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A. S. Hayden
Early History of the Disciples (1875)


C H A P T E R   X V I I I.

The gospel in Ravenna, in Aurora and Stowe, Franklin and


T HIS is one of the most stable of the churches. From its establishment, early in May, 1830, to the present time, a period of over forty-five years, it has never once ceased to meet on the blessed Lord's day, except as they agreed to omit in favor of the regular yearly meeting.

      The conversion and baptism of Ebenezer Williams, the Restorationist minister, living in Ravenna, by Aylett Raines, has already been mentioned. From this event the work opened, as Bro. Williams immediately began to preach the gospel which he now understood, and most ardently loved. His preaching being mostly abroad, no stand was taken for the apostolic gospel in Ravenna. In the winter of 1830 Marcus Bosworth sent an appointment to the Clement district, three miles north-west of the town of Ravenna. His audience was small, but it yielded the fruit of one conversion, a brother Jonathan Stewart. The 12th of March, William Hayden came. Seven souls turned to the Lord. From this time the tide of interest swelled. The subject of the new preaching was in every one's mouth. No lack of hearers now, and there were converts at every [369] appointment. The seeds of a pernicious infidelity had been early sown in Ravenna. They were bearing their bitter and baleful fruits in a reckless indifference to all sacred things, and the revolt of the soul from all religious obligations. Hayden was the man for such a people. Well prepared on the evidences of the Bible, and very expert in exposing the subtle and sophistical refuges of the unbelieving heart, his sermons were heard with great satisfaction and profit. Early in May, he collected the disciples together, numbering twenty-six, and formally set them apart as a church of Jesus Christ. Bro. Sturdevant, a licensed preacher of the Baptist order, uniting, the new church was placed under his charge. It continued to prosper, gathering additions almost every time a preacher came in among them. Bros. Ryder, Atwater, Green, and the Deerfield brethren came, like Apollos and Timothy, to comfort their hearts and confirm their faith; but Hayden and Bosworth were their chief reliance. In the absence of a preacher, the members assumed the duties of edification, and broke the loaf of blessing among themselves; a practice in which the disciples on the Western Reserve were correctly taught in the beginning. In the summer of 1830, Scott delivered a discourse in the Methodist church, in the village, to a full and delighted audience. Fisher, of Kentucky, was with him. It was here he compared the creed to a silver quarter-dollar, which, though small, may be held so close to the eye that the sun can not be seen: Thus the creed, though a little thing, may hide the Bible from sight.

      In June, 1831, Mr. Campbell came to the Western Reserve. Mormonism had recently burst forth, and [370] the emissaries of that crude and strange delusion were every-where active in calling victims into the snare. On his way he made Ravenna a point for a few addresses. William Hayden, with whom he had communicated in regard to his trip, obtained, with the assistance of the brethren, and fitted up with seats a grove in the environs of the town. A vast crowd of people came to hear the gifted advocate and defender of the Bible. The bold and prattling infidelity, rampant in Ravenna, found no quarter at his hands. Like a pestiferous atmosphere, it was poisoning and demoralizing all piety, all truth, all moral health, and was destructive to all social order and happiness. Mr. Campbell was at home in this department of Christian labor. He surveyed his audience, and directing well the range of his artillery, within two hours and a half the flotilla of their skeptical crafts was shattered and sunken. "Heavens! what an eye he has!" said one of the master men to F. Williams; "he scorches wherever he looks!"

      Court was in session. The presiding judge sent a note of invitation to Mr. Campbell to deliver a discourse in the court room--the court, under resolution adjourning for that purpose. He accepted the invitation, and on opening the service, with full and ringing emphasis, he read the hymn:

"I'm not ashamed to own my Lord,
    Nor to defend his cause!
 Maintain the honor of his word,
    The glory of his cross!"

