The following tribute to our early pioneers, written by President H. L. Boardman, of McMinnville college, in January, 1901, will apply not only to those of the First Period, but also to many who came much later:
"While this is said it is not forgotten that many of those who have wrought most efficiently in the days gone by in our work on the coast have been men of very limited education. Our history has been made thus far in large part by men of great faith and splendid consecration, but who had little assistance from the schools. These men have been however, with few exceptions, men of sterling intellectual worth and fine natural abilities. Furthermore, they have been men whose time did not put upon them the heavy demands in the way of education which are imposed by the conditions of the present and the future. And finally, these are the very men, who, without exception are the first to say even of their own ministries here in the wild new West would have been far more fruitful for God had their educational preparation been more perfect, and who insist most strongly upon the need of the best training the schools can give for the ministry of the present and the future. If the above is a fair characterization of many of our pioneer preachers, it is also to be remembered that many of them were men of as fine scholarship and educational attainments as the Eastern colleges of their time made possible. We feel like stopping just here to pay a tribute to the pioneer Baptist ministers of the Pacific coast. Many of them have already gone up higher, to hear the great Head of the Church say to them, "Well done, good and faithful servants." Many of them are still with us, some being yet in active service among the churches. One and all, they were, and are, God's noblemen. They laid our foundations, and they laid them well. They toiled across the Plains half a century ago, braving hardships and difficulties, utterly unknown to their children and grandchildren of the present day. They hewed out homes in the wilderness, and these homes became at once centers of prayer and religious influence in the scattered communities knowing little of those things. When facilities for transportation were most primitive they traveled far and wide with the Gospel message on their lips. They planted our earliest churches, built meeting houses, fostered denominational interests when these were without material resources at home or assistance from abroad. They toiled and struggled, patiently and perseveringly, supporting themselves by the labor of their hands, seeing the possibilities of the future for this Western empire, and faithfully discharging the trust which God had given to them. If they were men of little education often, they were men of large faith and profound spirituality. We of the present are immeasurably indebted to the pioneers of our ministry for all that we most prize. May the mantle of our fathers fall upon us, their children. No amount of the equipment of the schools will take the place of the spirituality and the consecration so beautifully exemplified in the ministry of the pioneers. They were taught in the school of Christ, often in a remarkable degree. Such schooling is the prime essential of the successful ministry, and never more so than now. Failures in the ministry on the part of those finely educated are not uncommon. Young men, finding their work lagging, and their ministry barren of results, resign to spend a year or two in graduate study in some university as a means of enhancing ministerial efficacy, when the real need is a long course with Christ in the school of prayer. While insisting with all due emphasis upon the need of intellectual culture and scholarly polish, we are yet to remember that the minister's supreme dependence for the doing of his work is not on the might of rhetoric, nor the power of polish, but "by my Spirit, saith the Lord."
VI. RETROSPECTION AND DESCRIPTION. (Much of this is compiled from personal reminiscences and the State Pioneer Reports.)
"A history of the Baptist pioneers would be incomplete indeed without some account of the circumstances by which they were surrounded. Circumstances modify actions, and there are, and are yet, many things about the early Baptists that look very peculiar to the newcomer. True, their faith and practice were usually in accord with the denomination; but in methods of manifesting their activities, differences of opinion were frequent, and it was no uncommon objection to some proposed action, that "that was not the way they did it where I was raised." The way they did it in Ohio, or New England, or Tennessee, or Missouri, or some other place "where I came from," was then, and even now is claimed as conclusive and the most potential argument. But the peculiar difficulties, privations, surroundings, and character of the early pioneers first demand attention.
