At Waukesha, a respectable Church edifice had been erected in 1841 and 1842. At a later period a small Parsonage had been built, and on our arrival it was in readiness to receive us. The public services of the Sabbath were held at half-past ten in the morning and at one in the afternoon. The latter had been so arranged to accommodate families in the country, who desired a second service before returning home. The plan, however, did not fully satisfy the people in the village, as it failed to provide for an evening service. It was suggested that in a village, a certain class of people could be induced to attend an evening service that would not go to any other. To test the matter, I opened an evening service. The arrangement proved satisfactory, and was continued, though it involved the necessity of having three services a day.
The good seed of the kingdom, scattered among the crowds who gathered at the evening service, in due time began to bear fruit, and an extensive revival followed. As the good work in the village increased, and the number of converts was multiplied, the people of the surrounding neighborhoods became also interested, and attended the meeting. Many of these were induced to accept the obligations of a holy life, and as a result, invitations began to multiply, requesting me to open appointments in their respective localities. I now selected five of the most central neighborhoods and established in them week-day evening services. But as the summer drew on, they were discontinued except two, and these, as the most promising, were assigned to the Sabbath, and were filled on alternate days at four o'clock in the afternoon. To meet these appointments, in addition to the regular services in the village, required four sermons each Sabbath. As to the propriety of undertaking this amount of labor, I need say nothing. Some may deem it an evidence of zeal, but others that of folly.
During this year the Milwaukee District established a system of platform missionary meetings on the several charges. To further the object, it was decided to appoint two or three ministers to attend each meeting, and by dividing the labor throughout the district, bring thereby all the preachers upon the platform. On several of these occasions, I found myself associated with a brother who was beginning to attract considerable attention as a speaker. We usually put him on the programme for the closing speech, that he might furnish the "rousements," as Bishop Morris would say, for the collection. And in this particular we were seldom disappointed. The good brother was always ready for what might be called a flaming speech. And though he always ran in much the same channel, his craft, to use a figure, was always full-rigged and under full sail. But, to change the figure, and bring it more fully into harmony with the department of nature, from which the brother had evidently derived his name, I might say his pinions were always full fledged and in full tension for a lofty flight. Unfortunately, however, he could never fold his wings in time to make a graceful descent when he desired to come down to the plane of ordinary mortals. In the descent he would sometimes "swap ends" so many times, that it was a marvel that a broken neck was not the result. But to his own mind these airy flights were always sublime, and especially so when he struck the quotation, which usually closed each missionary speech, that placed the herald of the Gospel on the highest pinnacle of time, and made him "look back over the vista of receding ages" and "forward over the hill-tops of coming time," and "lift up his voice until it should echo from mountain top to mountain top, from valley to valley, from river to river, from ocean to ocean, from isle to isle, and from continent to continent, the whole earth around." Of course the collection always followed this speech, and if it proved to be pretty good, a few additional feathers went into the pinions for the next flight.
On one of these occasions our orator became greatly elated with his success, and rallied me upon the difference between the broad, velvety wing of the miller and the long, sharp pointed wing of his species. The opportunity was too good to be lost. I replied, "Well, my brother, I had a thought last night, when I saw you towering to such dizzy heights in your speech." "What was it?" he enquired, eagerly. "Oh!" I replied, "I would hardly dare to tell you." "Yes, yes," said he, "let us have it." I still hesitated, until the several brethren present joined him in his persistent request. "Well," I answered, "if you insist upon it I will state it. When I saw you making your lofty flights, I thought if you could only have a few feathers plucked from the wings of your imagination and placed in the tail of your judgment, you would make a grand flyer." The next flight was made with greater caution.
The balance of the year at Waukesha was given to the ordinary demands of the work. To the Church there had been large accessions and to the Parsonage a welcome guest, in the person of our eldest daughter.
The Wisconsin Conference for 1849 was held at Platteville. I crossed the State in a buggy and was assigned to Father Mitchell's for entertainment. To enjoy the hospitality of this truly Christian gentleman and veteran patriarch for a week was a privilege that would mark an era at any time in a man's life. At this Conference I was ordained an Elder by Bishop Janes, and received my appointment for a second year at Waukesha. Rev. Elihu Springer was returned to Milwaukee District for the third year.
At my first Quarterly Meeting the Elder insisted on a reconstruction of my work, in which he was joined by the Local Preachers and several other brethren of the charge. The noon-day sermon was dispensed with and the Sabbath afternoon appointments were given mainly to the care of the Local Preachers. These were William Carpenter, Hiram Crane, and Miles L. Reed, a trio of noble and devoted men.
Assisted by these faithful men and a united and earnest church, the work grew upon our hands, and this second year was also blessed with a precious revival. It was in connection with this revival and the garnering of the converts that the controversy arose between us and the Baptist friends on the subject of baptism. As many of our converts had not enjoyed favorable opportunities to become informed on this subject, the Pastor was desired by formal request to preach a sermon on the mode of baptism. This was done, and soon after the official board requested a copy for publication. The writer, supposing it was merely intended to secure a few copies through the columns of the village newspaper for convenient reference, hastily furnished the discourse. Instead, however, of procuring a few slips only, it was published in pamphlet and given a more extensive circulation. In due time it was taken up by the Pastor of the Baptist Church and reviewed at length in his pulpit. On the following Sabbath the reviewer was himself reviewed, and here ended the controversy. It is a question whether such controversies are really beneficial. They usually engender strife and party feeling, and not unfrequently alienate the servants of our common Master. But that such was not the case in this instance is pretty evident from the fact that at the session of our Conference in Waukesha the following year, the writer was requested to fill on the Sabbath the pulpit of his former antagonist.
On this charge also the writer took his first serious lesson in Church trials. The matter in question arose out of a misunderstanding between a man and his wife, growing out of a want of interest, perhaps, on the part of the one, and jealousy on the part of the other. Like other inexperienced administrators whom I have known, in trying to make crooked things straight, I invoked an agency that became a fire and a sword in my hand. Neither the Church nor the individuals concerned derived any advantage in the result, and though the wisdom of the administration was never called in question as far as I knew, yet I could not suppress the conviction that Church trials can only be commended as a last resort. It is much easier to awaken than allay the spirit of strife. Abating this discordant note, which did not long disturb the harmony of the Church, the two years we spent on this charge are freighted with most precious memories. Full of incident, and fragrant with blessing, they form a bright link in the chain of our itinerant life. Happy in our work, with only occasional calls for special services abroad, the years passed swiftly and joyously.
Referring to services abroad reminds me of the Quarterly Meeting I held for the Presiding Elder, on what was then called Howard's Prairie, some twenty miles distant. Seated in my buggy with my wife and child, I started on Friday afternoon for the place. We reached the neighborhood at nightfall. We were directed by the Elder to call on a given family for entertainment, the gentleman being the most wealthy Methodist in the settlement. We halted the buggy at his gate, and I went in to crave his hospitality. As I approached the door and addressed myself to the master of the premises, he put on a frigid expression of countenance, and answered me coldly. I decided at once that I would not make myself known, but try the spirit of the man. I inquired whether there was to be a Quarterly Meeting in his neighborhood. He replied in the affirmative. I then inquired where the Methodist preachers put up when they came into the settlement.
He said, "They usually put up at the second house further on." I concluded the old gentleman was not expecting company until the Presiding Elder should come, and so concluded we had better go on. As I retired the old gentleman looked sharply after me, but doubtless thinking so small and young a man as I then was could not be the Elder, he permitted me to go on my way. We went on to the house indicated, and inquired of the gentleman at the gate whether the Methodist preachers who visited the settlement usually found entertainment with him. He replied, "I am not a Methodist myself, but my old woman is one, I believe, and she sometimes takes in the preachers on her own hook, but she is not at home to-night. Why didn't you stop up at the white house on the hill? He is the loudest Methodist in this neighborhood." I inquired, "Who lives up here in this small house that we have just passed?"
"Oh," said he, "that is my son, the Class-Leader." It was now quite dark. I returned to the buggy and asked my wife how she liked the Presiding Eldership. She laughed heartily, and said, "The fact is, they are all waiting for the Presiding Elder, for no one would ever take you for one."
I concluded she was right, and on returning to the Class-Leader's house I made bold to announce myself in due form. We were most hospitably entertained, and were so pleased with our kind host and hostess that we felt constrained to decline, the next day, urgent invitations from both of the large houses. My wife has often queried since as to what became of the pies and cakes that were intended for the Presiding Elder on that occasion.
The services of the Sabbath were held in a school house. At the close of the morning sermon the Pastor, Rev. Jesse Halstead, volunteered to carry the hat through the congregation, to receive the collection for the Presiding Elder. After performing this service, he requested the good people to sing while he should count the funds. On completing the count, he found a deficiency, and concluded to carry the hat again. He started and moved leisurely along, taking special pains to afford all an opportunity to contribute, until he came to the dear man, whose acquaintance I had made the night before. He now paused, placed the hat on the desk, under the face of the reputed miser, put his hands in his pockets, and looked unconcernedly over the congregation, remarking, "Well, brethren, there is no great hurry about this matter. If you have not got the money with you, we will give you plenty of time to borrow it from your neighbor." This new feature in the programme directed all eyes to the brother in whose custody the hat had been placed. For a moment he was frigid, but under such a concentration of piercing rays as were now turned upon him, he soon began to melt. Turning to his neighbor, he borrowed a contribution, whereupon the hat moved on.
