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Churches and Religion

Pages 19-22

Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886

S. H. Mitchell

 Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa




Beginnings The First Church Constituent Members.
Illinois Preachers.

SOME few years prior to 1834, the date at I which our story begins, in a revival of religion, it is supposed, in the Brush Creek Baptist church in Green County, Kentucky, two young persons of humble parentage and circumstances were converted to God and immersed into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Their names were William Manly and Hepzibah Mathes. The latter and her sister, afterwards Mrs. Chandler, were baptized into the fellowship of the Brush Creek church by Rev. Johnson Graham, their pastor. In a year or two after their baptism these two were united in marriage, and in 1834 removed to the then territory of Iowa, on the west bank of the Mississippi river. When they landed, where the city of Burlington now is, they found four or five log huts. The spring of 1835 may be regarded as the beginning of white settlements in this part of Iowa. There was, as far as is known, no religious organization. Brother and sister Manly and a few other Baptists from Illinois and Kentucky were among the earliest settlers. Though young and inexperienced, and coming to take up their abode in an almost unbroken wilderness, they had had the forethought to bring with them a copy of the articles of faith of the Brush Creek Baptist church, and they were not long to remain without church privileges. There was evidently the will, and the Lord soon opened the way. Desirous of organizing themselves into a regular Baptist church, the hardy pioneers invited Elder John Logan, of McDonough county, Illinois, to come over and preach to them and assist them in their purpose.

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 Hously, 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.


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