REV. W.G. MILLER, D.D.
* * * * *
TO THE MINISTERS AND LAYMEN OF THE WISCONSIN CONFERENCE, WITH WHOM THE AUTHOR HAS BEEN ASSOCIATED IN CHRISTIAN LABOR DURING THE PAST THIRTY YEARS ARE THESE PAGES RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED.
* * * * *
The following pages were prepared in the midst of the taxing labors of the Ministerial calling. The materials have been drawn from a multitude of sources, and, though the recollections of individuals have not been entirely harmonious in all cases, the facts and dates are believed to be mainly reliable. The general plan, it will be observed, contemplates a brief record of the Charges and Ministers of the Wisconsin Conference, rather than furnish a sketch of my own services. To place the data, however, in suitable relations, and render it acceptable to the general reader, it has been deemed advisable to let the record follow the line of my labors during the thirty years of my Itinerant life. The publication of the book at the present time, is the result of my severe illness during the past year, and the generous, appreciative action taken by the District Conferences. A record of many other Charges and Ministers had been prepared, but, to my regret, the limits of the volume would not permit its insertion. Hoping that these pages may revive many pleasant recollections, furnish interesting and profitable reading for the fireside, and preserve material for the future historian, they are committed to the generous consideration of the public.
Providential Intervention.—Nature and Providence alike Mysterious.—An Unseen Hand shaping Human Events.—The Author urged to enter the Ministry.—Shrinks from the Responsibility.—Flies to Modern Tarshish.—Heads for Iowa.—Gets Stuck in the Mud.—Smitten by a Northern Gale.—Turns Aside to see the Eldorado.—Finds Himself Face to Face with the Itinerancy.
The Young Itinerant.—In a Lumber Mill at Waupun.—The Surprise.—An Interval of Reflection.—A Graceful Surrender.—The Outfit minus the Horse and Saddlebags.—.Receives Instruction.—The Final Struggle.—Arrives at Brothertown.—Reminiscences of the Red Man.—The Searching Scrutiny.—The Brothertown People.—The Mission.—Rev. Jesse Halstead—Rev. H.W. Frink.
Exhorter in Charge.—The First Sabbath.—The Superb Singing.—Class and Prayer Meetings.—A Revival.—Stockbridge Counted In.—A Remonstrance.—Another Exhorter Found.—Decide to Hold a Great Meeting.—The Loaves and Fishes in the Lad's Basket too Few.—Chief Chicks.—Conversion of a Noted Character.—Quarterly Meeting at Fond du Lac.—Licensed to Preach.—Camp Meeting at Clason's Prairie.—Camp Meeting at Brothertown.—Church Enterprise.—Missionary Merchant.—Logging Bee.—Successive Labors.
Fond du Lac.—First Sermon.—Early Presiding Elders.—Rev. H.W. Reed.—Rev. James R. Goodrich.—Rev. Jesse Halstead the First Pastor.—Rev. Harvey S. Bronson.—First Class.—Quarterly Meeting.—Delegation from Waupun.—Rev. Wm. H. Sampson.—Extended District.—A Disastrous Fire.—Outside Appointments.—Stowe's Chapel.—Preacher's Home.—Ethiel Humiston.—Byron.—Rev. Joseph T. Lewis.—Rev. M.L. Noble—Rev. H. B. Colman.
Green Lake Mission.—Waupun.—First Class.—Meetings held at Dr. Bowman's.—Revival.—Two Local Preachers.—Short Cut to Ceresco.—Boxing the Compass.—Wisconsin Phalanx.—First Society.—Dining Hall Chapel.—Discussions.—Antiquated Views.—Green Lake.—Shadrach Burdick.—Visit to Dartford.—Little Green Lake.—The New Chorister.—Markesan.—Lake Maria.—Revival.
Green Lake Mission Continued.—Quarterly Meeting at Oshkosh.—Rev. G.N. Hanson.—Lake Apuckaway.—Lost and Found.—Salt and Potatoes.—Mill Creek.—Rock River.—Rev. J.M.S. Maxson.—Oakfield.—Cold Bath.—Fox Lake.—Gospel vs. Whiskey.—On Time.—Badger Hill.—S.A.L. Davis.—Miller's Mill.—G.W. Sexmith.—Burnett.—William Willard.—Grand River.—David Wood.
Green Lake Mission Continued.—An Assistant Employed.—Quarterly Meeting at Waupun.—Love Feast.—Forty Miles Ride, and Four Sermons.—A Sermon and its Fruit.—Portage Prairie.—Randolph.—Randolph Centre.—Rolling Prairie,—Cheney's Class.—Brandon.—Rosendale.—Reed's Corners.—Strong's Landing,—A Night in the Openings.—Rev. Uriel Farmin.—Going to Conference.—Madison.—Visit at Platteville.—Bishop Hamline.—Humorous to Grave.—Galena Conference.
Appointed to Watertown.—Aztalan the Mother of Circuits.—Divisions and Subdivisions.—Rev. S.H. Stocking.—Watertown.—Church Enterprise.—Sickly Season.—Quarterly Meeting at Burnett.—Rev. A.P. Allen.—Elder Sampson Ties a Knot.—Conference of 1847.—Returned to Watertown.—Financial Pressure.—Opens a School.—The Coat Sermon.
Waukesha—Old Prairieville Circuit—Changes—Rev. L.F. Moultrie—Rev. Hooper Crews—Rev. J.M. Walker—Rev. Washington Wilcox—Upper and Nether Millstones—Our New Field—Revival—Four Sermons—Platform Missionary Meetings—The Orator—Donning the Eldership—The Collection.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fond du Lac District Continued.—Appleton.—Early History.—Rev. C.G. Lathrop—Lawrence University.—Incipient Stages.—Charter.—Trustees. Agent.—First Board of Instruction.—Buildings.—Faculty.—Rev. Dr. Cooke.—Rev. Dr. Cobleigh.—Rev. Dr. Mason.—Rev. Dr. Knox.—Rev. Dr. Steele.
Fond du Lac District Continued.—Baraboo Conference.—Lodi Camp Meeting.—Fall River.—Revival at Appleton.—Rev. Elmore Yocum.—Revival at Sheboygan Falls.—Revival at Fond du Lac.—Rev. E.S. Grumley.—Revival at Sheboygan.—Rev. N.J. Aplin.—Camp-Meeting at Greenbush.—Rev. A.M. Hulce.—Results of the Year.—Janesville Conference.—Omro. Rev. Dr. Golden.—The Cowhams.—Quarterly Meeting.—My Father's Death.—Close of the Term.
Conference of 1855.—The New Departure.—Mission Committee.—The Slavery Controversy.—Triumph of Freedom.—Wisconsin Conference Rule. Conference Report.—Election of Delegates.—Appointed to Racine.—Detention.—The Removal to the New Charge.—Stage, Dray, and Steamboat.—New Bus Line.
Racine.—Its Early History.—Subsequent Growth.—Racine District.—Rev. Dr. Hobart.—Kenosha.—Rev. Salmon Stebbins.—Sylvania.—The Kelloggs.—Walworth Circuit—Burlington and Rochester.—Lyons. Troy Circuit.—First Class at Troy.—Eagle.—Round Prairie.—Hart Prairie.—Delavan.—Elkhorn.—Pastorate at Racine.—Revival.—Church Enlargement.—Second Year.—Precious Memories.
Conference of 1859.—Janesville.—Early History.—First Sermon.—The Collection.—First Class.—First Church.—First Donation.—Rev. C.C. Mason.—Missionary Anniversary.—Rev. A. Hamilton.—Rev. D. O. Jones. The Writer's Pastorate.—The Great Revival.—The Recipe.—Old Union Circuit.—First Class.—Evansville.—Rev. Henry Summers.—New Church. Conference of 1858.—Beloit.—Early Pastorates.—Church Enterprise.—Second Year at Janesville.
Conference of 1859.—Presiding Elder.—Milwaukee District.—Residence.—District Parsonage.—Visits to Charges.—Spring Street.—Asbury.—Rev. A.C. Manwell.—Brookfield.—West Granville.—Wauwatosa.—Rev. J.P. Roe.—Waukesha.—Rev. Wesley Lattin.—Oconomowoc.—Rev. A.C. Pennock.—Rev. Job B. Mills.—Hart Prairie.—Rev. Delos Hale.—Watertown. Rev. David Brooks.—Rev. A.C. Huntley.—Brookfield Camp-Meeting.
Whitewater Conference.—Report on Slavery.—Election of Delegates.— Whitewater.—Early History.—Rev. Dr. Bannister.—General Conference.—Member of Mission Committee.—Conference 1860.—Rev. I.L. Hauser.—Mrs. I.L. Hauser.—Rev. J.C. Robbins.—The Rebellion.—Its Causes.—Fall of Sumter.—Extract of Sermon.—Conference 1861.—Rev. J.H. Jenne.—Rev. S.C. Thomas.—Rev. G.C. Haddock.—Colonelcy.—Close of Term.