When Brother Lenox and his company came there were but two routes to Oregon. One was a long, tedious journey around Cape Horn, with the incidental dangers and weariness of a sea voyage. The other, for time and weariness, was nearly as long a trip overland, with ox teams about half the way, and pack trains the balance of the journey. Those who chose the latter route were exposed to the sands and storms of the desert, the danger from warlike savages, and the failure of teams to bear them through the wilderness to the land of the West. After the wagon road from Fort Hall was opened in 1843, and the road cut across the Cascade mountains in 1846, it still required nearly or quite six months' hard driving to make the journey. The poor immigrant often landed in Oregon with a few half-starved cattle, a broken-down wagon and a care-worn family. Completely discouraged and disheartened, with no possible chance to get back, he found himself in the midst of the rainy season (and those who have wintered here know what that means,) with the necessities of life exceedingly difficult to obtain. Of the comparative merits of the two routes, the boy's description of the two roads to town will be a pretty accurate one. "There arn't much difference; they're both bad enough; and if you take either one, before you get half way there, you'll wish you had taken the other!" But hardships and privations did not end with the journey. For a long time the only flour mill was at Oregon City. The streams were unbridged, and in winter, the roads impassable. Hence, unless supplies were obtained before the rains set in, flour could not be had, and bread was unknown. Wheat, husked and boiled, or peas were the substitutes. Tea, coffee, sugar and salt could be had by few. Sometimes vegetables could be had of those who had arrived a year or two before; and usually deer, or other wild game abounded. Stoves had not reached the Coast. The frying pan and the camp kettle were often the only cooking utensils. A tin cup, a tin pail, an iron spoon or two and a few tin plates supplied the table. Their hunting knives did the carving, and fingers took the place of forks. A woman who was one of the first here, (in 1842), once said: "I remember one home when the deer had run off into the mountains, and we were six weeks with nothing to eat but boiled peas without salt!"--"Pretty rough!" was the answer. "Oh!" she replied, "we young kids just fattened on it, but it nearly killed mother." As the lady weighed nearly 200 pounds, there was no doubting her first statement, and the last was not unreasonable. Buckskin suits and moccasins were the style of dress, good when dry; when wet, awful!
And an immigrant's appetite! A speaker, Col. Geo. B. Currey, at a pioneer's reunion meeting, said: "Who can forget or describe it? It was illimitable in its voracity, and then seemed eternal in its cravings. Even now, viewed from the realms of satiety and dyspepsia, it seems glorious in its robustness and courage. It would attack anything from fried salmon to boiled wheat and get away with it. It prescribed but one condition to the cook--plenty. The only word that it learned from the courtly Jargon was "muck-a-muck". "'Hiyu-muck-a-muck' was the la la la to which we went to sleep to dream of pots of flesh and kettles of potatoes." The ordinary mode of travel was on the "hurricane deck" of a cayuse, or a mule. The cayuse was an Indian pony, seldom easily caught and comparatively worthless except for riding. The saddle pocket and leggins were a part of the necessary outfit. A heavy spur was indispensable. It often required a good rider to stick to the saddle, as they would "buck" furiously. The writer was once thrown by breaking his cinch (saddle-girth), and the animal sent him headlong into a pile of rails. The next thing he knew, he was covered with blood, nearly every joint in his body was sprained, and two men standing over him kindly inquiring if he was hurt! Luckily, no bones were broken. Rev. Vincent Snelling once met with a similar adventure. His pony "bucked" and pitched him head foremost into the muddy road, leaving a hole, where his head struck, as large as a half bushel measure. A man nearby came to see if he was hurt. As the old gentleman brushed the mud from his hair, he dryly remarked: "How fortunate that I lit in a soft place! See what a hole my head made." His horse was caught. The preacher washed the mud from his face and head and went on to his appointment as if nothing had happened.
Trails and foot logs were the chief thoroughfares, The traveler sighted a point and steered for it. Streams were forded or swum according to the stage of the water. When the rains set in all travel ceased, for the roads were impassable. The houses were log cabins with puncheon floor and mud chimneys. In many places these dwellings were many miles apart; seldom less than a mile. But the people were uniformly kind and hospitable. Hotel bills were unknown outside of the towns, but every traveler carried his own bed. People were glad to meet each other, and extended a hearty and cordial welcome to either stranger or friend, and long were the social chats around the blazing fire, as, after the day's labor or travel, they sat and entertained each other far into the night. There was no money in the country. Good merchantable wheat was a legal tender. Beaver skins were as good as cash. The difficulty was that the poor, worn half-starved immigrant had neither wheat, beaver skins, nor cash. Mail facilities were rare. A chance party going back across the plains or some vessel going around Cape Horn were the mail carriers, and it took months to get a reply. The first regular government mail service was in the winter of 1850-51, and, after the steamship lines were established by the way of the Isthmus of Panama the mails were monthly, and 25 cents was the postage on each letter at that time. When the influence of the gold mines began to be felt early in the '50's matters improved rapidly. A few expressions are given from the Oregon pioneers at their reunions:
And he might have added: "They were all contented because they could not get away."
Rev. G. H. Atkinson, D.D., in 1888, thus speaks of the pioneer women:
"How true-hearted were those wives and mothers who left the comforts of home in the West, and risked all things to share the perils of the way with their husbands in the immigration of 1843, which saved Oregon. How grandly their spirits rose above trials, and losses, and sickness and death. When men were stricken down how bravely they drove on their teams, prepared the meals and cared for the little ones. Hard and slow was the trip in 1844. Food failed. Strong men were starving. Cattle were dying. The danger was of snow in the Blue mountains. A winter in the Indian country without provisions, or defense, or shelter. Some fathers went ahead with only gun in hand for game, with a biscuit or two in pocket in hope of finding supplies and returning for families. What a test of woman's courage was this, to be left behind with the children, a broken team and the small food supply. But they did not shrink from the burden.
