Baptist History Homepage

Notable Laymen of the
Miami Baptist Association

by George F. Davis, Jr., 1898

     Note — In this paper it has been impossible to mention all who, for a hundred years past, have been faithful or even prominent in their home Churches. Except a couple of names, only those liave been given, who, in addition to their effectiveness at home, have wrought worthily in broader fields, as in the Miami Baptist Association and its Sunday-school Conven­tion in the Cincinnati Baptist Church Union, and, in some cases, in our State and National Baptist enterprises. It may also be stated that the Committee of Revision thought best to strike from this paper the names of those still living, save those of a few brethren who have already passed the three-score and ten years of active life, the propriety of whose retention will be apparent to all. This will account for the difference between this sketch as read and as printed. — GFD,Jr.

      The memory of the writer of this paper gjoeth not back for one hundred years, and that he might make suitable mention of the prominent laymen of the early times, he turned first of all to the records as printed in the minutes of the Association, of which he found an almost complete file from 1810. But, to his amazement, he found scarcely a mention therein of a layman's name for the first third of the century. Either the ministers possessed all the brains and abilities of the Churches in those days, or thought they did, for they filled the offices, did all the talking, and occupied all the space in the records.

      But time brings its recompenses, for from other sources the needed in­formation has been gained, and to-night the laymen have their innings. We will not deny that we have had notable ministers in our Churches, yet for the coming half hour no minister's name will be mentioned, except a few who made a creditable record while laymen, and, except for the reference to them in this initial paragraph, you will have no reason, from hearing this paper, to suspect that a minister ever had place among us; for we are to speak of

The Notable Laymen

Of the Miami Baptist Association for the past one hundred years, and we shall confine ourselves strictly to our subject.

      About 1787, Captain Ben Stites, a Baptist, floated down the Ohio with a boat load of provisions, which he sold to the settlements then springing up along the southern side of the river. While selling goods in Washington, Ky.,an Indian raid was made on the vicinity, and horses and other spoils carried off. Captain Stites, who had fought Indians before, at once organized a party to pursue the marauders. In this pursuit be crossed the Ohio near the mouth of the Iiittle Miami and followed the trail up the valley of that stream. He gained thus a conception of the beauty and fertility of the country hereabouts. A few months later he met Judge Symmes, who had just purchased from the Govern­ment 311,000 acres of land, embracing, except a few sections in each township reserved for public purposes, all the territory lying between the Great and Little Miamis, and extending from the Ohio nearly to Dayton. He bought of him 10,000 acres, and arranged to join his company of settlers, and a year later he came with Symmes and about thirty others, and landed, November 18,1788, near Columbia, now a part of Cincinnati. This was the first of the settlements in or near the present Cincinnati, and, except Marietta, settled April 7, of the same year, the first one in Ohio. With Captain Stites were five other Baptists, Jno. S. Gano, Thos. C. Wade, Greenbright Bailey and Mrs. Bailey, his wife, and Ed­mund Buxton. Immediately, on landing, prayer was offered to God for His guidance and protection, and a hymn of praise sung.

      Fourteen months later (January 20, 1790), the first Baptist Church in Ohio, and the first Protestant Church in the North-western Territory, was organized in this locality, composed of nine persons and an additional three who were then candidates for baptism and were received into the Church the day follow­ing. Among these twelve we find the names Ferris, Davis, Gano and Stites that have been perpetuated in the Churches of this vicinity to the present day.

      In 1792 they built a meeting house, the first one erected by Protestants in all the North-western Territory, and these were the days of the Church militant,

[p. 71]
for every man came to the Church meetings armed, and strict discipline of a military sort was enforced at the meetings, until Wayne's victory over the Indians, in 1794, reduced them to submission and quiet. Then followed a scattering of the whites, and so of the Baptists, into the adjacent country, as it was now safe for them to settle where they pleased, and in smaller communities. Four or five Churches were organized during the next few years, mostly by members dismissed from the Columbia Church for that purpose.