Conference of 1862.—The War.—Position of the Conference.—Rev. J.M. Snow.—Appointed again to Spring Street.—Dr. Bowman.—Changes.—Rev. P.S. Bennett.—Rev. C.S. Macreading.—Official Board.-The New Church Enterprise.—Juvenile Missionary Society.—Conference of 1863.—Rev. P.B. Pease.—Rev. George Fellows.—Rev. Samuel Fallows.—Rev. R.B. Curtis.—Rev. D.H. Muller.—Third Year.—Pastoral Work.—Revival. Visit to the Army.—Illness.—Close of Term.
Conference of 1865.—The War Closed.—Lay Delegation the Next Question. Rev. George Chester.—Rev. Romulus O. Kellogg.—Missionary to China.—Rev. L.N. Wheeler.—Appointed to Fond du Lac District.—Marriage of our Eldest Daughter.—Removal to Fond du Lac.—Rev. T.O. Hollister.—State of the District.—Rev. J.T. Woodhead.—Waupun.—Rev. D.W. Couch.—Lamartine.—Rev. I.S. Eldridge.—Horicon.—Rev. Walter McFarlane.
Conference of 1866.—Centenary Year.—Lay Delegation.—Reconstruction.—Returned to Fond du Lac District.—Seven Sermons a Week—Rev. O.J. Cowles.—Beaver Dam.—A Good Record.—Fall River.—Early History.—Columbus.—Rev. Henry Sewell.—Conference of 1867.—Election of Delegates.—Cotton Street.—Rev. R.S. Hayward.—Rev. A.A. Reed.—General Conference.—Conference of 1868.—Rev. T.C. Wilson.—Rev. H.C. Tilton. Rev. John Hill.—Rev. Isaac Searles—Rev. J.B. Cooper.—An Incident—Close of the Term.—Progress Made.
Conference of 1869.—Stationed at Ripon.—First Visit—Rev. E.J. Smith.—Rev. Byron Kingsbury.—Sabbath School.—Early Record of the Station.—Church Enterprises.—Rev. William Morse.—Rev. Joseph Anderson.—Revival.—Church Enlargement.—Berlin.—Early History.—Rev. Isaac Wiltse.—Conference of 1870.—Returned to Ripon.—Marriage of our Second Daughter.—A Happy Year.—Close of our Labors.
Conference of 1871.—Election of Delegates.—Laymen's Electoral Convention.—Temperance.—The Sabbath.—Rev. Thomas Hughes.—Appointed to Spring Street.—Third Term.—Wide Field.—Rev. C.D. Pillsbury.—Rev. W.W. Case.—The Norwegian Work.—Rev. A. Haagenson.—The Silver Wedding.—Results of the Year.
Conference of 1872.—Rev. A.J. Mead.—Rev. A. Callender.—Rev. Wm. P. Stowe.—Rev. O.B. Thayer.—Rev. S. Reynolds.—Revival under Mrs. Van Cott—Conference of 1873.—Rev. Henry Colman.—Rev. A.A. Hoskin.—Rev. Stephen Smith.—Illness.—Conference of 1874.—Rev. Dr. Carhart.—Rev. Geo. A. Smith.—Rev. C.N. Stowers.—In the Shade.
Thirty Years in the Itinerancy.
* * * * *
Providential Intervention.—Nature and Providence alike Mysterious.—An Unseen Hand shaping Human Events.—The Author urged to enter the Ministry.—Shrinks from the Responsibility.—Flies to Modern Tarshish.—Heads for Iowa.—Gets Stuck in the Mud.—Smitten by a Northern Gale.—Turns Aside to see the Eldorado.—Finds Himself Face to Face with the Itinerancy.
The ways of Providence are mysterious. And how, to men, could they be otherwise? With their limited faculties it could not be expected that they would be able to obtain more than partial glimpses of the "goings forth of the Almighty." The Astronomer can determine the orbit of the planets that belong to our system, since they lie within the range of his vision; but not so the comets. These strange visitors locate their habitations mainly in regions so remote from the plane of human existence that his eye cannot reach them. And when they do condescend to pay us a visit, they traverse so wide a circuit that the curve they describe is too slight to furnish a basis for reliable mathematical calculations. Hence the orbit of a comet is a mystery, and the return not unfrequently a surprise. If this be true of what seem to be the unfinished or exploded worlds, that swing like airy nothings in the heavens and fringe the imperial realm of physical being, then what may not be predicated of the profounder mysteries that lie bosomed in those unexplored depths of the Universe, where the fixed stars hold high court? When our feet trip at every step of our advance to know the mysteries of nature, why need we affect surprise when the profounder domain of providence refuses to yield up its secrets? That the ways of God are mysterious is a logical necessity. The Infinite disparity between the human and the Divine intelligence involves it. Insignificant as a lady's finger ring may seem when compared to one of the mighty rings of Saturn, the human mind, in the presence of the Divine, is infinitely more so. Well hath the Scriptures said, "Far as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The mysterious ways of Providence are, however, not unfrequently so interwoven with human events as that average intelligence may be able to understand portions of them, though much of mystery must always remain. And in no one particular do these understandable portions find a clearer illustration than in those interventions which assign individual men to given pursuits and responsibilities in life. Truly, "There is a Providence that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will."
Nor may these special interventions be wholly appropriated by the great men of the world. On the contrary, they not unfrequently condescend to bless the very humblest. The same great thought, the same skilled hand and the same infinite power that were necessary to pile up the grandest mountain ranges and hollow the ocean's bed, were also required to create a single grain of sand and assign it its place as a part of the grand whole. So, while great and honorable men pass into the world's history as the proteges of a special providence, let it also be remembered that the humbler ones, though their names may never be chronicled, are not forgotten by the All Father. If willing to be led, they shall not want a kind hand to lead them. And even though rebellious at times, and at others shrinking from the proffered responsibilities, yet a loving Father cares for the trembling and feeble ones, as well as the brave and the strong, and kindly leads them into the paths of peace.
I have not written thus, good reader, in these opening pages, to find a starting place for the record that is to follow. On the contrary, these utterances hold a special relation to the writer and the labors of the last thirty years.
Soon after my conversion, and before I was eighteen years of age, I received an Exhorter's license. I was then engaged in teaching and found my time largely occupied by my profession. Yet, I occasionally held services on the Sabbath. During the ensuing four years I retained the same relation. I was often urged to accept a Local Preacher's license, but declined, thinking I was too much occupied in the other field to make the necessary preparation for this. And, besides, I had now reached a point of great perplexity and trial with reference to the ministerial calling as a profession. Not that I entertained a serious thought of accepting it, but, on the contrary, was wholly averse to it. But, strangely enough, while I was thus, both in feeling and convictions, opposed to the measure, every one else seemed to accept it as a matter already settled that I would enter the Itinerant field. From the good Rev. John B. Stratton, the Presiding Elder of the Prattsville District, New York Conference, within the bounds of which I then resided, and his immediate successor, Rev. Samuel D. Ferguson, down through all the ministry and laiety of my acquaintance, I was made the special subject of attack. But from what all others thought to be my duty, I shrank with a persistence that admitted of no compromise. The plan I had marked out for myself contemplated, ultimately, the position of a Local Preacher, and a life devoted largely to literature and business. On this plan I fully relied, and thought myself settled in my convictions and fixed in my purpose. Yet I am not able to say, that at times it did not require some effort of the will to keep my conscience quiet and my thought steady. A young man, from eighteen to twenty-two years of age, who was subject to so many attacks, especially in high places, and who constantly felt himself preached to and prayed at in almost every religious assembly, must be more than human, not to say less than a Christian, to bear up under such a pressure. I clearly saw that one of two things must be done, and that speedily. Either I must yield to the manifest demand of the church or "go west." I chose the latter. Nor was this decision mere obstinacy. There were several things to be considered and carefully weighed and determined before entering upon a work of such grave responsibilities as the Itinerant ministry. First of all, the question must be settled in a man's conviction of duty; then the question of one's fitness for the work; and, finally, the financial question could not be ignored. To enter the Itinerancy involved responsibilities that could only be sustained under the deepest convictions that can possibly penetrate a human soul. The minister is God's ambassador to lost men. He can only enter upon this work under the sanction of Divine authority. Having entered he is charged with the care of souls, and if these shall suffer harm, through his inefficiency or want of fidelity, he must answer in the Divine assizes for the breach of trust. Well may the best of men say, "who is sufficient for these things?" Then add to this grave responsibility, the certain and manifold trials which must come to every man who enters the Itinerancy. His very calling makes him a spectacle to men, and necessarily the subject of adverse criticism. He is the messenger of God and yet the servant of man. On the one hand, clothed with the authority of heaven, and on the other reduced to the condition of a servant. Expected to deliver the high message of the King of Kings, and yet receives his pulpit under the suffrages of man. Before he receives his appointment, he is not unfrequently the subject of a sharp canvass from one end of the Conference to the other, and after he receives it he is liable to find himself among a people, who had rejected him in the canvass, and now only acquiesce in the decision from sheer necessity. But if he escape Scylla in this particular, he is certain to drive upon Charybdis in another. Granting that his relations and labors may be acceptable, he falls upon the inevitable necessity of devoting his time and labor, during the vigor and strength of his days, for a meager compensation, and then pass into old age, and its attendant infirmities, as a dependancy, if not a pauper. And now let me submit; with such a picture hung upon the canopy of the future, and who shall say it is overdrawn? is it a matter of surprise that a young man should hesitate before accepting the position of an Itinerant?
