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Rev. Joseph Cowgill Maple, A. M., D. D.
By R. P. Rider, 1918

Religious Activity in Missouri - 1857-1864; 1870-1886; 1807-1917


      Dr. Maple whose ability is so vividly shown in his admirable contributions to the history of the Baptists of Missouri in the biographical sketches from his pen that are found in the four volumes of Missouri Baptist Biography, has himself joined the goodly host of godly men and women who have faithfully and lovingly given their lives to the cause of Christ and the denomination in Missouri, and have gone to rest on the other shore.


      Our acquaintance began in the fall of 1854, when we met as students of Shurtleff College, Upper Alton, Illinois, I, fresh from the country, at the age of seventeen years, just beginning to feel that I was a man; he twenty-one years of age, and two years in advance of me in the College Course of Study. He was a young man of attractive appearance, tall, straight as an arrow, handsome in feature, genial in manner, just such a man as to command the admiration of a hero-loving boy. Our frequent meetings in the halls of the two societies of the College - the Alpha Zeta, devoted to the intellectual development of the young men; the other The Society of Moral and Religious Inquiry, devoted to their spiritual advancement, gave the opportunity for closer and more sympathetic acquaintance.
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He was preparing himself for the sacred calling of the Gospel Ministry. I had come from a home where sacred things were given the first place in the family interests, and had been taught that the man called by God to bear His message of love to a dying world, was a man set apart to be reverenced. Admiration, esteem, friendliness, reverence, elements of the strongest human ties had their unfailing influence in cementing a friendship so auspiciously begun. In the nearly two-thirds of a century of more or less frequency of companionship, as varying conditions decreed, everything in our intercourse has contributed to the strengthening of these fraternal ties. Thus the writing of this sketch becomes, not only the compilation of the historical record of an holy life, well-spent, but, out from, and beyond this, and peculiarly so, a tribute of loving regard.


      Joseph Cowgill Maple was born in Guernsey County, Ohio, November 18, 1833. His parents were sturdy, intelligent farmers, and loyal Baptists. In the spring of 1836 when the boy was four and a half years old, the family removed to Peoria County, Illinois. Here on the farm, Joseph spent the early years of his life, helping with the farm work when necessity demanded, and attending the nearby country school during the seasons of lighter work, until he was seventeen years old.

      In the Autumn of 1850 he entered an academy in Mt. Palatine, Putnam County, Illinois, and remained there during two winters. In 1852 he attended a private school taught by the Rev. G. S. Bailey and his wife, in Pekin, Illinois. In these schools he was amply fitted for college, and in April, 1854 entered the spring term at Shurtleff College, as a student well-advanced in the Freshman Course.

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He was graduated from the College, June, 1857, acquiring the Baccalaureate Degree, and hearing well-earned scholastic honors. Three years after his graduation, he was invited with other members of his class to attend the Commencement Exercises of the College and receive the Master's Degree, with the additional honor, that he deliver the Master's Oration. This was a tribute, not only to his excellent scholarship, but was a recognition of his superior ability as a public speaker. He had been facile princjeps in the estimation of both faculty and student body as an orator while in college. The opinion was prevalent in school that his love for the study of the classical languages had its influence upon his style both as speaker and writer. The purity as well as the versatility of his style in writing will be evident to one who will give himself the pleasure of reading such of his sermons and addresses as have been published; his articles on the History of Baptist Effort in Missouri; his more formal work along the line of biography; his charming letters on travel, both in his own country and in Europe; and very particularly in his greatest work, the memoirs of Dr. W. Pope Yeaman. In this rather extensive range of writing, he shows cogency in reasoning; sentiment in the portrayal of character; lucidity of style in describing the picturesque in such manner as to cause the scenes to unfold before the view of the reader like a panorama.


