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The first sermon preached in Fairfield, by a Methodist, was by Rev. Jesse Herbert,* who was appointed to the Richland (Iowa) Mission, from the Illinois Annual Conference, which met at Bloomington, in that State, September 11, 1839. His first visit to Fairfield was in March, 1840, and, on the 16th of that month, he organized a class, with David Bowman and wife, Mrs. Nancy Shields, "Old Father Herrington," Mrs. Elizabeth Dickey and Mrs. Elizabeth A. Culbertson as members; David Bowman, Leader.
[* The writer is of the opinion that this name should be Hobart. There were twin brothers who were both Methodist preachers and members of the Illinois Conference in those days. They were appointed to the work in Iowa in early times. Chauncy Hobart was assigned to duty in Cedar and adjoining counties in 1836, and remained there some two years. When Minnesota began to be settled up, he was sent up there as a missionary, where he has ever since remained in the harness. He is now an old man and a resident of Red Wing, Goodhue County, where the writer met him in August of this year (1878). Incapacitated by old age from active work, he is held in reserve for urgent calls. During the writer's interview with him in August, he spoke of a brother Jesse, which inclines the writer to the opinion that it was Jesse Hobart, and not Jesse Herbert that preached the first Methodist sermon in Fairfield. These twin brothers were pioneer missionaries of Methodism in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. -B.]
The place of preaching at the time of founding the society was at Thomas Dickey's tavern, but succeeding meetings were held at the Court House. The first quarterly meeting was held in the winter of 1840-41, at which the Presiding Elder, Rev. Henry Summers, was present. "This sinewy and self-sacrificing itinerant traversed nearly all the settled portions of Iowa Territory, and many a thrilling and startling incident can he tell of pioneer life." He was peculiarly fitted for the work in which he was engaged, and his memory is dear to the early settlers with whom he came in contact, without regard to sect or creed.
At this first quarterly meeting were added to the Church: Charles Negus, Mrs. Elizabeth De Puy and an unmarried sister of her husband, Job. C. Sweet and wife, Capt. T. D. Evans and wife, and Alexander Fulton and wife. †
[† An incident of this meeting is worthy of insertion: Capt. Evans had arrived in Fairfield but a few days previous, and having come from an older country his clothing was of a finer texture than the homespun of the earlier settlers and attracted attention. The Captain, rising to speak in love-feast, Father Herrington, whose piety was unquestioned, asked "Who is that getting up with broadcloth on?" and seemed to feel that the new-comer needed rebuking. However, after hearing the Captain's experience, he expressed his approval of man and manner.]
Mr. Herbert (as the name was given to the writer) did not return to the work after his visit in March, but was succeeded in the fall of that year by Rev. Moses F. Shinn.
In the spring of 1844, the membership of the Church had increased to twenty-eight. In April, Captain Evans presented the Church with Lot No. 4, Block No. 21, old plat of the town of Fairfield, and an effort was made to erect a house of worship, considerable material for which was gathered; but it was four years later before work was actually begun on a brick church, 45x60 feet, which was completed in 1850, at a cost of about $2,200. In 1852, a comfortable parsonage was completed, the building of which was superintended by Rev. D. N. Smith.
The first Sunday school was organized in January, 1852, with T. D. Evans, Superintendent.
In 1869, a division occurred in the Church, a minority withdrawing under the leadership of Rev. W. C. Shippen. This division built what was known as "Harmony Church," now occupied as the court-room of the county. In 1876, the two churches re-united, and the present beautiful and commodious church was erected, at a cost, including the two lots occupied, of about $18,000. The laying of the corner-stone of this church was a feature of the Fourth of July exercises, at Fairfield, in 1877. We quote from the Ledger:
"This was very interesting and pleasing. Prof. Fellows, of Iowa City, conducted the exercises, assisted by Rev. Carson Reed, and delivered an address very appropriate and comprehensive. After the memorials were deposited in the beautiful white sandstone, Capt. W. T. Burgess made an address, which, for eloquence and beautiful arrangement, could not be excelled."
