Source: REGISTER OF OLD SETTLERS , BOOK One, page 222 & 225
submitted by Jo Ann Carlson, Sept. 8, 2007


A Brief History of its Organization and Growth in This City.
An Interesting Historical Sermon by Rev. S.H. Parvin.

The re-dedication of the Presbyterian church last Sunday morning called forth a large audience and an interesting address from Rev. S.H. Parvin, the pastor. The improvements of this edifice have been spoken of at length in these columns, and it is needless to repeat that it is one of the finest places of worship in Iowa. The Tribune contents itself this morning with giving Pastor Parvin’s address on this occasion, and it will undoubtedly be read with interest by those who were not present.

The following is the address:

    Book of Nehemiah, VIII Chapter, and a part of the 5th verse.
    “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people.”
    The Jews had returned from the captivity. Cyrus, who by prophecy was called the Shepherd of God, had decreed that they should return to their native land. He was moved to give them a safe conduct by his soldiers and to support them along the way from his treasury. It is not for us to discuss to-day whether he had a selfish motive in this for the building up of his great empire. The fact is sufficient. He sent them forth, and to make them content in the land of their fathers, he helped them to establish their old form of worship. The great leader of these returning exiles was Ezra, who shines forth with bright effuigence among the Hebrew characters, and the Christian church today is indebted to him more than anyone else for the completion of the books of the Old Testament. But these people coming home after seventy years of captivity, among heathen people, were ignorant of the law, and this caused Ezra great solicitude. Now, we see a great assembly of people, so immense that they could not be accommodated in the new temple that they had raised, and they came together in the streets of the city, that is before the Watergates. The enthusiastic scribe standing upon the pulpit of wood, “opened the book in the eyes of all the people.” We may imagine a similarity this morning-the speaker standing upon a pulpit of wood does not open the book of the law-but we do desire to open the book of the history of this church in the light of all the people.

    In last June in the museum of Boulak, near Cairo, in Egypt, there was a discovery of extraordinary interest to Bible readers. It was the opening of caskets found five years ago at the bottom of a subterranean sepulcher in the western plain of Thebes. It was known by the inscriptions of the caskets that the bodies of two were those of royal persons, and the inscriptions on the bandages in which they were swathed, showed who the bodies actually were. Two of these mummies were found to be two of the Pharoahs mentioned in Exodus Set I and Remesis II So as we turn the pages of the records, the inscriptions of those pages will reveal to us, that we will know each event.

    If we speak of preaching points in the early history of the place, they were several in number. The first sermon that was preached in this town was delivered in the office room of Kinney’s Hotel, which stood on Front street on the corner where Mr. R.T. Wallace’s place of business now is. The sermon was preached by a Rev. Mr. Cartwright. Whether this was Peter Cartwright of frontier life fame or his nephew by the name of Cartwright, there is a difference of opinion concerning it. Mr. Wm. Gordon, to whom I am indebted for facts in the very early history of the place, is the opinion that is was Peter as he was present and heard the sermon. Another place of holding meeting in those early days was a People’s church that stood where the Journal office now stands. All denominations for a time worshipped in this house. I may add that in this place town meetings, political meetings and sessions of the court were held. As early as 1841 an Episcopal church was erected in connection with the Masonic order on the lot in the rear of their present edifice, near the alley. This was a two story building. Their room of workshop was in the first story, and the Masonic hall above. Still another place was a log school house that stood on the ground where Judge Brannan’s shouse now stands. Religious services, meetings of debating clubs were held in this house. Preaching services were also frequently held in those times in private homes. As time passed on and the town grew the various denominations provided for themselves houses of worship.

    From the history of Muscatine county I gather, that a Presbyterian church was organized in this place in 1839. Its ecclesiastical connection was with the New School Assembly, and according to the above mentioned history, this church was dissolved by a vote of the Presbytery of Yellow Springs, to which it belonged, in 1845. But it is not with this organization that we have to do to-day.

    The first Presbyterian church of Muscatine was organized according to the records now in possession of Mr. Clark, of the session, by Rev. John Stocker on the 2d of February, 1842. The organizing members were: Elizabeth R. Stocker, Harvey Gillette, Azel Farnsworth, Ann Farnsworth, Jane Lathrop, Priscilla Burdet, Wm. Hill, Isabella Ogilvie, Martha Vanatta, Rebecca Smith, and Almira Lockwood. The organization was doubtless perfected in one of two ways, that Brother Stocker brought the members together in the organization, and afterwards reported what he had done to the Presbytery, and that body would ratify the action, the church would be ….rolled. Or a committee appointed by the Presbytery to come on the ground, and if the way be clear to formally organize the church, and report the same to the Presbytery. This latter method is the regular and general way that we follow to-day. But the former plan was doubtless carried out, as ministers were so remote from each other when Iowa was a territory. The church was probably organized, in that church that stood where the Journal office now stands. The names of the ministers who were in this region of the country, and who sometimes visited our people in those days were, as I observed from the records, Rev. M. Hummer, Rev. E. Mead, and Rev. L.G. Bell.

