Thirty Years in the Itinerancy
Wesson Gage Miller
Part 2 out of 5
Flushed with the achievements of the previous few weeks, and still
sighing for conquests, I now resolved to make a sally in the direction
of Lake Apuckaway, lying to the northwest of Lake Maria. I found, on the
southern shore, a few families, and made arrangements for an appointment
in connection with my next round. I then started to return, but had not
gone far, when I found I had lost my reckoning. I looked for my compass
as eagerly as Christian for his roll, but I could not find it. This was
a double misfortune, to lose both the way and the guide at the same
time. I resorted to the device of the backwoodsman, and tried to
determine my course by the moss on the trees, but I found this to be a
great perplexity and abandoned it. I traveled in divers directions and
devious ways until nearly overcome with fatigue and hunger, when I
suddenly came upon a newly erected log cabin. The logs had been rolled
up to form the body, a roof of "shakes" had been hastily put on, there
was no chinking between the logs, there were no windows, and the only
door was a blanket. The floor was made of earth, and the fireplace was
merely a pile of stones in one corner, from which the smoke ascended
through an opening in the roof, at one corner of the building.
I knocked for admittance, and was kindly received. The good man and his
wife had but recently come into the country. He had succeeded in
erecting his cabin and putting it in its present condition, but had been
taken ill with the ague and compelled to suspend operations. He had now
been so long confined at home that provisions had become scarce. It was
meal time. A few potatoes were taken from the embers and placed on a
chest, as a substitute for a table. I was invited to join them in their
repast, using a trunk as a seat. Grace was said, under a special sense
of the Divine favor. A little salt was added, and the meal was one of
the most relishable I had ever eaten. Several years after, I heard the
good brother relate the circumstance in a Love Feast, when he took
occasion to say the visit was the most refreshing he had ever
experienced. It was certainly such to me. The village of Kingston has
since sprang up in the vicinity, and has become the head of a circuit.
Returning again to Waupun, I now decided to look over the territory in
the more immediate vicinity. Going to the south of the village five
miles, I found Mill Creek, where a small settlement had been made. The
most central house of the neighborhood was the residence of Brother
David Moul, who kindly offered it for a temporary chapel. An appointment
was established, and on the 16th day of November a class was formed.
Brother Moul was appointed Leader. The class at the first, consisted of
the Leader and wife, David Boynton and wife, and two others, but in the
revival that soon followed, the number was increased to twenty-two.
Brother Moul was an earnest worker in the Master's vineyard, generous in
his contributions to support the Gospel, and eminently faithful to every
trust committed to his keeping. At the end of twenty years, I made a
visit to Mill Creek. I found Brother Moul had erected a fine house and
was living in manifest comfort; but he retained a vivid recollection of
the early days and their sacrifices. Two relics remained, both in a fair
state of preservation, which he took great pleasure in showing to me.
The first was the old class book that I had given him at the time of the
organization of the class. It was a single sheet of foolscap paper,
folded together in book form, and stitched. The names upon it were
mostly in my own handwriting, and the Leader had carefully made his
weekly entries of present and absent, until the pages were filled. The
other object of interest was the old house, in which the first meetings
were held. Here we had seen remarkable displays of Divine power. And as
I now looked upon the old structure, the early scenes seemed to return.
I could again see the wide room, filled with rude seats, Brother Moul at
the door as usher, the crowds of people that thronged the place, the
groups of seekers at the mourners' bench, and the lines of happy faces
that were aglow with hallowed expressions of delight. I could again hear
the songs of praise as they rang out in the olden time, full and sweet,
filling the place with rarest melody. Nay, as I held communion with the
past, I seemed to feel the hallowed influences, that pervaded the early
worshippers, breathing through all my being, as of old, and even fancy
myself young again, and standing before the multitude as an ambassador
of the Master.
But the scene, like the visions of the night, soon disappeared, and I
turned sadly away, half regretting that I was no longer a pioneer, and
permitted to feed the hungry sheep in the wilderness.
Brother David Boynton, at this writing, remains on the old farm, which
has been growing with the passing decades, until the paternal acres
have become a large estate. Situated on a prominent highway, his house,
until the days of railroads, was the stopping place of all the preachers
who needed entertainment at either noon or night. Brother Boynton, in
the person of his son, Rev. J.T. Boynton, of the Wisconsin Conference,
has given to the Itinerant work, an efficient laborer.
Leaving Mill Creek, I next visited Rock River, a settlement on the Fond
du Lac road, six miles east of Waupun. My father had visited this place
during the preceding year, and had already established an appointment.
Brother W.J.C. Robertson, a gentleman whom we had known in the East, had
tendered the use of his house, and here the meetings were now being
held. My first visit occurred on the 18th day of November, 1845, In the
evening, I held a service and formed a class. The members were W.J.C.
Robertson, Martha Robertson, Mary Maxson, Mary Keyes, James Patterson,
Charles Drake, Abigail Drake, and Elizabeth Winslow. The last named
subsequently became the wife of Rev. J.M.S. Maxson. The first Leader was
Brother Robertson. Both the congregation and class grew rapidly in this
neighborhood, and the appointment soon took a leading position on the
charge. During the ensuing winter a revival occurred, and gave an
accession of twenty-five. From the first, this Society has been blessed
with a devoted and spiritual membership, and its prayer meetings have
been a living power in the land. As a result, revivals have been
frequent, and the number saved a host. Passing from private houses, the
meetings were held in a school house, but in course of time the school
house became too small, and a larger one was built, with a special view
to a provision for religious meetings.
In later years I have held Quarterly meetings in this building, when it
was thronged with people. On such occasions, after filling the building
to its utmost capacity, the good brethren would fill the court around it
with wagons, carriages and buggies, loaded with people. It was at one of
these gatherings that the little girl said, "Why, Ma, only see how full
the school house is on the outside." During the past year a fine Church
has been erected.
Rock River was the home of the lamented Rev. James M.S. Maxson, before
he entered the Itinerant work. It was here that he was led to Christ,
licensed to preach, and sent out into the vineyard, and certainly the
church has had no occasion to deplore her share of the responsibility.
Brother Maxson entered the Conference in 1850, and filled with great
credit, Omro, Fall River, Grove street Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Rosendale
and Ripon charges. At the last named place, he closed his labors June
19, 1858. He was a man of great force of character, a good preacher, and
was thoroughly devoted to his work. He was greatly beloved in his fields
of labor, and his death was deeply regretted.