Milwaukee—Early History—First Sermon—Rev. Mark Robinson—First Class—Rev. John Clark—Trustees—Rev. James Ash—Rev. David Worthington—Rev. Julius Field—Rev. John Crummer—First Church—Rev. John T. Mitchell—Rev. Sias Bolles—Lantern Convert—Second Church—Rev. A. Hanson—Rev. Dr. Ryan—John H. Van Dyke—Rev. F.M. Mills—Rev. James E. Wilson—Walker's Point—First Class—Rev. Wm. Willard.
The Conference of 1850 was held June 26th at Beloit, Bishop Hamline presiding. Brother Springer was returned to the Milwaukee District, and I was appointed to Spring Street Station, Milwaukee. The charge included the entire city except Walker's Point, where a Mission had been established, but before speaking of the Station in connection with my labors, I should, in harmony with my general plan, first refer to its earlier history. In doing this, I can only give in these pages the briefest outline, and refer the reader, who may desire further information, to a pamphlet entitled "Milwaukee Methodism," published by the writer in 1873.
The name of Milwaukee has, doubtless, come down to us from some extinct tribe of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, as there seems to be nothing that will fully answer to it in any of the tongues now in use. In 1680 Zenobius Membre mentions the river of Melleoke, flowing into Lake Dauphan, in latitude forty, with an Indian village at its mouth. Three generations later Lieut. Gorrell visited Milwacky River, and found a village on its bank, with an Indian trader.
Another interval of a generation occurred, and Solomon Juneau appeared and took up his residence in Milwaukee in 1818. Other fur traders came soon after, but the real settlement of the country did not begin until 1835, when nine families came, forming the nucleus of the future city.
The first Protestant sermon preached in Milwaukee was delivered by a Methodist clergyman in June, 1835. The meeting was held in a log house, erected by Dr. Enoch Chase for a residence, near the mouth of the river.
Milwaukee Mission was organized by the Illinois Conference in the summer of 1835, and Rev. Mark Robinson, who had been admitted that year, was appointed to the charge. The Presiding Elder of the District, which extended from Chicago to Green Bay, was the veteran pioneer, Rev. John Clark. The Presiding Elder visited Milwaukee during this year and preached a sermon in the residence of Dr. Chase, this being at that time the principal place in which meetings were held. Both the Pastor and Presiding Elder were entertained by the Doctor.
The population of the village was very small, but before the expiration of the Conference year Brother Robinson was able to form a class of four members. These first members were David Worthington, Mrs. Samuel Brown, Mrs. J.K. Lowry, and Mrs. Farmin.
In the autumn of 1836 Rev. William S. Crissey was sent to Milwaukee. The congregations were now growing, and it was found expedient to provide some place, other than a private residence, for the meetings. The Society was not able to build, and to rent a suitable place seemed impossible. In this embarrassment a carpenter's shop belonging to two members of the church, W.A. and L.S. Kellogg, was deemed the most feasible arrangement. This building, located on the corner of East Water and Huron Streets, was a frame structure, and stood on posts. Beneath and all around it was a pond of water, and to gain an entrance a narrow bridge was constructed from the street to the door. The first Quarterly Meeting was held in this place by Rev. John Clark, on the 8th and 9th of January, 1837. At this meeting the Pastor reported the conversion of Mr. J.K. Lowry, doubtless the first in the village.
The legal organization of the Church, according to the laws of the Territory, was effected July 22d, 1837, with Elah Dibble as Chairman and W.A. Kellogg as Secretary. The first Trustees were Elah Dibble, David Worthington, W.A. Kellogg, L.S. Kellogg, J.K. Lowry, Jared Thompson and Joseph E. Howe. The fourth Quarterly Meeting was held July 29th, and the Pastor reported a membership of forty-five.
In September, 1837, Rev. James R. Goodrich was appointed to the Station and Rev. Salmon Stebbins to the District. Among the members enrolled at this time I find the names of Thomas McElhenny, Jared Thompson, Local Preacher, Mr. and Mrs. L.S. Kellogg, Wm. A. Kellogg, Theresa Kellogg, Ophelia Kellogg, Amelia Kellogg, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, David Worthington, A.T. Wilson, Mrs. Samuel Brown, Mrs. Henry Miller, Mrs. J.K. Lowry, James Ash, Mr. and Mrs. Elah Dibble, and Sisters Adams, Church, James and Vail.
During this year Leader's Meetings were established, and at the one held March 12th, 1838, James Ash, David Worthington, Francis Metcalf and Hiram Johnson received Exhorter's license. The first named became subsequently a member of the Conference, traveled several years acceptably, was greatly beloved by all his brethren, and finally died within the bounds of New Berlin Circuit. Brother Worthington was a clerk in Solomon Juneau's store. In 1840 he entered the Conference, was stationed at Burlington and was returned the following year. In 1842 he was stationed at Davenport, Iowa, and thereafter his fields of labor fell within that State. He held an honored place among his brethren, represented them in the General Conference, and a few years since closed a useful life and passed to his home on high.
The other brethren became Local Preachers, and the former departed this life in Christian triumph at Appleton, Nov. 3, 1863, while the latter has become a successful business man, and is awaiting his summons. Thus the infant society of Milwaukee need not blush for her first contribution to the Ministerial staff of the church.
In 1838 Rev. Wellington Weigly was appointed, but as the great financial disaster had prostrated the business of the country, leaving the people in poverty, he only remained a short time, and the pulpit was largely left to the care of Brother Thompson, the Local Preacher. In 1839 Rev. Julius Field was appointed to the District, and the charge was left to be supplied.
Brother Field entered the New York Conference in 1821, and before coming west had filled leading appointments, including New York city. He was transferred this year to the Illinois Conference, and assigned to the District. He remained two years, and was then appointed General Agent of the Bible Society for Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. He served in this field four years, was then stationed, in 1845, at Racine, but at the close of the year was re-transferred to his old Conference, where he continued to render effective service, with but brief intervals, up to 1871. Having now completed a half century of labor, he was invited by his Conference to deliver a semi-centennial sermon. Having taken a superannuated relation, Brother Field, happy in spirit, is spending the evening of life among his friends, and awaiting the call of the Master.
The pastorate of Milwaukee was soon filled by Rev. Daniel Brayton, a superannuated member of the Troy Conference. It was now determined to build a Church. Hon. Morgan L. Martin came forward and generously donated a lot, situated on the east side of Broadway, and between Biddle and Oneida Streets, but the financial derangement still continuing, it was not deemed advisable to undertake the erection of the building.
At the General Conference of 1840, the Illinois Conference was divided and the Rock River took its northern territory. Rev. John Crummer was this year appointed to Milwaukee. As the carpenter's shop could no longer be had as a chapel, the meetings passed from one private house to another for a time. But this state of things could not long continue. The erection of a Church was decided upon, and before the close of the year the edifice was completed. It was dedicated by Rev. Julius Field in May, 1841. The building remains at this writing, on the same lot, but placed with the side to the street, it has been fitted up for residences.
At the session of the Rock River Conference in 1841, the Milwaukee District was discontinued, and the city was placed on the Chicago District. Rev. John T. Mitchell was appointed to the District, and Rev. Sias Bolles to the station.
Brother Mitchell was one of Nature's noblemen. Tall and erect in form, high and broad forehead, symmetrical and shapely cut features, dark and lustrous eyes, his bearing was princely. Such was Brother Mitchell in the years of his strength. He was second to no man in his Conference or State as a pulpit orator. In 1844 he was elected Assistant Book Agent, Cincinnati, where he served the church with distinguished ability. After leaving this position he re-entered the regular work in the Cincinnati Conference, from the ranks of which he passed on, several years ago, to the companionship of the white-robed in Heaven.
Brother Bolles, on coming to the city, first proceeded to liquidate the indebtedness of two hundred dollars on the Church, and then entered upon a protracted meeting, which resulted in an extensive revival. Among those converted was a German Catholic boy, of whom the following incident is related: The first night he attended the meeting, Brother Bolles preached on the duty of Christians to let their light shine. Taking the instruction of the Preacher in its most literal sense, the young man greatly surprised the good people on the following evening by stalking into church bearing a well-lighted lantern. On enquiring of the young man the reason for so strange a procedure, he answered: "Why, the Priest said I must let my light shine, and so I have brought it with me." The Preacher carefully explained his sermon, bringing it down to the capacity of his auditor, and had the pleasure to see him thoroughly converted. Many years after, Brother Bolles was happily surprised to meet his convert, who had grown into a Christian gentleman of exalted position in society.
In 1842, Rev. Wm. H. Sampson was sent to Milwaukee, of whom a record is made elsewhere. The following year Rev. James Mitchell was appointed, and it was decided to enter upon a new Church enterprise. A lot was purchased July 3d, 1844, of John Clifford, on the northwest corner of West Water and Spring Streets.
At the time of the purchase the location was considered by not a few to be unfortunate, as the population at that period on the west side was quite limited, and it was even hinted that a leading member of the Board of Trustees had unduly influenced the selection in order to enhance the value of certain property in the vicinity. But whatever may have been the complications of the case at the beginning, certain it is that it was found in due time to be a very excellent location. The building, forty-five by ninety feet in size, was commenced soon after, and carried forward as rapidly as possible to completion.
