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  • 1875
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Flushed with the achievements of the previous few weeks, and still sighing for conquests, I now resolved to make a sally in the direction of Lake Apuckaway, lying to the northwest of Lake Maria. I found, on the southern shore, a few families, and made arrangements for an appointment in connection with my next round. I then started to return, but had not gone far, when I found I had lost my reckoning. I looked for my compass as eagerly as Christian for his roll, but I could not find it. This was a double misfortune, to lose both the way and the guide at the same time. I resorted to the device of the backwoodsman, and tried to determine my course by the moss on the trees, but I found this to be a great perplexity and abandoned it. I traveled in divers directions and devious ways until nearly overcome with fatigue and hunger, when I suddenly came upon a newly erected log cabin. The logs had been rolled up to form the body, a roof of “shakes” had been hastily put on, there was no chinking between the logs, there were no windows, and the only door was a blanket. The floor was made of earth, and the fireplace was merely a pile of stones in one corner, from which the smoke ascended through an opening in the roof, at one corner of the building.

I knocked for admittance, and was kindly received. The good man and his wife had but recently come into the country. He had succeeded in erecting his cabin and putting it in its present condition, but had been taken ill with the ague and compelled to suspend operations. He had now been so long confined at home that provisions had become scarce. It was meal time. A few potatoes were taken from the embers and placed on a chest, as a substitute for a table. I was invited to join them in their repast, using a trunk as a seat. Grace was said, under a special sense of the Divine favor. A little salt was added, and the meal was one of the most relishable I had ever eaten. Several years after, I heard the good brother relate the circumstance in a Love Feast, when he took occasion to say the visit was the most refreshing he had ever experienced. It was certainly such to me. The village of Kingston has since sprang up in the vicinity, and has become the head of a circuit.

Returning again to Waupun, I now decided to look over the territory in the more immediate vicinity. Going to the south of the village five miles, I found Mill Creek, where a small settlement had been made. The most central house of the neighborhood was the residence of Brother David Moul, who kindly offered it for a temporary chapel. An appointment was established, and on the 16th day of November a class was formed. Brother Moul was appointed Leader. The class at the first, consisted of the Leader and wife, David Boynton and wife, and two others, but in the revival that soon followed, the number was increased to twenty-two.

Brother Moul was an earnest worker in the Master’s vineyard, generous in his contributions to support the Gospel, and eminently faithful to every trust committed to his keeping. At the end of twenty years, I made a visit to Mill Creek. I found Brother Moul had erected a fine house and was living in manifest comfort; but he retained a vivid recollection of the early days and their sacrifices. Two relics remained, both in a fair state of preservation, which he took great pleasure in showing to me. The first was the old class book that I had given him at the time of the organization of the class. It was a single sheet of foolscap paper, folded together in book form, and stitched. The names upon it were mostly in my own handwriting, and the Leader had carefully made his weekly entries of present and absent, until the pages were filled. The other object of interest was the old house, in which the first meetings were held. Here we had seen remarkable displays of Divine power. And as I now looked upon the old structure, the early scenes seemed to return. I could again see the wide room, filled with rude seats, Brother Moul at the door as usher, the crowds of people that thronged the place, the groups of seekers at the mourners’ bench, and the lines of happy faces that were aglow with hallowed expressions of delight. I could again hear the songs of praise as they rang out in the olden time, full and sweet, filling the place with rarest melody. Nay, as I held communion with the past, I seemed to feel the hallowed influences, that pervaded the early worshippers, breathing through all my being, as of old, and even fancy myself young again, and standing before the multitude as an ambassador of the Master.

But the scene, like the visions of the night, soon disappeared, and I turned sadly away, half regretting that I was no longer a pioneer, and permitted to feed the hungry sheep in the wilderness.

Brother David Boynton, at this writing, remains on the old farm, which has been growing with the passing decades, until the paternal acres have become a large estate. Situated on a prominent highway, his house, until the days of railroads, was the stopping place of all the preachers who needed entertainment at either noon or night. Brother Boynton, in the person of his son, Rev. J.T. Boynton, of the Wisconsin Conference, has given to the Itinerant work, an efficient laborer.

Leaving Mill Creek, I next visited Rock River, a settlement on the Fond du Lac road, six miles east of Waupun. My father had visited this place during the preceding year, and had already established an appointment. Brother W.J.C. Robertson, a gentleman whom we had known in the East, had tendered the use of his house, and here the meetings were now being held. My first visit occurred on the 18th day of November, 1845, In the evening, I held a service and formed a class. The members were W.J.C. Robertson, Martha Robertson, Mary Maxson, Mary Keyes, James Patterson, Charles Drake, Abigail Drake, and Elizabeth Winslow. The last named subsequently became the wife of Rev. J.M.S. Maxson. The first Leader was Brother Robertson. Both the congregation and class grew rapidly in this neighborhood, and the appointment soon took a leading position on the charge. During the ensuing winter a revival occurred, and gave an accession of twenty-five. From the first, this Society has been blessed with a devoted and spiritual membership, and its prayer meetings have been a living power in the land. As a result, revivals have been frequent, and the number saved a host. Passing from private houses, the meetings were held in a school house, but in course of time the school house became too small, and a larger one was built, with a special view to a provision for religious meetings.

In later years I have held Quarterly meetings in this building, when it was thronged with people. On such occasions, after filling the building to its utmost capacity, the good brethren would fill the court around it with wagons, carriages and buggies, loaded with people. It was at one of these gatherings that the little girl said, “Why, Ma, only see how full the school house is on the outside.” During the past year a fine Church has been erected.

Rock River was the home of the lamented Rev. James M.S. Maxson, before he entered the Itinerant work. It was here that he was led to Christ, licensed to preach, and sent out into the vineyard, and certainly the church has had no occasion to deplore her share of the responsibility. Brother Maxson entered the Conference in 1850, and filled with great credit, Omro, Fall River, Grove street Milwaukee, Oconomowoc, Rosendale and Ripon charges. At the last named place, he closed his labors June 19, 1858. He was a man of great force of character, a good preacher, and was thoroughly devoted to his work. He was greatly beloved in his fields of labor, and his death was deeply regretted.

Having organized the class at Rock River, and arranged the plan of appointments to take it into the circuit, I passed on to visit an appointment at the Wilkinson Settlement, which had recently been attached to my charge from the Fond du Lac Circuit. It was situated on the south side of the marsh, nine miles from Fond du Lac and twelve from Waupun. The school house, in which the meetings were held, was located within the limits of the present village of Oakfield.

The class at this place had been formed during the early part of 1844, by Rev H.S. Bronson, when he was pastor of Lake Winnebago Mission, and consisted of Russell Wilkinson, Leader, and Alma, his wife, Robert Wilkinson, and Almira, his wife, Eliza Botsford and Sarah Bull.

To reach the settlement, it was necessary to follow the military road towards Fond du Lac for some distance, and then cross the marsh. At times, the stream in the middle was swollen, and the traveler was compelled to leave his horse and cross on foot. This was especially true when the ice was not sufficiently strong to bear up the horse, and such was the condition in which I found it on this occasion. So, leaving my horse, I hastened to cross the marsh, but when I had reached the middle of the stream, the treacherous ice gave way, and I plunged into the water up to my armpits. I clambered out, but as the day was intensely cold, I was soon a walking pillar of ice. I was now on the school house side of the stream, and there seemed to be no alternative but to go on. I would gladly have found a shelter and a fire elsewhere, but it was out of the question. So, putting on a bold face, I hastened forward, and found the people in waiting for the minister. As I entered the school house, with the ice rattling at every movement, my appearance was ridiculous in the extreme. But not more so than that of the audience. The faces of that crowd would certainly have been the delight of a painter. Some of them were agape with surprise and amazement; others were agonized with sympathy for the poor minister; and others still were full of mirth, and would have laughed outright if they had not been in a religious meeting. As to myself, the whole matter took a mirthful turn. I had been in church before, when by some queer or grotesque conjunction of affairs, the whole audience lost self control. I had witnessed mistakes, blunders and accidents that would make even solemnity herself laugh, and remained serenely grave. But to see myself in the presence of that polite audience, standing at that stove, and turning from side to side, to thaw the icicles from the skirts of my coat, was too much for me. I confess it was utterly impossible to keep my face in harmony with the character of the pending services.

At Fox Lake, the next point visited, an appointment had been established by my father during the previous year. The services were now held on Sabbath afternoon in the tavern. The log house, thus used for the double purpose of a chapel and a tavern, was built with two parts, and might have been called a double house. The one end was occupied as a sitting-room and the other as a bar-room. The meetings were held, of course, in the former. But it was bringing the two kingdoms into close proximity to dispense the Gospel in one end of the house and whisky in the other. In a short time, a better place was provided, and the meetings were removed to it.

With the better provision for religious services, came also the ministers of other denominations. We all labored together in harmony, except in one instance, where a conflict of appointments caused a momentary ripple. My appointment had long been established, and, to the surprise of the people, another appointment was announced by a young store-keeper of the village for the same hour. The word reached me of this attempt to displace the Methodists, when ten miles distant from the place.

I took my dinner and rode forward, without “wrath” or “gainsaying.” I reached the place at the hour, went in and began the services. While the congregation were singing, the young man and his minister came in. Finding me in the desk, the minister quietly took a seat and listened very attentively to the sermon. But not so the discomfited young man. Being placed under the eye of the congregation, his condition was pitiable in the extreme. But finding after awhile that I was master of the ceremonies, and that no one in the congregation seemed vexed enough to fight for him, he subsided into a deferential attitude. And, thereafter, there were no further attempts to override my appointments. The minister, or perhaps I should say clergyman, took no offense, but became in after years a highly valued friend and companion.

At this time Mrs. Green was the only member of the Methodist church in the village. In process of time, however, a strong society was established. Then came the erection of a commodious Church and a very pleasant Parsonage. Fox Lake has been furnished with a line of able ministers, and has at the present writing a large and cultivated congregation.

Passing down the stream the following week, I found several families in the vicinity of Badger Hill. I immediately arranged an appointment for a week-day evening at the residence of a brother by the name of Morgan. At the first service held December 7, 1845, I formed a class of six. Brother Morgan was appointed Leader, and at the Quarterly Meeting following Brother Drinkwater was made steward. Some time after, the class was removed to Fox Lake, it being only three miles distant.

I now returned again to Waupun to spend the Sabbath. The Class Leader at this time was S.A.L. Davis, who came to the place during the preceding year. Brother Davis was an old neighbor from the East, a noble and true man, and, withal, had been my first Leader. He was specially adapted to the position; a man of great faith and ardent impulses. Under his Leadership, the class was in a most flourishing condition. The late revival had, however, so swelled the numbers that a division became necessary. An appointment had already been established at Miller’s Mill, and it was now deemed best to so divide the class as to establish the meetings of one of them at this point. The change was accordingly made. The class was formed December 12th, 1845, and George W. Sexmith was appointed Leader.

Brother Sexmith was also an old neighbor, who had come West and taken a farm in the vicinity of Miller’s Mill. Under his care, the class grew rapidly, and became an efficient company of laborers. Several years after he removed to Fond du Lac, and greatly prospered in business. In 1852 I had the pleasure to present him with a Local Preacher’s license. He was employed one year as Pastor of Liberty Prairie circuit, but his health proved unequal to the Itinerancy, and he was compelled to resume his relation as a Local Preacher, in which position he still holds an honored place among his brethren.

The next place visited was Burnett. The services were held in the residence of Mr. McDonald, and a class was formed December 14th, 1845. The members of the first organization were William Willard, Leader, Huldah Ann Willard, Samuel C. Grant, Ruth M. Grant, and Elizabeth Benedict. The class grew rapidly, and the appointment took a leading rank on the charge. Burnett has since become a charge, has a good Church edifice and a strong congregation. Brother Willard became a member of the Conference, of whom mention will be made in another chapter.