Having organized the class at Rock River, and arranged the plan of
appointments to take it into the circuit, I passed on to visit an
appointment at the Wilkinson Settlement, which had recently been
attached to my charge from the Fond du Lac Circuit. It was situated on
the south side of the marsh, nine miles from Fond du Lac and twelve from
Waupun. The school house, in which the meetings were held, was located
within the limits of the present village of Oakfield.
The class at this place had been formed during the early part of 1844,
by Rev H.S. Bronson, when he was pastor of Lake Winnebago Mission, and
consisted of Russell Wilkinson, Leader, and Alma, his wife, Robert
Wilkinson, and Almira, his wife, Eliza Botsford and Sarah Bull.
To reach the settlement, it was necessary to follow the military road
towards Fond du Lac for some distance, and then cross the marsh. At
times, the stream in the middle was swollen, and the traveler was
compelled to leave his horse and cross on foot. This was especially true
when the ice was not sufficiently strong to bear up the horse, and such
was the condition in which I found it on this occasion. So, leaving my
horse, I hastened to cross the marsh, but when I had reached the middle
of the stream, the treacherous ice gave way, and I plunged into the
water up to my armpits. I clambered out, but as the day was intensely
cold, I was soon a walking pillar of ice. I was now on the school house
side of the stream, and there seemed to be no alternative but to go on.
I would gladly have found a shelter and a fire elsewhere, but it was out
of the question. So, putting on a bold face, I hastened forward, and
found the people in waiting for the minister. As I entered the school
house, with the ice rattling at every movement, my appearance was
ridiculous in the extreme. But not more so than that of the audience.
The faces of that crowd would certainly have been the delight of a
painter. Some of them were agape with surprise and amazement; others
were agonized with sympathy for the poor minister; and others still were
full of mirth, and would have laughed outright if they had not been in a
religious meeting. As to myself, the whole matter took a mirthful turn.
I had been in church before, when by some queer or grotesque conjunction
of affairs, the whole audience lost self control. I had witnessed
mistakes, blunders and accidents that would make even solemnity herself
laugh, and remained serenely grave. But to see myself in the presence
of that polite audience, standing at that stove, and turning from side
to side, to thaw the icicles from the skirts of my coat, was too much
for me. I confess it was utterly impossible to keep my face in harmony
with the character of the pending services.
At Fox Lake, the next point visited, an appointment had been established
by my father during the previous year. The services were now held on
Sabbath afternoon in the tavern. The log house, thus used for the double
purpose of a chapel and a tavern, was built with two parts, and might
have been called a double house. The one end was occupied as a
sitting-room and the other as a bar-room. The meetings were held, of
course, in the former. But it was bringing the two kingdoms into close
proximity to dispense the Gospel in one end of the house and whisky in
the other. In a short time, a better place was provided, and the
meetings were removed to it.
With the better provision for religious services, came also the
ministers of other denominations. We all labored together in harmony,
except in one instance, where a conflict of appointments caused a
momentary ripple. My appointment had long been established, and, to the
surprise of the people, another appointment was announced by a young
store-keeper of the village for the same hour. The word reached me of
this attempt to displace the Methodists, when ten miles distant from
I took my dinner and rode forward, without "wrath" or "gainsaying." I
reached the place at the hour, went in and began the services. While the
congregation were singing, the young man and his minister came in.
Finding me in the desk, the minister quietly took a seat and listened
very attentively to the sermon. But not so the discomfited young man.
Being placed under the eye of the congregation, his condition was
pitiable in the extreme. But finding after awhile that I was master of
the ceremonies, and that no one in the congregation seemed vexed enough
to fight for him, he subsided into a deferential attitude. And,
thereafter, there were no further attempts to override my appointments.
The minister, or perhaps I should say clergyman, took no offense, but
became in after years a highly valued friend and companion.
At this time Mrs. Green was the only member of the Methodist church in
the village. In process of time, however, a strong society was
established. Then came the erection of a commodious Church and a very
pleasant Parsonage. Fox Lake has been furnished with a line of able
ministers, and has at the present writing a large and cultivated
Passing down the stream the following week, I found several families in
the vicinity of Badger Hill. I immediately arranged an appointment for a
week-day evening at the residence of a brother by the name of Morgan. At
the first service held December 7, 1845, I formed a class of six.
Brother Morgan was appointed Leader, and at the Quarterly Meeting
following Brother Drinkwater was made steward. Some time after, the
class was removed to Fox Lake, it being only three miles distant.
I now returned again to Waupun to spend the Sabbath. The Class Leader at
this time was S.A.L. Davis, who came to the place during the preceding
year. Brother Davis was an old neighbor from the East, a noble and true
man, and, withal, had been my first Leader. He was specially adapted to
the position; a man of great faith and ardent impulses. Under his
Leadership, the class was in a most flourishing condition. The late
revival had, however, so swelled the numbers that a division became
necessary. An appointment had already been established at Miller's Mill,
and it was now deemed best to so divide the class as to establish the
meetings of one of them at this point. The change was accordingly made.
The class was formed December 12th, 1845, and George W. Sexmith was
Brother Sexmith was also an old neighbor, who had come West and taken a
farm in the vicinity of Miller's Mill. Under his care, the class grew
rapidly, and became an efficient company of laborers. Several years
after he removed to Fond du Lac, and greatly prospered in business. In
1852 I had the pleasure to present him with a Local Preacher's license.
He was employed one year as Pastor of Liberty Prairie circuit, but his
health proved unequal to the Itinerancy, and he was compelled to resume
his relation as a Local Preacher, in which position he still holds an
honored place among his brethren.
The next place visited was Burnett. The services were held in the
residence of Mr. McDonald, and a class was formed December 14th, 1845.
The members of the first organization were William Willard, Leader,
Huldah Ann Willard, Samuel C. Grant, Ruth M. Grant, and Elizabeth
Benedict. The class grew rapidly, and the appointment took a leading
rank on the charge. Burnett has since become a charge, has a good Church
edifice and a strong congregation. Brother Willard became a member of
the Conference, of whom mention will be made in another chapter.
Having organized the work at Burnett, I next visited Grand River. I had
passed through this place in the early part of Autumn. At that time I
found Brother David Wood and his son engaged in making preparations for
a home. Finding they intended to have their cabin completed and the
family in it before winter, I engaged to visit them and establish an
appointment. On reaching the place to fulfil this agreement, I found
that besides this family several others had also settled in the
vicinity. At the first meeting, appointed before there was a family in
the neighborhood, we had a congregation of fifteen persons. The class
was formed December 19th, 1845, with David Wood as Leader. The Alto
Church, which gives the name to a charge, has been erected in the
vicinity, and there is at the present writing a strong society. Father
Wood, as he is now called, still survives, and takes special delight in
referring to this visit of the 'boy preacher.'
