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Churches and Religion

Pages 145-154

Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886

S. H. Mitchell

 Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa



The Fox River Association
Organized in 1849—
Is Found on our Records in 1855—1855 to 1886.
The first appearance of the Fox River Association in our denominational records is in 1855. In a foot note in the Convention minutes for 1854 there Is mention of such a body, "whose churches" it is said "though not formally connected with the Convention, occupy similar ground with their Baptist brethren generally in the State. " It was said to comprise 17 Churches, 7 pastors, 69 persons baptized in 1854, and 628 members. In 1855 there are 15 Churches, 6 pastors, 61 baptisms reported and 578 members. In subsequent tables this Association is said to have been organized in 1849. As nearly as can be ascertained, when first organized they were not in full sympathy with the missionary ideas of our denomination: were in fact an Association of Old School Baptist Churches. The Churches connected with the body when it became identified with us in 1855 were North Union with 51 members, Chequest
Union, 52, Zion, 18, Centerville, 47, Bloomfield 23, Liberty, 44, Salem, 39, North Fabius, 53, Bethlehem, 88. New Hope. 34, Pleasant Grove, 20, Lebanon, 14, Mars Hill, 32, Concord, 23, and Mount Pleasant, 40. Of the above named Churches, the first two were organized in 1849, the third in 1850, Centerville, Bloomfield, Liberty and North Fabius in 1851, Bethlehem, Pleasant Grove, and Mt. Pleasant in 1852, Mars Hill in 1853, and Concord in 1854. Of these the North Fabius Church, with W. Seamster, pastor, reports in 1855, 18 baptisms, and Bethlehem, Sharon Post office, A. Thompson, 23. The pastors are H. Dooley, Abel Edwards, J. W. Osborne, J. Ferguson, W. Seamster and A. Thompson.

1856.    The Churches remain the same except that Salem has dropped out and Union is added with 87 members. The Fremont Church in the Oskaloosa Association seems to have taken the place of the Salem Church. Rev. D. H. Paulis preaching at Bloomfield in 1856, I. Newland at Liberty, A. Smock at Mars Hill, and J. W. Osborne at Concord. Abel Edwards of Drakeville is clerk of the Association, and the place of meeting North Fabius, ten miles south of Bloomfield. Baptisms 55, total membership 630. Of the baptisms Chequest Union reports 13, Liberty 9 and North Fabius 25, In 1857 the annual meeting was at Bloomfield. Rev. Abel Edwards is still clerk. D. H. Paul is laboring at Bloomfield under appointment of the Convention Board. Lebanon Church, Drakeville Post-office, disappears; also Bethlehem, Sharon Post office. There are now 13 Churches, 6 pastors, 114 baptisms, and 584 members. Besides pastors that have been before named we find J. Farquarson at Mars Hill, and F. J. McEwen at Mt. Pleasant. The chief in gatherings by baptism have been Chequest Union 34, North Fabius 24, Mars Hill 27, Concord 10 and Union 7.

1858.    Mars Hill is the place of meeting. D. V. Lewis is clerk. Six new Churches are added, and the year has been one of prosperity. J. L. Cole, G. J. Line, J. T. Milner, B. Ogle, and J. Parker are new pastors. There are now 20 Churches, 10 pastors, 130 and 842 members. In 1859 this Association met at Concord, September 23d, D. V. Lewis clerk. There were 19 Churches, 11 pastors, 55 baptisms and 812 members. Rev. E. Kinman appears as pastor at Bloomfield and Mars Hill, A. J. Hopkins at Pulaski, C. Daughters at Little Fox River, and W. H. Turton at Indian Prairie, Lebanon Post Office. Of these Brother Kinman especially is long to be an important factor in this Association.

