Last updated 24 Aug 2013
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Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists
S. H. Mitchell
Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa
Washington Association—An Organization with a History Peculiar to Itself.
Some of the Oldest Churches—Special Features— 1869 to 1886.
SUCH is the relation of the Washington Association to the history that has been given in the previous chapter that we give it place here as a continuation. The origin of the older churches takes us back even to the old Des Moines Association, so that, though a young Association it nevertheless has the marks of age.
On the 11th of September, 1869, according to previous arrangements, delegates met at the New Haven Church, 8 miles west of Washington, and organized themselves into the Washington Baptist Association. There were represented the Ainsworth, Talleyrand, Washington, Columbus City, Davis Creek, New Haven and Richmond Churches. An opening sermon was preached by Rev. A. W. Sutton, from Acts 17: 6. Rev. W. R. Woodruff was elected Moderator, N. Littler, clerk and Calvin Craven, treasurer. Rev. Arthur Stott reported for a committee previously appointed, a Constitution and By-Laws which, after discussion and amendments, were adopted and the organization completed. The following roll of churches appeared in the Minutes of 1869: Ainsworth, 16 members; Columbus City, 111; Davis Creek, 48; New Haven, 78; Talleyrand, 37; Richmond, 104; Washington, 53; Zion, 98. Churches 9, members 555. The situation gives promise of a history differing in some respects from other like bodies in the State. It is located where nine Baptist churches, comprising over 500 members, are thickly clustered, having Washington for a center, and any one of which, as well as the center, can be reached without much travel.
The committee on state of religion in making a note of this peculiar situation, say further, "In parting with the Burlington and English River Associations, none but the kindest feelings exist between these churches and those Associations; and we pray the Lord of the harvest to increase them a hundred fold. Brethren we have cast ourselves into the breach to fight the Lord's battles, let us equip ourselves for the work and prove ourselves good soldiers of the Captain of our Salvation." The pastors at the time of organization were: A. W. Sutton, Ainsworth, W. R. Woodruff, Columbus City, J. M. Wood, New Haven, Arthur Stott, Washington and E. Ward, Zion. The Zion Church reported 61 baptisms; New Haven 10; Columbus City 2, and Washington one.
For the years from 1870 to 1875, the anniversaries of the Association were at Davis Creek, Zion, Washington, Richmond, New Haven and Columbus City. The introductory sermons were preached by Brethren J. M Wood, A. Stott, S. M. Cramblet, E. C. Cady, Father Warren and J. H. Miller. The Moderators, in the order named, were: Deacon A. Smith, Wood, Cramblet, J. P. Coffman, Warren and Miller. N. Littler was the only clerk during these years and up to 1884.
The first anniversary in 1870 revealed a beginning of marked activity. An enterprise had been inaugurated at the first meeting for establishing a Book Fund. Also Special Mission work in the Association. In connection with a temporary Mission conducted by Brother Wood, pastor at New Haven, the Eureka Church, six miles southwest of Washington, was organized and a good brick house built costing S1594.66. The church was received into the Association with 25 members, 12 of them received by baptism. The Howard Grove Church was received from the English River Association, H. H. Parks pastor. There were 87 baptisms reported and 644 members. Pastors J. W. Coffman of Richmond and J. P. Coffman of Zion Church are in addition to those before named. Brother Stott resigned about this time at Washington. It was resolved in 1870 "That we take immediate steps to collect and preserve the history of this Association, and that Brother Littler be our historian.'' In 1871 we find Rev. S. M. Cramblet pastor at Washington and Richmond, E. Ward preaching at Ainsworth and Davis Creek, A. Stott at Columbus City, and J. P. Coffman still at Zion. In 1872 the Louisa Center Church was received. Rev. A. W. Sutton appears again at Ainsworth. E. C. Cady is at Washington, and J. B. Hawk at Howard Grove and Tallyrand. From the first this Association has had a monthly conference, which is now mentioned in the report of the committee on State of Religion in the Churches as "A power for good, the influence of which cannot be fully estimated. Social ties are created by it, and it calls out the talent, ability and energies of all, and at once becomes the academic and normal school of the Association, and a means of improvement and growth in the knowledge of the way to work in the Master's service." This monthly
Conference seems to be at the same time a sort of executive committee of the whole, having charge of the benevolent work of the Association. This year, at a meeting at Louisa Center, it adopted the building of a Baptist church in Keota as an object of concentrated effort. This the Association approves and already work is well under way. The meeting was enlivened just at its close by the arrival of Rev. J. E. Clough, who had been expected earlier, but failing of the necessary railroad connections did not arrive until this late hour, when he addressed the Association for 30 minutes. In anticipation of his coming, however, a collection of $67 cash had been taken up for Foreign Missions, and the amount of $775 pledged toward the endowment of the Telugu Theological Seminary in India. A collection was taken up for ''Our distressed sister, Hannah Beard, the church builder, now in Chicago receiving medical treatment for disability caused by railroad accident while engaged in her noble enterprise," which collection amounted in cash to $19.16.
