The First Period: Laying Foundations--From 1844 to 1856: Twelve Years Churches
1. WEST UNION BAPTIST CHURCH. 1844
LOCATED in Washington County, about six miles north of Hillsboro. Self-organized, at the house of David T. Lenox, with seven members, May 25, 1844.
"As oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He comes." How solemn and impressive must these words have sounded to the little Baptist church at West Union, when, on May 11, 1845, they were first uttered by a Baptist minister west of the Rocky Mountains. So far as known, here were all the Baptists, and they constituted the only Baptist church west of the States bordering on the Western banks of the Mississippi. True, other denominations had missions in Oregon for about ten or twelve years, and these doubtless observed the rites, ceremonies, and ordinances of their respective organizations; but by Baptists, this field had not been entered. Prior to this there is no record nor any word of the commemoration, by Baptists, of the death of our Lord at any place on the Pacific coast. Hence, to these brethren, these words must have been most solemnly Impressive.
Nearly a year before, without minister or deacon, they had organized themselves into a little church; and without failure or interruption, had kept their meetings alive and glowing "by the reading of sermons and religious exercises." They had no preaching, save two discourses by Rev. Enoch Garrison, a Methodist minister, until February, 1845, when Rev. Vincent Snelling, an immigrant of 1844, and the first Baptist minister west of the Rocky Mountains, preached for them, and the same day, he and his wife, Sister Adelia Snelling, presented letters, and were received with great joy into the church. These were the first accessions.
At the same meeting, Brother Snelling baptized Mary and Elizabeth Lenox, daughters of David T. Lenox. Mary Lenox was the first person baptized west of the Rocky Mountains by a Baptist minister. She married R. P. Ford, and now lives at Austin, Texas. The constituent members of the West Union church. with many others, with David T. Lenox as Captain, with ox teams, left Platte City, Missouri, for Oregon, April 9, 1843. During the trip, Captain Lenox conscientiously observed the Lord's day by resting and reading God's word and prayer in his tent. The same year wagons were first brought overland into the Willamette valley. Prior to this, pack trains had been substituted at Fort Hall, as the further route was said to be impassable for wagons. But the allurements of liberal donations of land which the Government was expected to make to settlers, had given increased impetus to the Oregon movement, and the immigration of 1842 and 1843 was composed of men and women not to be deterred by obstacles. So being assured that they could take their wagons to The Dalles of the Columbia, and thence raft them to the Willamette valley, they boldly pushed forward, and finally got through. Brother Edward Lenox. of Oakland, California, brought the first wagon through the Grand Ronde valley, and over the Blue mountains.
Oregon City, the terminus, was reached November 26, 1843. In the following winter they located on the beautiful prairie of the West Tualatin Plain, and true to genuine Baptist instinct, in February, 1844, at the house of Brother David T. Lenox, established a prayer meeting which finally resulted in the organization of the church, May 25, 1844.
"Whereas: In the providence of God, a few names of us, the professed followers of Christ, who hold to one Faith, one Lord, and one Baptism, having been thrown together in these wilds of the West, and being members of churches in the United States, desirous of keeping the worship of God in our neighborhood, and in our families,--We agree that we hereby constitute and come into union, first giving ourselves unto the Lord. and then unto each other, we do covenant and agree that we will meet together to worship God and keep the commandments and ordinances of God's house, and are hereby constituted into a church.
"David T. Lenox, William Beagle, Alexander Blevins, Henry Sewell, Louisa Lenox, Lucinda Beagle, Lavina Blevins.
At first, none had letters, but were to get them as soon as practicable. For some years such reception of members was not uncommon, and was regarded as "regular," for many, supposing no Baptist churches were here, came without letters, united with the churches, and sent for letters afterwards. There was nothing to tempt imposture; often some neighbor could vouch for their membership; and the letters usually came in due time, and no serious trouble ever resulted from the practice.
A Sunday School was started and kept up for several years; Brother Lenox or Brother Sewell the Superintendent. In March, 1845, the church agreed to choose a deacon at the next meeting, and a day was set apart for fasting and prayer to Almighty God for direction and choice. Brother D. T. Lenox was chosen. In August, the church gave Brother Snelling "authority to baptize persons upon profession of their faith in Christ, on any of his tours in the Oregon country, giving then a certificate of baptism, and reporting the same to the church. No reports on record. A brother was excluded in 1846; the first case of discipline.
