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Church & Religious Directory



Historical Sketches of Iowa Baptists, 1886

S. H. Mitchell

 Published by Burdette Co., Burlington, Iowa

Chapter XXXV


Turkey River Association


Rev. Charles Brown

Rev. Charles E. Brown

     For much of the matter contained in this Sketch we are indebted to a history of the Turkey River Association, written by Rev. Charles E. Brown and printed in the minutes for 1875.  The oldest churches of this Association were found, first in the Davenport, and afterwards in the Dubuque Association. At the meeting of the Dubuque Association, held at Delhi in 1860, a resolution was presented by Rev. Charles E. Brown and adopted, recommending a division for the purpose, to such churches as might  desire to enter into the formation of a new Association on the north. At a meeting of brethren interested, during a recess of the same session, a convention of delegates from churches so desiring, was called to meet at West Union in the following month.


   This Convention was held in July 1860. An introductory sermon was preached by Elder Brown Elder John Williams, of West Union, called the Convention to order. Brother Brown was elected Moderator and A. Bush, clerk. Revs. George Brown. Elder John Williams, of West Union, called the Convention to order. Brother Brown was elected Moderator and A. Bush, clerk. Revs. George Scott, L. M. Newel, E. G. O. Groat and John Williams were appointed a committee to draft Constitution and By-Laws, which as reported by the committee, were adopted, and the organization completed. The churches named in the organization are: Erie, Illyria, New Oregon, Oran, Rossville, Strawberry Point, Vernon Springs, Waukon, Westfield and West Union. These are 10 churches, 6 pastors and 352 members. The pastors were: George Scott, C. E. Brown, James Schofield, L. M. Newell, A. Bush and John Williams.

     In his historical paper, Brother Brown gives us this information concerning the beginnings of Baptist work in what is now the territory of the Turkey River Association. “The first Baptist Church in this territory was organized by Elder Miles, in January, 1841, at Winnebago Mission, on Yellow River, in Allamakee county, consisting of 11 members. Elder Miles and some of the members removed to Wisconsin; others left and this pioneer church soon lost its visibility.” This Elder Miles came from Indiana and is supposed to have been the first Baptist minister to preach the Gospel in Northeastern Iowa. “Two of the constituent members of this church were still living in Iowa in 1875, ---John and Hiram Frances – one in Clayton county near National, the other in Allamakee near Rossville.”  “The second Baptist church within the territory was organized in 1848, by Elders B. F. Brabrook, Ira Blanchard and C. E. Brown, in a settlement a short distance northeast of Elkader, and called the First Baptist Church of Clayton county. Several persons were baptized on the day the church was organized.” Elder Blanchard was instrumental in gathering this church, and traveled a distance of 40 miles and back to supply them with preaching once a month. In 1849 we find this church represented by Rev. Ira Blanchard in the State Convention, meeting at Iowa City. Also in the report of the Executive Board of the convention made at this same meeting, it is stated that Rev. Ira Blanchard, on the 2nd of October, 1848, was recommended to the Home Mission Society, “to preach at the Delaware county, Cascade, Fairview and Clayton county churches, with an appropriation of $100 for one year. The first statistical account we have of this church is in 1861, when in the Davenport Association it is named without a pastor, with these statistics. Received by letter 11: by experience 1; dismissed 21; died 1; present number 15. Soon after, or about this time the First Baptist Church of Clayton county ceased to exist. These organizations represent the first beginnings of Baptist work in Northeast Iowa.