The watch-night meeting was held at Waupun, and was an occasion of great
interest, several persons being converted.
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
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.
The work of the Mission was now well in hand. But already the field was
becoming extended and the labor onerous. Thirteen regular preaching
places had been established, and invitations were being received weekly
to increase the number. To meet this demand, it was now determined to
employ an assistant.
The Quarterly Meeting was held soon after at Waupun, and Rev. Uriel
Farmin was employed by the Presiding Elder to assist in filling the
appointments. The meeting, the first of the kind ever held in Waupun,
was one of rare interest. The revival had just added a goodly number to
the membership, besides greatly quickening others. There were present a
number of visitors from the newly formed classes in other parts of the
Mission, and as a spirit of revival seemed to pervade their respective
localties also, they struck the same plane as those at Waupun. The Elder
preached the Word, "in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power."
But the meeting reached its climax in the Sabbath morning Love Feast.
The house was filled, and many were compelled to sit on the writing
desks at the side of the room. The meeting was opened in the usual
order, by passing to each a crumb of bread and a sip of water, in token
of Christian regard. Christian testimonies followed each other in rapid
succession, interspersed by singing spiritual songs, for a full hour. At
times the tide of feeling rose, like swelling billows, to a great
height, threatening to carry the meeting into disorder, but by giving it
a happy change at the right moment, the Elder was able to maintain a
complete mastery. There were two periods specially critical. One, when a
young lady, one of the converts at Waupun, gave her testimony. Standing
on a seat, as there was no other place to stand, she first related her
own experience, and then, turning to the young people, she delivered an
exhortation that thrilled the audience with overwhelming emotions. The
other was when a Brother Mosher, somewhat eccentric in his exercises,
gave his experience. As he advanced in its recital, he grew excited and
eloquent, and the "Amens" and "Hallelujahs" came from every part of the
audience. Now, leaping upon the tide of feeling he had raised, he passed
from one to another, shaking hands and congratulating them, until he
came in front of the desk where sat my father and Father Smith, the two
Patriarchs of the occasion. Throwing his arms around their necks, he
fairly lifted them from their seats, but in a moment, he discovered his
awkward position and resumed his seat. Instantly the clear voice of my
father was heard in one of those outbursts of song, which so effectually
kindle the fervors of devotion, or if needed, stay the flow of feeling.
In a moment more, the meeting had passed the crisis.
The Mission was now put under a new plan, providing for alternate
appointments, each preacher making the round in four weeks. But while
this arrangement was the general order, the numerous calls received from
various localities required frequent changes. In most cases, however,
the new appointments were crowded between the others. To meet them, it
required three sermons on the Sabbath, besides many others during the
week. As to myself, I sometimes rode forty miles on the Sabbath and
preached four sermons.
On one of these excursions, I became very much exercised on the subject
of Christian holiness. I had before given the subject special thought,
but now it seemed to assume unusual importance. Not only did the
teachings of our standards bear an unwonted clearness to my perception,
but my heart began to realize its essential value.
At my morning service, I preached on the subject, and as I swept over
the prairie ten miles, in the face of a driving storm, I resolved to
preach on the same subject again at my noon-day appointment. I did so,
and with much better satisfaction than in the morning. Twelve miles more
of storm, and I was again before a congregation to preach the
unsearchable riches of Christ. I had now become so full of my theme that
I concluded to make it the subject of my next discourse. So, changing my
text, I preached on Gospel purity, showing that experimental religion
presents itself to the conception of the mind under three clearly
defined ideas. These are Justification, Regeneration, and
Sanctification. The drift of thought ran in this wise: By Justification
we mean the pardon of sin. The man, who finds this grace through Christ,
stands as fully accepted before the Law, as though he had never sinned.
By Regeneration, we mean that radical change of man's moral and
spiritual condition which subjects all the faculties and powers of the
soul to the control of the Divine Spirit. This work of grace, wrought in
the heart by the Spirit, includes not only the entire subjugation of the
"Man of Sin," but the introduction of the reign of Christ. These two
achievements of grace, wrought in the subject at the same moment, we
ordinarily call Conversion. By Sanctification, we mean that higher state
of grace which contemplates the removal of all sin from the heart of the
believer, and the experience of "Perfect Love."
This last attainment comes to the believer through earnest seeking, and
personal consecration to God. In thus "going on to perfection," the
believer passes through several phases of experience. He finds that if
he shall retain his justified state, it is necessary to seek advanced
attainments. And if he shall be faithful in the use of grace already
received, he will find the Spirit ever leading him to new fields of
experience. As the Astronomer rests his calculations on worlds already
discovered when he looks into the regions beyond, so the Christian must
maintain his present experience, if he will know the further revelations
of the Spirit.
But the moral perceptions, quickened by the Spirit, will furnish painful
revelations to the justified soul. He will discover that there linger
still within him remains of the carnal mind. Pride, the love of the
world, selfishness, self-will, and sometimes even anger or other evil
passion, will begin to stir in the heart. Such revelations will awaken a
profound spiritual concern, and perhaps, become the subject of
temptation. But there need be no alarm. It is but an evidence that the
good work, began in Regeneration, has not been fully completed by entire
Sanctification. The tree has been cut down, but the shoots around the
old stump show that there is vitality still in the roots. The "Mightier"
than the "strong man" must now come and pluck up the roots. The work of
eradication thus accomplished, the absolute reign of Christ will be
established. The heart will now become the Garden of the Lord, without
briar, thorn, or thistle. Relieved of these hindrances, the graces will
speedily acquire maturity.
At the close of the sermon, a good sister referred in very earnest terms
to the discourse, and was grateful for the ministry of a man who so well
understood the deep things of God. Instantly the thought came, "Ah, yes!
but there must be a great difference between merely understanding the
theory, and realizing a happy experience of the power." A hasty supper
was eaten, and I was away for another ten miles to my evening
appointment. The snow was still falling, and the winds were driving it
fiercely across the prairie, rendering the track invisible. Out on the
prairie, my noble horse dashed forward with great speed, but I scarcely
noted the distance, as my thought was busy. The question that was
ringing through my heart was this: "How can you preach to others what
you do not know yourself?" At length I resolved; and scarcely stopping
to measure the movement, or estimate the consequences, I was on my
knees, engaged in prayer. My first conscious thought of my surroundings
was awakened by the wrestling of my horse, as my right hand held him
firmly by the lines. Then came the suggestion, "This is a very
unpropitious time to settle a matter of this importance. With a
fractious horse by the rein, a terrible storm sweeping over the prairie,
and an already blind snow-path, you had better defer the matter for the
present." My reply was, "It is time these questions were settled, and I
propose to settle them now" "But the snow-path is nearly filled; you
will lose your way and perish." I still replied, "It is time these
questions were settled, and I propose to settle them now." "But it is
getting dark, and your congregation will be waiting for you. You had
better go forward, fill your appointment, and then attend to this
matter." The Lord helped me to reply once more, "It is time these
questions were settled, and, God helping me, they shall be settled now."