In 1845, Rev. Hezekiah Johnson and Rev. Ezra Fisher, with their families arrived, under the auspices, and in the employ of the A. B. H. M. Society. Brother Snelling had removed to the "Yamhill country;" Brother Fisher stopped on the East Tualatin Plain, and was chosen pastor. But soon removing, Brother Snelling was again chosen. The church gradually grew, chiefly from immigration, members uniting by letter. Otherwise, nothing special occurred until the fall of 1847, when, without any protracted effort, a general revival sprang up, and frequent baptisms were noted, and matters were so bright and cheering, and the prospects so encouraging, that the brethren began to talk of building a meeting house. Meanwhile, other churches had been organized, and in May 1848, Brother Lenox was instructed to invite all the Baptist churches of the Territory to meet with the West Union church on the fourth Friday in June, 1848, to organize an Association.
Rev. William Porter came from Ohio in 1847, and succeeded Brother Snelling as pastor. Soon after, a committee was appointed to look after some members "who had been absent from the church for two meetings." As the membership was scattered for long distances apart, and the only mode of travel was on foot, on horseback, or in wagons with perhaps an ox team, this rule looks rigid to some later brethren. About this time the excitement and rush to the California gold mines interfered much with the attendance, and also with the regular meetings and work of the churches. West Union suffered severely; some of the time it was a struggle for existence. Its members were in California. But in 1850, some came back, prospects brightened, and in June, Rev. H. Johnson was invited to preach for the church, but he visited it only two or three times. In July it circulated a subscription to assist the Association in sustaining Brother Snelling as a Missionary to travel on the west side of the Willamette river, but this not proving a success, Brother Snelling was employed to preach for the church for a year. In April 1852, 13 members were dismissed to organize the West Tualatin (later, Forest Grove) Baptist church; the first Baptist church organized on the North Pacific Coast by members from another Oregon Baptist church. Rev. R. Weston arrived in December, 1853, and was chosen pastor. The next day after his election, the church took a collection for the A. B. H. M. Society; the first collection of the kind, so far as known on the Coast. The amount not stated. The church also started a subscription for Brother Weston; he having lost nearly all he had in crossing the plains the year before. He was a live, energetic man, and infused new life into the church, and affairs brightened perceptibly. They built a meeting house costing $1,512.43; of which $749.70 was subscribed, and the balance, ($762.73) was advanced by the building committee, so that the house was dedicated in December, 1853, "free from all incumbrance." This is the first Baptist house now used for such purposes in Oregon. In May, 1854, the Yearly Meeting, (of which more will be said hereafter), was held by the pastor and Rev. William Sperry. In 1854, the church was in peace and harmony, and had some precious seasons welcoming converts to the fold. It maintained a flourishing Sunday School, and earnestly desired to labor for Christ and His truth. Rev. Weston resigned in 1854. Rev. H. Johnson, was pastor until February, 1859; his salary, 100 bushels of wheat, each year, was to be delivered in Portland. Brother Porter also preached for the church. In April, 1856, it recommended the formation of three Associations on geographical lines.
2. LACREOLE. 1846. (RICKREALL)
Located in Polk County, near Crowley, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, West Side. Organized with six members, by Rev. Vincent Snelling, July 18, 1846. One Article of their faith is thus expressed:
"We believe . that no one has a right to administer baptism and the Lord's supper but legally baptized and ordained ministers of the Gospel." And this is further explained.
"No one can become a member of this church without being, or having been baptized by a legally ordained Baptist minister."
For several years records are scattering and incomplete. Rev. V. Snelling was pastor until 1849; Brethren J. M. Fulkerson and J. C. Cawood were licensed. The church was occasionally visited by Rev. Richard Miller, of Yamhill; Rev. R. C. Hill, of Albany; and Rev. David Hubbard. In 1853, Rev. C. C. Riley came, and settling near, was employed as pastor, serving the church about fifteen years. It appears to have made a slow, but steady growth, and was in good spirits, and hopefully, earnestly working in peace and harmony. In August, 1854, Brother Riley held a protracted meeting; thirty- five additions; and the good work continued so that at the Association in 1855, the church reported seventy-eight additions, and only nine losses. In 1856, it voted for a division of the Association.