Having organized the work at Burnett, I next visited Grand River. I had passed through this place in the early part of Autumn. At that time I found Brother David Wood and his son engaged in making preparations for a home. Finding they intended to have their cabin completed and the family in it before winter, I engaged to visit them and establish an appointment. On reaching the place to fulfil this agreement, I found that besides this family several others had also settled in the vicinity. At the first meeting, appointed before there was a family in the neighborhood, we had a congregation of fifteen persons. The class was formed December 19th, 1845, with David Wood as Leader. The Alto Church, which gives the name to a charge, has been erected in the vicinity, and there is at the present writing a strong society. Father Wood, as he is now called, still survives, and takes special delight in referring to this visit of the ‘boy preacher.’

The watch-night meeting was held at Waupun, and was an occasion of great interest, several persons being converted.


Green Lake Mission Continued.–An Assistant Employed.–Quarterly Meeting at Waupun.–Love Feast.–Forty Miles Ride, and Four Sermons.–A Sermon and its Fruit.–Portage Prairie.–Randolph.–Randolph Centre.–Rolling Prairie.–Cheney’s Class.–Brandon.–Rosendale.–Reed’s Corners.–Strong’s Landing.–A Night in the Openings.–Rev. Uriel Farmin.–Going to Conference.–Madison.–Visit at Platteville.–Bishop Hamline.–Humorous to Grave.–Galena Conference.

The work of the Mission was now well in hand. But already the field was becoming extended and the labor onerous. Thirteen regular preaching places had been established, and invitations were being received weekly to increase the number. To meet this demand, it was now determined to employ an assistant.

The Quarterly Meeting was held soon after at Waupun, and Rev. Uriel Farmin was employed by the Presiding Elder to assist in filling the appointments. The meeting, the first of the kind ever held in Waupun, was one of rare interest. The revival had just added a goodly number to the membership, besides greatly quickening others. There were present a number of visitors from the newly formed classes in other parts of the Mission, and as a spirit of revival seemed to pervade their respective localties also, they struck the same plane as those at Waupun. The Elder preached the Word, “in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power.” But the meeting reached its climax in the Sabbath morning Love Feast. The house was filled, and many were compelled to sit on the writing desks at the side of the room. The meeting was opened in the usual order, by passing to each a crumb of bread and a sip of water, in token of Christian regard. Christian testimonies followed each other in rapid succession, interspersed by singing spiritual songs, for a full hour. At times the tide of feeling rose, like swelling billows, to a great height, threatening to carry the meeting into disorder, but by giving it a happy change at the right moment, the Elder was able to maintain a complete mastery. There were two periods specially critical. One, when a young lady, one of the converts at Waupun, gave her testimony. Standing on a seat, as there was no other place to stand, she first related her own experience, and then, turning to the young people, she delivered an exhortation that thrilled the audience with overwhelming emotions. The other was when a Brother Mosher, somewhat eccentric in his exercises, gave his experience. As he advanced in its recital, he grew excited and eloquent, and the “Amens” and “Hallelujahs” came from every part of the audience. Now, leaping upon the tide of feeling he had raised, he passed from one to another, shaking hands and congratulating them, until he came in front of the desk where sat my father and Father Smith, the two Patriarchs of the occasion. Throwing his arms around their necks, he fairly lifted them from their seats, but in a moment, he discovered his awkward position and resumed his seat. Instantly the clear voice of my father was heard in one of those outbursts of song, which so effectually kindle the fervors of devotion, or if needed, stay the flow of feeling. In a moment more, the meeting had passed the crisis.

The Mission was now put under a new plan, providing for alternate appointments, each preacher making the round in four weeks. But while this arrangement was the general order, the numerous calls received from various localities required frequent changes. In most cases, however, the new appointments were crowded between the others. To meet them, it required three sermons on the Sabbath, besides many others during the week. As to myself, I sometimes rode forty miles on the Sabbath and preached four sermons.

On one of these excursions, I became very much exercised on the subject of Christian holiness. I had before given the subject special thought, but now it seemed to assume unusual importance. Not only did the teachings of our standards bear an unwonted clearness to my perception, but my heart began to realize its essential value.

At my morning service, I preached on the subject, and as I swept over the prairie ten miles, in the face of a driving storm, I resolved to preach on the same subject again at my noon-day appointment. I did so, and with much better satisfaction than in the morning. Twelve miles more of storm, and I was again before a congregation to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. I had now become so full of my theme that I concluded to make it the subject of my next discourse. So, changing my text, I preached on Gospel purity, showing that experimental religion presents itself to the conception of the mind under three clearly defined ideas. These are Justification, Regeneration, and Sanctification. The drift of thought ran in this wise: By Justification we mean the pardon of sin. The man, who finds this grace through Christ, stands as fully accepted before the Law, as though he had never sinned. By Regeneration, we mean that radical change of man’s moral and spiritual condition which subjects all the faculties and powers of the soul to the control of the Divine Spirit. This work of grace, wrought in the heart by the Spirit, includes not only the entire subjugation of the “Man of Sin,” but the introduction of the reign of Christ. These two achievements of grace, wrought in the subject at the same moment, we ordinarily call Conversion. By Sanctification, we mean that higher state of grace which contemplates the removal of all sin from the heart of the believer, and the experience of “Perfect Love.”

This last attainment comes to the believer through earnest seeking, and personal consecration to God. In thus “going on to perfection,” the believer passes through several phases of experience. He finds that if he shall retain his justified state, it is necessary to seek advanced attainments. And if he shall be faithful in the use of grace already received, he will find the Spirit ever leading him to new fields of experience. As the Astronomer rests his calculations on worlds already discovered when he looks into the regions beyond, so the Christian must maintain his present experience, if he will know the further revelations of the Spirit.

But the moral perceptions, quickened by the Spirit, will furnish painful revelations to the justified soul. He will discover that there linger still within him remains of the carnal mind. Pride, the love of the world, selfishness, self-will, and sometimes even anger or other evil passion, will begin to stir in the heart. Such revelations will awaken a profound spiritual concern, and perhaps, become the subject of temptation. But there need be no alarm. It is but an evidence that the good work, began in Regeneration, has not been fully completed by entire Sanctification. The tree has been cut down, but the shoots around the old stump show that there is vitality still in the roots. The “Mightier” than the “strong man” must now come and pluck up the roots. The work of eradication thus accomplished, the absolute reign of Christ will be established. The heart will now become the Garden of the Lord, without briar, thorn, or thistle. Relieved of these hindrances, the graces will speedily acquire maturity.

At the close of the sermon, a good sister referred in very earnest terms to the discourse, and was grateful for the ministry of a man who so well understood the deep things of God. Instantly the thought came, “Ah, yes! but there must be a great difference between merely understanding the theory, and realizing a happy experience of the power.” A hasty supper was eaten, and I was away for another ten miles to my evening appointment. The snow was still falling, and the winds were driving it fiercely across the prairie, rendering the track invisible. Out on the prairie, my noble horse dashed forward with great speed, but I scarcely noted the distance, as my thought was busy. The question that was ringing through my heart was this: “How can you preach to others what you do not know yourself?” At length I resolved; and scarcely stopping to measure the movement, or estimate the consequences, I was on my knees, engaged in prayer. My first conscious thought of my surroundings was awakened by the wrestling of my horse, as my right hand held him firmly by the lines. Then came the suggestion, “This is a very unpropitious time to settle a matter of this importance. With a fractious horse by the rein, a terrible storm sweeping over the prairie, and an already blind snow-path, you had better defer the matter for the present.” My reply was, “It is time these questions were settled, and I propose to settle them now” “But the snow-path is nearly filled; you will lose your way and perish.” I still replied, “It is time these questions were settled, and I propose to settle them now.” “But it is getting dark, and your congregation will be waiting for you. You had better go forward, fill your appointment, and then attend to this matter.” The Lord helped me to reply once more, “It is time these questions were settled, and, God helping me, they shall be settled now.” Instantly the light broke upon me, and I was able “to reckon myself dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ my Lord.” I was found in due time at my appointment, preaching from the text, “He is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by him.”

Learning that a settlement had been made on Portage Prairie, at a point where Mr. Langdon, of Lake Maria, had erected a lumber mill, I resolved to visit the locality. I found Mr. Langdon had erected a small house, and had already moved his family. I was welcomed to his new home and again invited to make his house a chapel until better accommodations could be secured. I accepted the kind offer, and thus Cambria was made a regular appointment. I visited the few scattered families in the vicinity, and found sufficient material to organize a small class. The class was formed on the 10th day of January, 1846, and at the beginning included Mr. and Mrs. Irwin McCall, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Wilson, Mrs. Maria Langdon, and Mrs. H. W. Patton. Cambria has since been largely settled by emigrants from Wales.

In March, I visited Randolph and opened an appointment at the residence of Father Griffin. At the present writing, the village has become a respectable station, with a good Church and Parsonage.

I also opened an appointment at the residence of Mr. Torbit, at Randolph Centre, which place has since become the head of a circuit.

In May following, I formed a class on the north end of Rolling Prairie, with Bro. Greenleaf, a Local Preacher, as Leader.

Wm. A. Cheney and family settled on Wedge’s Prairie in the early part of this year. His house was immediately opened for religious meetings. But before I could arrange my plans to visit the neighborhood, my father, who was always on the alert to carry the Gospel Message to the destitute, established an appointment. On his invitation I held a meeting there, on the third day of June, 1846, and organized a class. The following were the first members: Wm. A. Cheney, Leader, Sophronia Cheney, Abigail Cheney, D.S. Cowles, Ann Cowles, Henry Moore, and wife.

At this time Brandon had not taken form or name, but, on its appearance, the honors and emoluments of this society passed over to its keeping.

Rosendale and Reed’s Corners were next visited. At the first I held services in the house of Mr. Sanborn, after whom the prairie at that time was called, and at the latter, the meeting was held in the residence of a Brother Lee, a brother of the celebrated Dr. Luther Lee.

Rosendale has since become a very pleasant station, with its convenient Church and Parsonage, and Reed’s Corners is a prominent appointment in the Brandon charge, and has also a fine Church.

Having heard frequent reference made to Strong’s Landing, on the Fox River, I resolved to visit the place. On approaching the bank of the stream, I looked sharply in all directions to discover the town, but there were no evidences of human skill within the range of my vision. Concluding that I had struck the river at the wrong place, I first passed down the stream for a mile, but failing to find any settlement I turned back. I now went up the stream for a considerable distance, and found a trail that seemed to lead down to the margin of the river. Following it to the water, I found a small canoe tied to a tree. The light now dawned upon my understanding. This was Strong’s Landing. Not having prophetic vision, I was unable to see the city of the future, sitting so gracefully on the banks of the Fox. Again the Itinerancy was ahead of the pioneer. Leaving the site of the future city of Berlin, I hastened to return to Waupun, but a starless night overtaking me on the way, I spent its weary hours where the village of Brandon now stands, under the branches of a friendly tree.

The labors of the year were now drawing to a close. The regular appointments had multiplied until they numbered twenty-four. The membership had gone up from a small figure to two hundred, and the spiritual interests were in a highly satisfactory condition.

My labors had been very arduous during the entire year, but had been well sustained until the latter part of the winter, when my health failed, resulting doubtless rather from exposure than labor. I was now laid aside for several weeks, but through the blessing of God and the skill of Dr. Bowman, my physician at Waupun, my health so far rallied that it was believed to be safe to proceed with my work.

My colleague had rendered effective service, proving to be a true yoke-fellow in every particular. Besides taking his full share of the regular appointments, he also gave a large portion of his time to the special labors of the charge. He was not expected, at the outset, to give his whole time, but he soon became so fully identified with the work that he was almost constantly employed. In the severe labors of protracted meetings, and in the wide travel of the circuit of appointments, he was equally self-forgetting and faithful. He was a man of good attainments, kind spirit, studious habits, and an acceptable preacher.