But it will be said: "There is another side to the picture." True, and thanks to the Great Head of the church that there is. But the other side can only be seen when the beholder occupies the proper stand-point, and this position I certainly had not attained at the time of which I write. In this matter, as in most others, our mistakes arise from partial views and limited observation.
A few years since I visited Niagara Falls. Before leaving Buffalo a friend admonished me to avoid looking upon the descending floods until I should reach Table Rock, as this precaution would give me a more satisfactory impression. These instructions were more easily given than observed. I found it required no small share of nerve to pass down the near bank of the river with the eternal roar of its waters pouring into my ears, cross over Suspension Bridge, spanning the rushing tides below still tossing and foaming as though an ocean had broken from its prison, and then pass up the other bank, in full view of the cataract, and not look upon it until my feet were planted on Table Rock. But from that hour to the present, I have never regretted the effort, for therein I learned the importance of position, when face to face with any great question. The position gained, I raised my eyes upon Niagara Falls. I need not say my whole being was thrilled. There lay the great "horse shoe" full before me, and I seemed to stand upon its outer crest and look down into its deep chasm, where the angry waters wrestled with each other in their wildest frenzy. Then the floods from either side, that had seemed to sweep around the chasm and hug the shore, as if in mortal terror, despairing of escape, rushed upon each other like two storm fiends. The war of waters was most terrific. The very earth shook. Locked in deadly embrace, and writhing as if in direst agony, the mighty floods plunged the abyss, while far above floated the white plume of the presiding genius of old Niagara. The impression upon me was overwhelming. I saw Niagara Falls from the right stand-point. Whether I was equally fortunate in my early views of the Itinerancy is a question that will find solution in the following pages.
I decided, however, to go West. My father and the balance of his family had been looking enquiringly in that direction for several months, and I now agreed to accompany them.
It was our purpose to make Dubuque, Iowa, the point of destination, as the founders of that city, who were relatives, had visited us in the East and had given us glowing accounts of the city and the adjacent portions of the State. With this purpose in view we landed at Racine. The Madison, a crazy old steamer that could lay on more sides during a storm than any water craft that I had ever seen, landed us on a pier in the night, and from the pier we were taken ashore in a scow. We reached Racine in June, 1844. Racine at that time was a very small village, but, like all western towns, it was in the daily belief that, at some time in the near future, it would be a very large city. We spent the Sabbath and enjoyed the pleasure of attending religious services in a school house. The pastor of our church at the time was Rev. Milton Bourne, of the Rock River Conference. We were favorably impressed with Racine, and especially with the evidences of civilization it afforded, in the fact of a school house and the establishment of religious services.
At Racine we engaged a man to take us, six in all, with our trunks to Delavan. The roads were almost impassable. The rains had fallen so copiously that the streams overflowed their banks, the marshes were full and the prairies inundated. With a good team, however, we made an average of about fifteen miles a day. Our conveyance stuck fast in the mud eighteen times between Racine and Delavan. Sometimes we found these interesting events would occur just in the middle of a broad marsh. In such case the gentlemen would take to the water, not unfrequently up to the loins, build a chair by the crossing of hands, as they had learned to do in their school days, and give the ladies a safe passage to the prairie beyond. But woe worth the day if the wheels refused to turn, as they sometimes did, in the middle of some deep, broad mud-hole. The light prairie soil, when thoroughly saturated, is capable of very great volatility and yet of stick-to-it-iveness. While the team and wagon, buried deeply in the mud, found the soil as yielding as quicksand, the passengers, on alighting, were no more fortunate. To make the chair and wade ashore with its precious burden, at such a time, involved a very nice adjustment of balances. If the three went headlong before they reached the shore, each received a generous "coat of mail" of the most modern style.
We reached Delavan in due course of travel, where we remained several days. The Sabbath intervened. My father preached in the morning, and I held service in the afternoon. On Monday a council was held. Since our feet touched the soil of Wisconsin, our ears had been filled with the praises of the country, and especially the counties of Dodge and Fond du Lac. By the time we had spent several days at Delavan, and were ready to move on toward Iowa, this clamor had become so decided in its tone, that, as a result of the consultation, it was decided that two or three of us should go up through Dodge and Fond du Lac counties. Not with the expectation that our destination would lie in that direction, but it was thought advisable to know what had been left behind, in case we should not be pleased with Dubuque.
Leaving the balance of our company at Delavan, we started on foot on our tour of exploration. Keeping our eyes and ears open, we were ready to go in any direction in quest of the promised "Eldorado." Like all "land seekers" of those early times, a few things were deemed essential to make a location desirable. These were prairie, timber and water. But with us one additional requisite must not be ignored. We must also find a "water power." With all these objects in view, the line of travel became perplexing and described a good many angles, but the main direction lay through East Troy, Summit, Watertown, Oak Grove and Waupun. At the last named place we found a few scattered log houses, and, within a radius of five miles, perhaps a dozen families. The location was beautiful. With its prairie of from one to two miles in width, skirted on the north by groves of timber, through which ran the west branch of Rock River, and fringed on the south by extended openings, it took us captive at once. Passing up the stream two or three miles we found the looked for water-power, and abundance of unappropriated lands. By setting our stakes on the crown of the prairie, and making the lines pass down to the river and through the belt of timber, sufficient land of the right quality could be secured for the whole family, including, also, the desired water-power. To decide upon this spot as our future home, was the result of a brief consultation. All thought of going to Iowa was now abandoned. Obtaining a load of lumber, which was all that could be secured for either love or money, a shanty was immediately erected for the accommodation of the family. Was it a providential intervention that assigned us our home and field of labor in this new and rapidly populating portion of Wisconsin, rather than the city of Dubuque?
Society in its formative state needs, above all other agencies, the salutary influences of religion. To provide these and give them efficiency among the people, the presence and labors of the Gospel ministry, and the establishment of churches, are a necessity. To secure these at the outset requires the emigration of ministers from the older States as well as people. Perhaps the motives of neither class in coming will always bear a thorough scrutiny; yet who shall say that their coming is not under the general direction of Providence? Nor is it improbable that the hasty steps that seem to bear the unwilling servant from the presence of the Master are the very ones that most speedily bring him face to face with his duty.
The Young Itinerant.—In a Lumber Mill at Waupun.—The Surprise.—An Interval of Reflection.—A Graceful Surrender.—The Outfit minus the Horse and Saddlebags.—Receives Instruction.—The Final Struggle.—Arrives at Brothertown.—Reminiscences of the Red Man.—The Searching Scrutiny.—The Brothertown People.—The Mission.—Rev. Jesse Halstead.—Rev. H.W. Frink.
In March, A.D. 1845, a letter from Rev. Wm. H. Sampson, then Presiding Elder of Green Bay District, Rock River Conference, found me at Waupun. The intervening nine months, since our arrival in the preceding July, had been spent in making improvements upon the land I had selected, and in the erection of a lumber mill, of which I was in part proprietor.
The bearer of the letter found me in the mill, engaged in rolling logs to the saw and in carrying away the lumber. I opened the letter and glanced at its contents. To my surprise and utter consternation it contained a pressing request that I would take charge of the Brothertown Indian Mission until the next session of the Conference, as the Missionary, Rev. H.W. Frink, had been called away by family afflictions. I instinctively folded the letter and then crumpled it in the palm of my hand, inwardly saying, "Hast thou found me, oh! mine enemy?" No rash answer, however, was given. This question of duty was certainly assuming grave aspects. For four years it had haunted me at every turn. And even in the wilds of Wisconsin it was still my tormenter. Like Banquo's ghost, it would not down at my bidding. I now tried to look the question fairly in the face, and make the decision a final one, but found it exceedingly difficult to do so. To yield after so long a struggle, and especially to surrender all my fondly cherished plans for the future, appealed at first to my pride, and then to what I conceived to be my temporal interests, and the appeal for a moment seemed to gain the ascendency. But how then could I answer to God? was the startling question that burned into my soul at every turn of the argument. In the midst of my embarrassment the thought was suggested, "It is only until Conference, and then you can return and resume your business."
