Madison County, Iowa


This section contains histories of various churches in Madison County with an emphasis on the people who founded them and made up the early congregations.  Contributions to this section would be greatly appreciated by the County Co-Coordinators.



The settlement of Friends, or Quakers, in Madison County, Iowa, began in the year 1853, when Jesse Painter and wife settled about midway between the present locations of the towns of Peru and Barney, in the southeast part of the county, and Richard Cook and wife, in Madison Township, just north of the present Town of Earlham, in the northwest part of the county. These were the beginnings of two Friends settlements, which later developed into Oak Run Monthly Meeting, in the southeast part, and North Branch and Earlham Monthly Meetings, in the northwest part of the county.

The next persons to settle at Oak Run were Thomas and Dosha Moorman, in 1855. Their son, Newton Moorman, is the only member of the family now living in the neighborhood. Another son, Dark 




 (familiarly called Uncle Dark), lived near Oak Run for many years and died at Winterset some years ago. A daughter, Martha, married David Ellis, and another daughter, Mary, married Elwood Hiatt, and lived one and one-half miles northeast of the church until the time of his death.

Calvin and Eunice Ellis came here from Ohio in 1865. Reese and Sarah Ann Ellis came in 1871. Their son, Thomas Llewellyn Ellis, was long one of the "standbys" of the church.

The formation of the congregation began with an "indulged meeting" at the home of Thomas Moorman in 1865. A preparative meeting was organized at the home of Calvin Ellis, May 18, 1871, to be known by the name of Oak Run Preparative Meeting. The name was suggested by Calvin Ellis. The meeting was opened by a committee of twelve from Ackworth Monthly Meeting, Warren County. This committee drove over in a big wagon and were entertained at the home of Calvin and Eunice Ellis. The charter members were Thomas C. and Rhoda Morman, Elwood and Mary Hiatt, David and Martha Ellis, Calvin and Eunice Ellis, who still reside near the church.

On the 15th day of September, 1853, Richard Cook and wife, in company with his brother William H. Cook and family, and John Wilson and family, left Marion County, Indiana, to move to Iowa. After about a month of travel by team and wagon, during which time they underwent the hardships incident to a journey of this character, they arrived in Warren County, where an uncle of Richard Cook lived. Before the end of October his brother entered land in Union Township, Dallas County, and about the same time John Wilson entered land in Adams Township of the same county. Richard entered land in the northwest corner of  Madison Township, as before stated, and about the same time two sons of John Wilson, Abihu and Christopher, entered land in Madison and Penn townships.

Richard Cook made his home on the land which he entered until the spring of 1857, when he sold to Wesley Cox, another Friend, also of Marion County, Indiana, and removed to Dallas County . He, with his wife, whose maiden name was Mary Bowles, afterward moved to Earlham, where they both passed away, Mrs. Cook in 1897, and Mr. Cook in 1901. Christopher Wilson was a successful farmer near Earlham during the remainder of his life. He was living in the Town of Earlham at the time of his death, March 26, 1908.

The records of Bear Creek Preparative Meeting show that a complaint was entered against Abihu Wilson in 1855 for "accomplishing his marriage contrary to discipline." He had married Eliza Ellis, daughter of Peter Ellis. He evidently left the church at that time, or at least ceased to take an active part, as his name does not appear on the records after that date. He died in Dallas County in 1903.

The next Friends to enter land in Madison Township were Seth Wilson and his son, Milton Wilson, who came from Wayne County, Indiana, in the summer of 1854. The Town of  Earlham now covers part of the entry made by Seth Wilson. Milton entered 500 acres of land in sections 17 and 18. He moved to Iowa in 1856 with his wife, who in her maidenhood was S. Jane Murphy. They were married October 18, 1852, and made their home on the old homestead for eighteen years, where Mr. Wilson engaged in farming. They then moved to Earlham and later to Des Moines, where they still reside. Their son, Isaac K. Wilson, was representative from Madison County in the General Assembly for one term, being the youngest man ever elected to that position from this county.

Seth Wilson came with his family to Iowa in 1860. He died in Earlham some years ago. One of his daughters married Cyrus Griffin, another married Josiah Stanley, a third married David Beasley and a fourth became the wife of Oliver Goldsmith Owen, a Friend minister, who later became rector in the Episcopalian Church.