3. YAMHILL BAPTIST CHURCH, 1846. (SOUTH YAMHILL)
Located in Yamhill County, six miles southwest of McMinnville. Organized at the house of Vincent Snelling, with four members, by Rev. Vincent SneIling and H. Johnson, August I, 1846.
Early records very scattering. Brother Higgins was baptized on the day of the organization; and the same month, three others were baptized. One of these, Sister Prudence Walker, a veritable "mother in Israel," a member of the Medford church, in Southern Oregon, is the only person now living on the Pacific coast, whose baptism on this coast by a Baptist minister, dates prior to any other. Brother Higgins was licensed in September; the first license issued on the coast by a Baptist church. He went to California, and is said to have died there. The church sometimes postponed its Communion because of a difficulty in procuring wine. Rev. Richard Miller came in 1847. In 1850, a meeting house was begun, and completed in 1855, ready for the Association that year. Brother Snelling was pastor until his death, in 1856. Then Rev. C. C. Riley served the church for eight years. In October, 1855, six brethren on the North Yamhill river were organized into a Baptist church there, but without calling for letters of dismission. Letters were given them in 1859 without solicitation, but the organization came to nothing. In June, 1856, the church recommended three Associations.
4. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF OREGON CITY, 1847
Located at Oregon City, the County seat of Clackamas County. Organized with seven members, by Rev. Vincent Snelling and Deacon David T. Lenox, July 4, 1847, in the house of Deacon H. Hatch of the Congregational church.
Revs. Hezekiah Johnson and Ezra Fisher reached Oregon City in December, 1845, and Brother Johnson soon began his work at that place, Brother Fisher going to Astoria. October 6, 1847, Brother Johnson wrote that Dr. John McLaughlin had donated the little church choice lots for a meeting house and parsonage, and that $350 had been subscribed for the buildings. Several Baptists were stopping in and about the city, and he hoped they would remain and add numbers, strength, and influence to the church. On January 1, 1848 two were received, and three were baptized on February 6th. In May, they commenced building, and the house was completed in the fall, or early in 1849; and was the first Baptist meeting house west of the Rocky mountains. Their first loss was Brother J. W. Jackson, who died in 1849.
The church suffered severely that year on account of the absence of many of its members to the gold mines of California. In February, 1851, it recommended Revs. Fisher and Johnson to the A. B. H. M. Society as missionaries, calling Brother Johnson to the pastorate, and asking Brother Fisher to preach for the church once a month. Brother Johnson resigned in October, and Rev. George C. Chandler arriving, under appointment of the H. M. Society, the church called him to the pastorate, at the same time highly commending the work of Fisher and Johnson. In July, 1852, the church pledged $100 for the pastor, and in February, 1853, Rev's. Chandler and Johnson were asked each to preach for it one half the time, and the H. M. Society petitioned for $500 assistance, but got no help from the Society for about 13 years. Brethren Johnson and Fisher continued to preach for it a year or two. In 1853, Brother Chandler contributed $4.00 for foreign missions; the first foreign mission contribution reported from the North Pacific coast. In 1854, Franklin Johnson was baptized. He went East, graduated at Hamilton, N. Y.; was made a D. D. by the University of Jena, Germany, and has become quite prominent in the denomination. His brother, W. Carey Johnson, LL.D., is a distinguished lawyer of Oregon, and was also baptized in 1854. In February, 1856, Rev. H. Johnson and John D. Post, a licentiate, each preached for the church one half the time. Also, Elder Fisher filled the pulpit whenever he well could, and in December Elder G. C. Chandler took the pastoral care, and in June, 1856, preached twice a month for it, giving one Sunday in each month to the neighboring settlements. Meanwhile, he had taken a claim about 12 miles distant, and was holding frequent meetings in his neighborhood, and some wishing to unite with the church, a mission station was established there for the reception of members, and other necessary church work. The church, during its first years took a prominent part in the temperance movement, the church covenant first adopted contained a temperance pledge. The church, in a body belonged to a temperance organization, called "The Washington Society," and the records show that Fisher and Johnson were most active and prominent members of that Society.
5. CLATSOP PLAINS BAPTIST CHURCH, 1848
Located in Clatsop County, near Skipanon, a few miles below Astoria. Organized with seven members, by Rev. Ezra Fisher, March 19, 1848.