The following-named ministers, in succession, have been in charge of this Church: Jesse Herbert, 1839-40; Moses F. Shinn, 1840-41; William B. Cooley, 1841-42; Robert Hawk, 1842-43; Joel Arrington, 1843-44; Hugh Gibson, 1844-45; Micajah Reeder, 1845-46; with Alvin Rucker, Assistant; Joseph Brooks, 1846-47; John Hayden, 1847 (two years), with James C. Smith, Assistant; David N. Smith, 1849 (two years); Joseph McDowell, 1851-52; David N. Smith, 1852-53; L. B. Dennis, 1853-54; John Harris, 1854-55; Joseph Gasner, 1855 (two years); Peter F. Haltzinger, 1857-8; Sanford Haines, 1858-59; Joshua B. Hardy, 1859-60; John Burgess, 1860-61; Elias S. Briggs, 1861 (two years); David Worthington, 1863-64; S. Hestwood, 1864 (two years); John Haynes, 1866-67; W. C. Shippen, 1867 (two years), resigned in April of his second year, and vacancy supplied by John Hayden; O. C. Shelton, 1869-70; E. H. Coddington, 1870 (three years); J. H. Miller, 1873-74; H. E. Uling, 1874 (three years); James Haynes, the present Pastor, 1877, and now entering on his second year.
The Presbyterian Church was organized October 2, 1841, at a meeting held for that purpose composed of the following-named persons: Solomon Montgomery and Elizabeth, his wife; John Montgomery, Sulavan Ross and wife, John Hopkirk, Jonathan Young and wife, and James Young, nine in all. Of this nine, the first six had previously been connected with the Church in the States; the last three were received on examination.
Solomon Montgomery was elected the first Ruling Elder November 13, 1841. In May, 1842, John Snook and wife and Walker Finley were added to the Church. Rev. L. G. Bell, familiarly called "Father Bell," was the first Pastor formally called to assume charge of the Church in October, 1842. He remained with the Church until 1849, on a salary of $150 per year. There is no record of his installment. The first church edifice was a frame, 24x34 feet, built in 1842, by Father Bell, in whom the title remained, and there is no record of its dedication. This building, with a half-story added and otherwise altered, still stands on the corner of Second East and Second North streets, and is occupied by Thomas Cole as a dwelling.
In the fall of 1849, Rev. Robert McGuigan was employed as Pastor half his time.
The first brick church built by this organization was completed, and the first sermon preached by Rev. McGuigan, on the last Sabbath in December, 1849. Rev. S. C. McCune was Pastor from June, 1851, to January 1, 1865. Rev. W. Maynard began his ministrations May 1, 1865, and continued three years. The last Pastor, Rev. Carson Reed, was in charge from the first Sabbath in December, 1868, until the second Sabbath on October, 1878, when he severed his connection. During Father Bell's pastorate, the accessions to the Church were 34 on examination, and 111 on certificate; McGuigan, 1 on examination, 5 on certificate; McCune, 105 on examination, and 182 on certificate; Maynard, 22 on examination, 58 by certificate; Reed, 86 on examination, and 132 by certificate.
During the thirty-seven years of its existence, 248 members have been added to the Church on examination, of which number one (Bernard Slagle, now preaching in Indiana) has entered the ministry.
The churches of Libertyville and North Fairfield are offshoots of this Church.
The present beautiful edifice of brick, 50x70 feet, erected at a cost, to date, of $14,000, is not completed in its interior arrangements, but has been occupied since the first Sabbath in November, 1877. The Church debt, amounting to $8,500, remained a cause of anxiety to the congregation, and it was determined to make a united effort to remove it. The Church being without a regular Pastor, the services of Dr. W. G. Craig, of Westminster Church, Keokuk, were secured for Sunday, November 17, 1878. So well was the work conducted, that the whole amount of indebtedness, and over $500 in excess, was pledged on that day and the Monday following, to the infinite satisfaction of the members of the congregation and the community generally.
Fairfield, was visited in 1839 by Rev. Reuben Gaylord, a Congregational minister, from Des Moines County, who is entitled to the honor of preaching the first sermon in the new town. In December, of that year, under his direction, a church was organized at the Court House, with twelve members: E. S. Gage, James and Harriet Cole, C. S. and Deborah Waugh, W. P. Charles, R. James, B. Sarah, Louisa, Caroline and David Hitchcock. E. S. Gage was chosen clerk and Treasurer of the Church. Through the influence of Rev. Asa Turner, of Denmark, Lee County, the father of Congregationalism in the West, the new Church secured the services of Rev. Julius A. Reed, who commenced his labors November 28, 1840, under the patronage of the Home Missionary Society, the Church, in aid of his support, raising $100 per annum. Mr. J. S. Waugh having presented the Church with a half-lot in Block 16, at a meeting held February 5, 1842, it was decided to erect a temporary house of worship, which was completed the same year at a cost some $300, subscribed by members of the Church and citizens generally. Rev. Mr. Reed continued his labors until August, 1845, when, having been appointed Missionary of the Society in Iowa, he resigned his charge. During the ministry of Rev. Mr. Reed, the Church was presented with a library by Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. Rev. Mr. Reed was succeeded, November 1, 1845, by Rev. W. A. Thompson, of Massachusetts. In December, 1849, the Church purchased Lots 5 and 6, Block 15, for $120, but a new church-building was not erected until 1852.