      On September 23, 1797, thirty members of four of these Churches, viz., Columbia, Carpenter's Run, Miami Island and Clear Creek, and having an ag­gregate membership of about one hundred and fifty, met to organize an Asso­ciation. It took a year to perfect the organization as they thought requisite. So it was October 20, 1798, when the first regular session of the fully organized Association met. Richard Ayres, David Snodgrass and Francis Dunlevy seem to have been the most prominent laymen in this preliminary work. Richard Ayres was a member of Carpenter's Run Church, which was located a little north-west of what is now Rossmoyne, and he seems to have been a pillar in that Church for some thirty years. He and his family then moved away, and the Church soon ceased to exist, or gave place to the Mt. Carmel Church. Ayres was often selected for Clerk of the Association and to serve on important com­mittees, and was evidently a man of ability and activity.

      David Snodgrass belonged to the Columbia Church, and was the clerk of the first meeting of the Association. But though he started well as a layman he soon after "left his first estate," i.e., turned preacher and — disappeared from view.

      Francis Dunlevy was a member of the Clear Creek Church, but in this same year helped form a branch church, for a while called the Turtle Creek Church, the Lebanon Church of to-day. He was a notable man of his day, and would have been were he living at this later date. He was born in Virginia, served in his teens in several campaigns of the Revolutionary War or in Indian wars. He then later took a college course, and began studies in preparation for the Pres­byterian ministry, His study of the Scriptures at this time convinced him that the Baptists were right in their distinctive doctrines and ordinances, and as he was always true to his convictions he at once, to the mortification of his whole family, was baptized and joined a Baptist Church. About the same time he became convinced that the ministry was a sacred calling, and not to be entered except by those plainly called of God to preach His gospel, and as he did not recognize such a call in his case, he remained a layman.

      Even in that early day he was outspoken in his condemnation of slavery while yet in his Virginia home; and when the ordinance of 1787 was passed making the North-western Territory forever free from slavery, he determined, as soon as he could, to emigrate thither, and so came to Columbia in 1792. Here he taught school, became a lawyer, was made a member successively of the Territorial Legislature, of the convention that formed the first Constitution of Ohio, and of the first State Legislature. For the next fourteen years he served as presiding judge of the court whose circuit embraced the south-western half dozen counties of the State.

      All his life he was a close student of the Bible and of the doctrinal ques­tions of the day, and a power for good in holding his church untouched by the several heresies of his time. Especially was he acti. e in the anti-mission con­tention that split the Association in 1836, using all his influence on the side of missions. Thus for forty-seven years, until his death in 1839, he was active in his Church and in this Association.

      Into the same Church entered, in 1798, another strong character, Matthias Corwin. He was very like Dunlevy in most every characteristic, and a con­genial worker with him till his death in 1829. Corwin was a man of the utmost integrity and principle, and preferred farm life to mercantile pursuits or legal practice, because more free from the tricks and deceptions so general in these avocations. Yet though he lived most of his life on a farm, he was sent several times to the State Legislature, and was finally elected by the Legislature a judge, and served as such acceptably for many years. In his Church he was for

[p. 72]
most of his thirty years the most active deacon in it, and always at his post. He was also prominent in this Association, and was honored by it with appoint­ments to many important duties. His descendants are with us to-day.

     A few other names appear in the records of the first thirty years of the century in such a way as to indicate worth and usefulness, viz., Lewis Drake, of Lebanon; Richard Gaines, of Cheviot; Isaac and John Ferris, of Columbia, and Jas. Lyon, of Duck Creek, who later entered the ministry. But no full account of them seems to exist.

     Between 1830 and 1840 names begin to show of brethren whom many of us remember, and who were so prominent as to be worthy of mention here.

      John Bevan, of Ninth Street and, later, of Mt. Auburn Churches, was a good business man, well to do in his younger manhood, and not only a liberal giver of his means to every good work, but also known to his brethren as for years carrying on his own credit heavy financial liabilities on account of our Baptist enterprises, notably in the case of the Fairmount Theological Seminary. He was a simple, quiet, plain man, but a man of unflinching integrity, of convic­tions, and of sincere Christian life. He was as sturdy a Baptist as ever lived, and for nearly all his life a deacon, who "purchased to himself a good degree and great boldness in the faith." He loved his Church and all the gatherings of his brethren, associational or otherwise, and was always present when able to come, and in them it was always a delight to see his face or hear him as he talked or prayed.