When Revs. Johnson and Fisher came to the Pacific coast, Oregon was almost an unbroken wilderness. Towns existed mostly on paper. Travel was on Indian ponies, or in Indian canoes or other small river craft. So Brother Johnson having located at Oregon City, Brother Fisher decided to make Astoria his base of operations, this being thought the most inviting place. Afterwards, he moved to Clatsop Plains, Skipanon, and there organized the Clatsop Plains church. The work here was attended with fair success. The religious sentiment was good, and there were some conversions. Brother James Bond, a licentiate from Iowa, helped very much. The brethren built a log house for church and school purpose. Brother Fisher said he hoped that God might "graciously be pleased to make it a nursery of science, a fountain of morals, and a birthplace of souls."
He organized a Sunday School both at the church and at Astoria. Brother Bond was showing promise of a good workman, when, on February 18, 1849, he was accidentally shot. This sad event, the interruptions caused by the Cayuse war, and the discovery of, and consequent rush to the California gold mines, and finally, the dismission of Brother Fisher and family to go to Oregon City, broke up the little church, and it became extinct. The five churches thus far named, organized the Willamette Association in 1848.
Brother James Bond was, as far as known, the first Baptist to die in Oregon. He was born in Henry County, Kentucky, February 14, 1821, professed, religion in 1842; united with the Locust Grove church in Jefferson County, Iowa, and was licensed by that church in 1846. He came to Oregon in 1847. His father, and one brother, both Baptist ministers, came to Oregon, and died here. His widow afterwards married and settled in Astoria. His death was an irreparable loss to the little church, of which he was a useful and efficient member, and had already given evidence of unusual talent and ability, and was full of zeal for the cause.
6. SANTIAM BAPTIST CHURCH. 1848
Located in Linn County, at Soda Springs. (Sodaville) Organized with six members, by Rev. H. Johnson, in the summer of 1848.
Records lost. The church came into the Willamette Association in 1850, reporting eleven members. In 1853 it had a gracious revival under Revs. Ezra Fisher and William Sperry, fifty additions. But thirty-four members were dismissed to organize the Pleasant Butte Baptist church, (now Brownsville), leaving thirty-four members. At the Association in 1854, it reported its prospects as bright and encouraging. But its prosperity was brief. Removals, frequent. Perhaps a more serious cause of decadence was, that several of the more active members went with Rev. Ezra Fisher, who, about 1857-58 organized a new church which would not cooperate with the other Baptist churches of Oregon on account of the Slavery question. The church being thus left weak, with no pastor, was represented in the Association until 1857, and then became extinct.
7. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF FRENCH PRAIRIE, 1850. (ABIQUA)
Located at Gervais, Marion County, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, East Side. Organized with five members, by Rev. Richmond Cheadle, February 4, 1850.
For several years the church was irregularly supplied with preaching by Revs. R. Cheadle, Ezra Fisher, G. C. Chandler, John Rexford, and J. G. Berkley. They traveled on horseback from twenty-five to sixty miles to their appointments, and paid one or two ferriages each way, on a salary from $50 to $60 a year. Ferriages, from 50 cents, to $1.00 each, though sometimes preachers going to their appointments were ferried across at reduced rates. When no preaching could be had, regular prayer meetings were kept up, or meetings of other denominations were attended. The church usually had a Sunday School during the summer. Rev. G. C. Chandler was pastor in 1855, and the church began to exclude members for non-attendance. In 1856, Rev. H. Johnson was pastor, for a year, at 100 bushels of wheat, or $100 cash. Brother Nathan Smith, and his son, John T. Smith, Brethren J. H. Pruett, Hamilton and Harvey Ringo, and their families, were all active, wide awake members, and have always been the main pillars in the support of the church. They came in I 847, and settled near together. The older ones are all dead, but their children, though somewhat scattered, are honored citizens, and loyal Baptists.
8. SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH, 1850. (TURNER)
Located at Turner, Marion County, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, East Side. Organized with seven members, by Rev. Vincent Snelling, August 31, 1850.