The charge being in a formative state, and the necessities of the preachers small, the financial receipts from the people were very limited. My own were only thirty-six dollars, and those of my colleague could not have been greater.

In tracing the work on Green Lake Mission, I have been thus specific for two reasons. I desired, in the first place, to give the reader an inside view of the relations of the Itinerancy to frontier life, and in the second, note the beginnings of a list of charges that have since constituted a Presiding Elder’s District.

The Rock River Conference met this year in Galena, Ill. And as it was necessary for my father to attend the Conference to receive Elder’s orders, we decided to make the journey in a buggy. The first day, passing through Beaver Dam, we reached Fountain Prairie, where we were entertained by Rev. E.J. Smith, of whom further mention will be made hereafter.

At noon on the following day we reached Madison, and were entertained by Rev. R.J. Harvey, the Pastor of the charge. Madison at this time was a small village, but, besides the Capitol, contained several buildings of respectable size and appearance.

The first Methodist sermon preached in Madison was delivered by Rev. Salmon Stebbins on the 28th day of November, 1837. Brother Stebbins was then the Presiding Elder of of the District, which extended along the western shore of Lake Michigan, from the State line to Green Bay. On visiting Madison, he was entertained by the contractor, who was erecting the State House, and who also kept a hotel. On learning that Brother Stebbins was a minister, this gentleman invited the entire population to a meeting in his bar-room, and here the first sermon was preached. And I am informed that the people were so pleased with the services that on the following morning Brother Stebbins was presented with a collection of fourteen dollars.

Brother Stebbins again visited the capital July 15th, 1838, and spent the Sabbath, preaching twice to respectable congregations. But as Madison, now in the West Wisconsin Conference, has fallen more directly under the eye of Rev. Dr. Bronson, and will doubtless appear in the Western Pioneer. I need not anticipate its historical incidents.

Passing on our way we were entertained the following night by a gentleman residing on the line of travel, some twenty miles beyond the Capital, by the name of Skinner. The following day we reached Platteville, where we were to spend the Sabbath.

It was now Friday night. Early the next morning, we received an invitation to spend the afternoon, in company with others, at Major Roundtree’s, with Bishop Hamline. We went. The company was composed mostly of preachers, on their way to Conference. Among them were the Mitchells and Haneys. Of the first, there were Father Mitchell, a grand old Patriarch, John T. James, and Frank. Of the latter, there were the Father, Richard, William, Freeborn, and M.L.

But the central figure among them all was the good Bishop. Of full form, compact frame, broad forehead, and strong features, he would be selected in any group as a princely man. And yet, withal, his spirit was as gentle as that of a child. Though one of the intellectual giants of the country, and one of her greatest orators, he still seemed so humble in spirit that I felt myself drawn towards him at once. In such a presence the conversation was necessarily restrained. Dismissing, for the time, the freedom of debate, anecdote and repartee, that so often characterize ministerial gatherings, the interchange of thought took on a more serious tone. Only once was there an exception. Referring to the labors of some distinguished man of his acquaintance, one of the leading brethren and prince of story tellers, whose name I need not mention, proceeded to relate an anecdote. Immediately the tides of feeling began to rise, and, as the story advanced to its climax, they broke over all restraint. An immoderate laughter followed, in which no one joined more heartily than the brother himself. The storm of merriment, however, had hardly passed, when the Bishop, in one of those indescribably solemn tones for which he was distinguished, said, “Brethren, I always find it difficult to maintain the proper spiritual equilibrium without a good deal of prayer.” Then, turning to the offending brother, he added, “Brother, will you lead us in prayer?” The entire company instantly fell upon their knees. But the poor brother! What could he do? Pray he must, for the entire company were on their knees, waiting for him to begin. So, making a virtue of necessity, he made the venture. But, I am free to say, it took a good deal of coasting before the good brother could get his craft well out to sea, and headed towards the desired haven. During the balance of the visit anecdotes were at a discount.

On Monday we went forward to the Conference, that I might appear before the Committee of Examination. The Committee were Revs. Salmon Stebbins, N.P. Heath, and S. Stover.


Appointed to Watertown.–Aztalan the Mother of Circuits.–Divisions and Subdivisions.–Rev. S.H. Stocking.–Watertown.–Church Enterprise.–Sickly Season.–Quarterly Meeting at Burnett–Rev. A.P. Allen.–Elder Sampson Ties a Knot.–Conference of 1847.–Returned to Watertown.–Financial Pressure.–Opens a School.–The Coat Sermon.

At the Galena Conference, Green Lake Mission was divided into two four weeks’ circuits, requiring the labor of four men. In view of my impaired health, I was sent to Watertown, the Cabinet believing that I would here find less labor and exposure.

Watertown, up to the preceding year, had been a part of the old Aztalan circuit, and as this circuit was the mother of charges in this part of the Territory, it is proper that our respects should first be paid to her.

The old Aztalan circuit was organized at the session of the Illinois Conference of 1837, and embraced all the settled portion of the Territory east of Madison and west of the Lake Shore Missions. The first preachers were Rev. Samuel Pillsbury and Rev. Jesse Halstead, and the year was one of extended travels and great exposure. During the year appointments were established at Aztalan, Whitewater, Meacham’s Prairie, East Troy, Spring Prairie, Elkhorn, Burlington, Round Prairie, Menomonee, Prairieville, Oconomowoc, and Watertown, and at several of them classes were formed. Brother Halstead’s horse became disabled, and during a portion of the year this indomitable pioneer, with saddle-bags on his arm, made on foot, the entire round of appointments. Brother Pillsbury was also a man of sterling qualities, and rendered effective service.

The Quarterly Meetings of this year were held by Rev. Salmon Stebbins, the Presiding Elder, at Aztalan, Meacham’s Prairie, Troy, and Burlington.

At the Conference of 1839, Aztalan circuit was divided. The eastern part was called Walworth, and Rev. James McKean was appointed its Pastor. The western part, retaining the Rock River Valley, was now called Watertown, and Rev. H.W. Frink was appointed the Pastor. Both charges were now put in the Milwaukee District, with Rev. Julius Field as Presiding Elder.

Brother Frink was now a young man, and this was his third charge. Leaving the seat of the Conference, he returned to Elgin, his last field of labor, filled his saddle bags with clothes and books, mounted his horse as a true knight of the Itinerancy, and was away for new perils and new conquests. In his journey to what was then deemed the wilds of Wisconsin, he passed through Elk Grove, Wheeling, Indian Creek, Crystal Lake, Pleasant Prairie, East Troy, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson and Aztalan. The last named was the head of the Mission, as a class, the only one on the charge, had been formed at this place.

Without much regard to boundaries, it was the work of the Pioneer to find the scattered sheep in the Wilderness. To do this, he was obliged to undertake long and wearisome journeys, through exposed and almost trackless regions. Without roads, without bridges, and without shelter, our young Itinerant pushed his way through the forests, swimming the streams, when fords could not be found, and seeking shelter under the overhanging branches of the trees, in the absence of the friendly cabin. As the result of these extended journeys and herculean labors, Brother Frink, during the year, formed classes at Fort Atkinson, Jefferson, Piperville, Oconomowoc, Summit, Baxter’s Prairie, Waukesha, Poplar Creek, Brookfield, Wauwatosa, Granville, Menomonee, Lisbon and North Prairie, but was unable to gather sufficient materials to form one at Watertown.

Brother Frink, however, enjoyed the honor of preaching the first sermon in this locality. As there was no school house or other public building that could be had, a small log house, twelve feet square, on the west side of the river, was secured. Here the services were held during the balance of the year. The Missionary was kindly received by all classes of people, and when in the place was usually entertained by Hon. Wm. M. Dennis, since Bank Comptroller of the State, and Patrick Rogan, a gentleman whose religious affiliations were with the Catholic Church.

At Fort Atkinson, Brother Frink preached and formed the class, in the residence of Jesse Roberts, during the winter of 1839 and 1840. The members of the first class were Jesse Roberts, Betsey Roberts, Franklin Roberts, Sarah Roberts, Martha Fellows, Anson Stone, and Mr. and Mrs. Harrison. The first Church was built in 1850, and Fort Atkinson became a separate charge in 1854. It now ranks among the first charges in the Janesville District.

The class at Jefferson was formed in the summer of 1840, and the members were Jacob Fellows, Martha Fellows, Mary Fellows, and John Masters.

The name of the circuit was again changed in 1841, Watertown being dropped and Aztalan restored. A change was also made in the name of the Summit charge, which was now called Prairieville.

Another dismemberment again befel the old Aztalan circuit this year. The southern portion, lying down the Rock River, was cut off and joined to territory that had been developed in Rock County, from the east and south, and out of the united parts Janesville charge was constructed. On the old Aztalan charge Rev. John Hodges became the Preacher, and on the Janesville Rev. Alpha Warren. By these changes Aztalan was again reduced to the condition of a Mission.

In 1842, Rev. C.G. Lathrop was appointed to Aztalan, of whom a further record will be made in a subsequent chapter. Both Aztalan and Janesville were now transferred from the Platteville District to the Rock River, a new District that had just been formed, with Rev. S.H. Stocking as Presiding Elder.

Brother Stocking entered the traveling connection in Oneida Conference, and after filling a respectable class of appointments for a term of years, came to Illinois at an early day. He was stationed at Chicago in 1839, at Rockford in 1840, and was Presiding Elder of Mt. Morris District in 1841, Rock River 1842, Ottawa 1843 and 1844, and Milwaukee in 1845. Brother Stocking was highly esteemed by his brethren, and was an excellent laborer, but, his health failing, he was compelled to take a superannuated relation soon after the writer entered the work. He is spending the evening of life at Beloit.

In 1843 Rev. Stephen Jones was sent to Aztalan. In 1844 the charge was again divided and Watertown charge was formed, Brother Jones being transferred to the new charge. Rev. Asa Wood was now sent to Aztalan, and remained one year, when he was succeeded by Revs. C.N. Wager and S. B. Whipple. At the Conference of 1854 the honors and emoluments of Aztalan circuit passed over to the keeping of Lake Mills, which charge at this writing holds a respectable rank in the Conference.

Watertown, at the time of my appointment, had been a separate charge one year. A Church edifice had been commenced, and a class formed. The members were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Andrews, Mr., and Mrs. Heber Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Bunton, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. A. Dutcher, Mr. and Mrs. Elihu Higgins, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Cook, Mrs. Simeon Ford, Mr. and Mrs. Cheney Adams, Mr. Sands Cook, and others.

The financial ability of the charge was moderate, and hence the erection of the Church required a great effort. Our meetings were held in the school house until the Church edifice was enclosed, plastered, and furnished with temporary seats.

The fall of 1846 was a season of unusual sickness, fevers in various forms being the principal ailment. Along the valley of the Rock River, the affliction became so flagrant that scarcely a family escaped. And in some families, so universal were its ravages, that not one member was left in condition to care for the balance. In this state of things hundreds suffered, and not a few even died for want of kindly attention.

Repeatedly, when riding through the country to visit the sick and bury the dead, I found flags of distress hung out over the dwellings of sick families, where not one was able to bring a pail of water, or provide a morsel of food. In such cases I installed myself master of ceremonies, kindled fires, brought water, administered medicines, and then went forward to render the same class of services to others.

In attending funerals in the surrounding neighborhoods, I sometimes found there were not well people enough to bury their dead. After performing the sacred functions of my office as a minister, I was obliged to aid, with my own hands, to let the coffin down to its final resting place.

