|The present and subsequent
chapters will be devoted to a sort of bird's-eye view, of the growth of
the different Associations in Iowa, so as to show, 1st, the growth of
each considered in and of itself, and 2d, the growth of each as related
to the growth of the denomination at large in the State. The present
chapter will have to do with the first of all the Associations, the old
Des Moines. We shall endeavor to sketch its history from the time of
its organization in 1839, down to the time it was disbanded, and the
Churches composing it, by mutual agreement, were organized into the
Keokuk and Burlington Associations. The account of the organization of
this Association in August, 1839, at Long Creek — now Danville — was
given in the beginning of these Sketches. The Churches composing it
were three, Long Creek, Pisgah and Rock Spring. There were about 80
members in the three Churches. The first Moderator was Rev. Jonah Todd,
Clerk, Rev. Alexander Evans, Preacher of Introductory Sermon, Rev.
Hezekiah Johnson. The name of the Association at first was the Iowa
Baptist Association. The data for its history and its meetings
for the first five years are very meager. It appears that annual
meetings were held in 1840 at Rock Spring, 1841 at Danville, 1842 at
Rochester Church, near Keosauqua, in 1843 at Portland Church, and in
1844 at Danville again. For these years we have no means of knowing who
were the officers, nor any statistics.
At the second meeting of the Iowa Baptist State Convention, held in
Davenport in 1843, this Association was represented by Elders A. Evans,
H. Johnson, D. Jewett, and M. J. Post. There were then reported ten
Churches, six ministers, 43 persons baptized during the year and 223
members. The name of the Association was changed to Des Moines, either
that or the next year. The ten Churches and the dates of their
organization, were, as near as we can ascertain, Danville, 1834; Rock
Spring, 1836; Pisgah, 1839; Union, 1839; Farmington, 1841; Washington,
1841; Mt. Zion, 1842 ; Mount Pleasant, 1843; Keosauqua, 1838, and
possibly Fox River, 1842. The ministers, in addition to those mentioned
above, were Wm. Elliott and H. Burnett. The latter arrived in the
territory in 1842.
1844 Number of Churches, 14, ordained
ministers, 8, baptized, 100; whole number 361.
1845 The Association met with the Ebenezer Church,
Lee county. The introductory sermon was preached by Elder M. J. Post,
who was elected Moderator and Brother Otis Thompson, of the Farmington
Church, Clerk. Among the ordained ministers are found Wm. Sperry and R.
Cheedle. The Rock Spring Church seems to have previously lost its
connection with the Association and, on application, is received again
with 14 baptisms and 18 received by letter; members, 56.
Brother S. Pickard appears as a Licentiate of the Liberty Church, also
received this year with 27 members. New Churches were also received,
viz: Shiloh, 8 members; Oskaloosa, 20; Village Creek, 8; Toolsborough,
8; Eddyville. 7, and Fairfield, 22. Whole number of Churches, 25;
baptisms, 11; members, 656.
1846 Met at Round Point, September 4.
The preacher of the introductory sermon, Elder Sperry, being absent,
Elder Hiram Burnett preached and was chosen Moderator, W. B. Morey,
Clerk, Daniel Jewett, Secretary. Delegates from the Davenport
Association Rev. Dexter P. Smith and J. N. Seeley. The Tabernacle,
Mount Moriah and Ft. Des Moines Churches were received. The name of the
Oskaloosa Church has been changed to Union. Elders Shaply Elmore, J.
Moore, J. Bond, B. B. Nichols and H. Worden are among the ministers not
named above. Number of Churches reporting, 24; pastors, 11; baptisms,
71; total membership, 563.
"Elder John Rexford, from the Free Communion Baptist Church, stated
that he had embraced our sentiments, and enquired whether his
ordination would be accepted by this body." After reading his
certificate and some discussion, the Association voted satisfaction and
invited, him to a seat with the body. A request came up from the
Eddyville and Tabernacle Churches for the ordination of Brother G. W.
Bond, but after examination it was deemed inexpedient at present, and
the Churches "advised to aid our brother in the support of his family,
that thereby he may be enabled to study to show himself a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed."
There is evidence of an intelligent conservatism in such matters in
those early days, that it would have been
well in some quarters to have emulated later.
The place of meeting in 1847 was Mt. Zion. William Elliott had been
appointed to preach the introductory sermon. No record of this meeting
nor statistics of the year have been found.
