches where he has labored in word and doctrine during the forty-four years of the Convention history. M. W. Radd recently closed a quiet and useful life in Washington, Iowa, and was promoted to a well-earned rest above. This brother, with perhaps some others, walked seventy-five miles to attend the meeting for organization of the Convention.
Of another brother yet living, we use his own words: He was "a poor bashful boy, afraid of his own shadow, far from home, in a land of strangers, glad to be let alone." This was William Elliott. A licentiate at the time, he was not long let alone. His shadow certainly never grew less, nor is it likely that his fear increased. He was ordained in the fall of the same year at Rochester, three miles from Keosauqua. Members of the council were, Hezekiah Johnson, A. Burnett, Alexander Evans, M. J. Post, John Bond, Daniel Jewett and M. W. Rudd. For over forty-one years he "has traveled over the trackless prairies, by night and by day, swimming swollen streams and preaching the Gospel continually." "His natural force," not yet greatly "abated," lie has recently gone to Nebraska to try again pioneer life. Bro. Elliott was probably the first Baptist minister ordained in Iowa, unless M. J. Post was ordained here.
There were now, at the organization of the convention, 382 members in the territory in somewhere from ten to fifteen churches. At the same meeting at Iowa City, "delegates from the churches north of the Iowa River had an informal meeting and considered the matter of forming another district association;" and September 16, of the same year, a meeting was held in Davenport, "in a small one-and-a-half story building on Front Street," and the Davenport Association was constituted. There were delegates present from seven churches, including the one at Rock Island in Illinois. The aggregate membership was eighty-six. As illustrating some of the experiences of these pioneers, and the questions to be settled. Rev. Charles E. Brown, who was at the organization, says, "Fixing the time of year for the annual meeting of the Association was attended with some difficulty. There were two considerations to be taken into the account. (1), To avoid the sickly season, and (2), to have the meeting to occur at the time of the year when wild fruits, fresh vegetables and fat chickens would be plenty. The Friday before the third Sunday in September was fixed upon, and so remained until 'wise men came from the East' and said the time must be changed to the middle of the week."
We will now take our stand at 1844, the completion of one decade. Membership in the State has increased to 592; forty-two baptisms are reported for the year. Churches, not before mentioned, have been organized, at Washington in 1841, at Bonaparte in the same year, at Iowa City 1842, and the Providence church near Troy, Davis county, in 1842. The last is a country church and seems to have maintained its existence until the present time.
Of the beginning of the work at Washington, we have some data worth the mention. The town of Washington, Washington county, was located in 1839. The first Baptists in the county were Deacon Calvin Craven and his wife, who settled six miles northwest of the town in 1840, On Saturday, October 2, 1841, they, with Isaac Arnold and wife, and Samuel Kitz and wife, with perhaps some others, were organized into a Baptist church. Elder H. Johnson preached a sermon from Daniel ii. 44. This is probably the oldest record of the text of a sermon preached in Iowa. Bro. Craven is still living at his home occupied in 1840, his wife having recently preceded him to the better home above. At the close of this first decade the Home Mission Society is found vigorously pushing its work in Iowa Territory. In 1842 it has had seven missionaries here, and in 1843 eight. But in 1844 the number is increased to twelve. They are H. Johnson, itinerant, C. E. Brown, Davenport (twenty-six weeks), B. Carpenter, Dubuque, M. J. Post, Fox River, Wm. Elliott, itinerant, J. N. Seeley, Bloomington (Muscatine), W. B. Morey, Iowa City, Daniel Dye, Davenport (twenty-six weeks), Edwin S. Byron, Dubuque (twenty-six weeks), Hamilton Robb, Keosauqua, Horace Eaton, Davis county, and Wm. Sperry, Dubuque (twenty-six weeks). It will be seen then how the branches of the Baptist tree are gradually spreading over Iowa soil.
