III. WORK OF EASTERN SOCIETIES
1. FOREIGN MISSIONS
Considering the hardships and struggles of the first period, it is not surprising, that aside from their own pressing needs, but very little study was given to religious extension. Not that the brethren were anti-missionary, but other matters of great necessity forced their attention first. Hence, there is but little record of any church or Associational, action on the subject of Foreign Missions, or mention of collections for that purpose during this period. One or two small sums were sent East by individuals. Rev. G. C. Chandler sent $4 from Oregon City in 1853, and also one or two other small sums. Possibly, some other small sums were sent and classed as "Miscellaneous." The American Baptist Missionary Union was the medium for making such remittances, and at that early date, not easily reached. Hence; practically nothing was done.
2. WORK OF THE AMERICAN BAPTIST HOME MISSION SOCIETY OF NEW YORK
The attention of the A. B. H. M. Society was turned towards the Pacific coast as a mission field as early as 1843, and some correspondence was had looking toward a missionary or two, but arrangements were not fully completed until the spring of 1845, when Rev. Ezra Fisher and Rev. Hezekiah Johnson, both preaching under commissions from the Society, one in Illinois, and the other in Iowa, were sent across "The Plains" to Oregon. They arrived in the Willamette valley about December 1, 1845. After them, others were sent, so that by 1856, 7 missionaries, with their families had been sent by the Society. Two other brothers. were commissioned, but could not accept. John D. Post was sent as a teacher for the Oregon City College, and did little else. Except about a year at Clatsop Plains and Astoria, a few months at West Union, and the time in crossing "The Plains," brother Fisher was the "Exploring Agent,"or "itinerant," or "General Missionary." A log meeting-house, (or school house) was begun on Clatsop Plains, but the mines took almost every one away, and left it unfinished. In his journey, the company was, 214 persons; 50 wagons; 666 cattle; the aggregate of the different companies, about 3000. Of the religious element there were 30 Baptists; Methodists 5; Presbyterians 2; Seceders 2; Campbellites 1; Cumberland Presbyterians 2; Anti-missionary Baptists 1; and Dunkard 1. When he reached Astoria, his household effects were, a log cabin without a pane of glass; 3 chairs, 3 stools, a small pine table, 2 old trunks, a few cooking utensils, 2 teacups, and 4 saucers; and no more to be had at any price. His first letter to the Society, dated February 26, 1846, reads:
"Dear Brother: After a protracted journey of more than seven and a half months, and a distance of more than 2500 miles, we now find ourselves situated in the lower part of Oregon in the midst of an extremely interesting country, but in all the rudeness of nature, consequently you will not be disappointed when you learn the true state of society as it exists in this and the surrounding country. I arrived with my family at the Tualatin plains about the fifth of December last, after traveling in the rains about 15days, and having occasional rains for the preceding month. You will not be surprised when you learn that I walked farther than would cover the whole journey, bearing my full proportioned part of the services of the company, and that neither myself nor family laid off our clothing during the night, more than four or five times during the whole journey, always sleeping in our tents, or on the ground, and that we were borne down with protracted fatigue and care. But a merciful Providence has sustained us all the way through the wilderness, and blessed us with more than a usual measure of health and strength. Yet the last month I found my strength gradually yielding; and on our arrival, although we were greeted with kindness by the few brethren we met, we did not find our lot cast in the midst of wealthy churches who were participating in the fruits of centuries of labor in civilization and Christianity. We were however kindly received into the cabin of Brother Lenox. where we have resided up to the present time, and although his house contains but one room, about 18 x 22 feet, without a single pane of glass, and his family consists of 13 souls; and almost every night one or two travelers, and my family consists of 6 souls, we have passed the winter quite as pleasantly as you would imagine under the circumstances, and probably more so than that of a large portion of the immigration, although perhaps a little more straightened for room.