    In those early times our church was planted, and it began its growth. It met with difficulties. Those who came to the west had hardships to endure. Concerning their religious advantages they made sacrifices and when a church of their choice was organized within their reach they hailed the religious services with new delight. There were many anxieties and solicitudes. Many prayers went up. There were those who labored with great zeal and earnestness; others gave most liberally from what means they had to help the good work along. So the little church began to make progress, it increased in members and prospered.

    But the people were without a church home, sometimes worshipping in the People’s church of which I have mentioned, and which afterwards by purchase passed into the hands of our Methodist friends. Sometimes, no doubt, holding meetings beneath the trees “God’s first temple.” Sometimes holding services wherever a room suitable for such meeting could be found. I am informed that in 1845 the flock still homeless was still worshipping in the Episcopal church, the location of which I have given you.

    Father Stocker, some time in the spring or summer of 1845, closed his labors with this church but continued to live in this vicinity until about 1848 when he passed to his reward.

    Brother Stocker was followed in the ministerial office here by the Rev. Mr. Pratt. The early records of the church are silent concerning him. But I gather from them that twenty-four persons were gathered into the church during his stay among the people. I also find by conversing with a number of friends that there are those who are members of the church now and those who are not who still remember him well. It was during his time especially that the congregational worshipped in the Epsicopal church.

    In 1847 Rev. John Hudson began his labors with this church, which continued until May, 1849. Father Hudson is still living, having attained a ripe old age, and is still quite active. Our hearts have been made glad by his recent visits among us. He has a lively interest in us and we have an abiding interest in him. It was during his ministry that steps were taken towards the building of a house of worship. He made a tour through Ohio and Kentucky, soliciting funds for the building of the church and returned with success. Again in the latter part of 1848 he went south in the interest of the church, going as far southward as New Orleans. He gathered together funds for the building to the amount of $1,-300. In the spring of 1849 the people under his leadship, thought the time had come for them to arise and building the house of the Lord. The site was fixed upon, the lot was secured, the ground was broken, the corner stone was laid and a church of brick, 35 feet wide by 50 feet long began to rise. This building was inclosed before the year expired. I am informed by our Brother Magoon that he was called home from Keokuk to help push the work, and that the roof was finished when the weather was cold, the wind was blowing had and the snow falling fast. The church was finished during the year following. I wish I was able to give you the names of the building committee. But this I have not been able to find out. To build so commodious a church as I am informed this was by our people of that time, who were not strong in numbers or means, was no small undertaking.

    There is a fact that will be of interest to state here. Mr. Stocker and wife, as they were without an heir, made a joint will that their property should go to the church. That the first one that should be taken the other one was to retain the means until death, then as the will provided the church was to receive what was left. Brother Stocker was taken first and Mrs. Stocker passing away about this time, the remainder of their property passed over to the church. It is doubtless true, that this money, whatever amount it was, was used in helping to build the walls of Zion. I have said it was a commodious church. I have been told that the church spire was covered with tin and before it was painted, or the weather had made any impression upon it, it glittered in the bright sunlight. So it was often called the church of the silver steeple. The church was completed in 1850, and had a forma dedication to the service of Almighty God. The site of this church was on Mulberry Street.

    I learn through the records at the Court House that the first trustees of the church were Charles Neally Chas. O. Waters and Joseph Lucas; that the deed was legally recorded Nov. 10th, 1851. It is said of a long time ago when David asked the people to give of their treasures for the building of the house of the Lord, that when they brought their precious things together, “Then the people rejoiced for that they offered willingly.” This rejoicing was in view of a prospective house. But I imagine that the rejoicing of our people was greater, because they beheld a completed house.

    *** continues on page 225 ***

    F.W. Robertson has said: “The Divinest attribute in the heart of God, is love, and the mightiest principle in the heart of man is faith.” I think these Christian workers of those days had both. Love in the heart for God’s cause, and faith to trust Him that He would lead them through. They believed the happy result the consummation of their work.