The present and subsequent chapters will be devoted to a sort of bird's-eye view, of the growth of the different Associations in Iowa, so as to show, 1st, the growth of each considered in and of itself, and 2d, the growth of each as related to the growth of the denomination at large in the State. The present chapter will have to do with the first of all the Associations, the old Des Moines. We shall endeavor to sketch its history from the time of its organization in 1839, down to the time it was disbanded, and the Churches composing it, by mutual agreement, were organized into the Keokuk and Burlington Associations. The account of the organization of this Association in August, 1839, at Long Creek now Danville was given in the beginning of these Sketches. The Churches composing it were three, Long Creek, Pisgah and Rock Spring. There were about 80 members in the three Churches. The first Moderator was Rev. Jonah Todd, Clerk, Rev. Alexander Evans, Preacher of Introductory Sermon, Rev. Hezekiah Johnson. The name of the Association at first was the Iowa Baptist Association. The data for its history and its meetings for the first five years are very meager. It appears that annual meetings were held in 1840 at Rock Spring, 1841 at Danville, 1842 at Rochester Church, near Keosauqua, in 1843 at Portland Church, and in 1844 at Danville again. For these years we have no means of knowing who were the officers, nor any statistics.
At the second meeting of the Iowa Baptist State Convention, held in Davenport in 1843, this Association was represented by Elders A. Evans, H. Johnson, D. Jewett, and M. J. Post. There were then reported ten Churches, six ministers, 43 persons baptized during the year and 223 members. The name of the Association was changed to Des Moines, either that or the next year. The ten Churches and the dates of their organization, were, as near as we can ascertain, Danville, 1834; Rock Spring, 1836; Pisgah, 1839; Union, 1839; Farmington, 1841; Washington, 1841; Mt. Zion, 1842 ; Mount Pleasant, 1843; Keosauqua, 1838, and possibly Fox River, 1842. The ministers, in addition to those mentioned above, were Wm. Elliott and H. Burnett. The latter arrived in the territory in 1842.
1844. Number of Churches, 14, ordained ministers, 8, baptized, 100; whole number 361.
1845. The Association met with the Ebenezer Church, Lee county. The introductory sermon was preached by Elder M. J. Post, who was elected Moderator and Brother Otis Thompson, of the Farmington Church, Clerk. Among the ordained ministers are found Wm. Sperry and R. Cheedle. The Rock Spring Church seems to have previously lost its connection with the Association and, on application, is received again with 14 baptisms and 18 received by letter; members, 56.
Brother S. Pickard appears as a Licentiate of the Liberty Church, also received this year with 27 members. New Churches were also received, viz: Shiloh, 8 members; Oskaloosa, 20; Village Creek, 8; Toolsborough, 8; Eddyville. 7, and Fairfield, 22. Whole number of Churches, 25; baptisms, 11; members, 656.
1846. Met at Round Point, September 4. The preacher of the introductory sermon, Elder Sperry, being absent, Elder Hiram Burnett preached and was chosen Moderator, W. B. Morey, Clerk, Daniel Jewett, Secretary. Delegates from the Davenport Association Rev. Dexter P. Smith and J. N. Seeley. The Tabernacle, Mount Moriah and Ft. Des Moines Churches were received. The name of the Oskaloosa Church has been changed to Union. Elders Shaply Elmore, J. Moore, J. Bond, B. B. Nichols and H. Worden are among the ministers not named above. Number of Churches reporting, 24; pastors, 11; baptisms, 71; total membership, 563.
"Elder John Rexford, from the Free Communion Baptist Church, stated that he had embraced our sentiments, and enquired whether his ordination would be accepted by this body." After reading his certificate and some discussion, the Association voted satisfaction and invited, him to a seat with the body. A request came up from the Eddyville and Tabernacle Churches for the ordination of Brother G. W. Bond, but after examination it was deemed inexpedient at present, and the Churches "advised to aid our brother in the support of his family, that thereby he may be enabled to study to show himself a workman that needeth not to be ashamed."
There is evidence of an intelligent conservatism in such matters in those early days, that it would have been well in some quarters to have emulated later.
The place of meeting in 1847 was Mt. Zion. William Elliott had been appointed to preach the introductory sermon. No record of this meeting nor statistics of the year have been found.
