Diary of S. W. Ingham - Methodist Circuit Rider

Diary Account of S. W. Ingham, a Methodist Circuit Rider in area of Cedar Rapids, Quasketon, Waterloo, Tama, Toledo, etcÖ.  21 handwritten pages typed as it was written (using his spelling, wording and punctuation):

In the spring of 1842, having heard that there were two old bachelors and one family located near where Quasqueton now stands and also a man by the name of Bennet with seven hired men was improving the rapids of the Wapispinnicon, at or was the present site of Quasketon.  I resolved as I do all new places in my reach on the frontier to visit them.  And after preaching and class meeting and dinner twenty-five miles before me and a drizzling rain beating on my pilot cloth overcoat I started and having the best of a horse I went with courage.

There was no road and my instructions were to observe the timber on the stream and keep the main Wapsie on two and a half miles on my left (south) and to Buffalo Fork, five miles on my right (north) and therely keep on the dividing ridge and in something over twenty miles I would find a lone tree and I should ----- that tree just one mile and a half and then turn square to my left and strike for the timber and if I found a certain particular rock I was at the right place.  Fortunately, I was right and at that place the trail was easily followed through the timber half a mile to the small prairie encircling the place where Bennet was operating and on the edge of which lived those three settlers.  Arriving at the place for which I sought I saw some logs hauled together for a little mill to grind corn and a foundation for a hewed log house about twelve feet square.  A puncheon floor was laid and one round of logs was laid but the rain had prevented further work.  It was now probably sunset and still cloudy.  I rode about three rods further where was two Indian wickkeups one of which contained the eight men and the other Bennetís wife and two little girls.  I rode to the one where the men were and Bennet put his head out with bristly black hair sprinkled with grey and keen black eyes when I accosted good evening, he returned the salutation promptly.  I asked him if I could stay with him all night his answer was, God I donít know.  We make out to stay and you can try if you wish to.  Then said I, I will tell you who I am, I am a Methodist minister, I am come to see if you would like to talk about religion and the other world.  He then raised both hands in a voice as doleful as the tomb cried out Good God man get down we will do all we can for you.  Wel said I, I wil ride my horse into the stream to wash the mud from his legs.  No, said he, I will send one of my boys, for if you have come all the way up here to save our souls we will all the rest.  Here John, take the Elderís horse into the river and wash his legs good.  Now said to another, bring some of that grass we cut for the oxen for the Elderís horse.  When the horse was back and tied to a sapling the grass was come also and I took a handful of grass to wipe the water from his legs, but Bennet said stop Elder, here John wipe this horse off good.  Now Elder, how much corn will you have for your horse.  We then returned to the Wickkeup and ere long I was called into the other one for supper where there was block forms to sit on and a board and two blocks for a table and I was served to a good biscuit butter, coffee and fried meat as would grace a Hotel all cooked by a fire on the ground with the smoke going out at a little hole at the top.

I lay as did the rest that night on prairie grass and slept soundly until morning.  I spoke of the neighbors coming to meeting and he said Ez Allen wil not come for he is watching squirrels off his corn, but we will send word to him and give him a chance to same his soul.  I asked him what time we should have service, any time Elder but stop can you stay with us another night I said yes if needs stay.  Wel said he then we wil have it at two oíclock and by that time we wil have this cabin up and God we will dedicate it.  Wel said I I ask the time of day so I can go and notify the neighbors.  Oh no said he, I wil send my boys you must not do everything.  And just then he turned said I shall not have to send for there goes Philip he is going to their houses and hallooed to him to stop for he saw shining a team of oxen.  He stopped and Bennet told him he must come to meeting at two oíclock and Phillip returned the halloo saying meeting the Devil.  Yes said Bennet here is the preacher donít you see him got clothes on like citizens at the same time shaking me so that Philips should the more surely discern me at that distance.  And said he tell Johnson to come and tell Ez Allen to watch the squirrels off his corn till one oíclock and then come to meeting and save his soul and let his corn go to hell.

Before 2 oíclock they were all there, Allen and family being first.  His cabin was up the door way sawed out and the sawed --- used for board supporters so that we had good seats.  Bennet went to his hired hands where they were adjusting the logs for the mill.  Now boys, says he, it is meeting time and the preacher will come every four weeks and you must all attend church.  He is a Methodist and that church stands up and sing except Tagget he cannot sing but he can stand up and the Methodist kneel down when they pray and you must all kneel when he prays and the man that does not do it I wil discharge when meeting is over.