It was a brick structure, trimmed with stone. Standing with its front to West Water, the side was turned to Spring Street. On the first floor there were four stores fronting Spring Street, and having cellars in the basement beneath them. The auditorium was on the second floor above the pavement and was reached by a broad flight of steps in the front of the edifice. Between the outside entrance and the auditorium there was a vestibule with a class room on either side, and above it a commodious gallery. The auditorium was finished in a neat yet plain manner, and furnished sittings for about six hundred people. The whole structure cost upwards of ten thousand dollars. To defray the current expenses and erect such an edifice taxed the good people to the utmost limit of their resources, besides imposing on them a heavy indebtedness. But there was no lack of courage, and the good work went forward.
In 1844 the Milwaukee District was again revived and Rev. James Mitchell was assigned to it, and Rev. F.A. Savage was sent to the station. In 1845 the station was left to be supplied, and Rev. Abram Hanson was called to fill the pastorate. Finding it difficult to rent a house, Brother Hanson procured a boarding place for himself and good lady with Mr. Lindsay Ward, where he spent the year and founded an abiding friendship. He was a man of superior pulpit ability and engaging manners. The congregation filled the new Church edifice, and many valuable accessions were made to the membership.
Brother Hanson after leaving Milwaukee filled several important charges, and then retired from the work. For several years he served as the representative of our national government at Liberia, where he fell under the fatal malaria of the African coast, and passed on to the better country.
The next session of the Conference was held Aug. 12, 1846. At this Conference Rev. S.H. Stocking was continued on the District, and Rev. W.M.D. Ryan was appointed to the station. Mr. Ryan entered the Ohio Conference in 1839, and came by transfer to the Rock River Conference in 1844. After spending two years in Chicago, where he had wrought a good work for the Master, he was sent to this charge.
The fame of the Preacher had preceded him, and he was greeted by immense congregations. His ministry formed an epoch in the history of the church. He brought the same earnest manner, the same fiery eloquence, and the same shrewd business tact that had characterized his labors in Chicago and elsewhere, and which have since placed him in the front rank of successful laborers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and the Metropolis of the nation. The stores in the Church edifice were rented or sold for a term of years to liquidate the indebtedness of the society, and the church was placed on a substantial financial basis. But Mr. Ryan could hardly feel at home among his new associates, and in this new field of labor. His earlier associations were formed in a more southern latitude. The Puritan type of society that, traveling westward on a line from New England, had struck Milwaukee, was not congenial to his tastes and not wholly in harmony with his methods of ministerial labor. At the end of nine months he was invited to a pastorate in the city of Baltimore, and he deemed it advisable to accept the invitation. His place in Milwaukee was filled by Rev. Francis M. Mills, who came, by exchange with Mr. Ryan, from the charge in Baltimore to which the latter had been invited. Mr. Mills filled out the balance of the year.
Among the accessions to the charge this year was Hon. John H. Van Dyke. Soon after his arrival, though a young man, he became an official member, and has continued to hold positions of trust to the present writing. A man of thorough mental training, sound judgment, and unswerving integrity, he cannot fail to command the respect and esteem of all. His legal abilities have specially fitted him for the Presidency of the Board of Trustees, the position he has long held, while his superior business sagacity has been of great service to the church in guiding her through the extraordinary trials she has been called to endure. Nor has he proved less valuable financially. Being possessed of large means, he is generous towards the Church and the benevolent enterprises of the city.
In 1847 Rev. Elihu Springer was appointed to the District, and Rev. Francis M. Mills was returned to the station. Brother Mills was an able preacher, but in his style of delivery was almost the reverse of his predecessor. He was a noble representative of Baltimore Methodism, but his health suffered from the bleak winds of the Lake, and at the close of his term he was compelled to seek a milder atmosphere.
The following two years Rev. James E. Wilson was stationed at Milwaukee.
Brother Wilson came to the Conference from the Protestant Methodist Church, in which he had held a prominent position both as a Preacher and Secretary of the Conference. He was a man of genial spirit, affable manners, and commanding eloquence. His sermons were well prepared, and especially in given passages, were delivered with an unction and pathos that could not fail to produce an abiding impression. The great concourse of people who waited upon his ministry attested how highly he was appreciated by those who were permitted to listen to his weekly ministrations. A revival occurred during the winter, and at the close of the year he was able to report one hundred and sixty-four members and thirty-nine probationers.
During the pastorate of Brother Wilson an unhappy controversy arose between the managers of the Sunday School and the leaders of the social means of grace with reference to the hours of meeting. The Official Board decided in favor of the School, and an alienation of feeling was the result. A few of the disaffected withdrew, organized a Wesleyan Church, and called Rev. Mr. McKee as their Pastor. Though an unpleasant affair, the old church moved on as usual.
But as another charge was now growing up in the southern part of the city, it is proper that I should refer to it before closing this chapter.
In the fall of 1847 Osmond Bailey and a few others became specially interested in establishing regular religious services at Walker's Point. Soon after a class was formed consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Osmond Bailey, Mrs. Capt. Stewart, Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Almena Waite, Mrs. Worden, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Waite and M.S. Velie.
At the Conference of 1848, the small society was erected into a Mission with Rev. Warner Oliver as Pastor. The Meetings were held in a school house, located on lots eleven and twelve, in block one hundred and one.
Brother Oliver was a man of fine talent, but was compelled to give a portion of his time to business, through the financial feebleness of the charge.
In 1849 Rev. William Willard was appointed to the charge. It will be remembered that this good brother was a member of the class formed at Burnett in 1845. He entered the Conference in 1847, and had been stationed two years at Aztalan. He was an earnest laborer, and under his administration the work was encouragingly prosperous. The congregations were growing and the people were beginning to agitate the measure of building a Church.
After leaving Walker's Point, Brother Willard remained in the regular work, with a few brief intervals, for many years, doing efficient service for the Master. At this writing he is in Nebraska, using such openings as may offer to help forward the good work.
Hiving thus briefly sketched the beginnings and progress of the good work in the city up to the time of my appointment, I will defer the balance of the record for the next chapter.
Spring Street, Milwaukee—First Sabbath—Promising Outlook—The Deep Shadow—Rev. Elihu Springer—Rev. I.M. Leihy—Revival—Missionary Meetings—Dedication at Sheboygan—Ravages of the Cholera—Death-bed Scenes—The Riot—Bishop Waugh—Camp Meeting—Scandinavian Work—Rev. C. Willerup.
The Spring Street Station had now attained the reputation of being the first charge in the Conference. The Church edifice, as we have seen, was decidedly respectable, both in size and character. The membership was enterprising, and full of the spirit of labor. In its official Board were found L.S. Kellogg, G.F. Austin, John H. Van Dyke, Geo. E.H. Day, James Seville, J.C. Henderson, W.W. Lake, Wm. Rowbotham, George Southwell, Wm. R. Jones, Wm. L. Boughton, John Kneene, Wm. Cossentine, C.F. Larigo and Charles Randall. And during the year John Kemp, Cornelius Morse, Mitchell Steever, C.C. Chamberlin and Henry Seiler were added.
My salary was fixed on the basis of the old Disciplinary allowance: Quarterage, $216; Table Expenses, $200; House Rent, $125; Traveling Expenses, $5; making a total of $546. This amount would be considered a small allowance at the present time, but at that early day it was believed to be a generous provision for a family of three persons.
My first Sabbath, always a trial day to the Preachers as well as the people, passed without any special disaster. Perhaps it was owing in part to the presence of the Presiding Elder, who sat at my back. Whatever he or the people may have thought, I certainly felt that I was a mere stripling going out with nothing in my hand but a sling and a pebble. Nor did it relieve my embarrassment when I saw the great congregation, and remembered that they had enjoyed for two years the ministry of the most eloquent man in the Conference.
It is said that a minister ought always to be ready to preach or to die. I think, on that occasion, if I had been permitted to choose between them, I would have accepted the latter. As it was, I very nearly did both. And that I really did neither, I have always considered a special intervention of Providence. On the part of the people there was evidently a suspension of judgment. They were doubtless puzzled by my contradictory appearances. In form I was slight and fragile, not weighing more than one hundred and thirty pounds, but in my face, though only twenty-eight years of age, I bore the appearance of being ten years older.
At the close of the service a large number of people remained and gave the new Minister a hearty greeting. It was timely, giving me to realize I was not quite gone to the land of shadows.
I was informed afterwards that one good brother went home from the service and told his wife, who had not been present, that he had shaken hands with the new Minister and his daughter. "No, father," said the daughter, "that lady was not the Minister's daughter, but his wife." "Well," replied the father, "she must be his second wife, for she looks young enough to be his daughter." Whether this opinion should be interpreted as complimentary to the Minister or his wife, I was never fully able to decide.
Having passed the crisis, the first Sabbath, and survived the following week, I now began to adjust myself to my work. I was happy to find that the good people were strongly attached to Prayer and Class-Meetings. This gave an assurance that there were at least some efficient laborers in the Church, who could be relied on if we should find ourselves in a revival. I also found that the people could endure a large amount of pastoral visiting. These discoveries were enough for a start, and I entered upon the work without delay.