1848 The Association met in its tenth
session with the church at Washington, Iowa. Rev. Horace Warden
preached the introductory sermon from Titus, 1st chapter, 3d verse.
Rev. R. Cheedle was elected Moderator, and Rev. W .B. Knapp, Clerk.
There are now 21 churches, 104 baptisms reported and 717 members. Rev.
James M. Hope of Keokuk, appears among the ministers. The name of the
Keokuk church appears with 13 members. A year earlier, in 1847, Keokuk
was represented in the State Convention by Rev. J. W. Seely.
The question of a division of the Association, already began to be
discussed. The death of the late beloved M. J. Post, was reported and
the Association most painfully mourn his loss. Near the close of 1848,
began a work at Burlington, which claims more extended notice. The
beginnings of Baptist seed-sowing here date still further back. In
1848. Rev. Luther Stone, now of Chicago, spent a number of weeks in
Burlington, found a few Baptists, and preached a number of sermons.
Rev. Alexander Evans and perhaps one or two others had also preached
occasional sermons, but there was no organization. Rev. George J.
Johnson "first arrived in Burlington, on the evening of the first
Wednesday in November, 1848, the day following the election of Gen.
Zachary Taylor, as President of the United States". The population of
the city at that time was between one and two thousand. In a
reminiscence of the time, Brother Johnson says that on his arrival at
Burlington, "there was no Baptist Church or any other friends that were
under any special obligations to receive him, and that he had not money
enough to pay his way for half a week." He however found, the next day,
a "Kentuckian," who with genuine Kentucky like hospitality, invited him
to his home and made him welcome. This was John H. Webber who was
afterwards the first person ever baptized by Brother Johnson, and so
far as known, the first in the Mississippi River at Burlington. He is
supposed to be still living at East Portland, Oregon. On the first
Lord's day, in April, 1849, the First Baptist Church of Burlington, was
organized with twelve members, and six others were baptized on the same
day. In 1849 the Church was represented in the State Convention and in
1850 became connected with the Des Moines Association. In June, 1851,
the Church entered, though it was far from being completed, the house,
where its services were regularly held for about thirty-four years,
until the conference rooms of the present house were occupied.
1849 We have no record of this year. The
Association was to meet at the Liberty Church, near Charleston, and
Rev. J. M. Hope was to preach the sermon. August 8, 1848, Brother Hope
had been recommended to the Home Mission Society, by the Executive
Board of the Convention, "to labor with the Baptist Church in Keokuk,
with an appropriation of $250.00 for one year from June 1, 1848," but
the record says, "withdrawn by Brother Hope at the expiration of six
months, on account of impaired vision."
1850 Met for the fourth time, at
Danville. The introductory sermon was preached by Brother Burnett, from
Acts 20: 24. Rev. H. Burnett was chosen Moderator, Rev. E. Gunn, Clerk
and M. W. Rudd, Treasurer. This is Brother Gunn's first introduction to
the Association and to the State. He is pastor at Keokuk where 7
baptisms are reported, 15 received by letter and the church numbers 36.
Brother Gunn received his first appointment from the Home Mission
Society to labor at Keokuk in 1849, laboring 13 weeks in that year.
Delegates of the Burlington, Brighton, Richland, Charleston and Aurora
Churches came forward and requested admittance into the Association,
and upon favorable report of a committee, they were all received. There
were now 27 Churches, 71 baptisms reported, 139 received in other ways
and a total membership of 912. The Burlington Church reports 13
baptisms, 35 received in other ways and 41 members.
1851 The Association met at Agency City. Rev. O. Ormsby,
of Troy, preached the introductory sermon and was chosen Moderator,
Brother Gunn of Keokuk, Clerk and M. W. Rudd, Treasurer. The great
revival elsewhere noticed in the Sketches, as setting in soon after
1850, is fully inaugurated, 219 baptisms are reported. Rev. G. J.
Johnson reports 77 baptisms at Burlington. They were permitted to visit
the baptismal waters for thirteen consecutive Sabbaths, and have now
136 members. Members in the Association, 1126, in 27 Churches, with 11
pastors. Wm. A. Wells is pastor at Danville, O. Ormsby at Keosauqua and
Fox River, W. H. Turton at Farmington, G. W. Bond at Oskaloosa, Aurora
and Knoxville, Wm. Elliott at Fairfield and Brighton, Hiram Burnett at
Mt. Pleasant, Elihu Gunn at Keokuk, T. J. Penny at Pisgah, G. J.