"The immigration of 1847 was stricken with sickness. Many died and were buried on the way. Mothers kissed their children for the last time, far out on the plains and among the mountains, and there they lie in unmarked graves. Husbands and fathers lost their lives in the struggle with disease and the hardships on the way and committed wives and children to strangers' care. There many women rose up to do the work of the man and bear the weight of the whole family. That was the year of the great massacre in which Dr. Whitman and Mrs. Whitman and many others fell, sending dismay among the settlers. Women then stood strong and nerved man to make defense and avenge the crime.
"Her deeds have been in silence. Her toil has never ceased. Her love and faith have never failed. Man owes to her his strength. She fired his courage, nursed his patience, cheered his hopes. If he won a crown as the founder of new states, she wove the golden chaplet which of right wreathed her own brow. Give respect, confidence and esteem to the pioneer women of Oregon from first to last. Let the full record be kept of what was early done, and what was borne to found American states on the Pacific coast."
And at a pioneer reunion in 1894, a woman thus pictures the woman's part in the struggle. (Mrs. Eva Emory Dye, A.M.)
"Year after year, seven years the annual procession was on the plains before the magic cry of gold let loose the hosts of fortune-seekers. When the stony mountains looked down like the Alps on Hannibal's army; when the pitiless sands scorched the oxen's feet; and the wagons fell to pieces; when men sank with fatigue and despair; a giant of courage arose in the heart of the faithful wife. She drove the team; she bathed the fevered brow; like a skillful general she covered the flying retreat before the pursuing famine. It is the universal testimony; that for quiet endurance, the pioneer mothers surpassed the men. Flying now westward in our Pullman palace car we catch glimpses of that old immigrant road, a road that was lined with graves wet with blood and tears. Who can guess what scenes were enacted there? What light feet danced on the velvety plains of the Platte, what war whoops sounded on the Snake; what courtships and weddings; what births and deaths occurred on the route across the plains. What a land they found when the last barrier was passed! What homes to be hewn out of the forest! Undaunted men and women came to save an empire from foreign grasp; savages retreated; mills broke up the beaver dam; the plow destroyed the camas meadow.
"When the cry of massacre startled the Oregon world women's patriotism made the flag and stitched on the stars; women's ingenuity tore up the last sheets for shirts and sent the little colonial army equipped to the fields; women's foresight dispatched succor to the front, and to the soldier boys, sweethearts sent the magic watchword, "Be brave, volunteers, we'll hold your claims till the war is over!"
"When the gold upheaval called all the Oregon men to California their wives remained to tend the farms and keep the children. Their slender hands barricaded the doors and armed for the savages. Their courageous industry kept alive the schools and shops and sheltering hearth fires. It was Oregon's Amazonian age, but the Amazons were quiet, patient, Christian women. They never dreamed of being heroes, they only tried to do their duty. The deeds of the pioneer mothers are passing into oblivion, like the deeds of the German women of old; like the heart histories of the pilgrims of the Mayflower; but the sweet incense of their unselfish lives breathes in our homes and in our social amenities. Their example lives in their sons and daughters. Sisters of the Golden State, Oregon was the link that bound you to the Union. An Oregon pioneer discovered your gold. The possession of Oregon made Columbia dare to reach for California. Oregon opened her first window to the Western sea, and you opened the door. And what part in this, a few brave women have had is still unwritten history. Let their daughters in historic congress rise up to do them honor."
A quotation from "An Idyl." by Frank Henry, Esq., of Olympia:
NOTE. The story is put in the mouth of an old man. "Jerked Game," meat dried in the sun without salt. "Camas," a small tuberous plant which grew wild and plentiful on the Oregon prairies in an early day, and when properly cooked was quite palatable.