      When between fifteen and sixteen years of age, he in his life of spiritual indifference, was startled by the thought presented by the honored Rev. H. G. Weston, in a sermon on the text: "He that is not with Me is against Me," into the realization that while he was not conscious of any real antagonism to the Christ, he certainly could
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not be classed with those that were "with Him;" and the Holy Spirit so applied the thought to his receptive mind that he decided that he would no longer be found on the side of those that were "against Him." June 18, 1849 he was baptized into the fellowship of the La Marsh Baptist Church, Peoria County, Illinois, by the pastor of the church, Rev. W. T. Bly. Like many another consecrated young man with liberal and suggestive "gift of speech," he felt that he could serve his Lord in the most effectual way by preaching the Gospel, and this feeling continued to grow in strength until it took entire possession of his mind and heart, and he recognized it as a "call" from the Divine Master.

      In January, 1853, he preached his first, and what might be called his trial-sermon in the old home church, an ordeal under which many a young man has trembled, realizing that while his auditors would be sympathetic listeners, they would at the same time, be severe critics, saying, perhaps in their hearts: "Is not this Joe, the farmer's son, and his mother, brothers and sisters are they not with us?" His sermon, however, must have convinced his brethren of his ability to preach, as at the next regular business meeting of the church, they without his request, and with commendable caution that we, of this day do not always exercise, voted unanimously to give him license to exercise his gifts within the bounds of the church. After a probation - as it were - of three months, the brethren expressed their fixed approval of him by extending his license to exercise his gifts wherever God in His providence might call him, and he became a licentiate. Peeling that it was not meet that he should be "set apart by the laying on of hands," before he was ready to enter upon a regular pastorate, he preached as a licentiate

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all the time while he was in college. During this time he preached in the surrounding towns in Illinois with great acceptance, and was the permanent supply for the struggling little church in Carlinville, Illinois, during the year of 1856 and till his graduation in June, 1857. For three months after his graduation, July, August and September, 1857, he served the church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, as temporary supply. In October, the church having tested his ability to perform the regular duties of the sacred office, called him to the pastorate, and to equip him for the performance of all the duties of this office, arranged to have him ordained. He was examined with regard to his conversion, his call to the ministry, his beliefs, and his spiritual zeal by a presbytery, composed of Rev. Daniel Read, D.D., President of Shurtleff College, Rev. John H. Clark, resident of Cape Girardeau, and Rev. D. L. Phillips of Jonesboro, Illinois, was unanimously recommended to the church as a candidate, worthy of the consecrating rite, and was ordained on the 4th day of October, 1857. He died after sixty years of loving service in the cause of his Master, as the honored Pastor Emeritus of the church over which he first exercised a regular pastor's care. Who can doubt the sublime fitness of God's providences, in view of this happy coincidence? At this time his services were distributed among the three churches, Cape Girardeau, two Lord's days in the month; Jackson and Goshen, now Oak Ridge, one Lord's day each. Until 1861 his residence was in Cape Girardeau.

      Near the close of his first year as pastor of the church in Cape Girardeau, September 28, 1858, he married Miss Sarah Juden, the lovely and accomplished daughter of Judge Thomas Juden and his wife, Nancy Holcomb Juden of Cape Girardeau County. This marriage was a

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peculiarly happy one. Adapted by nature, training, and rich spiritual experience for the sacred calling of a Christian minister's wife, she devoted all the riches of her noble character to the performance of the duties of this exacting relationship. Mr. Maple would often say that while his marriage was the most important event of his life, it was also the most fortunate, for with her ready assistance, her wifely helpfulness, and her feminine intuition that enabled her to judge wisely, she so sympathetically wrought with him in all his efforts to serve the Lord to the best of his ability, that one might say that to her influence he owed more of his signal success in life, than to any other single agent.

      The first day of January, 1861, Mr. Maple opened Jackson Academy in Jackson, the county seat of Cape Girardeau County, and here with Mrs. Maple's efficient assistance he conducted a thriving school until it was closed by military order. After this he opened a private school in Cape Girardeau, and in a very short time had enrolled one hundred pupils, with promise of permanent success.

