The first missionary sent to Dakota by the American Baptist Home Mission Society was Rev. L. P. Judson, who came from New York in May, 1864. He was succeeded in 1865 by Rev. Albert Gore. The unsettled condition of the territory during that period, and the removal of many of the early settlers, rendered futile the first efforts along" the line of missionary work. Settlements were still few in number, and the population of each was small and constantly changing. Indian raids and grasshopper visitations discouraged some of the pioneers, who returned to their former eastern homes. Under such circumstances the fruits of even well directed missionary operations could not be gathered, and nothing permanent could be established. Even the facts relating to these early beginning's of missionary work were soon forgotten, since none remained permanently who were familiar with them.

Until recently it has been difficult to learn anything concerning the services rendered by the first and second Baptist ministers in Dakota Territory. The oldest of the present surviving pioneers came after their terms of service had ended. Nearly all of the members of the preliminary Baptist organization of 1864 had removed from the territory. . There was no continuous organization to preserve the records or perpetuate the memory of our earliest denominational movements. Such as they were, however, whether permanent or temporary, they should have a place in our denominational history.

Repeated efforts to ascertain the facts relating, to that period having failed, the author secured the cooperation of Rev. H. L. Morehouse, D. D., Field Secretary of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. Through his kindness the old files of papers, quarterly reports, and correspondence preserved at headquarters, in New York, for the years 1864 and 1865, were carefully examined. All the letters and reports from L. P. Judson and Albert Gore covering that period were copied. They are herewith placed on record that the details concerning their work may be known, as they themselves reported it to the society.

The appointment of Rev. L. P. Judson dates from May 1, 1864. It was for "Yankton and vicinity." The "vicinity" embraced a larger territory than has been common in later years, as it included a missionary oversight of all the early settlements.

Under date of July 2, 1864, he writes from Yankton: —"I date my labors as commencing the first of May, because when I was with you in April, that was the understanding. The draft was not sent with the commission, and I had to send for it, and thus I was hindered. When I arrived at St. Joseph. Mo., the Missouri river had fallen so as to make it difficult for boats to ascend, and hence I was again delayed. I went on shore at Council Bluffs, la., to spend the Sabbath. I spent several hours in making such inquiries as I could. I found several who had once been Baptists, but they had joined other churches, most of them the Congregationalists. Prom there I made the best of my way up the river, and arrived in Dakota Territory, May 27. We are in the midst of an Indian war here, but I am not discouraged. I have found nineteen Baptist communicants in the territory, whom we hope soon to organize into a church."

August 1, 1864, he writes:—"I statedly supply two stations, with two out-stations. My place of residence and postoffice address is, Yankton, Dakota Territory. I have labored nine weeks during the past quarter. I have preached twenty-three sermons and given two lectures. Have attended six religious meetings not of my own appointment; have made ninety-three pastoral visits; I have traveled 2,560 miles. I have received from my people on account of salary, fifty-seven dollars. Connected with my labors are two Sabbath schools, five teachers and seventeen scholars. We shall have, when all is arranged, some fourteen members in our church. We have not yet organized, but intend to do so as soon as letters can be obtained from the east, and some other matters can be arranged. We have a very pleasant outside influence in our behalf. Of the colonists who stopped in Iowa were some of our best Baptist families. By correspondence I learn that some of them, intend moving into the territory this fall. I found in this place one Episcopal clergyman, and one Baptist, (Rev. Albert Gore) who is not preaching now but I hope he will be within twelve months. About forty miles from here is a Methodist preacher, who came to this country to obtain relief from a pulmonary complaint. He preaches occasionally. Otherwise, I am the only minister of the gospel in the territory.  My principal station for preaching is in this place. I also have stated appointments at Bon Homme. That is the county seat of Bon Homme county, and is twenty miles west of here. They intend to have a church there ultimately. The principal reasons why I have not preached more sermons during the quarter are .these: It has been an unfavorable season of the year for holding evening meetings, and also for the want of a suitable place in which to hold meetings. There is but one building at all suitable in the place, and that is the one used as the capitol. This the Episcopalians occupy three Sabbaths in each month. We cannot well have our meetings, Sabbath schools, etc., separate, at our pleasure, until we get a house of worship of some kind.

"On Monday last, about 9 o'clock A. M., a cloud of grasshoppers came and lighted upon this region, and they have devoured everything. Our territory is entirely stripped of everything in the line of vegetables, that was growing on farm or garden. Everything of the kind that is eaten in the territory for the year to come must be drawn in from the states, and mostly by ox teams. Many of our colonists only made provisions until the harvest of the present season. Now they have everything to purchase until after the harvest of 1865. It is known that we now have an Indian war, and the soldiers have now gone above to fight the tribes at war with us. But there are many thousands of Indians this side of the soldiers. A cry raised that the Indians are starving and coming down to rob us, would cause a commotion not easily described. We have about two thousand white inhabitants, besides about twenty thousand Indians, who must have provisions brought to them from the states, or more or less of them will perish with hunger.

These are the facts in the case. A famine is certainly upon us if we do not get provisions from the states. The masses of the people are not excited about the matter as yet, because they are supplied for the present. But observing men see what is inevitably in the future, and are quietly planning to meet the emergency that will arise. I have decided not to bring my family here this fall, but to leave them in the state of New York where they are now, until spring. As to my own labors, I am not discouraged. We have only to trust in God. I expected obstacles when I came, but did not expect them in exactly this form, nor to this extent. But still I am willing to labor on, and patiently toil and endure. It may be possible that very little will be realized from the people toward my support. Indeed, I have already been named as one, with two or three others, to go east and obtain provisions to feed the people. We very much need a house of worship in this place. There is not a house of worship in the territory. Such as we want would cost about two thousand dollars. One-half of the amount could have been raised here before the destructive grasshoppers. What can be done now I am not certain.

