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Churches and Religion

Pages 155-164

Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886

S. H. Mitchell

 Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa



Centerville Association Organized in 1873
Reminiscences AND Incidents—1873 to 1886.

ON Friday, October 10, 1873, "delegates for the purpose of forming an Association of regular Baptist Churches met at 10 o'clock a. m., with the Centerville Baptist Church in Appanoose county, Iowa." An introductory sermon was preached by Rev. W. H. Turton and Elder A. P. Berry was chosen Moderator and G. C. Goodenough, Secretary of the meeting. The organization thus formed was called the Centerville Baptist Association, and was permanently organized by the election of A. P. Berry, Moderator and A. F. Haines, clerk. The Churches composing the body, mostly situated in Appanoose county, were the following: Centerville, no pastor, 47 members Concord, F. Edwards, pastor, 102 members; Chariton River, A. Jackson, pastor, 41 members; East Shoal Creek, J. T. Milner, pastor, 26 members; Franklin, W. H. Turton, pastor, 45 members; Little Flock, Wm. Barnett, pastor, 60 members; Mount Ararat, D. Winters, members New Salem, A. Huckaby, pastor, 122; pastor, 46 Members; Pleasant Grove 52, and Union, A. Saladay, pastor, 26 members; total Churches 10; pastors 8; members 567. Five of the above named Churches were from the Fox River Association and five from the Eden Association on the west. But one person is reported baptized during the year.

1874 ... The Association held its Second Annual Meeting with the New Salem Church, at Seymour, Wayne county. A. P. Berry, Moderator, N. Rogers, Clerk. Introductory sermon by Elder W. H. Turton. Invitation to visiting brethren was accepted by Rev. J. M. Wood, agent of Central University at Pella, Rev. M. T. Lamb, State Sunday School Missionary and Rev. T. M. Colwell, Assistant Secretary of the Baptist Publication Society. The Unionville Church was added to the list of Churches with 41 members. Rev. Z. Thomas is pastor at Chariton River. Other pastors the same as named last year, except that the names of A. Jackson, J. T. Milner, and D. Winters do not this year appear. Churches 11, pastors 6, baptized 22, members 653.

1875 ... Met at Mt. Ararat, J. Redburn Moderator, L. G. Parker clerk and treasurer. Rev. F. Edwards preached the introductory sermon from Galatians IV:24. Mount Pleasant Church, Monroe county, was received with 30 members. Churches 12, pastors 5, baptized 26, total membership 701. The Mt. Ararat Church reports 12 baptized and Pleasant Grove 13. The name of the New Salem Church has been changed to Seymour. The year has been one of some advance. In 1876 the Association met with the Concord Church, Moderator and clerk same as last year. Rev. L. G. Parker preached the introductory sermon from 1st Samuel VII: 12. The name of the Union Church, which last year reported 29 members disappears from the minutes. There are now 11 Churches, 6 pastors, 70 baptisms reported and 760 members. Centerville, F. Edwards pastor, has baptized 40, Mt. Ararat, J. Redburn, 17, and Seymour, F. M. Archer, 9. J. Kincade and F. M. Archer are recognized among the pastors for the first time. Rev. F. Edwards has been for over 3 years pastor at Centerville and they have completed and  dedicated a new house of worship. The veteran J. M. Smith of southwestern Iowa was with them at the dedication and remained some 8 or 9 days preaching the word with great acceptance. At this meeting of the Association it was voted that ''A. F. Haines and Elder Parker be requested to write out and forward to the Historical Committee of the State a history of this Association, and such other historical sketches concerning the early Baptists in this vicinity and contiguous territory, as they may think proper. " The present "Sketcher" does not know whether this was ever done or not.

1877 ... The Association met at Franklin Church, Livingstone Appanoose county. Moderator F. Edwards, clerk Rev. L. Gr. Parker still. Introductory sermon from Amos VII:2 by Rev. F. Edwards. The Moulton Church was received with 22 members, J. Redburn pastor. Churches 12, pastors 8, baptized 61, total membership 820. Centerville has again shared most largely in the blessing and baptized 31, Franklin 11, F. M. Archer pastor. The evidences of vigorous life are refreshing. The Moulton Church, received this year gathers up the fragments of the Union Church which had dissolved.

1878 ... Unionville is the place of assembly in 1878. Elder A. P. Berry preached the introductory sermon from Hebrews XIII: 1. Moderator F. Edwards, clerk L. G. Parker. The number of Churches remains unchanged though Mt. Ararat has not reported for two years; baptisms 29, present membership 646. This is a large falling off from last year; 25 have been dismissed by letter and 36 excluded, 28 of these from the Little Flock Church. Rev. L. S. Livermore is preaching at Concord and Mt. Pleasant Churches.