      In his pastoral work, beginning in 1857 in this locality, where he preached uninterruptedly until the beginning of the war between the states, he did signal service in promoting the cause of Christianity and the Baptist Denomination. Even after the military condition of the community was such that regular religious public exercises were greatly disturbed on every Lord's Day when the movements of the army did not prevent, he accomplished much in keeping the brethren heartened amid conflict and trial, and in leading souls to find the peace that outer conditions failed to give, in a surrender of themselves to the gentle and loving service of their Lord. But the labor of preaching

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and teaching, and the debilitating influence of the malarious climate - now, in 1917, rendered salubrious by the efficient draining of adjacent swamps combined, proved so detrimental to his health, that he was impelled to relinquish his work here and seek different if not lighter labor in a more healthful climate. In 1864 he went to Kentucky, where he spent a few months in successful evangelistic work. With greatly improved health, he accepted the call to become pastor of the Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky, and entered upon these duties January 1, 1865, and thus returned to the chosen occupation of his life. He labored here with gratifying success for five years, and when he tendered his resignation he left the church in spiritual matters, strong and united; in material affairs, free from debt and active in all benevolent enterprises. He left Owensboro to accept the call to the pastorate of the First Baptist Church of Kansas City, Missouri. He entered this pulpit June 1, 1870 and preached here during the perplexing period of reconstruction after the Civil War, when party feelings of the strongest hue invaded even the churches. There was an effort making on the part of some earnest brethren to consolidate the two Baptist interests, that of the First Church, located on Eighth and May Streets, and the Third Church on the corner of Eleventh Street and Grand Avenue, each at the time being naught but a struggling interest, and form a substantial church. The failure to accomplish this union, though greatly deplored by the advocates of the plan, has proved in the lapse of years to have been providential, as witness, see the two great and prosperous churches into which these weak churches have grown, in addition to the many other flourishing Baptist churches now existing in this great city. Dr. Maple, rather than struggle along
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under the apparent handicap of the unsuccessful effort resigned.

      While he was pastor of the First Church, he did very successful work among the Swedes in the city, which resulted in the organization of the Swedish Baptist Church, which at the present writing, is a flourishing organization, and holds its venerable friend in the most affectionate remembrance.

      In the spring of 1872 he went to Chillicothe for what proved to be a very short pastorate. Arriving there he found an excellent membership, but handicapped by some local troubles that he feared would militate against his doing the good there that it was his desire to do and after an eight months' residence, accepted a call from the First Church, Springfield, Missouri. His work here commenced auspiciously and he found a hearty welcome to the responsibilities of the pastorate in a rapidly growing city. After he had been in Springfield for a few months the church in Cape Grirardeau sent a request that the brethren in Springfield lend them their pastor for a few weeks that he might hold a meeting with them. This request was granted and a gracious meeting was held in the Cape, and he returned to his home. Without consulting him, the Cape Girardeau Baptists secured an ample subscription, and unanimously called him to take charge of their church. Somte of the conditions in the securing this subscription were unusual. The church itself was in a struggling condition. Two or three of the largest sums subscribed were offered by men outside the church, and would be offered to no other man. The church pressing this fact upon him, induced him to accept this call, though reluctantly. This inside history of his early resignation from the pastorate in Springfield will remove from him

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the possible charge of having dealt unfairly with the Springfield brethren. In the spring of 1874 he returned to the field of his first labors.

      The Third District Normal School had been located in this place and was just opening for work. The prospective influx of young people made this a place of unusual importance. The brethren of the Baptist Church here felt that this field needed a man of strategic ability, and his old friends of ten years before felt that he was the man for this important work.

      (A digression) His diary for July 19, 1874 furnishes this interesting note of a personal character.)
      "Saw in the congregation this morning Professor R. P. Rider, an old schoolmate. After the sermon, spoke to him. He takes a professorship in the Normal School. How glad I am to be thus associated with him, no one but myself knows."

      And thus we met after seventeen years' separation, caused by his ministerial changes and my tutorial wanderings. Then we renewed our old college intimacy, since which we have been to each other Brother Beloved.

      Here he labored, reverenced and loved, until the summer of 1877, when by impaired state of health he was again obliged to leave Cape Girardeau to seek health in another part of the state. He became pastor of the Baptist Church, Mexico, Missouri, and he and his wife dwelt in Hardin College. Here they gave President and Mrs. Terrill valuable assistance in the difficult labor of managing so great a school.