August 10, 1864, he writes:—"We had intended to build a church in this place, and one in Bon Homme, the ensuing spring, or perhaps earlier. Since the visit of the grasshoppers we have concluded to defer building at Bon Homme for the present, but we need a place, a house of worship, here. We have no place in which to hold our meetings, except once in each month, then we have the capitol building. All other meetings have to be held on ranches or wherever we can get a place. We have no separate Sunday school, which we deem important. We wish, by the grace of God, to do our own work in our own way. As the people have had such an afflictive dispensation of Providence in having their food, etc., taken from them this season, they do not object to having us call on Christians, in more favored circumstances, to aid them in the erection of a comfortable and proper house of worship. There is not such a house in the territory for any denomination. Our brethren are particularly anxious that I should go on such an errand, to be absent from four to six weeks. Rev. Albert Gore, who I think ought to be preaching, will take care of most of my appointments, during my absence, if I go. For the above reasons and to aid in arranging my family for the winter, I should like to leave in September or October if the board approves. The proposition is endorsed by the governor, surveyor-general and other officials here."

In his report dated November 1, 1864, he says:—"I statedly supply three stations and two out-stations. I have labored thirteen weeks this quarter; preached thirty-seven sermons; delivered one lecture on education; attended three other religious meetings; visited religiously one hundred and three families; and have traveled in the discharge of my duties six hundred and twenty-two miles. "I have received from my people eighty-seven dollars. One of my preaching stations, Bon Homme, has been so far forsaken by its inhabitants that for the present I have discontinued appointments there. There are only three or four families left in the place. The people left on account of Indian alarms and the fear of famine during the winter. We have had a preliminary organization of a church, or rather a Baptist missionary association. The object is to secure concert of action, to have our friends acquainted with each other, and to have all feel the obligations of church membership as far as possible. The reason of this preliminary arrangement is that our members live so far apart that hitherto it has not been practicable to have a general meeting, when we could have the church formally and fully organized. The "modus operandi" was to read to each, or have each read the articles of faith and the covenant, and on obtaining their assent and approval, to put down their names as members of the association. At the earliest day consistent, we intend to have a general meeting and then have our church properly organized. Until then I do not feel at liberty to administer the ordinances. We number eighteen members. I have attended one funeral since I came to the territory, and that was a case of suicide, a Roman Catholic. There are no Catholic priests here.

Our people are struggling nobly against the effects of the drought and the grasshopper raid last season. Some have left the territory through fear of want and distress during the winter, but by timely efforts, which we are encouraging all to put forth, we think provisions enough will be secured to prevent any particular suffering from want of food. This was regarded as an important point, and encouragement has been given to the work by those having the interests of the people at heart. I have taken hold personally, and have done what I consistently could in connection with my other labors. I went once to mill, between forty-five and fifty miles, into the state of Iowa, purchased grain, had it ground, returned, and distributed among the families that furnished the means.

Notwithstanding all the unfavorable circumstances, Yankton has never grown so rapidly as it has the past season. It is the capital of the territory and must grow. It seems to me that now is the time to secure the right influence for the Baptist church here and the Baptist cause in the territory. I therefore have concluded to avail myself of the kindness of the board in granting me a furlough for three months, to visit our brethren and friends in the east, and secure means to erect for us a good and convenient house of worship. This we propose to build next season. We have a very pleasant outside influence in our favor here. The Hon. W. A. Burleigh, delegate to congress elect, will head the subscription with $250.00. Governor Edmonds will also help, and others, so that we look here for from one to two thousand dollars. Then we wish to raise enough abroad to build us a house that will cost from four to five thousand dollars. Mr. Burleigh, whose mother is a Baptist, and an intelligent one, says he will make efforts in Pennsylvania, and especially in Philadelphia, where he is personally acquainted, and this he will do without expense to us. He expresses the belief that enough can be easily raised to give us a house worth five thousand dollars. I now intend to leave about the middle of December, or before."

Yankton, Dak., February 1, 1865.—"Report of labor under the appointment of the Home Mission Society for the third quarter, ending January 31st, 1865: I have labored thirteen weeks in this quarter; preached twenty-three sermons ; delivered one lecture; attended six prayer meetings and other religious meetings; visited sixty-one families and persons religiously, and have traveled in the discharge of my duties one hundred and eighty miles. I have received on account of my salary eighty-one dollars. Besides the above I have opened thirty-five meetings of the Legislative Council with prayer, for which service I received sixty dollars, which is included in the amount here acknowledged. I am now able to avail myself of the kindness of the board in allowing me to visit my family and arrange matters for their comfort and welfare. Brother Gore will fill my appointments during my absence, and if the board approves, will take the field and devote himself to the work of preaching the glorious gospel. He is an intelligent and capable brother, and I have labored to get him into the field somewhere. His family are here, and I am willing to give him my place, though I like the field and the country."

Mr. Judson left Dakota early in February, 1865. His successor was Rev. Albert Gore. In his formal application for appointment, under date of January 23, 1865, Mr. Gore says: "My postoffice address is Yankton. I am thirty-one years of age. There are in my family, depending on me for support, four. I was educated at Kalamazoo College, Michigan, and was ordained at Watervliet, Michigan." In his letter accompanying his first quarterly report, dated May 1, 1865, he says: 441 reside at Brule Creek, Union county, Dakota. My field comprises the settled portions of the Territory of Dakota. I statedly supply four stations. I have received from the field on account of salary during the quarter $11.00. I very much regret the change on this field. I am well satisfied that it would have been far better for the cause to have kept Brother Judson here. •He seemed peculiarly adapted to this kind of labor. I am not. Besides, I have been here for nearly three years attending to secular matters, and most of the time taking an active part in the politics .of Dakota. This course of conduct has made me many enemies here, and of course I must now contend against their prejudices. Brother Judson came here as a minister. The people received him gladly, and were far better pleased with him than with any minister of whatever denomination that has ever been here before.'1 After stating that he came to Dakota to secure a home for himself and family, he writes: "At Mr.. Judson's request I gave up all to engage again in the work of the ministry, which, however, I intended to do next year." He then adds that he does not consider himself well adapted to that field, and that his family was about to return to Michigan, whither he expected to go in the near future.