Well has another pen described the pioneers of this coast as follows:
"Grown strong through shifts, and wants and pains;
A deep respect for religion was another feature of the early pioneers. Probably because the early missionaries were active in inducing immigration. But the genuine article was called for, and they quickly detected impostors, and their contempt for such was most decided. Religious privileges, especially with Baptists, were about on a par with their other advantages. The Methodists had more preachers. Several ministers connected with their missions commenced work in 1834. Others came afterwards. The Congregationalists began their labors about 1836. The Catholics had some early missions. There was an occasional preacher of some other denomination. But except at mission stations, religious services were scattered, very irregular, and even at the stations difficult for many to attend. There is no account of any Baptist who came to Oregon prior to 1843, nor of any minister who came before Brother Snelling in 1844. After this time, Baptists, both ministers and laymen, came nearly every year. They began to organize churches; mostly in the country, often at long distances apart. This was chiefly because of the "Donation Land Law;" government giving every settler 320 acres of land, and his wife the same, if they came prior to December 1, 1850. From that time until December I, 1853, each settler got half that amount of land; but in all cases, the settler had to live on the land four consecutive years before he could claim his title. And as every immigrant wanted his land, the towns were mostly on paper, or mere villages or trading posts, and the churches had to follow the people. It was no uncommon thing for members to go 10, 15 or even 20 miles to church; and even at this distance, many seldom missed a church meeting. The writer has eaten his breakfast on Sunday morning and ridden his horse 30 miles to an appointment at 11 o'clock, and been "on time." And nearly all the ministers often made long, tedious rides to their appointments. For two years Rev. George C. Chandler rode 60 miles on horseback, to a regular appointment, twice a month, at one of his churches; but he stayed over to both appointments. With all the preachers it was about the same, with some variations in distances or ferriages. And brethren from a distance, with ox teams, would bring their families to church. It was not uncommon for brethren of one church to attend the meetings of another, even if they did make a long drive. It was expected that those coming from a distance would be entertained by those nearer the church. From this cause, in part, arose the habit of visiting on Sunday; a necessity for the time being; and the practice will probably be kept up by the old Oregonians and their immediate descendants. Whether future generations in Oregon can be brought to the old Puritanic strictness of a New England Sabbath others must decide.
The compensation of ministers has been sometimes criticized, and because some of the early Baptists opposed stated salaries, they have been called "Anti-missionary." Let facts speak. As a rule, the early Baptists were poor. Nearly all of them crossed the plains, and on their arrival about all they had were their jaded teams and well-worn wagons, a wife and children. True, they got their land, but it had to be cultivated and crops raised, and this required time and much labor. Hence, at first, beyond the merest pittance, paying preachers was not thought of. It was a question of bread and meat and covering. Preachers fared like others. The early pioneers would divide their supplies, almost to the last crust, with the suffering and really destitute; a more generous people never lived, as a multitude of needy immigrants each year could testify. So the preachers got but little, and knowing the circumstances, expected little. Possibly, some did not believe in stipulated pay. Some such, however, afterwards changed their opinions on this subject. Cases can be cited where some very zealous men so neglected their secular affairs to preach, that they were reduced to poverty. They gave themselves so wholly to serving the churches that they bankrupted themselves. In the face of the poverty, the struggle for comforts, they could not press this obvious duty. So that whilst the preachers, with an occasional exception, were becoming more straightened, the brethren were becoming more able, and this duty not being pressed, they became careless. True, there were exceptions on both sides, both individuals and churches. Today there is a marked improvement along this line, but with some the lesson has been a hard one to learn. To show that the lack of ministerial support was often the result of careless oversight, an actual case in point is given.
A good sister once said: "Don't you think Brother M- that Brother B- does very wrong in preaching so much? He often goes away and leaves his family destitute of comforts, and I fear, of necessities, even." Now this sister was rich. She was surrounded by superfluities. She could have supported without financial embarrassment this brother's family. So the reply was: "I do not know whether Brother B- does wrong or not, but I do think, dear Sister, that you do wrong to allow his family to suffer whilst he is doing a good work for the Lord." After considering this, the sister said: "Well, I'll see that his family do not suffer any more."
Practically, pastorates in most of the churches consisted in visiting the church once or twice a month, preaching on Saturday, attending to business, or holding a covenant meeting, preaching once or twice on Sunday, leaving, and not returning until the next appointment. About once a year, the pastor would invite another minister or two to help him hold a protracted meeting. In this way, the same man was "Pastor" perhaps of three or four churches. At first, this was the best that could be done, and some churches became so accustomed to it that they still follow it, although well able to have a settled pastor. But at that time the churches were glad to get preaching once a month. Many churches could not get even that. With some, a sermon once in two, three, or even six months, was their portion. But as new preachers arrived, the churches were better supplied; yet new churches were being organized, and new fields opened, so that the demand kept fully up to the supply. Thus, from the necessities of the time, arose a custom which made many of the churches careless of paying their preachers, and also satisfied with "once a month" preaching, and these old customs are exceedingly difficult to overcome.
