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Thirty Years in the Itinerancy online

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the work, expressed the belief that not less than one hundred persons
passed into the Kingdom of Grace.

The meeting had now received such momentum that it was impossible to
close it on Monday. It was put in charge of brethren who were not
immediately needed at the Conference, and was continued nearly the
entire week.

On this trip to the Conference, I was permitted to enjoy the
companionship of Rev. N.J. Aplin, who rendered signal service in the
meeting on the Sabbath.

The Conference at Baraboo was one of unusual interest. The greetings of
the Preachers were cordial, as they always are where persons make
sacrifices and put forth labor in a common cause. It was the first visit
of Bishop Scott to the Conference, and his urbanity and self-sacrificing
labors endeared him to all. The business of the Conference was done in
the spirit of the Master, but an unhappy trial made the session a very
protracted one. This being the second year of my Presiding Eldership,
the Disciplinary limit required several removals, but I need not give
them in detail, as they can be ascertained, if desirable, by consulting
the Minutes.

On our return from the Conference we reached Fall River on Saturday
evening, and remained there over the Sabbath. On arriving at the forks
of the roads on the crown of the prairie, the several Preachers who were
in company halted for a proper distribution among the good people. Rev.
A.P. Allen, the inimitable joker, who had served as Pastor on the
charge, installed himself master of ceremonies, and proceeded to divide
up the company. After assigning the balance to their respective
quarters, he said, "Now, I guess the young Presiding Elder and the old
Pastor had better go to Aunt Martha's, as that is the place where they
do up the chicken-fixings scientifically." We were delightfully
entertained by Rev. E.J. Smith and family, with whom, it will be
remembered, I became acquainted in 1845. On Sabbath morning, accompanied
by Brother and Sister Smith and their daughters, now Mrs. Pedrick and
Mrs. Coe, of Ripon, we attended religious services at the school house
in Fall River, where the serving fell to the lot of the writer.

At the beginning of the new year, special attention was given to the
finances in the several charges. And during the first round the work was
planned for the winter campaign. Fixing on the localities where I could
render special assistance to the Pastors, it was arranged to commence
the services with the Quarterly Meetings, and if the work should require
more than the following week, I could return after the succeeding
Quarterly Meeting had been held.

The first meeting was held at Appleton, Rev. Elmore Yocum being the
Pastor. This noble man, one of the excellent of the earth, came to the
Conference in 1849 by transfer from the North Ohio Conference, and was
appointed Presiding Elder of the Platteville District. At the close of
his term, he was stationed at Appleton, where his family could enjoy
special educational advantages. At the end of two years he was made
Presiding Elder of the Appleton District, and at the close of his term
went to the West Wisconsin Conference, as he had become identified with
the Educational Institution at Point Bluff. Both as Pastor and Presiding
Elder Brother Yocum was deservedly popular.

The meeting at Appleton awakened intense interest. The good work grew
upon our hands from day to day, until the business of the village was
largely suspended during the hours of religious service. All classes
fell under the good influence, and both students and citizens shared in
the result. One hundred and thirty souls were converted.

The next meeting was held at Sheboygan Falls. As I drove into the
village, the severest storm of the winter was raging, and by Sabbath
morning the snow was two feet in depth. During the following night the
winds piled it into drifts that made the roads nearly impassable. What
was to be done? The prospect certainly looked dubious. But it occurred
to me that a little preparation for the meeting would be of service, and
this could now be done before the crowd should rush in upon us. We
decided to go on. Illustrating the saying, "Where there's a will there's
a way," the good people opened the streets in the village, and a small
congregation was brought together. The Spirit of God came down in sweet,
melting influences, and, under the Divine inspiration, the faith of the
Church grew strong. Before the end of the week the place was filled, and
souls were being converted.