The last letter from him is dated at Brule Creek, October 31, 1865, saying that he has statedly supplied three stations and two out-stations, and received from the field on account of salary, $25.00. He makes this statement concerning the disturbed condition of things in the new settlements: "During the month of August the upper Indians came down upon our settlement, and within sight of my door killed one man, and wounded three others, at work cutting their hay. This has caused great excitement and alarm through this portion of the country, and created a general feeling of insecurity among all classes of our citizens. Many left for a time, and many more are kept in constant preparation to leave at the first re-appearance of danger. While this feeling prevailed it was almost impossible to get the people together for religious exercises, as every one seemed impressed mainly with thoughts of their own personal safety; consequently we decided it was best to delay completing our organization until those of our number who left return and quiet is again restored among us."

These extracts from letters and reports furnish substantially all the information now available concerning the nine months of missionary services rendered in Dakota by Rev. L. P. Judson, in 1864, and eleven months in 1865 by Rev. Albert Gore. It is unfortunate that Mr. Judson did not return to the field, to accomplish, if possible, the work begun, and thus perfect the organization of the church at Yankton, and build the contemplated house of worship. From his letters it is evident that he thought that he had left the work in competent hands, but his successor, according to his own statement, was not so well qualified for the field or the work. Bach of them labored under conditions that put limitations upon the results that they desired to accomplish. Some of those adverse conditions have already been stated. Mr. Judson came to Dakota in charge of a colony from New York. In supervising the interests of this colony it was necessary to give to it considerable time and attention. Mr. Gore came in 1862 to establish a home, and without intending to devote his time to missionary work. It is said, by some of the earliest pioneers, that when he filed his application on his homestead at Brule Creek it was the first application made by any of the early settlers on government lands in that section of the territory. He gave his attention mainly to secular business and politics. He was a member of the territorial legislature in 1863-4. Mr. Judson was elected chaplain by the legislature in 1864.

The facts recorded in this chapter, having been obtained so recently, will be entirely new to the Baptists of the present generation, and substantially so even to surviving pioneer missionaries. The latter, who came in 1871 and later, have been able to learn comparatively little of the first missionary movements in the territory, previous to their own identification with the work. The few earliest Baptists who knew anything of the feeble beginnings, under the leadership of L. P. Judson and Albert Gore, had been scattered, and they left behind them no records of the church organization or any details of missionary work accomplished. With this explanation, the reader will better understand occasional references to this period, in the historical reminiscences given by Rev. J. E. Rockwood and Rev. G. W. Freeman, in Chapters VII and IX.


The statements recorded in the preceding chapter give us all the. available information concerning the first Baptist missionary movements in South Dakota. From them we learn that the attempt to establish a Baptist church was not permanently successful. The unsettled condition of things in the new settlements at that time was unfavorable. The first missionary on the field seemed to be interested in his work, but there were limitations on his usefulness. The second missionary was but little interested in either the field or the work. His time and attention were devoted largely to other things. Under these conditions, and others local in their character, no permanent results were accomplished.

The third missionary whose name is identified with our religious operations in South Dakota was Rev. J. E. Rockwood. His zeal and devotion are deserving of the highest commendation. The services that he rendered were incidental to his work as pastor of the First Baptist church in Sioux City, la., yet they left a permanent impression on the state of South Dakota. From March, 1866, to August, 1869, he made numerous missionary tours up the Missouri river, especially to Yankton, Vermillion and Elk Point. Baptist churches were organized at Yankton and Vermillion. The scattered Baptists were gathered together, and were greatly encouraged by the ministrations of the gospel. In 1868, Rev. G. J\ Johnson, D. D., Western Secretary of the American Baptist Publication Society, accompanied Mr. Rockwood on one of his regular missionary tours from Sioux City into Dakota Territory. The following extracts are taken from his letters written at Yankton, April 27, 1868, and published in the Central Baptist, at St. Louis, Mo.:

" Beautiful for situation, is Yankton, the capital of Dakota. It is on an elevated plain, on the north bank of the Missouri river. It is sixty-five miles in a straight course northwest from Sioux City, and is in the southeast part of the territory. Only ten years ago the first white man settled here, and only eight years ago came the first white women. The only other towns of importance are Vermillion, thirty miles below, along the river, and Elk Point, about fifteen miles below Vermillion. These two towns are county seats, and each has possibly two hundred inhabitants. Sioux Falls on the Sioux river, was the first point at which a settlement was made, in 1856, but at the time of the Indian massacre in 1862, the place was abandoned, and now has a very small white population, beside the soldiers stationed there. Several days of travel and observation through this valley country have prepared us to pronounce it as rich and productive as any land that we have ever seen.

""Of course, in a territory only a few days more than seven years old, and where the population is so small and widely scattered, our denominational organizations must be few and feeble. Rev. J. E. Rockwood, of Sioux City, Iowa, who is Baptist bishop of all the northwestern part of Iowa, is sole bishop also of Dakota. He has traversed the entire settled portion of this territory, looked up the scattered Baptists, and organized three little churches, all there are as yet in Dakota. First, a church of seven members was organized in this city, Yankton, February 3, 1867; a second one of five members at Vermillion, February 16, 1868, and a third one yesterday, April 26, at Elk Point. There are about as many more Baptists in the vicinity of these little churches, ready to unite with them as soon as the opportunity is offered. There are probably fifty Baptists in all, scattered through the settlements of the territory, but no minister lives among them, and they have no house of worship. Surely this is with them a 'day of small things.

"But there is a great future coming. There is yet to be a great population in Dakota, and this now wild territory is to become one of the great states of our Union. Then will our little churches become strong ones, and the few Baptists of today will be numbered by thousands. Notwithstanding, then, the work of Brother Rockwood may now appear so small, it is nevertheless great, not only in its importance to the present population of this territory, but in the fact that it is the foundation work for a great future."