Though still frail from my illness during the previous year, I stood this strain for two months, when I was prostrated by an attack of bilious fever. During the first week of my illness a physician made two visits to my boarding place, and this was more than he could give to the greater portion of his patients. The family with whom I boarded were all sick, and I was dependent for care mostly upon such snatches of service as others could spare from pressing demands at home. At the end of a week, believing my chances of recovery, under such circumstances, precarious, I ordered my horse and buggy, and started for Waupun, thirty miles distant. My friends remonstrated, and thought me insane; but, fortunately, they were too ill to prevent the movement. The attempt was perilous, indeed, but by the aid of stimulants, which I had provided with special care, and a will-power that nerved itself for the occasion, I made the passage safely. At the end of four hours I was comfortably housed at the residence of Dr. Bowman, who bestowed upon me skillful medical treatment, while his family gave me careful and faithful nursing.

At the end of four weeks I was able to return to my post of duty. The sickness had now mostly passed, and I was able to enter more fully upon the regular labors of the charge. I now adopted a plan of systematic labor, giving the forenoons to my study and the afternoons to pastoral visiting. And I soon found that earnest and devoted labor brought its reward. A revival speedily followed, which added a goodly number of probationers.

But the holidays were approaching, and it was expected that I would spend a portion of them at Waupun, where, it was hinted, an event would transpire in which I might have a personal interest. Anticipating the time several days, I went as far as Clason’s Prairie, and turned aside to assist Brother Holmes, the Pastor of the charge, for a few evenings in a protracted meeting. Returning, I proceeded on my way to Burnett. By arrangement, I met Brother Sampson here, and spent the Sabbath with him, it being his Quarterly Meeting on the Waupun charge.

The preachers on the circuit were Revs. A.P. Allen and Henry Requa, the latter being employed by the Elder as an assistant. Brother Allen was a man of mature years, though he had been in the work only a short time. He was a man of decided talent, but so full of queer ways and witty sayings that these seemed to give him his status in the general estimation of the people. He filled several leading charges in the Conference, and served a full term as Presiding Elder on the Racine District. But wherever he might be, the same tendency to create laughter was ever present. If an exception ever came to my knowledge, it must have been the one that is said to have occurred on a former charge at one of his outlying appointments. It is related that at this point the people had not shown much regard for the visits of the preacher or the sanctity of the Sabbath, spending the day either in rioting or in the pursuit of their secular business. Becoming disgusted with this state of things, Brother Allen announced at the close of his services, that on the occasion of his next visit, he would preach his farewell sermon. The day came, and the people, shocked at the idea of being left without meetings, came out in large numbers, leaving for once their business and sports. The services were opened in due form. On arising to announce the text, the Preacher told the people that he had come prepared to preach his farewell sermon, and he was glad that so many had come out to hear it. He presumed they knew the reason of his purpose to leave them, and hence he need not consume time over that matter, but would proceed at once to announce as his text, the following passage of Holy Writ: ‘Oh, full of all subtlety and mischief, thou child of the devil, how long wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord.’ Having repeated the text with emphasis, he looked over the congregation very gravely, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, you will perceive that I have chosen a pretty hard text. Now it is not polite for people to go out of meeting during the preaching, and if any of you think that this text is too severe for you, you had better go out before we begin the sermon.” As might have been expected, none were disposed to go. “Well, then,” said the Preacher, “if you are not disposed to go, I will begin. I intend to show, in the first place, that you are all full of subtlety and mischief. In the second place, I intend to show that you are all the children of the devil, and in the third place, I intend to put to you the straight question, whether you intend to cease from thus perverting the right ways of the Lord.” The preacher, at this point, again, paused and looked over the congregation. “Now you will say,” he added, “this is going to be a hard sermon.” “So it is, but if any of you think you can’t sit to hear the truth told you, or in other words, to have your portraits taken, you had better leave now, for it is not polite to go out during the sermon.” It was now too late to go, if any one felt inclined. So the sermon proceeded, and commanded respectful attention to its close. Before leaving, the Preacher was invited to continue the appointment, and consented to do so.

But to return to the Quarterly Meeting. The people came in great numbers, and the services throughout were deeply impressive. On Saturday evening, several souls were converted, and on the Sabbath others were added to the number. But the crowning meeting was held on Sabbath evening. Before the hour of service had arrived, the school house was full, the seats even having been removed to furnish standing room. And yet crowds of people were coming from all directions. I finally proposed to the Elder, that if he would put a man in my place in the school house, I would go over to the nearest neighbor’s house and hold another service. The private house was soon filled, and in each congregation there were several conversions.

On Monday, January 4th, 1847, Brother Sampson accompanied me to Dr. Bowman’s at Waupun, where he officiated in introducing the Doctor’s eldest daughter to the Itinerancy.

Returning to Watertown, I held protracted meetings at all the outlying appointments, and had the happiness to witness many conversions. But the year was one of hard labor and small financial receipts. At its close I found my receipts from the charge were forty-four dollars and my board. The forty-four dollars were put into the Church enterprise, and I drew on my private funds for my incidental expenses.

The Conference met in Clark Street Church, Chicago, Aug. 11th, 1847. I passed my Conference Examination, was ordained Deacon by Bishop Waugh, and reappointed to Watertown.

Watertown was now placed in Milwaukee District, with Rev. Elihu Springer, as Presiding Elder. At the beginning of the new year we opened house-keeping in the upper rooms of a house on the corner of Fourth and Main Streets. The first floor was occupied as a residence by Judge Enos.

The year opened encouragingly. The Church in the village required two sermons on the Sabbath, and I had established other appointments in the country which required three a week, besides funeral sermons. The appointments were Higgins and Bennetts on the south of the village, and Piperville, Concord and Newhouse on the east. At several of them, during the winter, protracted meetings were held, in addition to the one held in the village. At each several conversions occurred, making a fair aggregate in all. These extensive labors taxed me severely, and finally brought on an attack of fever. I was taken during Sunday night, after preaching in Watertown both morning and evening. The attack was so violent that before morning I had become deranged, and my life was despaired of. But through my wife’s faithful watching and the good Providence of God, I was able to resume my labors in three weeks.

It now became apparent that a severe financial pressure was upon us. I had spent what I could immediately command of my own funds, and the good brethren had contributed so generously out of their scanty means, to place the Church in condition for use, that they could not meet the Pastor’s salary. I saw clearly that some other provision must be made.

While casting about to find my direction, a Providential opening occurred. Rev. Mr. Hoyt, the Episcopal clergyman, who had been keeping a Latin school for some time in the village, was compelled through illness to desist from teaching. Fortunately, I had gone down several times at his request, and relieved him in hearing his classes in Greek and Latin. This little kindness, added to the fact I was one of the School Commissioners of the county, naturally directed attention to me, as the person to open a select school in the village. I embraced the opportunity. The Trustees kindly consented to the use of the Church for the purpose. As the seats were only temporary, they were easily adjusted to the new order of things, and a school of sixty students was soon organized. This new demand upon me greatly abridged the pastoral work, but there seemed to be no other way to live. Before I could realize anything, however, from the school, we found ourselves in very considerable embarrassment. In this emergency, my wife opened her doors for a few boarders, which met the immediate demands of the table.

But at this juncture of our affairs, an incident occurred that afforded relief in another direction. My coat had become, through long wear and exposure, not a little seedy. On entering the pulpit one Sabbath morning I found a note lying on the Bible. I opened it and read as follows: “Will Mr. Miller have the goodness to preach this morning from the Text, ‘I have put off my coat, and how shall I put it on?'” The note was written in a delicate hand and gave evidence of no ordinary cultivation. At the conclusion of the reading, I gave a searching glance over the congregation, but could make no face present plead guilty to the accusation of impertinence.

The opening exercises of the service were not concluded before my course of action was decided upon. I read the note to the congregation, and stated that I had just found it on the desk. I further stated that I was at a loss to determine whether it was intended as a sneer at my old coat, or whether the writer really desired an exposition of the text named. But, believing that no one could so far forget a due sense of propriety as to deride honest poverty, or scoff at so faithful a servant as my old coat had been, even though it now began to show signs of age, I chose to take the latter view of the case. With this conviction, I should proceed to make the text the subject of the discourse. After giving the connection and context, I proceeded to define the subject of coats, arrange them into classes and set forth their uses. The spiritual application was not difficult, but it needed a little skill to cut the several styles so that each one could recognize his own pattern and appropriate the right garment. “Of course,” I remarked, “every one has heard of the garment of self-righteousness, though it may be that none in this congregation are aware of ever having seen it. Yet, should you chance to look upon it, with its straight seams and buckram collar, I am quite sure you would not prefer it to my old coat, unseemly as it may appear.” Thus the sermon went on, to “cut to order” and “fit to measure,” until all the most flagrant styles of coats had been disposed of, being careful, meantime, to institute the comparison in each case with the old coat before the audience. The discourse was perfectly ludicrous, but, like all of its kind, it took amazingly. Its financial success was, doubtless, all that the writer of the note had intended. On the next Sabbath morning the minister walked into church with a new outfit of wearing apparel, from the crown of the hat to the soles of the boots.

Watertown, from the first, was an unpromising field for ministerial labor. The leading influences at the beginning, if not directly opposed, were almost wholly indifferent to the claims of religion.


Waukesha–Old Prairieville Circuit–Changes–Rev. L.F. Moulthrop–Rev. Hooper Crews–Rev. J.M. Walker–Rev. Washington Wilcox–Upper and Nether Millstones–Our New Field–Revival–Four Sermons–Platform Missionary Meetings–The Orator–Donning the Eldership–The Collection.

The General Conference of 1848 divided the Rock River Conference and formed the Wisconsin. The first session of the new Conference was held at Kenosha July 12th, and I was stationed at Waukesha.

It will be remembered that Prairieville was included in the Watertown charge in 1839, and formed one of the appointments established at that early day by Brother Frink. In the following year, when the Summit charge was formed, Prairieville fell into the new circuit. In 1841 Prairieville took the name of the charge, and henceforth became the mother of circuits in this portion of the Territory. Rev. John G. Whitcomb was appointed to the charge in 1842, and Rev. L.F. Moulthrop in 1843.

Brother Moulthrop entered the Conference in 1840, and was first appointed to the Racine Mission. In 1841 he was stationed at Troy, where he performed a vast amount of labor and gathered many souls for the Master. He remained a second year and had for a colleague Rev. Henry Whitehead, so well known in connection with the Chicago Depository. On coming to Waukesha he had Rev. S. Stover as a colleague.

At the close of his term Brother Moulthrop retired from the work, but was re-admitted to the Conference in 1859, it being conceded that so valiant a veteran should be permitted to spend the balance of his life in connection with the Conference.

Prairieville Circuit at this time extended from the lake towns to Watertown, and into Washington county as far as settlements had penetrated. As stated in a former chapter, Brother Frink had passed over this region in 1839, and had formed classes during the Conference year at several places, but it now remained for his successors to extend the field. In doing this Brother Moulthrop opened an appointment at Wauwatosa and in several other neighborhoods.

At Prairieville, the class formed by Brother Frink consisted of Mr. Owen, Leader, Mrs. Owen, Richard Smart, Truman Wheeler, Mrs. Truman Wheeler, Hiram Wheeler, Mrs. Hiram Wheeler, Theophilus Haylett and Horace Edsell, and to these were soon after added, Mr. and Mrs. Winters, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Hadfield, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Henry, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Clark, Sarah Packham, Mr. Blodgett, Mr. and Mrs. John Bromell, John White, and Rev. Jonas Clark. Brother Henry was soon after made the Leader.

The members of the class at Summit were John Merical, Leader, Levi Merical, John Merical, Jr., Philip Scheuler, Mary Scheuler, Maria L. Frink, Sarah Taft, and Sarah Hardell.

Prairieville charge was now in the Chicago District, and Rev. Hooper Crews was the Presiding Elder. During this year he assisted Brother Moulthrop in holding a protracted meeting at Prairieville, and large numbers were converted.