The early Baptists were an enthusiastic, emotional people. Whatever was in their hearts broke forth spontaneously. There was little suppression of the emotional nature. Shouting and noisy demonstrations were not uncommon. If one "got happy," all would likewise "get happy" for the enthusiasm was contagious. Few of the preachers would suppress it, though some were not hearty in their approval. But even these thought it the wisest plan to let it take its course. An instance of this outburst occurred as late as 1885. The subject of Foreign missions was under discussion at one of the Associations, and one of the speakers said that it cost other denominations $200 for each convert among the heathen, whilst it cost the Baptists only $37. One of the brethren sprang to his feet, exclaiming--"Think of that, brethren! Just think of that! Baptists can make angels for glory at $37 a head!" The effect can be imagined.
Missionary work was done in great part by the churches, or at most by the Associations. Any further remove was not tolerated, because it interfered with a direct voice in the matter. The methods have changed much, but many of the first churches still cling to the old idea. A "Board" scares them. But they will assist in Associational missionary work, and to some extent in Foreign mission work. They are yielding gradually to the new order of things. They are not anti-missionary, but Baptist like, still cling to the old landmarks, and will not at once forsake them for new experiments. Christian charity requires each to bear and forbear. If all cannot see alike in methods of work, none should withhold a hearty love and fellowship for each other. The field is large enough for all. Let each work in his own way, and all rejoice because God is honored and Christ is glorified. Possibly, upon a superficial or partisan glance, some might fancy that anti-missionary elements were to be seen, both in early times and now, that is, from that standpoint; but upon a more familiar acquaintance, and a closer inquiry, this opinion would be materially modified. From the very first, the churches and Associations all advocated, with scarcely one to dissent, and aided to the extent of their ability, all our benevolent work. Even if sometimes there was a difference in plans or methods, when the majority agree, the minority usually acquiesced. During all this period, beyond the temporary flurry whilst matters were under discussion, there was no serious disagreement, nor any jar of grave importance, either in the work or in the plans or methods. The early Baptists were a noble, generous people, fully alive to all that concerned the welfare of Zion, and to advance their beloved cause, were ever ready to yield and compromise everything but principle. They were too weak to contend and create internal dissension; too zealous to stand on trifles; and too dependent on each other to allow divisions. Hence, if a few did chafe a little, they worked very pleasantly and harmoniously together.
For the first twelve years at least, the Baptists of the northwest coast were substantially a unit in faith, in practice, and in benevolent work. And if in their poverty, they could not send much abroad, yet, like the Israelites when repairing the walls of Jerusalem, each tried to build "every one over against his own house." And possibly, in their efforts to build up their own borders, some brethren, and even some churches, may have temporarily forgotten the duty and the command to extend the Gospel to "the regions beyond."
From first to last there is a vast difference between the manner of conducting church affairs now, and that of fifty years ago. Then, a few brethren and sisters, living sufficiently near each other, would meet and organize themselves into a church, at the same time inviting ministers and other brethren to be present; but the organization was usually effected whether these came or not. Or some traveling minister would find a few brethren and sisters and organize them into a church. By one of these methods or the other, nearly all of the older churches of Oregon were organized. A formal "Council of recognition" was not considered necessary, and hesitancy in receiving a church into an Association, unless so recognized, was unknown. For thirty years of Baptist labor at least, it is more than doubtful if half a dozen churches on this North Pacific coast were so recognized. After organization, the church in its first letter to the Association, stated when, and by whom organized, and what Articles of Faith were adopted, and it was received at once by a direct vote; no reference; no committee; unless something special called for it. Regular church letters were not "passed upon" before being read. Aside from the standing Boards of the Convention, for fifteen or twenty years no regular officer of an Association or Convention was nominated, and when this was first done, a question of order was raised, "Was such a thing Baptistic?" Previous to that, each one voted for whom he pleased, and without nominations, or instructions for the Clerk "to cast the vote for A. B." All such ways of doing business were absolutely unknown in all the early years of Baptist labor on the North Pacific coast.
If a brother showed the proper talent or gift, the church would license him to preach, and if satisfied, soon after, invite two or three neighboring ministers and ordain him at once. Doubtless, in some cases, this was unwise, but in many instances it proved a grand success. One of the most efficient ministers on this field, well known, and universally recognized in both Oregon and Washington, was ordained by two ministers, both members of the same church as himself. Down to 1870 those who had more than two, or at most, three ministers outside of their own church (unless at an Association) to ordain them, were the exceptions. All ordinations, whether by many or few, were considered valid everywhere, and "calls" were made for the new preacher according to his qualifications and popularity. In this, as in nearly everything else, the early pioneers were usually very independent, and did about as they pleased. There was no clash or collision, but brethren would have their own way.
Rev. C. C. Riley was an ardent preacher, quite a revivalist, and always had "good meetings." Sometimes a young convert who had just found the "Savior precious," would want to tell of it, and monopolize the time, in the midst of the sermon. Brother Riley would stop--he was always ready to give way to a young convert. The story was told; some sister would begin to shout, and preaching would cease. As a good sister once said: "Brother Riley would just stand, and laugh and rub his hands."