     There were also I. T. Saunders, of Hamilton; J. B. Drake, I. Corwin and W. R. Collett, of Lebanon; Jas. Cooper, Thos. Harris, and Deacons J. W. Shepard and Geo. Crawford, of the city, and F. J. Tytus, of Middletown, who came into prominence in the Association during this decade.

      Deacon Tytus was tall and of fine personal appearance, dignified, yet cordial and affable to all, and topped with beautiful hair of snowy whiteness, that "crown of glory when found in the way of righteousness." He was an earnest Christian, a pillar in his home Church, and for over fifty years, till his death in 1887, a regular attendant on the sessions of our Association. How well we remember him, and how incomplete seemed our assembly without his presence!

      Edward Harwood came to Cincinnati in 1837, and till his death in 1875 was a power for good in Baptist circles and in philanthropic work. He belonged suc­cessively to the Baker Street, Sixth Street, Elm Street, First Baptist and Web­ster Street Churches. He chose the Churches which were weakest and needed him most. He was an active and successful business man. But be was espe­cially active and successful as a manager and conductor of the famous Under­ground Railway that did such a thriving passenger business between the Ohio River and the Canada line till the Civil War and Lincoln's Emancipation Proc­lamation ended it.

      Ephraim Robins was a man of recognized ability among the underwriters of his day. He was first a member of the Enon Baptist Church, and for some fifteen years prior to his death, about 1845, was an active Christian worker in both local and State affairs. He was one of the organizers of the missionary society in Cincinnati which developed later into our Ohio Baptist State Con­vention.

     One other name deserves mention as entering our circles in this decade. Victor Williams, a young man of twenty-four, came, in 1840, with his violin to take a position in the Eclectic Music School of Cincinnati. He at once began to attend the Ninth Street Church, and was soon invited to play his instrument in the choir services. But he was admonished to sit on the floor or on a very low chair, and to play softly lest the members of the Church should take offense at his violin as being too suggestive of the theater or the ball-room, which he did. Before the year passed he succeeded to the place of chorister.

      He was never a delegate to this Association. But he loved his Church and music, and combined the two in a life of devoted service. On every occasion of public gathering of our Baptist societies, whether local or National, held in Ninth Street as the largest and most central of our churches, he was ready to provide the best music the city could produce in aid of the services, and he

[p. 73]
would have the best vocal and instrumental musicians there at whatever per­sonal expense to himself. For forty years Ninth Street had the reputation of haying the finest music of any Church in Cincinnati, and deserved it. Bro. Williams had in his choir from forty to sixty singers, and until the coming of the organ, in 1867, an orchestra of a dozen instruments; and the writer has heard the "Hallelujah Chorus," and other like musical masterpieces, given by that choir with a precision, a force and expression, filling the old church till the rafters rung, that was more uplifting to him than the renderings of the same choruses by the Festival Chorus of the Music Hall in these later days.

     Victor Williams was the musical genius of Cincinnati in the '40s and '50s. He could play and teach every instrument, and with his school and choir for nuclei he gathered and for a term of years conducted a philharmonic associa­tion of three to four hundred singers, with an orchestra of some fifty instru­ments. And the concerts he gave from 1843 to 1858 were the events of the win­ter seasons.

     Victor knew his place and kept it, and in quiet performance of his duties rendered the church valuable service of several kinds. He always maintained quiet and good order in his choir, avoided the dissensions so common to choirs, and always made his selections and conducted his music in harmony with his pastor's preaching or the occasion, and so as to promote the best spiritual results. Moreover, he was always watching out for good voices, and hundreds of his young pupils whom he taught in the schools were invited by him into his choir, who thus became attendants on the services of the church, and were eventually converted and led into its membership. From 1840 to 1890, fifty years, Victor Williams was chorister of this church, and is entitled to this men­tion among the notable laymen of the Association during the century.

      In the next decade, that from 1840 to 1850, appear a number of names that sound familiar to us. First, some from the Churches of Dayton, O., which were in association with us till the year 1860, viz., E. E. Barney, W. P. Hufman and E. Thresher, that splendid trio of Christian men, whose good works extended far beyond associational bounds. Next, those from Churches still constituents of this body, viz., L. Osborne, R. G. Corwin, John Drake, A. H. Dunlevy, a strong quartet from the Lebanon Church; D. Potter and V. D. Enyart, from Middle-town ; Deacon John Smith, William Powell, Barker Palmer, D. G. A. Davenport, J. DeCamp and Samuel Trevor, of the city Churches, and mostly from Ninth Street; W. A. Van Home and Chas. Butler, of Franklin; all men whose very mention suggests the integrity of character, the generosity of contributions, the zealous labors, the sincerity and grace of daily deportment that constitute ideal Christian character and life. Brethren Palmer and Davenport still abide with us. So does Chas. Butler, for fifty years a pillar in his Chufch, and who was, in his prime of life, very prominent in this Association, having twice, in 1863 and 1865, served as its Moderator.