Brother Snelling was pastor. In 1852, Brother W. S. Wilmot was licensed. Rev. Thomas Stephens served the church a few months in 1853. In September, C. H. Mattoon was licensed; this being the oldest license given by a Baptist church in Oregon to any minister now living in Oregon. At the same time, the pastor, Rev. J. G. Berkley, and Mattoon continued the meeting with thirty-five additions; twenty-five by baptism. Among these, was Andrew J. Hunsaker. then a boy, but who has since become an efficient worker, and successful minister. Also, about this time, the church agreed to devote the first Sunday morning of each month to prayer for its minister. Rev. William M. Davis, a late arrival from Indiana, was requested to occupy the vacant Sundays in each month. In March, 1854, Brother Berkley resigned, and Davis was chosen pastor, to preach twice a month. He was a man of decided ability, liberally educated, and well calculated to do a vast amount of good. He settled in the neighborhood, and the church was hopeful. But during the summer of 1854, serious damaging reports were circulated against him, so that in August, he resigned. A Council was called to consider the matter; the first Baptist Council on the Northwest coast. Being dissatisfied with the decision, Davis appealed to the Association, but that body considered it beyond its jurisdiction, and declined to hear him. Another Council was called by the church, but Davis' course was such that the second Council recommended drastic treatment, and the church utterly repudiated him, published a history of the case, and warned the churches generally against him as unworthy of any confidence whatever. In November, Rev. G. C. Chandler was chosen pastor, and with his age, experience, observation, and talent, the church prospered. In June, 1855, it spoke very decidedly in favor of Bible revision and circulation, and appointed Bible meetings, and an agent to collect money for this purpose. In October, one of the deacons of the church. a man whom the entire community loved and honored, went into Spiritualism, denying the authority of the Scriptures, etc. The church was forced to exclude him. This was the second severe trouble that fell on the feeble band. Rev. C. C. Riley was chosen pastor in 1856, and that year Brother James Magers was licensed.
11. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF CORVALLIS. 1851. (FIRST EFFORT. MARYSVILLE)
Located at Corvallis, the County seat of Benton County. Organized with three members, by Revs. R. C. Hill and James Isaacs, December 25, 1851.
The meeting was continued, and three united by letter, and three by baptism. One of the latter was Hon. J. S. Slater, since, U. S. Senator from Oregon. No covenant was adopted. In 1852 the church built a meeting house. In 1853, it organized a mission Sunday School at a school house about six miles distant; C. H. Mattoon, Superintendent. In November, an arm of the church was extended to a neighborhood about 12 miles distant. In May, 1854, it licensed Brother Goold. In June, the name of the town and church was changed from Marysville to Corvallis. Until this time, it had enjoyed the labors of Revs. James Isaacs, Ezra Fisher, William Sperry, John Rexford and R. C. Hill; but was often without a pastor. Rev. Isaacs went back to Missouri in 1852. The church grew slowly, Rev. R. C. Hill pastor. In June, 1854, the meeting was protracted; Rev. David Hubbard assisting; twenty-five additions. The church reported forty additions during the Associational year, and only one loss (death). Dr. Hill reported in May, 1856, crediting the church during the year, $40.00. Brother Tolbert Carter was licensed in September, 1855. Rev. W. F. Boyakin, of Portland, was invited to attend the "Yearly meeting" this Fall, and in October he was invited to locate in Corvallis and preach in the bounds of the church, provided sufficient means could be raised without involving the church. He moved to Corvallis in February, 1856, and at once commenced preaching three Sundays in each month.
12. WEST TUALATIN BAPTIST CHURCH, 1852
Located at Forest Grove, in Washington County, on the Southern Pacific Railroad, West Side. Organized with eleven members, (dismissed from the West Union church), by Rev. William Porter and Deacon David T. Lenox, May 22, 1852.
For some years the church met at different school houses and private residences to suit a widely scattered membership. Occasionally, all would visit the "Mother Church," and some "glorious re-unions" were had on such occasions. Rev. William Porter was pastor. A flourishing Sunday School was kept up, and also a prayer meeting every Sunday for the first two years. Brother Porter was an earnest worker, highly regarded, and a most excellent man to keep a church actively at work. He settled in the neighborhood, and preached as a matter of course. It is not known that anyone thought of paying him, and he certainly never hinted it. Possibly he may have thought as another preacher once said, "If I get poor pay, perhaps it was a poor preach." But Brother Porter's preaching was good. He had his donation claim as the other brethren had, and it was good land, though it was unimproved. None of them had much else; to live was hard work. Yet they were liberal and generous with what they had, and failure to pay the pastor must be attributed partly to oversight and carelessness on the part of the brethren, and partly to the neglect to teach this duty on his part. In 1853, the church bought a lot in Forest Grove, but did not build. The "Yearly Meeting" in April aroused it somewhat, and quickened its zeal, so that in May, Revs. R. Weston and E. Fisher assisted the pastor in a protracted effort resulting in fourteen additions, but the interest waned. Many of the members became careless in their attendance, and in April, 1854, the church declared that "if any member absent himself from three church meetings in succession, they will be required to give a satisfactory reason for so doing." But this did little good. The church tried to create more life and activity at the church meetings, but the members still grew apathetic, and at the Association in 1854, it complained of coldness and worldly-mindedness. Nothing worthy of further record until 1856.