"The amount of ministerial labor that I have been able to perform since our arrival would seem to a minister in Eastern or Middle States to be trifling indeed, but were you in an entirely new country not reclaimed from the savages, with only one settler on each mile square, and that only in the open plains in the dead of winter, with the rains almost daily falling, except occasionally three or four days intervals, till all the small streams are swollen to swimming, and as yet but few bridges and numbers of them swept away; with all the cares of a family to be met after eight months' consumption of provisions and clothing, where supplies are to be procured at distance from 10 to 30 miles, it will appear less strange.
"I have visited but little, preached every Sabbath but three, and then my place was supplied by others, except once, when journeying, the rains and the distance from neighbors prevented. Yet I am almost daily having intercourse with citizens from various parts of the country, and through that means hope the way is opening for more extended labors in the opening of the spring, which is now beginning to make its appearance. I have established an evening school for the children of the family and one of the neighbors to spell and a Bible class on Sabbath evenings in the same families, where we got about 12 children to regular attendance. Brother Johnson was as providentially thrown into his place as we were into the Plains, and although afflicted with sickness in his family, is laboring perhaps as much as the circumstances of his family will justify.
"As it relates to my views of the importance of the field we are now just entering, I am by no means discouraged, but on the whole, have a growing conviction that I never in my life was placed in a more responsible relation, while at the same time I feel borne down with the surrounding and apparent obstacles to extended usefulness. If you will not regard me desponding, I will name a few of them. First, we have but one church in Oregon, and only two of the members living within 25 miles of the place of organization, so that all efficiency by church organization is lost; and those who have immigrated the past season are generally poor and but just able to provide temporarily for their immediate wants. Add to this the 40 or 50 Baptists members who are scattered over an extent of country perhaps 90 miles in length and 50 in breadth. Again, we are destitute of juvenile books and periodicals and books peculiar to the wants of our denomination. And then the settlements are fast extending south and west and northwest to points which soon must rise to very considerable importance, and here are Brother Johnson and myself with exhausted funds and beyond the reach of your aid for more than a year, and we must necessarily apply ourselves in part to procuring the means of present sustenance, with the labor of five or six men before us in the ministry, and that too at a time which most of all is favorable to give prominence and character to a rising nation.
"Now, could our able brethren, and pious too, see and feel as we do, the great reluctance with which we must leave the work in part to serve the present urgent wants of our families, and those which must be still more so before we can get any remittance from your Board, would they not esteem it a pleasure to make up a box of common clothing, or clothes laid by in their families, which will cover nakedness and render the appearance of our children in the house of worship decent in Oregon. We are sure we do not court the softest raiment for ourselves or families, but we do greatly desire to give ourselves wholly to the work, and something this way might lighten the expense of our support and add greatly to our usefulness.
"The subject of education, too, allow me to say, rests with great weight on my mind. Judge charitably, with all the laudable efforts made by our citizens, it is beyond their power to do much by way of educating their children, while they have so much to provide for present animal wants and placed beyond the reach of books. Besides this, the greatest efforts are made by Romanists and the Methodists. Now, could we obtain a few school books, so as to open a common school. they would be of great service."
Under another date, Brother Fisher says;
"I am informed by indubitable authority that there is not a place in the whole Territory where the higher branches can be acquired except by a private teacher or in a Catholic school. We need extremely a series of elementary school books;--We are in perishing need of juvenile reading, such as the publications of the American Baptist Publication Society and religious periodicals of our denomination.
"Hoping to be able to organize two or three churches by the aid of Brother Snelling and explore the settlements generally above, and visit the mouth of the Columbia river and Puget Sound during the coming dry season, should Providence give us and our families life and health. We are often encouraged and strengthened by the reflection that we have the prayers and sympathies of many, very many, personal and dear Christian friends, as well as of many whom we shall never know till we see as we are seen and bow together about the throne of our exalted Redeemer.
