Churches and Religion

Pages 41 - 46

Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886

S. H. Mitchell
Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa


Acknowledgement - Rapid Growth - Boundries
Associations Multiple Great Revivals
Baptisms - Home Mission Society 1859


FOR many of the facts contained in the last chapter, I am very largely indebted to a paper written by Rev. J. F. Childs, and read before the State Convention in 1874, and which has never been published. From his connection with the Secretaryship of the Convention for so many years, and his energy and zeal in gathering documents and facts, there probably is, or has been, no man in Iowa whose facilities for historical accuracy in these matters are equal to those of Bro. Childs.

In the present chapter we shall note the rapid growth of the general work in the decade from 1852 to 1862. In 1852 there were yet but three Associations, 50 Churches, and 1,996 members; one Baptist to 115 of the population. There were then 30 ministers. A year later, 1853, there are four Associations, 65 Churches, 36 ministers, 299 baptisms and 2,385 members. The border line of Baptists at this time might be drawn from Decatur county on the south, through "Fort Des Moines,"' bending to the eastward till it touches Marion, in Linn county, thence northward to West Point, in Fayette county, thence to Rossville, in Allamakee. It does not appear that there was an organization of Baptists west or north of this supposed line. Marshalltown, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and points north on the Cedar River, had then not been heard of as regards Baptists. The same is true of the territory stretching away westward towards the setting sun.

I can hardly forbear to pause and let imagination make her utmost effort to take in the situation. The standard, our great denominational paper for the northwest, under its present management, was about beginning its career of untold usefulness for this vast domain. That "Kansas-Nebraska Bill," which, by its repeal of the "Missouri Compromise" — thus seeking to open up to slavery the territories west to the Rocky Mountains — inaugurated the new "irrepressible conflict" which put an end to slavery in the United States, had not yet passed through Congress. It was indeed the beginning of a new era in many respects, and we shall find it the beginning of a new era with the Baptists of Iowa. We have seen that, for the ten years previous, growth had been slow; from 463 to 2,385, or an average of 192 2-10 per year. We may anticipate the next ten years' growth, from 1853 to 1863, by pointing out, here, that it is to be 10,208 or an average of 1,020 8-10 per year. We will take a bird's-eye view of this growth of Associations and Churches, mentioning the names only of such Churches as are, for geographical or other reasons, central or typical.

Turning over two years to 1855 we find three new Associations had been added, the Eden in 1853, and the Dubuque in 1855, while the Fox River Association, though organized several years earlier, does not appear in our records till about this time, and is not counted in the list previous to this date.  The Central and Oskaloosa Associations had both been organized in 1852, making five at that date if Fox River had been counted. As near as I can get at the facts now, the Fox River Association was organized in 1849 as an Old-School Baptist Association, and came into our ranks about 1855. At this date there are unassociated Churches at Waterloo, at Oskaloosa, at Ottumwa, at Bedford, and at several other places. A year later at Council Bluffs and Red Oak Grove. These are picket posts. Others follow soon at Denison, with Rev. J. W. Denison on guard, and at Webster City, with Rev. O. A. Holmes, who had for several years previously held the fort at Maquoketa. Several of these unassociated Churches remained in that condition for a number of years — we speak now of these as central points — because they were too remote from other Churches to find association.  We can understand by this something of what it cost to occupy these frontier posts.  To name the noble brethren who did it, and many of whose names have run through all the subsequent history of our State, while
some have gone hence to stand on guard here no more, would be to lengthen these Sketches beyond the publisher's, if not the reader's, patience. Indeed, we can begin nowhere and end nowhere in the mention of names without the fear of omitting many just as worthy of mention as those named.