About this time I was called to attend a funeral in one of the families that had gone out from the church the previous year, and were now members of the Wesleyan organization. The next Sabbath morning this family and several others were in my congregation. In the opening prayer I made the poor slave a special subject, as I often did. At the close of the service, the head of one of the families came forward and stated that Mr. McKee, the Pastor of the Wesleyan Church, had gone to the Conference, and hence they were without services for a few Sabbaths. But as for his part, he did not care if he never came back, for I was abolitionist enough for him.
In a few weeks Rev. T. Orbison was sent to the city, in the place of Mr. McKee. After the first Sabbath, he called on me and said that he found his people quite disposed to return to the old Church, and that in consequence, he had dispensed with his services the previous evening, and attended our Church with them. He was now inclined to advise them to return, as he saw no occasion for two organizations. The leading members having previously decided to return, the balance now joined them in the movement, while those who had been gathered from other organizations, returned to their respective homes.
Brother Orbison, in coming to this country from Ireland, fell among the Wesleyans on his arrival, and became identified with them, supposing they were the same body he had left at home. On learning his mistake, he now came over to us, and for many years was a worthy member of the Wisconsin Conference. After doing faithful service for many years, and winning the esteem of all, he laid aside the armor and took up the everlasting crown of rejoicing.
The work of the year was now well begun. The house was filled with people, the finances were in excellent condition, and everything indicated a year of special success, But how strangely light and shadow, hopes and fears, rejoicing and mourning commingle in this life! While we were thus full of hope, and even exultant over the indications of a prosperous year, little did we imagine that we were then on the threshold of a deep affliction, arising from the sudden death of our Presiding Elder.
Brother Springer left the city to hold his Quarterly Meetings at Watertown and Oconomowoc, the writer accompanying him to the city limits. On the 21st of August he closed his Quarterly Meeting services at Watertown, took dinner at the Parsonage with the Pastor, Rev. David Brooks, and then rode on to Oconomowoc. He stopped for the night with Brother Worthington, ate sparingly, and retired at the usual time. At three o'clock in the morning he was seized by the cholera. The attack, severe at first, soon became alarming. Medical aid was called, but without avail. He lingered until six o'clock P.M., and passed away in great peace. His family were sent for, but failed to reach him before his departure. The Funeral Sermon was preached in the Spring Street Church by the writer, from Second Timothy, 4. 6-8.
Brother Springer was received on trial by the Illinois Annual Conference in September, 1833. His appointments before coming to Milwaukee District had been, Carlinville, Iroquois, Oplaine, Saminoc, Bristol, Lockport, Joliet, St. Charles, Mineral Point and Hazel Green.
Brother Springer was a man of commanding presence. In form erect, full and athletic, with a broad, high forehead, and an intellectual face. The whole cast of the man indicated strength. He was a sound theologian, an able Preacher and a wise and vigilant administrator. He was emphatically a true man, and, as a Presiding Elder, very popular. The loss of such a man, at forty years of age, was a great disaster to the Conference.
Soon after the death of Brother Springer, Rev. I.M. Leihy was appointed as his successor on the District. Brother Leihy entered the Conference in 1843, and before coming to the District, had been stationed at Hazel Green, Elizabeth, Mineral Point, Platteville, Southport, and Beloit He was a man of marked ability both as a Preacher and administrator. His leading endowment was strength, and on some chosen subject, a subject to which he had given special attention, his preaching was overwhelming. He was a man of immense will force, and not a whit behind the chief of his brethren in his devotion to the Master's cause. Neither storms nor other impediments deterred him from his work. With a face set as a flint against every obstacle in his path of duty, he drove straight on to fulfil the convictions of his dauntless spirit. By some he was thought to be severe, and not a little exacting, but those who knew him best were tolerant of his idiosyncrasies, and were prepared to assign him a chief place among his brethren. After completing his term on the District, he filled several important appointments, but finally located and removed to California, where at the present writing, as for several years past, he is again engaged in the regular work.
During the fall and early winter there was manifest a growing spiritual interest among the people, which culminated ultimately in an extensive revival of religion. The protracted meeting continued five weeks, and resulted in the conversion of seventy-five souls.
The plan of holding Platform Missionary Meetings was continued during this year, and largely increased the contributions of the people. While on my way in company with Brother Leihy, to attend such a meeting at Port Washington, I formed the acquaintance of Brother Jesse Hubbard and his good lady at Mequon, where we halted for dinner. For many years this residence was the home of Itinerant Preachers and the nucleus of Christian society in that region.
The dedication of the German Methodist Church at Sheboygan occurred in April of this year. I went down to perform the service in a steamer, but when ready to return, the waves were running too high for the boat to make the pier. The mishap left my Pulpit without a supply for the Sabbath, an event which seldom transpired, but gave me an opportunity to make the acquaintance of our people in that part of the Conference, and the pleasure of preaching twice at Sheboygan and once at Sheboygan Falls.
During the summer of 1851 the cholera raged in Milwaukee in a most appalling manner. The whole city was a hospital. For several days together it was claimed there were fifty deaths per day. Though earnestly entreated to leave the city, as many others had done, I declined, feeling that my life was no more precious than the lives of others. Besides, it seemed to me, if there is ever a time when a people need the aid of their Pastor, it is when they are in peril and affliction. When at the height of its ravages, I repeatedly attended six funerals a day, and visited a dozen sick persons. The very men whom I met at a funeral one day, I would bury the next. Mingling thus daily with the sick and dying, I could not well escape myself. I suffered two attacks during the season, but through great mercy, the lives both of myself and family were spared.
During this terrible visitation I had frequent opportunities to test the value of the Christian religion. So marked was the difference between the death-bed scenes of Christians and the unconverted that even Infidels themselves could not refrain from referring to it. As if to teach the people this great lesson, there were a few instances of triumphant deaths, and a few of the opposite class. One good sister, as she was gliding across the stream, enquired, "Is this Jordan?" She was told it was. "How calm and placid are its waters," she added. "I expected to find the billows running high, but, glory to Jesus! there is not a ripple upon all the stream."
Unlike this scene was the death of a young man who had sent for me in great haste. On entering the room, I recognized him as a young man whom I had repeatedly urged, during our meeting of the previous winter, to give himself to the Saviour. He was now in the throes of dissolution and I could hardly hope to reach him. Wild with frenzy, he seemed to pray and curse with the same breath. As a momentary interval occurred between the paroxysms, I sought to arrest his attention and divert his thought to Christ. He turned his piercing eyes on me and said, "Oh! it is too late. Last winter, if I had yielded to your kind admonitions, all would now be well, but it is too late, too late." Another paroxysm seized him, and he was lost to all consciousness, and soon ceased to breathe.
Another event occurred this year of which mention should be made in this connection. It is the notorious riot. I quote from "Milwaukee Methodism." "Rev. Mr. Leahy, a minister in the Protestant Methodist Church, after visiting several of the principal cities of the Union, came to Milwaukee. Having spent many years in a monastery, and having become convinced of his error, he now sought to enlighten the people on the subject of the confessional. He proposed, in coming to the city, to give a course of lectures in a public hall during the ensuing week. On the intervening Sabbath he was invited to occupy several of the Pulpits of the city. He had already filled one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and then came to the Spring Street Church in the evening. The house was filled as usual. He opened the services in the regular order, took his text and began the delivery of his sermon. Immediately a crowd of strange men began to press in at the door and push along up the center aisle. At a given signal, a rush was made towards the Pulpit. Comprehending the situation in an instant, the Pastor, from his position in the Pulpit, ordered them back, and at the same time directed the men nearest the aisle and altar to intercept their advance. A stone was hurled at the Pastor's head, but it missed its mark and crashed against the wall in the rear of the Pulpit. But L.S. Kellogg, L.L. Lee and others stood firmly in the aisle and dealt some vigorous blows in response to the clubs and other missiles with which they were being severely bruised. At this moment Dr. Waldo W. Lake, who was sitting in the altar, drew a revolver which he on leaving home had put in his pocket, expecting after service to visit a patient in an exposed part of the city, and instantly the rioters fell back and retreated through the entrance to the street. During the conflict the audience room was a wild scene of confusion. The ladies became greatly alarmed, and required the attention of a large number of gentlemen in making their escape from the building. The door being thronged with the rioters, the principal egress was found to be the windows next to the street, and these were elevated a full story above the pavement. Ladders, wagons, and other impromptu scaffolding were provided, and large numbers of ladies were rescued in this way, while others were crowded against the sides of the room until the rioters had withdrawn. After quiet had been restored measures were taken to convey the speaker safely to his lodgings at the hotel. But a good number of revolvers, carried by a posse of earnest men, were a sufficient protection against all evil-minded persons that thronged the streets on the way."
The city was rocked with excitement. Early next morning a meeting was held in the Church edifice that had thus been made the scene of a riotous assault. The populace interpreted the affair rightly. It was not so much an attack upon a Protestant Church as an assault against the freedom of speech, one of the most sacred rights of the people. After expressing suitable indignation against the actors and abettors of the riot, and resolving to protect the freedom of speech so long as it should not offend against public morals, the meeting appointed a committee to wait on Mr. Leahy, and, on behalf of the community, guarantee him protection in his rights. Under this protection a lecture was given in the Free Congregational Church, and another on the public square, when, all danger of assault having disappeared, he was permitted to go on his way.