1860.    Meets with the Liberty Church 13 miles southwest of Bloomfield. Clerk same as for the last two years. A fruitful year; 164 baptisms being reported, of which Chequest Union reports 37, Mount Pleasant 31, North Union 31 and Zion 20, with several others smaller numbers. Mention is made of four ministers ordained, but we have no means of knowing who they were. Rev. J, C. Burkholder is preaching at Centerville. One small Church, Freedom, with 10 members organized this year. Clerk says in a report to the State Convention; "We had the pleasure of hearing our gifted brother G. J. Johnson of Fort Madison for the first time at our Association, and the presence of several visiting brethren contributed to the interest of our session." The present membership is 935 in 19 Churches with ten pastors.

1861.     Chequest Union is the place of the annual convocation. D. V. Lewis, clerk. But  little change. Baptisms are reported in 12 of the 19 Churches, aggregating 54. Total membership 933. Rev. J. Redburn is pastor at Centerville. In 1862 the Association met with the North Union Church. Lewis still clerk. Rev. R. T. Peak appears as pastor at Bloomfield. Baptisms 49, total membership 923. A new Church called Hopeville, Blakesburg Post-office, appears with 16 members. Organized 1861.

1863.    The annual meeting was held with the New Hope Church, 12 miles east of Centerville. Elder John Redburn, Moderator. The clerk, D. V. Lewis, being absent, A. F. Haines was elected clerk this year. Baptisms 32; total membership 891. Nearly at a stand still. The writer of these Sketches met with the Fox River Association for the first* time, as agent of the State Convention and was cordially received, though there had been some doubt as to the reception of Missionary Agents in this quarter. The Minutes say it was "decided that Brother S. H. Mitchell be permitted to speak." Of course the permission was to speak in behalf of the missionary work, which he was here to represent. The Constitution of the Association then in force had this article, Art. 10th. "Each Church and member of this Association shall be left free to act or not to act on benevolent institutions, and it shall be no bar to fellowship." History would not be true to itself did it not make note of the effects of the prevailing idea in organizations upon the life and perpetuity of the same. At another place we may do this more fully as to the attitude of our Churches and Associations toward the missionary idea. It need only to be said here, that notwithstanding, anti-mission teaching had prevailed in this Association in its earlier history, and its effects will be manifest yet for a long time to come, as noble spirits are to be found here as elsewhere and the future life of our institutions of benevolent Christianity is always in the keeping of these noble spirits. The records show a response to the appeals of the State Convention in 1863 of $30.80, against $11.36 in 1862 and $20.74 in 1861.

The obituary report of this year mentions the departure to his reward of one who, though never known in the flesh by the writer, yet came to be known by the testimony he had left in all this region, as one of God's noblemen. This was Elder Abraham Smoch. He had been for several years "Moderator of this Association, and was much beloved by all who knew him.'' "He had give* two sons to the service of his country, and although at that age of life when one clings with greater tenacity to home and the retirements of private life, he left his quiet retreat and the peaceful duties of the ministry, and entered the service," where "he died of disease in Camp McClellan, with the words of faith and triumph on his lips, trusting in the Lord Jesus."

1864.    The Association met at Centerville. Elder John Redburn, Moderator, D. Lewis again clerk. It is a time of great spiritual barrenness. Only 9 baptisms are reported for the year. Eighteen Churches and 708 members. The distracted condition of the country absorbs everything. Nowhere were there stronger feelings of sympathy and loyalty to the Government than here on the border. But it is sad to relate that those to whom this remark would apply were sometimes in the minority, and there was very strong opposition—in most part from conscientious motives—to any expression of sympathy and devotion to the Government, in religious bodies. This meeting of  the Fox River Association at Centerville, in 1864, is remembered as a critical period. It was a time that "tried" some "men's souls.'' A reminiscence of it may appear in another place. The writer, with a vivid recollection of the discussions of that session, is surprised to turn the Convention Treasurer's report of the year and find a credit of $20.25 as the response to his appeal at the Association.