The Pastor was Rev. R.W. Barnes. And as soon as the meeting was well
established, the Pastors of the other Churches, Rev. Mr. Marsh, of the
Congregational, and Rev. Mr. Lull, of the Baptist, came in with their
people. They were received cordially, and set at work as opportunity
offered. Besides these, several of our own Laymen gave themselves almost
wholly to the work. Among these, Rev. L. Cheeseman, a Local Preacher,
and E.T. Bond, Esq., a merchant, deserve special mention. Too much
cannot be said in praise of these lay workers and the Church generally.
With their Pastor, they were instant in season and out of season. After
the regular labor of the evening was concluded, it was no uncommon thing
for them to organize a second meeting for such of the seekers as had not
obtained a satisfactory evidence of conversion. Here, in prayer and
Christian Conference, they would labor until midnight, and in some
instances until the dawn of day. The shout of victory usually signalled
the close of the meeting. A more thorough work than this I never
witnessed. I left the meeting twice before its close to attend to my
work elsewhere, and was brought back by a messenger. During the meeting
one hundred and fifty souls professed conversion, and among them were
both men and women, who have since shown themselves to be valiant
soldiers for Prince Immanuel.

The next meeting was held in the South Ward charge, Fond du Lac. The
Pastor, Rev. E.S. Grumley, who had been appointed to the charge at the
recent Conference, entered the North Ohio Conference in 1842. He had
been stationed at Lower Sandusky, Bucyrus, Ashland, Shanesville, Ohio
City, Tiffin, Sandusky City and Norwalk. Since his transfer to the
Conference in 1851, he had been two years at Council Hill. After filling
his term in Fond du Lac he was, for a full term, Presiding Elder on
Racine District. After leaving the District he continued to hold
respectable appointments until 1871, when his health failed and he was
compelled to take a superannuated relation.

Brother Grumley was a man of small frame and apparently of feeble
health, yet he was able to do effective work to the last. He had a
sound head, and a heart equally sound. He was a good Preacher, and a
superior Pastor. Revivals usually attended his labors, and he was always
highly esteemed by the people.

The meeting at Fond du Lac immediately followed the one at Sheboygan
Falls. With my family I left the latter place in time to reach Fond du
Lac at noon on Saturday. But through detention I was just driving into
the city as the bell was ringing for the service. Hastily caring for my
horse, I went immediately to the Church. Before the services were
concluded, I saw evident assurances that the Pastor had been making
careful preparation for the work before us. The opening sermon was
addressed to the Church, and found a ready and hearty response. Before
the Quarterly Meeting had passed, it was manifest that a glorious
revival was impending. Seekers of religion came to the Altar and found a
prepared Church to lead them to Christ. The meeting went on from night
to night, and before the end of the week, each night brought scores of
seekers. The good Pastor was now at home. In prayer, in exhortation, and
in labor at the side of the seeker, he was a tower of strength. Among
the laity there were also several excellent laborers, who rendered
valuable services in the meeting. The revival reached all classes, from
youth to old age, and gave to the Church many reliable accessions.

At the beginning, sister Churches joined largely in the meeting, but as
the work extended among their people, they opened meetings at their own
places of worship. The change, however, did not check the revival. It
swept on through the community, and all the Churches shared in the
harvest of souls.

During this year Sheboygan was also favored with a revival. Rev. N.J.
Aplin, the Pastor, came to Wisconsin during the previous year. He came
from Western New York, where he had been engaged in business, bringing a
note of introduction from Rev. Moses Miller, my uncle, who had been for
several years his neighbor. I employed him at once, for the balance of
the year, at Charlestown, a new charge that I had just formed. He was
admitted on trial at the ensuing Conference, and appointed to Sheboygan.

After leaving Sheboygan, Brother Aplin's appointments have been:
Manitowoc, Waukesha, Brookfield, Watertown, Beaver Dam, Oconomowoc,
Berlin, Geneva, Sun Prairie, Sharon, and Clemensville. At the last named
place, he is still rendering the cause effective service. Brother Aplin
has been a successful man, and has seen, at various times, extensive
revivals under his labors. He is a man who "seeks not his own but the
things of Christ."