Johnson at Burlington, and J. B. McGlasson at Blakesburg. At this
meeting in 1851 the division of the Association which had been
impending for some time took place, and the West Des Moines, afterwards
Oskaloosa, Association was formed. Prior to this division the Des
Moines Association had extended from Keokuk and Burlington on the
Mississippi, to Knoxville in Marion county, and at one time to Fort Des
Moines, and embraced all the territory south of the Iowa River. The
division was amicably arrived at and was made "On a line to be drawn
from Keosauqua to Fairfield, and from thence to Brighton, thence on the
line dividing the counties of Keokuk and Washington," the Churches at
the places named, on this line to be in the western division. This
divided the then existing Churches south of the Iowa River into two
respectable Associations in point of numbers, and of nearly equal
strength. Keokuk "have disposed of their old house of worship and lot,
and purchased a new and better lot, upon which they expect soon to have
a new and commodious house of worship erected." It sounds strangely to
hear a Church not yet five years old talking of its old house of
worship, but it illustrates how rapidly changes came about in those
stirring pioneer days. Burlington had been enabled to enter their new
house of worship, the interior of which was now "entirely completed."
1852 The Association met at Keokuk. Rev. Wm. H.
Turton preached the introductory sermon. Rev. E. Gunn was chosen
Moderator and Brother Turton, Clerk, and Deacon E. Cady, Treasurer.
Though the Association has been reduced by the organization of a new
one on the west, from about 30 Churches to 16, yet an era of
unparalleled prosperity is about to be ushered in. Two new Churches are
received; the Jefferson and Augusta Churches, and there are now 16
Churches, 71 baptisms reported, 69 received in other ways, and the
membership is 725. Burlington have baptized 26, and the new Church at
Jefferson organized last March, report 19 baptisms. Elder Burnett is
preaching the Word to them.
1853 The Association met at Farmington, in the
Congregationalist House of Worship. Introductory sermon by Rev. Geo. J.
Johnson. H. Burnett Moderator, and W. H. Turton Clerk. The Church at
Keosauqua seems to have, for a time, lost its visibility, and is again
received into the body. Glasgow is also a new organization where 38
have been baptized and 56 members are reported. Rev. H. R. Wilber
appears as pastor at Mt. Pleasant, Obed Sperry at Pisgah, and Isaac
Leonard at Rock Spring. Brother Sperry should have been noticed at
Pisgah a year ago. Also Rev. E. O. Town at Mount Zion. Brother Leonard
has been reported as a Licentiate of the Burlington Church for a couple
of years ; was ordained in 1851, Brother Town in 1852, Rev. B. F.
Braybrook preaching the sermon in both instances. Churches in 1852, 17;
pastors, 8; baptisms, 136; total membership, 812. Perhaps the progress
of the great revival in this Association for the next five years will
be best shown by exhibiting in a condensed statement, the names of
Churches, pastors and number of baptisms each year, in the principal
places visited by the Saving Power of God. Beginning with 1853, and
ending with 1857.
1853 Danville, Obed Sperry, 12; Bonaparte, no
pastor, 15; Mt. Pleasant, H R. Wilber, 25; Burlington, G. J. Johnson,
13; Jefferson, H. Burnett, 13; Glasgow, Wm. Elliott, 16; other
baptisms, 19; total, 139.
1854 Union, S. Pickard, 12 ; Liberty, S. Pickard,
21; Keokuk, E. Gunu, 29; Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 124; Jefferson, no
pastor, 17 ; Richmond, Charles Thompson, 15; Lockridge, Wm. Elliott, 16
; other baptisms, 13; total, 247.
1855 Union, S. Pickard, 37; Bonaparte, M. Sutton,
10; Washington, C. Thompson, 15; Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 17;
Glasgow, Wm. Elliott, 12; Tuscarora, S. Pickard, 23; other baptisms,
27; total 140.
1856 Danville, J. G. Bowen, 20; Bonaparte, M.
Sutton, 15; Liberty, S. Pickard, 42; Keokuk, E. Gunn, 11; Burlington,
G. J. Johnson, 26; Jefferson, W. Elliott, 15; Glasgow, W. Elliott, 12;
Tuscarora, S. Pickard, 12; other baptisms, 16; total, 169.