    This band of workers, no longer houseless, pushed forward in their work, for now they had a heart to work. Iowa had recently been admitted to the union, many people were turning their faces toward the west and were coming into the new State. A number of Presbyterians settling in and around Muscatine they cast in their lot with our people, finding for themselves a congenial church home. Others by conversion coming in from the world their numbers grew and the congregation increased, where in 1856, it was deemed expedient to erect the present house of worship.

    It being the mind of the people again to build Mr. Jacob Butler donated the lot upon which the present building now stands, on the corner of 4th street and Iowa Avenue. The work was commenced in the spring and was carried forward with great vigor for a time, when the builder to whom the contract had been let, failed. The building committee, consisting of Adam Ogilvie, Charles Neally, J. H. Wallace, Charles O. Waters and Joseph Bridgman, were put to great inconvenience by this, as the walls were standing, but the superstructure was without a roof. A master builder was found in Mr. George Magoon, who came to the rescue. He discovered the frame for the roof was weak, and giving way, and that the structure was in fair way to fall. He strengthened the roof and made it secure, and the building was covered and inclosed before the expiration of the year. As you stand upon the street and look upon the stone in the wall you will find this statement agrees with the inscription there: “First Presbyterian Church, erected in 1856.” It was expected to carrying forward this enterprise that the church should not cost more than $10,000. But before it was completed the cost was far beyond this amount. The cost was about $20,000. A burden of debt for a time rested upon the church, but the people came up nobly to the work and after a time this burden was lifted. Or as it is sometimes put in another way this necklace of debt was taken away. No one was more interested in the building of this church that Rev. Charles Cummins, with whom many of you were acquainted. He visited the church almost every day as the work was progressing. A member of the building committee made the remark, how appropriate it would be for Fathe. Cummins to preach the first sermon within the walls of the new church. I have been informed that the idea was carried out, and that he did preach the first sermon in the basement. In this portion of the church the congregation worshipped from Jan. 1857, until May, 1859, while the main audience room was being completed. After the disposition of the old church and until the basement was ready for occupancy the people held their meetings in Hare’s Hall.

    The church wad dedicated in May, 1859. This was a time of unusual interest. Rev. E.S. Belden was pastor of the church at this time, and he invited the verable Dr. Plummer, then of the Western Theological Seminary at Alleghany, Pa., to preach the dedicatory sermon. Previous to this time there had been a religious awakening in the church. A series of meetings had been held early in the year, and there was quite a number of conversions. All who united with the church during these weeks, were publicly welcomed at this time. Eighty were received into the church that day, 47 by examination and 33 by letter. This scene, together with the great sermon of Dr. Plummer, have ceased to act; and some are still. In 1869 the organ with which our ears are all familiar was secured and placed in position the cost of this instrument being $2,250. In 1872 the congregation made the improvement in beautifying walls of the audience room. This was done at an expense of about $850.

    It was during the summer of 1885, when the Young Ladies Society of the church took the work on hand of repairing the basement. The decaying, shaking floor was taken out, three rooms were renovated, and the lecture room was seated with chairs. We now have one of the most comfortable prayer meeting rooms in the city. This was at a cost of $347. We are under many obligations to the society for their efforts in this direction. The church appreciates what has been done. We never step through the basement or hold a meeting in the lecture room, without feeling of gratitude. Concerning the present needed improvement which is now complete, I have nothing to say; it is before you. It speaks for itself. Let you eyes take it in. The cost is $1,063.

    It remains for me to speak of the succession of pastors who have been connected with the church. They are as follows: Rev. John Stocker, from 1842 to 1845, three years; Rev. Mr. Pratt, from 1845 to 1847, tow years; Rev. John Hudson, from 1847 to 1849, two years. At this time there was a vacancy until the last of October, ’49. Mr. J.S. Umsted, a licentiate from the Presbytery of Philadelphia now visited the church. A call was extended to him to become pastor which he accepted, and he was ordained and installed November 10th, 1850. He was the first pastor the church ever had. He served the church as supply and pastor for three years. From January, 1853 to October of the same year, the church was served by Rev. Hugh Hutchinson. After he had been with the people nine months, a call was extended to him which he declined. Rev. S.J. Baird served the church as pastor three years, from 1854 to 1857. Rev. J.B. Stuart, D.D., now of Des Moines, filled the pulpit of the church from 1857 to 1858. After one year’s service a call to become pastor was extended to Dr. Stuart, which he declined. Rev. E.L. Belden was called in 1858, and served as pastor for six years. Rev. John Armstrong came to this charge in 1864. He labored among the people as pastor until 1874, a period of ten years. In 1875 Rev. H.P Dalrymple came as a stated supply, and continued his work until September 1877, serving the church about two years and a half. Rev. Joseph H. Barnard was called to this church in December, 1877. He served as pastor until the middle of January, 1884, his ministry reaching over a little more than six years. From the middle of April, 1884, to this time the present relations has existed. You will observe that in the 44 years of the life of the church the longest pastorate was that of Dr. Armstrong, serving for ten years.