      In the year of 1878 he was appointed by Gov. J. S. Phelps to represent Missouri at the World-Exposition, Paris, Prance. His tour on this occasion embraced the

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city of Rome and the western part of Europe. The graphic and eloquent record of this tour is embodied in a series of letters to the Central Baptist. Two or three years after his return, he continued to minister to the church in Mexico. From Mexico he went November 1, 1881 to the church in Marshall, Missouri. Here in the varied experiences incident to a pastorate of five years' extent he labored abundantly and successfully. Many persons found the Lord and were received as new-born children into the church-family, and were nourished into stalwart servants, working gladly and earnestly in the vineyard of the Lord.

      During this pastorate he was called upon to do the thing that has so often cost the pastor the unity of support that is a vital necessity of a consecrated ministry, viz: the building of a new house of worship. So frequently does the conflicting strain of difference in opinion between pastor and people work disaster, that some wise man has said: "The pastor who builds a new House of Worship, seldom remains to worship in it." But such was not the result in this connection. The new building was completed and the pastor and people rejoiced together. This loving harmony has extended into the later years, for in the year of 1912 the church at Marshall unanimously voted him Pastor Emeritus for the remaining years of his life. A loving tribute to a lovely man of God.

      In this new building the church at Marshall welcomed the celebrating hosts of the Lord's people when they came together in the Jubilee-Year of the General Association to honor God and give praise to Him who had increased the number of His chosen ones in Missouri, from 5,000 or 6,000 in 1834 to much over 100,000 in 1884.

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      This beloved pastor and the affectionate flock labored together in this commodious fold, that owed so much of its elegant convenience to the wisdom and taste of its pastor and his wife, for two fruitful years. From Marshall he went in response to an earnest, even insistent call from the First Baptist Church in Keokuk, Iowa, November, 1886. He once said to me, not boastfully, but with the desire to let his friend know something of the exactions of a minister's life, "I preached at Keokuk for eleven years and two months, and during that time never repeated a sermon." A young student for the ministry once asked an experienced and successful preacher how often it would do to repeat a sermon, if preaching to the same congregation. The minister replied: "Well, perhaps once in two years, if there are not too many white bears in it." Here, perhaps is a suggestion of one of the steps in the solution of the present day problem of the short pastorate. The people have become a reading people; they think in straight, business-like lines, and are ready to recognize any special or peculiar merit in the pulpit efforts of the preacher. The preacher finds that the growing needs of the pastoral life involve the performance of many and varied social functions, that engross his time and exhaust his energy, and in the midst of the whirl he feels obliged continually to bring new things out of the storehouse and he grows weary, and either fails to keep the interest of his flock alive, or wears out his physical and intellectual strength in the apparently fruitless effort to do so, and as the result seeks a new field where he may more effectively make use of his plentifully garnered riches. Notice the simple, unvarnished, almost pathetic statement: "Preached eleven years and never repeated a sermon." Twenty-five good sized volumes of earnestly thought out carefully produced reading matter!
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      From Keokuk he returned to what might be called his native heath, i.e., he returned to Missouri. He came to Trenton, Missouri, December, 1899 for a short pastorate of three and a half years, strengthened the church and gained many friends for the cause and for himself as a person well-fitted for friendship of the highest type; but the constant effort of nearly fifty years in the ministry began to tell upon a frame not naturally very robust, and he decided if in accord with the Master's will, to lay a portion of the burden down. In 1901 he purchased a comfortable home in the pleasant little town, Armstrong, Missouri, and there settled down to enjoy the comforts of a quiet home and such work as his strength would permit him to do without too great a tax upon his energies. He took charge of the Armstrong Church that had but half time preaching. He continued this work for three years, then decided that the Lord's will would be well served in his resting from his labors and giving special care to his invalid wife, who had borne with him the toil and anxiety of a long period in the Master's service, and was now unable to work further. And thus ended his professional life after a continual service of nearly fifty years.

      Although the number of his pastorates is a goodly one, in looking back upon his long life of service, we find that it was not augmented at any time by personal whim, professional prejudice or desire for larger emolument. The condition of his health, the feeling that he could perhaps render the Lord more effectual service elsewhere were the efficient motives for his changes of field of labor. He at all times and consistently advocated the principles set forth clearly and cogently in his sermon on "Permanency in the Pastorate," published the Standard, Chicago, February 21, 1889. It would seem that in this discussion of a subject,

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then, all important, now 1917, vital, the last had been said, but evidences multiply that it will have to be said again and again if the restlessness in the pulpit is to be remedied.