    The third organization was at West Union, in 1852. “On the 19th day of May, 1853, this church resolved to purchase a lot and proceed to erected small house of worship, not to exceed in size 20x26 feet. This was the first meeting house built in the territory of this Association. The second was built by the church at Strawberry Point and dedicated August 1857. Of the field to be cultivated by this new Association, Rev. George Scott says in a report to the convention in the fall of 1860, “It embraces a territory of a little more that 3,346 square miles, with a population of no less than 60,000. It has within its bounds only three Baptist Church edifices, and one of these is so small that it is not occupied. Allowing the other two to afford accommodations for 500 each – which is probably beyond their capacity – we have sanctuary accommodations for only one in sixty, and one minister to 8,571 souls. Truly the field is almost without


    The first annual meeting was held at Waukon, September 6th, 1861. Rev. A. Bush preached the introductory sermon, from Galatians VI:2. Rev. J. Schofield was chosen Moderator and Alva Bush clerk. The Baptist church at McGregor was received into the Association with 23 members, Rev. L. M. Whitman pastor. They have just completed a house of worship and bid fair to exert an extensive influence in the community and the Association. There are now in the Association 13 churches, 7 pastors, 10 persons baptized during the year, and 418 members. The pastors are George Scott, Strawberry Point and Erie; C. E. Brown, Lime Springs and Vernon Springs; L. M. Whitman, McGregor; J. A. Pool, Rossville; J. Schofield, Waukon; A. Bush, Westfield, and John Williams, West Union.


    The second annual meeting was held with the McGregor Church Friday, June 13, 1862, the time of meeting having been changed from September to June. The introductory sermon was by Rev. John Williams of West Union, from 1st Timothy I:11, “The glorious gospel of the blessed God.” Brother Williams was chosen Moderator, and G. M. Colgate of McGregor clerk. Some evidence of revival appears in the statistics. Two new churches have been organized this year; the Union Church at Pleasant Ridge with 41 members, of whom 35 were received by baptism, and the Paint Creek Church with 14, of whom 9 have been baptized during the year.  Seventy-three baptisms reported and 525 members. The name of Brother Scott is not found, but reappears two years later in the Western Iowa Association. Brother James Sunderland is preaching at Strawberry Point. Among the visitors is Brother Jackson of Milwaukee, who soon after becomes pastor at McGregor, Elder Whitman having resigned. At Rossville Rev. John A. Pool had baptized 27 of the 73 reported.


    The third Anniversary was at West Union, in 1863. May 27, Elder John A. Pool preached the sermon. Moderator C. E. Brown, clerk G. M. Colgate of McGregor. Brother Bush read a Circular Letter upon the “Importance of Love for this Church.” The Fourth Anniversary was held at Strawberry Point in 1864. Rev. John Jackson preached the sermon, C. E. Brown, Moderator, Brother Colgate again clerk. The Volga City Church was received and the Hardin Church dropped. Brother Sunderland read a Circular Letter upon “The Importance of Fidelity in Maintaining our Denominational Principles.” Rev. J. B. Ward is preaching at Ward’s Corners and Fayette, and F. Hill at West Union. Pastor John Jackson is succeeded at McGregor by Rev. C. T. Tucker. The beginning of an honorable record of service for the Master in Iowa. Brother Sunderland supplies the new church at Volga City in connection with his home church at Strawberry Point.


     The Fifth Anniversary in 1865 was at Rossville, commencing on Friday, June 2. Brother Tucker presiding and Deacon Colgate still clerk. Sermon by Brother Sunderland. The Ossian Church was received, Rev. J. M. Wedgewood pastor. Organized in April, 1864. The McGregor Church have been specially proposed, reporting 33 baptized, Volga City 10, and Ossian 7; whole number of baptisms 57, members 563.  In 1866 McGregor was the place of meeting. Preacher and Moderator, James Sunderland, clerk unchanged. The York Church on Bro. Sunderland’s field was received was received with 14 members. The Paint Creek and Illyria Churches have become extinct. This was an inspiring session. The clerk made this memorandum. “On Monday morning the delegates separated for their homes delighted with their pleasant visit and successful anniversary, while the friends in McGregor felt sad that the session was not of longer duration.” Collections were taken amounting to $73.10 for the Convention, and $55.91 for the Missionary Union. The present writer had the honor of taking that collection for the Convention, Rev. C. F. Tolman representing the Missionary Union. Rev. C. D. Farnsworth was at the time pastor at Rossville and Waukon. Other pastors were Ward, Wedgewood and Sunderland, Brother Tucker having about this time closed his labors at McGregor and removed to Charles City, Iowa.