In 1873 the Keota Church was received with 24 members, 13 of whom had been received by baptism. Rev. Jas. Frey is preaching at Keota, W. N. Whitaker at Richmond, and E. Ward at Columbus City and Davis Creek. Brother Wood served part of the year as Missionary of the Association. He has resigned at New Haven after a successful pastorate of six years since the organization of the church. In 1874 we find recorded a decided increase of spiritual interest; 113 baptisms are reported and 675 members. Rev. John Warren is pastor at Ainsworth, J. H. Miller at New Haven, J. T. Long at Howard Grove, R. M. Tracy at Keota, C. Brooks at Louisa Center, and N. H. Daily at Richmond. Brother Ward at Davis Creek and Cramblet at Washington are still holding on. Rev. J. P. Coffman has resigned a three years' pastorate at Zion. Of the baptisms reported this year, Ainsworth is credited with 10, Davis Creek 30, Richmond 28, New Haven 8 and Washington 35.
The Brighton Church transferred its connection, in 1875, from the Burlington Association; J. 0. Johnson pastor. Tallyrand, under the lead of Brother Tracy have built a neat chapel and are looking for a revival. Rev. J. M. Wood, one of the most active workers in this Association from its organization, has removed to Pella and become the Financial Agent of the Central University. At the anniversary in 1875, Brother Bronson, one of the oldest members of the Columbus City Church, gave a touching account of the feeble condition of the Baptist cause in Louisa County, and the religious destitution among other denominations in the county, and quite an interest was awakened in behalf of a better provision to meet this destitution. A committee was appointed consisting of Elders Woodruff and Ward, and Brothers Bronson and Jennings, to lay the matter before the State Convention, and to urge upon it the duty of taking prompt and effective action, and pledging the Association to assist, and a subscription amounting to $62 was promptly pledged to aid on the part of the Association.
The Eighth Anniversary was held at Talleyrand. In the absence of the preacher or alternate appointed last year. Rev. A. V. Bloodgood, of Washington, was invited to preach, which he did from Acts 5: 20. Elder R. M. Tracy was elected Moderator, N. Littler, clerk. Rev. S. M. Cramblet after several years of service, at Richmond and at Washington, has taken his departure for another field of labor, and Rev. A. V. Bloodgood has succeeded him at Washington. Rev. John Warren still holds on as pastor of the Ainsworth Church. Rev. R. M. Tracy is now supplying Keota and Talleyrand, J. H. Miller Eureka and Howard Grove, and N. H. Dailey, Richmond and Zion. Rev. J. C. Johnson is preaching at New Haven. From 1877 to 1880 the respective annual gatherings were at Ainsworth, Washington, Brighton and Zion. Moderators: J. M. Wood, two years, A. Robbins and Wood again. Annual sermons were preached by A. V. Bloodgood, M. D. Murdock, A. Robbins and Wood. In 1877 three new churches were received, Pleasant View, Iowa County, Wapello and Toolesboro. A year of spiritual development was granted to the churches. Three hundred and, ten baptisms were reported and a total membership of 1,134. Every church in the Association reported baptisms, the smallest number being two, at Columbus City and the largest 59, at Talleyrand. It is doubtful if a parallel to this increase, all things being considered, can be found in the history of Iowa Baptists. The committee on "State of Religion" said, "The sense of increased responsibility in the churches, the care of the tender lambs of the flock, added to the fold, the new fields of labor opened up, and our largely increased duties in many directions press us to exclaim who is sufficient for these things?' " Rev. M. D. Murdock labored part of the year as a missionary in Louisa county, a result, probably, in part at least, of the interest awakened two years earlier at the meeting in Columbus City. Rev. B. H. Brasted spent several months in evangelistic work, "assisting in the most of the churches.'' Rev. John Warren, for a number of years the faithful and most beloved pastor at Ainsworth, quietly passed away during the year. Also Mrs. Rebecca Groat, mother of Rev. E.G.O. Groat, a member of the Columbus City Church. Rev. J. M. Wood has returned to this field as pastor at Ainsworth. M.D. Murdock is supplying at Columbus City and Louisa Center and E. B. Porter is pastor at Zion.