Catching at this straw, thus floating to me, and half believing and half hoping that three months of my incompetency would satisfy the church and send me back to my business again, I consented to go. Leaving my temporal interests in the hands of my father, I hastened to make the necessary preparations for my new responsibilities. The outfit was provokingly limited. The horse and saddlebags, the inevitable Alpha, if not the Omega, of an Itinerant's outfit, were wanting, as such conveniences had hardly, as yet, found their way to the northern portions of the Territory. But in their place were put good walking ability and a small satchel. A few pieces of linen, a few books, but no sermons, were put into the satchel, and I was immediately stepping to the measure of the Itinerancy.
My first point of destination was Fond du Lac, the residence of the Presiding Elder, where I must necessarily report for instructions. The walk of twenty-two miles, with no other companion than a plethoric satchel, passing from hand to hand as the weary miles, one after another, were dismissed, was not the most favorable introduction to my "new departure," but, bad as it was, I found relief in the thought that my Eastern friends, who had so kindly and repeatedly proposed to give me a comfortable seat somewhere in the New York Conference, were in blissful ignorance of the sorry figure I was making. Whether Jonah found his last conveyance more agreeable than the first, I cannot say, but certain it is, I found my first entrance upon the Itinerancy a tugging business.
I reached Fond du Lac before nightfall, and was hospitably entertained. Notwithstanding the cordial reception I received, however, from both the elder and his good wife, I felt embarrassed by the searching look they occasionally gave me. Whether it was occasioned by my youthful, green or delicate appearance, or my light, feminine voice, I could not divine.
The conversation soon turned upon the state of affairs at Brothertown, and I speedily forgot my embarrassment. In the course of the conversation I inquired whether the proceeding would not be considered irregular, to place an exhorter in charge of the Mission. The elder replied, "Necessity knows no law, and, besides, our Quarterly Meeting at this place will soon be held, when we will relieve that embarrassment." I was doubtless indebted to this law of necessity for the privilege of holding one office in the church not provided for in the Discipline, and one that has seldom if ever been accorded to others. Carefully instructed in the best method to manage certain difficulties pending in the Mission, I took early leave for a further walk of sixteen miles.
Across the prairie at the head of Lake Winnebago, I found the walk very agreeable. Passing Taycheedah, I then struck out into the deep woods that skirt the eastern shore of the lake. I was now between my guide and instructor, and the difficult work committed to my charge. Thought was busy. An oppressive sense of my own insufficiency for so momentous a work, came over me, as it had done before, but never in such overwhelming power. I was now face to face with the great work from which I had shrank for several years, and there was no retreat. Imagination lifted the little hills of difficulty before me into mountains that seemed impassable. In the deep shade of the wood I found a moss-covered rock for a seat, and gave myself up to reflection. The troubled currents of the stream ran on this wise. To go forward in my present undertaking may involve a committal to a work that a few short months shall not terminate. In such case, there will follow a life of toil and sacrifice, on stinted allowance, beset with trials and perplexities, and clouded by cold unfeeling criticisms, censures and misjudgings, of both motive and labor, of which I can now entertain no adequate conception. But if this work be not the dictate of duty, then why this unrest of soul which has so long disturbed the even flow of my religious life, or why the uniform urgency of the authorities of the church both east and west in this direction? On the contrary, if my feet are now in the path of duty then why hesitate? A brave soul never falters in the presence of difficulty or peril, but always deals the strongest blows where the conflict rages the sharpest. The struggle was brief and the result satisfactory. Kneeling by the side of the rock, prayer was offered for Divine guidance and help, and there fell on the soul a baptism of serene peace and holy joy, which hallowed each remaining step of the journey.
Arriving at Brothertown the letter of introduction from the Elder was presented to A.D. Dick, Esq., one of the Stewards. The residence of this brother was located in the central portion of the town, and gave evidence of good taste and comfort. Both himself and wife were members of the church, and their house the home of Itinerants. It was now nearly twelve o'clock. I was invited to the parlor where I awaited dinner. These few moments afforded an opportunity to survey my surroundings and master the situation. My early reading had introduced me to the Indian, both in his native wilds and as seen on the borders of civilization, the former as the noblest specimen of the natural man on the planet, and the latter as the most degraded of mortals. But now I was in the very presence of the red man and even a guest in his dwelling. Nor is it too much to say that my curiosity was not a little excited. My reception, however, had been so cordial that I soon found myself at ease in my new associations.
The letter was opened and read. During its reading I noticed that the eye of mine host often wandered from the page to the newly arrived guest. By an occasional glance I tried to read the thoughts of the reader, but found that the dark face was not disposed to be communicative. This much, however, I think I read pretty clearly: "Well, the Elder has sent us a pretty slender specimen as a minister, but we will try him and see what he can do."
The dinner was announced, conversation became lively, and before we were aware of it the distinctions of race and color had faded out of sight, and a life-long friendship was founded. It was now arranged that, during my stay on the Mission, I should make my home under this hospitable roof.
The Brothertown people came from the State of New York, and had now been settled in their western home several years. A log chapel had been erected and school houses provided. The location along the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago was excellent, affording a good soil and water and timber in abundance. Along the principal highways the farms had been cleared of timber and brought under a fair state of cultivation. The buildings were mainly constructed of logs, though in later years, there had been erected a goodly number of frame residences.
Brothertown Mission first appears on the General Minutes in 1839, under the name of Deansburg, as will appear hereafter. In 1840 it was called Fond du Lac, as that point had now been added as a regular appointment. The following year, 1841, the charge remained the same, but the name was changed to Brothertown, this name having taken the place of Deansburg, in honor of the Brothertown Nation. But as this charge will further appear in connection with the labors of its pastors I will defer the balance of the record for the present.
Rev. Jesse Halstead entered the traveling connection in the Troy Conference, was ordained Deacon in September, 1837, and transferred to the Illinois Conference. At the session of the Conference, held the same month, he was appointed second preacher to Aztalan Mission. Here he took his first lessons in pioneer work. He traveled over a tract of country reaching from the line of the Territory on the south to Menomonee on the north, and from the Lake Shore Missions on the east to Madison on the west. In these extended journeys he enjoyed the privilege of preaching the first sermon and forming the first societies in many localities.
In 1838 he was sent to Crete Mission on the Kankakee, in the State of Illinois. The following year, 1839, he was sent to Brothertown, as before stated, the name on the Minutes being Deansburg. While on this Mission, he visited Fond du Lac, and preached the first sermon, as will appear in another chapter. He remained on this charge only three months, and was then sent by his Presiding Elder, Rev. Julius Field, to supply Oneida Indian Mission for the balance of the year, that charge having been left to be supplied. In January he was visited at Oneida by the Presiding Elder. While here the Elder fell sick, and desired Brother Halstead to accompany him on his round of appointments. In the line of travel they visited Madison and intervening charges, and then went to Racine, the home of the Elder.
Brother Halstead now started for his field at Oneida. It was in the depth of winter, and the line of travel was through the dense forests along the Lake Shore to Green Bay. But, nothing daunted, our Itinerant packed his books, which had been left with Brother Stebbins at this place on his first trip to the north, and other baggage, and started on his journey. The first day he reached Milwaukee, and here he laid in provisions and other necessary outfit, such as axe, auger, &c. Striking out into the forest he made twenty miles the first day, but during the afternoon found himself in a severe snow storm. The first night he stopped at a house located at the site of the present village of Grafton. On rising the next morning he found the snow three feet deep. He laid over one day, and on the following morning resumed his journey. He only made nine miles, as he was compelled to beat the track in advance of his horse; and at night he found quarters at Port Washington. The next day he pursued his journey, but at nightfall found himself without shelter in the woods. He built a fire, cooked a piece of salt pork to eat with his bread, and made a supper. But now for the night! He emptied his jumper, and in it he made a bed, and, as nearly as possible, a coil of humanity. The next morning he found his boots frozen. But, with a generous amount of tugging, they yielded to the pressure of his feet, and he was again on his way, breaking the roads himself, thereby aiding his horse in carrying his burden.
On the fifth day he found a house in the woods and remained in it for the night. The sixth day he reached Sheboygan Falls, and the seventh day Manitowoc. The eighth day he tried to reach Green Bay, a distance of forty miles, but was compelled to camp out for another night, and take the ninth day to complete his journey.
In 1840, Brother Halstead was sent to Fond du Lac, his charge including, also, Brothertown, of which a record will be made in a subsequent chapter. During this year he made a visit to Oshkosh. He took an Indian trail on the west side of Lake Winnebago, and after traveling twenty-five miles found himself on the bank of Fox River. He found no way to cross the stream, and, it being now dark, he was compelled to spend the night without shelter. A friendly Indian came along and joined him in his preparations for the night. The weather was quite cold and they were obliged to maintain a brisk fire to keep from freezing. In this duty they served by turns, but neither of them had any provisions. On the following day Brother, Halstead returned to Fond du Lac.