At commencement of service I expected to have to start the singing, as usual.  But Bennet led off promptly and they sang as though they enjoyed it.  And I had no other singing anywhere.  In the time of preaching Allenís daughter fourteen years old was restless and said mam what makes them all so still why does none of them talk but that man.  She also ran about the room and her mother had some trouble to keep her quiet and as soon as I dismissed she came to me with tears in here eyes and said that I must blame her for her daughterís conduct for she had not been in fifteen miles of a sermon since her daughter was born and she had neglected to tell her how to behave but said she while you was preaching I promised the Lord that I would go no further west then the gospel went.  She prevailed with me that I staid with them overnight and I ate boiled venison on a piece of board on my knees and I cut it with my pocketknife and drank milk out of a gourd for they had gourds and a bucket and a skillet.  I slept on three puncheons with a pile of nondescript rags.  The family sitting on blocks of wood when I lay down and if they lay down at all they lay in clear naked sand.  During that summer there were many families came into the vicinity, some of them Methodist and also the next summer and also I was enabled to enlist a goodly number of recruits so that I left a fine Society there.  And I consider that their all kneeling at the first meeting for it became a general practice and aided in the success of the work.  Bennet and all were my fast friends as long as they remained in that vicinity.  This is like many of the beautiful places where I traveled and staid overnight, except that in place of sand floor, most slept on the prairie grass.

Having heard of half a dozen families where Traer now stands, I started on the third of June 1853 on horseback from Vinton and nine miles west I found a house where an old gentleman with wagon and team had just watered his horses he was going west and I told him I would overtake him after watering my horse and he said I can wait and while I was watering he eyed me and my portmanteau with seeming interest.  When we started he enquired if I knew any one where I was going, no sir I do not, have you the name of any one there,  I then repeated their names, then he said ainít you a Methodist preacher, yes sir.  Wel suppose we shake hands, and grasping my hand so vigorously that I was near falling from my horse onto the wagon wheel.  Wel said he will you preach for us, if you wish it, how large is your charge.  The travel is something over four hundred miles.  Wel then there is poor chance for us, why so, wil you come to us again, yes if you wish it after I have preached.  How often can you come, once in four weeks.  And wil you form a class.  Yes if circumstances favor it.  Well I donít know how about that.  There are three at Osborn that wil join but I donít know as Dean wil, we wil help a little at our house there is but six of us to come in by this time we had reaach another cabin five miles farther on the way where we got a luncheon and then went about fourteen to the home of my companion and as we entered the house he spoke to his wife saying Ma that preacher has come I told you he would.  She took me by the hand and being feeble from recent illness still sat in her chair for sometime retaining my hand before she could speak after which the rest of the family greeted me and as it was near sunset supper was served and then we must go to his brotherís for his brotherís wife would want to see me.  She was quite ill, we then had prayer and then he said we must go to Osborn they wil want to see you.  Osborn had been some two years there and had often been employed to show land to prospectors.  We started and found Osborn as we were on the way and my companion called out to him saying here is another prospector.  Wel said Osborn do you wand land to live on.  I stopped showing land to speculators, no said my companion he is not that kind of prospector he is hunting sheep. Sheep!  Osborn there never was a shee in forty mile of here.  Lost sheep said my companion.  Lost, O said he is a preacher yes.  He sprang forward took both my hands and then wanted to know if I would preach for them and would I come again and wants to form a class.  He then said lets go to the house my wife wil want to see you.  We found her at the cow yard where she had just come to milk and when introduced to her she was very quick to take my hand and she must know all about my preaching and coming again and forming Society.  Well now, said she, letís go and tell mother.  As we neared the house we could see through the two open doors and her mother just outside washing kitchen utensils with her sleeves rolled up and when about four rods from the house Mrs. Osborn ran the rest of the way slapping her hands together all the way and also crying out all the way mother her is a Methodist preacher and at that her mother put her arms into a tub of water and gave them a quick rinse, ran into the house and half wiped them in time to meet me in the middle of the house and fell upon my neck and wept sometime before she could speak and thank God for once more seeing a Methodist preacher before she was called to die.