In 1878 the Riverside Baptist Church was received. Rev. A. Robbins has succeeded Rev. A. V. Bloodgood at Washington, Rev. James Jeffreys is preaching for the Columbus City and Louisa Center Churches, and Rev. A. C. Kelly, brought up in this neighborhood, is the pastor at Riverside and Davis Creek Churches. Brother Robbins preaches also at Eureka. The revival interest of last year has been reasonably well sustained. Churches 17, pastors 10, baptized 119, added in other ways 77, total membership 1118. It is remarked in the able report on the State of Religion, that the number of dead branches cut off in the necessary process of pruning has about equaled the additions. The total number of additions, as seen above, is 196. The number excluded and erased is 187. After the phenomenal ingathering of the last year it is not surprising, in the light of experience, that this pruning should have been needed so soon after, but is rather a proof of vitality in the churches that it is so faithfully done. Rev. N. H. Daily has closed his work at Richmond, and is supplying Howard Grove and Brighton. In 1879 Rev. T. H. Jones is found pastor at Zion.
A change of the constitution brought the meeting in the middle of the week. It was an experiment, but in the minutes for 1880 we find this said of its success: "The lingering doubt, heretofore existing in the minds of some good brethren, that our anniversary meeting could not be successfully held during the middle of the week, especially in the busy season of the year, was completely and satisfactorily removed by the large attendance at this, the first annual gathering held under the new arrangement." Only one baptism was reported this year, while on the other hand the spirit of active benevolence was an advance on the last year. Rev. E. A. Spring is preaching at Brighton and Howard Grove, A. J. Delano at Keota, and H. L. Steele at New Haven. Rev. J. H. Miller, who has been an important factor in this Association for some six years, is missed from its councils, though still in the neighboring association, the Burlington. For the years 1881 to 1886 the places of annual gathering have been Howard Grove, New Haven, Richmond, Washington, Ainsworth, and Columbus City. The annual sermons have been delivered by Gilman Parker, W. T. Rice, R. J. Langridge, W. L. Wolf, W. D. Elwell, and N. B. Rairden. The Moderators have been J. M. Wood, A. A. Smith three years, W. D. Elwell, and Smith again. N. Littler continued as clerk till 1884, and N. B. Rairden has served the two years since.
In 1881 Pastor Robbins has resigned a three years pastorate at Washington and Rev. Gilman Parker has succeeded him. W. J. Hatch is preaching at Columbus City, and other points, and George E. Eldridge at New Haven and Tallyrand. Rev. A . Robbins has removed from Washington to Centerville, Iowa. In 1882 Brother J.M. Wood, so long and actively connected with the work in this Association and State, has removed from the State and become a citizen of Harper, Kansas. An interesting communication from him was read, and the clerk directed to make suitable response. Rev. T. H. Jones for the last three years a pastor in the Association is also missed from the pastoral roll, and Rev. L. W. Atkins is the pastor at Richmond and Zion churches. At Washington Rev. Gilman Parker resigned to accept the appointment of State Sunday School Missionary, and the church have called Rev R. J. Langridge to the pastorate. Rev. W. T. Rice is preaching at Ainsworth, and Rev. Jacob Kissell at Louisa Center and Columbus City. Rev. William Elliott, one of the earliest pastors of the Washington Church — active on this field more than thirty years ago --- was present at this meeting, fresh almost as youth, and is preaching to the Howard Grove Church.
