Mahaska County

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Histories of Mahaska County

Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886
S. H. Mitchell Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa

CHAPTER XXXIV

Pages 325 - 332

THE ENGLISH RIVER ASSOCIATION -- KEOKUK, IOWA
POWESHEIK AND OTHER COUNTIES -- ORGANIZED IN 1860
1860 to 1886

THREE new Associations were organized in 1860. One of these was the English River Association. This body was organized, and had its first meeting with the Church at {South English. Rev. J. C. Miles was its first cleric. There were in the organization 8 churches, 5 of which had never been associated. The following is the list: Brooklyn, W.C. Miles pastor, 13 members; Cedar Creek, J. Frey, 40; Clear Creek, E. Ward, 48; Deep River, J.C. Miles, 31; Montezuma, 11 members; 2nd Pella, Wm. Elliott, 102; 2nd Sigourney, J. Frey, 59; and South English J. Frey, 50. Total 370, of whom 84 had been baptized and 134 received from all sources during the year, 36 had been baptized at 2nd Pella, 13 at Sigourney, and 20 at Deep River. The field of the new Association lay in Keokuk. Powesheik, Iowa, Mahaska, and Marion counties.

1861: In 1861 the Association met with the Deep River Church at Dresden, Powesheik county. J.H. Sanders was secretary. Rev. J.C. Miles wrote of this field then: "We look upon a large portion of our Association limits as Missionary ground." Some of the churches had already received aid from the Convention but they were very feeble and would still need it. $85.78 bad been contributed in 1861. A good beginning for this pioneer body.

A good revival interest when the Association was organized seems somewhat to have abated. Only 10 baptisms reported. Rev. Samuel West is preaching at 2d Sigourney and South English, (There is no 1st Sigourney Church.) Rev. J.C. Miles was missionary of the Convention, preaching at Dresden and Brooklyn. The latter piace was at the time "the terminus of the Mississippi & Missouri River R.R., now the Chicago & Rock Island.''

1862: The Third annual meeting, in 1862, was held at Indianapolis, in Mahaska county. Samuel Harlan, clerk. Howard Grove, Madison, Marengo and Martinsburg Churches were added. The Martinsburg Church came from the Oskaloosa Association, and was organized in 1852. There are now 493 members in twelve churches. Rev. J. M. Wood is the pastor at Howard Grove. Second Pella and Sigourney are without pastors. Rev. Wm. Elliott is preaching for the Madison Church, six miles north of Oskaloosa and has baptized 16 of the 36 reported. The anniversary in 1863 was at Martinsburg. Samuel Harlan still clerk. Rev. O.L. Crittenden has become pastor at 2nd Pella, Rev. J. Frey at Sigourney; no longer called 2d Sigourney. A church appears at Millersburg with 9 members, J.C. Miles, pastor. In the winter of 1863 the writer, having just received his appointment as General Missionary and Financial Agent of the Iowa Baptist State Convention, made his first trip, on horseback, down through the region of which we now write, Montezuma, Dresden, Millersburg; over the bleak, snow covered prairies, from settlement to settlement; the results of course were meagre, but they were something, and they marked the beginning of a period, now looked back to through the vista of nearly a quarter of a century with deepest interest, as one of great blessing to the worker, and it may be humbly hoped to some others as well. Rev. J. C. Miles was one of the nine missionaries of the Convention that year including the general missionary, and the little Association is credited with the honorable sum of $138.25, contributed to its treasury.

1864: The Association met at Sigouruey in 1864. S. Harlan, clerk. The Montezuma Church does not appear. We were present about 1860 at a council for recognition of a church at Montezuma. There was a good deal of zeal in the council if not in the church, for the establishment of a live gospel church in this county seat. But alas! the name appears on the records for the next three years with 10 members, no pastor, so far as appears no services, no administration of the ordinances and then disappears. Query: was there ever a Baptist Church at Montezuma? One lesson we learn by such experiences, namely, that we cannot build a New Testament Church in any place unless the Lord give us lively stones to build into the structure. True, there were excellent Christians in this little band at Montezuma, and there may have been at the time good reason to hope for growth, but changes came about, and hence the result we have noted above. The year 1864 seems to have been a fruitful one. One hundred and twenty-three persons were baptized and there were 704 members. The Richland Church, John T. Walker, pastor, was added to the list. There was a church organized at Richland in ] 850, and for several years belonging to the Oskaloosa Association, but of late the name has disappeared. Brother Frey, pastor, reported 30 baptisms at Sigourneyand 27 at Cedar Creek (Indianapolis) Wood at Madison Cliurch 23, Miles at Marengo 11, and West at South English 13.

