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Rev. Charles Hiram Mattoon
Early Oregon Baptist Minister and Historian

A personal sketch of our historian, Rev. C. H. Mattoon, was expected from a more gifted pen, but being disappointed, one who has known him longer and more intimately than any other man now living, has volunteered this work, knowing "that the author would never write it. It is due Brother Mattoon, and also the writer, to say that at the meeting of the Revision Committee of the Baptist State Convention, held at Portland, in May, 1891, it was the unanimous opinion of that committee, that a sketch of the author, together with his photograph, should appear, believing that the history would otherwise be incomplete, on account of his long and extensive personal acquaintance, his many strong friends, and his having at various times, and on different lines of business, visited nearly every church on the field, and many of them frequently. Hence this volunteer effort.

Rev. Charles Hiram Mattoon was born at Canastota, New York, April 9, 1826. His fatherís family, except himself, and his ancestry, so far as known to him, were Old School Presbyterians, and he was raised in that faith, and educated at a Presbyterian institution (Central College, Ohio). His mother died when he was about three years old; but his father married again, and in 1837 moved to Deleware County, Ohio, where our brother, at the age of eighteen, made a profession of religion, and, being forced thereto by his understanding of the word of God, united with Genoa Baptist Church, being baptized by the pastor, Rev. William Gildersleeve.

In 1851, Brother Mattoon crossed the Plains to Oregon, in Captain David Clintonís company. Rev. G. C. Chandler and family and Rev. J. S. Read, were in the same company. Our brother was a professional teacher, and followed that business for a number of years; was one of the first faculty of McMinnville college (Professor of Mathematics). His first connection with a Baptist church in this State was with the West Union church in 1851. In 1852 he became one of the constituent members of West Tualatin, now Forest Grove church. The same year he moved his membership to Shiloh church, and in September, 1853, that church licensed him to preach. This is the oldest license granted by any Baptist church in Oregon to anyone now living. Like many early pioneers, it was hard for Brother Mattoon to remain stationary, and he moved about and shifted his membership considerably. At present, and for the past six years, his membership has been at Independence. In 1854-5 he was agent for the American Bible Union, and awakened much interest in this work. In 1856 he started a weekly Baptist newspaper, which lived only about six months. This action was premature -- the denomination not being strong enough to sustain it.

In 1860 he returned to Ohio, married, and immediately returned to Oregon. His wife was his school-mate and those who knew her in Oregon found her to be one of God's noble women, an earnest Christian, conscientious in her convictions, never willing to compromise principle for friendship; and she did not fail to make a lasting impression for good on all with whom she came in contact. At her death, in 1878, she left to the father's care two sons and one daughter. The younger son died May 3, 1889; an honorable, upright young man. The elder son was a telegraph operator and railroad agent on the Oregon Pacific R. R., and was also largely interested in an important business in Independence, which his father looked after for him. It was largely due to the generosity of this son that this history appears, for it is very doubtful if, without his aid, the work would ever have been completed. The daughter is married and doing well. Brother Mattoon again married in 1883.

He was ordained to the ministry by the Brownsville church, in 1871; the Council consisting of Rev. R. C. Hill, M. D., Rev. J. C. Richardson, Rev. C. C. Sperry and Rev. G. W. Warmouth. He was pastor of the Baptist church at Albany, Oregon, for nearly two years, in 1873-4, -- nine months of this time under appointment of the A. B. H. M. Society, of New York. Excepting that time, his work has been mostly in some agency business, or in some other itinerant labor, as he is always best satisfied when on the move.

He is very decided in his convictions on matters of faith and practice, and, when fully aroused, not choice in the use of language, of which he has a ready command. To illustrate his independence in this respect, an incident or two is given: At one of our annual gatherings he delivered himself somewhat forcibly on some topic, when a good old brother by way of reminder said: "Brother Mattoon, if you don't be more careful, lightning will strike close about where you stand some of these days!" He answered at once: "Let'er strike! I have had my say, and it must stand!" Again: while in the employ of the A. B. H. M. Society, at an association, he was giving expression to some of his views, when an aged and godly brother arose and said: "If the Home Mission Society knew you held such views they would revoke your commission." Like a flash was his retort: "1 didn't buy my commission. I will stand by my principles, if none stand by me but the Almighty! I will contend for what I believe to be right, if my commission is revoked before sundown!"

In affirming his propositions, he is analytical and logical, using syllogisms quite freely. In answering an opponent, he usually demands an exact definition of terms, and tries to hold his opponent strictly to the line of argument. He sometimes indulges in sarcasm, at which he is something of an adept, and is fond of reducing his opponent's arguments to an absurdity; but he can come down to solid logic if necessary. As a minister, he is doctrinal and practical, with very little of emotion. He usually dwells on The Church, Election, God's Purposes of Grace, The Preservation of the Saints, Communion, Landmark Baptism, or some other topic which will allow him to surround his leading thought or proposition with an impregnable bulwark of logic and practical application.

Like many who came early to Oregon he has had his share of adventures and startling experiences. One or two incidents I will mention:
One starlight night, passing through a fir grove along a dim trail, he heard a shrill scream near him, but supposing it to be a mischievous boy in the vicinity, he paid no attention to it, and soon the scream was repeated; this time a little nearer; in fact, he could hear the footsteps of some object behind him. He had nothing but a pocket knife with which to defend himself, had it. been necessary to do so. But when the second scream was heard, some fierce dogs came running from a house a short distance ahead, and he was not molested. The next day he went with some of the neighbors and their dogs, and they got on the trail of a large cougar, which they finally killed. It was this animal that did the screaming; and but for the dogs, Brother Mattoon would have fallen a prey to the ravenous beast.

Another thrilling incident occurred while canvassing for the American Bible Union, in 1854-5. He was on foot, and came to the North Santiam river, at what was then known as the Edgar ford. The river being low, he tried to wade over, but the stones were slippery and the current swift, so that he lost his balance, and before he could gain his feet was carried into deep water. He went under once, but as he came up the current carried him into the top of a tree that had been turned up from the bank by the roots, and aided by this he got ashore. In view of the fact that he cannot swim, he regarded the saving of his life as an interposition of Providence; and some eighteen or twenty years after this occurrence he told the writer of this sketch that he believed God had saved his life for some special purpose. He has had several other adventures equally as startling, but this will suffice.

He has now completed his History, which many of us regard as the most important, to him, and to the Baptists of the North Pacific coast, of any work that he has ever undertaken. I have tried to give as true and full sketch of his life as time, space, and circumstances will permit. It is not necessary to name the writer of this article. Let it suffice to say that it is not written because Brother Mattoon wished it. He has simply allowed it to appear, because, the committee and the stockholders being a majority, and unanimous, he cannot help himself.

A. J. H.

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[From Baptist Annals of Oregon, 1905, pp. xvii-xix. Original title: "Sketch of the Author." Provided by Jim Turner, Belfair, WA. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]


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