Brother Crews was one of the choicest men in the Conference. He began his ministerial work when what is now the great Northwest was yet in its infancy, and has mingled in the discussion and settlement of all the great questions which have arisen. His appointments have placed him in the front rank of his compeers, and among them all, none have made a better record, or will go from labor to reward leaving a profounder regret among the people.

At the Milwaukee Conference in 1844, Prairieville charge was divided. The northern portion was set off and erected into the Washington Mission, with Rev. J.M. Snow as Pastor, of whom a record will be made in another chapter. Brother Moulthrop remained on the old charge, and was able to take care of what remained without an assistant.

The following year, 1845, the charge again required two men, and Revs. G.W. Cotrell and Miles L. Reed were appointed, and had a year of great prosperity. This year Pewaukee was detached from the Prairieville charge and added to Washington Mission, and as this change drew the latter to the southward, the name of Washington was dropped, and that of Menomonee substituted. Brother Snow remained on the charge.

Brother Reed was a young man of great promise, but his career was of short duration. At the close of his year at Prairieville, his failing health compelled him to leave the work. Remaining, however, in the village, he was greatly useful and highly esteemed as a Local Preacher.

In 1846, the Pastors of Prairieville circuit were Rev. Washington Wilcox and Rev. J.M. Walker. Both of these devoted and earnest men were abundant in labor. Protracted meetings were held at nearly all of the principal appointments, and large numbers were converted. It is affirmed that the junior preacher was engaged seventy five successive days in these meetings. It is not a matter of surprise that a severe illness followed.

Brother Walker entered the Conference, as before stated, in the class or 1845, with the writer. His first circuit was Elkhorn. During the year he had extensive revivals at both Delavan and North Geneva. After leaving Prairieville he was sent to Geneva, where he again had a prosperous year, and also found an excellent wife. His next field was Rock Prairie, to which he was sent in 1848. Here he had over two hundred conversions. The following year he was sent to Union Circuit, with Rev. James Lawson as colleague, and was returned to the same the next year. But in the early part of the year he was removed to Beloit, to supply a vacancy. His next appointment was Whitewater, where he succeeded in completing a Church, and his next field was Beaver Dam. In 1855 he was appointed Presiding Elder of Beaver Dam District, which post he filled with great acceptability. His subsequent appointments have been Spring Street Station, Milwaukee, Chaplain of the Thirty-Eighth Regiment, Beaver Dam, Oshkosh and Green Bay. At the last named, he is at the present writing doing effective service.

In 1847 Prairieville Circuit was changed to a station, under the name of Waukesha. Brother Wilcox was returned, and during the year built up a strong congregation, giving the station a front rank among the first charges of the Conference.

Brother Wilcox entered the traveling connection in the East and came to the Illinois Conference at an early day. He was stationed in Galena in 1839, and before coming to Waukesha he had served Dubuque, Mineral Point, Dixon, Elgin and Sylvania. At the close of his term at Waukesha he was appointed Presiding Elder of Fond du Lac District At the end of three years he was sent to the Madison District, where he remained a full term. His subsequent appointments fell within the bounds of the West Wisconsin Conference, in all of which he acquitted himself creditably. His last field was Baraboo Station, where he passed from labor to reward, leaving to his brethren the record of a spotless life and unswerving devotion to the Master’s work.

Brother Wilcox was an able minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man of large intellect and strong convictions. His sermons embodied cardinal truth, and with him mere word painting was a sham. Sometimes he was thought to be severe, but it was the severity of what he conceived to be truth. In debate, on the Conference floor, or in discussion before an audience, he was a giant. At times he would seem to push his antagonist relentlessly, but it was only following his inexorable logic to its findings. The same thoroughness entered into all he did. On a committee it was his habit to go to the bottom of things. Especially was this true in the Conference examinations.

I remember distinctly the examination that was had the year I graduated to Elder’s orders. With him as chairman, and another strong man, whom I need not name, as second, we were under the fiery ordeal seven sessions. I have never ceased to wonder that anything was left of us, after having been thus ground between the upper and nether millstones. And yet there was no unkindness, for in his feelings he was as tender as a child. The fact is, this noble man could never do anything by halves. If the faithful discharge of duty, the persistent adherence to the right, and unsparing self-denial, constitute the standard of nobility, then Washington Wilcox. had a right to claim his patent.

At Waukesha, a respectable Church edifice had been erected in 1841 and 1842. At a later period a small Parsonage had been built, and on our arrival it was in readiness to receive us. The public services of the Sabbath were held at half-past ten in the morning and at one in the afternoon. The latter had been so arranged to accommodate families in the country, who desired a second service before returning home. The plan, however, did not fully satisfy the people in the village, as it failed to provide for an evening service. It was suggested that in a village, a certain class of people could be induced to attend an evening service that would not go to any other. To test the matter, I opened an evening service. The arrangement proved satisfactory, and was continued, though it involved the necessity of having three services a day.

The good seed of the kingdom, scattered among the crowds who gathered at the evening service, in due time began to bear fruit, and an extensive revival followed. As the good work in the village increased, and the number of converts was multiplied, the people of the surrounding neighborhoods became also interested, and attended the meeting. Many of these were induced to accept the obligations of a holy life, and as a result, invitations began to multiply, requesting me to open appointments in their respective localities. I now selected five of the most central neighborhoods and established in them week-day evening services. But as the summer drew on, they were discontinued except two, and these, as the most promising, were assigned to the Sabbath, and were filled on alternate days at four o’clock in the afternoon. To meet these appointments, in addition to the regular services in the village, required four sermons each Sabbath. As to the propriety of undertaking this amount of labor, I need say nothing. Some may deem it an evidence of zeal, but others that of folly.

During this year the Milwaukee District established a system of platform missionary meetings on the several charges. To further the object, it was decided to appoint two or three ministers to attend each meeting, and by dividing the labor throughout the district, bring thereby all the preachers upon the platform. On several of these occasions, I found myself associated with a brother who was beginning to attract considerable attention as a speaker. We usually put him on the programme for the closing speech, that he might furnish the “rousements,” as Bishop Morris would say, for the collection. And in this particular we were seldom disappointed. The good brother was always ready for what might be called a flaming speech. And though he always ran in much the same channel, his craft, to use a figure, was always full-rigged and under full sail. But, to change the figure, and bring it more fully into harmony with the department of nature, from which the brother had evidently derived his name, I might say his pinions were always full fledged and in full tension for a lofty flight. Unfortunately, however, he could never fold his wings in time to make a graceful descent when he desired to come down to the plane of ordinary mortals. In the descent he would sometimes “swap ends” so many times, that it was a marvel that a broken neck was not the result. But to his own mind these airy flights were always sublime, and especially so when he struck the quotation, which usually closed each missionary speech, that placed the herald of the Gospel on the highest pinnacle of time, and made him “look back over the vista of receding ages” and “forward over the hill-tops of coming time,” and “lift up his voice until it should echo from mountain top to mountain top, from valley to valley, from river to river, from ocean to ocean, from isle to isle, and from continent to continent, the whole earth around.” Of course the collection always followed this speech, and if it proved to be pretty good, a few additional feathers went into the pinions for the next flight.

On one of these occasions our orator became greatly elated with his success, and rallied me upon the difference between the broad, velvety wing of the miller and the long, sharp pointed wing of his species. The opportunity was too good to be lost. I replied, “Well, my brother, I had a thought last night, when I saw you towering to such dizzy heights in your speech.” “What was it?” he enquired, eagerly. “Oh!” I replied, “I would hardly dare to tell you.” “Yes, yes,” said he, “let us have it.” I still hesitated, until the several brethren present joined him in his persistent request. “Well,” I answered, “if you insist upon it I will state it. When I saw you making your lofty flights, I thought if you could only have a few feathers plucked from the wings of your imagination and placed in the tail of your judgment, you would make a grand flyer.” The next flight was made with greater caution.

The balance of the year at Waukesha was given to the ordinary demands of the work. To the Church there had been large accessions and to the Parsonage a welcome guest, in the person of our eldest daughter.

The Wisconsin Conference for 1849 was held at Platteville. I crossed the State in a buggy and was assigned to Father Mitchell’s for entertainment. To enjoy the hospitality of this truly Christian gentleman and veteran patriarch for a week was a privilege that would mark an era at any time in a man’s life. At this Conference I was ordained an Elder by Bishop Janes, and received my appointment for a second year at Waukesha. Rev. Elihu Springer was returned to Milwaukee District for the third year.

At my first Quarterly Meeting the Elder insisted on a reconstruction of my work, in which he was joined by the Local Preachers and several other brethren of the charge. The noon-day sermon was dispensed with and the Sabbath afternoon appointments were given mainly to the care of the Local Preachers. These were William Carpenter, Hiram Crane, and Miles L. Reed, a trio of noble and devoted men.

Assisted by these faithful men and a united and earnest church, the work grew upon our hands, and this second year was also blessed with a precious revival. It was in connection with this revival and the garnering of the converts that the controversy arose between us and the Baptist friends on the subject of baptism. As many of our converts had not enjoyed favorable opportunities to become informed on this subject, the Pastor was desired by formal request to preach a sermon on the mode of baptism. This was done, and soon after the official board requested a copy for publication. The writer, supposing it was merely intended to secure a few copies through the columns of the village newspaper for convenient reference, hastily furnished the discourse. Instead, however, of procuring a few slips only, it was published in pamphlet and given a more extensive circulation. In due time it was taken up by the Pastor of the Baptist Church and reviewed at length in his pulpit. On the following Sabbath the reviewer was himself reviewed, and here ended the controversy. It is a question whether such controversies are really beneficial. They usually engender strife and party feeling, and not unfrequently alienate the servants of our common Master. But that such was not the case in this instance is pretty evident from the fact that at the session of our Conference in Waukesha the following year, the writer was requested to fill on the Sabbath the pulpit of his former antagonist.

On this charge also the writer took his first serious lesson in Church trials. The matter in question arose out of a misunderstanding between a man and his wife, growing out of a want of interest, perhaps, on the part of the one, and jealousy on the part of the other. Like other inexperienced administrators whom I have known, in trying to make crooked things straight, I invoked an agency that became a fire and a sword in my hand. Neither the Church nor the individuals concerned derived any advantage in the result, and though the wisdom of the administration was never called in question as far as I knew, yet I could not suppress the conviction that Church trials can only be commended as a last resort. It is much easier to awaken than allay the spirit of strife. Abating this discordant note, which did not long disturb the harmony of the Church, the two years we spent on this charge are freighted with most precious memories. Full of incident, and fragrant with blessing, they form a bright link in the chain of our itinerant life. Happy in our work, with only occasional calls for special services abroad, the years passed swiftly and joyously.

Referring to services abroad reminds me of the Quarterly Meeting I held for the Presiding Elder, on what was then called Howard’s Prairie, some twenty miles distant. Seated in my buggy with my wife and child, I started on Friday afternoon for the place. We reached the neighborhood at nightfall. We were directed by the Elder to call on a given family for entertainment, the gentleman being the most wealthy Methodist in the settlement. We halted the buggy at his gate, and I went in to crave his hospitality. As I approached the door and addressed myself to the master of the premises, he put on a frigid expression of countenance, and answered me coldly. I decided at once that I would not make myself known, but try the spirit of the man. I inquired whether there was to be a Quarterly Meeting in his neighborhood. He replied in the affirmative. I then inquired where the Methodist preachers put up when they came into the settlement.

He said, “They usually put up at the second house further on.” I concluded the old gentleman was not expecting company until the Presiding Elder should come, and so concluded we had better go on. As I retired the old gentleman looked sharply after me, but doubtless thinking so small and young a man as I then was could not be the Elder, he permitted me to go on my way. We went on to the house indicated, and inquired of the gentleman at the gate whether the Methodist preachers who visited the settlement usually found entertainment with him. He replied, “I am not a Methodist myself, but my old woman is one, I believe, and she sometimes takes in the preachers on her own hook, but she is not at home to-night. Why didn’t you stop up at the white house on the hill? He is the loudest Methodist in this neighborhood.” I inquired, “Who lives up here in this small house that we have just passed?”

