Monday, March 07, 2016

Ellen and Harriet share Chariton Methodist history

Chariton Methodists held final services in their old brick church building, built in 1864 and enlarged in 1879 (above), on Sunday, June 18, 1899. Soon thereafter, it was demolished and the current building, which I like to call "Old Glory," constructed on its site at North Main and Roland.

It had become evident by the 1890s that the 1879 expansion of the building had been a disaster. The venerable building was deteriorating, on the edge of becoming structurally hazardous. God, if you like, had commented on the situation on the afternoon of the previous Sunday, June 9, when in the midst of a terrific storm a bolt of lightning knocked a hole in the roof.

For the next year, the congregation gathered in the court room of the new Lucas County Courthouse on Sundays for Sabbath school at 9 a.m. followed by preaching services at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Epworth League gathered at 7 p.m. Sundays and there was a congregational prayer meeting at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Instead of a sermon on that final June Sunday in the old church, papers written by two of the congregation's most venerable members, Mrs. W.P. Davis and Mrs. W.O. Parmenter, were read from the pulpit.

At the time, it was considered bad manners for a woman to expose her ankles in public or her given name in print (unless there had been the scandal of a divorce or she had suffered the misfortune of failure to wed). Even the death of a husband could not rid the surviving spouse of his given name or initials.

So it takes a little sleuthing to discover that Mrs. W.P. Davis actually was Ellen Waynick, a charter member who had been present at the creation in 1851; and Mrs. W.O. Parmenter, Harriet Hill, who had been among the first to join the congregation after it was formed.

These two papers became the basis for much of what has been written since about early Methodist history in Chariton, but contain more character than later versions --- anything controversial had been edited out a year later, when the papers were recycled for use during dedication of the new church home on July 8, 1900.

Absent in 1900, for example, was Ellen's assertion that the 1879 remodeling had been a "great mistake" and her comment that the congregation's second preacher, John Parker, while not especially zealous religiously, was very good an extracting money from his parishioners: "If a man had a dime, a bushel of corn or a day's work to spare, he would get it."

Something similar happened to Harriet's annotated list of preachers who had served the congregation.

Here is Ellen's unexpurgated version of Methodist history as published in The Chariton Patriot of June 29, 1899. Harriet's annotated list will follow tomorrow.


In the fall of the year 1851 the Iowa conference (for there was but one in the state at that time) had heard of our benighted condition, and in their deliberations concluded to send us a pastor to hunt up scattered Methodists and to try to gather in others who had no home. Rev. J.L. Briggs was our first pastor. A man full of the spirit and love for his fellow men. Everybody loved him in the church and out. After he had preached his first sermon (by the way, I think it was the first Methodist sermon preached in Lucas county) he asked how many would join the church and eight responded, namely: Peter Waynick and wife, Susan Waynick, Orilla Waynick, Ellen Waynick, Caleb James and wife, Dorcas James, Edward Culbertson and wife, Caroline Culbertson. Father Holebrook was our first class leader. Out of his small branch has grown the great tree of today. Rev. Briggs only remained one year; I cannot say why, unless the conference thought him too good a man for such a small place. the church was very sorry to change.

Our next preacher was John Parker. He was not as zealous religiously, but very active financially and mentally. He built the first parsonage. If a man had a dime, a bushel of corn or a day's work to spare, he would get it. I well remember one cold morning before sunrise, Bro. Parker rapped at my father's door, having driven out four miles after one of my brothers to take a team and go with him to Albia for lumber. Of course he went. Thus was laid the foundation and completion of the little frame house of four rooms, our first parsonage. How our people would laugh now to see our pastor's family living in such a place; yet at the time we thought it fine and it was a great achievement.

In 1853 we had gained in membership and wealth, so that the official board decided to build a church. Then to undertake a thing was to do it. Rev. Darrah was pastor. They built a frame 24x36, and let me say, if the church of today was willing to deny itself and make the sacrifice the people did then, we could have a $20,000 church before another Christmas moon. Well, the church was finished, and our presiding elder, Rev. Hayden, preached the dedication sermon. I think he was one of the best men I ever met. Soon after we had a great revival, and a great many heads of families were saved. Among them was D.D. Waynick and wife, I.H. Waynick and wife, Dr. Jay and wife, along with many others whose names have slipped my memory, but their names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

The Methodist church at Chariton has sent seven of her sons out to preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior, and four of her daughters as wives of itinerant Methodist preachers: Bennett Mitchell, G.C. Waynick, Ben Harris, Will and Ed Todd, W.B. Thompson, John Stokesberry, Flora, Kate and Levenia Marshall and Clara Brown.

In the year 1852, Br. Holebrook, seeing that there were several men around town with nothing to do on Sabbath afternoon, and knowing the Satan always finds something for idle hands to do, concluded to invite them to the court house for bible study. This meeting was for men only. Soon after, Rev. Coles, a local preacher, organized a Sunday school for all, and strange to tell, the first school was made up mostly of grown people, there being few children over two years of age in town. He was elected superintendent. I cannot remember the names of any of the officers, but the first teachers were Crawford Sellers, Elmira Waynick, Louisa Coles, Mrs. Parker (the pastor's wife) and Miss Mitchell. It was held in the courhouse and a few of the mothers from the east did not want their daughters to go there, because the lawyers had no more reverence for sacred things than to come in during service to look for books and papers and would swear a little occasionally. Of course law business was very pressing at that time, especially on the Sabbath day.