At Sheboygan he was assisted in his meeting by Fay H. Purdy, Esq., of
Palmyra, N.Y., with whom he had enjoyed an acquaintance in the East.
Brother Purdy had already become distinguished as the "Lawyer
Evangelist." Under the united labors of these devoted and earnest men,
there was a great quickening in the Church, and though the population of
the town was largely German, there was an accession to the Church of
forty members.

It was during this Conference year the celebrated Greenbush Camp Meeting
was held. The meeting was held in June, 1854. The people came in great
numbers, and many of them were fresh from their revivals at home. On
invitation, Brother Purdy came to the meeting and brought with him, from
Western New York, Rev. Amos Hard, Seth H. Woodruff, Esq., and several
others. The meeting was one of great power. Large numbers of professing
Christians entered into a new consecration to God, and many souls
professed conversion. Throughout the week, the meetings continued to
increase in spiritual interest, but culminated in the services of Sunday
night. After the close of the sermon, seekers were invited to the Altar.
Then followed prayers, singing, and Christian testimony without
intermission, until the morning light broke upon the encampment. The
prayers of the penitent and the shouts of the saved greeted every hour
of the night. The voices of prayer and song did not cease until the
meeting was closed on Monday.

Nor did the formal closing of the services in the grove close the
meeting. It was now adjourned to the school house in the village, where
the services were continued with unflagging interest. But there now came
an interchange of labor. Whenever it was necessary to look after
domestic affairs, the meeting was left in the hands of others, and on
returning its duties were again resumed. Thus by these changes there was
no cessation of the meeting throughout Monday, Monday night, and a
portion of the following day. This meeting is still referred to with
great interest by those who were permitted to participate in its
thrilling exercises.

The Pastor of Greenbush at this time was Rev. A.M. Hulce. He was a young
man in the work, having been received into the Conference at its last
session. Both himself and good lady were fully engaged in the work, and
greatly assisted in perfecting the arrangements for the meeting. Brother
Hulce was a well-read man, a good thinker, and earnestly devoted to his
work, but his health was not equal to the toil and exposures of the
Itinerancy. After laboring a few years he was compelled to retire to the
local ranks, in which position he still holds an honorable place.

Other charges than those mentioned also shared in the revivals of the
year, giving a net result for the District of nearly one thousand
conversions. My labors throughout the year were severe, making an
average of nearly seven sermons per week.

The Conference for 1854 was held at Janesville, and I was returned to
the District for a fourth year. Several changes of Ministers were made,
several new fields were opened, and six new men were brought into
the District.

Omro was one of the charges to claim my attention at the beginning of
this year. It had now assumed considerable importance, it being the home
of the Brother Cowhams. James M., the elder, was the Recording Steward,
ranking among the most efficient I have ever known, and John M., the
younger, was a leading spirit in all Church work, becoming subsequently
a Local Preacher of most excellent standing.

The Pastor of the charge was Rev. T.C. Golden, who entered the
Conference in 1850, and had been stationed at Cascade and Sheboygan
Falls. He was a man of mark. Of a vigorous mental development and
logical cast, he early became an able Preacher and commanded a leading
place in the Conference. After leaving Omro, he was stationed in Fond du
Lac. He was then transferred to the West Wisconsin Conference, and
stationed at La Crosse, after which he served several years as Presiding
Elder with great acceptability. At the present writing he is a Presiding
Elder in the Upper Iowa Conference. Dr. Golden, for such is his present
title, has made a most gratifying record.

A Quarterly Meeting held at Brother John M. Cowham's during this year,
is remembered with great pleasure. This dear Brother had built both a
house and a barn of large dimensions, and the meeting, to be held in
the latter, awakened general interest throughout the circuit, bringing
together a multitude of people. Every house in the neighborhood was
filled with guests, and the balance, not less than fifty in number, were
entertained at what was called the Cowham Mansion. But great as was the
outpouring of the people, the manifestations of the Spirit were still
more extraordinary. Under the preaching of the Word, the Holy Ghost fell
on the people. The shout of redeemed souls and the cry of penitents,
"What shall I do to be saved?" commingled strangely together. And yet,
out of the apparent discord, there came the sweetest harmony. The minor
strains were lost in the rapturous paeans of the major movement, as each
seeking soul received "the new song." The days of the Fathers seemed to
have returned to the Church, when, under the Pentecostal baptism,
believers fell to the floor, and multitudes were saved in a day.