Rev. Mr. Thompson having accepted a call from the Church at Port Byron, Ill., his connection with the Church was dissolved in the summer of 1850, and in October of that year, a call was extended to Rev. George G. Rice, of Vermont, who officiated as Pastor one year, and was succeeded by Rev. Charles H. Gates, of Massachusetts, who began his labors December 7, 1851. The Church regretfully accepted his resignation June 1, 1856.
Rev. R. Wilkinson presided over the Church from July, 1856, until June 1, 1863, when he resigned his charge, and Rev. J. M. Williams was employed, temporarily, as Pastor. At a meeting of the Trustees, March 28, 1864, a call was extended to him to become permanent Pastor, and accepted December 2, 1864. Mr. Williams was installed on the 28th of the same month, the Council consisting of Rev. Asa Turner, of Denmark; Rev. Daniel Lane, of Eddyville; Rev. Simon Brown, of Ottumwa; Rev. James Kennedy, of Clay; and Rev. J. W. Picket, of Mount Pleasant.
Rev. Mr. Williams continued as Pastor until the fall of 1866, when his connection with the Church was dissolved at his own request. In the fall of 1866, a call was extended to Rev. E. T. Merrill, of Newton, Jasper County, and accepted.
Mr. Merrill remained with the Church until May 20, 1872, and was succeeded by Rev. C. Compton Burnett, who resigned May 21, 1877. The Church was without a Pastor until May 27, 1878, when Rev. R. M. Thompson assumed charge, but resigned November 6, 1878.
The present membership of the Church is 150, and the average attendance at Sabbath school. of which Mrs. Juliet H. Stever is Superintendent, is 104.
Rev. W. A. Thompson, who removed to Port Byron, Ill., in 1850, was, some two years afterward, drowned while crossing a slough near the Mississippi River, and not far from his home. Some weeks afterward, a convention of Congregational ministers was in session at Fort Madison, during which time the body of Mr. Thompson, which could not be found at the time of his death, was discovered floating in the river, brought ashore and identified by his brother ministers, many of whom knew him intimately. The circumstance cast a gloom over the convention, which was perceptible during the remainder of the session.
Bishop Jackson Kemper, first missionary Bishop of the Northwest, having jurisdiction over what are now six States, visited Fairfield and held service as early as 1850.
The first regular missionary clergyman was Rev. William Adderly, of Burlington, who held monthly service in the third story of the brick building on the east side of the square, owned by Charles Negus.
The first Vestry was elected March 24, 1856, and consisted of the following-named persons: P. L. Huyett, William Dunwoody, Hiram Foster, Henry B. Mitchell and Charles Negus.
On the 26th of March, 1856, the Vestry passed a motion to erect a brick church according to the design of William Bassett.
Rev. P. A. Johnson acted as Rector from 1857 to 1858. Rev. J. Hochaly became Rector in August, 1858, and held that position until March, 1864. The church was just inclosed when he took charge, and had an indebtedness of $600. In the winter of 1858, he went East to solicit funds, and collected about $2,200, of which $2,000 went to pay off the indebtedness and finish the building. The Church being out of debt, it was consecrated June 3, 1860, by the Right Rev. Bishop Henry W. Lee.
Rev. P. I. Labagh became Rector in July, 1865, and continued for two years. He was succeeded by Rev. M. Kemp, who remained until the next year (1868). Rev. W. Y. Johnson became Rector in 1870, and remained until his death. He was succeeded by Rev. F. B. Nash April 2, 1876, for one year. The present Rector in charge is Rev. C. C. Burnett, and the Vestry are George D. Temple, P. I. Labagh, P. H. Howlett, H. B. Mitchell and J. S. Lowell.
The Christian Church of Fairfield was organized September 19, 1858. At the same meeting, John Van Nostrand, L. W. Murphy and Thomas Parkinson were appointed Elders; John W. DuBois, Sr., and John M. Grafton, Deacons. At a subsequent meeting, in 1859, Robert Hastings and Clark Van Nostrand were appointed additional Deacons, and I. D. Jones appointed Clerk.