These extracts from the correspondence of Dr. Johnson are given here as the testimony of one who in that early day was able to make a personal study of the field, and knew something of the character of the pioneer work done by Rev. J. E. Rockwood. The following sketch is a valuable contribution to the early Baptist history of South Dakota. It was prepared by Mr. Rockwood in 1892:




Since your request came for a historical paper, I have been searching such records as I have at my command. I will do the best I can in sketching early Baptist movements in Dakota. What I have to say will be largely autobiographical, for reasons which will be evident further on.

I reached Sioux City, Iowa, October 29, 1864. Brethren who knew more of the west than I did, seemed to shudder at the bravado with which I commenced my stage journey from central Iowa for the frontier at Sioux City, about two hundred miles distant. My inquiries at Sioux City concerning" the region towards the setting sun, disclosed the fact that a few Baptists were known to be located at Yankton and Vermillion, and that Rev. Albert Gore was on a claim, at Brule Creek, six or seven miles north of Elk Point. He had preached occasionally at Sioux City. I do not think it was known at Sioux City that Rev. L. P. Judson was in the Territory of Dakota. How soon I became acquainted with Brother Gore I do not now remember. Probably not until Brother Judson left Dakota, which was on January 24, 1865. As he passed through the city he called on me, and reported the situation. I think that he had entered the territory with what was known as the New York Colony. He may have been largely instrumental in starting that movement. He certainly gave much of his time and labor to its interests. Some of the Baptists at Yankton must have known of him, but his own statements, and later inquiries made on the ground, coincide in showing that his evangelistic and missionary efforts are to be placed at a minimum. He left Dakota convinced that his colony was, for the time, a failure. The tension and drain of the civil war made its plans inopportune.

As Mr. Gore's commission dated from February, 1865, and my endorsement was given to the application, it is possible that he had reported the movements of Mr. Judson, and the possibility of his departure. During the first half of the time that he held his commission, I heard but little concerning him or his work. I was then too busy with our church building enterprise at Sioux City, and with my Iowa explorations, to go spying into a brother's work, especially as a region in Iowa sixty miles east and west, and reaching from the Minnesota line south to Council Bluffs, was the "vicinity" named in my commission. In September, 1865, Mr. Gore supplied my pulpit while I attended the Western Iowa association at Jefferson. As this required 320 miles travel with a pony, he came and went wring my absence.

On Saturday, November 18, Rev. E. T. Hiscox, D. D., of New York and Rev. C. A. Bateman, then of Missouri, came to Sioux City. On Monday morning I drove to Elk Point and Brule Creek, taking both these brethren with me. The object of Dr. Hiscox's visit was a personal inspection of the home mission stations along what was then the border of the east side of the Rocky Mountains. Brother Gore's field was then the ultima thule as mine had been earlier, and was later. I had already met Brother Gore at various times, and had sufficient knowledge of his work to have saved that long journey of nearly sixty miles, through a very sparsely settled country. I declined the responsibility of such a report, and insisted upon personal inspection by Dr. Hiscox. Of his interview with Brother Gore, and its results, I know nothing. I do know that while his commission made Yankton the center of his operations, he spent most of his time on his claim at Brule Creek, forty miles distant, and that he made few appointments for Sabbath services far or near.

Yet a broader view than this is due to Brother Gore and his work. The same conditions which made Brother Judson's movements futile, were still operative. In 1864, the only portions of the territory which were settled, were limited by the valley of the Missouri and in the region of Pembina. The Missouri valley settlements were stretched out one hundred miles westward, along the river. The civil war and the mountain gold fever had reduced the population of Sioux City from two thousand in 1859 to about eight hundred in 1864. The grasshopper raid of JJ864 had compelled the temporary abandonment of a considerable proportion of homesteads in Dakota. The Indian scare, while it sent some away, saved that region for the time from utter ruin. It was the government expenditures, rather than the bullets of the soldiers, that protected the settlements. The vain marching and counter-marching of the troops made them in some respects a laughing stock. But those who knew laughed for another reason. Still it is true that the troops kept the people there, and kept the Indians away. . Under such conditions missionary work was possible only through the support of the Home Mission Society. The settlers had no money to help. Money was gathered only by those who speculated in government supplies, and was lavishly expended by them, but they never made good church deacons, and pastors could not depend on them for advice. No one dared to say that he and his family would report at roll call, after another trial at cropping the newly broken prairies. Brother Gore's latest connection with Baptist work in Dakota was really ended in December, 1865. His family had gone east, I think, the year before. He came to Sioux City and remained at our house until January 14,1866, when he preached the sermon at the dedication of the first house of worship built by the First Baptist church in Sioux City. A day or two later he left us, going southward.

A member of a family living at Brule Creek, Dakota, boarded in my home during the winter of 1865-6. At the request of this family I visited Elk Point and Brule Creek and held services March 25, 1866. Home duties prevented further explorations for a time. January 1, 1867, with the mercury eight degrees below zero, I rode to Vermillion, and stopped with a brother Carpenter. The next day I drove to Yankton. There I found a Dr. Stevens, from below Elk Point. He was attending the territorial legislature. I stopped at the Bradley house with him. Next evening, (Thursday) I preached in the Episcopal church. During this visit I made the acquaintance of Judge M. Congleton and wife, J. D. Vanderhule and wife, Mrs. Morrow, Mrs. Savage, and Mrs. Monroe—all Baptists, I believe. On the 4th I returned to Sioux City, sixty-five miles, reaching home in the evening, during a blizzard. I missed the road once in the darkness, and when I found it I had passed Dr. Stevens house, my intended stopping place. I preferred the risk of a ten-mile drive with the drifting snow storm, then increasing, rather than to face the northwest wind, though I knew that I was only a mile from the desired shelter.

On the first of February I drove again to Vermillion. Here I had to leave my sleigh and take to the saddle for a ride of thirty miles to Yankton. I preached there in the evening. On Sabbath afternoon, February 3, 1867, I organized the First Baptist church at Yankton, at the home of Judge Congleton. Among the constituent members were Judge Congleton and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderhule, Mrs. Savage and Mrs. Morrow.