      His masterly and convincing argument for the truth of the Bible, founded on prophecy, was then delivered in his own best style. Mr. John Harmon was then [371] publishing, in Ravenna, a little paper, the "Ohio Watchman," an infidel sheet of some pretensions. The editor was in the assembly. In the sermon, Mr. Campbell, having made a climax in his argument, paused on it, remarking: "He who can not see this, has closed his ears and shut his eyes, and is blind--as blind"--gathering force by delay, "as blind as the 'Ohio Watchman!'" At the dinner table, at the hotel, where the judge and several of the lawyers were dining, the argument of Mr. Campbell was the topic of conversation. One of the young lawyers remarked: "I could not see the point of Mr. Campbell's argument to-day!" "Very likely," replied the judge; "arguments are always obscure to persons who can not understand them!"

      Frederick Williams, long a prominent citizen of the county, an elder and useful preacher, was born in Hampshire County, Mass., March 2, 1799. He came to Ravenna, July 2, 1815. On the 17th of September, 1828, he married Miss Marcia Underwood, an alliance of uninterrupted happiness to the present time. His mind had been imbued with Winchesterian Universalism, but on hearing the gospel as proclaimed by the apostles, his candid heart laid hold of it. In the year 1833, he and his wife were baptized in Sandy Lake by Amos Allerton.

      Bro. Charles Judd, a man of good sense, an excellent heart and devout mind, entered the kingdom about the same time. The accession of these two men added much weight to the cause. Father Sturdevant had been the chief presiding officer. These brethren were soon called to the bishop's chair, in which position, they co-operated by counsel and by [372] public discourse to maintain the church for a whole generation. Few churches have been blessed with so judicious and efficient elders. Bro. Judd, full of honor and of hope, went to await his crown, November 17, 1864, and was laid beside his foster son, the beloved and lamented Sterling McBride. Bro. Williams tarries yet a little longer.

      The Congregation continued to meet in the Clemment district about ten years, when they moved into the village. They built their house in 1844. Bro. A. B. Green conducted the dedicatory exercises in December, from which time they have not only held the ground but gained in numbers, wisdom, and social power.

      Bro. John T. Smith was employed, Bro. Charles McDougal also. Bro. C. C. Foot served four years. He was followed by Bro. A. B. Green--five years. Bro. Lowe and Bro. Amzi Atwater came afterward. The congregation now flourishes under the administration of Bro. George Darsie.

      The first yearly meeting held in Ravenna was in June, 1838. It was held in a large barn fitted up for the purpose. The preachers in attendance were Hubbard, Marcus Bosworth, William Hayden; Moss, Allerton, J. W. Lanphear, A. B. Green, Robison, Moody, A. P. Jones and A. S. Hayden.

      Ravenna church has always hospitably entertained the brethren, and numerous conventions have, from time to time, found there a welcome.

      Present overseers: George Darsie, Albert Underwood, Samuel J. Gross. Deacons: John Mahard, R. B. Johnson, Whiting Carter, P. P. Dawley, E. C. Belding, Alex. Clements. Members: 319. [373]

      Among the early fallen is Bro. S. McBride, reared in this church, the foster son of Bro. and Sister Judd. His serious and contemplative character in youth gave promise of a devout and earnest manhood. After progressing far in his studies in Hiram, he was graduated in Bethany, and immediately devoted himself to preaching. In many places, especially in Salem and New Philadelphia, he gained for himself the permanent esteem of the people for his amiable manners and efficient services in the gospel. He died of a fever while young. Intelligence of his death was received while the preachers' meeting was in session in Newburg, October 4, 1864. "A committee was appointed to report resolutions expressive of the merited respect we owe to the memory of our dear Bro. Sterling McBride, just this day laid in the grave:

      "Whereas, We have learned with great sorrow of the unexpected death, only day before yesterday, of our beloved fellow-laborer in the gospel, Bro. Sterling McBride; therefore,

      "Resolved, That we fully appreciate the great loss we have sustained in the sudden demise of that brother, of gentle and amiable spirit, a highly appreciated preacher of the gospel. With great assiduity he struggled under pecuniary embarrassments till he gained a college diploma, and with it a clear and sound education. Of modest manners, an earnest and confiding heart, firm and decided in character, he possessed a high and honorable friendship, and a well regulated Christian character. As a preacher he already controlled a wide influence. We feel that the churches in Ohio have suffered a great loss in the fading from our sky of a bright star; and we in this meeting [374] also, as he was one of the most diligent members of this association.