      Dr. Maple's ability as a speaker, reliability in judgment and readiness to do his full duty when it became evident what that duty was, made him not only an acceptable and reliable servant of the denomination in dealing with its state-wide questions, and in aiding its chosen institutions to plan wisely for their future welfare, he was an essental member of the various boards in control of these interests. His services were given freely, and his attention to the duties involved was always prompt and faithful. His period of membership of the State Mission Board extended from 1877 to 1886. From 1878 to 1886 he was president of the board, elected to succeed Dr. Yeaman, appointed secretary of the board, when he resigned, having accepted a call to the pastorate of the First Church, Keokuk, Iowa. This period embraced the era of dissension that was rife with calumnious misrepresentations, to the serious detriment of our state work. The progress of mendacity was effectually scotched by an impromptu reply to the attacks of those scattering abroad the seeds of dissension by a speech made by Dr. Maple during the session of the General Association in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1879. This painful era called forth the noted paper, "A Vindication of the General Association and the Executive Board, Etc." The eloquent tribute paid him by the Committee on Publication for the Semi-Centennial Memorial will better than any other statement set forth his outstanding merits as the loved and honored member and president of the Board of State Missions:
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"In no department of Christian labor and In no official position has Dr. Maple won more distinction and the affection of his brethren than in the State Mission work of the Missouri Baptist General Association. As chairman of the State Mission Board, a position which he held for six years, he has rendered invaluable service to the denomination of Baptists in the state. In this official position he has not been content with merely presiding at the meetings of the board, but to the duties of the office he has brought timely thought and telling speech and ready writing. He has given the subject of missions that attention that an enlightened and faithful Christian might be expected to give a subject so vital to Christian progress. He has worked.

"For five or six years of Dr. Maple's chairmanship of the State Mission Board, he has written the annual reports of the Board, which have each been adopted by the Board and presented to the General Association without any more than the slightest emendation. These reports discover to the careful reader a close attention and comprehensive thought of the great work of State Missions.

"When the Board has been depressed and hindered for want of funds, he has gone forth to churches and associations, and by facts, figures, and persuasiveness has induced them to make liberal contributions. When the Board, and its work, and the Corresponding Secretary have been misrepresented and falsely accused by misinformed, disappointed Baptists, he has come - not rashly and officiously - but modestly, yet deliberately and grandly to the front with the glittering sword of truth and volleys of flashing eloquence to silence the enemy and assure victory for the right.

"From his own income as pastor he has given liberally and cheerfully to help bear the burdens of the missionaries, as they went forth, weeping, bearing precious seed.

"His prompt and faithful attendance on the meetings

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of the Board at his own expense, helps to attest his worth as a member and officer, and his whole career as a Christian minister and servant of the General Association entitles him to this inadequate tribute."
      For several years he was one of the curators of Stephens College, also a member of the Board of Trustees of William Jewell College. These and all other positions of honor and responsibility he resigned when he left the state to accept the pastorate of the First Church of Keokuk, Iowa.

      On his return from Iowa in 1897 he was appointed a member of the Board of Home and Foreign Missions, and continued to be an active member of this board until 1914, when he felt that as his health would not permit him to attend the meetings regularly, it would be better for him to withdraw, which he did.

      The latest honor that the denomination placed upon him was in his years of retirement to commit the compilation of Missouri Baptist Biography to his supervision. It came on this wise: The eloquent moderator of the General Association, that met in Nevada, Missouri, October 18-20. 1910, during the joint meeting of the Missouri Baptist Historical Society and the General Association, made an earnest appeal for the preservation of the life-records of our worthy leaders of the past. His appeal was followed by a presentation of the following resolution, which was unanimously passed.

"Resolved that we request Dr. J. C. Maple to prepare a history of our representatives of the past in Missouri for publication..."
      Dr. Maple accepted the commission, and on reaching home, at once began work upon it. On the work incident to this charge he labored not to the day, but to the hour
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of his death, with the gratifying result that with the aid of his co-laborer he had completed the compiling and writing of the biographical sketches of nearly two hundred eminent Missouri Baptist men and women.