1879 ... The Association met with the Little Flock Church in Appanoose county. Rev. A. P. Berry preached the sermon from John Y: 8. Officers unchanged. We recognize Rev. A. W. Sutton as pastor of the Franklin, Little Flock and Seymour Churches. Rev. T. Davis is preaching at Chariton River. Rev. F. M. Archer has removed to the Eden Association. Churches 12, pastors 6, baptisms 9, total membership 706. Seymour had been for a time without the ministrations of the word. They say "After we had secured a man of God to go in and out before us a meeting place was denied us, and in this emergency we resolved to arise and build, and by the grace of Him who said 'I am with you always' they have a house enclosed, of goodly size and fair proportions.

1880 ... Centerville has the privilege of entertaining the "angels'' again. Introductory sermon by Rev. A. W. Sutton from Acts XVII: 6. Officers the same as for several years past. Churches 12, pastors 8, baptisms 8, total membership 668. Besides the pastors before mentioned Rev. A. C. Edwards is preaching at Little Flock and J. R. Chance at Mt. Pleasant. Great barrenness of spiritual results is manifest in the small number of baptisms.

1881 ... Meet with the Mt. Pleasant Church. Annual sermon by Elder A. P. Berry from John III: 14-15. A. P. Berry Moderator, D. Given clerk and treasurer. Rev. F. Edwards who has been connected with this Association for eight years, much of the time as its Moderator, and since 1874 pastor at Centerville, is missed from its councils, having removed soon after the last Annual meeting and taken up work at Leon in the Eden Association, where we shall hear from him again. Rev. A. Robbins has succeeded pastor Edwards at Centerville. The name of G. W. Bagwell appears as pastor at Chariton River. The state of religion runs low, which is deplored and felt to be "an alarming condition, and one that will finally lead to an utter disregard of the responsibilities resting upon us as a denomination, " yet there is "a balm in Gilead" and the churches are recommended in order to "raise the standard of our religious life" to "get nearer to Jesus." Churches 12, pastors 7, baptized 17, whole number 631. A difficulty having arisen between the Seymour and Little Flock Churches, growing out of the reception by the latter Church of a member excluded from the former; a committee had been appointed last year to report on the case. The committee brought in a report at this meeting covering four full pages of the printed minutes. The report was evidently drawn up by Rev. A. Robbins, chairman of the committee, than whom Iowa has had few pastors able to set out in clearer light the principles involved in such a case. The case is one often repeated, with perhaps some variations in detail. A member of the Church is at variance with its pastor, absents himself from its meetings, violates his covenant vows, is disciplined by the Church, and, perhaps, somewhat hastily, excluded, without any charge against his moral character. He calls an ex-parte council, without any effort to secure redress by a mutual council. The ex-parte council meets in the M. E. Church of the village, with open doors, decides that the member had not been fairly dealt with, and under these circumstances he seeks and obtains membership in another Church in the same Association with the usual result of disturbing the relations of the two Churches. The committee have viewed and treated the whole case with very great skill and wisdom, pointing out, in a kind and Christian spirit, the errors in every step on both sides of the controversy, and especially that an ex-parte council in such a case should never be called except as a last resort. For "However honest and well-meant their efforts may be, they seldom succeed in settling difficulties, and often complicate and intensify them."

1882 ... Met with the Concord Baptist Church in Appanoose county. A. P. Berry, Moderator, A. Robbins. clerk and preacher of annual sermon. Text, Amos YII:2. "By whom shall Jacob arise. " Twelve churches, 5 pastors, baptized 14, present membership 592. The pastors are A Robbins, Centerville ; C. Lippitt, Franklin ; D. Given, Little Flock ; W. H. Eaton, Mt. Ararat, and Wm. Barnett, Unionville. Seven churches are without pastoral care. In 1883 the Association met for its eleventh anniversary with the Franklin Church, Livingston, Appanoose county, on Wednesday, September 12. The annual sermon was preached by Rev. D. Given, of Promise City, from Isaiah XL:31 ; who then called the Association to order. Rev- D. Given Moderator, A. F. Haines clerk and treasurer. Churches 12, pastors 8, baptized 22, total membership 552. Of the 22 baptisms, 21 were in the Pleasant Grove Church, W. H. Eaton, pastor. Brother Robbins is still pastor at Centerville, D. Winters at Chariton River, Rev. S. H. Gunn of St. Johns, Mo., at Franklin, D. Given at Little Flock, Joseph Baker at Mt. Ararat and Unionville, B. F. Mace at Mount Pleasant and W^. H. Eaton at Pleasant Grove.

1884 ... Place of meeting Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, near Dennis, Appanoose county. Rev. A. P. Berry, Moderator, and S. T. Shepherd, clerk and treasurer. Rev. D. D. Proper, of Des Moines, General Missionary of the State Convention, preached the annual sermon from Isaiah LIV:2 Rev. George E. Eldridge has succeeded pastor Robbins at Centerville. The other pastors of the Association are about the same as last year with perhaps some
changes of fields. It is a year of better spiritual results than for several years past. Fifty baptisms and 659 members reported. Six of the 12 Churches report baptisms ranging from 2 to 15. The time of meeting of the Association had been changed two or three years ago to the middle of the week. This year it is changed back again to Friday, so as to hold over Sunday.

