The Bedford Association
~ 1856 to 1865 ~
A Thrifty and Vigorous
Beginning in Southwestern Iowa
Multiplying and Bearing Fruit
An Inspiring History.
NOT least among the vigorous and aggressive Baptist Associations in Iowa from
1856 to 1865 is to be recorded the Bedford Association. In 1854 Rev. James M.
Smith came from Indiana and settled at Bedford, Taylor county, Iowa. In 1855
there was reported an unassociated Church at Bedford, with J. M. Smith pastor,
and 48 members.
In 1856 the Bedford Association was constituted with the following Churches and
statistics: Bedford, J. M. Smith pastor, 57 members Bethel, A. Vanderpool, 24;
Bethesda, E. H. Pearce, 45; Hawleyville, J. M. Smith, 19; New Garden, A.
Vanderpool, 44; Platte Branch, V. Night, 27; Decatur City, I. M. Seay, 18 ;
Vernal, I. M. Seay, 97; Salem, V. Night, 10; making 9 Churches, 5 pastors, and
341 members. The New Garden, Bethel, Vernal, and Bethesda Churches were found a
year earlier in the Eden Association. In 1856 there was an unassociated Church
in Adams county and one at Red Oak Grove. Rev. J.W. Nye was pastor of
both. Neither of these
appear in subsequent reports for several years, yet they doubtless mark the
beginning of Baptist work in Adams and Montgomery counties, as early as 1856.
Rev. I. M. Seay was the first clerk of the Bedford Association. The first
Anniversary was held with the Vernal Church in 1857. This was in Clark county,
ten miles southwest of Osceola. Rev. I. M. Seay was continued as secretary. Four
new Churches were organized during the year, viz. Freedom, near Decatur City,
with 10 members ; Mt. Ayr, 13 ; West Union, (Postoffice Princeton, Mo.) 30; and
Winterset, Madison county, 25. Rev. A, W. Russell was pastor at Winterset, D.
Ivens at Bedford, Rev. Thomas Miller at Decatur City, and I. M. Seay at Vernal.
Sixteen baptisms were reported, and 446 members in 13 Churches. The annual
report of the Convention Board for 1857 mentions Brother Seay as its Missionary
in the Bedford Association, and says, "The field which he occupies is a large
and destitute region in the southwestern portion of the state * * The
Association was formed last year, and the Churches are nearly all of them of not
more than two or three years' growth.'' Rev. A. W. Russell was also a missionary
of the Convention at Winterset, his appointment dating from the first of June.
Thus, although the Iowa Baptist State Convention had only been doing independent
missionary work about two years, we see it thrusting its beneficent efforts
forward into the most destitute fields and the remotest parts of the state.
1858.. In 1858 the Second Anniversary was held with the Bethesda Church,
southwest of Winterset, in Madison county. It has been a year of almost
unparalleled growth and successful revival
work. Seven new Churches have been organized and 304 persons baptized. The new
Churches are Camden, Clarinda, Hayden Grove, New Salem, Platte Valley, Mount
Olive and Xenia. Rev. J. M. Smith, at Bedford, reports 74 baptisms and 146
members. Sixteen of the 20 Churches report baptisms, 11 of them 10 or more.
Brother Seay reports 64 at Vernal. He has labored again this year as Missionary
and Financial Agent of the Convention, but owing to infirm health
is compelled to rest from labor for a season, and the Association have requested
the appointment of another brother to be named by them to fill the vacancy. Rev.
A. W. Russell, in a note to the Convention, says, "Many of the Churches that
have hitherto received aid from the Convention have become self-sustaining.
Among these is the Winterset Church, who, in addition to sustaining their
pastor, are building a commodious house of worship. They acknowledge their
indebtedness to the Convention and hope soon to be able to repay many fold." The
Winterset Church have since, many times, redeemed the pledge. Rev. J. Woodward
is pastor of the 1st Leon
Church, his post office, Canesville, Missouri. The next year we find the same
name at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and conclude therefore that it was Rev. Jonah
Woodward who died, at an honored old age in Illinois a very few years ago. Revs.
J. A. Todd and D. Ivens are pastors, the former at Camden, and the latter at
Platte Branch and Platte Valley.
