Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886
S. H. Mitchell
by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa
The Oskaloosa Association—
At First Called the Second Des
The Third Association On Our Records—1851 to 1886.
UP to 1851 we find record of but two Associations of regular
Baptist Churches in Iowa. These were the Des Moines, organized in
1838' and the Davenport, organized in 1842. (But see History of Fox
In 1851, 13 Churches were set off from
the Des Moines Association and called the Second Des Moines
Association. These were Agency City, with 42 members; Aurora, 25
Brighton, 18; Fairfield,16; Fox River, 33; Keosauqua, 32; Blakesburg,
35; Knoxville, 30; Libertyville, 26 ; Mount Moriah, 31 ; Oskaloosa,
31 ; Richland, 44; and Sigourney, 38. Of these Keosauqua had been
organized in 1838 ; Fox River, in 1842 ; Agency City, in 1844
Fairfield and Oskaloosa, in 1845 ; Mount Moriah, in 1846; Sigourney,
in 1847; Libertyville, in 1849; Aurora, Brighton, Blakesburg and
Richland, in 1850; and Knoxville, in 1851.
The next year,
1852, these with the exception of Mount Moriah, which disappears,
and with the addition of Steady Run, organized 1852 ; Cedar Creek,
1844 ; and Middle Creek, 1852 ; were constituted the Oskaloosa
Association, with 15 Churches, 9 ministers and 455 members, of whom
64 had been baptized within the year. The pastors were Wm. Elliott,
J. L. Cole, B. B. Arnold, John Bond, I. C. Curtis, G. W. Bond, G. W.
Olney and A. N. Atwood. The Oskaloosa Church named here is not the
Church in the city of that name, which was not organized for several
1854. Churches 16, pastors 5, baptized 32,
whole number 502. The name of J. Mitchell appears among the
ministers as pastor at Sigourney and Richland, and that of J. Parker
at Walnut and Brookville. The latter two Churches and that at Pella.
appear for the first time, while Aurora and Keosauqua have
disappeared. Two or three small Churches are added in 1855, and 120
baptisms are reported. Rev. E. H. Scarff is pastor at Pella and
reports 40 baptisms and 150 members. C. Bullock, W. Drummond and J.
T. Milner are new pastors. The country Church called Oskaloosa is
missed from the record. There are now 627 members.
number of Churches has increased to 25; pastors 15; baptized 134.
Total 934. A Church has been organized at Ottumwa with 16 members,
Rev. J. T. Robert, pastor; at Oskaloosa, J. P. ChiIds, pastor, 32;
Fremont, J. Ferguson, 36; one at South English with 39 members; and
the Little Mount Church near Montezuma, Rev. M. Gregson, pastor,
with 30 members. Rev. John Williams has become pastor at Fairfield
and Brighton. Rev. A. Saladay is pastor at Fox River, near Troy,
Davis county. Rev. N. Hays is pastor at Eddyville. In 1857 we find
Churches 29, pastors 14, baptizing 92, whole 185 number of members
1065. The largest Churches are Blakesburg 128, and Pella 193. Rev.
Wm. Elliott is pastor at Brighton and Martinsburg, and Rev. J. Frey
at South English. 1858 "has been a year of the Right Hand of the
Most High." The membership has reached 1150, of whom 264 have been
baptized during the year. Rev. E. Gunn is pastor at Pella, and there
is a Second Pella Church of 75 members, with Wm. Elliott pastor.
Rev. J. M. Wood is ordained this year at Glasgow in the Des Moines
Association, but is preaching also in this Association. Rev. E. Ward
is also among the preachers.
1859. This year is memorable
with the writer of these Sketches as the one in which he was
baptized into the membership of the Oskaloosa Church by Rev. J. F.
Childs, the pastor, and attended his first meeting of the
Association at Fremont. There were reported 119 baptisms 252
additions from all sources, and a total membership of 1307 in 26
Churches. All of these Churches have been organized within less than
ten years. Rev. S. H. Worcester has assumed charge of the Ottumwa
Church and Wm. and F. J. McEwen have entered the Association.
1860. The year 1860 is complained of as one of coldness and
discouragement, yet there are 183 baptisms reported ; 24 Churches,
14 pastors and 1146 members. Three Churches have been dismissed to
unite with the English River Association which was formed this year.
Of pastors not before named are H. S. Cloud, Bellefontaine, and E.