    It will be of interest also to consider, how these ministers labored with the people, and how God blessed the church in these labors together, in gathering souls into the church. The records reveal the facts as follows: Brother Stocker an ingathering of 22, or 7 ½ a year; Rev. Pratt 24, an average of 12 a year; Brother Hudson 15, or 7 ½ year; Mr. Umsted 56, or 18 2/3 a year; Rev. Samuel Baird 89, or 29 2/5 a year; Dr. Stuart an ingathering of 5 during the year; Rev. Belden 152, or 25 1/3 a year; Dr. Armstrong 135, or 13 ½ a year; Mr. Dalrymple 50, or 20 a year; Rev. Barnard 75, or 12 ½ a year. During the present relation 94, or 47 a year. There have united in this church since its organization, 306 persons on confession of faith, and 435 by letter, making a total of 741. The present membership is 226.

    Let me give you at this point the succession of elders who have been the chosen representatives of the church. As we speak their names to day, some have been taken away by death; some have removed from our bonds; some have ceased to act; and some are still serving the church. The line of elders is as follows, and I give to you the late of their installation; The first elder of this church was Abel Farnsworth, installed March 19th, 1842; Auley McAuley, November 1843; J.H. Wallace, 1846; T.S. Parvin and Jas. S. Horton, Dec. 22nd, 1850. There was a time in 1853 when Dr. Horton was the sole elder of the church. He stood alone as the representative of the church, and the pastoral office was also vacant. Gabriel Little and C.O. Waters, April 6th, 1855; David Hoyt and Charles Neally, Jan. 30, 1859; Phillip Stein, Joseph Bridgman, J.C. Beldine, R. H. McCampbell and J.S. Wiggins, January 31st, 1869; Mr. Dr. J.M. Robertson, in 1875; W.F. Crawford, R.H. McCampbell, Dr. W.S. Robertson, Philip Stein, Samuel Sinnett and G.M. Titus. The present trustees are: S.G. Stein, S.P.Sawyer and W.W. Webster.

    These first deacon of this church were ordained and inducted into office upon the Sabbath of the 9th and 16th of May, 1886. They are James Wilson, F.P. Sawyer and M.O. Neidig.

    While it is true that the records of the church do not tell us of any sister that was called to a representative office of the church, yet they performed a most important work both in the erection of the first house and in the building of the present edifice. Their labors have been very frequent all along this line of history, foremost in every enterprise, and they have preserved until the work is brought to a grand consummation. In this reopening and the improvement in which we rejoice to day, they have performed an important part.

    I wish also to give you the amount the church has given in various directions. I am sorry I cannot go back to the first organization of the church. But the sessional records give no annual reports of what the church gave to various benevolent objects until 1858, so I can only tell you what has been given in this time to the various boards, $6,067; it has given for congregational purposes, $72,277; and to miscellaneous objects, $1,351, making a total of $79,695 or an average of $2,846.25 a year.

    In the existence of the church there have been 12 pastors and stated supplies. The period of time reaches over a space of 44 years. The average length of the time of labor of each is 3 years and 8 months. The church has passed through many ordeals, ad there have been many changes along the line of history. Restlessness is the cause of this. Restlessness on the part of the minister, restlessness on the part of the people.

    What the minister should do and what the people should do in carrying forward the work for God, is to have our eyes on Christ more than on each other.

    It is the mission of the church to shine, and it is also its mission to have saving power through Christ. To have the diffusive power of light, and to the preservative power of Salt. So the Savior said, “Ye are the light of the world; ye are the salt of the earth; a city built on a hill cannot be hid.” Let us as a church shine by abiding in Christ. Let us make our power felt in this city. We as a church should ask largely of heaven. God takes importunity well. Alexander, the great, had a famous but indigent philosopher in his court. This adept in science was once particularly strait, and in his circumstances, to whom should he apply, but to his patron, the conqueror of the world? His request was no sooner made, than granted. Alexander gave him commission to receive of this treasurer whatever he wanted. He immediately demanded in his sovereigned name 10,000 pounds. The treasurer surprised at so large a demand, refused to comply, but waited upon the king and represented to him the affair, adding with how unreasonable he had the dedicatory services, made it an sermon that has not been forgotten.

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