      A few months before his death, he was accorded a unique and signal honor: In the summer of 1917 some members of the church in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where he was residing and waiting the call from on high, learned that he had among his manuscripts the first sermon that he preached from the Cape Girardeau pulpit sixty years before, July 5, 1857. As July 8, 1917 would be the sixtieth anniversity of this date, the church requested him to preach the same sermon on that date. He consented, and the following comments on the unusual circumstance appeared in the Daily Republican Saturday preceding the anniversary day:

"Tomorrow the Reverend J. C. Maple, dean of Baptist ministers in Missouri, will preach the same sermon he delivered in the old Baptist Church of Cape Girardeau just sixty years ago.

"'He who can, in the evening time of life, return to the place of early endeavor confident of the respect due him who has done all things well, is indeed fortunate.' This was said centuries ago by an Oriental poet-philosopher who was inspired with the divine spark, although he knew nothing of a divinity other than taught by his philosopy.

"That the venerable man whom we all love to honor can, after three-score years, give in the place of his first endeavor the same sermon is evidence that he has 'done all things well,' and that his fellow citizens, regardless of sect, delight to sit under the words of his discoure, is a tribute to one who has for all these three-score years lived in the spirit of the text he preached from in the virility of his early manhood, and which, in the evening time of life he is able to preach with long years of experience.

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"'Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path' were the words taken from the beautiful 19th Psalm, July 5, 1857, and the same words of the Psalm and the same words of the sermon, read from the yellowed, ink-faded manuscript will be given by Dr. Maple, July 8, 1917.

"Not one of that congregation is left in life. All have been gathered unto the Giver of the lamp and Its blessed light; but many there will be under the sound of his voice tomorrow who have known him during the years of their lives, as one who has walked in the light of the lamp and whose feet have not faltered in the way. That he can thus stand before the descendants of that pioneer congregation and once more tell of the beautiful Word which has been the light to illuminate his path, is a blessing that comes to few preachers and to few congregations."

      Since the death of his wife, though not morbidly "longing," the attitude of his spirit can be expressed in these stanzas from Adelaide Anna Proctor's beautiful poem: "Only Waiting."

"Only waiting till the reapers
Have the last sheaf gathered home,
For the the summer time is faded,
And the autumn winds have come.
Quickly, reapers! gather quickly
The last ripe hours of my heart,
For the bloom of life is withered,
And I hasten to depart.

Only waiting till the shadows
Are a little longer grown,
Only waiting till the glimmer
Of the last day's beam is flown.
Then from out the gathered darkness,
Holy, deathless stars shall rise,
By whose light my soul shall gladly
Tread its pathway to the skies."

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     Hardly a letter through the eight years of his bereavement came to my desk from him between the lines of which I could not clearly read the throbbings of this desire to follow his loved one to the regions of the blest. The answer came to his constant prayer in just the way that he had desired that it might come. He had made all necessary preparations to meet me at Springfield, Missouri, at the meeting of the Baptist General Association, October 22, 1917, that we might consult each other with regard to some items of importance with reference to the publishing of the third volume of Missouri Baptist Biography. After supper on the night of October 19, he retired to his room. When called in the morning for breakfast, he having failed to respond, his landlady went to his room to summon him, and found him sitting in his chair, book in hand, under the friendly light that had stood watch over his lifeless form through the night. His spirit had taken its flight to its everlasting home.

     In accordance with an arrangement, previously made, Dr. H. E. Truex, an intimate friend, was summoned to conduct the funeral exercises. On Monday, October 21, he was borne to the Cemetery from the Baptist Church and buried by the side of the wife whom he had brought here for burial eight years before.

     The exercises at the church were conducted by Dr. Truex, who delivered an appreciative address which those present pronounced the most appropriate address for such an occasion they had ever heard. The exercises at the grave were conducted by the Masonic Fraternity of which he was an honored member.

      After a little over sixty years of life in the ministry, he rests from his labors and his works do follow him.


[From J. C. Maple and R. P. Rider, Missouri Baptist Biography, 1918, pp. 9-26. The book is from the St. Louis Public Library. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall]

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