S. Ayers, Blakesburg.
The annual meeting in 1861 was held
with the Bluff Creek Church a few miles west of Eddyville. Many of
the letters lament the "wicked rebellion and the war excitement as
unfavorable to the cause of religion.' Churches 25, pastors 20,
baptisms 177, members 1247. Rev. I. J. Stoddard is preaching at
Bellefontaine, T. J. Arnold at Brookville, J. C. Burkholder at
Fairfield, and G. W. Gunnison at Pella. Most of the Churches are in
the country, meeting in school houses and have preaching only once a
1862. The writer was clerk this year. Baptisms 123;
members 1,286. Wm. Hildreth is pastor at Blakesburg and has baptized
46. A. Robins, 21, at Lovilla, where a Church is received with 66
members. Place of meeting, Pleasant Grove, five miles south of
Chillicothe. We well remember an incident of this anniversary Owing
to heavy rains there were but very few delegates present at the time
appointed. As it cleared away and we were speculating upon the
probabilities of a failure of the meeting, the question went round,
"Had any one present ever known a Baptist Association to prove a
failure?" Not one had ever heard of a case. This was no exception.
The weather cleared and man}' came, though late, and it was a good
meeting. The Association met in 1863 at Fremont. The war is telling
upon the condition of the Churches. Many of the best brethren have
gone into the army. But 27 baptisms are reported and 1,078 members.
Rev. I. J. Stoddard, of Pella, is clerk. Only two Churches now have
above 100 members. In 1864 the Association met at Pella. Same clerk
as last year. Baptisms 57; members 981 in 18 Churches.
Met at Oskaloosa. J. O. Wilson, of Eddyville, clerk. A little
increase; 91 baptisms; 1,041 members. Rev. J. O. Wilson, from
Muscatine, recently ordained, is preaching at Eddyville. This
brother did not remain long in the ministry, but owing to financial
burdens deemed it duty to resort to business, for which he seemed to
have special qualifications, and never returned to the ministry. Of
the 91 baptisms, 60 were reported from Lovilla, where E. B. Hicks, a
licentiate, was preaching. The writer baptized 25 for him in one
1866. Met at Lovilla, in the northwest corner of Monroe
county. The writer was again clerk. On arriving upon the ground it
seemed that no preparation had been made to entertain delegates; the
weather was lowering, and the outlook was forbidding enough. But the
skies cleared, houses were opened, and before we were through it was
agreed that we had had a splendid meeting. There are now but 17
Churches; 9 pastors; 105 baptisms reported; and 1,028 members. Rev.
S. L. Burnham has removed from Muscatine, and is pastor at Ottumwa.
In 1867 the Association met at Ottumwa; 152 baptisms; 1,142 members.
Among the baptisms are 35 at Ottumwa; 25 at Eddyville, J. T. Wilson,
pastor; and 37 at Mt. Carmel, where Rev. J. Ferguson is preaching.
Of the 16 Churches, 6 have meeting houses, viz.: Blakesburg,
Eddyville, Lovilla, Mt. Carmel, Oskaloosa and Ottumwa. R. M. Tracy,
a former member of the Oskaloosa Church, is preaching at Brookville,
and at points in the English River Association, with marked success.
1868. But few changes. Rev. R. A. Clapp is preaching at
Ottumwa, and Rev. J. F. Childs having resigned to give his entire
time to convention work, Oskaloosa is without a pastor. Rev. John
Williams having returned to the vicinity of his old field has been
preaching the last three years at Ashland. There are now 16
churches; i 1 pastors; 82 baptisms during the year; and 1,059
members. In 1869, John Williams, moderator, J. L. Cole, clerk. J.
Kingdon is pastor at Oskaloosa. J. Cheetman and Rev. Wm. Stonaker
are among the pastors, the latter at Eddyville. Churches 18,
baptisms 62. Total 1,067. For 1870 but little change since last
year; 64 baptisms. Oskaloosa is again without a pastor, Mr. Kingdon
having remained but for a short time. Rev. E. H. Scarff has been for
several years supplying the Pella Church acceptably, while teaching
in the Central University.
1871. Rev. J. F. Childs has
returned to Oskaloosa. Rev. R. A. Clapp has resigned at Ottumwa.
Rev. J. R. Shanafelt is preaching at Pella and Nine Mile. Rev. W.N.
Whitaker at Batavia. N. Hafs at Ashland, and W. L. Miller at
Frederick. Churches 17; baptisms 40; members 1,141. In 1872 there
were Churches 18; pastors 9; baptisms 132; members reported 1,069.
H. G. Curtis, of Pella, is clerk. Pella the place of meeting. Rev.
J. R. Shanafelt is preaching at Brookville and at Fairfield, in the
Burlington Association. Rev. E. C. Spinney, at Pella; Rev. C. Darbey,
at Ottumwa; J. H. Miller is at Ashland, and W. L. Miller, at
Blakesburg, Frederick and Pleasant Grove, R. M. Tracy has baptized
53 at Forest Home, and has the largest church membership in the
1873. Met at Forest Home. J. F. Childs,
clerk; 95 baptisms; 1,158 members. About the only notable changes
are that Rev. W. L. Brown has succeeded Bro. Darbey as pastor at
Ottumwa, and T. L. Crandall is at Richland. Pella, E. C. Spinney
still pastor, has baptized 52, and Eddyville reports 21. Rev. Wm.