1848. The Association met in its tenth session with the church at Washington, Iowa. Rev. Horace Warden preached the introductory sermon from Titus, 1st chapter, 3d verse. Rev. R. Cheedle was elected Moderator, and Rev. W .B. Knapp, Clerk. There are now 21 churches, 104 baptisms reported and 717 members. Rev. James M. Hope of Keokuk, appears among the ministers. The name of the Keokuk church appears with 13 members. A year earlier, in 1847, Keokuk was represented in the State Convention by Rev. J. W. Seely.
The question of a division of the Association, already began to be discussed. The death of the late beloved M. J. Post, was reported and the Association most painfully mourn his loss. Near the close of 1848, began a work at Burlington, which claims more extended notice. The beginnings of Baptist seed-sowing here date still further back. In 1848. Rev. Luther Stone, now of Chicago, spent a number of weeks in Burlington, found a few Baptists, and preached a number of sermons. Rev. Alexander Evans and perhaps one or two others had also preached occasional sermons, but there was no organization. Rev. George J. Johnson "first arrived in Burlington, on the evening of the first Wednesday in November, 1848, the day following the election of Gen. Zachary Taylor, as President of the United States". The population of the city at that time was between one and two thousand. In a reminiscence of the time, Brother Johnson says that on his arrival at Burlington, "there was no Baptist Church or any other friends that were under any special obligations to receive him, and that he had not money enough to pay his way for half a week." He however found, the next day, a "Kentuckian," who with genuine Kentucky like hospitality, invited him to his home and made him welcome. This was John H. Webber who was afterwards the first person ever baptized by Brother Johnson, and so far as known, the first in the Mississippi River at Burlington. He is supposed to be still living at East Portland, Oregon. On the first Lord's day, in April, 1849, the First Baptist Church of Burlington, was organized with twelve members, and six others were baptized on the same day. In 1849 the Church was represented in the State Convention and in 1850 became connected with the Des Moines Association. In June, 1851, the Church entered, though it was far from being completed, the house, where its services were regularly held for about thirty-four years, until the conference rooms of the present house were occupied.
1849.We have no record of this year. The Association was to meet at the Liberty Church, near Charleston, and Rev. J. M. Hope was to preach the sermon. August 8, 1848, Brother Hope had been recommended to the Home Mission Society, by the Executive Board of the Convention, "to labor with the Baptist Church in Keokuk, with an appropriation of $250.00 for one year from June 1, 1848," but the record says, "withdrawn by Brother Hope at the expiration of six months, on account of impaired vision."
1850. Met for the fourth time, at Danville. The introductory sermon was preached by Brother Burnett, from Acts 20: 24. Rev. H. Burnett was chosen Moderator, Rev. E. Gunn, Clerk and M. W. Rudd, Treasurer. This is Brother Gunn's first introduction to the Association and to the State. He is pastor at Keokuk where 7 baptisms are reported, 15 received by letter and the church numbers 36. Brother Gunn received his first appointment from the Home Mission Society to labor at Keokuk in 1849, laboring 13 weeks in that year. Delegates of the Burlington, Brighton, Richland, Charleston and Aurora Churches came forward and requested admittance into the Association, and upon favorable report of a committee, they were all received. There were now 27 Churches, 71 baptisms reported, 139 received in other ways and a total membership of 912. The Burlington Church reports 13 baptisms, 35 received in other ways and 41 members.
