Rev. William Brattain, 1810-1889

Oskaloosa Weekly Herald 1889 Biographical Sketch
of the late Rev. William Brattain
By his old friend, Rev. Thomas Ballinger

William Brattain lived in Peoria, Peoria, IL in his childhood, Farmington, Van Buren, IA, Mt. Pleasant, Henry, IA, and Jefferson City, Mahaska, IA in his later years. Born 13 Oct 1810 in Indiana. md 28 Feb 1836 to Martha A. Croxil or Cropstill. Died 26 Feb 1889 in Jefferson Twp. , Mahaska, Iowa.

In writing this sketch, the object will be to present, not only an outline of MR. BRATTAIN, but "whence, what and where," that will embrace his early boyhood days, circumstances connected with his early manhood, his wonderful ability to learn by both observation and books. Mr. Brattain was born in the State of Indiana, October 13, 1810. Died, in Jefferson township, Mahaska county, Iowa, at the home of his son-in-law and daughter Mary, Mrs. Thomas Havener, of Bright's disease, after much patient suffering, February 25, 1889, at the advanced age of 79 years. Mr. Brattain was married in Van Buren county, Iowa, to Miss Martha A. Croxil, in 1836. They had five children born to them - three boys and two daughters, namely Humphrey, Lemuel and Charley. The daughters Mrs. Thomas Havener lives in this County; May, now Mrs. Dr. G.N. Beechler, lives in Oskaloosa.

Mr. B.'s father moved from Indiana to Lake Peoria, Illinois, about 1816, and settled on very near where the populous city of Peoria now stands. That was several years before the Indians were removed. At that time it was an Indian town and a French trading post. The Brattain family had no neighbors by [but] Indians; their children no playmates but young Indians. They got acquainted, and from necessity, soon, began to learn to talk together. There being no war with the whites at that time, the Indians were very friendly to them. Mr. Brattain told the writer that their children soon became attached to their young neighbors, and they would unite in songs, children's plays, and the boys in running footraces and other sports. Here he said, is where I first learned by experience, that I could run fast. The short races were from fifty to four hundred steps; said he smiling, "I have run all the distances named hundreds of times, and never run with an Indian but to beat him. Don't think me vain, Brother Ballinger; but I have never been outrun by any boy or man." We believed every word of it, knowing how strong and active he was for a man so slender. But, brother, we asked how about getting along friendly with those young Indians. "There was no trouble, never saw children get along better together, they would join in with us to learn our plays; and we with them, making our pleasures as mutual as possible."

Mr. Brattain learned to speak the Indian dialect here so well, that he said he never saw an Indian of any tribe, but that he could talk without difficulty; but he learned the art of hunting, and could as easily beat them at that as he could outrun them.

From Illinois the Brattain family moved to Iowa, then a territory, and occupied by Indians; and M. B., being well acquainted with the Indian tongue, soon made new acquaintances, got well acquainted with the celebrated Chiefs, Black Hawk, Keokuk, and the prophet Wabahespeck. He gave it as his opinion, that Black Hawk was the greatest Indian he ever saw, equal to any mentioned in the past history of the country.

In the interval between his boyhood days at Lake Peoria and his immigration to Iowa and for several years afterward, he was employed at different things. He made several trips down the Mississippi river to New Orleans, getting good wages for his services, a portion of which he put into books, for further educating himself, in order to be more useful to himself and others. He taught school for some time, the better to prepare himself for a law student, read law and was admitted to the bar, and practiced his profession for a year or two, but was too reserved and diffident to be a lawyer. He told the writer that all through these years from a boy his mind had been more or less engaged in the study of religious subjects.

He quit law and took up his old trade, having worked at the carpenter business at intervals before. There was not work enough to keep him employed all the time; and every hour he had to spare, he put in reading the Bible until he read it through and through. From its teaching he came to the conclusion, that if God is infinite in wisdom, He must have clearly foreseen the results, that would follow man's existence. A reasonable conclusion on the supposition that his existence would turn out to be a source of endless wretchedness. Mr. Brattain was a man who never arrived at a conclusion without first carefully considering the premises.

If God created mankind for a good purpose, nothing but good will be the final result. If any portion of mankind should suffer endless chastisement it would be difficult to see how such could end in good; and there being no comparison between any man's transgressions and endless suffering, it is safe to assume that such punishment cannot, under God's government be true. We must then, of course, interpret the Scriptures to correspond and harmonize with infinite wisdom, love and good results Mercy would ask all that and even more. It was this kind of reasoning that made Mr. Brattain a believer in the final triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, heaven over hell.

The Scriptures say, "For as much then, as the children are partaker of flesh and blood, he (Christ) likewise took part of the same, that through death he might destroy him and that the power of death, that is the devil, and those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Then good cheer to the world. The devil, i.e., evil will be destroyed by Christ, and hell overthrown; all sighing and sorrow shall flee away, and tears shall be wiped from off all faces; "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

With charity for all, and malice toward none, the writer has no object in this sketch, in alluding to the beliefs of others than to help all up to a higher doctrinal standpoint, and broader view of our holy religion. "Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."

In conclusion, Mr. Brattain was a great student, and had the law suited him would have made a great jurist. He never got credit for this great ability. He wrote more than three thousand sermons, the greater part of which are left with his daughter, Mrs. Havener. Some 600 of them were never delivered. They would make thirty large volumes if printed and bound that would be a valuable addition to the world's knowledge of theology, by their advanced thoughts and deep scientific research.

At One P.M. on the day of the funeral the friends in the city, who had gathered at Dr. Beechler's joined the procession as it came from the country, and proceeded to Forest cemetery, where he was laid to rest beside his wife, whom he married over fifty years ago. Farewell, dear brother, thou hast gone the way of all the earth.

Contributed by Betsey Browning