Wednesday, December 27, 2017

New Year's Eve among the Baptists ....

Yesterday's post, which covered Christmas 1894 in Chariton at great length, also included mention of the fact that the congregation of First Baptist Church was spending its first holiday in a brand new church building (left), a magnificent brick structure designed by Chariton architect O.A. Hougland and finished and dedicated during August of that year.

What the post did not mention was the fact that the Baptists had been occupying the basement of their new building since New Year's Eve 1893, having moved there from their original church building a block southwest with considerable fanfare on Sunday, Jan. 31, 1893, just in time to ring in the new year with the church bell.

Sadly, I don't have a decent photograph of the old church at hand this morning, but the 1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance map (above) shows where it was located, just south of where the American Legion Hall now stands. It was a simple frame structure that had served for 30 years and then, once the new church was in use, was turned over to Dr. Thomas A. Bown, a veterinary surgeon, who located his offices and what perhaps was Chariton's first "animal hospital" there.

Another segment of the 1893 map, at the end of this post, shows the location of the foundation of the new church a block northeast.


The Chariton Herald of Jan. 4, 1894, contained a lengthy report of the transitional services that took the congregation from one church building to the basement of its replacement on New Years Eve, as well as a good deal of the congregation's history. The whole thing follows.

But there's a little more to the church history than reported in The Herald article, which begins with its organization during 1853 by the Rev. Isaac M. Seay as Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.

The Samuel Martin home, where the congregation was organized, was located some six miles southeast of Chariton in the pioneer community known as Ragtown after Amos Ragsdale, one of its first settlers (only the Ragtown Cemetery at the west edge of the Ragtown neighborhood remains today). The Martins arrived there from Indiana during 1851 and apparently began gathering their neighbors for Baptist services soon thereafter.

According to Bertha (McKlveen) Schreiber, who prepared an historical sketch for the congregation's 90th anniversary in 1943, those early Baptists included Samuel and Elizabeth Martin, William and Nancy Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. William Anderson, a Mr. and Mrs. Prather, Mr. and Mrs. Amos Ragsdale and a Mr. Peck. They seem to have called themselves initially Bethel Baptist Church.

The Rev. Mr. Seay (1816-1911) had been licensed to preach in the Missionary Baptist Church in Missouri during 1847, ordained two years later and by soon after 1850 was working a mission field in southern Iowa. He also is credited with organizing First  Baptist Church of Corydon during the year that followed organization of the Lucas County congregation.

It's not clear what organization he was affiliated with, but during 1856 the Rev. Mr. Seay was commissioned as the Iowa Baptist State Convention's first missionary and devoted the remainder of his life to organizing and serving congregations in south central and southwest Iowa. He died and is buried at Clarinda and was still alive, well and working during 1894, but apparently was overlooked when a list of living former pastors was compiled.


Here's the report from the Jan. 4, 1894, Herald, published under the headline, "After 40 Years of Struggle and Work the Baptists Enter a new Sanctuary; the Warp and Woof of Social Life Shows a Blending of Joys and Sorrows; Out of the Old, Into the New": 

Sunday was a day of rejoicing with the people of the First Baptist church of Chariton, which will be long remembered in the history of the church and among the many friends in the community who joined them in the various services throughout the day. The weather was all that could have been desired and the bright sunlight seemed a harbinger of bright days in store for the people just entering a new and beautiful sanctuary. The time chosen for the change was very fitting, casting off the old tabernacle with the closing year and entering the new building at the threshold of the new year, with all its grand possibilities of development and growth.

To understand all that this means to the Baptist people the reader should know something of the history of this church, which for 40 years has had a name and existence in this community.

By searching the records and with valuable assistance from Clerk Edwards and other members of the church, the Herald is enabled to give the material facts concerning the early history of the church.

What is now known as the First Baptist church of Chariton was organized on December 23, 1853, by Isaac M. Seay and Daniel Winters, and Rev. Seay was called to the pastorate. The organization was composed of nine members at that time, whose names are as follows: William Anderson, Samuel P. Martin, William Wilson, Margaret Anderson, William Peck, Lucy Wilson, L.D. Martin, Lucinda Peck and Helen Peck.