14. PROVIDENCE BAPTIST CHURCH, 1853.
Located in Linn County, in the forks of the Santiam river. Organized with nineteen members, by Revs. J. G. Berkley, Joab Powell and R. Cheadle, April 9, 1853.
This church may almost be termed a colony, since nearly all its first members came from Jackson County, Mo., or thereabouts, and settled near together in Oregon. It doubled its membership the first year, but, except one, all were by letter, (immigration). In May, 1854, it established an arm about ten miles north, and Pastor Berkley received members there, and "elsewhere when he might deem it expedient." In 1854, it complained of coldness, but the prospect was by no means discouraging. The church called itself. "THE UNITED BAPTIST CHURCH OF PROVIDENCE." Rev. C. C. Riley held a protracted meeting in the fall; fourteen additions. In 1856, the church gave Revs. J. D. South and Joab Powell leave to receive and baptize members wherever they were preaching within the bounds of the church, which then comprised the forks of the Santiam river. In September and October, at a protracted meeting there were thirty-three additions. Rev. W. P. Koger assisting. In the summer of 1856, it built a meeting house. Rev. Joab Powell was pastor, but Brother Berkley was allowed to receive and baptize members as before.
15. TABLE ROCK BAPTIST CHURCH, 1853
Located in Jackson County, near Jacksonville, the county seat. Organized with twelve members, by Rev. J. S. Read, at the house of David Clinton, May 28, 1853.
The church had no covenant. Rev. J. S. Read was pastor, and aid asked of the H. M. Society, but he labored but two months under his commission. He rode 250 miles to an Association over a sparsely settled country, with houses at long distances apart. He was a promising young man, just graduated from Franklin college, Indiana, and crossed the Plains with Rev. Geo. C. Chandler, in 1851, both being sent by the H. M. Society of New York, to take charge of the Oregon City College. Brother Read taught about a year, and then went to Southern Oregon. He returned to Indiana in 1854. One who knew him well, said, "During his short stay of three years, he so worked his way into the affections of all he met, that his departure was deeply deplored. He was an educated, earnest man of God with great spiritual power." In July, 1855, Rev. Ezra Fisher visited the church. The following fall it commenced making preparations to build a meeting house, but Indian troubles interfered. Also, Rev. John Stearns arrived, with his two sons; one an ordained minister from New York, the other a licentiate from Ohio. Rev. M. N. Stearns was chosen pastor, and served the church until 1857, when he resigned. In 1854, it made an unsuccessful application for aid from the H. M. Society. In 1856, it received a valuable accession in W. T. Leever, who came to Oregon in 1853, from Ohio, and in 1854, settled in the Rogue River valley, near Jacksonville, where he now resides. He and his wife were baptized into the Table Rock church the same day by Rev. M. N. Stearns in 1856. From that time until now, he has been a main pillar of the church, always willing to aid in every good work. He has been the clerk of the church almost from the first, and the clerk of the Association almost from its organization; is a man of intelligence, and well posted in Baptist policy and work.
16. DEER CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH, 1853
Located in the Umpqua valley, ten miles east of Roseburg. Organized with four members by
Rev. Ezra Fisher, at the house of Brother William Perry, near Roseburg, July 24, 1853.
Rev. Thomas Stephens was pastor. In October he baptized Brother C. B. West, who was licensed in November. Brother West went East soon after, and was ordained by the Baptist church at Defiance, Ohio. He started back to Oregon, but fell a victim to cholera on the Sierra Nevada Steamship, died, and was buried at sea. He was an energetic man, and one of the founders of the Umpqua Academy, and helped to start and further that movement, and had he lived, would have tried to make it a Baptist school. The church was prospering well in 1856, but had not come into the Association.