“Oh,” said he, “that is my son, the Class-Leader.” It was now quite dark. I returned to the buggy and asked my wife how she liked the Presiding Eldership. She laughed heartily, and said, “The fact is, they are all waiting for the Presiding Elder, for no one would ever take you for one.”

I concluded she was right, and on returning to the Class-Leader’s house I made bold to announce myself in due form. We were most hospitably entertained, and were so pleased with our kind host and hostess that we felt constrained to decline, the next day, urgent invitations from both of the large houses. My wife has often queried since as to what became of the pies and cakes that were intended for the Presiding Elder on that occasion.

The services of the Sabbath were held in a school house. At the close of the morning sermon the Pastor, Rev. Jesse Halstead, volunteered to carry the hat through the congregation, to receive the collection for the Presiding Elder. After performing this service, he requested the good people to sing while he should count the funds. On completing the count, he found a deficiency, and concluded to carry the hat again. He started and moved leisurely along, taking special pains to afford all an opportunity to contribute, until he came to the dear man, whose acquaintance I had made the night before. He now paused, placed the hat on the desk, under the face of the reputed miser, put his hands in his pockets, and looked unconcernedly over the congregation, remarking, “Well, brethren, there is no great hurry about this matter. If you have not got the money with you, we will give you plenty of time to borrow it from your neighbor.” This new feature in the programme directed all eyes to the brother in whose custody the hat had been placed. For a moment he was frigid, but under such a concentration of piercing rays as were now turned upon him, he soon began to melt. Turning to his neighbor, he borrowed a contribution, whereupon the hat moved on.


Milwaukee–Early History–First Sermon–Rev. Mark Robinson–First Class–Rev. John Clark–Trustees–Rev. James Ash–Rev. David Worthington–Rev. Julius Field–Rev. John Crummer–First Church–Rev. John T. Mitchell–Rev. Sias Bolles–Lantern Convert–Second Church–Rev. A. Hanson–Rev. Dr. Ryan–John H. Van Dyke–Rev. F.M. Mills–Rev. James E. Wilson–Walker’s Point–First Class–Rev. Wm. Willard.

The Conference of 1850 was held June 26th at Beloit, Bishop Hamline presiding. Brother Springer was returned to the Milwaukee District, and I was appointed to Spring Street Station, Milwaukee. The charge included the entire city except Walker’s Point, where a Mission had been established, but before speaking of the Station in connection with my labors, I should, in harmony with my general plan, first refer to its earlier history. In doing this, I can only give in these pages the briefest outline, and refer the reader, who may desire further information, to a pamphlet entitled “Milwaukee Methodism,” published by the writer in 1873.

The name of Milwaukee has, doubtless, come down to us from some extinct tribe of the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, as there seems to be nothing that will fully answer to it in any of the tongues now in use. In 1680 Zenobius Membre mentions the river of Melleoke, flowing into Lake Dauphan, in latitude forty, with an Indian village at its mouth. Three generations later Lieut. Gorrell visited Milwacky River, and found a village on its bank, with an Indian trader.

Another interval of a generation occurred, and Solomon Juneau appeared and took up his residence in Milwaukee in 1818. Other fur traders came soon after, but the real settlement of the country did not begin until 1835, when nine families came, forming the nucleus of the future city.

The first Protestant sermon preached in Milwaukee was delivered by a Methodist clergyman in June, 1835. The meeting was held in a log house, erected by Dr. Enoch Chase for a residence, near the mouth of the river.

Milwaukee Mission was organized by the Illinois Conference in the summer of 1835, and Rev. Mark Robinson, who had been admitted that year, was appointed to the charge. The Presiding Elder of the District, which extended from Chicago to Green Bay, was the veteran pioneer, Rev. John Clark. The Presiding Elder visited Milwaukee during this year and preached a sermon in the residence of Dr. Chase, this being at that time the principal place in which meetings were held. Both the Pastor and Presiding Elder were entertained by the Doctor.

The population of the village was very small, but before the expiration of the Conference year Brother Robinson was able to form a class of four members. These first members were David Worthington, Mrs. Samuel Brown, Mrs. J.K. Lowry, and Mrs. Farmin.

In the autumn of 1836 Rev. William S. Crissey was sent to Milwaukee. The congregations were now growing, and it was found expedient to provide some place, other than a private residence, for the meetings. The Society was not able to build, and to rent a suitable place seemed impossible. In this embarrassment a carpenter’s shop belonging to two members of the church, W.A. and L.S. Kellogg, was deemed the most feasible arrangement. This building, located on the corner of East Water and Huron Streets, was a frame structure, and stood on posts. Beneath and all around it was a pond of water, and to gain an entrance a narrow bridge was constructed from the street to the door. The first Quarterly Meeting was held in this place by Rev. John Clark, on the 8th and 9th of January, 1837. At this meeting the Pastor reported the conversion of Mr. J.K. Lowry, doubtless the first in the village.

The legal organization of the Church, according to the laws of the Territory, was effected July 22d, 1837, with Elah Dibble as Chairman and W.A. Kellogg as Secretary. The first Trustees were Elah Dibble, David Worthington, W.A. Kellogg, L.S. Kellogg, J.K. Lowry, Jared Thompson and Joseph E. Howe. The fourth Quarterly Meeting was held July 29th, and the Pastor reported a membership of forty-five.

In September, 1837, Rev. James R. Goodrich was appointed to the Station and Rev. Salmon Stebbins to the District. Among the members enrolled at this time I find the names of Thomas McElhenny, Jared Thompson, Local Preacher, Mr. and Mrs. L.S. Kellogg, Wm. A. Kellogg, Theresa Kellogg, Ophelia Kellogg, Amelia Kellogg, Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, David Worthington, A.T. Wilson, Mrs. Samuel Brown, Mrs. Henry Miller, Mrs. J.K. Lowry, James Ash, Mr. and Mrs. Elah Dibble, and Sisters Adams, Church, James and Vail.

During this year Leader’s Meetings were established, and at the one held March 12th, 1838, James Ash, David Worthington, Francis Metcalf and Hiram Johnson received Exhorter’s license. The first named became subsequently a member of the Conference, traveled several years acceptably, was greatly beloved by all his brethren, and finally died within the bounds of New Berlin Circuit. Brother Worthington was a clerk in Solomon Juneau’s store. In 1840 he entered the Conference, was stationed at Burlington and was returned the following year. In 1842 he was stationed at Davenport, Iowa, and thereafter his fields of labor fell within that State. He held an honored place among his brethren, represented them in the General Conference, and a few years since closed a useful life and passed to his home on high.

The other brethren became Local Preachers, and the former departed this life in Christian triumph at Appleton, Nov. 3, 1863, while the latter has become a successful business man, and is awaiting his summons. Thus the infant society of Milwaukee need not blush for her first contribution to the Ministerial staff of the church.

In 1838 Rev. Wellington Weigly was appointed, but as the great financial disaster had prostrated the business of the country, leaving the people in poverty, he only remained a short time, and the pulpit was largely left to the care of Brother Thompson, the Local Preacher. In 1839 Rev. Julius Field was appointed to the District, and the charge was left to be supplied.

Brother Field entered the New York Conference in 1821, and before coming west had filled leading appointments, including New York city. He was transferred this year to the Illinois Conference, and assigned to the District. He remained two years, and was then appointed General Agent of the Bible Society for Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. He served in this field four years, was then stationed, in 1845, at Racine, but at the close of the year was re-transferred to his old Conference, where he continued to render effective service, with but brief intervals, up to 1871. Having now completed a half century of labor, he was invited by his Conference to deliver a semi-centennial sermon. Having taken a superannuated relation, Brother Field, happy in spirit, is spending the evening of life among his friends, and awaiting the call of the Master.

The pastorate of Milwaukee was soon filled by Rev. Daniel Brayton, a superannuated member of the Troy Conference. It was now determined to build a Church. Hon. Morgan L. Martin came forward and generously donated a lot, situated on the east side of Broadway, and between Biddle and Oneida Streets, but the financial derangement still continuing, it was not deemed advisable to undertake the erection of the building.

At the General Conference of 1840, the Illinois Conference was divided and the Rock River took its northern territory. Rev. John Crummer was this year appointed to Milwaukee. As the carpenter’s shop could no longer be had as a chapel, the meetings passed from one private house to another for a time. But this state of things could not long continue. The erection of a Church was decided upon, and before the close of the year the edifice was completed. It was dedicated by Rev. Julius Field in May, 1841. The building remains at this writing, on the same lot, but placed with the side to the street, it has been fitted up for residences.

At the session of the Rock River Conference in 1841, the Milwaukee District was discontinued, and the city was placed on the Chicago District. Rev. John T. Mitchell was appointed to the District, and Rev. Sias Bolles to the station.

Brother Mitchell was one of Nature’s noblemen. Tall and erect in form, high and broad forehead, symmetrical and shapely cut features, dark and lustrous eyes, his bearing was princely. Such was Brother Mitchell in the years of his strength. He was second to no man in his Conference or State as a pulpit orator. In 1844 he was elected Assistant Book Agent, Cincinnati, where he served the church with distinguished ability. After leaving this position he re-entered the regular work in the Cincinnati Conference, from the ranks of which he passed on, several years ago, to the companionship of the white-robed in Heaven.

Brother Bolles, on coming to the city, first proceeded to liquidate the indebtedness of two hundred dollars on the Church, and then entered upon a protracted meeting, which resulted in an extensive revival. Among those converted was a German Catholic boy, of whom the following incident is related: The first night he attended the meeting, Brother Bolles preached on the duty of Christians to let their light shine. Taking the instruction of the Preacher in its most literal sense, the young man greatly surprised the good people on the following evening by stalking into church bearing a well-lighted lantern. On enquiring of the young man the reason for so strange a procedure, he answered: “Why, the Priest said I must let my light shine, and so I have brought it with me.” The Preacher carefully explained his sermon, bringing it down to the capacity of his auditor, and had the pleasure to see him thoroughly converted. Many years after, Brother Bolles was happily surprised to meet his convert, who had grown into a Christian gentleman of exalted position in society.

In 1842, Rev. Wm. H. Sampson was sent to Milwaukee, of whom a record is made elsewhere. The following year Rev. James Mitchell was appointed, and it was decided to enter upon a new Church enterprise. A lot was purchased July 3d, 1844, of John Clifford, on the northwest corner of West Water and Spring Streets.

At the time of the purchase the location was considered by not a few to be unfortunate, as the population at that period on the west side was quite limited, and it was even hinted that a leading member of the Board of Trustees had unduly influenced the selection in order to enhance the value of certain property in the vicinity. But whatever may have been the complications of the case at the beginning, certain it is that it was found in due time to be a very excellent location. The building, forty-five by ninety feet in size, was commenced soon after, and carried forward as rapidly as possible to completion.

It was a brick structure, trimmed with stone. Standing with its front to West Water, the side was turned to Spring Street. On the first floor there were four stores fronting Spring Street, and having cellars in the basement beneath them. The auditorium was on the second floor above the pavement and was reached by a broad flight of steps in the front of the edifice. Between the outside entrance and the auditorium there was a vestibule with a class room on either side, and above it a commodious gallery. The auditorium was finished in a neat yet plain manner, and furnished sittings for about six hundred people. The whole structure cost upwards of ten thousand dollars. To defray the current expenses and erect such an edifice taxed the good people to the utmost limit of their resources, besides imposing on them a heavy indebtedness. But there was no lack of courage, and the good work went forward.