William Barnett and family were the next Friends to locate in the northwest part of the county, coming here from Marion County, Indiana, the date of their arrival in Iowa being July, 1855. William Barnett and Mary Ann, his wife, had a family of ten children.

Other families coming in that year were Wilson Barnett, a brother of William, from Hendricks County, Indiana, and John Alien and family. His wife, Margaret, was a daughter of Richard Mendenhall. Mr. and Mrs. Alien were members of the Friends Church and the other members of their family united with the society after coming to Madison County.

In 1856 David and Hannah Smith Stanton located on the Pilot Grove Farm, in Penn Township.

In the fall of 1857, Thomas and Ruth Wilson came here from Marion County, Indiana. Their family consisted of six sons and three daughters, one of whom, Huldah1, became the wife of Wesley Cox, whose home was on a tract of land purchased of Richard Cook. Here the Wilson family stopped for a short time until a permanent location could be made. They settled on the north half of section 16, Penn Township, the land having been purchased of Milton Muger for $7 per acre. This continued to be the home of Mr. Wilson until his removal to Earlham in 1874. He was one of seven who voted at the first election held in Penn Township in the fall of 1858.

In 1858 Cyrus Griffin and wife Eliza, daughter of Seth Wilson, located near where North Branch meeting house was afterwards built. He kept a general store in one room of his house for some time.

Among other early settlers were Joseph Beasley, Stephen Hockett and John Hockett, with their families.

MEETING HOUSES The first meetings in the new settlement were held at the home of William Barnett Later the meeting place was transferred to a house standing in Martin Compton's yard. This was the place of meeting until about the year 1862 or 1863 when Friends built a frame house on the southeast corner of Cyrus Griffin’s land.  This building was also used for a schoolhouse. William Barnett bought this building, after the second house was erected, and moved it into Earlham, where it is still doing service as part of a dwelling. The second building was erected on a tract of five acres bought for meeting house and burial ground.  The original deed states that said lot was conveyed by Martin Compton and his wife Ann E Compton, to the trustees of Bear Creek Monthly Meeting-five acres of land on the northeast corner of the northeast quarter of section 9, dated September 5, 1862, consideration $50.  On this lot North Branch Meeting House was built in 1869 at a cost of about twenty-six hundred dollars, Seth Wilson, David L. Beasely and William Barnett being the building committee. The house was a frame structure 30 by 50 feet, with a sliding panel partition dividing it into two rooms, the one on the east being occupied by the men and the one on the west by the women.  This partition was left open during meeting for worship, but was closed during meetings for business, the men and women holding separate sessions. A gallery large enough for two rows of seats ran along the north side of the rooms facing the entrance and the main audience room had an inclined floor. The seats were of the box pattern, made of black walnut. In 1893, when the house was no longer used for meeting purposes, it was sold to William Ramsey, who moved it away and converted it into a dwelling and other buildings.

The first meeting house in Earlham was erected on the southwest corner of the east half of the northeast quarter of section 1, Penn Township . The title to the lot was conveyed by Nathan Mendenhall and wife to the trustees of Bear Creek  Monthly Meeting, December 15, 1868. The house built on this lot was later moved into the Town of Earlham, where it served for meeting purposes until superseded by the one now occupied by Earlham Friends.

Following is a copy of the minutes of the first preparative meeting held at North Branch, as taken from the original record:

"North Branch Preparative Meeting of Friends opened and held in Madison County State of Iowa, on Fifth day, 9th of 7th month, 1863, by the approbation and direction of South River Quarterly Meeting of Friends. Also there is a committee very acceptably present with us and produced a copy of a minute of their appointment by Bear Creek Monthly Meeting of Friends to attend the opening of this John Hockett was appointed clerk for the day.

The queries were all read in this meeting, with written answers thereto, which the clerk was directed to forward to the monthly meeting, and assist in making out a summary.

The following named Friends are appointed to propose the name of two Friends to next meeting to have the care of the burying ground, namely: Joseph Beasley and John Wilson.

The following named Friends are appointed to propose the name of a Friend for clerk, namely, Josiah Stanley, John Hockett.

The meeting then concluded.

John Hockett, Clerk for the Day."

The North Branch Friends were members of Bear Creek Monthly Meeting, which had been organized in 1856, in Union Township, Dallas County; also of South River Quarterly Meeting, Warren County, which had been organized in 1860.