On the journey, Brother Johnson and his family suffered severely with Camp fever, but were improving, and by the last of April, were fast regaining health. And as circumstances permitted, they commenced missionary work, but the wide extent of country over which the settlers were scattered, and the difficulty of crossing swollen streams, together with the necessity of providing for their families, had proven serious obstacles to their work. Brother Johnson had taken a claim near Oregon City, and settled on it, but he could not open his doors for public worship until their health was restored. Other ministers invited him to occupy their pulpits occasionally in different localities, and his prospects of having good congregations statedly were satisfactory. Their obstacles will be more fully understood, when it is remembered that when such a journey was undertaken, everything had to be sold, (perhaps at half price), that was not absolutely indispensable for the trip. Hence, nearly all the early immigrants were very poor; many with nothing. But according to their ability and opportunity, Brethren Johnson and Fisher traveled all over the Willamette valley, time and again, on both sides of the river, and Brother Fisher went as far south as the Rogue river valley. But the most of their work was in the Willamette valley. Brother Johnson was pastor of the Oregon City church, sometimes serving the Clackamas church, and the West Tualatin church, and occasionally would take a tour among some of the other feeble churches, and destitute sections. Brother Chandler sometimes relieved him for awhile at Oregon City. About 1853, he became much dissatisfied with the A. B. H. M. Society because it was not sufficiently pronounced against slavery, and decided not to work with it any more, but still preached for the Oregon churches, and kept up his missionary tours. There was no discord; no non-fellowship declared for the brethren. If he obtained aid from abroad, it was from the Free Mission Society.* In 1848, he built, almost alone, at Oregon City, the first Baptist meeting house west of the Rocky mountains. 1n 1851, Rev. George C. Chandler and Rev. James S. Read were sent out by the Home Mission Society, their expenses being partly paid. They proposed to take charge of the Oregon City school, but it not meeting their expectations, Mr. Chandler took a claim about 12 miles distant, and preached for the surrounding churches and destitute places, as calls and circumstances demanded. Brother Read preached for awhile at some of the out stations from Oregon City, then went to the Rogue River valley, organized the Table Rock church, and early in 1854 returned to Indiana. Soon after, Rev. M. N. Steams arrived, and December 1, 1854, received a commission from the Society for Table Rock and vicinity, but the Indian war broke up the churches for awhile, and his commission was not renewed for that locality, nor during this period. John D. Post, after a year or so, started a private school, keeping it up for several years, and then went back to New York. Also, in 1855, Rev. W. F. Boyakin, from Mississippi, received a commission from the Society for Portland, for one year. His commission was not renewed, and he left Oregon. This covers all the appointments for Oregon, for this period, who entered the work here, and, excepting Brethren Chandler and Steams, none of them were ever again in the employ of the Society in Oregon. Astoria, Oregon City, and Portland, were all the fixed stations; the rest was general work; exploring. The people were generally satisfied. The Association endorsed the work. Several other ministers had come in "at their own charges," and all found plenty of room to labor.
*This society contended for a more strict recognition of church representation and control in the work of missions, and for a distinct and thorough separation from all known avails of slavery in the support of any of its benevolent purposes." It was also opposed to secret Societies and the use of such titles as "Rev.," "D. D.," etc.
In 1851 the Willamette Association
"Resolved: That we regard with sentiments of gratitude the labors of the American Baptist Home Mission Society as designed to meet the increasing wants of our denomination in North America. and we earnestly solicit a continuance and enlargement of their munificence in Oregon, and that we especially request the Board of that society to appoint a missionary to be stationed at Salem, who may labor in that and surrounding churches."
In 1852 the Association
"Resolved: That we endeavor to employ one ministerial brother for the term of one Year, to labor in connection with the Exploring Agent of the American Baptist Home Mission Society in supplying destitute portions of Oregon. That the Association highly approve of the appointment of Elder Ezra Fisher by the Society as their exploring agent for the Territory."