During the year Brother Halstead was abundant in labor, and at Brothertown there was an extensive revival, giving large accessions to the charge. The following year, he was returned to the work, but the name was changed to Brothertown. This year was also fragrant with blessing, and many souls were converted. After leaving Brothertown Brother Halstead was stationed at Monroe, and next at Hazel Green, where he had Rev. I.M. Leihy as a junior preacher. His subsequent charges were Prairie du Chien, Patch Grove, Mequon, Oak Creek, and Brothertown, when he took, in 1852, a superannuated relation.
Brother Halstead was always at his post of duty. In some of his appointments he had long moves, hard work, and very small compensation, but he and his good wife were always equal to the situation. It has been a pleasure to the writer to make this record, as also that of other veterans of the Itinerancy. But of the labors, the sacrifices and trials of such men, but little can be known here. It is a satisfaction, however, to be assured that their record is on high. It is also a pleasure to know with what views they look back upon the past. A line in hand from Brother Halstead only expresses the common sentiment of all. I will give it to the reader. "Among the most pleasant memories of my life, I reckon the hardships endured as an Itinerant minister of the Gospel of Christ. If I had another life to give I should not hesitate to throw myself into the work again with all the strength and purpose the Master has given me."
Rev. Hiram W. Frink was sent to Brothertown in 1842, and had nearly completed his third year when called away. Brother Frink is also a veteran, having entered the Conference in 1837, the year of Brother Halstead's transfer.
His first appointment was Sheboygan, including the territory between Milwaukee and Green Bay, and extending west as far as Lake Winnebago. Its principal appointments were Sheboygan, Port Washington, Brothertown, Two Rivers and Manitowoc.
Having shipped his trunk to Manitowoc, his future home, Brother Frink left Chicago on horseback, Oct. 28th, 1837, for his field of labor. At Milwaukee, the necessary outfit was procured to penetrate the deep forests which lay beyond, including an axe, steele and punk, a tin cup, blankets and provisions. The only road was an Indian trail, which pushed its devious way through the forest, around the swamps, and across bridgeless streams, without regard to the comfort of the traveler or the speed of his locomotion. As there were no houses along the line of travel, Brother Frink was compelled to spend the first night in the woods. Fortunately, however, he found a small, tenantless cabin by the wayside, in which he was safe from the wild, noisy beasts, that prowled without. The following day he reached Sheboygan.
And this journey was but a sample of the travel and exposures of the year of labor, on which Brother Frink had entered. Amid the drifting snows of winter, and the copious rains of summer, he was compelled to traverse the dreary, and almost unbroken forests of his field, and on more than one occasion he found the night around his camp-fire made hideous by the howling of wolves and the screaming of panthers. But in him the cause found a sturdy pioneer who was equal to the demands of the work.
In 1838, his appointment was Elgin, Ill., and, the following year, Watertown, Wis. In connection with the last named, we shall have occasion to refer to his labors in a subsequent chapter. At the close of his year at Watertown the charge was divided, and in 1840, he was appointed to Summit, the eastern division.
In 1841, he was returned to Illinois and stationed at Sycamore, and the following year was brought back to Wisconsin, and, as before stated, appointed to Brothertown. At the Conference of 1845, he took a location on account of family afflictions, but returned again to the work as soon as relieved of his embarrassments.
His subsequent appointments have been Grafton, Agent for Tracts and Sunday Schools, Palmyra, Rock Prairie, Albion, Dunkirk, Fort Atkinson, Footville, Burnett and Markesan. In 1865, he took a supernumerary relation, but the following year, being made effective, he was appointed to the Bible Agency, which position he has continued to hold up to the present writing. Brother Frink is still vigorous, and is doing effective service. He has kept a cheerful spirit up to the present hour, and is highly esteemed by his brethren.
Exhorter in Charge.—The First Sabbath.—The Superb Singing.—Class and Prayer Meetings.—A Revival.—Stockbridge Counted In.—A Remonstrance.— Another Exhorter Found.—Decide to Hold a Great Meeting.—The Loaves and Fishes in the Lad's Basket too Few.—Chief Chicks.—Conversion of a Noted Character.—Quarterly Meeting at Fond du Lac.—Licensed to Preach.—Camp Meeting at Clason's Prairie.—Camp Meeting at Brothertown.—Church Enterprise.—Missionary Merchant.—Logging Bee.—Successive Labors.
My first Sabbath, April 4, 1845, as "Exhorter in Charge," gave me an opportunity to take the measure of my new field of labor. The chapel, as before stated, was constructed of logs. These were hewn on both sides, thus giving a smooth appearance both within and without. The logs were halved together at the ends, and filled between with small pieces of wood laid in morter, and, on the whole, the chapel made a very respectable appearance. It contained rude seats that would accommodate about one hundred and fifty persons, and furnished standing room in addition for one hundred more.
On the advent of the young "Elder," for it was their custom to call all ministers by that name, the chapel was packed to its utmost capacity. Opening the services with great perturbation of spirit in the presence of so vast a crowd, I proceeded with difficulty until the people arose to sing. Instantly I was at ease. I was not a stranger to good singing, for my surroundings had always been fortunate in this particular, but, I am free to say, that, up to that hour, my ears had never been so thrilled by Christian melody. The tones were not as mellow as those of the African, but they were more deep and thrilling. Inclined rather to a high key, and disposed to be sharp and piercing, yet the voices of the vast congregation swept through every note of the gamut with equal freedom. I was thoroughly entranced. And, on coming to myself, I found my perturbation had left me and my soul was on a plane with the responsibilities of the hour.
At the close of the public services, a class meeting was held under the charge of Father Abner, the leader. This brother was a man of age and experience, well adapted to his position, and universally beloved. The meeting was conducted in the usual manner, and was an occasion of spiritual refreshing. The testimonies were direct and touchingly simple, usually accompanied with weeping, and sometimes with the shout of triumph. The singing, however, was the principal feature, both in quantity and quality, for this highly susceptible people had given this part of the services, in all their meetings, a leading place. Among the most noted leading voices were those of mine host, Alonzo D. Dick, Jeremiah Johnson, Orrin Johnson, and Thomas Cummock. My labors were now fairly opened, and I soon found abundant opportunities for usefulness. The regular meetings at the chapel were supplimented by others, principally prayer meetings, in the more remote parts of the town. These meetings were held on the week-day evenings, and in a short time became occasions of great interest. I attended them usually, and found every evening thus employed when not engaged at the chapel. In these excursions through the settlement, I was almost always accompanied by one, or all of the above named brethren, to lead the singing, as I found myself, though belonging to a singing family for three generations, unable to lead in this branch of the service. And in addition to these, I was also favored with the company of a young man of great worth and precious memory. I refer to Lewis Fowler, an Exhorter of great promise, but who soon after fell under the withering touch of consumption, and passed on to the better land.
As these side meetings, as I chose to call them, were multiplied, and awakened general interest in their several localities, we found the meetings at the chapel also gained in numbers and spiritual power. Soon the people began to talk of a revival, and pray for its speedy coming. Nor was it long delayed. The work began at one of the side meetings, where an old backslider was led back to the cross. The next evening, in another part of the settlement, there were three seekers at the altar. The Sabbath now intervened, and it was deemed advisable to open meetings in the chapel during the ensuing week. Here the meetings were held nightly for four weeks. As a result, seventy-five persons professed conversion.
The working force of the Mission was now put into a more thorough organization. Several new classes were formed and the old ones carefully organized, making six in all. A Sunday School was established, bringing into its promising field the latent talent of the church.
But we had hardly got our home work fully in hand, when there came an invitation from Stockbridge, several miles below, to extend our labors into that settlement. There had been a Congregational Mission among the Stockbridge nation for many years, but its condition was not very promising.
The chapel was located in the central portion of the reservation, and the Mission was now in charge of Dr. Marsh, a gentleman of education and ability. He divided his time, however, between the ministerial and medical professions, and, as a result, the spiritual interests necessarily languished.
During the progress of our revival in Brothertown, Brother David Wiggins, who had recently removed to Stockbridge, had been accompanied to the meeting by several of his neighbors, and they had been converted. This fact will explain the invitation now given. We accepted, and a meeting was opened, using the residence of Brother Wiggins as a temporary chapel. The meetings, however, had hardly been commenced, when there came a remonstrance from Dr. Marsh. The remonstrance, which was expressed in very emphatic terms, assumed that I had no right to embrace any portion of the Stockbridge reservation in my field of labor. But what was I to do? Some of our own sheep had gone down into Goshen to find pasturage, and now a few of the lambs of a strange flock had come to us seeking care and sustenance. Must these be left to the bleak winds that were evidently sweeping around them, to chill their warm blood in their veins and cause them to perish in the wilderness? My answer was respectful but decided. Having been placed, by what seemed to be a providential intervention, in charge of these souls, I could not withdraw my oversight. The Doctor laid the matter before the Presiding Elder, but he refused to interfere, and thus the matter ended. In due time a class was formed, Brother Wiggins was appointed its leader, and several souls was brought to Christ.