Other preaching tours were made to Yankton and Vermillion and Elk Point, in the months of July, August, September, November and December, 1867, January, February, March, June, July and September, 1868. I preached in and near Yankton twenty-nine times. The latest date is that of two services held there August 1, 1869. The Yankton church reported by letter and delegates to theWestern Iowa Baptist
Association. Its name is on the pages of the minutes of that association as a member, I think as early as 1867, but certainly so in 1868. My records show that, commencing with my first trip to Yankton, in January, 1867, down to the organization of the church at Vermillion, I had preached in Dakota, west of the Sioux river, thirty-six times, within nine of the fourteen calendar months of this interval, and that sixteen other sermons followed, closing with August 1, 1869.

The Baptist church at Vermillion was organized February 16, 1868, in the old log school house, at^the foot of the ravine, near where the town was formerly located. I have an indistinct recollection of statements connecting that building or its erection with the movement of troops sent to guard the settlements from Indian depredations. I had left home the day before, and found extremely muddy roads.

"I reached Vermillion late, but preached before sleeping. On the 15th I preached in the log school house twice, carried through the work of organization, and then preached in the school house about three miles north. The four services, besides the extra work, fell within twenty-four hours. At the close I bade them drive with me where they pleased, and I dropped upon the straw in the wagon box to rest my bursting head. In less than thirty days from this I was lying on my bed at home, unconscious, nerveless, paralyzed. For five years mine was a fight with the imminence of death. I am thankful to believe that at the end of that time, I had so far recovered as to be no more liable to paralytic troubles than if I had never so suffered. The constituent members of the church at Vermillion were T. K. Hovey, Mrs. Electa B. Hovey, Sanford A. Ufford, Mrs. Wm. Shriner and Miss Rachael M. Ross (Mrs. H. J. Austin.) On June 22 I baptized Sister Thompson in the Vermillion river, and in the evening she and her husband were received into the church. This church was also received into membership by the Western Iowa Baptist Association, September 4, 1868, and was represented by delegates T. K. Hovey and wife, and Rachael M. Ross.

The organization of the church at Elk Point occurred April 26, 1868. Rev. G. J. Johnson, D. D., district secretary of the Publication Society, was with me. He preached at Vermillion April 23, at Yankton on the 24th, and at Elk Point on the 25th and 26th. Deacon Weston and wife and two others responded to the call for organization. Nothing more was done at that time. I preached at Elk Point only once more, July 21. We had expected a larger membership. As matters turned out, the organization at Elk Point was merely nominal. As to officers, I think that only a clerk was chosen. The other churches, at Yankton and Vermillion, were fully officered and performed regular church work. Dr. Johnson took up collections for the Publication Society. I had at different times taken collections for the Home Mission Society. Through Dr. Johnson I received an appointment as a colporteur, and did some of that kind of work in the territory. I had expected to continue longer in the pastoral oversight of the three churches that were organized in Dakota, but my fight for life was not yet over. For a considerable time I could do but little pulpit work. I suppose that after a time the churches ceased regular work until Rev. G. W. Freeman came.

I may add some statements showing under what difficulties I was laboring. The distance from Sioux City to Yankton was sixty-five miles. The nearest Baptist pastors in Iowa were at Dennison and Council Bluffs. Calls for work were incessant, east, north and south of Sioux City. All of this travel, and that to the associations and conventions, and into Dakota, had to be done by my own team. The services rendered in Dakota began March 25, 1865, arid ended August 1,1869. When I settled in Sioux City, in October, 1864, I had to go by stage from Boonesboro, Iowa, a distance of about two hundred miles. Since then, while engaged in this border warfare of nearly thirty years' duration, I have learned to face the storms of nature and of man, to suffer and to wait. The end will come by and by. As I look over the State Annuals, I see the. growth of our churches since I gave myself to frontier work. All of the churches in the two Dakotas, and all in Nebraska except three, are later than my first work in what are now three states.

One of your inquiries remains unanswered. It is concerning the visit to Dakota of Rev. E. E. L. Taylor, D. D., who was then one of the corresponding secretaries of the Home Mission Society. He spent a few days in Dakota during the last week of July, 1866, visiting the Yankton Indian agency. His chief or only business while in Dakota was concerning a proposition of the government to furnish some of the Indian agencies with teachers appointed by the Home Mission Society, and paid by the government. His investigations led to an adverse report, and so far as Baptists were concerned, the matter passed out of sight.
When I left Sioux City and Dakota in 1869, the tide of immigration had but fairly reached us. I think that Sioux City doubled in population in 1869 and again in 1870. Dakota gained in like proportion. The uplands began to be chosen for tillage as well as for grazing. Railroad communication was opened to Sioux City in 1868. My conveniences for travel were by stage coach, by pony express, and sometimes by ferries propelled by my own arms. As my avoirdupois never exceeded one hundred and twenty-five pounds, that brawn was never excessive. The roads between towns were lined with grass often ten feet high. To avoid the mud in summer I was accustomed, in going up the Missouri, to skirt the bluffs until they turned up the James river, and then go for miles through the grass when it was higher than my head when standing up in my carriage. My compass was sighting a point on the river when entering the grass, and a straight trail afterward. Dry matches in my pocket were my fire guard in the spring and autumn months.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to do what I did in the early days of Dakota. I would be glad to greet once more the friends I then knew. Some time, perhaps, I may see Dakota again—but my Dakota, of the '60's, is gone forever.


Among the earliest pioneers in Dakota Territory was Rev. George D. Crocker. Having served as chaplain of a New York regiment during the civil war, he was appointed chaplain in the regular army in 1867, and was at once assigned to duty at Fort Wads worth, Dakota, in what afterwards became known as the Sisseton Reservation. In 1870, his post of duty was changed to Fort Sully, where he remained until 1885. His term of service in Dakota covered a period of eighteen years. Those under his immediate care as chaplain were the officers and soldiers at the military posts where he was stationed. To them he was conscientiously faithful, seeking to promote their moral and spiritual condition. As the result of his labors conversions were frequent. The Standard\ in May 1875, gives an account of a revival at Fort Sully. By the kind co-operation of the post commandant and the post quartermaster, a convenient baptistry was constructed at the fort, and three soldiers were then baptized. Others were baptized afterwards. The writer has interviewed several officers of the regular army, who were stationed at these military posts, and all have spoken in the highest terms of the gentlemanly bearing and Christian fidelity of Chaplain Crocker.