It was during this year that I was called to experience a severe trial
in the death of my dear father, which occurred on the 30th day of May,
1855. After remaining at Waupun six years, he removed, in 1850, to
Waupaca, where he purchased the lands comprising the site of the present
village, laid out the town and erected a lumber mill. Soon after his
arrival he opened religious services, preaching the first sermon and
organizing the first class. In due time, others came to his assistance,
and a small Church was built. Waupaca having been taken into the regular
work, my father now visited the adjacent neighborhoods and established
religious meetings, preaching usually two or three times on the Sabbath.
Not a few of these early appointments ultimately became the nucleus of
independent charges.

My father's illness was brief. In the latter part of the winter he met
me at my Quarterly Meeting at Oshkosh, but, to the regret of the people,
he was unable to preach. He felt that his work was nearly done, and in
referring to the matter, said: "I have no occasion to feel anxious about
it, since, through Divine help, I have been permitted to preach, on an
average, about two sermons a week for thirty years." I visited him two
weeks before his death, and found his mind tranquil and his Faith
unwavering. When I enquired as to his state of mind, he said, "It is
like a sunbeam of glory." He continued in the same satisfactory frame,
until he passed over the river to join the white-robed throng in the
Heavenly realm. The multitudes who gathered with tearful eyes around his
grave, gave but a fitting expression of their high appreciation of a
noble life.

The labors of my first term as Presiding Elder were now drawing to a
close. Though my labors had been arduous, yet such had been the kindness
and co-operation of both Preachers and people, I felt an interest in
them. During the four years the District had nearly doubled its
strength, and was now ready for a division.

Feeling that it was due to myself, being so young a man, and due to the
Church also, that I should now go back to station work, I favored at the
Conference a resolution asking the Bishop to appoint no man to a
District for a second term until there had been an intervening service
of two years on circuits or stations. The action of the Conference
doubtless, sent me to a station instead of a District.


Conference of 1855. - The New Departure. - Mission Committee. - The Slavery
Controversy. - Triumph of Freedom. - Wisconsin Conference Rule. Conference
Report. - Election of Delegates. - Appointed to Racine. - Detention. - The
Removal to the New Charge. - Stage, Dray, and Steamboat. - New Bus Line.

The Conference for 1855 was held at Racine on the 29th day of August,
and was presided over by Bishop Janes. During the session I was
quartered with Rev. Moses Adams, a superannuated member of the Black
River Conference.

The business of the Conference was transacted with the usual dispatch,
and there were only two items which engrossed unusual attention. These
were the distribution of the missionary appropriations and the election
of delegates to the General Conference.

As to the first, a new departure was made in the organization of the
Committee on Missions. The Presiding Elders of the Conference had been
hitherto appointed on this Committee. But now a few restless spirits,
who fancied that, as seen from their limited opportunities to judge
correctly, the appropriations had not been judiciously made during the
past few years, determined to appoint this Committee from among the
Pastors. The Elders, well knowing that the farcical proceeding would in
time come to naught, concluded to offer no opposition to the movement.
The Committee was accordingly appointed and proceeded to the discharge
of its duties. At the first meeting, however, it was found that the
Committee was unable to proceed for want of information. At the next
meeting, to remedy this difficulty, the brethren who had occupied
Mission fields the previous year were invited to be present. This
measure was found to afford only a partial relief, as these brethren
knew nothing of the border territory that ought now to be organized into
new fields. The next move was to ask all the Pastors to meet the
Committee at the next session. To afford room to accommodate the
Committee and its invited guests, the audience room of the Church was
appropriated for an entire afternoon. Here the great work of the
Committee was entered upon in right good earnest, with the special
champions of the movement as managers of the exhibition.

But now, alas! for the success of the meeting, there was too much light.
At once a large number of fields that had been supposed to be
self-supporting was brought forward, and their respective
representatives were so successful in setting forth their feeble and
helpless condition, that many of them were entered upon the list by the
Committee as Missions. The question as to the number of Missions having
been settled, the next thing in order was the amount of money that
should be given to each.