Instantly the light broke upon me, and I was able "to reckon myself dead
unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ my Lord." I was found
in due time at my appointment, preaching from the text, "He is able to
save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him."
Learning that a settlement had been made on Portage Prairie, at a point
where Mr. Langdon, of Lake Maria, had erected a lumber mill, I resolved
to visit the locality. I found Mr. Langdon had erected a small house,
and had already moved his family. I was welcomed to his new home and
again invited to make his house a chapel until better accommodations
could be secured. I accepted the kind offer, and thus Cambria was made a
regular appointment. I visited the few scattered families in the
vicinity, and found sufficient material to organize a small class. The
class was formed on the 10th day of January, 1846, and at the beginning
included Mr. and Mrs. Irwin McCall, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Wilson, Mrs. Maria
Langdon, and Mrs. H. W. Patton. Cambria has since been largely settled
by emigrants from Wales.
In March, I visited Randolph and opened an appointment at the residence
of Father Griffin. At the present writing, the village has become a
respectable station, with a good Church and Parsonage.
I also opened an appointment at the residence of Mr. Torbit, at Randolph
Centre, which place has since become the head of a circuit.
In May following, I formed a class on the north end of Rolling Prairie,
with Bro. Greenleaf, a Local Preacher, as Leader.
Wm. A. Cheney and family settled on Wedge's Prairie in the early part
of this year. His house was immediately opened for religious meetings.
But before I could arrange my plans to visit the neighborhood, my
father, who was always on the alert to carry the Gospel Message to the
destitute, established an appointment. On his invitation I held a
meeting there, on the third day of June, 1846, and organized a class.
The following were the first members: Wm. A. Cheney, Leader, Sophronia
Cheney, Abigail Cheney, D.S. Cowles, Ann Cowles, Henry Moore, and wife.
At this time Brandon had not taken form or name, but, on its appearance,
the honors and emoluments of this society passed over to its keeping.
Rosendale and Reed's Corners were next visited. At the first I held
services in the house of Mr. Sanborn, after whom the prairie at that
time was called, and at the latter, the meeting was held in the
residence of a Brother Lee, a brother of the celebrated Dr. Luther Lee.
Rosendale has since become a very pleasant station, with its convenient
Church and Parsonage, and Reed's Corners is a prominent appointment in
the Brandon charge, and has also a fine Church.
Having heard frequent reference made to Strong's Landing, on the Fox
River, I resolved to visit the place. On approaching the bank of the
stream, I looked sharply in all directions to discover the town, but
there were no evidences of human skill within the range of my vision.
Concluding that I had struck the river at the wrong place, I first
passed down the stream for a mile, but failing to find any settlement I
turned back. I now went up the stream for a considerable distance, and
found a trail that seemed to lead down to the margin of the river.
Following it to the water, I found a small canoe tied to a tree. The
light now dawned upon my understanding. This was Strong's Landing. Not
having prophetic vision, I was unable to see the city of the future,
sitting so gracefully on the banks of the Fox. Again the Itinerancy was
ahead of the pioneer. Leaving the site of the future city of Berlin, I
hastened to return to Waupun, but a starless night overtaking me on the
way, I spent its weary hours where the village of Brandon now stands,
under the branches of a friendly tree.
The labors of the year were now drawing to a close. The regular
appointments had multiplied until they numbered twenty-four. The
membership had gone up from a small figure to two hundred, and the
spiritual interests were in a highly satisfactory condition.
My labors had been very arduous during the entire year, but had been
well sustained until the latter part of the winter, when my health
failed, resulting doubtless rather from exposure than labor. I was now
laid aside for several weeks, but through the blessing of God and the
skill of Dr. Bowman, my physician at Waupun, my health so far rallied
that it was believed to be safe to proceed with my work.
My colleague had rendered effective service, proving to be a true
yoke-fellow in every particular. Besides taking his full share of the
regular appointments, he also gave a large portion of his time to the
special labors of the charge. He was not expected, at the outset, to
give his whole time, but he soon became so fully identified with the
work that he was almost constantly employed. In the severe labors of
protracted meetings, and in the wide travel of the circuit of
appointments, he was equally self-forgetting and faithful. He was a man
of good attainments, kind spirit, studious habits, and an
The charge being in a formative state, and the necessities of the
preachers small, the financial receipts from the people were very
limited. My own were only thirty-six dollars, and those of my colleague
could not have been greater.
In tracing the work on Green Lake Mission, I have been thus specific for
two reasons. I desired, in the first place, to give the reader an inside
view of the relations of the Itinerancy to frontier life, and in the
second, note the beginnings of a list of charges that have since
constituted a Presiding Elder's District.
The Rock River Conference met this year in Galena, Ill. And as it was
necessary for my father to attend the Conference to receive Elder's
orders, we decided to make the journey in a buggy. The first day,
passing through Beaver Dam, we reached Fountain Prairie, where we were
entertained by Rev. E.J. Smith, of whom further mention will be made
At noon on the following day we reached Madison, and were entertained by
Rev. R.J. Harvey, the Pastor of the charge. Madison at this time was a
small village, but, besides the Capitol, contained several buildings of
respectable size and appearance.
The first Methodist sermon preached in Madison was delivered by Rev.
Salmon Stebbins on the 28th day of November, 1837. Brother Stebbins was
then the Presiding Elder of of the District, which extended along the
western shore of Lake Michigan, from the State line to Green Bay. On
visiting Madison, he was entertained by the contractor, who was erecting
the State House, and who also kept a hotel. On learning that Brother
Stebbins was a minister, this gentleman invited the entire population
to a meeting in his bar-room, and here the first sermon was preached.
And I am informed that the people were so pleased with the services that
on the following morning Brother Stebbins was presented with a
collection of fourteen dollars.
Brother Stebbins again visited the capital July 15th, 1838, and spent
the Sabbath, preaching twice to respectable congregations. But as
Madison, now in the West Wisconsin Conference, has fallen more directly
under the eye of Rev. Dr. Bronson, and will doubtless appear in the
Western Pioneer. I need not anticipate its historical incidents.