The only persons seriously hurt were L.L. Lee and L.S. Kellogg. The first was compelled to carry a hand in a sling for a long time, and the latter was considerably injured by a blow from a club on the head. The blood ran freely, but he was able to attend the Law and Order Meeting the following morning. His speech on the occasion became a watchword among the people. He said in a very resolute manner, "Our Fathers fought for freedom, both civil and religious, and if we have got to fight the battle over again I am ready, and I am willing that my blood should be the first to flow." The city appropriated one hundred and fifty dollars to repair the damages done to the Church edifice.
Bishop Waugh made us a visit near the close of the year. He was on his way to the Conference to be held at Waukesha, and went with us to the Camp-Meeting at Brookfield. Spring Street Station made no inconsiderable part of the Meeting. She pitched a tent that would accommodate one hundred and fifty persons, and it was well filled from the beginning to the end of the Meeting. It was a Meeting of great power. None who heard the exhortations of the good Bishop at the close of his Sunday morning sermon can ever forget it. After holding the vast congregation spell-bound for more than an hour in the delivery of the sermon, the old man, with locks as white as the driven snow, came down from the stand, and, standing on a seat in the Altar, began to invite mourners. The motives of the Gospel were presented one after another, the tide of feeling rising, until the Bishop was master of the occasion, and seemed to sway the people at his pleasure. The Bishop's voice grew grandly eloquent as his great soul rose to the level of the effort, and before it and its burden of truth, the people began to bend, then brake, and finally flew to the Altar. Nor did the exhortation cease until the Altar was literally crowded with seeking penitents.
The Scandinavian work was this year opened in Wisconsin. To further this object the Missionary Management at New York sent forward Rev. C. Willerup, placing him at the beginning under my care. On reaching the city he found the population using the Scandinavian language too small to organize the work, and we deemed it advisable to explore the interior. To do this he must have an Itinerant's outfit, consisting at least of horse and saddle-bags. While he was employed in settling his family in a rented house, I visited the market and purchased a horse for him and the other necessary articles, using my own funds until drafts should be received from the Missionary Treasury. The desired location for the first Mission was found at Cambridge, where Brother Willerup organized a Society and subsequently erected a Church edifice. From this small beginning has since grown a family of charges and a line of able Ministers, constituting a Presiding Elder's District.
The Conference year had now come to a close. Many changes had occurred in Spring Street Station. In consequence of the cholera, and the consequent stagnation of business, large numbers of the people went into the country. But notwithstanding this depletion, such had been the number of accessions, one hundred and seven in all, that I was able to report one hundred and fifty-seven members and sixty-three probationers, making a total of two hundred and twenty.
The financial plan, adopted at the beginning of the year, that of collecting the funds in the classes, had proved a success. At the close of the year, the Pastor was fully paid, and the Society was out of debt.
Conference of 1851.—Presiding Elder.—Presentation.—Give and Take.—Fond du Lac District—Quarterly Meeting—Rev. J.S. Prescott.—Footman vs. Buggies—Fond du Lac.—Two Churches.—Greenbush Quarterly Meeting—Rev. David Lewis—Pioneer Self-Sacrifice.—Finds a Help-Meet.—Sheboygan Falls.—Rev. Matthias Himebaugh.—Oshkosh—First Class.—Church Enterprises.
The Conference for 1851 was held June 25th, at Waukesha. The Sessions were deeply spiritual, and were characterized by general harmony among the preachers. At this Conference the Committee on Periodicals, of which I was a member, reported in favor of the establishment of a North Western Christian Advocate, and the report was unanimously adopted.
In the arrangement of appointments I was assigned to the Fond du Lac District. The appointment was a great surprise to myself, and doubtless to others. Besides, it was not in harmony with my judgment or wishes. It seemed to me to be an unwise measure to take so young a man, only twenty-nine, from the companionship of books and the details of the Pastoral office, and place him on a District where both of the Departments of labor, so essential to success in the Ministry, must necessarily be abridged. And in the next place, it appeared to me that, since there were so many other men in the Conference, who were better qualified than I for the position, my appointment was but doing violence to the work. But I soon came to the conclusion that when an appointment has been made there is no further need to debate the question. In such a case, the sooner both the Ministers and people adjust their views to the new order of things, the better for all concerned. Accepting this view, I hastened to conform to the situation with as good grace as possible. And to aid me perhaps a little, several of the preachers surprised me by the presentation of a cane.
I had heard it remarked that when a man used a cane, it was an evidence that he had a weak place somewhere between the crown of the head and the sole of the foot. I was now puzzled to know what the cane meant. There was doubtless a weak spot somewhere, in the opinion of the brethren. It must of course be either in the District or the incumbent. But my query as to which was soon answered. Dr. Bowman, my father-in-law, was traveling soon after in company with a good brother, when the conversation turned upon the appointments of the recent Conference. It had not proceeded far when the brother remarked, in referring to my appointment, "The Conference must have been hard up for material when it appointed that young stripling Presiding Elder." The mystery of the cane was now explained. The good brethren of the Conference doubtless thought the matter could be helped out by the use of a cane.
But a sharper joke than that was passed upon the people of Fond du Lac. Only six years before they had given me license to preach, and sent me to the Conference, and now, in sending me back so soon, the Conference seemed to say, "Brethren, we return you as good as you gave." I have heard it said that sometimes Quarterly Conferences grant licenses with the implied understanding that the recipients are not expected to serve the home Church, but are good enough to preach to less highly favored people abroad. If this course had been adopted by these Fond du Lac brethren as their policy, certainly it was a cruel joke to return the labor of their hands on such short notice.
But fortunately I was not supposed to know anything about this matter, and hence, on the principle that "where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise," I had nothing to do but to gather up my family and hasten to my new field of labor.
Fond du Lac District at this time embraced that portion of the State lying North and East of the city of Fond du Lac, and included thirteen charges. A few of the charges could be reached by steamers on the Fox and Wolf Rivers and Lake Winnebago, but the balance could only be visited by the stage or private conveyance. I chose to adopt the latter. Having provided board for my wife and child with Rev. M.L. Noble, and secured a horse and buggy, I was ready to enter upon my work.
The First Quarterly Meeting was held at Fond du Lac. The Church edifice was unfinished, and the celebrated school house having been burned, as stated in a former chapter, the Meeting was held in the Court House. At that time the building, though now so dingy, was new, and aspired to be the most respectable edifice in the village. To prepare the Court House especially for the Quarterly Meeting, the floors were newly carpeted with sawdust, even then a famous product of the village, and the seats well broomed. The place was crowded with people, and the occasion one of rare interest. The Gospel was dispensed from the "Seat of Justice," the Sacrament was administered within the "Bar," now vacated by the lawyers, and the people knelt outside to receive the sacred emblems. Several of the Members present had attended the Quarterly Meeting in the school house six years before, and among them were a few who had known me from my boyhood. It afforded me great pleasure to meet them and receive their friendly greetings.
Rev. J.S. Prescott, the Pastor at Fond du Lac, had been bred to the legal profession in the State of Ohio. He came to Wisconsin as a Local Preacher, and joined the Conference in 1846. He had been stationed at Sheboygan, Waupun, and Green Bay. He was a man of sharp, decisive movements, sometimes angular in his opinions and measures, but full of energy and not afraid of hard work. He kept no horse, even when on the largest circuits, as he could not afford to wait for so laggard a conveyance. In this particular he became notorious, and marvelous stories are related of his pedestrian abilities. It is affirmed that, on one occasion, in going to the Conference, he walked from Waupun to Platteville, and reached his destination in advance of the long line of ministerial buggies that were headed in that direction. Carrying the same energy into every Department of his work, he always left his "footprint" behind him. But his most devoted friends would sometimes question the wisdom of his measures. Even in the small village of Fond du Lac, he had now two churches in process of erection. But such was his skill in raising funds at home and abroad that one of them was dedicated by Bishop Ames at the close of the year and the other by the writer in the year following.
Subsequently he served for several years as Agent of Lawrence University, and then entered upon the project of founding an Institution of learning at Point Bluff. The selection of a location, however, was unfortunate, and his expectations were only partially realized. After this disaster he addressed himself to business pursuits.
The Fond du Lac charge had now gained an influential position in the Conference. Among her membership she had several leading business men. And in addition, this place had now become the home of Rev. H.R. Colman and Rev. M.L. Noble, the last two Pastors of the charge.
My next Meeting was held on Greenbush Circuit. This charge was midway between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan, and had been established only two years. Its Eastern portion had been opened from Sheboygan, and its Western from Fond du Lac. It had neither Church nor Parsonage, and the Minister lived in a shanty.
The Quarterly Meeting was held in Mr. Tunis Burhite's barn, about nine miles east of Fond du Lac. I found the Pastor, Rev. David Lewis, at his post. As was his wont, he had made every needed preparation, and had brought out nearly the entire strength of his charge. The barn was filled with people, and the neighborhood taxed to its utmost to entertain the visitors. Nor was it surprising that, with such a preparation, the Meeting was an occasion of rare interest. For months and even years after, it was referred to with great satisfaction. At the time the opinions of people were found to differ. One good sister said in my hearing, "I think it is better to have old men like Elder Wilcox for Presiding Elders, rather than such young men, because they can keep a meeting steady and not let the people get so excited." But at the close of the services a veteran Local Preacher said, "The old Elder gave us a straight talk this morning." Both remarks were suggestive, and I resolved to bear myself with becoming dignity.