1851. The Association met at Agency City. Rev. O. Ormsby, of Troy, preached the introductory sermon and was chosen Moderator, Brother Gunn of Keokuk, Clerk and M. W. Rudd, Treasurer. The great revival elsewhere noticed in the Sketches, as setting in soon after 1850, is fully inaugurated, 219 baptisms are reported. Rev. G. J. Johnson reports 77 baptisms at Burlington. They were permitted to visit the baptismal waters for thirteen consecutive Sabbaths, and have now 136 members. Members in the Association, 1126, in 27 Churches, with 11 pastors. Wm. A. Wells is pastor at Danville, O. Ormsby at Keosauqua and Fox River, W. H. Turton at Farmington, G. W. Bond at Oskaloosa, Aurora and Knoxville, Wm. Elliott at Fairfield and Brighton, Hiram Burnett at Mt. Pleasant, Elihu Gunn at Keokuk, T. J. Penny at Pisgah, G. J. Johnson at Burlington, and J. B. McGlasson at Blakesburg. At this meeting in 1851 the division of the Association which had been impending for some time took place, and the West Des Moines, afterwards Oskaloosa, Association was formed. Prior to this division the Des Moines Association had extended from Keokuk and Burlington on the Mississippi, to Knoxville in Marion county, and at one time to Fort Des Moines, and embraced all the territory south of the Iowa River. The division was amicably arrived at and was made "On a line to be drawn from Keosauqua to Fairfield, and from thence to Brighton, thence on the line dividing the counties of Keokuk and Washington," the Churches at the places named, on this line to be in the western division. This divided the then existing Churches south of the Iowa River into two respectable Associations in point of numbers, and of nearly equal strength. Keokuk "have disposed of their old house of worship and lot, and purchased a new and better lot, upon which they expect soon to have a new and commodious house of worship erected." It sounds strangely to hear a Church not yet five years old talking of its old house of worship, but it illustrates how rapidly changes came about in those stirring pioneer days. Burlington had been enabled to enter their new house of worship, the interior of which was now "entirely completed."
1852. The Association met at Keokuk. Rev. Wm. H. Turton preached the introductory sermon. Rev. E. Gunn was chosen Moderator and Brother Turton, Clerk, and Deacon E. Cady, Treasurer. Though the Association has been reduced by the organization of a new one on the west, from about 30 Churches to 16, yet an era of unparalleled prosperity is about to be ushered in. Two new Churches are received; the Jefferson and Augusta Churches, and there are now 16 Churches, 71 baptisms reported, 69 received in other ways, and the membership is 725. Burlington have baptized 26, and the new Church at Jefferson organized last March, report 19 baptisms. Elder Burnett is preaching the Word to them.
1853. The Association met at Farmington, in the Congregationalist House of Worship. Introductory sermon by Rev. Geo. J. Johnson. H. Burnett Moderator, and W. H. Turton Clerk. The Church at Keosauqua seems to have, for a time, lost its visibility, and is again received into the body. Glasgow is also a new organization where 38 have been baptized and 56 members are reported. Rev. H. R. Wilber appears as pastor at Mt. Pleasant, Obed Sperry at Pisgah, and Isaac Leonard at Rock Spring. Brother Sperry should have been noticed at Pisgah a year ago. Also Rev. E. O. Town at Mount Zion. Brother Leonard has been reported as a Licentiate of the Burlington Church for a couple of years ; was ordained in 1851, Brother Town in 1852, Rev. B. F. Braybrook preaching the sermon in both instances. Churches in 1852, 17; pastors, 8; baptisms, 136; total membership, 812. Perhaps the progress of the great revival in this Association for the next five years will be best shown by exhibiting in a condensed statement, the names of Churches, pastors and number of baptisms each year, in the principal places visited by the Saving Power of God. Beginning with 1853, and ending with 1857.
1853. Danville, Obed Sperry, 12; Bonaparte, no pastor, 15; Mt. Pleasant, H R. Wilber, 25; Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 13; Jefferson, H. Burnett, 13; Glasgow, Wm. Elliott, 16; other baptisms, 19; total, 139.
1854. Union, S. Pickard, 12 ; Liberty, S. Pickard, 21; Keokuk, E. Gunu, 29; Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 124; Jefferson, no pastor, 17 ; Richmond, Charles Thompson, 15; Lockridge, Wm. Elliott, 16 ; other baptisms, 13; total, 247.
1855. Union, S. Pickard, 37; Bonaparte, M. Sutton, 10; Washington, C. Thompson, 15; Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 17; Glasgow, Wm. Elliott, 12; Tuscarora, S. Pickard, 23; other baptisms, 27; total 140.
1856. Danville, J. G. Bowen, 20; Bonaparte, M. Sutton, 15; Liberty, S. Pickard, 42; Keokuk, E. Gunn, 11; Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 26; Jefferson, W. Elliott, 15; Glasgow, W. Elliott, 12; Tuscarora, S. Pickard, 12; other baptisms, 16; total, 169.