At this place I found Brother R.S. Hayward. Before my arrival at Brothertown, this noble man of God, and his most estimable and talented wife, had purchased a farm on the Stockbridge reservation. They had already erected a log house, cleared a few acres of land, and founded a home both for themselves and passing Itinerants. Such a surprise, and such a cordial welcome as I experienced, fall but seldom to the lot of a stranger.
Brother Hayward was also an Exhorter. Two Exhorters together, what a ministerial force! Why, we began to feel that, by the help of the Master, we could take the whole land for Christ! Plans were immediately formed to extend our field of operations.
Among these, we decided to hold a series of two days' meetings, and, that they might prove a grand success, we selected as the localities the grand centres of population. We appointed the first to be held in Father Chick's barn, a mile west of the Mission Chapel in Stockbridge. The day came, and so did the two Exhorters. The people from the two nations came in throngs. The barn was filled, and the groves around it, until my head grew dizzy in looking at the multitudes and thinking of what was to follow. There was a congregation that might awaken the eloquence of a Bishop, and nobody to conduct the services but two young, inexperienced Exhorters. The reader may well imagine that there was genuine repentance on the part of the striplings, and, may be, hastily made vows never again to challenge a multitude, but these did not solve the problem of the hour. Of course, as I was "Exhorter in Charge," though the youngest man, I had to take the morning service. I was so thoroughly frightened that I have forgotten the text, if I took any; but this point I do remember most distinctly. It was my first thought, on seeing the crowd, that I would take for a text, "There is a Lad here with five barley loaves and two small fishes, but what are they among so many?" But the more I thought of it, the more frightened I became. Fortunately, I dismissed it before the hour of service arrived, for I seriously questioned whether I could furnish the people so generous a feast. How I got through the service I am unable to say, for I never dared to ask any one, and my friends, doubtless out of regard to my youth, forbore to tell me. As to the afternoon service, I need say nothing, for, though respectable, I have no doubt Brother Hayward has preached many better sermons since.
But whatever was wanting in the public services, the social meetings of the day were a great success. Here the brethren came in with their singing and earnest prayers, and the sisters with their Christian testimonies, until every heart was moved. In this part of the service Sister Hayward led off with her accustomed ability and spirit, making a marked feature of the exercises.
The part borne by Father Chicks, as he was called, the head chief of the Stockbridge nation, also added not a little to the interest of the occasion. He had been but recently converted, and his heart was overflowing. To see such a religious demonstration on his own premises filled him with joy, and awoke within him the fiery ardor of those other days when his burning words had swayed his people to the good or evil, as the tempest bends the forest at its will. Tall and erect in form, with a brow to rule an empire, he rose in the midst of the great assembly and came forward to the stand. Every eye was fixed upon him. Turning to the writer, that he might have assistance, if necessary, in the use of the English, by the timely suggestion of the right word, he proceeded to say: "Me been a great sinner, as all my people know." For the moment he could go no farther. His noble form shook with emotion, and his manly face was flooded with tears. The whole audience wept with him, for his tears were sublimely eloquent. Recovering himself, he simply added, "All me want now is to love him, Christ." Then turning to his people, with a face as radient as the sunlight, he began to address them in his own language. I could not understand the import of his words, but the tones of his voice to our ears were entrancingly eloquent. As he advanced in his address, his frame, now bearing the weight of four score years, grew lithe and animated. Soon the whole man was in a storm of utterance. Had there been no living voice, the attitudes and swayings of the body, the carriage and transitions of the head, and the faultless, yet energetic gestures of the hand, were enough to move the human soul to the depths of its being. But to these were added the human voice divine with its matchless cadences, now kindling into a storm of invective, before which the audience shrank, like shriveled leaves in autumn, then sinking to sepulchral tones that seemed to challenge a communion with the dead; now wailing an anguish of sorrow utterly insupportable, and then rising in holy exultation, as one redeemed from sin and inspired with the triumphant shout of victory.
The address occupied only twenty minutes. But for effectiveness I never saw its equal. Bending forms and tears, groans and shouts, strangely commingled in the scene. Eternity alone can reveal the results of the day.
Among the converts at Brothertown were several interesting cases. I will only refer to one. It is that of a very noted character, who "feared not God, nor regarded man." This man, whom I shall not name, was specially bitter against all ministers, and lost no opportunity to treat them rudely. His family had taken the precaution to notify me of his bearing, assuring me that my visits to the house would be agreeable to them, yet they might subject me to abuse on his part, if not expulsion. I at once resolved to make an effort to reach him, and in due time found an opportunity. I discovered that he kept a large number of bee hives in his yard, and I concluded that he was fond of bees. Having had some experience in that line, I resolved to make my assault from that stand-point. The favorable opportunity came sooner than I expected. Early one morning, as I was passing the apiary, I found him in trouble. A young colony had left the parent hive and alighted on one of the topmost branches of a tall tree, and the owner was sending curses after them in a most profane manner. Approaching him with the compliments of the morning, I remarked, "These young people are starting out in life with pretty lofty notions." The reply was a volley of oaths that showed him to be no novice in profanity. To relieve his embarrassment, and tranquilize his temper, I suggested that they were not beyond reach. With a new outbreak of oaths, he replied, "The ladder that old Jacob dreamed of would not be half tall enough." I told him if he would bring me a strong cord and a saw I would bring them down for him. He, half doubtingly, glanced at my slight form, then into my face, as if to assure himself of my sincerity, and hastened to bring the desired articles. I fastened one end of the cord to my arm, and the other to the saw. The ascent was then made, the saw drawn up by the cord, and the severed limb with its burden let gently down until it dropped in front of the prepared hive. By the time I reached the ground the bees had entered the hive, and the raging spirit of their owner had became tranquil.
Conversation now turned upon the culture of the bee and its habits, until the way opened to rise from the temporal to the spiritual. The provident wisdom of the little busy worker, in laying up the needed store for future use, was especially commended, "But more especially," it was added, "is this course the dictate of wisdom in such beings as have an eternity before them." I saw that a small act of kindness had won his ear and touched his heart. On leaving, I was cordially invited to call and see the family. The advantage thus gained was prudently improved until, in process of time, both himself and family were garnered for the Master.
But the time had now come to lay aside the anomalous position of "Exhorter in Charge," and take to myself the appellation of "Preacher in Charge." Under the advice of the Presiding Elder I still retained my membership on the Fond du Lac circuit, of which Waupun was a part. The last Quarterly Meeting of the year was held in Fond du Lac May 31st, 1845, Rev. Wm. H. Sampson presiding. The meeting was well attended. I was granted a Local Preacher's license and recommended to the Rock River Conference for admission on trial.
At the close of the quarterly meeting I returned to Brothertown and made up a company of the good people, to attend a camp-meeting to be held at Clason's Prairie.
It was the pioneer camp-meeting in the region, and, though the attendance was not large, it included nearly all the population of the vicinity. There were ten tents, and as many preachers, with the Presiding Elder in charge. The spirit of the meeting was excellent, and a goodly number of souls were gathered for the Master. The services were greatly enlivened, and clothed with additional interest by the presence of the several brethren whom I had brought from Brothertown. Their ready, incomparable spiritual songs, earnest prayers and touching narratives of Christian experience, awakened intense feeling among all classes, and gave abundant evidence of the power of the Gospel to save, even the red man, as well as his brother of lighter complexion and more favorable surroundings.
Another feature of the meeting fastened itself upon my memory. It was the persistence with which the good Elder pressed me into service on the Sabbath before the great congregation, and such a formidable array of ministers. It was indeed a great trial, but, as on other occasions where there is a "boy preacher" around, there was no escape. And besides, the effort took on the nature of a trial sermon, as it was my first effort after I had been duly licensed to preach. Whether I succeeded fairly or not in the estimation of my critics, I am not able to say, for I kept my ear during the balance of the meeting turned the other way, lest I might "have my feelings hurt."
Returning to Brothertown, I now determined to hold a camp-meeting, under "our own vine and fig tree," in July. The arrangements were accordingly made, and at the appointed time, the Presiding Elder and several other ministers came to our assistance. They were Rev. Messrs. H.R. Colman, Stephen Jones, Joseph T. Lewis, G.N. Hanson, S.B. Whipple and my dear father. The attendance was large, the order perfect, and the results of the meeting specially satisfactory.
Among the converts were several persons from Calumet, a small village of white people adjoining Brothertown on the south. We now established an appointment in the village, formed a class and opened a Sunday School.
But the time had come in the history of the Mission when a new and larger chapel must be erected. To further this object, several boxes of goods had been forwarded to the Mission by Ladies Benevolent Societies in the east. They were accordingly opened out in the rooms of the vacant Parsonage, and, when not otherwise employed, I installed myself as a salesman of merchandise. It was not a little amusing to begin the erection of a church after this fashion, but this was not the only queer thing about the building of the Brothertown Church.