The meeting at Richmond in 1883 was the Fifteenth Anniversary. Rev. W. L. Wolf is pastor at Keota and reports 10 baptized. Richmond, L. W. Atkins pastor, reports 14. Only two other baptisms in the Association. For two or three years a spiritual dearth has prevailed. Rev. C. L. Custer, of Bonaparte, is supplying Ainsworth half the time. Rev. G. M. Vallandingham at Howard Grove and Father Elliott at Davis Creek and Louisa Center, also Jacob Kissell at Columbus City, Toolesboro and Wapello. In 1884 we find the Wapello Church disbanded, and Pleasant View and Eureka dropped from the minutes according to rule. This reduces the Association to 14 churches, only three or four pastors, 40 baptisms reported and 685 members. A strong appeal was made to the State Convention to aid in the support of a missionary in this field.
At the meeting at Ainsworth in 1885, it appeared that not a settled pastor in the Association was in it the year before. Brother Custer supplying at Ainsworth half the time since 1883, but not living within the bounds of the Association, was the only seeming exception to the above remark. The settlement of several new pastors is, however, a hopeful sign. Rev. N. B. Rairden at Washington, W. D. Elwell at Keota, New Haven and Zion, W. L. Wood at Columbus City and J. T. Long at Howard Grove, are the pastors. The record for 1886 is a decided improvement again. Keota reports 53 baptisms and Washington 18. Altogether there are 83 baptisms, 41 other additions and 689 members in 13 churches with five pastors. Rev. Amos Weaver is pastor at Keota. Other pastors named last year.
The history of the Washington Association has had, as already intimated, some distinguishing features, that made it a study by itself. 1st. Its circumscribed territory and the close neighborhood of its churches to each other. How it contrasts with many of the earlier Associations where attendance on the annual meeting, or a visitation of a missionary character would require, often, the traversing of 50 or 75 and some times more than a hundred miles. In this Association the distance of the farthest churches from each other has at any time been scarcely more than 30 miles, and a majority of them come within a circle of 25 miles. All but one or two are situated in the two counties of Washington and Louisa. Circumscribed, too, by working Associations on every side, there could not be the feeling of "land to be possessed" beyond the present limits, so that the zeal of the body could spend itself on its own narrow field. Not in a selfish sense, for the Washington Association has from the first been to the front in its zeal in behalf of the world, but the cultivation of the home field as a special object of effort has been the more effectual, doubtless because of these circumscribed limits. Again this Association, in the very beginning, incorporated into its life some methods that have not been so well tried in any other in the State. It is too soon to determine the ultimate practicability and utility of these methods, and whether the limited territory has not favored them as a wider range would not, may be a question, but a brief review of one or two of these may be profitable as it is.
Before the meeting for the organization of this body, at the recognition of the Zion Church, in May, 1869, the "monthly ministerial and lay conference'' was inaugurated and at the meeting of this conference, in Washington, in July, "a fund of $50.00 was raised to purchase books to sell and distribute throughout the country as a means, under God, to circulate the truth as it is revealed in the Bible," etc. Upon the organization of the Association this movement was endorsed, and the Book Fund was increased to $132, and it was provided that the monthly conference of ministers and members should constitute a board of directors, to whom report might be made when they should direct. This book enterprise was started by voluntary colporteur work on the part of Brethren Wood and Ward, and at the First Anniversary of the Association, that is the second meeting at Davis Creek this report was made: "Books and tracts bought to date, $530.73. Amount disposed of, $323; about 15 per cent of which has been given away. Books on hand, $207.73; on which a debt of $27.28 remains unpaid.'' The same report also states that the monthly conference has been regularly held during the entire year, and has been generally well attended and alway interesting. "At each meeting, with perhaps a single exception, not less than two sermons were preached, "besides essays on practical religious topics and appropriate devotional exercises.
