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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 another year.

1860.. 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 membership 1,116.

1861.. 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 south.

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 members. 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."

1864.. 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.

1865.. 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.

Transcribed For Cass County by Constance Diamond, August, 2013 from
Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists by S. H. Mitchell, Burlington, Iowa: Burdette Co.,1886, pg. 237-242.

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