In 1855 the Association said
"Whereas: The American Baptist Home Mission Society, under God, is doing a great work in sending the gospel to destitute portions of our country, whose labors have been eminently blessed in the conversion of souls, and
"Whereas: A considerable share of her treasures, ministers, and sympathies have been bestowed upon Oregon; and
"Whereas: Said Society is now in pressing need of funds; Therefore,
"Resolved: That in all her efforts to build up the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, she has our sympathies and our prayers; and that to the extent of our ability , will help her with our pecuniary means; and that our financial agent and exploring missionary, now among us, Elder Ezra Fisher, is most heartily recommended."
And in his Report on "The Far West," before the A. B. H. M. Society. in 1854. Rev. O. C. Wheeler says:
"We believe there never has been a period in the history of any nation, when so glorious an opportunity has been given to bestow such a boon, and to throw so humanizing and Christianizing an influence over so many people, and so many different nations as is now offered to the people of these United States. The benighted of other nations are coming to us to receive those lessons that shall be borne back to those they have left behind them, for good or for evil, for freedom or for servitude, as this great country, by her people and institutions instruct them. But we have not yet done. All that has been said, is based upon the 'far West' as it is. If we look to the future of these Territories, the field assumes an aspect of surpassing magnitude and grandeur. God has gathered upon those shores every element necessary to build up one of the mightiest nations on the globe. And He has called there, for their development, a people who will suffer no one of them all to slumber in inactivity. California and Oregon possess territory enough to give homes to all the present population of the United States, and sources enough to enrich them all. The success of those who have emigrated thither will continue to attract multitudes, until the dormant wealth of all that coast will be developed, and the richest and most powerful States of our Union will lie beyond the Rocky mountains. They possess what never before has been granted to a new State in this age, capital to develop all the resources of the land, and to carry out the most enlarged schemes for their advancement. Such is a brief outline of the character and prospects of this great field. Upon it the church of Christ has a mighty work to do, and it were well, that measuring it in its magnitude and importance, she should arise and gird her for the task. There, all the grand circle of institutions flowing from and founded upon the Gospel are yet to be reared. Churches are to be gathered, nurtured, and built up. Church edifices are to be erected. Institutions of learning are to be founded. To bear and plant the Gospel there is a work for which no pigmy's hand is fitted. Infidelity, in its most boastful aspect, vice in its most open forms, there meet and mock the efforts of the Christian laborer, and grapples with errors of every form upon a soil where Romanism for a hundred years has been dominant, and still is powerful. The work to which God here invites us is a great work, and its importance should incite us to great efforts, commensurate alike with its magnitude, and the far-reaching results which will follow successful labors. Our denomination has not pastors enough there to supply the churches already gathered. The materials for new churches exist ready to be combined into efficient organization. Scattered among the mountains, camping in the ravines, or occupying positions of influence in the towns and inland cities of California and Oregon, are our own brethren, but they are too often as sheep without a shepherd! We need more missionaries for this field. We need them to reclaim those once members of our churches, who have wandered, we need them to stand by the sick bed of the miner, dying far from kindred and from home, to point him to riches brighter than those for which he has toiled; we need them to feed the scattered members of the flock, brethren whose names stand upon our own church books; we need them to seek out the thousands of young men, who have rushed to those distant shores, and who now, far from their father's house, and removed from the Christian home, are exposed to the unnumbered dangers and temptations, greatly, urgently, we need them, nor do we believe that this need can be too solemnly pondered by the ministry and the membership of our churches. Long as is this report, not the half has been said which a full statement of the subject would demand; and your committee closed by expressing the conviction that the Far West presents a field for missionary effort such as God opens for His people but once in centuries! And to reject the call which His providence here makes upon us, will result in loss to ourselves as a denomination."
3. THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY
Quite early, the A. B. P. Society, of Philadelphia, Pa., began work in Oregon. Rev. Richmond Cheadle, a Baptist minister from Iowa, in 1849, received a commission as Colporteur in the Willamette valley, which was renewed from time to time until 1856. In all, he labored 3 years and 48 days; traveling in his own conveyance, 3391 miles; books sold, 688; donated,19; organized 2 Sunday Schools and 1 church; tracts distributed, 1265; aided several churches in organizing, but does not report them; besides visits and addresses.