Rev. Ezra Fisher was holding a protracted meeting. A gracious revival was in progress, the church was alive, and it was a time of awakening amongst all classes. One night, when the services had continued until late, Brother Fisher suggested a dismission. A young brother, who had terribly backslidden, but who had "come to himself" at this meeting, sprang to his feet--"No, sir! We're not going to be dismissed! We won't go home till morning! We're going to stay all night and have a glorious meeting! Arn't we brethren?" And he commenced singing with the voice of a Stentor. The brethren fell in with him, and Brother Fisher whispered to a bystander, "I do wish the brethren could have a little sense!" As he was rather feeble, and very tired, one of the brethren, who lived near, quietly slipped the old gentleman away, and gave him the much needed rest. But the meeting continued nearly all the night, and during its entire progress over 30 converts were baptized; and our enthusiastic young brother was afterwards ordained and became one of our most efficient revivalists.
Rev. David Hubbard was once preaching when a brother from a neighboring church entered, commenced shaking hands, and at the same time began telling what a good meeting they had just had at his church, and that one of his sons was converted. Now, Brother Hubbard always wanted "all things done in order," and although the brother was not very noisy, yet he diverted the attention of the hearers and disconcerted the preacher. So Brother Hubbard said: "The hand of fellowship is always well enough at the proper time, but,"--"It's the proper time now, sir!" said the brother, and went on with his hand shaking. Brother Hubbard submitted.
Later conveniences and luxuries were unknown. In preaching, the Cross, God's Abhorrence of Sin, Christ's Atonement, Divine Love, the Sinner's Desperate Condition, and the Judgment Bar were the themes. As is said of the pioneers of another section:
Associations were regarded, (1) as cooperative bodies, where plans could be devised for churches to unite in the advancement of benevolent work; and (2) as a place where all could expect "a good meeting;" that is, an awakening; a revival. That Associations as mostly business meetings would not have been endorsed by the early churches. And what times were had at these Associations! All went! Whole families went! Entire churches went! More than once was the entire membership of a church present! True, the churches were small; possibly, half a dozen members; but they wanted to be at one good meeting during the year. Some went on horseback, some with horse, mule or ox teams, often traveling 50, 75 or 100 miles. An occasional messenger came 200 miles. Some took blankets and stopped with brethren on the way. Others took what was necessary and camped: And sometimes a poor brother would come 50 or 75 miles on foot. The Association was the last of June. Seed time was over, harvest not yet come, the roads at their best, and what cared they for a hundred miles of travel, or a week or two of time? Then the accommodations were not always near the place of meeting. The most of the churches were widely scattered, and the place of meeting had to be as nearly central as possible. Once, when an Association adjourned the first afternoon, a brother called: "Now, brethren, I want you all to go home with me! I live right here! Close by! Only three miles out! And I am the nearest Baptist here! Just follow my wagon!" But another brother insisted that it was a smoother road to his house, and he lived "only six miles out!" Each wanted a crowd, and always tried to secure a preacher or two; for it was understood that a meeting would be held at the house at night. Neighbors would assemble, and after the work a sermon would be preached, and perhaps quite a free religious talk would follow.
"But it must have taken provisions to feed so many," some one exclaims. Of course! But vegetables were plenty, and wild meat was to be had, besides "the fatted calf." The fare was sumptuous. For dinners, lunches were spread at the place of meeting and all invited to partake. "But the sleeping?" Well, the floor of a room was covered with straw or hay, and blankets spread for the women and small children. The men and boys took their blankets to the barn or shed. Without jesting, there were splendid accommodations. First class, of its kind! At the Associational meetings there were at least two sermons a day; one before noon, and the other, afternoon. The community expected it. The congregations gathered, and the sermons were preached. There were three, and perhaps four sermons on Sunday. Some times the interest would be such, that a preacher or two would remain; the meeting continue after the final adjournment of the Association, and a revival follow. Conversions and baptisms at the Associations were not strange or uncommon. "Ah!" says some critic, "You could not have done much business then." Perhaps not. Yet the minutes support the assertion that there were committees, and reports, and discussions and resolutions about Bible Societies, and Home Mission Societies, and Foreign Mission Societies and Destitution and Periodicals, and Temperance, and Sunday schools, and many other things, much the same as today. "But how did you find time to do it all?" It cannot be told how it was done. It was done. Most of the brethren were satisfied with it, and thought it well done. Usually a grove or vacant building was near, and sometimes the preaching would be at one place and the business meeting at the other. Possibly, there were not many long-winded speeches. Possibly, not much complicated and ponderous machinery was required for the work. Possibly, the speakers did not deal much in metaphysics, but kept close to the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ. Possibly, there was not as much of high learning as of exalted piety. Possibly, there were few offices, less salaries, and not much red tape or formality, and men were willing to pitch right into hard work and make sacrifices in order to win souls.