From the original records we append the rule of faith, as defined by the Church:
"We, the undersigned, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Fairfield, do hereby agree to take the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as our rule of faith and practice."
The first preaching after the organization of the Church was by Elder Aaron Chatterton, (now deceased) of Oskaloosa. Meetings of the Church were held in the Court House until 1864, when the brick schoolhouse in the northeast district of the city was purchased for $300 by John C. McLelland, Clark Van Nostrand and John W. DuBois, Sr., from their own private funds. This was their place of meeting for several years, when, through the efforts of I. D. Jones, Esq., the property was sold to Mr. Neiswanger, and the proceeds applied to the purchase from George H. Case, of the present church site. Thereupon, Articles of Incorporation under the laws of the State were entered upon the records April 24, 1858. The Trustees appointed were Clark Van Nostrand, George W. Flagg, I. D. Jones, John W. DuBois and J. J. Bell.
March 8, 1871, a Building Committee was appointed, consisting of J. W. DuBois, Chairman; Clark Van Nostrand, B. F. Crail, Joseph Ball and I. D. Jones; and on the 13th of April following, a contract was made with David P. Lynn for the erection of a church-building, the cost of which should be $3,180. The edifice was completed according to contract, and on Sunday, November 5, 1872, was dedicated by Elder Allen Hickey - the Trustees announcing, at the close of the meeting, to an overflowing house that the Church was free from debt. The present building is neat, plain and unostentatious, 36x55 feet, located in a retired part of the city, with pleasant surroundings.
The present Trustees are John W. Du Bois, Clark Van Nostrand, Charles L. Cox, S. C. Hollister and I. D. Jones.
The first Baptist minister who preached in Fairfield was Elder William Elliott, who made his home in Washington County, and had been preaching occasionally to a small congregation formed in the "Rich Woods" neighborhood. Hearing of some Baptist families who had recently settled in and near Fairfield, he visited the place in December, 1844. "Father Bell" kindly tendered the Presbyterian Church for his use, and, in the same month, he organized a church with the following persons as the original members:
A. H. Brown and wife, their son Isaac H., and daughter Ellen; Mr. Smith and wife, who had settled beyond Cedar Creek, in Liberty Township; George W. Vance and wife; William McKay, a single man, and William Bunnell and wife; eleven in all. A. H. Brown, still living in Fairfield, and William Bunnell, were the first Deacons. At that time, there were but two associations of the Baptist Church in the Territory of Iowa, and were known as the Des Moines and Davenport Associations. For a year after its organization, the Church held meetings at regular intervals, as ministers from other localities visited them; but in the fall of 1845, Elder Post was employed as Pastor, the Church securing a part of his time. The next summer, however, he removed to Pella, and, a year afterward, died at that place. He was succeeded by Elder Ormsby, who had settled in Liberty Township, and divided his time between Fairfield and a new church organized in his own neighborhood. Elder Ormsby preached about one year, and removed back East. The next Pastor was Elder John Williams, who continued with the Church for several years. Rev. Isaac Leonard, of Burlington, succeeded Elder Williams, but supplied the Church about eighteen months only, when, owing to a throat affection, he was compelled to abandon the work
There are no records of the Church history up to this date, and the fore-going facts have been furnished by Deacon Brown, from memory.
In the year 1865, Elder Chauncy C. Derby assumed charged of the Church.
In 1866, the Church experienced a revival, and many revivials, and completed a brick chapel. Elder Derby's health failed, and he was obliged to quit preaching. He has been succeeded by Elders Robinson, Shonafelt, Frey and H. W. Thiele, present supply. A new and beautiful church and parsonage were completed in 1877, costing about $8,000. The Church suffered some loss in consequence of the failure of the contractor, and fraudulent claims, but it is now free from debt. In 1878, by an extraordinary effort and signal blessing of God, the total amount was amply provided for by subscription. The future prosperity of the Church is assured by its many advantages and past victories.
The Lutheran Church of Fairfield was organized with eight members, in 1856. It assumed the name of "The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Fairfield." It was received into the Synod of Iowa, and has always been in connection with the General Synod. Rev. A. Axline became its first Pastor, and served the Church for seventeen years. Rev. W. M. Sparr, its present Pastor, took charge of the Church in August, 1873.
In 1858, the congregation erected a church-building, 38x50 feet, which was dedicated August 21, of the same year. In 1870, the congregation purchased the lot adjoining the church, and, in the early part of 1874, erected a comfortable parsonage, 28x30 feet.
The present membership of the Church is 117.
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