The meeting for the purpose of organization was held at the home of Samuel P. Martin on December 23, 1853, when it was resolved to organize a church, to be known as the Mt. Pleasant United Baptist Church of Christ. Rev. Seay was chosen as pastor, the other officers elected being as follows: Wm. Wilson, deacon; Samuel P. Martin, clerk. At that early day the financial problem was not deemed of sufficient importance to require a treasurer, at least none was elected at this meeting. it was resolved to hold meetings the fourth Saturday afternoon of each month, and for some years the stated meetings were thus held at the homes of members.

In 1857 the name of the church was changed from Mt. Pleasant to Chariton. Articles of incorporation were drawn up and adopted November 26, 1864. The lot on which the old church is located was purchased in 1863, and at a meeting held Sept. 23, 1865, the trustees were appointed a building committee. The building was commenced in 1866 but was not completed until 1867, and in the year 1868 it was dedicated by Rev. Morgan Edwards, of Burlington. The records show that new articles of incorporation were adopted in 1875.

Just when the name of the church was changed to its present title is not definitely known but probably at the time of the change from Mt. Pleasant to Chariton as the first articles of incorporation, adopted in 1864, recognize the organization as the First Baptist Church of Chariton.

Of the original charter members two are still living. The first deacon, Wm. Wilson, the grandfather of Mr. T.E. Edwards, still resides in this county, making his home with Cyrus Scott, two miles from this city; his membership is at present with the church at Tarkio, Missouri, where he resided for a time.

Samuel P. Martin, at whose home the church was organized, still holds his membership here but is at present absent from the county.

During its 40 years of existence twenty-one pastors have served the charge and have shared with the people the ups and downs experienced by such organizations, especially in their earlier history when the country was new and the population constantly changing. The path of these pioneer preachers was by no means one of flowers and ease in a financial sense, for we learn from the records of one of the meetings along in the sixties that it was decided that "on account of the advance in cost of clothing, breadstuffs, etc.," it was decided to raise Pastor Hildreth's salary to $180 a year. 

The records show the following named pastors, with their respective terms of service attached: I.M. Seay, Dec. 23, 1853, to March 27, 1855; A. Green, Oct. 28, 1855 to May 14, 1856; James Frey, April 25, 1857, to Aug. 23, 1857; J.W. McDonald, Jan. 22, 1858, to March 27, 1858; Wm. Whitehead, May 22, 1858, to April 23, 1859; John Warren, Dec. 25, 1859, to July 21, 1860; Isaac Christie, Jan. 25, 1862, to March 22, 1863; I.L. Coles, March 22, 1863 to Oct. 24, 1863; Wm. Hildreth, Jan. 23, 1864, to Feb. 25, 1865; P.S. Whitman, March 8, 1867 to Oct. 26, 1867; L. Casier, Jan. 25, 1868, to Oct. 23, 1868; L.S. Livermore, Sept. 24, 1869, to April 9, 1870; W.S. Hickman, Dec. 23, 1870, to Nov. 4, 1871, and Feb. 3, 1872, to May 4, 1872; Wm. Sturgeon, Aug. 31, 1871, to Jan. 17, 1876; A.N. Sutton, Nov. 26, 1876, to June 25, 1877; B.F. Mace, Feb. 1, 1879, to Feb. 7, 1881; F. M. Archer, May 17, 1881, to Jan. 1, 1883; N.H. Daily, Feb. 4, 1883, to April 9, 1885; F.M. Archer, Sept. 27, 1885, to Oct. 17, 1886; A.H. Post, Dec. 5, 1886, to Nov. 6, 1887; E. Packer, May 1, 1888, to June 1, 1891; and A. Jacobs, Nov. 1, 1891, and still serving.