Stonaker has held on here since 1869.
Pleasant Point is the
place of meeting. Same clerk as the last two years. Only six pastors
for the 18 churches. Nevertheless pastoral work must have been done
in several other churches part of the year. Abingdon reports 24
baptisms and no pastor; Brookville 6; Forest Home 9. A part of the
above presumably the work of Brother Tracy. Pella also reports 10
baptisms and no pastor, Brother Spinney having returned east to
finish his studies. He will be heard of again in Iowa. Brother Brown
has baptized 31 at Ottumwa, and Pastor Stonaker, 15 at Eddyville.
Baptisms in all, 103. Total membership, 1,149.
is the entertaining Church, Rev. J. Sunderland, clerk. Rev. T. Y.
Powell has become pastor at Pella. Rev. H. R. Mitchell at Oskaloosa,
Rev. J. F Childs is preaching at Nine Mile, C. Martin at Brookville,
John Williams at Bladensburg—a new interest with 11 members and — J.
Z. Zimmerman at Abingdon, Blakesburg, and Forest Home. Bro.
Sunderland has succeeded Brother Brown at Ottumwa. Baptisms 21 ;
total membership 1196 in 19 Churches, with 9 pastors.
Meets at Ottumwa. J. Sunderland Clerk. Baptisms 46, total membership
1203. A new interest has been started at New Sharon and Rev. J. F.
Childs is preaching there and at Nine Mile, Leighton, Post office.
Rev. G. W. Hertzog is preaching at Ashland, and Batavia, F. J.
McEwen at Frederick, Wm. Stonaker at Competine, J. Ferguson at
Pleasant Grove, Post office Frederick, and T. Davis at Pleasant
Point, Albia Post office. The last two should have been named in the
same connection last year.
1877. Ashland has the privilege
of greeting the Association this year. Rev. H. R. Mitchell Clerk.
Rev. A. J. Furman has become pastor at Oskaloosa, succeeding Bro. H.
R. Mitchell, who is now pastor at Pella. Rev. Felix Dickerson is
preaching at Frederick. Brother Furman reports 36 baptisms at
Oskaloosa, Pastor Sunderland 28 at Ottumwa, Bro. Mitchell 43 at
Pella and Dickerson, 13 at Frederick. Whole number of baptisms 189 ;
total membership 1231.
1878. In 1878 Competine has the
Anniversary. Rev. Wm. Stonaker, clerk. Only 18 baptisms are reported
from the 20 churches, and only 7 pastors ; total membership 1151.
These figures tell their own" story. But let us not misinterpret
them, nor undervalue the faithful work of holding on and seed
sowing. The harvest time will surely come again. Rev. Charles Payne
has become pastor at Pella, while H. R. Mitchell has returned to the
east."We have no abiding city here.
1879. Annual meeting at
Frederick. Rev. J. W. McMahill, clerk. Only 8 baptisms; members
1041. Rev. R. M. Tracy has returned to the charge at Abingdon and
Competine. J. W. McMahill is preaching at Blakesburg, Cedar Creek,
and Washington; this last a new church with 22 members and 6 of the
18 baptisms. Rev. S. West is preaching at Nine Mile, J. Sunderland
is still at Ottumwa, and Charles Payne at Pella.
is the entertaining Church in 1880. A. N. Cain, clerk. Fifty-nine
baptisms of which 40 are at Competine. R. M. Tracy still pastor. S.
E. Nelson is preaching at Abingdon, and has baptized 7 of the
remaining 18. Rev. A. E. Simons has become pastor at Oskaloosa after
an interval without a preacher, and Geo. E. Tufts succeeds Bro.
Sunderland at Ottumwa. Bro. Sunderland has become General Missionary
of the State Convention and Home Mission Society.
again at Ottumwa. Rev. T. F. Thickstun of Pella is clerk Brother
Charles Payne resigned to return to England, and Brother Thickstun
succeeds him as pastor at Pella. Only three baptisms are reported in
the entire Association. This is a very unusual barrenness. Total
membership 947; 7 pastors, 14 churches. Rev. G. S. Bailey has become
pastor at Ottumwa, and they are moving, or soon to do so, to build a
more commodious meeting house, in a very desirable location.
Oskaloosa has bought the old Presbyterian church and very much
improved their condition.