1857 Pisgali, Isaac Leonard, 46 ; Bonaparte, M.
Sutton, 7; Mt. Pleasant, H. K. Wilber, 37; First Keokuk, E Gunn
(resigned), 85; First Burlington, G. J. Johnson, 27; Jefferson, W.
Elliott, 23; Glasgow, W. Elliott, 7; Tuscarora, S. Pickard (resigned),
10; Second Keokuk, S. Pickard. 30; Denmark, M. Edwards, 1; total, 223.
Total baptisms for five years, 917.
The above will show the pastors doing service during the same period.
The Association met at Jefferson in 1854. Introductory sermon by H. R.
Wilber. H. Burnett, Moderator, H. R. Wilber, Clerk. In 1855 meeting at
Burlington. Preacher, M. Sutton ; Moderator, M. Sutton ; Clerk, H. R.
Wilber. Place of meeting in 1856, Glasgow. Preacher, Morgan Edwards;
Moderator, Wm. Elliott; Clerk, H. R. Wilber.
1857 Bonaparte. Preacher, Morgan Edwards; Moderator,
T. J. Penny; Clerk, H. R. Wilber. There are now— 1857— 22 Churches, 11
pastors, — 7 other ordained ministers, 12 Licentiates — and 1,609
members. Among those just licensed to preach, are E. C. Cady, of the
Danville Church, W. A. Eggleston, of Mount Pleasant, J. M. Wood and J.
Lee, of Glasgow, who have since been long and well known among Iowa
1858 The Association held its Twentieth Anniversary
with the Baptist Church at Richmond. Annual sermon by Rev. G. J.
Johnson, who was elected Moderator, Rev. M. Sutton, Clerk and Calvin
Craven, Treasurer. Throughout 1858 the revival work seems unabated.
Before its close. Brother Leonard has baptized at Pisgah 14; Brother
Sutton at Bonaparte 26; Brother Moore at Charleston 15, and at
Bethlehem 13; G. J. Johnson at Burlington 25; Brother Elliott at
Glasgow 31; G. W. S. Bell at Richmond 45; W. A. Eggleston at New London
14; Jonathan Lee at Tuscarora (Pilot Grove) 11; Pickard at 2d Keokuk
27, and Thomas M. Ind at 2d Burlington 32. Other baptisms had been 30,
and the whole number 283. Rev. P. P. Bishop during this year becomes
pastor at Burlington, and Rev. G. J. Johnson, having closed his labors
there, goes to Fort Madison, where 53 converts have been baptized and a
Church of 102 members raised up. Rev. W. W. Allen is pastor at Keokuk
and A. Edson at Washington.
We have dwelt in considerable detail on these revival years in the hope
that their perusal by such of those who were permitted to mingle in
these Spiritual awakenings, as are still in the flesh, and by all of
us, may awaken the memory of their blessedness, and create an earnest
longing for a return of those days of the mighty power of God. "Blessed
are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be
The earnest spirit of devotion that showed itself, and the patient
continuance in religious exercises that show them to have been a joy,
are worthy of a little careful study. This will be best seen in a
sketch of the doings of one Associational Sabbath. In August, 1858, the
Des Moines Association met at Richmond, Iowa. The following is a full
minute of the services of Sunday, August 22. Prayer meeting was held at
7 a. m.; Brother Ford addressed the Sabbath School for about one hour
at 8:30 a m.; Brother Sutton preached at 10 a. m., from 2 Corinthians
v: 20, 21; Brother Bastion preached at 11 a. m., from Romans X. 13,
after which a collection was taken for the State Convention amounting
to $21.60; Brother W. W. Allen preached at 2:30 p. m., from Matthew 10:
8, after which Brother Johnson made remarks and took up a collection
for the Publication Society, of $14.35. Prayer meeting was held at
night, and then Brother Edson preached from Job ix: 2, and Brother
Eggleston from Galatians v: 6. The services of the day were throughout
largely attended, and seemingly attended with a solemn sense of the
Divine presence." Seven sermons and two prayer meetings in the same
house in one day! What else than "a solemn sense of the Divine
presence" could make such a bill of fare possible? Doubtless, many will
read this account with a smile to-day, and think of that day's services
as belonging to a past order, when people had not yet learned to free
themselves from the bondage of long and, perhaps, dry sermons, etc. But
as we have studied it in connection with the evidences of the mighty
power of God in the Churches during those years, we cannot doubt that
such a lingering in the sanctuary, and such prolonged listening to
God's Holy Word, was a most natural and a most delightful thing. May
the reminiscence of it tend to hasten the return of a similar sense of
the Divine presence in all our associational gatherings!