1859.. Bedford entertained the Association in 1859. Rev. I. M. Seay is still
corresponding secretary. The Church at Winterset transfers its associational
connection to the Western Iowa Association, just organized. The 1st
Church, Adams county, and the West Nodaway
Valley Church are received, making now 21 Churches, with 6 pastors, reporting
136 baptisms, 218 additions, and 910 members. Rev. E. W. Hall is pastor at
Clarinda and Hayden Grove, P. Andrews at Mount Ayr, and J. Lambert at Platte
Valley. Rev. J. M. Smith was appointed missionary of the Convention at a salary
of $4OO, to be raised on the field. He reports, in connection with his labors,
52 persons baptized and 69 added by letter and experience, two new Churches
organized and two ministers ordained. He has preached in ten counties in
southwestern Iowa. Rev. Joshua Currier, a visitor to the Association, writes to
the State Convention, in 1859: "The
Christian activities of this Association the past year have been peculiarly
successful. From a small beginning three years since, it has become a large and
efficient body. A missionary was employed through the year, whose labors were
abundantly blessed in the conversion of souls, their addition to the Churches,
and in constituting new Churches." Remarkable liberality was shown in benevolent
contributions, especially in pledges and contributions to sustain a missionary
Met at Leon. Rev. E. W. Hall, of Bedford, was clerk. "The reports from the
Churches exhibited the fact that the revivals of the previous year were not
fictitious, and also that the Redeemer's Kingdom was still advancing in our
midst." Eight Churches " were visited with special revivals and received tokens
of Divine favor." Five new Churches were received at this session. One hundred
and seventy-four baptisms were reported, 300 added from all sources, and the
In 1861 the meeting was at the Camden Church, E. W. Hall, clerk. Twelve pastors
now dispense the Word. Rev. Edward Otis, C. Bullock, P. Doty, S. Hollen, J. L.
Cole, G. Elmore and J. Evans have not been named before. Rev. James M. Smith is
still greatly blessed as missionary of the Association and Convention, though
the cause is suffering from the unfavorable influences of the rebellion in the
1862.. Met in 1862 with the West Nodaway Valley
Church, in Page county. New pastors are Revs. F. Edwards, J. T. Mercer, A.
Stanley and S. White. There seems to have been but little revival, though the
meeting was an occasion of "rich spiritual enjoyment."
1863.. In 1863 the Association met at Lewis, Cass county, where a Church was
organized in 1860 and has now 51 members. James W. Brown, of Lewis, was clerk.
In a report to the Convention, Rev. I. M. Seay says, "Many of the Churches are
in a very low state and without pastors, yet we have occasion to thank God and
take courage, for some have been blessed with precious revivals, in which
souls have been converted and added to them through the instrumentality" of our
missionary." Rev. S. E. Baldwin and C. C. Baird are added to the list of
pastors. There is a Church at Sidney with 42 members but no pastor. Of the 29
Churches in this Association only three are yet ten years old. Occupying a
territory of not less than ten counties, and having had at one time over 1,000
Where can ten years of more inspiring history be found? The surviving
pioneers of that period must look back upon it with feelings somewhat like those
of the inspired Psalmist, when he sung "I will remember thee from the land of
Jordan and the Hermonites, from the Hill Mizar."
The Bedford Association met in 1864 with the Bethesda Church. J. H. Miller was
clerk. In October, 1863, the Southwestern Iowa Association had been formed which, in a year or two, will absorb into itself largely the vital energies
of the body we are now sketching. The days of the Bedford Association, as an
organization with that name, are fast being numbered, but it has made an undying
record, and has much vitality yet to be merged in other organizations. There are
yet, in 1864, 22 Churches and770 members. Rev. S. E. Baldwin, missionary of the
Convention in this Association, has baptized 52 persons, and reports that 107
have been added to the Churches in connection with his mission.
In 1865 the Bedford Association met with the Grand River Church, in Decatur
county, where its name was changed to that of the East Grand River Association.
As the Southwestern Association has already absorbed the Churches in five county
seats, viz: Bedford, Clarinda, Lewis, Red Oak and Sidney, and as its history
seems to be the logical continuation of that of the Bedford Association which
formerly occupied the whole southwest part of the State, we drop here the
history of this body and take up, in the next chapter, that of the Southwestern
Association; reserving the East Grand River Association for a subsequent sketch.