Passing on our way we were entertained the following night by a
gentleman residing on the line of travel, some twenty miles beyond the
Capital, by the name of Skinner. The following day we reached
Platteville, where we were to spend the Sabbath.
It was now Friday night. Early the next morning, we received an
invitation to spend the afternoon, in company with others, at Major
Roundtree's, with Bishop Hamline. We went. The company was composed
mostly of preachers, on their way to Conference. Among them were the
Mitchells and Haneys. Of the first, there were Father Mitchell, a grand
old Patriarch, John T. James, and Frank. Of the latter, there were the
Father, Richard, William, Freeborn, and M.L.
But the central figure among them all was the good Bishop. Of full form,
compact frame, broad forehead, and strong features, he would be selected
in any group as a princely man. And yet, withal, his spirit was as
gentle as that of a child. Though one of the intellectual giants of the
country, and one of her greatest orators, he still seemed so humble in
spirit that I felt myself drawn towards him at once. In such a presence
the conversation was necessarily restrained. Dismissing, for the time,
the freedom of debate, anecdote and repartee, that so often characterize
ministerial gatherings, the interchange of thought took on a more
serious tone. Only once was there an exception. Referring to the labors
of some distinguished man of his acquaintance, one of the leading
brethren and prince of story tellers, whose name I need not mention,
proceeded to relate an anecdote. Immediately the tides of feeling began
to rise, and, as the story advanced to its climax, they broke over all
restraint. An immoderate laughter followed, in which no one joined more
heartily than the brother himself. The storm of merriment, however, had
hardly passed, when the Bishop, in one of those indescribably solemn
tones for which he was distinguished, said, "Brethren, I always find it
difficult to maintain the proper spiritual equilibrium without a good
deal of prayer." Then, turning to the offending brother, he added,
"Brother, will you lead us in prayer?" The entire company instantly fell
upon their knees. But the poor brother! What could he do? Pray he must,
for the entire company were on their knees, waiting for him to begin.
So, making a virtue of necessity, he made the venture. But, I am free to
say, it took a good deal of coasting before the good brother could get
his craft well out to sea, and headed towards the desired haven. During
the balance of the visit anecdotes were at a discount.
On Monday we went forward to the Conference, that I might appear before
the Committee of Examination. The Committee were Revs. Salmon Stebbins,
N.P. Heath, and S. Stover.
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.
At the Galena Conference, Green Lake Mission was divided into two four
weeks' circuits, requiring the labor of four men. In view of my impaired
health, I was sent to Watertown, the Cabinet believing that I would here
find less labor and exposure.
Watertown, up to the preceding year, had been a part of the old Aztalan
circuit, and as this circuit was the mother of charges in this part of
the Territory, it is proper that our respects should first be paid
The old Aztalan circuit was organized at the session of the Illinois
Conference of 1837, and embraced all the settled portion of the
Territory east of Madison and west of the Lake Shore Missions. The first
preachers were Rev. Samuel Pillsbury and Rev. Jesse Halstead, and the
year was one of extended travels and great exposure. During the year
appointments were established at Aztalan, Whitewater, Meacham's Prairie,
East Troy, Spring Prairie, Elkhorn, Burlington, Round Prairie,
Menomonee, Prairieville, Oconomowoc, and Watertown, and at several of
them classes were formed. Brother Halstead's horse became disabled, and
during a portion of the year this indomitable pioneer, with saddle-bags
on his arm, made on foot, the entire round of appointments. Brother
Pillsbury was also a man of sterling qualities, and rendered
The Quarterly Meetings of this year were held by Rev. Salmon Stebbins,
the Presiding Elder, at Aztalan, Meacham's Prairie, Troy, and
At the Conference of 1839, Aztalan circuit was divided. The eastern part
was called Walworth, and Rev. James McKean was appointed its Pastor. The
western part, retaining the Rock River Valley, was now called Watertown,
and Rev. H.W. Frink was appointed the Pastor. Both charges were now put
in the Milwaukee District, with Rev. Julius Field as Presiding Elder.
Brother Frink was now a young man, and this was his third charge.
Leaving the seat of the Conference, he returned to Elgin, his last field
of labor, filled his saddle bags with clothes and books, mounted his
horse as a true knight of the Itinerancy, and was away for new perils
and new conquests. In his journey to what was then deemed the wilds of
Wisconsin, he passed through Elk Grove, Wheeling, Indian Creek, Crystal
Lake, Pleasant Prairie, East Troy, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson and
Aztalan. The last named was the head of the Mission, as a class, the
only one on the charge, had been formed at this place.
Without much regard to boundaries, it was the work of the Pioneer to
find the scattered sheep in the Wilderness. To do this, he was obliged
to undertake long and wearisome journeys, through exposed and almost
trackless regions. Without roads, without bridges, and without shelter,
our young Itinerant pushed his way through the forests, swimming the
streams, when fords could not be found, and seeking shelter under the
overhanging branches of the trees, in the absence of the friendly
cabin. As the result of these extended journeys and herculean labors,
Brother Frink, during the year, formed classes at Fort Atkinson,
Jefferson, Piperville, Oconomowoc, Summit, Baxter's Prairie, Waukesha,
Poplar Creek, Brookfield, Wauwatosa, Granville, Menomonee, Lisbon and
North Prairie, but was unable to gather sufficient materials to form one
Brother Frink, however, enjoyed the honor of preaching the first sermon
in this locality. As there was no school house or other public building
that could be had, a small log house, twelve feet square, on the west
side of the river, was secured. Here the services were held during the
balance of the year. The Missionary was kindly received by all classes
of people, and when in the place was usually entertained by Hon. Wm. M.
Dennis, since Bank Comptroller of the State, and Patrick Rogan, a
gentleman whose religious affiliations were with the Catholic Church.
At Fort Atkinson, Brother Frink preached and formed the class, in the
residence of Jesse Roberts, during the winter of 1839 and 1840. The
members of the first class were Jesse Roberts, Betsey Roberts, Franklin
Roberts, Sarah Roberts, Martha Fellows, Anson Stone, and Mr. and Mrs.
Harrison. The first Church was built in 1850, and Fort Atkinson became a
separate charge in 1854. It now ranks among the first charges in the
The class at Jefferson was formed in the summer of 1840, and the members
were Jacob Fellows, Martha Fellows, Mary Fellows, and John Masters.
The name of the circuit was again changed in 1841, Watertown being
dropped and Aztalan restored. A change was also made in the name of the
Summit charge, which was now called Prairieville.