1865.    Met at Chequest Union, Davis county. D. V. Lewis, clerk. Churches 17; pastors 13; baptisms 24; members 686. Among the pastors of former years not before mentioned, were A. Saladay and A. P. Berry. The latter does not appear this year. New names in the pastorate are J. W. Bolster, Centerville, J. A. Clark, East Shoal Creek, T. W. Wisdom, Hopewell and Mount Pleasant, E. Carey, Liberty, F. M. Fenton, New Hope, and E A. Packard and D. Richards, Union and Zion respectively.

1866.    In 1866 the Association met at North Fabius, 9 miles south of Bloomfield. The veteran clerk still at the helm. Few Associations have ever had a better clerk than D. V. Lewis. There are some more hopeful indications in the Association. One or two new Churches added. Baptisms 50; total membership in 19 Churches 738. Added from all sources 129. New pastors J. T. Gunter, Chariton Kiver, A. Huckaby, W. B. Shoemake and J. H. Pry. The Fox River Association runs up its contribution to the work of the Convention this year to $79.75.

1867.    Met with the Concord Church, 9 miles northwest of Centerville. No change of clerk. Nineteen Churches, 12 pastors, 142 baptisms, 915 members: 239 added from all sources. The reports indicate a good degree of prosperity, much better than for several years past. Rev. Arthur Stott is pastor at Centerville, and P. Inskeep at Milton. Ten of the 19 Churches have meeting houses. A number begin to report contributions and Sabbath School statistics. The next year, 1868, the annual meeting was at Milton. The only report found in accessible records this year is that of contributions to the State Convention, amounting to $84.85. This indicates a good degree of life.

1869.    In 1869 the place of meeting is not known. Rev. E. Kinman was Moderator, Jesse Reckner, clerk. Churches 20 ; pastors 17 ; baptisms 77 ; members 1,044. The largest number of baptisms is at Bethel, T. W. Wisdom, pastor, 24. The next largest, New Hope, A. P. Berry, 10. The contributions to the State Convention this year reached $116.50. This is probably the high water mark of contributions in the Fox River Association.

1870.    Met at Monterey. Jesse Reckner is again clerk. Churches 21, pastors 10, baptisms 150, members 1109. But little change of the working forces. Many of the pastors change Churches within the Association almost yearly. These changes the historian does not attempt to note. But the pastoral forces in the Association remain nearly the same. A few have remained with some permanence in one place, notably Rev. R. T. Peak at Bloomfield. The number of baptisms and their distribution among 14 of the 21 Churches, indicate more than usual fruitfulness in the year's work. Also the number in individual Churches shows quite extended revivals in some parts of the field. Bethel, Rev. T. W. Wisdom pastor, reports 36 Hope Church, Rev. J. H. Miller, 23; Bethlehem, F. M. Fenton, 17; and several others range from 7 to 15.

1871.    Chariton River Church has the privilege of entertaining this year, Jesse Reckner still clerk. 21 Churches, 14 pastors, 74 baptisms and 1106 members, 140 added in all ways. Only three of the 21 Churches have been organized since 1865. Most of the Churches in this Association are found in Davis and Appanoose counties with perhaps the south part of Monroe. The annual meeting in 1872 was at East Shoal Creek. No account of this meeting comes down to us by the only sources at hand; neither of the work of the year. It is suggestive of a breaking up somewhat of relations that were cultivated with marked benefit to the cause a few years ago, that only 15.00 went from this entire Association to the work of the State Convention in 1872.

1873.    By the organization of the Centerville Association on the west part of its field the territory of this Association is reduced to about one half its former extent and the number of its Churches to 18 with 6 pastors, and 628 members, of whom 83 were baptized during the year. The pastors are E. Kinman, J. Ripley, B. F. Ford, S. E. Nelson, J. W. Seamster, and A. Saladay, serving respectively the Floris and North Union, the Hopewell, the Liberty and New Hope, the Milton, the North Fabius, and West Grove Churches in the order named. The Bloomfield, Bethlehem, Chequest Union, Providence and Zion Churches are without pastors. Brother Reckner still serves the Association as clerk. We have missed from the roll of pastors now for two or three years the name of our esteemed brother R. T. Peak. Few ministers have a more honored record, none a purer. Of the anniversary of 1874 which was to take place at Bethlehem we have no account.