From the information already received, the amounts were jotted down
briskly until the entire list had been gone over. The footings were now
made, and to the Committee the result was appalling. They had
appropriated three times the amount of money at their disposal. Then
came the rub, which had been so often experienced by the Presiding
Elders. The Missions must be cut down in two ways. First, all that could
possibly manage to get through the year without aid must be struck off
the list, and then such as remain will need to be cut down to the
lowest possible figure. But still brave, our Committee would not see
their impending defeat, and proceeded at once to the labor of
cutting down.

One of the champions had been a surgeon in his time, and had cut human
flesh with becoming recklessness, but now he, as well as the entire
Committee, struck a new experience. To strike Missions off the list, and
cut down the appropriations to others, is comparatively an easy task in
the quiet and secluded confines of a committee room, but to do either in
the presence of the very men who expected to occupy those fields the
coming year, and who knew the poverty of the people, was quite another
thing. The flood-gates of speech-making had been opened by the
Committee, and it was now impossible to close them. The balance of the
afternoon was given to stormy debate, and into what disorder the meeting
might have drifted, if the coming evening had not made its appearance,
it is impossible to conjecture.

The next day the Committee took another new departure, and invited the
Presiding Elders, who had studied these matters and looked the ground
carefully over for a whole year, before them. The Committee were now
able to complete their labors and make such a report as had usually been
presented to the Conference. But the Conference became fully satisfied
that this experiment needed no duplicate, and, for years after, the
mention of the "Committee of the Whole on Missions," did not fail to
excite mirth.

Early in the session, the election of delegates to the General
Conference occurred. As I was too young to be thought of in that
connection, I was permitted to sit quietly and take notes. The only
issue of any great importance in the election was the slavery question.
And as this institution had already been put in issue in the general
elections of the country, it could not well be left out on this
occasion. So it was made the chief subject of discussion. To be a
thorough-going anti-slavery man was the stubborn test of qualifications
for a delegate. And that there might be no mistake on this point, it was
deemed advisable to have an able committee present to the body as a
platform a report that should make the absolute prohibition of slavery
its chief plank. But before I make further reference to the report it
will not be amiss to refer briefly to the subject of slavery in its
relations to the Church.

At the organization of the Church in this country, and for years
thereafter, the testimony she gave against American Slavery was distinct
and unequivocal. Both the Ministers and people were agreed that the
Institution was, as Mr. Wesley was pleased to call it, "The sum of all
villanies." Agreeing in this, they further believed that, as a relic of
barbarism, it would soon pass away. Under this conviction they hardly
deemed it necessary to enter up any very stringent enactments against
it, save that it might be well as a temporary arrangement to provide
that there should be no traffic in slaves. Under such a regulation
matters passed on for a term of years. But in due time it was found that
the tendency of events was not altogether satisfactory.

At the outset, the Church had been planted in the central portion of the
Atlantic States, and had then grown rapidly southward, giving the
balance of power to the Conferences where slavery existed. At this
juncture, also, by a remarkable change in the commercial affairs of the
country, the cotton crop of the South began to find an increasing demand
and appreciate in value, thereby giving an increased value to slave
labor. With this change came at once the multiplication of slaves and
large returns. To own slaves and cultivate cotton now became the ruling
inspiration of the people.

At the first the Church stoutly opposed the insetting tide, but as the
waves of commercial life grew strong and swept around her, the power of
resistance grew more feeble from year to year, until finally some of her
own people began to plead extenuation and even tolerance. The conflict
was now open, and the result seemed questionable. With the conscience of
the Southern portion of the Church asleep or dormant, the anti-slavery
side of the issue came finally to depend upon the Church in the North
for statement and defence.

At this stage of the conflict the controversy became sectional, the
South upholding and the North seeking to remove the evil. Thus the

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Online LibraryWesson Gage MillerThirty Years in the Itinerancy → online text (page 13 of 22)