      Between 1850 and 1860 there entered into the records of our Association the names of some of the most effective workers it ever had. Some of them had been active in their own Churches for ten or fifteen years before, but in this decade first took part in associational affairs: H. B. Meeker, of Franklin; the brothers Samuel and William Ferris, of our East End Churches, those veterans of fifty years' service, whom we all love and are delighted to have with us to-day; F. W. Athearn and John H. Tangeman, of Lockland; and from the city churches, Wm. Shays, J. H. Cheever, Harry H. Shipley, E. J. Wilson, H. Thane Miller, R. A. Holden, and Geo. F. Davis.

      H. Thane Miller was a man of emotional nature, and an effective worker upon those of like temperament. During the earlier part of his life he was devoted to his church and other Baptist organizations. And he was especially notable for his musical gift. As a young_ man he had one of the finest tenor voices the writer ever heard, and in the Ninth Street choir, and on many special occasions, he used it to the delight of all who listened.

     Geo. F. Davis was a business man, fairly successful in accumulating wealth, and honored in many ways, politically, socially, and in mercantile bodies, by his associates, who esteemed him and recognized his abilities. But he was preeminently

[p. 74]
a Christian and a Baptist. Being what he was from conviction, he was from that fact content to do his principal work in the Baptist Church and in furthering Baptist enterprises. To these, whether local, State or National, and whether missionary or educational, he gave freely of his time, labor and means; and he loved his brethren an<| their gatherings. From 1855 to 1881 no other name appears so often as his in the records of the proceedings of the Miami Baptist Association and of the Sunday-school Convention, which he was a prime mover in organizing.

      R. A. Holden and J. H. Tangeman are still with us; and, though living, we think we are safe in speaking of our love for them and our high appreciation of their gifts and labors in behalf of the great cause so dear to all our hearts.

      Bro. Holden first appears in the minutes as a delegate from Ninth Street in 1851. From that year also the writer dates his personal recollection of him. God has richly blessed his business career, and right well has he used, as a good steward, the wealth entrusted to him. For our city has not known a more liberal giver to every Baptist enterprise in Cincinnati and vicinity, to our State and National Societies for educational and missionary work, and to a host of charit­able and philanthropic causes outside our management. Nor is it merely his gifts for which we prize him. For over forty years he has been a deacon, always faithful, and a regular participant in the weekly prayer-meeting. He has always been willing and prompt to give his time and practical wisdom to inaugurating and guiding our various enterprises. And though more than four-score years have passed over him, he still continues to show the same effective interest in all that pertains to the Master's cause.

     Bro. Tangeman also began active participation in our Association in the same year — 1851 — as a delegate from the Lockland Church, and his name ap­pears as delegate to nearly every annual session since. He has been an active business man all his life, and what God has enabled him to gather he has used conscientiously and according to Scripture rule. Warm-hearted, but not impul­sive, he has always been ready to consider the merits of any cause presented to him, and to give to it according to his estimate of its worthiness and his own ability. In his church, in this Association, in our State Convention, at our State College, and in numerous evangelizing or benevolent agencies, by his presence and labors, as well as contributions, he has been a substantial helper and a beloved associate. He is now an active member of this body and one of its Trustees.

      May God bless us by giving us many more opportunities of welcoming brethren Holden and Tangeman to our sessions.

      Between 1860 and 1880, a double decade, a good many brethren, more or less active in their home Churches and Sunday-schools previously, came into prom­inence in the sessions of our Association and Sunday-school Convention. Most of them are living in the prime of physical vigor and Christian usefulness, the mainstays of their Churches and schools, so that it is not necessary here even to mention their names. Some of them, however, have finished their earthly work, of whom are John Drake, T. F. Thompson, S. Suydam and John Simonton, of Lebanon; Jos. Hildreth, W. E. Davis and N. Getzendanner, of Cheviot; Geo. S. Blaney, of Madisonville; W. P. Stewart, of Pleasant Ridge; Wm. Moore, of Middletown; E. J. Dalton, Gardner Phipps and C. W. Mclntyre, of Cincinnati.

