Print
Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

The reader has already heard of Big Springs as a locality where Free State Conventions were wont to be held. Lawrence and Topeka were twenty-five miles apart, and both were on the south bank of the Kansas River. Big Springs is midway between these towns, and is situated on the high divide, lying between the Kansas River and the Wakarusa.

 

Here, at Big Springs, were located four brethren, L. R. Campbell, C. M. Mock, A. T. Byler and Jack Reeves. Bro. Campbell was a Disciple from Indiana, of much more than average attainments, and of great force of character. In his immediate neighborhood, and as he had opportunity, he was a preacher, and when a church was organized he naturally became its leader and elder. His early death seemed the greatest calamity that ever befell the church, though he raised a family of boys that in process of time have taken his place, and make his loss seem not irreparable.

C. M. Mock was not a preacher, yet there is many a preacher that might well be proud to make himself as widely and as favorable known as "Charley Mock," and to be remembered with as much affection. He only remained in Kansas a few years, and then returned to his original home in Rushville, Rush county, Indiana. We may truthfully say, "What was our loss was their gain."

Bro. Byler was simply a large-hearted and kind-natured farmer from Missouri, who was too full of brotherly love to have anything of sectional prejudice about him. George W. Hutchinson, whom we will hereafter introduce to our readers, used to call him his "Big _Boiler_." His death after a few years was sad and pathetic; he had been to Lecompton and driving a spirited horse; the horse took fright, and threw him from his buggy and killed him.

Jack Reeves was the son of B. F. Reeves, of Flat Rock, Ind., so long the venerated elder of that church, and a sort of patriarch over all the churches. And the above-named brethren, as well as a number of others, hearing that I was preaching near the Missouri River, sent for me to come and make them a visit. I accordingly did so, and now, for thirty-one years I have not forgotten to visit them, and they have not forgotten me. From this time forward I preached for them as I had opportunity, and thus began to make the acquaintance of brethren south of the Kansas River. The church grew apace. At their organization they had twenty-five members. Two years afterwards they were able to report a membership of seventy-two persons.

The year 1857 passed rapidly away. My time was divided between working on my claim on Stranger Creek, preaching for the churches that had been organized, and making the acquaintance of brethren wherever I was able to find them.

And now the year 1858 was upon us, predestinated to bring with it consequences far-reaching, as touching the future of Kansas. In this year should be settled the question that had filled the Territory with agitation, tumult, and war for four years; and it was in this year that our Kansas missionary work was begun, and in which was organized the first missionary society. The time was the early spring of 1858. The place was "Old Union," a little, log school-house situated in a ravine opening into Stranger Creek bottoms. The _personnel_ were, first, Numeris Humber, with his tender heart and quenchless love for missionary work. Then there was his sister wife, that with saintly presence and sacred song made us feel that this was the very house of God and gate of heaven. Judge William Young was also present, who had neither song nor sentimentality about him, but in his unpoetic way looked at everything in the light of cold, hard fact. And yet Bro. Young is neither cold nor hard, only on the outside. There also was Spartan Rhea (these brethren were all from Missouri), whose fine sense of honor and upright conduct we have already had occasion to commend while acting as justice of the peace during our former troubles. Joseph Potter was also there, and so, also, was Joseph McBride, a notable preacher of Tennessee, that many years ago was one of the pioneers that planted the Christian cause in Oregon. All told, we had a crowd large enough to fill a little, log school-house. Brethren Yohe and Marshall, of Leavenworth City, also gave us assurances of their hearty help and sympathy. This Dr. S. A. Marshall was a brother-in-law to Isaac Errett, and always deeply interested himself in this work of building up the churches. The church at Pardee was also represented. And this constituted the make-up of our first missionary society. Three churches represented, and enough persons decently to fill a little seven-by-nine log school-house. Let us learn not to despise the day of small things. As for the amount of money pledged--well, it would not have frightened even one of those little ones, that are scared out of their wits at the thought of an over-paid, over-fed, proud, luxurious and domineering priesthood. As for the missionary chosen to go on this forlorn hope--to explore this Africa of spiritual darkness, it was Hobson's choice; it was this or none. Except myself, there was no man to be thought of that would or could go on this errand, and so there was no contest over the choice of a missionary.

