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The History of the Baptists
By David Benedict, 1848

Iowa Baptists

Early history - Iowa, now Desmoines Association - Desmoines River - Davenport

      My information of the rise and progress of our denomination in Iowa is exceedingly limited, as but few correspondents have made me any communications relative to the history of either territory; of course, my sketches of both these new regions must be very brief.

      Rev. Wm. M. Morrow, of Mount Pleasant, Henry Co., is the only correspondent who has given me any historical sketches of the early movements of the Baptists in Iowa; his account is as follows:

" In June, 1835, I and elder James Golshon, then on an exploring expedition from Illinois, commenced ministerial labors in this new country; some of my relatives, with others of the Baptist order, had settled here early in the spring of that year; in the autumn following, I removed and settled in the place. Elder Samuel Button soon followed me, and in August, 1836, at the house of brother C. Jones, we, with others, were constituted into a church, by the name of Big Creek; our number at first was sixteen." [In the above quotation, I have followed the ideas rather than the exact phraseology of elder Morrow. db]
     This, from the best of my information, was the first Baptist church which was planted in Iowa. Mr. Morrow's narrative continues to relate that Geo. Walter, M. B. Rowland, Thos. Howell, J. L. Gilmore, and Wm. Bradley, all, I believe, ministers, soon after settled in the country.

     The Little Cedar Creek Church was also formed in 1836; that of West Liberty, in 1839.

     The Association which grew out of the labors of these adventurers into this important field, appears to have been organized one year later than the one which I shall place first on the list of Iowa associational institutions.


     Was formed in 1838; I have but an imperfect file of its Minutes, and no items of its history except what they contain.

     Iowa Association was the name first given to this body, which it retained until 1843, when it was changed to the one which it now bears.

     The Minutes of this community for 1846 contain some historical sketches of its churches, in which, for the most part, their dates are given; the one called

     Kessauqua, W. B. Morey pastor, was formed in 1838.

     The Pisgah Church, H. Burnett pastor, was formed in 1839; all the others are of more recent origin; but few of them come up to half a hundred.

     The disposition of this institution toward the cause of missions and evangelical efforts in general, is developed in the following items of doings at its last session:

[p. 846]

     "Resolved, That the proper development of Christian principles, obedience to the command of Christ, our living head, and duty to a perishing worm, imperiously demand our unabating sympathies, prayers, and free-will offerings, in publishing the gospel throughout the world."
      'The A. and F Bible Society is recommended in the same cordial manner, to the friendship and patronage of the Association.
     'The B. Publication Society is also recognized as worthy of their special attention and support.
      'Sunday Schools, and a number of Baptist publications, the old B. Magazine among the rest, are named as objects of the favorable regard of this zealous fraternity.'
     Messrs. J. N. Seely, H. Burnett, D. P. Smith, D. Jewett, W. D. Morey, and M. J. Post, were the chairmen of the various committees by whom these Resolutions were presented.

     This body is located on or near to the great river whose name it bears. [Its position in Iowa will be more fully described in the quotation soon to be made from Rev. Mr. Burnett's communication.]


     Was formed in 1840, with five small churches, whose aggregate of membership was a fraction under 100.

     The names of the churches were Lick Creek, Little Cedar, Concord, Big Creek [This church is now called Mount Pleasant.], Fairfield and Lynn Creek; they are now about double that number.

     The present ministers are Samuel Hutton, Wm. M. Morrow, Jas. L. Gilmore, McCormac Zion, M. B. Rowland, Wm. Bradley, Jos. H. Flint, D. Wortman, J. Hill, Thos. Powell, Ransom Coop, and J. Swofford. [Rev. Wm. M. Morrow is my correspondent for this Association; to him I am indebted for most of my information of the affairs of the Baptists in this territory. His accounts are much more minute than my limits will allow me to insert. db]


     Was formed in 1841; this young interest exhibits a good degree of activity in evangelical efforts, and appears increasing in its numerical strength. Its locality, in its Minutes for 1846, is described as follows:
"The Davenport Association comprises the whole country lying between the Mississippi and the two Iowa rivers."
     Rev. H. Burnett, the moderator of the Desmoines Association, next to Mr. Morrow, is my principal correspondent for Iowa; the whole Baptists in this Territory, and the location of its institutions then in being, he has presented as follows:
"In this Territory are two Associations of the missionary, and one of the old school order of Baptists. The Desmoines, and the Desmoines River, O. S., include the south part of the old, or first purchase, and are located south of the Iowa river.

"The Davenport Association lies north of the Iowa river, and runs as far north as Dubuque. But two years since, it was organized; its increase last year was 162.

"The two missionary bodies comprise between six and seven hundred members; these, with the O. S. Association, and some Separate Baptists and unassociated churches, make an aggregate of about twelve hundred of the denomination in Iowa.

"Besides these, there are about six hundred Campbellites or Reformers, in different parts of the Territory." *

* Rev. H. Burnett's communication, 1843. Elders Morrow and Burnett are citizens of the same town, Mount Pleasant, although they are on different sides as to missions. &c., yet, I should judge from their manner of writing, are on friendly terms with each other. Their accounts, also, of the whole Baptist population in this region, essentially agree: their principal difference is, that Mr. B. counts only the members of the D. M. River Association, while Mr. M. takes into his account of O. S. B. a number of unassociated churches and small collections not yet organized, by which he computes his brethren at about four hundred and fifty, something more than double the amount of Mr. B.'s computation.

[David Benedict, The History of the Baptists, 1848, pp. 845-6. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

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