1885 ... Met with the Unionville Church, Rev. L. G. Parker Moderator, S. T. Shepherd clerk and treasurer. Rev. Geo. E. Eldridge preached the annual sermon from 1885. Psalm 85:6. A little falling off in results from last year. Churches 19, pastors 8, baptisms 34; 25 of them in the Unionville Church total membership 638. While the work seems to have remained, in one sense, almost stationary on this field since the organization of this Association, the number of Churches varying only two and the membership only one or two hundred, yet there has been evidence all along of a good degree of vigorous religious life, and the Association has made, for its surroundings, a very creditable record. The representatives of Missionary interests have been cordially received and contributions have been cheerfully made and encouraged. We have the means of verifying this statement only in the case of State Missions. Taking the 11 years from 1875 to 1885 inclusive, we find contributions reported every year ranging from $8.15 in 1876, the smallest, to §69.12, the largest in 1881, and aggregating in the 11 years $379.86. It is also a remarkable fact that in that time not a dollar has been expended in Missionary appointments within the territory of this Association, nor so far as appears ever asked for Resolutions and words of cheer for the various objects of benevolence seem never to have been wanting.

Before closing this sketch a reminiscence of this field not easily forgotten may properly find place here. In the earlier years of the Centerville Association the name of C. H. Richardson appears regularly among the delegates of the Centerville Church, bearing evidence of an abiding interest and active usefulness in the cause. The incident about to be related is of the first appearance of Brother Richardson in this field. It was in the exciting period of 1864, the most critical time in the government's gigantic work of suppressing the rebellion. The Pox River Association was in session with the Centerville Church. As was usual in that critical time, resolutions had been presented expressing strong condemnation of the rebellion, and sympathy with the Government. The Moderator of the Association had declared the resolutions out of order, and as the only way of getting the matter before the body an appeal was taken from the decision of the chair. There was no expectation that the appeal would be sustained by a vote of the Association, but so strong was the feeling that something ought to be said then and there in behalf of what was deemed a matter of so much importance that, regardless of parliamentary restrictions a three- hours discussion of the resolutions followed on the motion to appeal. All was said that needed to be said, and the yeas and nays were called and the appeal was voted down, and the chair sustained. Brother D. V. Lewis was clerk of the body and strongly in favor of the resolutions. He suggested that as the yeas and nays were to be recorded it would be necessary to print in the minutes the matter voted upon, and this was permitted to be done, and the resolutions went before the people with their sentiments of loyalty to work as leaven wherever the minutes were read. Brother Richardson owned some land in Appanoose county, which he had never seen. Deciding- in the summer of 1864 to emigrate from Vermont to the west, he had brought his family into Southern Iowa to hunt up his land and settle upon it. Arriving late in the week in the neighborhood of Centerville he heard of the Association then in session, and being a loyal Baptist he came into the meeting and entered during the discussion referred to above. Being just from the intensely loyal state of Vermont he had never heard such sentiments as he was compelled to listen to here among entire strangers. He had not imagined that such sentiments could be heard among Baptists north of the precincts of slavery itself. His homesickness and disappointment can be better imagined than described. As he told the writer afterwards, his mind was made up during that afternoon that he could never settle in such a community. Said he: "On Monday following I went out to look at the land, " and though the was years afterward, he said "this land never looked so beautiful as it did that Monday morning.'' Then he says: "I said to myself, Calvin Richardson, you never have backed out yet and you are not going to do it now. " And he did not. A home was made on the farm and in the Church, and the record of his name in connection with the Association shows that he was made of the stuff that does not "back out' from the duty of the Christian and the citizen.

In 1885 we find Thomas Wharton, post-office, Exline, pastor of the East Short Creek Church. Other pastors are Geo. E. Eldridge, W. H. Eaton, Wm. Barnett, Joseph Baker, B. F. Mace, preaching to the Mount Pleasant Church, and L. G. Parker. Rev. Wm. Barnett and Rev. L. G. Parker have done long and faithful service in this part of Iowa; the former since 1855, and the latter since along in the sixties. Brother Barnett was a member, in all its early years, of the Eden Association. The Franklin Church, Livingston post-office, has a history peculiar to itself. This is the home of Rev. L. G. Parker. The Church in all its earlier days was far in advance of all the surrounding country in its ideas of benevolence. It was a pleasure for the representatives of missionary organizations to visit

them, and a manifest pleasure to them to receive such visits. A kind of oasis in the desert it seemed. Doubtless the reports of treasurers would verify the assertion that though a small body, and much scattered, they were a peculiar people, and zealous of good works. As this chapter goes to press the report for 1886 has not been received.

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