Rev. Thomas Stephens was born in Wales in 1803; converted and ordained there; and commenced preaching when he was about I 6 years old. He came to Ohio, and lived there until 1852, then came to Oregon, stopping near Corvallis; preached awhile for the Shiloh and Corvallis churches; then went to the Umpqua valley, and settled near Roseburg. He died there in July, 1888. He organized a church at Cow creek, and preached for the Deer Creek church and throughout the Umpqua valley, until the infirmities of age compelled him to desist. He was an earnest, devoted man. His Welch peculiarities made him somewhat singular, but he was well liked, and had the respect and confidence of all who knew him.
18. CLACKAMAS BAPTIST CHURCH. 1853
Located near the Clackamas river, about six miles north of Oregon City. Organized with eleven members by Revs. David Hubbard and H. Johnson, November 5, 1853.
An interesting Sunday School was established, and the church labored so faithfully that it had eighteen additions when the Association met the next June. Rev. H. Johnson was pastor in 1854, and Rev. Thomas Taylor in 1855. In 1855, it built a meeting house; and no debt. Rev. John Bond came as a Baptist minister from Iowa to Clackamas county, Oregon, in 1853. He preached occasionally for the Clackamas church, and the most of his preaching was in the vicinity of his home, his age and want of means not allowing him to get around much. His preaching was practical and devotional, and he desired the work of an evangelist, but circumstances prevented.
26. FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF PORTLAND, 1855
Located at the corner of Fourth and Alder Streets, Portland, the metropolis of Oregon. Organized with ten members by Revs. W. F. Boyakin. E. Fisher and H. Johnson, May 6, 1855.
Through the courtesy of the pastor, (Rev. Horace Lyman), Rev. Ezra Fisher had occasionally held Baptist services in the Congregational meetinghouse until October, 1854, when Rev. W. F. Boyakin. a Baptist minister from Mississippi, arrived in Portland, and at a preliminary meeting of the Baptists, the advisability of organizing a Baptist church was considered. and the next day the church was organized with appropriate services, Rev. H. Johnson preaching the sermon, and Rev. Ezra Fisher giving the charge to the church and pastor. The Lord's Supper was commemorated, and Rev. Boyakin was recommended to the A. B. H. M. Society for an appointment, and received a commission for one year from February 1855. A Sunday School was organized and continued until the spring of 1856. Josiah Failing was made a deacon. Regular services were held at first in a little, old, unpainted, and rudely furnished school house on First Street, between Oak and Pine; but by permission, in 1856, moved to the County Court room, corner of Front and Salmon Streets. The church early commenced making preparations for building, and quite a fund was gathered and afterwards applied for this object. The circumstances warranted a reasonable hope of future growth and prosperity. Two baptisms occurred, but there were two removals. The church came into the Willamette Association in 1855, but was not represented afterwards. Its Manual says: "The church was unfortunate in the choice of its pastor. His course and conduct was such that before his first year was completed it was plain that he could not be sustained." No further aid was sought from the Society. In February, 1856, he moved to Corvallis. As one well posted says: "He did not resign; neither was he dismissed; he went, and no one bade him stay." Services ceased, but the Sunday School continued for several months, and the removals from Portland reduced the membership to three; but it was not until August 31, 1860, that the church formally disbanded, to re-organize and begin anew.
27. SYLVANIA BAPTIST CHURCH, 1856
Located in Washington County, at Ames' Chapel, on the Tualatin river , about 8 miles west of Oregon City. Organized with eight members, by Revs. R. Weston and H. Johnson, February 17, 1856.
One of their Articles of Faith was somewhat peculiar in its expressions: "A visible church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith of the Gospel; it is God's Society; open, benevolent, beneficent; it is the avowed enemy of all sin, and the advocate of all good; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His laws; and exercising the rights, gifts, and privileges invested in them by His word; and its only officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons."
The church was strongly anti-slavery. It chose its officers once in three years. Rev. R. Weston was pastor at $40 a year; all they could pay him. Rev. H. Johnson preached for it occasionally. It came into the Willamette Association in 1856. In 1858, it licensed H. H. Hicklin. In the spring of 1860 it disbanded; cause, internal troubles.
The following churches, in their order, were organized, etc., as indicated by No., Name, County where located, Date, By whom organized, No. of Constituent members, Pastors, etc. All but two came into the Willamette Association. (NOTE: The figures 1, 2, 3, etc., after a name shows that there are other churches of the same name in other localities.)