In addition, the Missionary put his own hands to the actual labor of preparing the materials. It was done in this wise. It was ascertained that a man in Stockbridge, who owned a fine grove of timber, proposed to give a certain amount of it for the church, provided the church people would cut it. And it was further found that the owner of a mill in the vicinity would give the sawing. We decided at once to accept both propositions. Word was passed among the people, and on a given day a score or more of men and teams, with the Missionary among them, made an onslaught upon the timber. In a few days the task was accomplished, and the success of the enterprise guaranteed.
The conference year, however, expired at this time, Aug. 20th, and terminated my labors among this people.
Well did the Apostle say, "I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereon." Nor was this experience new to the world in the time of Paul. It was the work of David to prepare the materials, but it remained to Solomon to build the Temple. Thus it is in every calling of life. But it is more manifestly so, perhaps, in the Itinerancy, than in any other.
Fond du Lac.—First Sermon.—Early Presiding Elders.—Rev. H.W. Reed.—Rev. James R. Goodrich.—Rev. Jesse Halstead the first Pastor.—Rev. Harvy S. Bronson.—First Class.—Quarterly Meeting.—Delegation from Waupun.—Rev. Wm. H. Sampson.—Extended District.—A Disastrous Fire.—Outside Appointments.—Stowe's Chapel.—Preacher's Home—Ethiel Humiston.—Byron.—Rev. Joseph T. Lewis.—Rev. M.L. Noble.—Rev. H.R. Colman.
The first sermon preached in Fond du Lac was delivered at the residence of Hon. Mason C. Darling, by Rev. Jesse Halstead, Missionary to the Brothertown people, on the 17th day of November, A.D. 1839. The meeting, the first of a religious character, was convened at the request of a few families residing in Fond du Lac and its neighborhood, only seven in number, they having learned that the ubiquitious Itinerant had struck their trail, and was making a visit to their settlement. Having been accustomed to religious services in their eastern homes, these few scattered families had felt deeply their privations in these western wilds. The advent of a minister, therefore, opened an era of no common importance. Few and scattered as were the families, some of them living several miles away, the small log house was filled.
From this lowly, rude dwelling the songs of Zion ascended in grateful praise, floating out over the prairie and lingering in the branches of the old forest trees along the river until they fell upon the ear of the roaming savage, and arrested his careless footsteps. The voice of prayer was heard, breathing to heaven in fervid accents a recognition of the Divine goodness, and an humble consecration of devout worshippers, and the fair land they had adopted as their home, to God. The Gospel Message heralded the dispensation of grace, mercy and peace alike to all, bearing in its wings the gift of healing, and a glorious prophecy of the coming reign of the Messiah over "the wilderness and solitary place." Under the word, the pentacostal blessing came down on the people and filled the humble sanctuary. To many, the memories of other days, and their dear old homes in the east, were overpowering. The fountains of feeling were opened and tears came welling up from their depths, until they brimmed the eyelids of all, and fell in showers, as when the cloud angel shakes his wings. Those only who have mingled in the first religious meetings of the new settlement, can rightly appreciate the intense interest or gauge the overwhelming emotions of such an occasion.
Fond du Lac appears on the General Minutes at the session of the Rock River Conference, held Aug. 26th, 1840. At that time the entire Territory was included in two districts. The first swept across from the southwest to the northeast, making Platteville and Green Bay its extreme points. And the other embraced the southeastern portion, and extended as far west and north as Watertown and Summit. The Presiding Elder on the latter, the Milwaukee, was Rev. Julius Field, and on the former, the Platteville, Rev. H.W. Reed. The year following the northeastern portion was erected into a separate district, called Green Bay, and Rev. James R. Goodrich was made the Presiding Elder. Brother Reed remained another year on the Platteville District, but during that year it retained only two charges that are at the present writing included within the bounds of the Wisconsin Conference. After this date, the labors of Brother Reed fell within other Conferences, where doubtless a record will be made of them. His visits, however, have not been forgotten. He was a man of kindly spirit and great practical wisdom. Wherever he laid the foundations, they showed the labors of a skillful hand. He still remains in the Itinerancy, and is the Patriarch of Iowa Methodism.
Brother Goodrich, who succeeded him on the Green Bay portion of the district, is also remembered with great pleasure by the people. He remained three years on the district, and during the first two, served the Green Bay station also. He was transferred to the Chicago District in 1844, and was succeeded on the Green Bay District by Rev. Wm. H. Sampson. At the close of the year, Brother Goodrich took a superannuated relation.
Rev. Jesse Halstead was appointed to the Fond du Lac charge, as before stated, and the Mission was made to include both Fond du Lac and Brothertown. He was also continued on the same charge the following year, the circuit now being changed from the Platteville to the Green Bay District.
We have spoken at length of the Brothertown portion of the charge in previous chapters, and may now confine the record to that of Fond du Lac. During this year a class was formed at Taycheedah with Francis M. McCarty as leader.
At the session of the Conference, held Aug. 24, 1842, the name of Fond du Lac again fails to appear on the minutes, showing, doubtless, that, up to this date, it had not assumed sufficient importance as a religious centre to retain the name of a circuit. But at this session a charge appears under the name of Lake Winnebago, with Rev. John P. Gallup as Pastor. This new charge contained so much of the old Fond du Lac Mission as had been separated from Brothertown, and, in addition, it swept down along the west side of the Lake as far as Oshkosh.
At the Conference of 1843, the charge was continued, and Rev. Harvey S. Bronson was appointed the Pastor. The meetings during the year were still held in log houses, Dr. Mason C. Darling, Hon. Edward Pier and Mr. Norman Pier furnishing the accommodations. It was in the residence of the second named that the first class was formed during this year by Brother Bronson. The class was composed of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Olmstead, Mrs. Edward Pier, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel C. Brooks, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Pier and Mrs. Parsons. Brother Charles Olmstead was the first leader.
During his pastorate, Brother Bronson also formed a class at Wilkinson's Settlement, of which a record will be made elsewhere.
In 1844, Fond du Lac again appears on the Minutes as a charge, and Taycheedah is joined with it. Rev. Joseph T. Lewis was appointed the Pastor, and Rev. Wm. H. Sampson the Presiding Elder. At the beginning of this year the meetings were transferred to a frame school house that had been erected in the village. The tide of emigration was now setting strongly in the direction of Fond du Lac and vicinity, and new settlements were being rapidly formed. The charge, following the general drift of things, extended its boundaries, adding several appointments, and among them Waupun.
Soon after our settlement at this place, as detailed in a former chapter, we were informed that a Quarterly Meeting would be held in Fond du Lac, at a given date, in the near future. We decided to attend. The day came, and my father and I started on foot for the Quarterly Meeting. On reaching Fond du Lac we enquired for the Presiding Elder, in order to ascertain the time and place of meeting, and found that he had already gone over to the school house where the meeting was to be held. Being directed, we soon found the place and entered. The Elder sat behind the desk, ready to begin the services. The Preacher in charge sat at his right hand, wearing a thoughtful mood. As we took our seats, both glanced at us, as did several of the congregation, doubtless thinking, "Well there are two more pioneers, and they must be Methodists to come thus to church on Saturday."
As soon as I felt assured that the eyes of the congregation were withdrawn from me, I ventured to look up and take the measure, in turn, of those present. There were, perhaps, twenty-five in attendance. They were so like, in their general appearance, congregations usually seen on such occasions in the east that it was difficult to realize we were in the far west.
The service proceeded, and at its close the Quarterly Conference was held. We tarried, and after the opening services, my father arose and addressed the Elder, stating that we had recently settled at Waupun, and supposed we were outside of the boundaries of any charge. Yet such was the flexibility of Methodist institutions, he had no doubt the boundaries of Fond du Lac Circuit could easily be thrown around Waupun. If so, we would like to be recognized as members of the church. We were received on our credentials, my father as an ordained Local Preacher and I as an Exhorter. Before we left the Quarterly Meeting, it was decided that Brother Lewis should establish an appointment and form a class at Waupun. But of this further mention will be made in a subsequent chapter.
Rev. Wm. H. Sampson, the Presiding Elder of the District, had been a member of the Michigan Conference. On invitation, he was transferred to the Rock River in August, 1842. His first appointment was Milwaukee, of which mention will be made in another place. The next year he was sent to Kenosha, then called Southport, to save the church property which had fallen under financial embarrassment. Having accomplished this task, he was, in July, 1844, appointed to the charge of Green Bay District.
A better selection for the position could not well have been made. He was just in the strength of his early manhood, an able preacher, a sound theologian, a wise administrator, and a man of agreeable presence. The country was new, society in a formative state, and the material limited. Under these embarrassments, it required no little skill to lay the foundations wisely and successfully rear the superstructure.