At the next meeting, held August 6th, John Hockett and William Barnett were appointed a committee to care for the burying ground, and John Wilson was appointed permanent clerk.

At a later meeting, held October 8th, the subject of finances was introduced.  William Barnett was appointed temporary treasurer, and the sum of $1 was directed to be raised by the members, 56 cents of which was to be paid to the monthly meeting for quarterly meeting stock, and the balance to be used to purchase glass for this meeting and report to next meeting.

December 10, 1863, Seth Wilson was appointed permanent treasurer. The London General Epistle was read "to our edification and comfort."

Minutes of February 9, 1865. "William Barnett and John Wilson, who were appointed a committee to ascertain cost of breaking meeting house lot and fencing it, make a report that the cost will be $17.50. They propose a rail fence on west and north to join to John Hockett, rails to be furnished on the ground according to our rate of apportionment."

The second clerk of the meeting was Joel Hockett, appointed June 8, 1865.  The "rates of apportionment" referred to above appears in the minutes of January 11, 1866, as follows: Seth Wilson, 14 per cent; William Barnett, 14 per cent; Joseph Beasley, 12 per cent; Stephen Hockett, 8 per cent; Dayton Barnett, 7 per cent; David Beasley, 7 per cent; William Beasley, 7 per cent; Christopher Wilson, 7 per cent; Josiah Stanley, 5 per cent; Ira Barnett, 5 per cent; Joel Hockett, 5 per cent; Wesley Barnett, 4 per cent; Asa Barnett, 4 per cent; John Hockett, 4 per cent; John Wilson, 4 per cent; Joseph L, Hockett, 4 per cent; total, 111 per cent.

A committee was appointed at this meeting to take into consideration the size, plan and estimated cost of a new meeting house, namely: John Hockett, Joseph Beasley and Seth Wilson. The committee made a satisfactory report March 8th and the subject was dismissed for the present.

April 12, 1866. "David Beasley and Eunice Wilson informed the meeting that they propose marriage with each other, having obtained consent of their parents, which is directed to be forwarded to the monthly meeting." Also "John Day and Hannah Talbert propose marriage with each other, which is directed forwarded to the monthly meeting."

The first request for membership seems to have been May 24, 1866. The request is as follows: "The overseers inform that Cyrus Griffin and his wife Eliza Griffin, with their minor children, James, Henry, Milton W., Ella, Jane, Homer, Virgil, Benjamin S, Sarah Elizabeth, Owen P., Edgar and Anna, wish to be joined in membership with the Religious Society of Portends. The request is directed forwarded to the monthly meeting." 

In order to make the next minutes of North Branch Preparative Meeting better understood, two will be inserted from Bear Creek Monthly Meeting. Under date of March 30, 1867, it is recorded that "Friends of Penn Township, Madison County, Iowa, request for a preparative meeting to be held on fourth day preceding Bear Creek Monthly Meeting, and a meeting for worship on first and fourth days, to be known by the name of Union Preparative Meeting." A committee was appointed to take the request into consideration.

On April 27th the committee reported in favor of granting the request and a committee was appointed to attend the opening. The approximate date of the opening was May 22, 1867. The place of opening was the home of Joshua Newlin, where the meetings were held until the house was built on a lot bought of Nathan Mendenhall as previously stated.

In North Branch minutes of April 25, 1869, Joel Hockett, Joseph Beasley and John Wilson were appointed a committee to confer with Friends of Union Preparative Meeting to consider the propriety of requesting- for a monthly meeting.

September 23, 1869, the building committee reported the meeting house about completed. There seems to be no further reference to the building in the minutes.   The next step was the opening of the monthly meeting. Following is a record from the minutes of the meeting of women Friends: "North Branch Monthly Meeting of Friends opened and held at North Branch, Madison County, Iowa, 9th month, 30th, 1869."

The minutes of men Friends of the monthly meeting have not been found and are supposed to have burned in the house of David Hockett, in Earlham, who was clerk at the time.

The next item of interest is October 4, 1869, when Union Preparative Meeting requested that the name be changed to Earlham.