Oskaloosa is the entertaining
Church in 1882. T. F. Thickstun clerk. Some improvement this year in
fruit-gathering. Competine, R. M. Tracy yet pastor, report 42
baptized, Ottumwa 15, Pellal9; whole number baptized 82; total
membership 1005. Rev. H. Shallenberger is preaching at Abingdon,
Batavia and Brookville, and Rev. B. P. Mace at Albia. Only six
pastors in the Association. Oskaloosa is again vacant. Pella has now
the largest membership, 215; Competine comes next with 180, Ottumwa
170 and Oskaloosa 136. These are all that have over 100.
at Pella. T. P. Thickstun still clerk. W. H. Dorward is pastor at
Oskaloosa, the only material change in the pastoral force.
Forty-seven baptisms and 1,018 members in 11 Churches, with 8
pastors. Pella reports 27 of the baptisms. In 1884, Competine was
the place of meeting. A.N. Cain, clerk. Baptisms 58, of which number
Oskaloosa reports 21; Pella 19 and Ottumwa 7. A new Church is
reported at Hedrick. Oskaloosa is again without a pastor, and there
are only 5 in the Association. Total membership in 11 Churches 984.
In 1885 Hedrick is the place of the gathering tribes. S. A. Swiggett,
clerk. Twenty-seven baptisms; present membership 918. Rev. James
Prey is preaching at Competine and reports 20 of the 27 baptisms in
Thus has been traced the history of the
Oskaloosa Baptist Association from 1851 to 1885, a period of 30
years.Like every other organization it has had its own
peculiarities. One peculiarity of this field has been that most of
the Churches, especially in the earlier parts of its history, were
organized in the country, often, only a short distance out of the
towns. In the older States, and in earlier days, many strong
Churches have grown up and made enduring history in the rural
districts. But in Iowa we have succeeded in maintaining very few
even comparatively strong Churches away from the centres of
population. As a consequence of the policy referred to the Churches
in the towns have, with few exceptions, remained also weak. Another
peculiarity has been that the centres of this district Association,
notably Oskaloosa itself, has been for the most part of its history,
a sort of drill camp for other fields of work. Being the point where
the lines of emigration from the Mississippi River westward
converged to a sort of focus, many emigrants would settle here for a
time and then move on westward. A portion of these would be absorbed
into the Church, and it is hoped be drilled here for work to be
taken up further on, so that while the Church has always remained
weak, it may have filled a relatively large place in the year's
work, of which it is seemingly a small part. The same may be true,
in a measure, of the small Churches that have sprung up in country
neighborhoods, to exist for awhile and die out. The candle stick—the
light bearer—has been removed but the lights have been multiplied
The growth of the Church at Bella, owing to the
interest centering in the Central University there, was almost
phenomenal for a time, but with other changes there were afterwards
great fluctuations. For instance, in 1857 they reported 193 members
and in 1869, 12 years later, only 83. But who can estimate the good
that may have been accomplished even through the dispersion of the
elements thus gathered and drilled for work. Another 12 years,
however, and in 1880 this same Church numbers 182.
history of this Association would be incomplete without a further
mention of Rev. J. F. Childs. the pastor at Oskaloosa from 1856 to
1866, and at intervals thereafter; serving the Church and the State
Convention at the same time; often giving—with the consent and
approval of the — Church full one quarter of the year to work for
the Convention, while acting, through all the years as its
Corresponding Secretary, and all the time with a very small salary.
It is doubtful if any man in Iowa did more self-sacrificing and
arduous toil for the denomination and the Master, during the 15
years from 1855 to 1870, than did Brother Childs. Being a member of
his Church during all the time of the writer's service as General
Missionary and Financial Agent of the Convention, and being
associated with him in the financial details of the work, we can
bear witness to the fidelity and sacrifice of those years. Often the
hours have been spent in his study till midnight in careful
inspection of the finances, and planning for the most effective
prosecution of the work. It has been our lot to meet few men who had
greater endurance, and who seemed to court hard work more than he.
Taking charge of the Church at Oskaloosa in its infancy, in 1856,
and almost at his own charges serving them as pastor, not spar- ing
his own means in order to secure them a house of worship, it was two
and one-half years before he sought or accepted aid from the Home
Mission Society. He received his first appointment from the Society
in 1858, and was aided for six years. During all the time of his
pastorate here he was an active agent in whatever effected the
interest and growth of the Oskaloosa Association.
should also be made, in order to complete this record, of the active
influence of Rev. E. H. Scarff and Rev. Elihu Gunn, and their
families, long connected with the Central University of Pella, and
of Rev. I. J. Stoddard and family, returned missionary from Assam,
India. All these brethren whether active pastors of churches in the
Association or not were always living factors in its life, and with
others connected with the University, contributed to its efficiency
as a Missionary Association. The record of the Pella Church has
always been high, especially in contributions to Foreign Missions.
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