Another dismemberment again befel the old Aztalan circuit this year. The
southern portion, lying down the Rock River, was cut off and joined to
territory that had been developed in Rock County, from the east and
south, and out of the united parts Janesville charge was constructed. On
the old Aztalan charge Rev. John Hodges became the Preacher, and on the
Janesville Rev. Alpha Warren. By these changes Aztalan was again reduced
to the condition of a Mission.
In 1842, Rev. C.G. Lathrop was appointed to Aztalan, of whom a further
record will be made in a subsequent chapter. Both Aztalan and Janesville
were now transferred from the Platteville District to the Rock River, a
new District that had just been formed, with Rev. S.H. Stocking as
Brother Stocking entered the traveling connection in Oneida Conference,
and after filling a respectable class of appointments for a term of
years, came to Illinois at an early day. He was stationed at Chicago in
1839, at Rockford in 1840, and was Presiding Elder of Mt. Morris
District in 1841, Rock River 1842, Ottawa 1843 and 1844, and Milwaukee
in 1845. Brother Stocking was highly esteemed by his brethren, and was
an excellent laborer, but, his health failing, he was compelled to take
a superannuated relation soon after the writer entered the work. He is
spending the evening of life at Beloit.
In 1843 Rev. Stephen Jones was sent to Aztalan. In 1844 the charge was
again divided and Watertown charge was formed, Brother Jones being
transferred to the new charge. Rev. Asa Wood was now sent to Aztalan,
and remained one year, when he was succeeded by Revs. C.N. Wager and S.
B. Whipple. At the Conference of 1854 the honors and emoluments of
Aztalan circuit passed over to the keeping of Lake Mills, which charge
at this writing holds a respectable rank in the Conference.
Watertown, at the time of my appointment, had been a separate charge one
year. A Church edifice had been commenced, and a class formed. The
members were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Andrews, Mr., and Mrs. Heber Smith, Mr.
and Mrs. Calvin Bunton, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. A. Dutcher, Mr. and Mrs. Elihu
Higgins, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Cook, Mrs. Simeon Ford, Mr. and Mrs. Cheney
Adams, Mr. Sands Cook, and others.
The financial ability of the charge was moderate, and hence the erection
of the Church required a great effort. Our meetings were held in the
school house until the Church edifice was enclosed, plastered, and
furnished with temporary seats.
The fall of 1846 was a season of unusual sickness, fevers in various
forms being the principal ailment. Along the valley of the Rock River,
the affliction became so flagrant that scarcely a family escaped. And in
some families, so universal were its ravages, that not one member was
left in condition to care for the balance. In this state of things
hundreds suffered, and not a few even died for want of kindly attention.
Repeatedly, when riding through the country to visit the sick and bury
the dead, I found flags of distress hung out over the dwellings of sick
families, where not one was able to bring a pail of water, or provide a
morsel of food. In such cases I installed myself master of ceremonies,
kindled fires, brought water, administered medicines, and then went
forward to render the same class of services to others.
In attending funerals in the surrounding neighborhoods, I sometimes
found there were not well people enough to bury their dead. After
performing the sacred functions of my office as a minister, I was
obliged to aid, with my own hands, to let the coffin down to its final
Though still frail from my illness during the previous year, I stood
this strain for two months, when I was prostrated by an attack of
bilious fever. During the first week of my illness a physician made two
visits to my boarding place, and this was more than he could give to the
greater portion of his patients. The family with whom I boarded were all
sick, and I was dependent for care mostly upon such snatches of service
as others could spare from pressing demands at home. At the end of a
week, believing my chances of recovery, under such circumstances,
precarious, I ordered my horse and buggy, and started for Waupun, thirty
miles distant. My friends remonstrated, and thought me insane; but,
fortunately, they were too ill to prevent the movement. The attempt was
perilous, indeed, but by the aid of stimulants, which I had provided
with special care, and a will-power that nerved itself for the occasion,
I made the passage safely. At the end of four hours I was comfortably
housed at the residence of Dr. Bowman, who bestowed upon me skillful
medical treatment, while his family gave me careful and
At the end of four weeks I was able to return to my post of duty. The
sickness had now mostly passed, and I was able to enter more fully upon
the regular labors of the charge. I now adopted a plan of systematic
labor, giving the forenoons to my study and the afternoons to pastoral
visiting. And I soon found that earnest and devoted labor brought its
reward. A revival speedily followed, which added a goodly number of
But the holidays were approaching, and it was expected that I would
spend a portion of them at Waupun, where, it was hinted, an event would
transpire in which I might have a personal interest. Anticipating the
time several days, I went as far as Clason's Prairie, and turned aside
to assist Brother Holmes, the Pastor of the charge, for a few evenings
in a protracted meeting. Returning, I proceeded on my way to Burnett. By
arrangement, I met Brother Sampson here, and spent the Sabbath with him,
it being his Quarterly Meeting on the Waupun charge.
The preachers on the circuit were Revs. A.P. Allen and Henry Requa, the
latter being employed by the Elder as an assistant. Brother Allen was a
man of mature years, though he had been in the work only a short time.
He was a man of decided talent, but so full of queer ways and witty
sayings that these seemed to give him his status in the general
estimation of the people. He filled several leading charges in the
Conference, and served a full term as Presiding Elder on the Racine
District. But wherever he might be, the same tendency to create laughter
was ever present. If an exception ever came to my knowledge, it must
have been the one that is said to have occurred on a former charge at
one of his outlying appointments. It is related that at this point the
people had not shown much regard for the visits of the preacher or the
sanctity of the Sabbath, spending the day either in rioting or in the
pursuit of their secular business. Becoming disgusted with this state of
things, Brother Allen announced at the close of his services, that on
the occasion of his next visit, he would preach his farewell sermon. The
day came, and the people, shocked at the idea of being left without
meetings, came out in large numbers, leaving for once their business and
sports. The services were opened in due form. On arising to announce
the text, the Preacher told the people that he had come prepared to
preach his farewell sermon, and he was glad that so many had come out to
hear it. He presumed they knew the reason of his purpose to leave them,
and hence he need not consume time over that matter, but would proceed
at once to announce as his text, the following passage of Holy Writ:
'Oh, full of all subtlety and mischief, thou child of the devil, how
long wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord.' Having
repeated the text with emphasis, he looked over the congregation very
gravely, and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, you will perceive that I have
chosen a pretty hard text. Now it is not polite for people to go out of
meeting during the preaching, and if any of you think that this text is
too severe for you, you had better go out before we begin the sermon."