      "Resolved, That we have a deep sense of the loss sustained by his afflicted wife and children, in the early demise of her devoted husband and their affectionate father.

      F. M. GREEN, Sec. A. S. HAYDEN
L. COOLEY,      
} Com.


      This church was established October 17, 1830, by the indefatigable William Hayden. He laid his plan and pursued it. He visited the community at regular intervals, and by much private conversation, as well as by his cogent and instructive discourses, he laid the foundation of a permanent work in the solid instruction of the people. No man has less confidence in mere revival processes. No one ever had more in the illumination of the understanding as the method of reaching the heart and persuading the will. Discarding the arts of revivalism, he was strong in reasons for his statements, and often attained a high degree of argumentative eloquence in his appeals. To such a nature, a measure of opposition was necessary to awaken his reserve forces and to marshal them in the best position and order. This stimulus was not wanting in Aurora. No wonder, then, that the city of the great King was built up there on granite, and that it has remained to this day. The earlier converts included some of the most sensible, shrewd, and intelligent citizens of the community. Upon the organization of this congregation, they had such men as Gamaliel Kent, Russell G. McCarty and Samuel Russell, to whom, as elders, [375] they committed the management of their affairs. For four years the church met in the south school-house, by Eli Cannon's; after this they moved the meetings to the center of the township.

      Bro. Marcus Bosworth was early on the ground. Happy the people who heard the weeping Bosworth. He was brimful of tenderness. "Little children, let us love one another, for love is of God;" came as naturally from him as from the lips of the beloved disciple. He and Hayden were greatly attached, and they were counterpointed in a most admirable manner to be co-workers in the gospel. Soon after the church got under way the serene and stately Bentley came among them, adding the weight of piety, experience, and great personal dignity, elements both needful and rare, to enforce and carry on the work of reform.

      The following were the original members: Isaac H. Streator and his wife Clarina Streator; their children Charity, Cyrus and Marius Streator; Alonzo Root and his wife; Whitney Smith and his wife; Simon and Sally Norton; Polly Ruggles, Mary Lake, Gamaliel H. Kent and his wife; Russell G. McCarty and his wife; Samuel Russell, Joel Giles, and Sophronia Stanton. In a short time, both Henry and Alanson Baldwin, with their wives, came in. For many years they were leading men, and their bountiful hospitality was an efficient means of sustaining the cause. Bro. Henry Baldwin, for many years one of the overseers, moved twenty years ago to Niles, where he fell peacefully asleep June, 1875, aged 82 years.

      The next year, June, 1831, following the outburst [376] of Mormonism, there was held a grove meeting in Aurora, east of the center. Mr. Campbell was present, as were likewise many of the preachers. Hon. A. G. Riddle, in his recent work, entitled: "The Portrait: a Romance of the Cuyahoga Valley,"a has written so truthfully concerning it that I transfer his description to my page:

      "The woods were full of horses and carriages, and the hundreds already there were rapidly swelled to many thousands; all of one race--the Yankee; all of one calling, or nearly--the farmer; hardy, shrewd, sunburned, cool, thoughtful and intelligent. The disciples were, from the first, emancipated from the Puritan slavery of the Sabbath; and, although grave, thoughtful and serious, as they were on this Sunday morning, it was from the gravity and seriousness of the occasion, and little from the day itself--an assemblage that Paul would have been glad to preach to.

      "At the hour of eleven., Mr. Campbell and his party took their places on the stand, and after a short, simple, preliminary service, conducted by another, he came forward to the front. He was then about forty years old, above the average height, of singular dignity of form, and simple grace of manner. His was a splendid head, borne well back, with a bold, strong forehead, from which his fine hair was turned back; a strong, full, expressive eye, aquiline nose, fine mouth, and prominent chin. He was a perfect master of himself, a perfect master of his theme, and, from the moment he stood in its presence, a perfect master of his immense audience.

      "At a glance he took the measure and level of the average mind before him--a Scotchman's estimate of the Yankee--and began at that level; and as he rose from it, he took the assembled host with him. In nothing was he like Rigdon; calm, clear, strong, logical, yet perfectly [377] simple. Men felt themselves lifted and carried, and wondered at the ease and apparent want of effort with which it was done.