9. MOLALLA. Clackamas. Fall, 1860. Rev. R. Cheadle. 8. R. Cheadle, G. C. Chandler. Extinct. Cause, Spiritualism.
10. LEBANON. (1). Marion. May 17, 1851. Rev, R. Cheadle. 5. R. Cheadle, J. G. Berkley. In 1854, it says: "We are weak and feeble, and surrounded by wickedness and infidelity, but are a little encouraged by two conversions and baptisms the preceding year."
13. WILlAMETTE FORKS. Lane. May 1, 1852. Revs. Vincent Snelling and William Sperry. 7. Sperry , Snelling and G. W. Bond. Outlook encouraging.
17. LIBERTY. (1). Linn. October 3, 1853. Revs. Joab Powell, and others. 10. Pastors not reported.
19. PLEASANT BUTTE. Linn. November 16, 1853. Rev. G. C. Chandler and others. 31 .Rev. William Sperry.
20. LUCKIAMUTE. Polk. April 1, 1854. Rev. John Rexford and others. 4. Revs. C. C. Riley, J. Rexford and J. M. Fulkerson visited it occasionally.
Rev. John Rexford was born in Canada; came as a Baptist minister from Illinois to Benton county, Oregon, in 1851, and preached as opportunity presented. He organized several little churches, and was helpful in keeping them alive when help was so scarce. He also helped organize the Umpqua Association in 1863. He died at Detroit, Michigan, February 22, 1880.
21. PILGRIM'S HOME. Benton. June 3, 1854. Self-organized. 7. Rev. R. D. Gray.
22. UNION. Polk. July 15, 1854. Revs. C. C. Riley and R. Miller. 14. Prospects good.
23. PALESTINE. Lane. October 10, 1854. Rev.R.D.Gray. 6. In 1856, it extended an arm to Pine Grove, about 20 miles distant.
24. MOUNT ZION. ( 1 ). Lane. First effort. October 14, 1854. Rev. R. D. Gray, etc. 5. Revs. R. D. Gray and G. W. Bond. Disbanded in 1857. Cause, slavery question. Sunday school kept up awhile by Brethren A. J. Hunsaker and Thomas Barbre. Occasional preaching afterwards.
25. GOOD HOPE. Linn. Fall of 1854. Revs. R. C. Hill and J. G. Berkley. 4.
28. MOUNT PLEASANT. Washington. Early in 1856. Rev. John Rexford. 4. Extinct. Neglect.
29. NORTH SANTIAM. Linn. Early in 1856. Revs. Berkley, Powell, etc. 8. Lived three or four years but never again represented. Rev. Joab Powell, pastor, in 1859. Disbanded in 1861. Cause, internal trouble.
30. PLEASANT VALLEY. Linn. April 27, 1856. Rev. J. D. South. 6. Unassociated.
31. CLEAR CREEK. Clackamas. May 25, 1856. Rev. Thomas Taylor. 6. Unassociated.
NOTE 1. In November, 1850, Rev. H. Johnson and R. Cheadle held a three days meeting, and organized a church of 7 members at Salem, but there is no record of a second meeting, nor did it represent in any Association, and appears to have died from neglect. But it secured the lots of the present Salem church, and left them as a parting legacy to the church after it.
NOTE 2. Also, in 1855, Rev. Ezra Fisher organized a church of 12 members in Powell's Valley , but nothing has been heard from it since. No other church ever came out of these two churches.
This completes the list of churches organized previous to the meeting of the Willamette Association in 1856. About 12 years and a few days prior to this meeting, without minister or deacon the first church of 7 members was organized. A distance of 2,000 miles intervened between them and the nearest Baptist church. They knew not when, nor whence any earthly help would come. But with strong faith, and loving confidence in the Divine Master, they planted their banner. Feeble and alone, for nearly a year, they labored earnestly beseeching help from the Captain of their salvation. How their hearts thrilled with joy when the messenger came. How their hearts rejoiced when their prayers were answered! With what thanksgiving did they receive the proclamation of glad tidings from one of their own faith! And what hopes and aspirations awakened, and what glorious results their hearts even then may have anticipated! At the conclusion of this period there were 26 churches represented in an Association of 831 members, besides many members scattered over the Territory, enough probably to swell the number to 1,000. These were to be gathered into churches. Besides having 28 ordained ministers and 3 licentiates from "The States," the churches had licensed 11 men; and although some churches had become extinct. and some ministers had left the Territory, there was cause for rejoicing. For statistics see tables.