The next day I preached and formed a Society consisting of the aforesaid nine members.  Osborn and wife and her mother and Ira Taylor (my companion I came there with) and his wife and four daughters.  His brotherís wife (that is) Giles Taylorís wife became a member also and wanted to have been there that day but she was ill and could not be present.  I appointed Ira Taylor class leader and he proved to be very good, he was an old leader in Ohio.

At another trip to the society where Traer now is was somewhat eventful in regard to myself.  In the forepart of the day I reached the ford of the creek at Six Mile Grove and the water was high and although my carriage was tight and wan to float and sometime did float while I swam yet at this ford the water was rapid and wan to wash below the coming out place so that I could not cross.  I drove up the creek and would sometimes wade into the water to find a place where I could go in with safety and should I find one I would swim across to see if I could get out if I should swim horse and carriage across.  But I found no such place.  I was drenched with rain and with wading I reached Rock Creek and went four miles up that, but it was so swollen that I found n place to cross.  Night was coming on and if I staid there and tied my horse to the carriage he would overset it, for the mosquitoes would keep him in motion all night and the carriage had a high top and I feared trouble.  This dilemma drove me back to the main stream where I tied my horse to a tree and there he stomp and kick at the mosquitoes and lay down and roll ad get up and snort which program he continued to repeat all night.  As to myself I sat in the carriage and although it had a top and side curtains yet the front was open.  Fortunately I had saddlebags with me from which I took a pair of drawers with which I fought mosquitoes all night and a more weary night I never knew.

In the morning the horse has chawn his halter so tight, I could not untie it with my fingers.  I resorted to my teeth and broke one of them and finally sharpened a dry hard stick and effected his object.  I then went up Rock Creek further than the day previous and found a place where I could get my horse across and could take the carriage across by hand to the other bank but the bluff bank was higher thank the center of the forewheel.  I had a rope (which I had learned to carry with me as well as hatchet and nails and pd a piece of board) and tied the rope to where the single tree belonged and put the single tree to the end of the rope and tied the said drawers to the shafts across the rope so that it would keep the shafts out of the ground.  I then went and crawled under the carriage, and with my head barely out of the water and my back under the fore axletree I raised the fore wheels up about two feet and gave my horse the word and all was very soon on high ground.  I then had to go around small sloughs and long streams to get back to the main stream which up there has given off another branch called Twelve Mile Creek.  There was a frame bridge but it was some distance on one end and stood permanent at one bank but at the other end it took another man and myself some hours to make a temporary bridge over which to lead the horse and take the carriage by hand.  It was then but a mile or two to the crossing of the main branch at the end of my journey but there I could not swim horse and carriage together and get out at the ford and swam back and tied a rope to the carriage and swam back with the rope and had help to get it across.  On my trip from the aforesaid return trip I crossed the creek near where LaPort now stands, and there I had to swim the horse alone and put the carriage in higher up but the bank was so bluff that the carriage went down end foremost and went all under even the top was out of sight but soon I saw it farther down where the water was not so deep rolling over several times and stopped.  Just then a horseman came along and swam across and said he would send me help from the neighborhood three miles up the road and I remained until some hours of moonshine when help came.  One man with a cable but the carriage had disappeared and I swam sometime with my feet hanging down until I found it and had some difficulty to get the cable fast on it and then fastened it to a tree and with the help of two men the next day got it out.

Late in the fall of 1852 I heard of a town starting in Chickasaw County called Bradford, a mile or two east of where Nashua now stands.  There were six or seven houses and a few settlers within a few miles of the place and I sent an appointment to preach and received word from them that I need not come for if I came I would go away as fast as I came and I told my informant to assure them that they should not be disappointed for I would be there on time.

There was a lawyer there whose wife was a Presbyterian and he wrote to me that if I was determined to come I should come in disguise and get to his house and he would live or die with me.  I got to his house before dinner and after dinner I was starting to the houses to invite them to come and hear me that night but my host proposed to go with me but I rejected him said I if you go with me there wil be trouble I am not going trusting in the arm of the flesh I am doing the Lordís business I am going in his name and I shall not get hurt.  It was but a few rods to the first house.  I went in and introduced myself and shook hands with all the family as was my custom and invited them to come to the meeting and told them where it would be.  It was my custom to ask the privilege to pray in every family that I visited and I did so there and got no answer but I knelt down and prayed and went on and prayed in every house but in every case as soon as I left the house the men would start to get all together and when I was through I returned past where they had been in council and did not know what to do for I beat the devil but they concluded (as they afterward could tell) that they keep me out of the house.