      "Nothing could be more transparent than his statement of his subject; nothing franker than his admission of its difficulties; nothing more direct than his enumeration of the means he must employ, and the conclusions he must reach. With great intellectual resources, and great acquisitions, athlete and gladiator as he was, he was a logician by instinct and habit of mind, and took a pleasure in magnifying, to their utmost, the difficulties of his positions, so that when the latter were finally maintained, the mind was satisfied with the result. His language was copious, his style nervous, and the characteristic of his mind was direct, manly, sustained vigor; and under its play he evolved a warmth which kindled to the fervor of sustained eloquence, and which, in the judgment of many, is the only true eloquence. After nearly two hours, his natural and logical conclusion was the old pentecostal mandate of Simon Peter, and a strong, manly and tender call of men to obedience. There was no appeal to passion, no effort at pathos, no figures or rhetoric, but a warm, kindling, heated, glowing, manly argument, silencing the will, captivating the judgment, and satisfying the reason; and the cold, shrewd, thinking, calculating Yankee liked it.

      "As the preacher closed and stood for a response, no answering movement came from any part of the crowd. Men were running it over, and thinking. Unhesitatingly the orator stepped down from the platform upon the ground, and moving forward in the little open space, began in a more fervid and impassioned strain. He caught the mind at the highest point of its attainment, and grasping it, shook it with a half indignation at its calculating hesitation, and carrying it with a mighty sweep to a still higher level, seemed to pour around it a diviner and more radiant light; then, with a little tremor in his voice, he [378] implored it to hesitate no longer. When he closed, low murmurs broke and ran through the awed crowd; men and women from all parts of the vast assemblage, with streaming eyes, came forward; young men who had climbed into the small trees from curiosity, came down from conviction, and went forward to baptism; and the brothers and sisters set up a glad hymn, sang with tremulous voices, clasping hands amid happy tears.

      "Thus, in that far off time, in the maple woods, under the June sun, the gospel was preached and received."

      For the next three years there was a steady increase. In June, 1834, the yearly meeting was in Aurora. It was one of much historic importance; a large number of preachers attended it, many of whom, before this, were nearly strangers. Hymns and tunes, known by leaders, were caught and transfused throughout the mass of eager disciples, and carried home to animate the rising churches every-where. Chauncey Forward, from Somerset, Pa., was present as the chief speaker. Aurora was his home in his youth. He had attained a distinguished position at the bar and in Congress; but having confessed the Lord Jesus, he renounced the professions of law and the rulership of men, and he appeared on this occasion among the scenes of early years; to plead the cause of primitive Christianity. His abilities as a reasoner and eloquence in appeal, commanded the profound attention of large audiences daily. There were thirty-one converts, some of whom afterward became public advocates of the gospel.

      In the year 1837, under the charge of Henry and Alanson Baldwin and A. V. Jewett, as building committee, the meeting-house was erected, and dedicated by John Henry. The next year, brethren Clapp and [379] Green held a meeting in it, with thirty conversions. In 1855 it was burned. A better one was immediately erected at a cost of $1500, and dedicated by A. S. Hayden. In 1843, a great meeting was conducted by Bros. J. H. Jones and John Henry, which brought in thirty additions. The same year, M. L. Wilcox came and preached for two years with great acceptance.

      There were churches formed in Streetsborough and in Bainbridge in the year 1845, which drew members from this church and reduced its strength. These societies, after flourishing a number of years, have both become extinct; but the parent church, though weakened, has never failed to keep the light burning. "From first to last the church has had as teachers, William Hayden, M. Bosworth, A. S. Hayden, A. Bentley, J. J. Moss, John Henry, Charles McDougall, J. T. Smith, T. Munnell, J. Hartzel, A. Allerton, A. B. Green, W. Collins, B. F. Perky, M. L. Wilcox, N. Dunshee, T. J. Newcomb, H. W. Everest, J. A. Garfield, C. P. Bowler, E. Doolittle, S. A. Griffin, B. A. Hinsdale, O. C. Hill, and some others." But to the home membership all credit is due for faithfulness and devotion to the cause in all times and amidst many trying discouragements.