1875.    Churches 12, pastors 6, baptisms 26, membership 571. It is something like a bereavement to find so meager a record and no representation at all in our State Missionary work. 1876 is not reported. For 1877 the clerk, Jesse Reckner, reports September 28, 1877, the following statistics: Churches 11, Baptisms 65, total membership 590, pastors 7 The pastor at Bloomfield is Rev. J. B. Edmonson. He is the step-son of Rev. R. T. Peak. He will honor the exemplary family in which he was raised. The Association falls into line again with a contribution to the State Convention of $8.65.

Place of meeting Bloomfield, September 21, 1878. A measure of prosperity seems dawning again. Churches 11, pastors 7, baptisms 123, members 692. J. B. Edmonson reports at Bloomfield 86 baptized Wm. Beard 10 a Beulah, a new Church, and 17 at Hopewell Rev. J. Seamster 39 at Providence. In 1879 the meeting was at Hopewell Church, September 27, Jesse Reckner clerk still. 10 Churches, 4 pastors, 36 baptisms, and 621 members. Rev. D. S. Starr has been preaching in this Association last year and this. Rev. Wm. Beard is supplying 3 Churches and reports 24 baptized at Chequest Union. The Association has again increased its contribution to State and Home Missions to $23.96.

1880.    Meets at Floris. Churches 10, pastors 5, baptisms 10, members 673. A. C. Edwards has become pastor at Bloomfield. If but little is contributed in this field for state Mission Work, it ought to be remembered also that but little missionary work has been done on this field. Nothing for years, unless it be a very rare visit by the General Missionary. There were in 1881 still 10 Churches but only 3 pastors, supplying 8 of the Churches; baptisms 7, total membership reported 688. The pastors are A. C. Edwards, J. W. Seamster and E. Kinman. Bro. Kinman has become the veteran of the Fox River Association, and a right noble record has he made in this trying field. For the year 1882 but two ministers are reported on this field and only three baptized during the year. F. M. Coffey and J. W. Seamster are the pastors. Brother Coffey is settled at Bloomfield. I. F. Jenkins is clerk. We have for 1883 and 1884 no account of the work of this Association further than [that $36.50 were contributed to the Convention in 1883, and in 1884 $16.45.

1885.    I. F. Jenkins of Bloomfield is clerk. Some little signs of life again. Nine Churches, 5 pastors, 58 baptisms, and 616 members. Rev. H. Shallenberger is preaching at Chequest Union and Floris, J. W. Seamster at Hopewell and Hickory Grove, C. Daughters at Milton, H. H. Modisett at North Union and W. C. Shoemaker at Liberty where there are 30 baptisms reported. No contributions reported. Bloomfield is without a pastor and reports 42 members. Since the organization of the Centerville Association in 1873, the Fox River Association has been limited to Davis county and its immediate borders. There is little, if any, more Baptist strength on its present field now than there was twenty-five years ago. Then, and for years after, there was not a mile of railroad in its borders. Now it is well provided with railroad facilities, and there is evidence of material progress. The ministers of this Association have with few exceptions mainly supported themselves by working or superintending their farms etc. Many most excellent and worthy men have nobly served their generation in that way. But the history we have been sketching will readily suggest that, in the times on which we have fallen, enduring growth is not secured in that method. The early practice of multiplying organizations without the probable conditions of permanency, and in many instances near, but away from the centers of population, together with the want of sympathy upon the part of many with the Missionary idea of the New Testament Church, will account for the want of growth and permanency. A careful observation will discover that these causes have produced like effects almost invariably wherever they are found to exist. The Centerville Association, absorbing the western half of this has shown more of the elements of life. As its history is essentially a continuation of that of the Fox River, we give it in the next chapter.

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