Also, Deacon David T. Lenox gave considerable time to volunteer work in the Colporteur business in Washington county , but he made no reports. In 1854 Brother Cheadle reported a "glorious revival" in progress, in which "12 converts had been baptized, and several backsliders reclaimed:" And the work was still going on, and from present appearances, a rich harvest was expected. He adds: "What agency, under God, the circulation of the books from the Publication Society has had in this good work, will be known only in eternity . To God be all the glory." In another report he speaks of a young man being converted from reading "Alleine's Alarm;" another from reading "Nelson on Infidelity;" and a "notorious drunkard was brought to embrace temperance principles," by reading "Prince Alcohol." Brother Cheadle was an earnest worker, and aided the churches much, preaching, organizing Sunday Schools, churches, if desired, baptizing converts, or anything to help build up Zion. His work was endorsed by the Association, and also the work of the A. B. Historical Society. The objects and aims of the Publication Society, as understood at that time, are here collected from the Reports, though somewhat condensed:
"The Society does not assume nor invade the prerogatives of coordinate Societies. It appoints no local pastor or missionary, home or foreign, but is the ally of all Baptist workers in every section of the field. In its pioneer work, it rejoices to aid such. It covets and invites the confidence, prayers, and contributions of all, that it may serve all fields, and meet all desiring calls. Its one great aim is to glorify God and save men, by diffusing and enforcing truth by means of the Bible, the press, colportage, and the Sunday School. In striving for the accomplishment of this one great primary aim, the Society is steadily seeking,
1. To circulate the Bible, and the Whole Bible, in every family and to every individual.
2. To provide denominational literature in the form of tract, pamphlet, periodical, and volume, which shall explain, defend, and enforce the teaching, of the Word of God as the will of God; teaching, defending, and enforcing the principles which distinguish us as a denomination. And by means of devout visitors and colporteurs to circulate standard devotional, religious, and theological works, adapted to direct the inquirer, indoctrinate the believer, enrich the mind of the minister, establish the wavering, and comfort the afflicted and dying, and talking this to the people, conversing and praying with them, encouraging them to read for spiritual profit, as a means for Christian growth.
3. To furnish a Sunday School literature suitable for all ages and circumstances, to establish a Sunday School in every Baptist Church, and in every destitute neighborhood, and to help increase the efficiency and power of all existing schools. This is done by encouraging, advising, and assisting Sunday School workers in multiplying their schools and extending their work; by striving to improve Sunday School instruction; by the appointment of Sunday School missionaries; and by assisting impoverished. struggling, and new schools, by granting them small libraries, Scriptures, periodicals, and other supplies.
4. T o aid pastors and missionaries of limited support with Scriptures, books, and tracts, or other needed helps, or needed supplies for use, sale or gift, and, to provide standard expository and devotional books for minister, student or others, suitable and appropriate to our convictions and usage as a denomination.
5. To help struggling students for usefulness and special labor, and to employ and develop special talents in ministers and others, especially in missionary or colporteur work, thus preparing the way for the organization of Sunday Schools or churches.
6. To open channels for and cultivate a general spirit of benevolence, and stimulate it into action so as to reach darkness and destitution wherever found.
7. To send brief, stirring, pointed, and instructive missives among the careless or vicious, and in times of revival to sow tract seeds, thus aiding pastors and missionaries in their work.
8. To carry the Gospel of the blessed God by means of missionary Colporteurs and Bible readers to the homes and hearts of millions, who never visit the house of God."
And a prominent writer thus speaks of its work:
"Its work is so quiet, and among the scattered, destitute, weak and irreligious; and its colporteurs, tract and Bible distributors, Sunday School workers and visitors of families are so inconspicuous, and delving in such lowly places, that there is little prominence before the great world. Yet this work is among the most necessary and profitable of all Baptist Christian work. It is fundamental and aggressive. It fosters, feeds, and stimulates every other sort of work." Statistics all given.