      In 1867 the Anniversary was at Strawberry Point. The opening sermon was delivered by Elder J. B. Ward of Ward’s Corners.  Rev. F. Kidder Moderator, Colgate clerk. Only six baptisms reported. Rev. John Jackson returned to the pastorate at McGregor and died during the year, greatly beloved and lamented. Deacon George M. Colgate of McGregor, the excellent clerk of this Association since 1862, also “died full of faith and good works.” Brother Colgate was connected with the well-known Colgate family of New York, and did not fail, by his earnest and Christian life, to honor the name here in the west. Rev. F. Kidder is the pastor and able preacher at Strawberry Point and Volga City. D. S. Starr, at Waukon and West Union, is Missionary of the Association during the eventful years of the “Sixties” seems like a part of our own history.


Rev. John Jackson died at McGregor, Iowa, in 1867. He was born in England. About 1852 he became pastor of the English Baptist church at Agra, East Indies, and continued five years. His health becoming impaired he left Asia and came to America. He was for six years pastor of the West Baptist church at Milwaukee, and then removed to McGregor, Iowa. After serving one year as pastor of the church here he went back to India and settled at Alahabad. But feeble health soon led him to return to this country and to the bosom of his friends at McGregor, where he “peacefully departed this life to enter into the joy of his lord.” His friends at Milwaukee claimed the honor of his remains and he is buried at that place.


     The Eighth Anniversary was held with the church at West Union in 1868. Sermon by Rev. F. Kidder, who was elected Moderator, and J. M. Wedgewood clerk. Some advance movement is apparent in the reports. Nearly all the churches are supplied with preaching at least a part of the time. Three new churches have been organized, viz.: Decorah, Castilia, and Grand meadow, under the labors respectively of Brethren Starr, Wedgewood, and Hilton. Rev. J. M. Stifler (now Dr. Stifler of Penn.)  supplied the church at McGregor for a time. Volga City was supplied by A. G. Emery, a member of the church. Whole number of baptisms 39, members 540.


Deacon George M. Colgate of McGregor died full of faith and good works. He was clerk of the Turkey River Association for several years, and was an unusually intelligent and devoted Christian and church member. Brother Colgate was converted when thirteen years of age and baptized by the Late Wm. R. Williams, D. D., being the first candidate baptized into the fellowship of the Amity Street Baptist Church of New York City, of which Dr. Williams remained pastor until his death over fifty years.



      In 1869 the ninth annual meeting was at Ward’s Corners. A. W. Hilton preached the sermon. Deacon Benjamin Morse of West Union was Moderator, L. F. Carrier of Strawberry Point clerk. Rev. R. F. Powers was pastor at Fayette and West Union, P. S. Whitman at Lime Springs, S. Sill at Strawberry Point, and W. Chapman at Vernon Springs, besides pastors before named. The church at Ward’s Corners was formerly Erie Church. Rains and high waters greatly hindered the success of the meeting in 1869.


     The tenth anniversary in 1870 was at Rossville, preacher S. Sill, Moderator J. M. Wedgewood, clerk L. F. Carrier. The Taylorsville Church was organized in 1870, F. Kidder pastor. Rev. W. C. Wright is preaching at McGregor, L. L. Frisk at Waukon, and C. J. B. Jackson at West Union. Also C. Spragg at Volga City. There are now (1870) 16 churches, 12 pastors, 30 baptisms reported, and 605 members. The largest church as to membership is Ward’s Corners, with 71. Only three others have over 50, and no church in the Association has ever had 100 any one year. Met in 1871 at McGregor. Rev. W. Chapman, pastor for two or three years at Vernon Springs, preached the sermon, Moderator C. E. Brown, clerk Carrier. Rev. F. Kidder has succeeded S. Sill at Strawberry Point. Lime Springs entertained the body in 1872. Brother Wedgewood preached the sermon, C. E. Brown clerk. Brother Hilton closed, about this time, his labors in this part of the state, and another year will be found in Western Iowa. Rev. D. P. Maryatt is supplying Council Hill, J. H. Beach Forrestville, Thomas Ure Lime Springs, and G. M. Adams at Waukon. Forrestville Church was received in 1871. Decorah and Taylorsville Churches have disappeared.  In 1878 met at Waukon, C. E. Brown preacher and Moderator, Thomas Ure clerk. Rev. E. K. Cressey, preaching at McGregor, reported 36 baptized, Brother Ure at West Union 6, Lime Springs 6, and Castalia 2. Total baptisms 50, members 551. Rev. J. E. Rockwood was present representing the Baptist Sunday School Union. Brother Ure preached an annual missionary sermon, and a collection of $40 was taken for the Convention. The Forrestville and Volga City Churches disappear from the records. Waukon and West Union are engaged in building.