1857. Pisgali, Isaac Leonard, 46 ; Bonaparte, M. Sutton, 7; Mt. Pleasant, H. K. Wilber, 37; First Keokuk, E Gunn (resigned), 85; First Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 27; Jefferson, W. Elliott, 23; Glasgow, W. Elliott, 7; Tuscarora, S. Pickard (resigned), 10; Second Keokuk, S. Pickard. 30; Denmark, M. Edwards, 1; total, 223. Total baptisms for five years, 917.
The above will show the pastors doing service during the same period.
The Association met at Jefferson in 1854. Introductory sermon by H. R. Wilber. H. Burnett, Moderator, H. R. Wilber, Clerk. In 1855 meeting at Burlington. Preacher, M. Sutton ; Moderator, M. Sutton ; Clerk, H. R. Wilber. Place of meeting in 1856, Glasgow. Preacher, Morgan Edwards; Moderator, Wm. Elliott; Clerk, H. R. Wilber.
1857. Bonaparte. Preacher, Morgan Edwards; Moderator, T. J. Penny; Clerk, H. R. Wilber. There are now 1857 22 Churches, 11 pastors, 7 other ordained ministers, 12 Licentiates and 1,609 members. Among those just licensed to preach, are E. C. Cady, of the Danville Church, W. A. Eggleston, of Mount Pleasant, J. M. Wood and J. Lee, of Glasgow, who have since been long and well known among Iowa Baptist ministers.
1858. The Association held its Twentieth Anniversary with the Baptist Church at Richmond. Annual sermon by Rev. G. J. Johnson, who was elected Moderator, Rev. M. Sutton, Clerk and Calvin Craven, Treasurer. Throughout 1858 the revival work seems unabated. Before its close. Brother Leonard has baptized at Pisgah 14; Brother Sutton at Bonaparte 26; Brother Moore at Charleston 15, and at Bethlehem 13; G. J. Johnson at Burlington 25; Brother Elliott at Glasgow 31; G. W. S. Bell at Richmond 45; W. A. Eggleston at New London 14; Jonathan Lee at Tuscarora (Pilot Grove) 11; Pickard at 2d Keokuk 27, and Thomas M. Ind at 2d Burlington 32. Other baptisms had been 30, and the whole number 283. Rev. P. P. Bishop during this year becomes pastor at Burlington, and Rev. G. J. Johnson, having closed his labors there, goes to Fort Madison, where 53 converts have been baptized and a Church of 102 members raised up. Rev. W. W. Allen is pastor at Keokuk and A. Edson at Washington.
We have dwelt in considerable detail on these revival years in the hope that their perusal by such of those who were permitted to mingle in these Spiritual awakenings, as are still in the flesh, and by all of us, may awaken the memory of their blessedness, and create an earnest longing for a return of those days of the mighty power of God. "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled."
The earnest spirit of devotion that showed itself, and the patient continuance in religious exercises that show them to have been a joy, are worthy of a little careful study. This will be best seen in a sketch of the doings of one Associational Sabbath. In August, 1858, the Des Moines Association met at Richmond, Iowa. The following is a full minute of the services of Sunday, August 22. Prayer meeting was held at 7 a. m.; Brother Ford addressed the Sabbath School for about one hour at 8:30 a m.; Brother Sutton preached at 10 a. m., from 2 Corinthians v: 20, 21; Brother Bastion preached at 11 a. m., from Romans X. 13, after which a collection was taken for the State Convention amounting to $21.60; Brother W. W. Allen preached at 2:30 p. m., from Matthew 10: 8, after which Brother Johnson made remarks and took up a collection for the Publication Society, of $14.35. Prayer meeting was held at night, and then Brother Edson preached from Job ix: 2, and Brother Eggleston from Galatians v: 6. The services of the day were throughout largely attended, and seemingly attended with a solemn sense of the Divine presence." Seven sermons and two prayer meetings in the same house in one day! What else than "a solemn sense of the Divine presence" could make such a bill of fare possible? Doubtless, many will read this account with a smile to-day, and think of that day's services as belonging to a past order, when people had not yet learned to free themselves from the bondage of long and, perhaps, dry sermons, etc. But as we have studied it in connection with the evidences of the mighty power of God in the Churches during those years, we cannot doubt that such a lingering in the sanctuary, and such prolonged listening to God's Holy Word, was a most natural and a most delightful thing. May the reminiscence of it tend to hasten the return of a similar sense of the Divine presence in all our associational gatherings!