A revolution now entered Bear Creek Quarterly Meeting. This first started in the yearly meetings farther east and entered the meetings of Bear Creek Quarter in the year 1873. This revolution began by holding revival meetings, called "general meetings," under the care of a committee appointed by the quarterly meeting, in conjunction with a like committee appointed by the yearly meeting. The first general meeting was held at North Branch, February 9, 1873, and continued during six sessions. The committee reported that they believed the meeting was "held to the honor of truth."

The next meeting was held at Bear Creek, following the quarterly meeting in February, 1874. It began on the second day and closed on the fourth night.  The report of the committee on this meeting was that the fore part was held to pretty good satisfaction but the latter part was not so satisfactory. The "not satisfactory" feature of the meetings came out during the discussion of the report and proved to be the closing meeting of fourth day night. At this meeting a "mourners' bench" and "testimony meeting" were introduced, after the well known custom of the Methodists. This created much dissatisfaction among the more conservative members.

Following the quarterly meeting in February, for the next two years general meetings were held at Bear Creek. It was evident that the two factions were getting farther apart as the work progressed. The climax was reached at the next general meeting in 1877. This, like the others, followed the quarterly meeting in February. On the third day of the meeting the leader arose, and after a few remarks, called on all those who were tired of sin and desired to live a different life to come to the front seats. About twenty came in a body; others followed later. Great confusion followed. Prayers, cries and groans, interspersed with an occasional stanza of a hymn, were heard from all parts of the large room. For the conservative, whose customary worship was that of "silent waiting before the Lord," until the "risings of life" should appear before speaking, this was too much. They saw in this the death knell of Quakerism, and to save the "beloved society" something must be done, even if it required something desperate.  Apparently by common consent, the conservative Friends began to depart for their homes and the die of separation was cast.

A conference was soon called of all Friends who were dissatisfied with these revival methods, which culminated in a general conference for the whole quarterly meeting, which met at Bear Creek, April 29, 1877. At this conference it was decided that the society had so far departed from its ancient testimonies as to forfeit its right to an existence, and that in order to have such society it was necessary to reorganize. Steps for reorganization were accordingly taken. This was to take place at each of the monthly meetings belonging to the quarter namely, Bear Creek, North Branch and Summit Grove (now Stuart). North Branch Monthly Meeting being the first in order following the conference was to be the place of beginning. The date of this meeting was June 16, 1877.

The meeting for worship which always precedes the business session passed without anything out of the ordinary. When the time for business came Joseph Beasley, who was "timer" of the meeting, arose and made the customary suggestion that "Friends might now proceed to take up the business of the monthly meeting, and we have no clerk, some one should be appointed for the day."   Jesse Beasley was named, and after taking his place, read a short statement explaining the present action and then read the opening minutes. Stephen Hockett now arose and objected to the appointment of a "clerk," saying that they had one "clerk" and that was enough; that Allen Barnett was already the "clerk."  He then followed with the remark: "I understand Friends that this action today means a separation in the church. I have seen separations in the church before and I want to warn you that the people who separated never did any good afterwards." This was followed by other speeches on the same subject. A time or two during the discussion Joseph Beasley was heard to say, “We don't want any contention, Friends. We simply want to hold North Branch Monthly Meeting." But the confusion was so great that it was out of the question.  So they withdrew to the yard and held a council to decide upon further action. After they withdrew, Allen Barnett opened the meeting as usual, and the business meeting was held as though nothing out of the ordinary had taken place.

Those who withdrew met at the meeting house on the fourth day following and completed their reorganization. Separations in the other monthly meetings followed soon and in August a quarterly meeting was organized at Bear Creek and a yearly meeting a few weeks later at Oskaloosa. It was discovered at North Branch that those who withdrew composed almost all the members of the preparative meeting. Those who remained sold their interest in the church property to the conservatives and withdrew to Earlham. This gave the conservatives undisputed possession. Later these people all moved away, mostly to Earlham, where they built a new meeting house, modeled after the old, which they sold to William Ramsey, as before stated. The last business meeting held in the old house was the conservative Friends monthly meeting, on the 26th of February, 1891.


Source: D. B. Cook, Earlham, Iowa


Transcribed by Judy Wight Branson

Edited by Kent Transier


1. The original document said "Margaret" rather than "Huldah" but info from a direct  descendant along with other data confirms that this was Huldah and not Margaret.



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This page was created on Sept 28, 2006.
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