The District extended from Green Bay on the north to Whitewater on the south, and from Sheboygan on the east to Portage City on the west, and included eight charges. To encompass the labor of a single year required the travel of four thousand miles. The roads were almost impassable, especially in the northern and eastern portions of the District. During certain seasons of the year, the buggy and sleigh could be used, but, in the main, these extended journeys were performed on horseback. A wagon road had been cut through the timber from Fond du Lac to Lake Michigan, but only one family, as yet, had found a home between the former place and Sheboygan Falls.
Between Sheboygan and Manitowoc, a distance of twenty-five miles, there was no house. The road, if such it might be called, was an unbroken line of mud of uncertain depth, and any amount of logs, stumps, roots and stones, to give it variety. The northern portion of the district was a wilderness, and the few points that had been invaded by settlements, were almost wholly inaccessable. In the southern portion the roads were better, but even here, and especially through the Rock River woods, they were not inviting.
The position of Presiding Elder on the Green Bay District at this time was no sinecure. The long journeys, the great exposure and the meager accommodations among the people, were trying in the extreme. But it was found that Brother Sampson was equal to every emergency.
At this time there were only three churches on the District, and these were located at Green Bay, Oneida and Brothertown. Brother Sampson remained a full term on the District, and at its close became connected with the Lawrence University, in connection with which a record of his labors will appear. In this work he was engaged until 1851, when his health failed, and he was stationed at Kenosha. He was recalled the year following, and until the year 1856 performed such services as his broken health would permit. He was now made effective and appointed Professor, but in 1861 he again entered the regular work, being stationed at Whitewater. His subsequent appointments have been, Presiding Elder of Milwaukee District, Pastor of Racine, Janesville, Evansville, Sharon, Milton and Waukau, where he is, at the present writing, doing efficient work. Brother Sampson has given to the cause long service, a noble life; and is an honor to the Conference.
The Fourth Quarterly Conference of the year was held at Fond du Lac. It was at this meeting that I was granted license to preach and recommended to the Conference, as before stated. The meeting was held in the school house and convened on the 31st day of May, 1845. The members of the Quarterly Conference were Rev. Wm. H. Sampson, Presiding Elder, Rev. Joseph T. Lewis, Preacher, Rev. Silas Miller, Local Preacher, Francis M. McCarty, Isaac Crofoot, Joseph Stowe, Charles Olmstead, D.C. Brooks, Cornelius Davis, and myself.
The population of Fond du Lac proper, at the time of our first visit, was very small. It contained seven buildings and numbered only five families, including the family of the Presiding Elder. The school house was the only public building, and for years was used for all public meetings known to civilization. Subsequently this public convenience fell a prey to the devouring element. The papers, in announcing the fire, gravely enumerated the losses incurred by the disastrous conflagration in this wise: "The Court House has been burned, every church in the town has been consumed, and even the school house and all the other public buildings have shared the same fate. There is no insurance, and the loss cannot be less than two hundred dollars."
During the year an appointment was established at the residence of Joseph Stowe, Esq., on the old military road, four miles west of Fond du Lac.
To accommodate the settlement, now rapidly increasing in population, Brother Stowe built a hall for public worship. Two square buildings were erected at a suitable distance from each other, with an open court between. Over this court, and extending from one building to the other, and including the upper part of one of them, the hall was built, thus furnishing an upper chamber. The hall was fitted up with seats and formed a Chapel of no mean pretensions for that early period.
Brother Stowe's Chapel, as the place was sometimes called, soon became a great institution in that region. A class was formed, and, under the leadership of Isaac Crofoot, greatly flourished. A few years after, the leadership passed to the hand of Ethiel Humiston. The members of this class were Joseph Stowe, Priscilla Stowe, Isaac Crofoot, Ethiel Humiston, Almira Humiston, Amos Lewis and Susan Lewis.
The class meetings, as well as the public services at this Chapel, now became objects of general interest. Brother Humiston had been raised under calvinistic teaching, and, until recently, had utterly failed to discover "the way of Faith." But, coming to the light under the special teaching of the Spirit, he had become a most remarkable illustration of this great arm of strength. In short, nothing could stand before his victorious Faith. In this Chapel there were most extraordinary displays of divine power. Nor, under such leadership, need it be deemed strange that revivals sometimes swept the entire circuit of the year. Nor were Brother Humiston's labors confined to his own neighborhood exclusively. He was often invited to other appointments on the charge, and even to other charges, to aid the preachers in their revival meetings, and his labors were always greatly blessed. I have known whole congregations melted to tears under the recitals of his Christian experience. And could a record be made of the wonderful displays of divine grace in the experience and labors of this dear brother, it would be a priceless legacy to the church.
But Brother Stowe was amply compensated for the erection of this temple for the Lord. In one of the remarkable revivals enjoyed in it, and that, too, in the midst of harvest, his son, William Page, now the Presiding Elder of Milwaukee District, was converted. The home of Brother Stowe was always a stopping place for the preachers. The writer, in going up and down the land in his early Itinerant labors, has been often entertained by this dear brother, and his excellent wife and family. Repeatedly, when weary, I have gone to this home of the pilgrims as I would have gone to my own father's house, and in doing so, always found a generous welcome. William, then a lad, was always ready at the gate to take my horse, and the mother, a motherly, godly woman, as ready to spread the table.
Another appointment established this year was that of Byron, where a class was formed by Rev. Joseph T. Lewis on the 18th of July, 1845 The class was at first formed as a branch from Fond du Lac, but has since became the head of an independent charge. The first members were Orrin Morris, Leader, Olive Morris, Abraham Shepherd, Eliza A. Shepherd, Mary C. Shepherd, and Maria Shepherd. The first sermon preached in Byron proper was delivered by Rev. Morgan L. Noble, Pastor of Fond du Lac, January 25th, 1846, and thereafter this place became a regular appointment.
A very comfortable church was built at Byron in 1855, under the labors of Rev. S.V.R. Shepherd, Pastor of the charge. In later years Byron has become distinguished as the place where the Fond du Lac District Camp Meetings are held.
Rev. Joseph T. Lewis was received on trial at the Conference held in Chicago, August 24th, 1842. His first appointment was Elgin, Ill., and his second, Mutchakinoc. He was born in Wales, and, at the time of his appointment to Fond du Lac, had been in America only five years. Such had been his success, however, in acquiring the English language, that he was now able to speak it with remarkable fluency and correctness.
Brother Lewis was a man of robust constitution, above medium height, had a strong face, adorned with a Roman nose, and a piercing eye. He had a vigorous mind, was a thorough student and was already taking rank as a preacher. During his brief year on the charge, he found time not only to master the Conference studies, but, by the aid of the writer, to make considerable progress in the study of Greek. At the end of the year he reported ninety members. His subsequent appointments were: 1845, Sheboygan; 1846 and 1847, Beloit. During his last year at Beloit, he was called from labor to reward. His illness was brief, eight days duration, but he was ready for the Messenger. Just before his departure, he said to his most estimable companion: "Tell my brethren of the Rock River Conference that I die shouting happy." Thus fell, on the 22d day of May, 1848, one of the most promising young men of the Conference. Truly it is said: "God buries his workmen, yet carries on his work." The Conference extended to the accomplished and devoted widow their profound sympathy. Nor will it be amiss to say in this connection, that the widow several years after became the wife of Rev. Stephen Adams, of Beloit, and up to this hour is most highly esteemed by all who have the pleasure of an acquaintance.
In 1845, Rev. Morgan L. Noble was appointed to the Fond du Lac charge and remained two years. He was received by the Rock River Conference in 1843, and was appointed to Du Page Circuit with Rev. Elihu Springer as Preacher in Charge. Brother Noble was a man of superior talent, but his health was not equal to the Itinerancy. At the close of his term at Fond du Lac, he took a location and entered secular pursuits.
In 1847 Rev. Henry R. Colman was sent to Fond du Lac, and also remained two years.
Brother Colman entered the New York Conference in May, 1831, and his first appointment was Warren Circuit, with Rev. Joseph McCreery as his colleague. This charge was located forty miles from his residence and included twenty-four hundred square miles. His visits to his family were few, and the year was one of most severe labor. His receipts were only one hundred and forty dollars, showing that pioneer work had not at that period wholly ceased in the older States. Luzerne, his next field, gave him one hundred and twenty dollars. The next year he traveled Bridgeport, a large, four weeks circuit, and had for colleague Rev. J.G. Whitford. On this charge the receipts for the first two quarters were not equal to his moving expenses. He was next stationed at Ticonderoga, Westport and Essex, and Berne, successively, when he was invited by Rev. John Clark, who was east attending the General Conference of 1840, to come west and take charge of the Oneida Indian Mission. He consented, and at the following session of the Troy Conference he was transferred to the Rock River and assigned to that field, where he arrived September 19th, 1840.