      A good story went the rounds, in early day, of one David Shepherd, a blacksmith, who came into Aurora about the beginning of this Bible reform. His wife and a female relative of hers, professors of religion, were, before coming into town, warned by their friends against the "Campbellites," and straitly charged, and were put under formal pledge, not to hear them. Having received so strict a charge, they [380] retired into the inner prison, secured by high and strong walls of prejudice. Isaac Streator, Esq., already a convert to the faith, coming to Shepherd's shop on business, talked freely about the preachers, the preaching, and the interest aroused on all sides. He concluded by inviting Shepherd to come to the south school-house and hear John Henry, a man of native wit, of good sense, and great power. Shepherd went, timidly. Unexpectedly he was greatly pleased, hearing for the first time a gospel he could understand and read in his Bible. Buying a cheap testament, convenient for the pocket, he examined the passages referred to in the sermon, and found, truly enough, the doctrine of baptism of the repenting person for the remission of sins clearly and fairly taught by the apostles. He ventured to read the portions of Scripture containing this truth in the presence of his family. They "pitched into" him. "There, you have gone and got one of those Campbellite testaments, which they have made just to suit their doctrine! I wonder you are not afraid to have it about you. That reads so, of course, and teaches the doctrine, for they made it so." Shepherd smiled, but only inwardly, willing to bear the reproach, for he wished to enjoy the joke a little longer. At length, he asked them to take the old family Bible, which they were sure contained no such awful heresy, and carefully compare the two. They consented, and the comparison began. Passage after passage was slowly read over, word by word. To their utter amazement and confusion the good old trusty Bible actually contained the very words and language, and of course the doctrine, denounced as "Campbellism!" What [381] was to be done? They could scarcely believe their own eyes. His testament was then examined. It was found to contain the imprint of the "American Bible Society!" They saw the "situation"--their ignorance of their own Bible and its plain teaching. He relished their confusion, but was generous enough to listen to their earnest and repeated charges to "tell nobody!" But it told itself. They came out to hear, and all of them obeyed the gospel, despite protests, vows, and cautions, choosing nobly and rightly to obey God rather than man.

      Another incident is related of a woman of good sense and intelligence, who came to Aurora from the State of New York to visit her relatives. She was at once told of the new heresy--that they took the people, and if they just said they believed, they baptized them without any change of heart, and then they were sure of heaven.

      This woman, in deep astonishment, said: "Surely they get no persons of intelligence or respectability to follow them?" "O, yes, some of the best and most substantial people in town are among their converts." She replied, "There is certainly something wrong about this; for no person of common sense can believe such things as you tell me they preach: I must hear them myself." She went, heard, saw the truth, obeyed it, and returned home rejoicing in the new light of gospel truth which shone upon her heart.


      In 1831, the gospel was introduced into Stowe by William Hayden. David Darrow was the first fruit. All who knew him counted him just the man to [382] break ground. Honest, frank and decided, he grasped the gospel with wonderful energy. The cause owed much to his zeal and decision. John Henry was also early on the ground. At one time Henry, Hayden, and E. Williams met here by agreement, when many heard the truth and several converts were gained. Rev. A. Bronson, presiding elder of the M. E. Church, had an appointment in the house at the same time. No little stir was created, as the militant elder had already gained a reputation for zeal against the disciples. He used every opportunity to attack the new doctrine, as he represented it. In this case the appointment of these brethren was prior to his, but they yielded to his contentious determination, and sat down to hear him. In opening, he announced with full voice the hymn:

"Jesus, great Shepherd of thy sheep,
    To thee for help we fly,
 Thy little flock in safety keep,
    For O, the wolf is nigh!"

      No one doubted to whom he meant to apply the term wolf. But like the terms orthodoxy and heterodoxy, its meaning depends much on who uses it. The shrill-voiced singers in the audience, looking up to the large, dark form of the preacher, sang "wolf" as well as he. Henry, in reporting it, said they all sung "wolf," "wolf," but himself; and he neither sung wolf nor howled! The sermon which followed was a perversion of the views of the disciples. But ample correction followed, and the cause of reform gained by the opportunity.