Brother Lewis entered the Rock River Conference August 24th, 1842, and was sent as Junior Preacher to Indian Creek, Ill., a four weeks' circuit, the labor of which greatly taxed his strength. His next appointment was Manitowoc, the charge extending from Port Washington to Two Rivers, and requiring one hundred and fifty miles of travel to each round of appointments. Through these dense forests, as I have had occasion to remark in a former chapter, the roads were almost impassable, with long distances intervening between residences, and involving great fatigue and exposure. Like the good Brother Frink, who preceded him in this field, he was compelled to swim rivers, suffer hunger and endure fatigue, that would appall a man of less nerve. During the winter his horse became disabled and he made the entire round on foot, carrying his provisions in a knapsack. Such were the trials and exposures of the pioneers who planted the standard of the Cross in the "Sheboygan Woods," as this region was called. They were indeed heroic men.
There were a few scattered sheep in the wilderness, and these were gathered into the fold. At Manitowoc, Brother Lewis formed a class.
In 1844 Brother Lewis was sent to Pewaukee, where he had eleven appointments. Though at the beginning of the year there was no class on the charge, at its close Brother Lewis, was able to report sixty-five members. It was during this year that our sturdy pioneer took to himself a worthy helpmeet, in the person of Miss Adelia Morley, who, as an inmate of the Presiding Elder's family, spread the table for the writer's first meal as an Itinerant. Brother Lewis was next appointed successively to Root River, Kankakee, and Brothertown, in which charges he enjoyed his usual share of hard work and spiritual prosperity.
In 1849 he was appointed to Sheboygan Falls. The circuit was very large, taking the entire tract of country between the Lake and Fond du Lac, but the year was one of marked success. Finding the Parsonage under a mortgage that imperiled the safety of the property, Brother Lewis stepped forward and offered his horse, saddle, and a dollar and a half, all the money he had, in liquidation of the indebtedness. They were accepted, and as a result, the dear brother traveled his circuits on foot for two years before he was able to procure another horse. Such is the sterling material out of which the early Itinerants were made. With such men in the field, it is not a matter of surprise that, under the Divine blessing, the "Wilderness and solitary place" were made to rejoice.
At the close of his labors on this circuit, Brother Lewis was again sent to Manitowoc for one year, when, the Greenbush charge having been created, principally out of the west part of his former work, he was appointed to it, as before stated. After leaving Greenbush he was stationed at West Bend, Columbus and Fall River, Oneida Indian Mission, New London, Markesan, Caldwell's Prairie, and New Berlin. At the Janesville Conference in 1870, Brother Lewis, having served the church nearly thirty years with great devotion, took a superannuated relation. At this writing he is residing in Fond du Lac, maintains a happy frame of mind, and is still doing what he can for the cause. He certainly deserves well of his Conference.
Sheboygan Mission, the next point visited, appears on the Minutes, as stated in a former chapter, in 1837, with Rev. H.W. Frink as Pastor. During this year Brother Frink formed a class at Sheboygan, consisting of the following members: Mr. and Mrs. Morris Farmin, Uriel Farmin, Benjamin Farmin, Mr. and Mrs. Elder Farmin, and Mr. and Mrs. McCreedy.
At the close of this year Sheboygan disappears from the list of appointments, but in 1843 the Manitowoc mission appears with Rev. D. Lewis as Pastor, and Sheboygan, it will be recollected, is named as one of the appointments. In 1845, however, the name re-appears, and Rev. Joseph T. Lewis was sent to the charge. From this time until 1849 the strength of the circuit consisted largely in the outlying appointments. But at this date Sheboygan Falls was erected into a separate charge, taking from Sheboygan its several interior appointments.
Rev. Daniel Stansbury, the Pastor, had commenced his labors in 1849, and was now on his second year. The Membership numbered only thirty-three, but Brother Stansbury had achieved a great work in the erection of a large and convenient Church edifice. I had visited the village the preceding year, as before stated, to dedicate the German Church, and had formed a very agreeable acquaintance with this truly noble man and his most estimable family.
Brother Stansbury was from Baltimore, and brought with him to Wisconsin a goodly portion of the warm and cheerful type of Baltimore Methodism. He was received on trial by the Wisconsin Conference in 1849, and hence Sheboygan was his first appointment. His subsequent appointments were Janesville, Union, Portage City, Beaver Dam, Berlin and Janesville District. In July of his second year on the District, and while preaching at his Quarterly Meeting on Cambridge circuit, he was stricken down by paralysis. He was taken to his home in Janesville, where he lingered in extreme feebleness until Oct. 28, when he died in great peace.
Brother Stansbury was a man of warm impulses, practical mind, and abundant labors. In the protracted meeting, his rare gifts of prayer and exhortation, made his labors a grand success, and, in the bright world beyond, it will be found that his comparatively short ministry gathered a large harvest of souls.
I next visited Sheboygan Falls. The charge first appears on the Minutes in 1849, it having been created out of the interior portions of the Sheboygan circuit. Its first Pastor, as we have seen, was Rev. David Lewis. In 1850, the following year, Rev. Matthias Himebaugh was appointed to the work. At this time the field embraced fifteen appointments, and required the travel of two hundred miles each month. Like his predecessors, Revs. J.S. Prescott and D. Lewis, Brother Himebaugh traveled this circuit on foot. The Society in the village consisted of thirteen members, and included the names of Mr. and Mrs. L. Cheeseman, Mr. and Mrs. Parrish, Mr. and Mrs. Goodell, Mr. and Mrs. Sully, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. Waite, and others.
The public meetings were held in a school house outside of the village, and the prayer meetings in private houses. A lot had been purchased for a Church and Parsonage, and the latter had been partly built. On the arrival of Brother Himebaugh a hall was obtained in the village for the meetings, and soon after he commenced a subscription for a Church.
A revival occurred during the winter, and there were a goodly number of accessions, but they did not bring very much financial strength. The Society, though small and in moderate circumstances, were very enterprising and generous in their effort to erect a Church, subscribing towards the building one-fifth of their entire property. Having secured pledges, amounting to twelve hundred dollars, the Pastor now led a strong force of volunteer laborers in the manual labor of the undertaking. Felling the first tree for the timber in the woods with his own hands, Brother Himebaugh gave the keynote to the movement. Nor did he stay his hand until he had expended sixty days of labor.
After accomplishing what he could at home, he visited Milwaukee, Chicago, and several towns and cities in the Erie, Pittsburgh and Genesee Conferences, to obtain aid to complete the enterprise. The edifice, forty by sixty, with a basement, was so far completed that the lecture-room was ready for dedication in December, 1851. With this good work accomplished, our Quarterly Meeting at Sheboygan Falls was an occasion of great rejoicing.
Brother Himebaugh entered the Erie Conference in 1839, then twenty years of age. His first circuit was Red Bank, on the Alleghany Mountains. At the end of eleven years he was transferred to the Wisconsin Conference, and Sheboygan Falls was his first charge. After leaving this work, he was stationed in the North Ward charge in Fond du Lac. Here he also did a good work towards completing the Church edifice, which had been begun by Brother Prescott. He also had a good revival during the year.
In 1853, Brother Himebaugh was stationed at Oshkosh, where he performed prodigies of labor, preaching during a portion of the first year, on every other Sabbath, four sermons, and walking fourteen miles. He also gathered large accessions, which rendered the charge self-sustaining thereafter.
His subsequent appointments have been: Madison, Madison District, Appleton, Appleton District, Agent of Lawrence University, and Assistant Superintendent of the Western Seaman's Friend Society. At the present writing, he still holds the last named position, and represents the Bethel interests in this city. He is yet strong physically and intellectually, and bids fair to give to the good cause many additional years.
Oshkosh was the next place visited. Instead of finding, as in 1845, a few small cabins, I now found a respectable village and a flourishing Church.
The first Methodist sermon delivered in Oshkosh was preached by the veteran pioneer, Rev. Jesse Halstead, at the residence of Mr. Webster Stanley, in 1841. The place was now taken into the list of his appointments, and was supplied by Brother Halstead with considerable regularity.
At a subsequent visit he was accompanied by his Presiding Elder, Rev. James R. Goodrich. The services were again held in the residence of Mr. Stanley, and at this meeting, which was held in the fall of 1841, the first class was formed. The members were: Ira Aikin, Mrs. Aikin, his mother, Rachel Aikin, his sister, Mrs. Chester Ford, Miss Ann Brooks, and Mrs. Electa Wright. Brother Aikin was the first Leader, but soon after Brother William W. Wright and his wife becoming members, the Leadership passed over to Brother Wright. Before other provision was made, the meetings were held at the residences of Mr. Stanley, Mrs. Electa Wright and William W. Wright, but subsequently they passed to the school house and ultimately to the Court House.
In 1842, Rev. John P. Gallup was appointed to the Winnebago Lake Mission. His plan of labor gave to Oshkosh every fourth Sabbath, and the intervening time was filled by Rev. Clark Dickinson, a highly esteemed Local Preacher, and others. A revival occurred this year that brought into the Church the larger portion of the people living in Oshkosh and vicinity.