In 1844 the Milwaukee District was again revived and Rev. James Mitchell was assigned to it, and Rev. F.A. Savage was sent to the station. In 1845 the station was left to be supplied, and Rev. Abram Hanson was called to fill the pastorate. Finding it difficult to rent a house, Brother Hanson procured a boarding place for himself and good lady with Mr. Lindsay Ward, where he spent the year and founded an abiding friendship. He was a man of superior pulpit ability and engaging manners. The congregation filled the new Church edifice, and many valuable accessions were made to the membership.

Brother Hanson after leaving Milwaukee filled several important charges, and then retired from the work. For several years he served as the representative of our national government at Liberia, where he fell under the fatal malaria of the African coast, and passed on to the better country.

The next session of the Conference was held Aug. 12, 1846. At this Conference Rev. S.H. Stocking was continued on the District, and Rev. W.M.D. Ryan was appointed to the station. Mr. Ryan entered the Ohio Conference in 1839, and came by transfer to the Rock River Conference in 1844. After spending two years in Chicago, where he had wrought a good work for the Master, he was sent to this charge.

The fame of the Preacher had preceded him, and he was greeted by immense congregations. His ministry formed an epoch in the history of the church. He brought the same earnest manner, the same fiery eloquence, and the same shrewd business tact that had characterized his labors in Chicago and elsewhere, and which have since placed him in the front rank of successful laborers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and the Metropolis of the nation. The stores in the Church edifice were rented or sold for a term of years to liquidate the indebtedness of the society, and the church was placed on a substantial financial basis. But Mr. Ryan could hardly feel at home among his new associates, and in this new field of labor. His earlier associations were formed in a more southern latitude. The Puritan type of society that, traveling westward on a line from New England, had struck Milwaukee, was not congenial to his tastes and not wholly in harmony with his methods of ministerial labor. At the end of nine months he was invited to a pastorate in the city of Baltimore, and he deemed it advisable to accept the invitation. His place in Milwaukee was filled by Rev. Francis M. Mills, who came, by exchange with Mr. Ryan, from the charge in Baltimore to which the latter had been invited. Mr. Mills filled out the balance of the year.

Among the accessions to the charge this year was Hon. John H. Van Dyke. Soon after his arrival, though a young man, he became an official member, and has continued to hold positions of trust to the present writing. A man of thorough mental training, sound judgment, and unswerving integrity, he cannot fail to command the respect and esteem of all. His legal abilities have specially fitted him for the Presidency of the Board of Trustees, the position he has long held, while his superior business sagacity has been of great service to the church in guiding her through the extraordinary trials she has been called to endure. Nor has he proved less valuable financially. Being possessed of large means, he is generous towards the Church and the benevolent enterprises of the city.

In 1847 Rev. Elihu Springer was appointed to the District, and Rev. Francis M. Mills was returned to the station. Brother Mills was an able preacher, but in his style of delivery was almost the reverse of his predecessor. He was a noble representative of Baltimore Methodism, but his health suffered from the bleak winds of the Lake, and at the close of his term he was compelled to seek a milder atmosphere.

The following two years Rev. James E. Wilson was stationed at Milwaukee.

Brother Wilson came to the Conference from the Protestant Methodist Church, in which he had held a prominent position both as a Preacher and Secretary of the Conference. He was a man of genial spirit, affable manners, and commanding eloquence. His sermons were well prepared, and especially in given passages, were delivered with an unction and pathos that could not fail to produce an abiding impression. The great concourse of people who waited upon his ministry attested how highly he was appreciated by those who were permitted to listen to his weekly ministrations. A revival occurred during the winter, and at the close of the year he was able to report one hundred and sixty-four members and thirty-nine probationers.

During the pastorate of Brother Wilson an unhappy controversy arose between the managers of the Sunday School and the leaders of the social means of grace with reference to the hours of meeting. The Official Board decided in favor of the School, and an alienation of feeling was the result. A few of the disaffected withdrew, organized a Wesleyan Church, and called Rev. Mr. McKee as their Pastor. Though an unpleasant affair, the old church moved on as usual.

But as another charge was now growing up in the southern part of the city, it is proper that I should refer to it before closing this chapter.

In the fall of 1847 Osmond Bailey and a few others became specially interested in establishing regular religious services at Walker’s Point. Soon after a class was formed consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Osmond Bailey, Mrs. Capt. Stewart, Mrs. Warren. Mrs. Almena Waite, Mrs. Worden, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Waite and M.S. Velie.

At the Conference of 1848, the small society was erected into a Mission with Rev. Warner Oliver as Pastor. The Meetings were held in a school house, located on lots eleven and twelve, in block one hundred and one.

Brother Oliver was a man of fine talent, but was compelled to give a portion of his time to business, through the financial feebleness of the charge.

In 1849 Rev. William Willard was appointed to the charge. It will be remembered that this good brother was a member of the class formed at Burnett in 1845. He entered the Conference in 1847, and had been stationed two years at Aztalan. He was an earnest laborer, and under his administration the work was encouragingly prosperous. The congregations were growing and the people were beginning to agitate the measure of building a Church.

After leaving Walker’s Point, Brother Willard remained in the regular work, with a few brief intervals, for many years, doing efficient service for the Master. At this writing he is in Nebraska, using such openings as may offer to help forward the good work.

Hiving thus briefly sketched the beginnings and progress of the good work in the city up to the time of my appointment, I will defer the balance of the record for the next chapter.


Spring Street, Milwaukee–First Sabbath–Promising Outlook–The Deep Shadow–Rev. Elihu Springer–Rev. I.M. Leihy–Revival–Missionary Meetings–Dedication at Sheboygan–Ravages of the Cholera–Death-bed Scenes–The Riot–Bishop Waugh–Camp Meeting–Scandinavian Work–Rev. C. Willerup.

The Spring Street Station had now attained the reputation of being the first charge in the Conference. The Church edifice, as we have seen, was decidedly respectable, both in size and character. The membership was enterprising, and full of the spirit of labor. In its official Board were found L.S. Kellogg, G.F. Austin, John H. Van Dyke, Geo. E.H. Day, James Seville, J.C. Henderson, W.W. Lake, Wm. Rowbotham, George Southwell, Wm. R. Jones, Wm. L. Boughton, John Kneene, Wm. Cossentine, C.F. Larigo and Charles Randall. And during the year John Kemp, Cornelius Morse, Mitchell Steever, C.C. Chamberlin and Henry Seiler were added.

My salary was fixed on the basis of the old Disciplinary allowance: Quarterage, $216; Table Expenses, $200; House Rent, $125; Traveling Expenses, $5; making a total of $546. This amount would be considered a small allowance at the present time, but at that early day it was believed to be a generous provision for a family of three persons.

My first Sabbath, always a trial day to the Preachers as well as the people, passed without any special disaster. Perhaps it was owing in part to the presence of the Presiding Elder, who sat at my back. Whatever he or the people may have thought, I certainly felt that I was a mere stripling going out with nothing in my hand but a sling and a pebble. Nor did it relieve my embarrassment when I saw the great congregation, and remembered that they had enjoyed for two years the ministry of the most eloquent man in the Conference.

It is said that a minister ought always to be ready to preach or to die. I think, on that occasion, if I had been permitted to choose between them, I would have accepted the latter. As it was, I very nearly did both. And that I really did neither, I have always considered a special intervention of Providence. On the part of the people there was evidently a suspension of judgment. They were doubtless puzzled by my contradictory appearances. In form I was slight and fragile, not weighing more than one hundred and thirty pounds, but in my face, though only twenty-eight years of age, I bore the appearance of being ten years older.

At the close of the service a large number of people remained and gave the new Minister a hearty greeting. It was timely, giving me to realize I was not quite gone to the land of shadows.

I was informed afterwards that one good brother went home from the service and told his wife, who had not been present, that he had shaken hands with the new Minister and his daughter. “No, father,” said the daughter, “that lady was not the Minister’s daughter, but his wife.” “Well,” replied the father, “she must be his second wife, for she looks young enough to be his daughter.” Whether this opinion should be interpreted as complimentary to the Minister or his wife, I was never fully able to decide.

Having passed the crisis, the first Sabbath, and survived the following week, I now began to adjust myself to my work. I was happy to find that the good people were strongly attached to Prayer and Class-Meetings. This gave an assurance that there were at least some efficient laborers in the Church, who could be relied on if we should find ourselves in a revival. I also found that the people could endure a large amount of pastoral visiting. These discoveries were enough for a start, and I entered upon the work without delay.

About this time I was called to attend a funeral in one of the families that had gone out from the church the previous year, and were now members of the Wesleyan organization. The next Sabbath morning this family and several others were in my congregation. In the opening prayer I made the poor slave a special subject, as I often did. At the close of the service, the head of one of the families came forward and stated that Mr. McKee, the Pastor of the Wesleyan Church, had gone to the Conference, and hence they were without services for a few Sabbaths. But as for his part, he did not care if he never came back, for I was abolitionist enough for him.

In a few weeks Rev. T. Orbison was sent to the city, in the place of Mr. McKee. After the first Sabbath, he called on me and said that he found his people quite disposed to return to the old Church, and that in consequence, he had dispensed with his services the previous evening, and attended our Church with them. He was now inclined to advise them to return, as he saw no occasion for two organizations. The leading members having previously decided to return, the balance now joined them in the movement, while those who had been gathered from other organizations, returned to their respective homes.

Brother Orbison, in coming to this country from Ireland, fell among the Wesleyans on his arrival, and became identified with them, supposing they were the same body he had left at home. On learning his mistake, he now came over to us, and for many years was a worthy member of the Wisconsin Conference. After doing faithful service for many years, and winning the esteem of all, he laid aside the armor and took up the everlasting crown of rejoicing.

The work of the year was now well begun. The house was filled with people, the finances were in excellent condition, and everything indicated a year of special success, But how strangely light and shadow, hopes and fears, rejoicing and mourning commingle in this life! While we were thus full of hope, and even exultant over the indications of a prosperous year, little did we imagine that we were then on the threshold of a deep affliction, arising from the sudden death of our Presiding Elder.

Brother Springer left the city to hold his Quarterly Meetings at Watertown and Oconomowoc, the writer accompanying him to the city limits. On the 21st of August he closed his Quarterly Meeting services at Watertown, took dinner at the Parsonage with the Pastor, Rev. David Brooks, and then rode on to Oconomowoc. He stopped for the night with Brother Worthington, ate sparingly, and retired at the usual time. At three o’clock in the morning he was seized by the cholera. The attack, severe at first, soon became alarming. Medical aid was called, but without avail. He lingered until six o’clock P.M., and passed away in great peace. His family were sent for, but failed to reach him before his departure. The Funeral Sermon was preached in the Spring Street Church by the writer, from Second Timothy, 4. 6-8.

Brother Springer was received on trial by the Illinois Annual Conference in September, 1833. His appointments before coming to Milwaukee District had been, Carlinville, Iroquois, Oplaine, Saminoc, Bristol, Lockport, Joliet, St. Charles, Mineral Point and Hazel Green.

Brother Springer was a man of commanding presence. In form erect, full and athletic, with a broad, high forehead, and an intellectual face. The whole cast of the man indicated strength. He was a sound theologian, an able Preacher and a wise and vigilant administrator. He was emphatically a true man, and, as a Presiding Elder, very popular. The loss of such a man, at forty years of age, was a great disaster to the Conference.

Soon after the death of Brother Springer, Rev. I.M. Leihy was appointed as his successor on the District. Brother Leihy entered the Conference in 1843, and before coming to the District, had been stationed at Hazel Green, Elizabeth, Mineral Point, Platteville, Southport, and Beloit He was a man of marked ability both as a Preacher and administrator. His leading endowment was strength, and on some chosen subject, a subject to which he had given special attention, his preaching was overwhelming. He was a man of immense will force, and not a whit behind the chief of his brethren in his devotion to the Master’s cause. Neither storms nor other impediments deterred him from his work. With a face set as a flint against every obstacle in his path of duty, he drove straight on to fulfil the convictions of his dauntless spirit. By some he was thought to be severe, and not a little exacting, but those who knew him best were tolerant of his idiosyncrasies, and were prepared to assign him a chief place among his brethren. After completing his term on the District, he filled several important appointments, but finally located and removed to California, where at the present writing, as for several years past, he is again engaged in the regular work.