1865: In 1865 the Fifth Anniversary was at Howard Grove. Fremont Church from the Oskaloosa Association and the Brushy Bend and Rock Creek Churches were received. It was another year of revivals; 116 baptisms, 184 additions, and 859 members. Rev. O. L. Crittenden has been pastor of the 2d Fella Church since 1863 and reports 26 baptized; Frey at Sigourney 10, Wood at Howard Grove 15, and at Madison 27. When we record these successes in winning souls, and then remember the churches as they are known a little later we are reminded of the Saviour's words ill reference to the lepers that were cleansed, "Where are the nine?" But we rejoice that there were some to "give glory to God." In 1866 the Association was to meet at 2d Fella" Rev. S. West clerk. Deacon Samuel Harlan had served as clerk four years. Five new churches were added, viz.: Cherry Grove, Farmersville, Forest Home, Little Mount and Pleasant View. Rev. A.P. Berry is pastor at Fremont, R. M. Tracy at Forest Home and Pleasant View, and S.E. Nelson at Richland. Rev. Wm. Elliott labored as Missionary of the Association, receiving $550 for his services, besides which the ciiurches of the Association contributed $115.90 to the Convention treasury in 1866.

1867: South English entertained the Association in 1867. The Agricola, New Haven, Pleasant Ridge, and South River Churches were received. The name of the Clear Creek Church is changed to Talleyrand. There are now 24 churches, 8 pastors, 230 baptisms reported, 408 additions from all sources, and 1235 members. The growth in 1867 is something remarkable. It is a revival year throughout the state, the whole number of baptisms being 1673, the largest number reached since 1857, when there were 1800 baptized. Eight of the 24 churches have meeting houses, viz: Cedar Creek, Fremont, Howard Grove, New Haven, 2d Pella, South English, Forest Home, and Sigourney. On this field of 24 churhes and over 1200 members, ten years earlier there were not to exceed four or five churches and perhaps 150 members.

1868: In 1868 the Association met at Indianapolis. J. McCoy clerk. Rev. R. M. Tracy had been for two years Missionary of the Convention in a part of this field. In acknowledging the favor of the Convention in his report he says, "though we shall attempt to sustain ourselves, it will be a pleasure to welcome your agent in our mids'. We believe it is 'more blessed to give than to receive.'" In 1869 Marysville was the place of meeting. Samuel Harlan Moderator, James McCoy clerk. The revival of the last two or three years has in a measure subsided; 71 baptisms are reported, and 1381 members; 29 of the baptisms were at the South River Church, S. Ferguson, pastor. Rev. J.G. Craven had been pastor a year or so at 2d Pella, but had resigned. Met in 1870 at Agricola Church. Bro. McCoy still clerk. Rev. M. Gregson is preaching at Agricola and Little Mount, S.E. Nelson at Cedar Creek and Springfield the latter a new organization with 22 members, 12 of whom were baptized during the year. Wm. Elliott at Cherry Grove and Linn Grove, G. W. Cutting at Deep River; S. Ferguson at Farmersville and South River, R.M. Tracy at Forest Home, H.H. Parks, at Howard Grove, O. L. Critenden at his old place in 2d Pella, and Amos Pratt at Sigourney and South English. The value of church property in the Association is $20,500. In 1871 met at Cherry Grove, Mahaska county. Rev. J.W. Coffman clerk. Baptisms 119. Rev. O.M. Merrick was pastor at Brooklyn and at Malcomb, a new organization on the Rock Island railroad. Rev. J. McCoy at Cedar Creek (Indianapolis), G.M. Vallandingham at North River, G.W. Dowd at Fremont and Richland, H.A. Sarvis at South River, J.W. Coflmanat Sigourney, and M. Gregson at Little Mount and Springfield. The Little Mount Church, seven miles west of Montezuma, is the oldest anywhere in its vicinity, having been organized in 1855. Brother Gregson, whose home is here, was probably instrumental in its organization. He was here in 1856. Forty-one baptisms were reported at Rock Creek (What Cheer), and 24 at South English.