      In September, 1833, Green preached here and baptized his first convert. The cause gained constantly, [383] forcing its advancement through intense opposition Students, and occasionally a professor, from, Hudson college, only a few miles distant, practiced their skill in attempted refutation of an imaginary novelty which they styled "Campbellism." The converts, however, were too well grounded in the Scriptures to be alarmed by these misdirected assaults. If the school-houses were closed, private houses were opened. The Darrows, the Sawyers, the Starks, the Stowes, the Thomases, the Lindsays, and the Gaylords received the truth in the love of it, and soon united to sustain meetings on the Lord's day. In June, 1834, Timothy Wallace obeyed the gospel in Aurora, at the yearly meeting. These principles were making progress at the same time, and by the same agencies, in Franklin, and in Hudson township. In the north-west part of Hudson, Williams and Hayden were successful in teaching the people the difference between the church of Christ founded on the New Covenant, and all ecclesiastical organizations established on human foundations. Zina Post and his family, with his son-in-law, Bro. A. E. Foote, "hearing, believed and were baptized;" Sherman Oviatt also, and others, in such numbers that they founded a church there which continued many years. In Franklin the Converses, the Wadsworths, the Clapps, and the Burts were the beginning of the congregation known afterwards as the church in Kent.

      Among the proclaimers who aided in planting the churches of Stowe, Hudson, and Kent, were Allerton, Hubbard and F. Williams also, of Ravenna. Wm. Hayden and A. B. Green were the most frequently with them. Several times in the great yearly [384] meetings Bro. D. S. Burnett, of Cincinnati, has plead here, with his great abilities, the claims of the Lord Jesus.

      Over the most of this region the sentiments of Universalism prevailed. With these the principles of the gospel came in sharp collision; constantly in private, and several times in public, there were discussions on the subject. A debate of several days was held in Franklin between A. B. Green and Rev. Davis, which opened the eyes of many to the dangers of the slippery rock on which they were standing, and led them to Christ.

      After several years, the church in Stowe suspended meetings as the result of removal and other causes. But the remaining members kept the fire burning, and a reorganization of the church was made January 9th, 1844. It was effected during a meeting held by Charles F. Bartlett, J. P. Robison and A. S. Hayden. The members then, were David Darrow, Zebulun Stowe, Eli Gaylord, B. Stark, C. Thomas, J. C. Willis, Datus E. Lendsay and Constant Rogers, with their wives, and Miss C. Stark--sixteen members. In April, 1873, twenty-nine years after, it had one hundred and twenty members.

      This church has long been a light to the county. With lavish hospitality the members have repeatedly welcomed the great Tent meetings, and have been richly repaid in the fruits of edification and conversion. Among its honorable and most useful names now gone to rest, should be mentioned David Darrow, Zebulun Stowe and Edwin Wetmore, faithful leaders, who long, zealously, and cheerfully gave a powerful support to the cause. These, with the names of many others, are cherished in grateful hearts. [385]

      As resident preachers, they have had W. T. Horner, S. R. Willard, A. C. Bartlett, H. J. White; while scarcely any of the preachers known in north-eastern Ohio can be named who have not aided them in meetings. This church is the religious birth-home of L. Southmayd and J. C. Stark, brethren who have done, and are still doing, effective service as preachers of the gospel.

      Her present elders are U. Marvin, A. S. Wheeler, and William Southmayd. Deacons, A. C. Stowe, J. R. Ream, and L. Hartle. They have sustained a lively Sunday-school for twenty years, and have a valuable church property with a parsonage. [386]

      a Albert Gallatin Riddle (1816-1902), The Portrait: A Romance of the Cuyahoga Valley (Cleveland, OH: Cobb, Andrews and Company, 1874; Boston, MA: Nichols and Hall, 1874). Facsimile reprint issued by Mantua Historical Society (Mantua, OH, 1976).


[EHD 369-386]

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A. S. Hayden
Early History of the Disciples (1875)

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