During the fall and early winter there was manifest a growing spiritual interest among the people, which culminated ultimately in an extensive revival of religion. The protracted meeting continued five weeks, and resulted in the conversion of seventy-five souls.

The plan of holding Platform Missionary Meetings was continued during this year, and largely increased the contributions of the people. While on my way in company with Brother Leihy, to attend such a meeting at Port Washington, I formed the acquaintance of Brother Jesse Hubbard and his good lady at Mequon, where we halted for dinner. For many years this residence was the home of Itinerant Preachers and the nucleus of Christian society in that region.

The dedication of the German Methodist Church at Sheboygan occurred in April of this year. I went down to perform the service in a steamer, but when ready to return, the waves were running too high for the boat to make the pier. The mishap left my Pulpit without a supply for the Sabbath, an event which seldom transpired, but gave me an opportunity to make the acquaintance of our people in that part of the Conference, and the pleasure of preaching twice at Sheboygan and once at Sheboygan Falls.

During the summer of 1851 the cholera raged in Milwaukee in a most appalling manner. The whole city was a hospital. For several days together it was claimed there were fifty deaths per day. Though earnestly entreated to leave the city, as many others had done, I declined, feeling that my life was no more precious than the lives of others. Besides, it seemed to me, if there is ever a time when a people need the aid of their Pastor, it is when they are in peril and affliction. When at the height of its ravages, I repeatedly attended six funerals a day, and visited a dozen sick persons. The very men whom I met at a funeral one day, I would bury the next. Mingling thus daily with the sick and dying, I could not well escape myself. I suffered two attacks during the season, but through great mercy, the lives both of myself and family were spared.

During this terrible visitation I had frequent opportunities to test the value of the Christian religion. So marked was the difference between the death-bed scenes of Christians and the unconverted that even Infidels themselves could not refrain from referring to it. As if to teach the people this great lesson, there were a few instances of triumphant deaths, and a few of the opposite class. One good sister, as she was gliding across the stream, enquired, “Is this Jordan?” She was told it was. “How calm and placid are its waters,” she added. “I expected to find the billows running high, but, glory to Jesus! there is not a ripple upon all the stream.”

Unlike this scene was the death of a young man who had sent for me in great haste. On entering the room, I recognized him as a young man whom I had repeatedly urged, during our meeting of the previous winter, to give himself to the Saviour. He was now in the throes of dissolution and I could hardly hope to reach him. Wild with frenzy, he seemed to pray and curse with the same breath. As a momentary interval occurred between the paroxysms, I sought to arrest his attention and divert his thought to Christ. He turned his piercing eyes on me and said, “Oh! it is too late. Last winter, if I had yielded to your kind admonitions, all would now be well, but it is too late, too late.” Another paroxysm seized him, and he was lost to all consciousness, and soon ceased to breathe.

Another event occurred this year of which mention should be made in this connection. It is the notorious riot. I quote from “Milwaukee Methodism.” “Rev. Mr. Leahy, a minister in the Protestant Methodist Church, after visiting several of the principal cities of the Union, came to Milwaukee. Having spent many years in a monastery, and having become convinced of his error, he now sought to enlighten the people on the subject of the confessional. He proposed, in coming to the city, to give a course of lectures in a public hall during the ensuing week. On the intervening Sabbath he was invited to occupy several of the Pulpits of the city. He had already filled one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and then came to the Spring Street Church in the evening. The house was filled as usual. He opened the services in the regular order, took his text and began the delivery of his sermon. Immediately a crowd of strange men began to press in at the door and push along up the center aisle. At a given signal, a rush was made towards the Pulpit. Comprehending the situation in an instant, the Pastor, from his position in the Pulpit, ordered them back, and at the same time directed the men nearest the aisle and altar to intercept their advance. A stone was hurled at the Pastor’s head, but it missed its mark and crashed against the wall in the rear of the Pulpit. But L.S. Kellogg, L.L. Lee and others stood firmly in the aisle and dealt some vigorous blows in response to the clubs and other missiles with which they were being severely bruised. At this moment Dr. Waldo W. Lake, who was sitting in the altar, drew a revolver which he on leaving home had put in his pocket, expecting after service to visit a patient in an exposed part of the city, and instantly the rioters fell back and retreated through the entrance to the street. During the conflict the audience room was a wild scene of confusion. The ladies became greatly alarmed, and required the attention of a large number of gentlemen in making their escape from the building. The door being thronged with the rioters, the principal egress was found to be the windows next to the street, and these were elevated a full story above the pavement. Ladders, wagons, and other impromptu scaffolding were provided, and large numbers of ladies were rescued in this way, while others were crowded against the sides of the room until the rioters had withdrawn. After quiet had been restored measures were taken to convey the speaker safely to his lodgings at the hotel. But a good number of revolvers, carried by a posse of earnest men, were a sufficient protection against all evil-minded persons that thronged the streets on the way.”

The city was rocked with excitement. Early next morning a meeting was held in the Church edifice that had thus been made the scene of a riotous assault. The populace interpreted the affair rightly. It was not so much an attack upon a Protestant Church as an assault against the freedom of speech, one of the most sacred rights of the people. After expressing suitable indignation against the actors and abettors of the riot, and resolving to protect the freedom of speech so long as it should not offend against public morals, the meeting appointed a committee to wait on Mr. Leahy, and, on behalf of the community, guarantee him protection in his rights. Under this protection a lecture was given in the Free Congregational Church, and another on the public square, when, all danger of assault having disappeared, he was permitted to go on his way.

The only persons seriously hurt were L.L. Lee and L.S. Kellogg. The first was compelled to carry a hand in a sling for a long time, and the latter was considerably injured by a blow from a club on the head. The blood ran freely, but he was able to attend the Law and Order Meeting the following morning. His speech on the occasion became a watchword among the people. He said in a very resolute manner, “Our Fathers fought for freedom, both civil and religious, and if we have got to fight the battle over again I am ready, and I am willing that my blood should be the first to flow.” The city appropriated one hundred and fifty dollars to repair the damages done to the Church edifice.

Bishop Waugh made us a visit near the close of the year. He was on his way to the Conference to be held at Waukesha, and went with us to the Camp-Meeting at Brookfield. Spring Street Station made no inconsiderable part of the Meeting. She pitched a tent that would accommodate one hundred and fifty persons, and it was well filled from the beginning to the end of the Meeting. It was a Meeting of great power. None who heard the exhortations of the good Bishop at the close of his Sunday morning sermon can ever forget it. After holding the vast congregation spell-bound for more than an hour in the delivery of the sermon, the old man, with locks as white as the driven snow, came down from the stand, and, standing on a seat in the Altar, began to invite mourners. The motives of the Gospel were presented one after another, the tide of feeling rising, until the Bishop was master of the occasion, and seemed to sway the people at his pleasure. The Bishop’s voice grew grandly eloquent as his great soul rose to the level of the effort, and before it and its burden of truth, the people began to bend, then brake, and finally flew to the Altar. Nor did the exhortation cease until the Altar was literally crowded with seeking penitents.

The Scandinavian work was this year opened in Wisconsin. To further this object the Missionary Management at New York sent forward Rev. C. Willerup, placing him at the beginning under my care. On reaching the city he found the population using the Scandinavian language too small to organize the work, and we deemed it advisable to explore the interior. To do this he must have an Itinerant’s outfit, consisting at least of horse and saddle-bags. While he was employed in settling his family in a rented house, I visited the market and purchased a horse for him and the other necessary articles, using my own funds until drafts should be received from the Missionary Treasury. The desired location for the first Mission was found at Cambridge, where Brother Willerup organized a Society and subsequently erected a Church edifice. From this small beginning has since grown a family of charges and a line of able Ministers, constituting a Presiding Elder’s District.

The Conference year had now come to a close. Many changes had occurred in Spring Street Station. In consequence of the cholera, and the consequent stagnation of business, large numbers of the people went into the country. But notwithstanding this depletion, such had been the number of accessions, one hundred and seven in all, that I was able to report one hundred and fifty-seven members and sixty-three probationers, making a total of two hundred and twenty.

The financial plan, adopted at the beginning of the year, that of collecting the funds in the classes, had proved a success. At the close of the year, the Pastor was fully paid, and the Society was out of debt.


Conference of 1851.–Presiding Elder.–Presentation.–Give and Take.–Fond du Lac District–Quarterly Meeting–Rev. J.S. Prescott.–Footman vs. Buggies–Fond du Lac.–Two Churches.–Greenbush Quarterly Meeting–Rev. David Lewis–Pioneer Self-Sacrifice.–Finds a Help-Meet.–Sheboygan Falls.–Rev. Matthias Himebaugh.–Oshkosh–First Class.–Church Enterprises.

The Conference for 1851 was held June 25th, at Waukesha. The Sessions were deeply spiritual, and were characterized by general harmony among the preachers. At this Conference the Committee on Periodicals, of which I was a member, reported in favor of the establishment of a North Western Christian Advocate, and the report was unanimously adopted.

In the arrangement of appointments I was assigned to the Fond du Lac District. The appointment was a great surprise to myself, and doubtless to others. Besides, it was not in harmony with my judgment or wishes. It seemed to me to be an unwise measure to take so young a man, only twenty-nine, from the companionship of books and the details of the Pastoral office, and place him on a District where both of the Departments of labor, so essential to success in the Ministry, must necessarily be abridged. And in the next place, it appeared to me that, since there were so many other men in the Conference, who were better qualified than I for the position, my appointment was but doing violence to the work. But I soon came to the conclusion that when an appointment has been made there is no further need to debate the question. In such a case, the sooner both the Ministers and people adjust their views to the new order of things, the better for all concerned. Accepting this view, I hastened to conform to the situation with as good grace as possible. And to aid me perhaps a little, several of the preachers surprised me by the presentation of a cane.

I had heard it remarked that when a man used a cane, it was an evidence that he had a weak place somewhere between the crown of the head and the sole of the foot. I was now puzzled to know what the cane meant. There was doubtless a weak spot somewhere, in the opinion of the brethren. It must of course be either in the District or the incumbent. But my query as to which was soon answered. Dr. Bowman, my father-in-law, was traveling soon after in company with a good brother, when the conversation turned upon the appointments of the recent Conference. It had not proceeded far when the brother remarked, in referring to my appointment, “The Conference must have been hard up for material when it appointed that young stripling Presiding Elder.” The mystery of the cane was now explained. The good brethren of the Conference doubtless thought the matter could be helped out by the use of a cane.

But a sharper joke than that was passed upon the people of Fond du Lac. Only six years before they had given me license to preach, and sent me to the Conference, and now, in sending me back so soon, the Conference seemed to say, “Brethren, we return you as good as you gave.” I have heard it said that sometimes Quarterly Conferences grant licenses with the implied understanding that the recipients are not expected to serve the home Church, but are good enough to preach to less highly favored people abroad. If this course had been adopted by these Fond du Lac brethren as their policy, certainly it was a cruel joke to return the labor of their hands on such short notice.

But fortunately I was not supposed to know anything about this matter, and hence, on the principle that “where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise,” I had nothing to do but to gather up my family and hasten to my new field of labor.

Fond du Lac District at this time embraced that portion of the State lying North and East of the city of Fond du Lac, and included thirteen charges. A few of the charges could be reached by steamers on the Fox and Wolf Rivers and Lake Winnebago, but the balance could only be visited by the stage or private conveyance. I chose to adopt the latter. Having provided board for my wife and child with Rev. M.L. Noble, and