Tama County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Star – Clipper Supplement
Traer, Iowa, January 21, 1887
History of North Tama
By Daniel Connell

Chapter X
Religion and Churches

When we were young, living in a New England town, it could almost be said that everyone attended church. That was before the skeptical foreigner obtained a foothold. There were many foreigners there, but they were a class that were observers of the Christian Sabbath in their native land, and their principles were not diluted in crossing the ocean. Emmigrants from the New England and other Eastern States, coming west, brought with them their respect for religion and observance of religious worship even if they were but nominal Christians. It is true there were noted exceptions of infidel communities, coming even from Boston, and establishing themselves in Iowa to preach and live their doctrines. .

The Icarians and the followers of Abner Kneeland were instances but they did not maintain a foothold. Thus it was the early settlers of whom we write brought their religion with them, although many of them were not church members. It did not take deep discernment for them to see the settlement must be Christian or skeptic, have religious services on the Sabbath or go visiting. The alternate was plain. The decision did not even cost time. They had brought the decision with them, had started with it. Of course the first ministers to find the settlement were Methodists. When two or three families are gathered together itinerant ministers will find them. Devoted and zealous they knew no such word as fail. Insured to privation and toil they toiled on and found the settlement on Big creek.

The first minister to find it was Rev. S. W. Ingham, and he has known it all these days from his first visit in 1853 until now, wanting but a few short months of thirty-four years. I cannot say that Mr. Ingham was the preacher in charge, or that a class was formed.

In 1854 Rev. Petterfish was on the field. At this time there was a small settlement on a branch of Salt creek in Carroll township, of them were Joseph Powell, Nathan Fisher and Mr. Fee, who on the Sabbath went into the region round about preaching the gospel. These men frequently held meetings here.

In 1855 the minister was Rev. J. Brown. The appointments of the minister in charge was every fourth Sabbath. In early December of this year Mr. Brown appeared, and such was the severity of the weather, that he did not return until April. We presume that was the only four consecutive months the settlement was without preaching.

In 1856 the minister was Rev. S. Dunton. He was followed by Mr. Hollingsworth who was on the work two years. He lived in Vinton. At this time he had the use of the Buckingham school house each third Sabbath, was a native of South Carolina. Like the “poor trash” of his State he had little education, but a large robust frame, and easy flow of language, strong lungs, stentorian voice and great zeal. He afterwards enlisted, was in the 28th Iowa Infantry, Col., Connell. While on the Red river expedition, one morning, just previous to the engagement at Pleasant Hill, his body was found hanging to a tree. It was said that he was possessed of a dread to fall into the hands of South Carolina troops.

We cannot recall his successor, but in 1860 Rev. Donelson, a man of deep piety, followed by Mr. Holbrook a sensitive man cut out of rough material; the eloquent Fawcett, the second and third years of his ministry, a man who has since made a wide reputation for scholarship, piety and rare eloquence. His wife, recently deceased, was a teacher in the Buckingham schools. Mr. Baker, a nervous, impetuous, zealous man, whose patriotism was aroused during the war by the fire-in-the-rear men, of whom there were a few in these parts, and they quailed before his righteous indignation. There was Mr. Sea, the student, Byers, Moore, Wilkinson, Dove and Wanrer, men of great energy and zeal, laboring to upbuild the cause of their Master.

In 1867 and 1868 this church built a meeting house and parsonage. The church edifice was removed to Traer. The settlement was composed of many minds and all had not one faith. There was a class of United Brethren, and as early as 1857 they had preaching.

Rev. S. W. Kern was on the work for four years. By the removal of some of the principal members the class died out and one was formed in the Beatty neighborhood. We have had occasion to speak of those who came from Norwich, Connecticut. They had a good friend in Hon. William a. Buckingham, a Christian gentleman of that place who subsequently became the Governor of that commonwealth and United States Senator. He was interested in the movement of the Connell family and followed them to the far West with his best wishes. He was deeply interested in education, temperance and religion. He asked them to do all in their power for those objects and to inform him when aid was necessary. Nobly in after years he responded. The material existed from the beginning for a church of a more independent policy and was simply waiting for the time and the means.