    The anniversary in 1874 was at Strawberry Point. Rev. F. Kidder preached the opening sermon. Thomes Ure, clerk. Rev. E. P. Dye is preaching at Rossville and reports 65 baptisms, Council Hill reports 16, and Rev. L. M. Whiting is pastor at Strawberry Point and reports a new organization at Edgewood, with 13 baptisms and 42 members.  Whole number of churches 14; pastors 6; baptisms 106; members 671. A revival has been enjoyed, greater, seemingly, than ever before in this Association. The Fifteenth Anniversary in 1875 was held at McGregor. L. M. Whiting, annual preacher. J. M. Wedgewood, Moderator, Thomas Ure, clerk. Rev. J. C. Douglass preached for a short time at West Union. At this meeting Rev. Charles E. Brown read his history of the Association for our indebtedness to which acknowledgement was made in the beginning of this Sketch. Brother Morse wrote a circular letter which was adopted and ordered printed in the Minutes.


    The annual meeting in 1876 was at West Union. A. A. Johnson, of West Union, clerk. A church had been organized at Charmont and appears upon the records with 10 members, and Volga City is restored with 12. A committee, consisting of Brethren Whiting, Wedgewood and Williams, had been appointed to visit the brethren at Volga City during June, 1875. Rev. John Brown is their pastor. Brother Wedgewood is still pastor at Waukon, the only pastor left. Rev. L. M. Whiting has removed from Strawberry Point to Manchester, Epworth and Farley in the Dubuque Association. Rev. C. H. Mitchelmore is at Strawberry Point. The great revival at Rossville two years before had been followed by the usual reaction, but they rejoice that some seed fell upon good ground and is bringing forth fruit to the glory of God. In 1877 Clearmont was the place of meeting. A. A. Johnson, clerk. Rev. C. E. Brown has again taken up the gospel trumpet at Lime Springs. Rev. M. H. Perry is proclaiming the glad tidings at West Union and Clearmont.


    Castalia entertained the meeting in 1878. Brother Johnson still clerk. Rev. F. N. Eldridge has succeeded Brother Wedgewood at Waukon. The Vernon Springs Church has disappeared and Cresco Church seems to take its place. Randalia has a church of 34 members, of whom 13 have been baptized during the year, Rev. M. H. Perry pastor in connection with West Union. Rev. E. W. Green is the preacher at Cresco and Lime Springs. In 1879 Rossville was the place of meeting. Rev. J. C. Harrington appears as preachers at Ward’s Corners. Brother Green at Cresco is sustained by the Convention, and a meeting house is the great need there. From 1880 to 1886 the anniversaries have been at Ward’s Corners, Cresco, Waukon, West Union, Strawberry Point, Lime Springs, and Rossville. A. A. Johnson continued to serve as clerk until 1885, when Rev. F. W. C. Wiggin was clerk, and in 1886 F. Y. Whitmore.