As might have been expected, none were disposed to go. "Well, then,"
said the Preacher, "if you are not disposed to go, I will begin. I
intend to show, in the first place, that you are all full of subtlety
and mischief. In the second place, I intend to show that you are all the
children of the devil, and in the third place, I intend to put to you
the straight question, whether you intend to cease from thus perverting
the right ways of the Lord." The preacher, at this point, again, paused
and looked over the congregation. "Now you will say," he added, "this is
going to be a hard sermon." "So it is, but if any of you think you can't
sit to hear the truth told you, or in other words, to have your
portraits taken, you had better leave now, for it is not polite to go
out during the sermon." It was now too late to go, if any one felt
inclined. So the sermon proceeded, and commanded respectful attention to
its close. Before leaving, the Preacher was invited to continue the
appointment, and consented to do so.
But to return to the Quarterly Meeting. The people came in great
numbers, and the services throughout were deeply impressive. On Saturday
evening, several souls were converted, and on the Sabbath others were
added to the number. But the crowning meeting was held on Sabbath
evening. Before the hour of service had arrived, the school house was
full, the seats even having been removed to furnish standing room. And
yet crowds of people were coming from all directions. I finally proposed
to the Elder, that if he would put a man in my place in the school
house, I would go over to the nearest neighbor's house and hold another
service. The private house was soon filled, and in each congregation
there were several conversions.
On Monday, January 4th, 1847, Brother Sampson accompanied me to Dr.
Bowman's at Waupun, where he officiated in introducing the Doctor's
eldest daughter to the Itinerancy.
Returning to Watertown, I held protracted meetings at all the outlying
appointments, and had the happiness to witness many conversions. But the
year was one of hard labor and small financial receipts. At its close I
found my receipts from the charge were forty-four dollars and my board.
The forty-four dollars were put into the Church enterprise, and I drew
on my private funds for my incidental expenses.
The Conference met in Clark Street Church, Chicago, Aug. 11th, 1847. I
passed my Conference Examination, was ordained Deacon by Bishop Waugh,
and reappointed to Watertown.
Watertown was now placed in Milwaukee District, with Rev. Elihu
Springer, as Presiding Elder. At the beginning of the new year we
opened house-keeping in the upper rooms of a house on the corner of
Fourth and Main Streets. The first floor was occupied as a residence by
The year opened encouragingly. The Church in the village required two
sermons on the Sabbath, and I had established other appointments in the
country which required three a week, besides funeral sermons. The
appointments were Higgins and Bennetts on the south of the village, and
Piperville, Concord and Newhouse on the east. At several of them, during
the winter, protracted meetings were held, in addition to the one held
in the village. At each several conversions occurred, making a fair
aggregate in all. These extensive labors taxed me severely, and finally
brought on an attack of fever. I was taken during Sunday night, after
preaching in Watertown both morning and evening. The attack was so
violent that before morning I had become deranged, and my life was
despaired of. But through my wife's faithful watching and the good
Providence of God, I was able to resume my labors in three weeks.
It now became apparent that a severe financial pressure was upon us. I
had spent what I could immediately command of my own funds, and the good
brethren had contributed so generously out of their scanty means, to
place the Church in condition for use, that they could not meet the
Pastor's salary. I saw clearly that some other provision must be made.
While casting about to find my direction, a Providential opening
occurred. Rev. Mr. Hoyt, the Episcopal clergyman, who had been keeping a
Latin school for some time in the village, was compelled through illness
to desist from teaching. Fortunately, I had gone down several times at
his request, and relieved him in hearing his classes in Greek and
Latin. This little kindness, added to the fact I was one of the School
Commissioners of the county, naturally directed attention to me, as the
person to open a select school in the village. I embraced the
opportunity. The Trustees kindly consented to the use of the Church for
the purpose. As the seats were only temporary, they were easily adjusted
to the new order of things, and a school of sixty students was soon
organized. This new demand upon me greatly abridged the pastoral work,
but there seemed to be no other way to live. Before I could realize
anything, however, from the school, we found ourselves in very
considerable embarrassment. In this emergency, my wife opened her doors
for a few boarders, which met the immediate demands of the table.
But at this juncture of our affairs, an incident occurred that afforded
relief in another direction. My coat had become, through long wear and
exposure, not a little seedy. On entering the pulpit one Sabbath morning
I found a note lying on the Bible. I opened it and read as follows:
"Will Mr. Miller have the goodness to preach this morning from the Text,
'I have put off my coat, and how shall I put it on?'" The note was
written in a delicate hand and gave evidence of no ordinary cultivation.
At the conclusion of the reading, I gave a searching glance over the
congregation, but could make no face present plead guilty to the
accusation of impertinence.
The opening exercises of the service were not concluded before my course
of action was decided upon. I read the note to the congregation, and
stated that I had just found it on the desk. I further stated that I was
at a loss to determine whether it was intended as a sneer at my old
coat, or whether the writer really desired an exposition of the text
named. But, believing that no one could so far forget a due sense of
propriety as to deride honest poverty, or scoff at so faithful a servant
as my old coat had been, even though it now began to show signs of age,
I chose to take the latter view of the case. With this conviction, I
should proceed to make the text the subject of the discourse. After
giving the connection and context, I proceeded to define the subject of
coats, arrange them into classes and set forth their uses. The spiritual
application was not difficult, but it needed a little skill to cut the
several styles so that each one could recognize his own pattern and
appropriate the right garment. "Of course," I remarked, "every one has
heard of the garment of self-righteousness, though it may be that none
in this congregation are aware of ever having seen it. Yet, should you
chance to look upon it, with its straight seams and buckram collar, I am
quite sure you would not prefer it to my old coat, unseemly as it may
appear." Thus the sermon went on, to "cut to order" and "fit to
measure," until all the most flagrant styles of coats had been disposed
of, being careful, meantime, to institute the comparison in each case
with the old coat before the audience. The discourse was perfectly
ludicrous, but, like all of its kind, it took amazingly. Its financial
success was, doubtless, all that the writer of the note had intended. On
the next Sabbath morning the minister walked into church with a new
outfit of wearing apparel, from the crown of the hat to the soles of
Watertown, from the first, was an unpromising field for ministerial
labor. The leading influences at the beginning, if not directly opposed,
were almost wholly indifferent to the claims of religion.
Waukesha--Old Prairieville Circuit--Changes--Rev. L.F. Moulthrop--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.
The General Conference of 1848 divided the Rock River Conference and
formed the Wisconsin. The first session of the new Conference was held
at Kenosha July 12th, and I was stationed at Waukesha.
It will be remembered that Prairieville was included in the Watertown
charge in 1839, and formed one of the appointments established at that
early day by Brother Frink. In the following year, when the Summit
charge was formed, Prairieville fell into the new circuit. In 1841
Prairieville took the name of the charge, and henceforth became the
mother of circuits in this portion of the Territory. Rev. John G.