Our congregation continued to increase in numbers and interest. The people flocked to the meetings --- for at that time they were hungry for the bread of life --- not being gospel hardened as we are today. Rev. B.F. Reed, and the official board, after earnest deliberation and much prayer over the matter, decided to sell the little frame church and build a large brick. They was finished soon after the conference in 1864. Bishop James preached the dedicatorial sermon. It was a grand effort and moved the people to open their hearts, and many promised more than they were able to give. Every dollar of the indebtedness was subscribed, but it was quite a while before it was all paid.

Soon after we moved into our new church there were a few newcomers from the far east who had worshiped where they put on style, so they began to clamor for an organ and a choir and promiscuous sitting, but we could not stand all this at once, so Miss Nan Mitchell and Mrs. Parmenter walked all over town soliciting money to buy an organ, and having succeeded the organ was purchased and placed in the church. Miss Mitchell was elected organist and D.D. Waynick chorister. Some of the older members thought Satan was going to carry away the whole church, but it lived through it. One dear old brother thought if he could manage to be late and not have to sit and listen to the voluntary he could perhaps stand the organ with the congregation singing. If he happened to come before the opening service was over he would deliberately walk out of church and return when when the preaching began. But after a while he became so full of the spirit that he could shout and sing and laugh while the organist was playing and not notice it.

After we became a little used to the organ the subject of promiscuous sitting was broached again and it was either lost or laid on the table. Later on the subject was again brought up. Several of the opposing members being absent, Bro. Penick moved we have promiscuous sitting and the motion carried.

In the year 1879 the church was remodeled. That was a great mistake, at any rate it has been an eye-sore to the community all these years. But never mind, we have learned something by past experience, and in 1900 you will see a magnificent structure much improved and bettered by the mistakes of our predecessors. During the year 1868 the church built a new parsonage costing $1,200; then in 1894 the present splended structure was built, costing $2,500, all paid for.

Between the years 1854 and 1858 the women of the church organized a society which was called the Ladies' Aid Society, for the purpose of helping on the church work. They raised their money by having festivals, also by entertainments and five-cent sociables, and we still live and work.

In 1876, Mrs. Dr. Todd, the presiding elder's wife, invited several of the women of the church to tea; Mrs. Ninde, the mother of missions in Iowa, and Mrs. Prescott, being present, spoke very earnestly of the work the Foreigh Missionary Society was doing in the church. Their  talk so interested the ladies that they then and there organized a society with sixteen charter members. Mrs. Ruth Stuart, the pastor's wife, was elected president. From that day to this they have held regular monthly meetings and have accoplished great good that we have seen, and I think when the great book is opened we will know of wonders accomplished by the Women's Foreign Missionary Society that will surprise us.

A few years later a Miss Pearson of Des Moines gathered some of the little girls of the church together and organized a mission band of earnest workers for the Master. Anna Stuart was elected president and Mrs. Parmenter superintendent. The society assumed the name of Willing Workers to assist their heathen sisters in every way possible to a higher and better life.

Last but not least comes the Epworth League. The church had long felt a great need of something to hold and enocurage the young people in connection with and still outside of the regular church work. The Epworth League filled the bill exactly. During the eight years of the league's life in Chariton they have accomplished wonders. Outside of what they have done for the members personally they have bought an organ, paid $100 on the new parsonage, furnished a room in Simpson College, besides many other things too numerous mention here; in the meantime preparing themselves to more efficiently and effectually fill the older members' places as we drop out one by one.

The Lord has done a great many things for the M.E. church at Chariton whereof we are glad. We have had twenty-eight pastors and nine or more presiding elders, all noble, efficient men.


Ellen Waynick was born July 1, 1833, near Greencastle, Indiana, to Peter and Susannah Waynick, and moved to Lucas County with her parents during 1850. Her older brothers were among the county's first settlers. Peter and Susannah and their younger children settled some four miles southwest of Chariton about where Waynick Cemetery now is located. The senior Waynicks along with daughters Orilla and Ellen were present at that first gathering of Lucas County Methodists during the fall of 1851 and were among the congregation's charter members. Orilla died very soon after that gathering --- on Sept. 20, 1851, age 20. She was the first to be buried in Waynick Cemetery. Susannah died a year later, just after Christmas, 1852.

Ellen had married an attorney named William Penn Davis, some 15 years her senior, on September 5, 1852, not long before her mother's death, and they moved in with Peter and Susannah and remained with the widowed Peter for about two years thereafter before moving into Chariton after Davis was elected county attorney during 1855. The remainder of their married lives were spent in Chariton, where they raised eight children.

William died on June 16, 1901, at the family home in Chariton. Ellen was living with her daughter, Lottie Lay, at Denison when she died on March 1, 1907. Both William and Ellen are buried in the Waynick Cemetery.


norm prince said...

I think the town where she died should be Denison, not Dennison.
At least that is where I get my mail.

Frank D. Myers said...

I'm sure you're right --- I got a little carried away with the "n's."