Of these devoted workers six are known to be still in the work, as follows: Rev. Wm. Sturgeon, at Bentonville, Iowa; Rev. B.F. Mace, at Albia; Rev. F.M. Archer, at Maquoketa; Rev. N.H. Daily, at Charles City; while Rev. E. Packer is connected with the May Baptist Church. Letters were read from all of these gentlemen except Rev. Packer, who was present answer in person.

The present officers of the church are A. Jacobs, pastor; H.S. Glenn, Samuel McKlveen, C.W. Rose, J.M. Kneeland and T.E. Edwards, deacons; H.S. Glenn, Wm. Schreiber and J.H. Curtis, trustees; T.E. Edwards, clerk; Samuel McKlveen, treasurer; T.J. Garland, incidental treasurer; J.M. Kneeland, chorister; and Mrs. Nota Kneeland, organist.


Sunday forenoon, the services were held in the old church and the meeting was one of unusual interest. Rev. A. Packer, the former pastor of the church prior to the coming of Rev. Jacobs, was present and occupied the speaker's stand with the pastor. After the reading of scripture and song by the congregation and prayer by Rev. Packer, a brief history of the church was read by the clerk, Mr. T.E. Edwards. The list of pastors was also read and letters were read from Rev. Sturgeon, Post, Mace and Daily, former pastors, and remarks were made by Rev. Packer.

Then followed the call of the roll of deacons who had served the church since its organization and those present answered to their names with appropriate scripture selections or words of experience, congratulation or exhortation. The roll of membership was then called, and all present answered by scripture selection or by words expressive of the varied emotions felt by each on leaving the old church home. This service lasted for nearly two hours and it was near one o'clock when the large audience which filled every pew and the chairs which filled all the aisles, was dismissed.


... was held in the basement of the new church and fully four hundred people assembled. A pleasing song service was held while the audience was gathering, followed by remarks from the pastor outlining the plan of the meeting. Then after devotional exercises, Rev. Packer made an address full of excellent thoughts of helpfulness and encouragement. The meeting was then thrown open for remarks by all, and many words of gratitude were spoken by various members expressing the thanks of the church to the sister churches, to the businessmen of Chariton, to the architect who had given them such excellent building plans, to the building committee which had borne the load so nobly, to the public press and to all the agencies that had been instrumental in forwarding the work. Many members of other churches were present and words of good cheer and fraternal congratulation were not lacking.

At about 9:30 slips of paper were passed and the names of all present were secured for record in a book to be preserved for future reference, after which those who desired were given an opportunity to retire. Many remained, however, to listen to the excellent program which followed, being opened with a charming duet by little Misses Anna Barger and Maud Stodghill.

Miss Kittie McKlveen gave an impressive recitation, and little Miss Goldie Edwards captured all hearts by her winsome rendition of a recitation.

Miss Edna McKlveen recited a difficult selection to which added expression was given by frequent selections from sacred music, and both in music and recitation her work was pleasing and effective.

Mr. James Kneeland sang a solo, followed by Miss Flossie Edwards with a selected reading, and little Stella Johns brought tears to many eyes by her pathetic recitation about how New Year came to the dying boy.

Another opportunity was given for retirement but many remained to watch the old year out, and Pastor Jacobs preached an able sermon, from the text, "Watchman, what of the night." A brief consecration meeting closed the old year and the bell tolled out the new year and rang in the new.

The new church thus asupiciously opened is a handsome structure with substantial basement and superstructure of pressed brick. The plans were drawn by Architect O.A. Hougland and the completed structure reflects credit upon his skill. The foundation was laid in the fall of 1892 and the bulding completed in 1893. The basement portion is all that is at present finished and that portion will be used until next year when the auditorium will be finished and the Baptist people will have a church of which they may well be proud. The basement as now in use gives an assembly room capable of accommodating 300 or 350 people comfortably, with class rooms for Sunday school purposes and parlors adjoining. It is a cosy, homelike place finished in hard pine and oil with hard finish walls.

There has been excellent financial management in this enterprise and to the present time all work and material has been paid for. The church when finished and furnished will have a cost in the neighborhood of $12,000.

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