When evening came and we were near ready to start to meeting they made their appearance at the gate I started and the lawyer urged me to wait until he was ready.  I told him no for if he was with me we could get hurt and I went alone.  I bid them good evening and went through the gate among them there were seven of the, the moon through the fleecy clouds plain enough to show that each of them had one hand behind him.  I spoke to one of theme asking him what have you behind you let me see and I stepped around also to look could not see what it was. I then went to another one of them and made the same inquiry and effort to see what he had behind him but I failed again.  Wel wel, said I, never mind lets go on to meeting and I turned and went.  In a few moments the lawyer and his wife came out and one of them struck at him with his club which he warded off and it struck his wifeís arm and fractured it and he grasped the club and wrenched it from him and brought it to meeting.  After the battle they held a consultation and finally before the opening services were through they all came in and behaved themselves as well as anybody.

The next morning the captain came to the house where I stopped and desired an introduction to me and said I suppose you thought strange of our behavior last night.  I told no I did not think strange ford said I, I have read of preachers and ever private members being put to death for their religion.  You was just acting out human nature and that is why I am here to try to persuade you to learn a better way.  He then said some of us have known some gentleman of you cloth that were not the right kind of men and we had agreed not to permit the exercises of such me until some of us had learned something about their character but you got a head of us and we concluded that you was an honest man.  Will you come up and take dinner with me today I answered yes sir I wil.  I was never better treated anywhere than I was there he spared no pains to make my visit pleasant and now said he if you continue to preach here as you did last night you wil form a society and they wil of course claim your time and attention among them but I shall be glad if you can at least call on me every time you come and make the call at meal time as often as you can.

I often went through what some persons call hardship and exposure.  I often swam streams on horseback, for the first years on frontiers there were no roads and consequently I had to travel on horseback and there being no bridges I had to swim frequently.  I preformed this circuit every four weeks.  This circuit covered over four hundred miles travel and more times preaching than their were days but I did not to study sermons I had only to take a text and talk good talk for those frontiers followed the claim systems of selling their claims just before the land sale by government and for twenty years they had been beating back to frontier life and were incapable of appreciating or even understanding a real sermon.

In blazing over what is now eleven counties I had to cross a number of streams and many of them were much swollen in spring and fall and I never stopped for a stream but always went through except one that I swam ďCedar River and could not get out and had to swim back.  But I swam Cedar at other times and got out.  There was once a large crest that was much swollen and I got into difficulty and myself and horse both wend under and the horse turned around and swam out on the same side and I followed and although I was a good swimmer I could not swim so fast as my horse because my cloths encumbered me but on getting out I mounted again and went through.  I once crossed Cedar River a little above where Waterloo now stands where the river was so much swollen as to break up the ice in the month of February and finding a place where a large tree had fallen in the river in time past so that it had caught a gorge of ice and then on the side where I was the unbroken ice extended out into the river so far that the open water was not so wide there as at other places and large cakes of thick ice was almost constantly passing through.  I had Indian moccasins on my feet and could run and jump on ice without falling.  I watched my chance and ran and jumped from ice to ice until I reached the gorge and got safely on shore and all this to get to my appointment at the house of Brother Nisden situated where the eastern part of where Waterloo now is.

And now while speaking of the above I will sum up all my work y saying that in all my ministry traveling and local I have never when in good health miss an appointment for cold or hot, wet or dry, wind nor water, rain or snow.  I was once almost frozen to death and but from others I must have perished.  I have many times had fingers or toes or heel considerably frozen.  Many times when almost frozen I could see the little shanty that I was going to preach in and knew that I should have to shake hands with every man woman and child in that grove before I could get into the shanty for they were always there before I was and the way they would get there was to put poles on their sleds and then prairie hay and then the women and children with rags or cloths on their heads and feet some of them having moccasins and then the men would gather up what articles they had for bedding much of it being skins and cover them up and then lay whip to the oxen and hurry to get there before they would freeze.

I once in a wet time in the spring was rained on day and night (for the shantys let the rain in) so that I was never dry from Sunday morning nine oíclock until Thursday night when I got around into what we called a settlement.  That night the roof gave no leak and I slept in a bed and the bed clothing dried my under clothes.


Bob Krepps  © 2002 all rights reserved.  Permission granted to copy for personal & non-commercial purposes only.  This diary was transcribed from the original handwritten manuscript by Bob Krepps.


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