Rev. Harvey S. Bronson was the Pastor in 1843, and was succeeded the following year by Rev. Joseph H. Hurlbut. The first Church edifice was erected under the Pastorate of Rev. Robert Everdell in 1851. Being the Presiding Elder of the District at that time, the writer performed the dedicatory service. The building was enlarged in 1856 and again in 1861. Under the Pastorate of Rev. Wm. P. Stowe there were large accessions, and he found it necessary to enlarge again, when in 1870 the writer was called to preach the re-opening sermon.
The mother charge at this writing ranks among the leading stations of the Conference, and rejoices in the companionship of two promising daughters. The first is located on the South Side, where a lot was purchased and the contract for a building let, under the Pastorate of Rev. J.M. Walker, in 1868. The charge was organized the following year, and under the successive Pastorates of Revs. C.W. Brewer and Joseph Anderson, the Church was completed and the station assigned an honorable place in the Conference. The other, located in the Western part of the city, was erected into a separate charge at the last Conference session, a Chapel having been previously built.
Fond du Lac District Continued.—Green Bay.—First Settlement.—Rev. John Clark.—First Sermon.—First Class.—Col. Ryan.—First Methodist.—First Church Enterprise.—Good Society.—Heretical Bonnet.—Various Changes.—Rev. R.P. Lawton—Church Disaster—Purifying the Temple—Rev. S.W. Ford.—Oneida Indian Mission.—Oneidas.—Missionaries.—Quarterly Meeting.—Council.—"Chief Jake."—Interpreter.—Rev. Henry Requa.—His Dying Message.
Green Bay, the next point visited, is the oldest town within the bounds of the Wisconsin Conference. Its site was explored by Jean Nicollet in 1639, but its settlement did not begin for more than a century thereafter. In 1785 it contained seven families, and in 1816 there were one hundred and fifty inhabitants located in the village and its vicinity. The population now began to increase more rapidly, and in 1819 there were sixty dwellings and five hundred inhabitants.
Green Bay was made a United States trading port in 1815, with Col. John Bowyer as Indian Agent. And on the 16th of July of the following year, Col. John Miller commenced the erection of Fort Howard. The first frame house built, and perhaps the first in the State, was erected in 1825, by Col. E. Childs.
Col. Samuel Ryan came to Green Bay in 1826 and was the first Methodist, as far as I have been able to ascertain, who settled within the bounds of the Wisconsin Conference, and was probably the first in the State. From the time of his arrival until 1833, the religious Meetings were held in the Garrison school house and in an old Commissary store. Thereafter, and until a Church was erected, the services were held in a new yellow school house, or in the Garrison building at Fort Howard.
At the General Conference, which was held in Philadelphia in 1832, action was taken looking to the extension of the Missionary work of the Church in the Northwest. In furtherance of this object, Rev. John Clark, then of the New York Conference, was sent out as Superintendent of the work. This eminent Minister and able administrator, whose special record I need not enter in these pages, as his Life has been published, arrived at Green Bay July 21st, 1832. Immediately after his arrival he began his labors, preaching the first Methodist sermon within the limits of the present boundaries of the Wisconsin Conference. The sermon was delivered in the Fort, to both soldiers and citizens.
The first class was formed by Brother Clark immediately after, the services being held also in the Fort. This class consisted of four members, as follows: Col. Samuel Ryan, Sen., Mrs. Sherman, Mrs. Gen. Brooke, and a young man whose name cannot be given. Mrs. Brooke was the wife of the Commandant of the Fort, and Col. Ryan was the Leader.
Col. Ryan was born in Ireland, May 22d, 1789, and in early youth entered upon the military profession. He was in the engagement between the Shannon and Chesapeake off Boston Harbor, fought June 1st, 1813, and during the conflict was severely wounded. He was converted at Sackett's Harbor, N.Y., under the ministry of Rev. Mr. Irwin, in 1821. In 1822 and '23, he resided at Sault St. Marie, and while there was Leader of a class. During the year there was no Minister at the Sault, but Brother Ryan held religious services regularly among the soldiers, and as the fruit of his labors, seventy souls were converted. On coming to Green Bay, as above stated, in 1826, he resumed his labors, and continued to devote himself to the good work in that locality for twenty-six years. The Land Office, in which he held the first place, being now, 1852, removed to Menasha, he also took up his residence in that village.
Brother Ryan was a man of ardent temperament, full of vivacity, and not a little eccentric, but a true soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ. As in his youth his dauntless spirit never cowered in the presence of an earthly foe, so, in maturer years, he was a fearless champion for the spiritual reign of the Master. Honored by all, the Patriarch is now, "leaning upon the top of his staff," with his dimned eye looking across the river, ready to move on at any moment.
One of the early laborers at Green Bay was Rev. George White, who came from Oneida Conference, N.Y. He was stationed at Green Bay in 1835, Brother Clark having been assigned to the Presiding Eldership. Under the labors of the new Pastor, the work continued to prosper. On the 2d day of February, 1835, Brother Clark reported to the Christian Advocate and Journal as follows: "Brother White is in the spirit of his work, and the Lord is blessing his labors in the conversion of souls, both in the Fort and among the citizens."
The first Church enterprise was entered upon in 1836, when a lot was donated to the Society for the purpose of erecting a Church edifice. The Deed was given on the 6th day of September, 1836, by John Jacob Astor, Ramsey Crooks, Emily Crooks, Robert Stewart and Eliza Stewart, and was executed by James Duane Doty, their attorney. The Trustees of the Society, to whom the Deed was made, were Philip W. Nicholas, Francis McCarty, George White, Thomas P. Green, William White, Edwin Hart, and John P. Gallup. The edifice was completed during the year, but in the effort the Society became seriously involved, and were compelled to mortgage the property. The indebtedness hung as an incubus on the Society for ten years, and finally, through some strange mismanagement, the property was sold at a great sacrifice to the Roman Catholics.
At the session of the Illinois Conference, held Sept. 27, 1837, Rev. Philip W. Nicholas was sent to Green Bay, and Rev. Salmon Stebbins was assigned to the District. The congregations had now become highly respectable both in numbers and position. Hon. M.L. Martin had settled at Green Bay, and his good lady, who was a Methodist, had become a member of the Society. Sister Martin had been raised in affluent circumstances, and was a lady of fine culture and rare judgment. Her husband, a member of the legal profession, and subsequently a Delegate to Congress and Member of the Constitutional Convention of the State, was a man of good attainments and superior abilities. His family not only formed the nucleus of cultivated society, but also furnished a pleasant home for the Itinerant.
Besides this excellent and cultured family, the congregation embraced Col. Ryan and family, as before stated, Mrs. Gen. Brooke, and Mrs. Capt. Kirby Smith, whose husband was killed in the Mexican War, she being now the wife of Gen. Eaton, Quartermaster General of the U.S.A. In addition, Gov. and Mrs. Doty were constant attendants upon the Chapel, as were also Gen. and Mrs. Marcy, whose daughter, Mrs. George B. McClellan, was born here, and the most excellent of all the officers, Capt. Merrill and his young wife.
Referring to the class of society that constituted at first the class and congregation at Green Bay, reminds me of a case of Church discipline which occurred there about the days of which I am now writing. It happened on this wise:
One of the young members of the class, and perhaps the youngest, for she had but recently come West as the bride of a distinguished citizen whose name has already been mentioned, had become the owner of a new bonnet. The lady herself had never, though fashionably raised, shown a fondness for gaudy apparel, but, being obliged to send to Detroit for all millinery accommodations, she sometimes felt constrained to wear articles that were not selected in harmony with her tastes. The new bonnet fell somewhat into this category. If I were gifted in that line, I would attempt a description of the new comer, but, as I am not, I will simply say it was made in the height of the then fashion, with a small crown and a very high, flaring front, with ornaments atop. On the Sabbath following its arrival, the good sister put on her bonnet as innocently as in childhood she had ever said "Our Father" at her mother's knee, and went to Church. She walked modestly to her seat, bowed her head as usual, and the services proceeded. She certainly felt devout, and she had not the remotest idea that there was anything in the Church that could disturb the devotion of others. But alas! for poor human nature. A horrible nightmare was that moment lurking under the wings of the beautiful dream of our innocent sister. In that highly respectable congregation, there were evil eyes that could not look at the Minister or close in prayer. They were fixed upon the gaudy bonnet.
At the close of the services comment was rife. Some of the good plain people christened the newly arrived, "The Methodist Flower-Pot," while others looked exceedingly unhappy. But there was one resolute brother who could not permit matters to go on in this way, and hence the case was brought before the Church. The zealous brother stated the case and declared that if Mr. Wesley's rule in regard to "high heads and enormous bonnets" meant anything, this was "the time to put it to the test and prove its efficacy." He further stated that it was "better to begin at the top round of the ladder and work down, rather than take up some offending sister from a lower round as an example." Of course all things were now ready for a decapitation, but judge of the surprise of the brother, when the good sister showed herself not to be very "high-headed," though big-bonneted, by offering the offensive article to her accuser, to manipulate into orthodox form, if he were pleased to do so, otherwise it would have to remain, like Mordecai at the King's gate, steadfast and immovable.
The bonnet was not manipulated, and the good sister continued to wear what neither her accuser nor any other person in Green Bay could put into another form.