But faithful services rendered to those who were specially under his religious oversight did not fill up the measure' of his usefulness. He sought to help others, at first the Indians to whom he could tell the good news of the gospel in their own language, and afterwards it was his delight to cheer and comfort the incoming settlers, who were scattered as sheep having no shepherd. Through the Standard and other religious newspapers, he occasionally gave notice to the early settlers, of the fact of his being stationed at Fort Sully, and his readiness to respond to any calls for religious services, or„ assistance and comfort in cases of sickness or death.

As a military officer, he could not engage in distinctively denominational work, yet through frequent visits and sermons preached, he was mainly instrumental in the organization of the Baptist churches at Pierre and Blunt. Among the homes in Pierre where he was always a welcome guest was that of Hon. D. C. Mead. In answer to a request for reminiscences concerning Chaplain Crocker, Mrs. Mead describes the zeal and interest shown by him in the matter of a church organization, his deep spirituality, his gentleness, and his earnest desire to do good to others, and says, "My thought of him is that of a pure, white soul, doing the kindest thing in the kindest way." One of the tributes to his life and character, published after his death, in 1888, by one who knew him best says, "The Christian character of this departed saint was one of strength and beauty. His daily walk and conversation exemplified, to a remarkable degree, the doctrines of the gospel which it was his delight to preach. A peculiar tenderness and sweetness of disposition, and a spirit of love and charity towards all, were most happily united with a firm unwavering adherence to his views of duty and doctrine."

At the request of the writer, who felt that the services rendered by Chaplain Crocker entitled him to an honored record among the faithful pioneers in the Baptist history of South Dakota, the following sketch of his life and work has been prepared by one of his daughters, Miss Mary G. Crocker, of Denver, Col.:

George Dauchy Crocker was born at Ridgefield, Conn., December 25, 1822. He was of Huguenot ancestry, being descended on the maternal side from one Jacques D'Auchy, the story of whose martyrdom is detailed in Benedict's "History of the Baptists." His father was a useful local preacher of the Methodist church at Ridgefield. He was converted at the age of 16 years, in Detroit, Mich., and was baptized at Danbury, Conn., by Rev. Addison Parker. In 1843 he was licensed to preach by the Second Baptist church of Danbury. He received his education at the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution (now Colgate University).

In 1845 Mr. Crocker was ordained by a council called by the Baptist church of Cross River, N. Y. He was afterward pastor at Cross River and Ithaca, N. Y., South Groton, Newburyport and Edgerton, Mass., and Phoenix, R. I., and for some years was city missionary at Paterson, N. J. In 1852 he married Miss Lydia Allen, of Providence, R. I., who survives him, with a son and two daughters.
In 1861 he received an appointment as chaplain of the Sixth New York Volunteer Cavalry, and rendered faithful service throughout the war. Having been thus identified with the army for that long and trying term, it was but natural that his interest in the army, and his missionary zeal for his Master, should prompt him to seek an appointment in the regular army. Prom the date of that appointment, in 1867, until 1885, he was stationed at two garrisons in Dakota Territory—Port Wadsworth (afterwards Port Sisseton), and Fort Sully—both now abandoned.

It was during these riper years of his ministry, and on pioneer ground, that the most efficient and telling work of his life was done. Although his mission as an army chaplain was chiefly to those connected with the military posts at which he was stationed, and these army duties were not neglected, yet he considered it his duty, and made it his privilege, to preach and minister, wherever opportunity offered, to the Sioux Indians, whose language he learned, and who looked reverently upon him as their friend, when by mo&t of the whites they were regarded with suspicion, or even disgust. Many a time in a smoky "teepee** or a stifling log hut, he gathered a little audience of dusky listeners, and, with his Dakota Indian Bible in hand, gave them the word of eternal life. And many a time in his journeyings with his family over prairie and along river bottom, he would stop a traveling party of Indians, or one lone individual, and after preliminary courtesies, give them the good news in their own tongue. His quarters at Fort Sully were the goal of any poor red man in distress of any kind, and many of these heard the gospel there for the first time in their lives. The seed was sown beside all waters, and only One knows what prospered, this or that.

When, however, the lands in Dakota were surveyed and thrown open by the government to settlement, and little claim shanties and primitive hamlets begun to spring up here and there, the chaplain considered his field enlarged, and his call to service in the "regions beyond" was gladly answered. Then it was his delight to drive out from Fort Sully, get acquainted with the people, and, when his duties at the garrison would allow, hold a gospel service with those whose only opportunity it was to hear the gospel preached. In the kindly offered homes of the settlers, and later in school houses, or in the open air, these simple services were held, followed by the brotherly hand-grasp with those in whose welfare he was genuinely interested, and who learned to look upon the chaplain's face, with its crown of snowy hair, and with peace and good-will beaming from it, as the face of their tried and true friend.

This work, as well as that at the fort, was of necessity, not upon a distinctively denominational basis. It was when a little company of Baptists was found among the new comers to the new settlement, since well known as Pierre, that his most fervid interest was awakened and centered. Recognizing the importance of the geographical location of the town, and delighting in the fellowship of brother Baptists, from which he had been almost entirely cut off, he made frequent journeys with his family, driving through bitter cold, or burning heat, from his station, a distance of thirty miles, that he might meet with and encourage these pioneers of the Baptist brotherhood of Pierre, since become a goodly band. When an organization was effected, and a place of meeting secured, his satisfaction and gratitude were great. The wilderness blossomed as the rose. To have a part, however small, in the fulfilling of that blessed prophecy, and in the coming of the kingdom among" men, is no small thing. Although very much of Chaplain Crocker's work was most quietly done, and in his retiring spirit he took no honor or credit to himself, even though from much of his work there was no apparent result, yet it is not too much to say that the seed of the kingdom, sown thus upon the virgin soil of the frontier, has in these later days, borne some fruit in the religious history of South Dakota.