Turning now to the records as they stand in 1860, and looking back over the decade, what do we see of the growth of this active period?  Here is the Bedford Association organized in 1856. It had in 1860 twenty-five Churches and 1,116 members. All of these churches except one had been organized within the ten years. The Cedar Valley Association, organized in 1856, has in 1860 nineteen Churches and 593 members, and every church organized since 1850. The Iowa Valley Association, organized in 1858, has seven Churches and 220 members, not a Church more than five years old, in 1860. The Linn Association, organized in 1857, has eighteen Churches and 617 members, and only two Churches that were organized prior to 1850. Fairview in 1848 and Marion in 1843. The Western Association, organized in 1859, has in 1860 ten Churches and 206 members, all the Churches organized within three years. The Dubuque Association, organized in 1855, has in 1860 eighteen Churches and 724 members. This Association was drawn largely from the Davenport and contains some of the older Churches of the State; nevertheless, of the eighteen Churches in 1860, twelve have been organized within the decade. Thus we have, leaving out the growth during the same period in the old Associations, added within this decade five new Associations (from 1858 to 1860) containing at the latter date eighty-seven Churches and 8,270 members. But the growth had been chiefly in the last half of the decade. Of the eighty-seven Churches only fifteen having been organized prior to 1855.

The Upper Des Moines, the English River, and the Turkey River Associations followed quickly in 1860, and the work has spread itself over the settled parts of the State; keeping pace, and more than keeping pace, with the rapid settlement of the State itself. In eight years the ratio of Baptists to the population has risen from one in 115 in 1852 to one in less than fifty-nine in 1860.  The population of the State in the eight years has increased from 230,888 to 676,485, or nearly as multiplied by three. The period under review was not only one of growth by immigration, the rapid filling up of the State bringing in many energetic Baptists with the tide. It was evidently a period of great revival and spiritual activity among the Churches. The former period of seed sowing and slow growth was succeeded by one of ripening grain and Joyful reaping. It is refreshing to study the records of those years, and witness the evidence of God's gracious presence.  It causes the prayer to rise up in my own heart as I write, "O Lord revive thy work." "Wilt thou not revive us again?" and "Restore unto us the joy of thy salvation?'' that we "may teach transgressors thv ways and that sinners may be converted to thee!"  May I not pause here to ask that the Iowa readers of these imperfect sketches, when they read these lines, will join the writer in this fervent prayer?

The number of baptisms reported in 1853 was 299. This was the largest number that had ever been reported in any one year. The whole number reported for the ten years ending with 1853 was 1,513; an average of 151 per year. The whole number of baptisms for the ten years ending with 1863 was 8,998, an average of 899 per year.  The great revival continued through the years 1858, 1859 and 1860; the baptisms were respectively 1,890, 1,173 and 1,324.

In our next chapter we shall give attention to the missionary activity of Iowa Baptists, and the origin and progress of the strictly Missionary History of the State Convention, with other features of Missionary growth.  It will be proper to close this chapter with a notice of the Home Mission Society's work in Iowa during the period we have had under review. During the decade, 1852 to 1861, inclusive, the Society issued to missionaries in Iowa 194 commissions, an average of over nineteen per year. Their reports summarize as follows: Weeks of labor, 7,426 number of baptisms, 1,860; amount of appropriations, 138,917; amount of receipts, $4,990.

We will take the year 1859 as the period of high-tide. We find the Society's work for the year represented by the following weeks of labor: James Schofield, Hardin, 26; A. Chapin, Vinton, 13; J. Woodward, Cedar Rapids, 52 L. M. Newell, Waukon, 18; Thomas M. Ind, Burlington, 52; George Scott, Strawberry Point, 26; Charles E. Brown, Vernon Springs, 26;  P. P. Shirley, Le Claire, 13; J. M. Coggshall, Wapello, 46; G. G. Edwards, Toledo, 39; J. F. Childs, Oskaloosa, 52; O. A. Holmes, Webster City, 52 A. G. Eberhart, Waterloo, 52; S. H. Worcester, Ottumwa, 52; J. Currier, Central Association, 29; Alvah Bush, Strawberry Point, 26; A. H. Starkweather, Lyons, 39; John Fulton, Independence, 26; A. W. Russell, Winterset, 26; F. D. Rickerson, Grinnell, 13; L. L. Frisk, Swede Bend, 26; Morgan Edwards, Burlington, 26; Wm. A. Eggleston, Denmark, 26; I. Butterfield, Davenport, 26; U. R. Walton, Cedar Falls, 13; T. S. Griffith, Keokuk, 26: L. Yarnell, Adel, 26.  Of the above, eight are known to have discharged their last commission and gone over the river.  Some are waiting at its borders and several are still in the harness in this and other States.

The present writer is privileged to acknowledge his own baptism by one of the missionaries, as one of the fruits of that same year, 1859.

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