     A church had been organized at Fort Atchinson in 1880, and Elder C. E. Brown was pastor. Rev. E. W. Green baptized 16 at Cresco. Rev. A. F. Sharpnack is at Strawberry Point, and R. H. Shafto at Ward’s Corners. M. H. Perry has removed from the Association and become pastor at Fredericksburg, in the Cedar Valley. The Castalia, Edgewood and Grand Meadow Churches have disappeared from the list.


 In 1881 Rev. E. W. Green had removed to Wisconsin and A. H. Carman had succeeded him at Cresco, and F. N. Eldridge from Waukon to Shenandoah in Southwestern Iowa. But M. H. Perry had returned and was preaching at West Union. The McGregor Church made no report. But two baptisms were reported in the Association. These were in Waukon. Rev. A. F. Sharpnack removed from Strawberry Point to Audubon, in the west part of the State.


    In 1882 Brother Perry appeared at Strawberry Point and Ward’s Corners, and Rev. Robert Smith was pastor at Waukon. Only 11 persons were baptized and the membership 485.


    In 1883 Pastor Robert Smith immersed 12, but there was little other advance.


    In 1884 Rev. E. R. Pierce appeared as preacher at Lime Springs. Brethren Carman and Perry are the only pastors. The McGregor church finally disappears from the records.  This is the saddest case of church mortality in our knowledge. A live town like McGregor! A church containing the live elements that this once did, with a good live Sabbath School, become completely extinct! Can this be the final end?


     In 1885 Rev. F. W. C. Wiggin had been laboring at Waukon and perhaps some other points with marked success. Baptisms at Waukon 23, Cresco 15, West Union 15, Rossville 7, Lime Springs 6, and Hawkeye and Strawberry Point one each.  Whole number of baptisms 68, members 511. Brother J. O. Dean was preaching at Olwein and Randalia. Rev. M. H. Perry removes to western Iowa, and after a brief stay in the Sioux Valley is found preaching at Silver City in southwestern Iowa.


    The year 1886 found Rev. G. H. Starring at Waukon, and F. Bower at West Union. Other pastors are Carman, Wedgewood, Brown and Kidder. Number baptized 33, members 519. From reports since the annual meeting there is reason to hope for an increase and a better report in 1887.  The Turkey River Association occupies the territory comprising the counties of Fayette, Clayton, Allamakee, Winneshiek and Howard. It has been from the first a most unfavorable soil for the growth of Baptist churches, and as time has wrought its

population of the counties named is foreign, and the Catholic church has here a very strong hold and is increasing that hold by buying out the settlers who remove farther west. There is also a large Scandinavian population which is anti-Baptistic. The largest Norwegian College in the west is located within the territory of this Association at Decorah. The brethren who have labored on and held on in this barren field are worthy of all praise for their fidelity to the principles we all hold dear.


     The church at Strawberry Point has had a history that is worthy of special mention. Organized in 1856, it appeared in the Dubuque Association with 21 members that year, Rev. George Scott pastor. This brother seems to have remained as pastor most of the time for six or seven years. The growth was never rapid nor did it ever attain to a large membership even for a village church, but among those connected with it have been some of the brightest families that Iowa has known, and from its ranks have come such workers as Rev. Alva Bush, James Sunderland and wife and John E. Clough and wife. Brother Clough may not have been at any time a member of this church, yet his home was there, and his wife’s family, and they are intimately associated in the thought of many with Strawberry point. Few churches are so honored in this respect. Brother Scott’s ministry at this place was one of faith if not of sight. 


Rev. J. E. Clough

Rev. J. E. Clough

     His account of their struggle to get a meeting house, we will remember. They had come to a stand-still financially and the work had to stop. Money was not to be had. Finally the pastor went out among the farmers, and prevailed with them to consecrate, perhaps one a colt, another a calf or a pig, etc., etc.  These animals to be taken care of by the donors until ready for market, when they became the property of the church and were sold, and the work completed and paid for.


~ source: Historical sketches of Iowa Baptists,  Mitchell, S. H., Burlington, Iowa: Burdette Co., 1886, 537 pgs.  Page 333 – 344

~ transcribed by Constance Diamond for Dubuque County IAGenWeb


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