Conspicuous among these early churches were the churches that were formed in Doniphan county. This is the most northeastern county in the State, and is in a great bend of the Missouri River, having the river on three sides of it. It is a body of the best land in Kansas, and no county had at its first settlement as many Disciples. Their first beginning was unfortunate. A man named Winters, calling himself a preacher, came among them and made a great stir. But he brought with him a woman that was not his wife. With a character unblemished this man would have won an honorable fame; but when questioned he equivocated, but was finally compelled to confess the shameful truth, and in their grief and shame the newly-organized church seemed broken up. Jacob I. Scott was a man of spotless life and dauntless purpose, and feeling that it would be an unspeakable humiliation to allow everything to go to wreck because of the frailty of one unfortunate man, and learning that I had taken the field in the counties further south, he besought me to come over and help them. In no counties in this State have there been more churches than in Doniphan county, but in no county in the State have the churches been more evanescent and unstable, and yet it is not because these brethren have apostatized, but it is that the men that have settled in Doniphan county are men that keep on the borders of civilization, and the opening of a great empire for settlement to the west of them tempted them to move onward. Indeed, this has been the case in all the churches in Eastern Kansas. Just as soon as we would gather up a strong church it would straightway melt out of our hands, and its members would be scattered from Montana to Florida, and from the Missouri River to Oregon.

Some twenty-five miles to the northwest of my place of residence, in what is now Jackson county, on the waters of the Cedar Creek, was a settlement mainly from Platte county, Mo. The best known of these was Bro. John Gardiner, whose heart now for thirty years has held one single thought, the interest and prosperity of the Christian Church. He has sacrificed much, has labored much, and has done a great deal of preaching without fee or reward. Bro. J. W. Williams, from Southeastern Ohio, a man of saintly character and indefatigable purpose, was also of this settlement. There also we organized a church.

The places for holding meetings were of the most primitive kind. A log school-house was a luxury; the squatter cabins were too small; but we had to use them during the winter. The groves of timber along the streams were always waiting; but, we only could use them in fair and pleasant weather, and for six months in the year. As for hearers, we were never lacking an audience, we were never lacking for a crowd that were ready to listen with honest good-will to the message which we brought them.

It was an eventful summer. More rain fell than in any season I have known. The streams were always full, the bottoms were often flooded, and crossing was sometimes dangerous; but I had a good horse and was not afraid.

In religious matters everything was broken up, and men were drifting. But this good came of it, that they were ready to listen to this strange and new thing that was brought to their ears, in which so much was made of the Lord's authority, of apostolic teaching and apostolic example, and so little of traditions, theories, and time-honored observances, of which the Bible knows nothing, but which have been sanctified by universal acceptance.

As for myself, there had been romances enough about my life to make the people wish to see me, and I was proud to know that the boys could remember my sermons and repeat them. The men with whom I was immediately associated in this work, and who had sent me on this errand, were of inestimable advantage to me. They were well and favorably known as men of unblemished reputation in Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri. "Old Duke Young," as the father of Judge William Young had been affectionately called in Western Missouri, had been an eminently popular frontier and pioneer preacher, and Judge Young had inherited an honorable distinction as being the son of such a father; and when it was known that I was acting with the concurrence and under the approval of such men, the arrangement was generally accepted as satisfactory.

And now I had my heart's best desire. I was in the field as an evangelist; the harvest was abundant and the grain was already ripe and waiting for the sickle. But above all, and beyond all these, was peace in the land. We all had had a lover's quarrel, but we had made it up and were the better friends. Everywhere they had their joke with me, as to my method of navigating the Missouri River, and to the attire I sometimes put on; but I had come out the upper dog in the fight, and could afford to stand their bantering. There is a warmth, freshness, and enthusiasm in the friendships formed under such conditions that can never be transferred to associations of older and more orderly communities. As a result of this summer's work, here were seven churches full of zeal and rapidly growing, and occupying a field that had been almost absolutely fallow, for outside of the towns there was no religious movement except our own.

But at one point we were put at a very great disadvantage. Older and better established denominations were able to plant missionaries in such cities as Atchison, Topeka and Lawrence, while we were not; and yet in each of these cities there were from the first a small number of brethren, who might have served as the nucleus of a church. Speaking in general terms, monthly preaching never built up a church in any city, and the reader will see that in the very nature of things I could not set myself down to the care of a single congregation.

powered by social2s