The churches followed the advice of the Association or not as they saw fit. They recognized no dictatorial authority, whatever. As a prominent brother once expressed it when criticized somewhat closely: "Brother Moderator, I want it distinctly understood that we are an independent body. We receive whom we please; we dismiss whom we please; we exclude whom we please, and what are you going to do about it? We mind our own business, and we expect others to do the same." Now, whilst in the heat of discussion, this was putting the matter somewhat forcibly, and the language perhaps deserves some criticisms, yet practically, nine out of ten of the churches were running in the same channel.
This reminiscence is inserted by request of the committee, and it was thought better to put the narrative in the first person.
It was in 1852, and the first Baptist Association that I attended in Oregon. I took my lariat and my blankets, and in company with Brother David T. Lenox, left Tualatin Plains, and the first afternoon reached Rev. Vincent Snelling's who lived about two miles below where McMinnville now stands. The next morning we started late, and rode so slowly that about noon we had only reached Spring Valley, some five or six miles opposite Salem, and looking for our dinner, we rode up to a little house on the prairie, where a lady, who was probably 60 years of age, met us. She offered us such as she had. She hadn't much. Her son had gone to Oregon City to mill, and had been gone three days, but she looked for him that evening. She had no flour, nor any garden. They had eaten all their boiled wheat for breakfast, but they had killed a deer the day before, and she would cook some venison if that would do. We were satisfied and staked our horses to the grass; came in and told who we were and where we were going. "Why!" exclaimed she, "I am a Baptist myself. I have been one nigh on to 50 years!" We were glad of this, and she told us that she had been but a few months in Oregon, and did not yet know where they would locate. She had not seen a Baptist since she had left the "States," and "had almost forgotten how they looked!" She had heard of a little Baptist church in the hills somewhere, but knew not where to hunt for it. Brother Snelling told her. Brethren Snelling and Lenox being of about middle age, she received them quite complacently, but thought I was rather young, eyed me suspiciously, and inquired if I was really a Baptist. They told her that I was all right; whereupon she exclaimed: "Well! Well! The Lord does convert folks mighty young sometimes. I was converted myself when I was a little bit of a gal! And the Lord did a good work with me!" She was very loquacious, told us her experience and trials, and several circumstances of her religious life, and we much enjoyed the call. She tried to make us feel "at home" and regretted that she had nothing better to offer us for dinner, but we assured her that we were well satisfied. Her appearance was neat, and everything was as bright as a new pin. Her venison was well cooked, and she put a plate of good butter and a pan of rich milk on the table, and we ate heartily. Soon after we saddled our horses and went our way.
At Salem, not much town then, the brethren stopped till nearly sundown, but Brother Snelling said he knew a place three or four miles out where we could stop; so we rode on in hopes, but on reaching our expected stopping place, the folks were all away from home, and we had to go on. It was night, and the road was over hills, through brush and trees with only a trail, but Brother Snelling assured us he knew the way, and that the road was well blazed and could be easily found, as it was a bright moonlight night. So we rode on, but the brethren would not hurry, for the brush and trees were thick, and the trail dim, and at times difficult to find. The actual distance we traveled after night was about seven or eight miles, but it was a strange road, and I was impatient, and if when we stopped, anyone had called it 20 miles. I would not have disputed his veracity. At last we saw a light, and drawing up to a small dwelling, Brother Snelling said, "Light! Light! We're going to stop here." "Perhaps we can't get to stay," said I. "Get down! I tell you! We're going to stop here! We'll not go any further tonight!" said Brother Snelling. So we hitched our horses and went in. What a sight! There was a room, perhaps 16 feet square, with a huge fireplace at one end, and a small bedroom or two partitioned off at the other end and judging from the odor of provisions being cooked, what I supposed to be a kitchen at the back. But the room was literally full. Men! Women! Children! It looked as if all had been crowded in that was possible, and then more added. I said to Brother Snelling, "We can't stop here! They are full already!" "Yes, we are going to stop here! Stop your noise!" said he. Just then, Brother Cornelius, at whose house we were, hearing the last remark, replied, "Of course you are going to stop here;" and his boys went to take care of our horses. I suppose he would have asked us to sit down, but that was out of the question; because first, there were no unoccupied seats; and secondly, there was no place for seats if we had them; all seats being given to the aged and infirm and to the ladies. I had never seen the like, being just from the Buckeye state, where usually we had plenty of room, and the most of the arrangements were in order. I was somewhat astonished, but the brethren took it all as a matter of course. What puzzled me was, where were we to sleep? We could eat, a few at a time; but the sleeping; how was that to be managed? I could contrive no way. All were talking on various subjects, but I gave little or no attention. I was too busy watching and wondering.