1872: Met in 1872 at Sigourney. Rev. S. West has returned to the pulpit at South English and Wm. Elliott at Cherry Grove. Agricola now numbers 160, 15 of whom have been baptized during the year, H.A. Sarvis pastor. Prairie View Church is just received, with 18 baptisms and 33 members, S.E. Nelson pastor. The Howard Grove, New Haven and Talleyrand Churches united, in 1870, with the Washington Association. The anniversary in 1873 was at Springfield. Rev. A.W. Sutton has become pastor at 2d Pella, J.C. McSpadden at South River. Met in 1874 at Little Mount. Rev. J.T. Long appears as pastor at Richland. For the last three years James McCoy, S. West and J. Frey have served as clerks. For the years 1875 to 1880 inclusive, the anniversaries have been at Richland, What Cheer, South English, North River, Fairview Church and Fremont. Brethren West and McCoy served as clerks. Brother West for 1875 and 1880, and Brother McCoy the four intervening years.

1875: In 1875 the Agricola Churcli, seven miles soutlieast of Montezuma, reported 4 baptisms and 100 members, against 160 three years before. This church, organized in 1867, out of the raw quarry as we might say, and reporting the next year 110 members, has a history that will do to study as a type of its class. 9 of 16 churches in the Association in 1875 report no additions and 10 of them no preaching. In 1876 there is some increase, 87 baptisms were reported, and 843 members against 761 the previous year. Rev. J. M. Wood is at Fremont and Fairview, and reports on the two fields 43 baptisms. Rev. T.L. Crandall, a recent student of the Central University, is settled at Sigourney. Rev. E.B. Porter preaclied at Rock Creek (What Cheer) and at Prairie View. In 1877 Rev. H. Whitney appears as pastor of the Springfield Church, now Delta, and in 1878 S.J. Davis at Cherry Grove. The 2d Pella Church, after a career, at first prosperous, then variable, then of steady decline, has finally disappeared from the records. Some very excellent spirits have been in the ministry and in the membership of that church and it had its day of usefulness and made an honorable record. Its contributions to the benevolent work of the denomination were exceptionally liberal. Though the candle stick may not be longer needed in that place, the light that was kindled upon it has not gone out. loka reports with B. Hollingsworth pastor in 1879, and Brother Crandall has resigned a three years' pastorate at Sigourney. S.E. Nelson, S.J. Davis, M. Gregson, J. Grey, G.M. Vallandingham, and S. West are the pastors.

1880: In 1880, R.M. Tracy has assumed the pastorate at loka, and reports 14 baptisms and 57 members. The Rock Creek Church has changed its name to What Cheer. Rev. James Frey, Sr., who came to Iowa when he was seventy years old, and who was instrumental in organizing the Rock Creek Church, quietly passed to his rest January 3, after two years' painful suffering from cancer. From 1881 to 1886, the Anniversaries were held at What Cheer, loka, Sigourney, South English, What Cheer again and Fremont. Its records were kept for the respective years by S. West, James McCoy, West again, and McCoy the last three years. In 1881. we find F.N. Byram pastor at Fairview, and in 1882 A.C. Edwards at Sigourney and Delta. In 1883 H. Shallenberger is preaching at loka and James Jeffries at AVhat Cheer, and in 1885 A. H. Lyons at Sigourney. A number of pastors in this Association have done patient and steady worlv in their fields for many years; notably Brother Gregson at Little Mount, fifteen or more years of steady work, Brother West at South English and Brother Frey at Sigourney and other points. Mention has been made of Agricola Church. A. comparison of this and the Little Mount Church, about the same distance in opposite directions from Montezunm, the county seat of Poweshielv county, will give a fair illustration of two opposite types of Church life. From the organization of the Agricola Church it was but a very few years until it numbered 160 members, most of whom had been baptized into its fellowship. Then it began to depline as rapidly nothing to report, and in about fourteen years from its organization disappears from the records. For three or four years S.E. Nelson was the successful pastor, then for a few years more there were different supplies, and after about eleven years no further service reported. On the other hand, from the organization of the Little Mount Church in 1855 Rev. M. Grregson, with an occasional year or two of intermission, has been their steady pastor, most of the time doubtless laboring at his own charges, and though in an obscure field with limited opportunities for growth, there have been many evidences of church life through at least 25 years of its existence. In 1885 there12 churches, 7 pastors, 36 baptisms reported and 705 members. In 1886 there is not much to report. This Association is evidently suffering depletion from the same causes as many others in the older parts of the State, and there may be causes peculiar to itself. It has no strong churches. The only church numbering 100 is Sigourney. The largest number of baptisms in the last six years was 56 in 1884. The average per year has been less than 30.

Transcribed by Constance Diamond