Whitcomb was appointed to the charge in 1842, and Rev. L.F. Moulthrop
Brother Moulthrop entered the Conference in 1840, and was first
appointed to the Racine Mission. In 1841 he was stationed at Troy, where
he performed a vast amount of labor and gathered many souls for the
Master. He remained a second year and had for a colleague Rev. Henry
Whitehead, so well known in connection with the Chicago Depository. On
coming to Waukesha he had Rev. S. Stover as a colleague.
At the close of his term Brother Moulthrop retired from the work, but
was re-admitted to the Conference in 1859, it being conceded that so
valiant a veteran should be permitted to spend the balance of his life
in connection with the Conference.
Prairieville Circuit at this time extended from the lake towns to
Watertown, and into Washington county as far as settlements had
penetrated. As stated in a former chapter, Brother Frink had passed over
this region in 1839, and had formed classes during the Conference year
at several places, but it now remained for his successors to extend the
field. In doing this Brother Moulthrop opened an appointment at
Wauwatosa and in several other neighborhoods.
At Prairieville, the class formed by Brother Frink consisted of Mr.
Owen, Leader, Mrs. Owen, Richard Smart, Truman Wheeler, Mrs. Truman
Wheeler, Hiram Wheeler, Mrs. Hiram Wheeler, Theophilus Haylett and
Horace Edsell, and to these were soon after added, Mr. and Mrs. Winters,
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hadfield, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Henry, Mr. and Mrs.
Daniel Clark, Sarah Packham, Mr. Blodgett, Mr. and Mrs. John Bromell,
John White, and Rev. Jonas Clark. Brother Henry was soon after made
The members of the class at Summit were John Merical, Leader, Levi
Merical, John Merical, Jr., Philip Scheuler, Mary Scheuler, Maria L.
Frink, Sarah Taft, and Sarah Hardell.
Prairieville charge was now in the Chicago District, and Rev. Hooper
Crews was the Presiding Elder. During this year he assisted Brother
Moulthrop in holding a protracted meeting at Prairieville, and large
numbers were converted.
Brother Crews was one of the choicest men in the Conference. He began
his ministerial work when what is now the great Northwest was yet in its
infancy, and has mingled in the discussion and settlement of all the
great questions which have arisen. His appointments have placed him in
the front rank of his compeers, and among them all, none have made a
better record, or will go from labor to reward leaving a profounder
regret among the people.
At the Milwaukee Conference in 1844, Prairieville charge was divided.
The northern portion was set off and erected into the Washington
Mission, with Rev. J.M. Snow as Pastor, of whom a record will be made in
another chapter. Brother Moulthrop remained on the old charge, and was
able to take care of what remained without an assistant.
The following year, 1845, the charge again required two men, and Revs.
G.W. Cotrell and Miles L. Reed were appointed, and had a year of great
prosperity. This year Pewaukee was detached from the Prairieville charge
and added to Washington Mission, and as this change drew the latter to
the southward, the name of Washington was dropped, and that of Menomonee
substituted. Brother Snow remained on the charge.
Brother Reed was a young man of great promise, but his career was of
short duration. At the close of his year at Prairieville, his failing
health compelled him to leave the work. Remaining, however, in the
village, he was greatly useful and highly esteemed as a Local Preacher.
In 1846, the Pastors of Prairieville circuit were Rev. Washington Wilcox
and Rev. J.M. Walker. Both of these devoted and earnest men were
abundant in labor. Protracted meetings were held at nearly all of the
principal appointments, and large numbers were converted. It is affirmed
that the junior preacher was engaged seventy five successive days in
these meetings. It is not a matter of surprise that a severe
Brother Walker entered the Conference, as before stated, in the class or
1845, with the writer. His first circuit was Elkhorn. During the year he
had extensive revivals at both Delavan and North Geneva. After leaving
Prairieville he was sent to Geneva, where he again had a prosperous
year, and also found an excellent wife. His next field was Rock Prairie,
to which he was sent in 1848. Here he had over two hundred conversions.
The following year he was sent to Union Circuit, with Rev. James Lawson
as colleague, and was returned to the same the next year. But in the
early part of the year he was removed to Beloit, to supply a vacancy.
His next appointment was Whitewater, where he succeeded in completing a
Church, and his next field was Beaver Dam. In 1855 he was appointed
Presiding Elder of Beaver Dam District, which post he filled with great
acceptability. His subsequent appointments have been Spring Street
Station, Milwaukee, Chaplain of the Thirty-Eighth Regiment, Beaver Dam,
Oshkosh and Green Bay. At the last named, he is at the present writing
doing effective service.
In 1847 Prairieville Circuit was changed to a station, under the name of
Waukesha. Brother Wilcox was returned, and during the year built up a
strong congregation, giving the station a front rank among the first
charges of the Conference.
Brother Wilcox entered the traveling connection in the East and came to
the Illinois Conference at an early day. He was stationed in Galena in
1839, and before coming to Waukesha he had served Dubuque, Mineral
Point, Dixon, Elgin and Sylvania. At the close of his term at Waukesha
he was appointed Presiding Elder of Fond du Lac District At the end of
three years he was sent to the Madison District, where he remained a
full term. His subsequent appointments fell within the bounds of the
West Wisconsin Conference, in all of which he acquitted himself
creditably. His last field was Baraboo Station, where he passed from
labor to reward, leaving to his brethren the record of a spotless life
and unswerving devotion to the Master's work.
Brother Wilcox was an able minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a
man of large intellect and strong convictions. His sermons embodied
cardinal truth, and with him mere word painting was a sham. Sometimes he
was thought to be severe, but it was the severity of what he conceived
to be truth. In debate, on the Conference floor, or in discussion before
an audience, he was a giant. At times he would seem to push his
antagonist relentlessly, but it was only following his inexorable logic
to its findings. The same thoroughness entered into all he did. On a
committee it was his habit to go to the bottom of things. Especially was
this true in the Conference examinations.
I remember distinctly the examination that was had the year I graduated
to Elder's orders. With him as chairman, and another strong man, whom I
need not name, as second, we were under the fiery ordeal seven sessions.
I have never ceased to wonder that anything was left of us, after having
been thus ground between the upper and nether millstones. And yet there
was no unkindness, for in his feelings he was as tender as a child. The
fact is, this noble man could never do anything by halves. If the
faithful discharge of duty, the persistent adherence to the right, and
unsparing self-denial, constitute the standard of nobility, then
Washington Wilcox. had a right to claim his patent.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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