In June 1856, at the house of C. Hester, Rev. Oliver W. Emmerson organized a Congregational church consisting of seven members, viz: Mrs. Mary Ames, Mr. and Mrs. William C. Read, Mr. and Mrs. George McAlvey, Mr. and Mrs. C. Hester. The first accession to the church was Mrs. B. A. Connell. Mr. Emmerson again visited the church in 1857. They had no minister during his absence except one Sabbath in the summer of 1856. Rev. J. B. Grinnell officiated. Some remarks he made of a political bias gave great offense to the Hester family, who were Southern people.

During the summer of 1857 a meeting was held at Buckingham on the subject of engaging a minister of some denomination. There were represented Congregationalists, Methodists, United Brethren and Universalists. No one of them could support a minister alone. A committee consisting of L. Clark and D. Connell Jr. was appointed to secure a minister. Three Presbyterian clergymen, Mr. Robinson, of Vinton, his brother, of Steamboat Rock, and Mr. Jones, of Cedar Rapids, had at various times preached here, and it was expected they would find a man of that denomination. In October Rev. John R. Upton, a Congregational clergyman, came and was engaged on the understanding he was to be the pastor of the Congregational church, which was consummated. He commenced labors December 1, 1857 and remained until the spring of 1860. Mr. Upton now resides at Sibley, Iowa, with a daughter.

Mr. Emmerson, whose commission gave him latitude, purchased a house at West Union to be more central. He preached for this church for a year after Mr. Upton, after which they had no pastor until September 1863, Rev. B. Roberts was settled, continuing until 1871. Mr. Roberts died in 1879, and Mr. Emmerson in 1884.

The next pastor was Rev. Henry Mills, of but eight months’ duration. He was followed by Rev. J. b. Gilbert for two years. During his pastorage the meeting house was removed to Traer. He was succeeded in april, 1875, by Rev. Charles II. Bissell. He served eight years and was followed by the present pastor, Rev. Dr. Bingham. This church built a fine house of worship in 1866-7, was 36 x 50 feet with 20 feet posts with spire and bell. It was not managed with judgment and cost $4,000. It was dedicated June, 1867, sermon By Rev. Dr. Magoon, of Iowa College. In the building of this house Governor Buckingham was liberal. Beside a large money gift he added the bible and carpet. Mrs. B. made valuable additions to the library, and her sister, Miss Jane Ripley, furnished a communion set, hence the beautiful name Ripley Chapel.

The United Presbyterian church called Tranquility, was organized in 1860, with a membership of eighteen, which increased to 127 in 1875. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Keir, followed by Rev. Mr. Bull, then Rev. Mr. Turnball. In 1871 this church built a house of worship at a cost of $2,500. During the year 1875 there were two off-shoots from this, the parent church, one transplanted in Traer, with twenty members and one in Grant township, known as Amity, with eighteen members. Since then both have erected tasty, commodious meeting houses and have grown in numbers and influence. The parent church has changed its organization to the Presbyterian. It is the parent in the sense of retaining the fathers, the elders of the congregation, as well as in the sense of being the first in the field. The influence of this church has spread until many places to the west of it has felt its quickening spirit. A gentleman traveling in Dakota the past summer, informed me he found in one church eleven of the young former members of Tranquility. A church has lately been organized in Wright county, Iowa, composed largely of young people from this church.

The Universalists had occasional preaching as early as 1858, and during 1860 and 1861, Dr. Brice was their pastor, and in 1868 and 1869 Mr. Wilson and Mr. Brinkerhoff wee preachers of that faith here. They had no organization. The Baptists had a church at Bovina, of forty members and regular preaching. The regular services of the Congregational and Methodist was at Buckingham, that being a center, but the membership and worshipers were from all the region round about, and their ministers often preached in the country school houses.

Chapter XI

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