The Des Moines Association has had a prosperous history. Though the
territory has been reduced by the organization of the Oskaloosa
Association, the necessity or expediency of further dividing it had
been agitated for a year or two. The question has been submitted to the
Churches in 1856, and at the Annual Meeting in Bonaparte in 1857, a
committee was appointed "to examine the votes of the Churches" in
reference to the matter. This committee reported that five Churches had
voted for, and ten against division.
At the meeting in Richmond in 1858, "on request of the Glasgow Church,
and on motion of T. R. Carter, a special committee was appointed
on division of the Association, as follows: C. Craven, T. R. Carter, E.
Cady; J. W. Ratliff and D. W. Ford." A majority of this committee
reported, through the Chairman, C. Craven, against division. A minority
report brought in by Brother Carter, favored division. The question was
again submitted to the Churches, with the recommendation "that the
Churches desiring a division, communicate that desire to the next
Association for such action as may then be deemed proper."
1859 The Twenty first and last Anniversary of the
Des Moines Association was held with the Pisgah Baptist Church, near
Dodgeville, Iowa, August 27, 1859. The tide of revival and of
prosperity is still unabated. There are now 24 Churches, with 14
pastors, 321 baptisms are reported, 213 other additions, and a total
membership of 2,036. A net increase for one year of 316. Under the
powerful revival efforts of Rev. Morgan Edwards a Church of 102 members
has been raised up at Fort Madison within a year; 53 of whom have been
received by baptism, and Rev. G. J. Johnson settled as pastor. Also by
Brother Edwards' labor, a Church of 75 members at West Point, of whom
57 are by baptism.
The proposition to divide the Association has at last prevailed. In a
report made by Rev. G. J. Johnson, Corresponding Secretary, to the
Slate Convention at Oskaloosa, in October, 1859, we find the following.
After stating some of the cheering facts of the Association's
prosperity" in the year past, he says: "In view of the enlarged
membership of the Association, the throngs drawn together thereby to
attend upon its meetings," * and the great distance to be traveled over
in order to attend its sessions, the Association was divided and
resolved into two new Associations, named respectively, Burlington and
Keokuk Associations." The report then closes with a just tribute
to the memory of the Des Moines Association, as follows: "Surely the
Lord has done great things for the Des Moines Association, whereof we
are glad. It was organized just twenty years ago last August, under the
name of the Iowa Association, and then embraced the whole State. It has
since been changed in its name, divided and subdivided repeatedly in
its territory, and now, finally has passed out of being and taken its
place among the things of the past. And yet, though this Association
has ceased to exist, the name will be associated in many minds with
hallowed interest, with scenes gone by and long cherished in the heart
of sacred memory, by many friends of our Zion in Southeastern Iowa."
Among the pastors of the Des Moines Association, perhaps not mentioned
before, are D. H. Paul, at Danville in 1858, and W. J. Cochran, at
Bethlehem in 1859, and others may have been unintentionally overlooked.
At this last meeting of the Des Moines Association Rev. M. Sutton
preached the annual sermon, Charles Hubbell, Esq., of Keokuk, was
Moderator, P. P. Bishop, of Burlington, Clerk, and Isaac Leonard,
The history of the Des Moines Association is a history of a most
important epoch in our growth as a commonwealth, and is full of the
deeds and thoughts of a class of men who would do honor to any State in
any age. Many of these noble men of God are still living and doing for
God and humanity. With them these reminiscences must be of intense
interest. Youth, vigor, anticipation, sanctified ambition, enthusiasm,
are at one end of the view. Gray hairs, experience, sober reflection,
trials endured, courageously met and surmounted at the other. In many
instances doubtless, mistakes made, discovered, repented, and, alas!
sometimes when too late to make amends, all reminding us that the
treasures of gospel grace have been committed to "earthen vessels," and
yet in view of all, what was said above in 1859 is true in 1886, the
name of the Des Moines Association is still associated in many minds
with hallowed memories and scenes of those early days of our Iowa Zion.
By S. H. Mitchell, published in 1886 by Burdette County,