In 1872 Elder Ward, Missionary Colporteur reported : 'Books and tracts on hand last year, $118.51. Bought during the year $107. Sold during the year, $109. Balance stock on hand $116.51. Amount uncollected $4.64. Cash on hand $23.66. Total assetts $144.81. In 1873 Brother Ward is still Colporteur and Agent of Book Fund. He has sold during the year books and tracts to the amount of $88.71, has paid for books, etc., $87.50, and has cash on hand $25.05 and balance of assetts $175.72. In 1875 Brother Ward, still Missionary Colporteur reported for two years. He had sold $148.85 worth of books and tracts ; had paid out for new books and tracts, $193.95 and had a balance on hand of $156.32. In 1878 Brother Tracy made a report of fourteen months in which he had sold about $100 worth of books. There was at this time belonging to the Book Fund in money safely loaned, $51.45. Nearly all the Colporteur work, if not quite all, had been free of charge; volunteer work done by the brethren named while acting as pastors. In 1879 a special committee was appointed to take charge of and superintend the "Book Concern." Brethren Littler, Wood, and Jeffries were the committee. Later on the clerk of the Association seems to have been made the custodian of the Book Concern, and made report annually of purchases, sales etc., amounting to hundreds of dollars. In 1882 a proposition was introduced to divert the funds of the Book Concern into a permanent endowment fund, the interest to be used for the-relief of the families of deceased Baptist ministers residing within the bounds of the Association, and to provide for the regular increase of the principal of said fund. The whole matter was referred to a committee to report at the next annual meeting, consisting of Rev. R.J. Langridge: Rev. L.W. Atkins and the Moderator, Deacon A.A. Smith. The following year, 1883, report was again made by the custodian of the Book Concern by which it appears that the cash in the Fund amounted, including interest to October 1, to $100.85. The special committee appointed on "Deceased Baptist Ministers' Widows and Orphans' Fund," reported and after discussion the whole matter was referred back to the same committee and Deacon C. Craven added to the committee, The next year, 1884, on report of this committee it was resolved to create such a fund, by taking up a collection annually at the close of the Associational sermon, but it does not appear that the suggestion to divert the surplus of the Book Fund into this Second Fund was adopted. The invested Book Fund in 1884 amounted to $109.41. A like report in 1885 shows a slight increase of cash on hands. We have deemed this history of a special enterprise worthy of detail, because as a factor of Associational history it is unique and will at least bear study. It must be admitted that during the last few years the interest has waned to some extent and that in its most prosperous times it has required an amount of gratuitous work that it might be difficult in most Associations to find men so situated that they could render it.
Take it all in all the history of the Washington Association is full of suggestive seed-thoughts in Christian activity, than which few bodies can present more. But little appears concerning the Monthly Conference in the annals of the last few years, but it is understood that for the most of the time it has been maintained, though not, perhaps, with quite the success of earlier years. The record as to benevolent contributions and missionary spirit is without doubt better than in most bodies of its strength. In connection with the State Convention we have data for an exact statement which we give, and we have good reason to believe that the contributions to other objects are relatively as good. In the seventeen years of its existence the Association is credited with the contribution in the regular way to the Convention of $1780.96, or an average of $104.76 per year. To this may be added a special individual contribution in 1881 of $406.86, which would make the grand total $2,197.81, or an average of $129.22 per year. During this entire period only $381.96 were appropriated from the Convention treasury for missionary work within the bounds of this Association, and most of the time the churches were contributing more or less for Associational missionary work, under direction of a board appointed from year to year. Brother N. Littler continues to be custodian of the Book Concern, which reports, in 1886, cash on hands $127.40.
Among the veterans of this Association still living though in feeble in health, is the excellent Rev. W. R. Woodruff. As an illustration of his spirit we take the following; extract from a report on the State of Religion in the Churches, presented and presumably written by him in 1874. By the reading of the letters from the churches, it is plainly seen that an active Christian zeal is moving the general interest in the Association to a higher plane than we enjoyed one year ago. The lull that seemed to rest upon us then has been broken by precious revivals and additions to the membership, in several of the churches, and consequently greater consecration to the work of the Master, and from them the brethren along almost the entire line have caught the inspiring incidence, and are earnestly pleading the Divine blessing to rest upon the pastors and brethren, * * * that Christians may do all they resolve, till many shall stand where Moses stood and view the promised land, and from thence, like him, cross the flood, borne on in angel hands. We do not forget, however, that there are some still reclining by the way. even following at a distance, yet we are glad to know that they follow with uncovered, fires ready to blaze into active life. * * * Now, dear brethren, move on to the conquest. Be encouraged by the past. Trust in the presence and help of our dear Redeemer. His arm is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that he cannot hear. '' This exhortation will always be appropriate to the readers of this sketch in every time and place. We have no better words with which to mark its final close.