      Wm. Moore, a missionary for a half dozen years till his health failed him, thence a business man and layman for a long term of usefulness.

      Gardner Phipps, a merchant and man of large means; converted late in life, but converted pocket-book and all, and for fifteen years, till his death in 1881, a power for good in city and national evangelizing agencies.

      C. W. Mclntyre, especially worthy of mention here for his labors in connec­tion with the Cincinnati Baptist Church Union.

      From 1880 to date many young men have come to the front — bright, zeal­ous, effective, devoted—who are running our Sunday-schools, leading our B. Y. P. Unions, conducting our mission services, filling the offices and taking the principal parts in our Sunday-school Convention, and gradually edging their way into the associational and other more prominent gatherings of our day.

[p. 75]
They are fine stock, and give good promise of becoming strong and notable workers in the near future, who will fill creditably the vacant places to be left by our veterans, as one by one they finish their earthly labors and answer the summons of the Master.

      Notable laymen of the Miami Association for the hundred years past! Lay­men in the generic sense of that term, hence including the women. The evolu­tion of the laymen, so far as the brethren were concerned, from obscurity to prominence, took nearly the whole of the first fifty years. The like evolution of the sisters took thirty years longer. Not that the women had no societies whatever, or were not workers at home in their Churches, but their names never appeared in the minutes of the Association, as nowadays, nor did they under­stand or appreciate themselves. We know there was a Woman's Burman Mis­sion Society in Ninth Street Church organized as early as 1832, and having Mrs. S. W, Lynd as its president for fourteen years, that did good service; we know that later the Ladies' Benevolent Society of the same Church did more than home work for the poor of the Church and Sunday-school, as witness its efficient aid given to the German mission until it became the well-housed and self-supporting_ German Church that we are well pleased to number on our associational list of Churches. And other Churches had similar women's societies.

      But it was Mrs. Samuel W. Duncan and Mrs. S. K. Leavitt who, by their per­sonal enthusiasm, their good executive ability for organizing and administering the Woman's Foreign and Home Mission Societies of this Association, devel­oped our women into self-reliant and effective workers. And now behold what a work they have done for a quarter century past, the money they have con­tributed, the missionaries they have sent forth from their own membership, the public meetings they conduct without help from the brethren! And note the front place which they maintain alongside their fathers and husbands in all our gatherings! And what a goodly array of names they present to-day as succes­sors to those who originally gave them their first impulse!

      Verily, we are come to the culmination of the Pentecostal day or era, proph­esied by Joel as interpreted by Peter, in which the spirit of God is poured forth on ALL flesh; not only on ministers, but on laymen; not only on men, but on women; not only on the aged, but on the young, even upon sons and daugh­ters, men-servants and hand-maidens, so that all do prophet's work, all be spokesmen for God and wondrous workers in his behalf.

      Taking the hundred years past we find that laymen have eleven times been chosen moderator of this Association, over sixty times its clerk, seven times have written the circular letters, and a half dozen times the Church histories, that have been printed with our minutes. Most of these functions by laymen have dated during the last forty years. But the day has come when in the pew and pulpit alike are found the brains, the education, the executive ability, the Christian spirit, that qualify for office and service; and the day has come when the sisters stand in line with the brethren in the possession of these high qual­ifications. As, then, we forecast the coming centuiy, we confidently prophesy an increasing prominence of the laymen in the administration of our Church, Associational and National agencies; and such large numbers of them engaged therein as shall give the writer of our second centennial paper on the notable laymen of this Association, need for more time than the half hour allotted to this one; and who knows but that the scope of that future writer's survey may include the chronicle of some bright woman's advent to the chief place in our assembly, even to filling the chair of moderator!


[From the 100th Anniversary Edition of the Miami Baptist Association Minutes, 1898. This document is from the Miami Baptist Association office. - jrd.

Miami Baptist Histories
Ohio Baptist Church Histories
Baptist History Homepage