In 1885, Chaplain Crocker was appointed Superintendent of Education in the army, and stationed at St. Louis, where he remained until retired, according to army regulation, at the age of 64, in 1886. Some time was then spent in Detroit, Mich., where he expected to make the home of his declining years, and where the ministry of the beloved Dr. Z. Grenell was a source of great delight to him. Later, as health failed, he was taken to the seashore, in the hope of recovery, but after a long and distressing mental and physical illness, the faithful servant went from the home of his son, at Kankakee, Ill., to his eternal home, April 21, 1888.

Chaplain Crocker's devotion to his Master, to duty, and to doctrine, were his strongest characteristics, and his delight in the prosperity of his beloved denomination, was among his chief joys. The record of such a life is written above, and in the hearts of many, dusky of face, as well as white, who loved him, and to whom he pointed the way of life, in South Dakota.


The most conspicuous figure in the group of early pioneer laborers in South Dakota is Rev. George W. Freeman. He was born in Stockbridge, N. Y., August 10, 1819. After completing his education he came to Wisconsin in 1851, and became pastor at Whitewater. Other pastorates in Wisconsin were at Horicon, Lake City, New Lisbon, and Kilbourn City. For several years he had charge of a young ladies' seminary at Fox Lake, Wisconsin. During the progress of the work of building the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, he was employed by the American Baptist Home Mission Society to lead in pioneer missionary work at various important points along the lines of these transcontinental roads between Omaha and the Pacific coast. Several churches were organized and houses of worship built under his superintendence.

After a preliminary visit to Dakota in 1870, he was appointed general missionary for the territory. He entered on the duties of this office March 1, 1871, and served two years and a half. During that time ten new churches were organized and several houses of worship were built. Nearly all of the white population of Dakota were then living in scattered settlements in a few of the southern counties of the territory. Though alone at first, except Chaplain G. D. Crocker, of the regular army, who was stationed at Fort Sully, and Rev. P. A. Ring, pastor of the Swedish Baptist church at Big Spring's, other pioneer ministers soon came to serve as pastors of newly organized churches.

Reference is made elsewhere to the services rendered by Mr. Freeman, and a fuller account is given in the accompanying historical paper, furnished by him. For some years after he ceased to be general missionary, he was pastor at Elk Point, and here he made his home from 1871 until he was taken to his heavenly home. During the last nine or ten years of his life, while not serving anywhere as pastor, he rendered excellent service as supply on various pastorless fields. He did not want to be idle, but desired to be useful while he lived, and this desire was gratified. Though always a warm and generous friend of Sioux Falls University, and actively identified with it from its beginnings he was able during the last few months of his life to render specially helpful service as its financial agent, in active measures for removing its indebtedness and increasing its endowment. He died suddenly, of heart failure, at his home in Elk Point, March 13, 1895. A life that had always been active and useful came, almost without warning, to its honorable ending. His death is mourned by those who remember him during the period of his pioneer work, and by many who knew him after he had reached a ripe old age. After impressive funeral services at the Baptist church, his remains were taken for burial to Lake City, Minnesota.

The following condensed historical sketch was prepared by Mr. Freeman in September, 1874. This early date will explain references to preliminary missionary work on one or two fields where now there are flourishing Baptist churches. In explanation of the reference to the organization of churches at Yankton in 1867, and at Vermillion and Elk Point in 1868, the reader is referred to the historical paper furnished by Mr. Rockwood, and published in Chapter VII. For information concerning the services rendered in 1864 and 1865 by Rev. L. P. Judson and Rev. Albert Gore, see Chapter VI.

The American Baptist Home Mission Society, in its report for 1873, has the following item: "Our first missionary to Dakota was Rev. L. P. Judson, who went there in 1864." As the result of diligent inquiry one Baptist was found in Yankton who had seen and heard him. For a short time he was there engaged in secular business, and in connection therewith, preached two or three discourses.

In 1867 Rev. J. E. Rockwood, missionary pastor at Sioux City, Iowa, make some visits up the Missouri river, preaching at Elk Point, Vermillion and Yankton. On February 3, 1867, he organized a Baptist church at Yankton. In connection with this movement at Yankton, preliminary organizations were effected at Elk Point and Vermillion. The date of the organization at Vermillion was February 16, 1868. On account of failing health he resigned his charge at Sioux City (August, 1869), and these interests were left with no one to care for them. It would be unjust to Bro. Rockwood not to make honorable mention of his zeal and devotion to this work, the self-denial and sacrifices necessary in order to visit this wild country, and preach the gospel to the Lord's poor in these regions lying beyond his regular field.

The Big Springs Swedish Baptist church was organized in July, 1869, Rev. P. A. Ring, pastor.

In November, 1870, while engaged in general missionary work on the Union and Central Pacific railroads, I felt moved in spirit to visit Dakota, and learn the wants of the people. I came to Elk Point December 12, 1870, and the same week visited Vermillion and Yankton. On Tuesday evening, December 20, met at the residence of M. D. Thompson and there organized (reorganized) the First Baptist church of Vermillion. At that meeting plans were adopted and subscriptions begun for a house of worship.