Before the expiration of his second year, Brother Nicholas gave up the Pastorate of the charge, and his place was supplied by Rev. Stephen P. Keyes. In 1839, Rev. F.A. Chenoweth was appointed to the charge, and Rev. Julius Field was assigned to the District. In 1840 Green Bay was left to be supplied, and Rev. Boyd Phelps was employed as the supply, and the charge was assigned to Platteville District, with Rev. H.W. Reed as Presiding Elder. The following year, 1841, the Green Bay District was formed, with Rev. James R. Goodrich as the Presiding Elder, and his name appears also as Pastor of the charge, but it is probable that Brother Phelps also assisted him in the Pastorate as a supply. In 1842 the appointments remained the same, but in 1843 Rev. G.L.S. Stuff was appointed to the station. Brother Stuff and Brother Keyes are remembered with great pleasure at Green Bay, as men of sterling qualities and marked ability, but as their labors have mostly fallen within the Rock River Conference, their record will doubtless be made in connection with that field. In 1844, Rev. Wm. H. Sampson was appointed to the District, as stated elsewhere, and Rev. C.N. Wager to the station. He was followed in 1845 by Rev. T.P. Bingham, and the year following by Rev. R.P. Lawton.
Brother Lawton entered the Rock River Conference this year, and in this, his first appointment, acquitted himself creditably. As this good brother, who may be set down as one of the pioneers of the Conference, began his labors, so he has continued to the present hour. His appointments after leaving Green Bay, have been Dixon, Ill., Delavan, Mineral Point, Waukesha, Reed Street, Milwaukee, Palmyra, Grafton, Root River, Elkhorn, Delavan, East Troy, Evansville, Rosendale, Wautoma, Plover, New London, Hart Prairie, Utter's Corners, Footville, and Jefferson, where he is located at this writing. Brother Lawton is a good preacher, has a genial spirit, and is devoted to his work. He has passed over the greater portion of the Conference, and has a host of friends wherever he has been stationed.
Rev. A.B. Randall was sent to Green Bay in 1847, and it was during this year that the Church edifice was sold. This Church was dedicated, doubtless, by Rev. John Clark, and had been used for ten years for religious purposes, yet it is surprising to find how much of time and labor it required to purify it after it fell into the hands of the Catholics. I am told that they spent days of labor and nights of vigil, exhausted miniature rivulets of holy water, and pounds of precious "gems, frankincense, and myrrh," exorcising the devils and scattering the Methodist imps of darkness from the holy place.
The balance of the money, after paying the indebtedness, was applied to the purchase of the Second Church, which was still in use at the time of my visit.
On coming to Green Bay I found Rev. Seth W. Ford as Pastor, who was commencing his second year on the charge. He was in the midst of a revival, and the charge appeared to be in a prosperous condition. The Quarterly Meeting passed off very pleasantly, and gave me the opportunity to share the hospitality of Hon. M.L. Martin and his excellent family. I also visited the Fort, and had the pleasure to enjoy the companionship of Col. Ryan and his family.
Brother Ford entered the Conference in 1845, as a classmate of the writer, and passed with him through the course of graduation. I have referred in a former chapter to the seven sessions through which we passed between the upper and nether millstones. Whether the result was flour or bran in the estimation of the Committee would have been forever hidden from us, doubtless, had not the good brethren, after our election to Elder's orders, moved that Brother Ford and myself be a Committee to examine those of the class who had not been before the Committee. With our own experience fresh in our minds, I have no doubt the balance of the class had an easy passage.
Brother Ford's fields of labor had been Hamilton Grove, Macomb, and Oneida Indian Mission. In each he had made a good record, and was now rapidly rising in his Conference. Since he left Green Bay he has continued to hold good appointments, and has served his Conference six times as its Secretary. Though slender in form, and apparently not vigorous in health, he has nevertheless taken his full share of work and is highly respected by his brethren.
The Oneida Indian Mission, lying twelve miles to the northwest of Green Bay, next claimed my attention. Seated in my buggy, I was soon at the Parsonage, where I found Rev. Henry Requa, the Missionary, and his kind family.
The Oneidas came from the State of New York. A few of them came as early as 1821, but through some hitch in the negotiations with the Menomonees for the lands constituting the Reservation, the removal did not become general until 1832. Meantime, a Mission had sprung up among the western branch of the nation. In 1829 a young Mohawk, who had been converted in Canada, began the good work and established meetings. Among the early Missionaries the names of Rev. Mr. Poe and Rev. John Clark are especially fragrant, but I have been unable to find satisfactory data until 1840, when Rev. Henry R. Colman was appointed to the Mission.
Brother Colman remained until 1845, when he was succeeded by Rev. C.G. Lathrop. Brother Ford followed next, and remained until 1850, when he was succeeded by Brother Requa. Meantime, the old log church had given place to a respectable frame edifice. There was also a good frame Parsonage, occupied by the Missionary, and a school house, in which a school was kept either by the Missionary or some one employed by him. The membership at this time numbered one hundred and twenty-five.
The Quarterly Meeting was held on Saturday and Sabbath, as on the other charges. On Saturday the Quarterly Conference was held, composed of the official members, but it was somewhat unique in its method of transacting its business. The Conference was opened with singing and prayer. The next thing in order was an address from the Elder, or "Big Missionary," as he is called. The address simply expressed the gratification of the Elder with his visit, and the encouraging things he has heard of the good work of God among them, and then suggested such items of business as would require their attention. This done, I took my seat, for what more could I do. The business must now be done in a strange language, and in the method of the red man. After sitting in absolute silence for some minutes, the head Chief of the Nation, "Big Jake," as he is called, being one of the Stewards, turned to a brother on his right and spoke a few words, and received a reply. Then turning to another, he did the same, and thus continued to address each personally, until all had been consulted. At intervals there were long pauses, indicative, as I judged, of the gravity of the matter to be considered. At the end of an hour the Council had completed its work. The Chief then arose in a very dignified manner, but without ostentation, and, calling to his aid an interpreter, proceeded to reply to the opening address. He began his speech by expressing thanks, on behalf of himself and people, that the "Big Missionary" had come once more to see them. He next referred to the good work that had been performed by the Missionary, and the special blessing of God upon his people. And in conclusion, he reported the items of business they had considered, and the action taken in each case. If anything further was desired at any time, it was always presented in a most respectful manner. In this case it was represented that they needed some repairs on the Church, and a bell, and they desired that the Missionary might be permitted to go abroad and raise the necessary funds. Permission was granted, and the Missionary, taking several fine singers of the Nation with him, went to New York, Boston, and other places, and secured the needed help.
At the close of the public services came the hand shaking. The Missionary understood the matter and detained me in the Altar for a moment, Commencing with the ladies and ending with the children, every person in the Church came forward and shook hands with the Elder.
I was greatly pleased with "Chief Jake." He was a man of stalwart frame, standing with head and shoulders above the people around him. That giant frame supported a large head, adorned by an expressive face. His movement was dignified simply because he was a born nobleman, and did not know how to appear other than like a prince. He was benevolent and tender to all who were trying to do right, but he was a terror to evil-doers. Standing for his people or the rights of the oppressed, he was absolutely invincible.
Brother Requa entered the Conference in 1847, after having been employed one year as second preacher at Waupun. He was appointed to Brothertown in 1847, to Lowell in 1848, and Fond du Lac in 1849, Here his health partially failed, and, in consequence, he was sent to Oneida. From the first, Brother Requa attracted attention as a Preacher. The first time I heard him was at the Camp-Meeting at Sun Prairie, in the summer of 1846. He had only recently been converted, and was now called out to exhort at the close of a sermon. He had been known in the community as an Infidel, which greatly increased the interest felt by all when he arose to speak. But the first utterance of his eloquent tongue, so full of feeling and so decided in its tone, disarmed all criticism. As he advanced, he threw off restraint, until he was master of himself and the congregation. Once free, he seemed to lose sight of all but the condition of a perishing world. With lost men he reasoned, expostulated, entreated, until it seemed that the whole audience was moving towards the Altar.
While at Oneida, as before stated, he went East to raise funds for the Mission. Wherever he went, he was recognized as a man of rare eloquence. Throngs followed him from Church to Church, and, as might be expected, his mission was a great success. On his return with the bell, the people were overjoyed. For the first week after it was hung in the steeple, it was kept going, almost night and day. The friends came from every part of the reservation, and no one was satisfied until his own hand pulled the rope. And so high did the enthusiasm run that one man said, "As soon as we get able, we will put one on every house in Oneida." After Brother Requa left Oneida, he served one year as Agent of Lawrence University, and was specially engaged in raising an Indian Scholarship Fund. His appointments subsequently were: Janesville, Fond du Lac District, Oshkosh, Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan, Brandon and Ripon. In March, 1865, his second year at Ripon, he went as a Delegate of the Christian Commission to the army. His field of labor was Little Rock, Ark. While here he was taken ill with the chronic diarrhoea, and on the 19th of May departed to his home above. During his illness, he was attended by his old friend, Brother A. B. Randall. Just before he died, he requested his attendant to bear this message to his brethren of the Wisconsin Conference: "Tell them that Henry Requa died at his post." He then added, "Take my ashes back to be interred among my brethren. I have labored with them for twenty years past, trying to preach Jesus. My present acceptance with God is a great comfort to me now. I am very unworthy, but I believe there are some in glory who call me father. In looking over my whole life I cannot see an act upon which I would risk the salvation of my soul; the best of them need washing in the blood of Jesus. I know I have a home in glory. How precious Jesus is. Jesus, I love thee for what thou hast done for me. I will praise thee forever."