The Des Moines Association has had a prosperous history. Though the territory has been reduced by the organization of the Oskaloosa Association, the necessity or expediency of further dividing it had been agitated for a year or two. The question has been submitted to the Churches in 1856, and at the Annual Meeting in Bonaparte in 1857, a committee was appointed "to examine the votes of the Churches" in reference to the matter. This committee reported that five Churches had voted for, and ten against division.
At the meeting in Richmond in 1858, "on request of the Glasgow Church, and on motion of T. R. Carter, a special committee was appointed on division of the Association, as follows: C. Craven, T. R. Carter, E. Cady; J. W. Ratliff and D. W. Ford." A majority of this committee reported, through the Chairman, C. Craven, against division. A minority report brought in by Brother Carter, favored division. The question was again submitted to the Churches, with the recommendation "that the Churches desiring a division, communicate that desire to the next Association for such action as may then be deemed proper."
1859. The Twenty first and last Anniversary of the Des Moines Association was held with the Pisgah Baptist Church, near Dodgeville, Iowa, August 27, 1859. The tide of revival and of prosperity is still unabated. There are now 24 Churches, with 14 pastors, 321 baptisms are reported, 213 other additions, and a total membership of 2,036. A net increase for one year of 316. Under the powerful revival efforts of Rev. Morgan Edwards a Church of 102 members has been raised up at Fort Madison within a year; 53 of whom have been received by baptism, and Rev. G. J. Johnson settled as pastor. Also by Brother Edwards' labor, a Church of 75 members at West Point, of whom 57 are by baptism.
The proposition to divide the Association has at last prevailed. In a report made by Rev. G. J. Johnson, Corresponding Secretary, to the Slate Convention at Oskaloosa, in October, 1859, we find the following. After stating some of the cheering facts of the Association's prosperity" in the year past, he says: "In view of the enlarged membership of the Association, the throngs drawn together thereby to attend upon its meetings," * and the great distance to be traveled over in order to attend its sessions, the Association was divided and resolved into two new Associations, named respectively, Burlington and Keokuk Associations." The report then closes with a just tribute to the memory of the Des Moines Association, as follows: "Surely the Lord has done great things for the Des Moines Association, whereof we are glad. It was organized just twenty years ago last August, under the name of the Iowa Association, and then embraced the whole State. It has since been changed in its name, divided and subdivided repeatedly in its territory, and now, finally has passed out of being and taken its place among the things of the past. And yet, though this Association has ceased to exist, the name will be associated in many minds with hallowed interest, with scenes gone by and long cherished in the heart of sacred memory, by many friends of our Zion in Southeastern Iowa." Among the pastors of the Des Moines Association, perhaps not mentioned before, are D. H. Paul, at Danville in 1858, and W. J. Cochran, at Bethlehem in 1859, and others may have been unintentionally overlooked. At this last meeting of the Des Moines Association Rev. M. Sutton preached the annual sermon, Charles Hubbell, Esq., of Keokuk, was Moderator, P. P. Bishop, of Burlington, Clerk, and Isaac Leonard, Treasurer.
The history of the Des Moines Association is a history of a most important epoch in our growth as a commonwealth, and is full of the deeds and thoughts of a class of men who would do honor to any State in any age. Many of these noble men of God are still living and doing for God and humanity. With them these reminiscences must be of intense interest. Youth, vigor, anticipation, sanctified ambition, enthusiasm, are at one end of the view. Gray hairs, experience, sober reflection, trials endured, courageously met and surmounted at the other. In many instances doubtless, mistakes made, discovered, repented, and, alas! sometimes when too late to make amends, all reminding us that the treasures of gospel grace have been committed to "earthen vessels," and yet in view of all, what was said above in 1859 is true in 1886, the name of the Des Moines Association is still associated in many minds with hallowed memories and scenes of those early days of our Iowa Zion.
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