Finally, some one proposed that we retire. So after a short religious service the men and boys started for the door. Seeing the others gathering their blankets, I got mine, and we went to the barn. Barn! That was what they called it. It consisted of forked poles set in the ground; with a roof and some poles fastened to the sides to keep out the animals. Inside, some fresh grass or hay had been spread, and we rolled up in our blankets to sleep on this. Not much sleep for me! Two or three of the brethren had become intensely interested in some knotty point of theology, or something else, I don't remember what, nor desire to; and not having satisfied themselves in the house, concluded to finish the pro and cons after retiring. I was too timid to ask them to postpone the discussion until morning, and the other brethren did not care, for judging from the noise, in a few minutes one-half of them were apparently snoring for a prize! I do not know that anyone got it, but several certainly deserved it! And I could only lie there and think! And think. And think! At length the brethren finished their discussion, or I suppose they did, for they quieted down, and I was just beginning to doze a little, when some of those who had been asleep awoke, and doubtless thinking it was their turn, moved a reconsideration, which I regarded was very much "out of order". But my ruling not being openly expressed, was unheeded, and others roused up until by the time it was fairly light, we were all wide awake, getting up. But before I left that barn I had the curiosity to count how many of us slept there. Only 61! As for the women and small children, I do not know how they fared. Am satisfied the floor was well covered, but the house was not crowded in the morning. We had plenty of sitting room--on the fence! The weather was pleasant, and the men collected in little groups, discussing the prospects and probable business of the Association, until we had our breakfast, when we were off to the place of meeting, about two miles distant. At about half this distance, we passed Father Hunsaker's, where we found fully as large a crowd as our own. In fact, Brethren Cornelius and Hunsaker nearly kept the Association, the other members of the little church living so far distant as to get very few guests. And with slight variations, the other nights until the close of the Association, were but repetitions of the first.
I showed this manuscript to Rev. A. J. Hunsaker, and on reading it, he said, "Don't exaggerate!" Said I, "How many stopped at your house during that Association?" "Oh! A good many." "But how many? You were a boy then, and I know that you counted them." At length, he faintly whispered, "I believe mother cooked for 93 one night!" It may be well to state incidentally that nearly all the women helped about the work. This was the custom at all the Associations, and the women went prepared for it.
Of the inside work of the Association, it is not necessary to speak further, but for real hearty enjoyment, and genuine brotherly cordiality, there never have been more satisfactory, heart-cheering, strengthening meetings than those of the '40's and '50's. Associations and Conventions of today may be more systematic; in regularity and order they may hew closer to the line, or gauge nearer to the plummet; they may have superior accommodations for one and all; yet they do not excel the earlier ones, either in harmonious action, nor in zeal for the cause of Christ. They have not a more honest, hearty, genuine love for each other, nor a more generous, devoted, self-sacrificing body of brethren. From any true Christian standpoint, the pioneer Baptists will stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side, equally as worthy, equally as earnest, and equally as valiant as any of the brethren of today. And many of the old pioneers often look back and sigh for the old days of freedom and half wild enjoyment as they labored and prayed and counseled together in these wilds of the West, laying foundations for the future prosperity of our beloved cause. And who will blame them?
At that early day, yearly there gathered from forest and stream, for miles up and down the valley, the hardy pioneers of an unadulterated Bible faith, to devise the best means for spreading their Redeemer's glory. With the present facilities for travel the sacrifices of these men in their labor of love cannot be appreciated, nor will the struggle of their noble souls to plant the seeds of truth ever be known. Men of study, strength and ability gave their lives to God, expecting in their day nought but struggle. Like Paul at Corinth, they toiled for their daily bread whilst laying strong foundations on which posterity might rear more graceful palaces of truth--foundations laid in obscurity and humble faith. All honor to the sturdy pioneers, like Lenox and Sewell and Snelling; Johnson and Fisher; Riley and Bond; Weston and Powell; Chandler and Hill; Failing and Latourette; Pruett and Myers; Hunsaker and Fulkerson; C. Hill and Harlow; and a host of others who built the foundations of Bible faith in Oregon. When the book of life is opened many names scarcely echoed beyond a limited circle shall shine there as jewels snatched from ruin in these Western wilds, adorning the brows of these men of God.