I reported to the Home Mission Society my impressions of the field and its pressing needs, and was appointed general missionary for the Territory of Dakota. On the first day of March, 1871, I came to Dakota for aggressive work, beginning at Elk Point. On March 11, I organized there a Baptist church. At that time the nearest English-speaking Baptist minister was at Council Bluffs and Omaha, nearly 150 miles south. [Chaplain G. D. Crocker, of the regular army, was then stationed at Fort Sully. T. M. S.] On the 25th of the same month I organized a Baptist church at Sioux Valley, called afterward Leroy, later Portlandville, now Akron. These churches were all supplied by the general missionary until October following, when Rev. J. H. Young became pastor of the Elk Point and Sioux Valley churches. His ordination, which occurred at Elk Point, January 17, 1872, was the first in the territory. He soon after became pastor at Yankton, and having proved unworthy of his trust, he was deposed from the ministry November 12, 1872. Rev. E. H. Hurlbutt became pastor at Vermillion, September 1, 1871, and served one year and a half. Rev. T. H. Judson settled as pastor at Elk Point, October 3, 1872, and after a year of service there, was called to Vermillion. The Swedish church at Bloomingdale was organized by Rev. P. A. Ring, October 15, 1871. Brother J. Peterson was soon after ordained and became its first pastor.

In the spring of 1873, the house of worship at Elk Point was begun, and finished a few months later. Rev. J. P. Coffman, became pastor there January 9, 1874. The Lodi church was organized by the general missionary July 13, 1871. In the following November Rev. J. L. Coppoc became pastor. The following-winter was one of unusual severity. Roads became blockaded, and the people could not attend appointments for preaching. Brother Coppoc was environed by many difficulties of so serious a character as to have driven a man of weaker faith from the field. On the first of October, 1872, he became pastor of the Sioux Valley church, and served it until February, 1874. Rev. F. Bower became pastor at Yankton, February 1, 1874. but remained only a few months.

The church at Canton was organized March 18, 1872. In October, 1871, Rev. J. J. McIntire came to the territory and established a home on the Vermillion river, near Hurley. In connection with other points he served the church at Canton. These visits and the services rendered were attended with good results. The scattered sheep of the Baptist fold were gathered in, and the field was held for the coming settled pastor. At first Brother McIntire traversed a wild and sparsely settled country to reach his appointments, with no roads except the faint trails made by himself and others in going to their new homes. These visits meant toil, hardship, exposure, and often peril. Rev. V. B. Conklin settled at Canton in October, 1873, and became missionary for Lincoln county. The Danish Baptists organized the Baptist church at Lodi, March 25, 1872. This soon increased to over forty members, many of the members living nearly twenty miles distant. This led the following year to a friendly division, and resulted in the organization, December 31, 1873, of the Danish church at Daneville.

In the fall of 1871 the general missionary visited and held services in Dell Rapids. Helpful and encouraging visits were made by Prof. A. Bush of Osage, Iowa, who, on the 21st of July, 1872, organized a Baptist church, which was recognized by the general missionary on the 28th of the same month. On the first of June, 1872, Rev. William Hill became the first pastor of the church. This was then the most northern church or mission in Dakota, except the Indian mission at Flandreau, conducted by the Presbyterian board. The Swan Lake church, now Hurley, was organized December 9, 1872, as the result of revival meetings conducted by Rev. J. J. McIntire. He was called as its pastor on the day of its organization.

The Baptist church of Finlay, now Parker, was organized by the general missionary and Brother McIntire, December 25, 1872. The services were held on the evening of Christmas day, at the residence of Rev. J. J. McIntire. This organization occupies an important field. The Gayville church was organized June 7, 1873, with nine members. This field was early occupied by Rev. E. H. Hurlbutt, through whom the organization was effected, assisted by Rev. J. J. McIntire. Initial steps were taken to erect a chapel at this place. (No chapel was built, and for several years the church has been extinct). Sioux Falls has been visited from time to time and services held by the general missionary. Frequent conferences have been held with the few Baptists in that place with reference to an organization. On the 29th of June, 1873, a service was held there. This was followed by a canvass of the community. Ten Baptists were found, willing to enter into an organization, but as others hesitated, no church was organized at that time.
The Southern Dakota Baptist Association was organized at Vermillion, with nine churches and seven ministers, including the general missionary, and 157 members. The date of its organization was June 5, 1872, on the day following the dedication' of the new house of worship erected by the Vermillion church. The officers elected were the following: Rev. G. W. Freeman, moderator; Martin J. Lewis, clerk; Rev. E. H. Hurlbutt, corresponding secretary; and Deacon M. D. Weston, treasurer. This gathering was fully attended, and was characterized by a unity of purpose to go forth and occupy this fair country for Christ.

The first Baptist house of worship dedicated in Dakota was the one at Vermillion, June 4, 1872. At the laying of the corner-stone of the present house of worship October 8, 1889, a brief historical sketch, having special reference to the first building", w*as read by Rev. G. W. Freeman. From that paper the following' extracts are taken:

"At a meeting of the church held December 20, 1870, plans for building a chapel were examined and discussed. It resulted in the adoption of a resolution to build, at an early day, after the model of the house which has been in use for more than seventeen years. During the winter material for building was secured. On a careful survey of the townsite it was decided that the most central location, and easiest of access to the people both in the village and the country was at the mouth of the large ravine, through which passed nearly all who traveled to and from the table lands. At that time only a few people were living on the bluffs.

Captain Nelson Miner offered the Baptist church a deed of three full lots on the west side of the street at the mouth of the ravine. This gift was gratefully accepted. For ten years it seemed to all, and was in fact, the most central location for a church, up to the disastrous flood in March, 1881. A young Baptist brother, of limited means, named A. T. Force, subscribed one hundred dollars towards the erection of the building. Being by trade a carpenter, he was chosen to take charge of the work, which was begun May 1, 1871, and completed in the spring of 1882. It was dedicated free from debt, on the evening of June 4, 1872, Rev. T. H. Young, preaching the dedication sermon. The actual cost of the building was $2,200. If donations of labor and materials were included the total valuation could not be less than $2,500. About four years later a lecture room was added, costing about $400.

"Soon after the dedication Mr. Chas. H. True, editor and proprietor of the Vermillion Republican, led in an undertaking to secure a suitable bell for the church building. The effort was successful. This was the first Protestant church bell in the Territory of Dakota.  In the darkness of that sad night in March, 1881, when the flood waters of the American Amazon poured through the streets of Vermillion, that bell rang out the warning of danger, and awakened the sleeping citizens so that they could flee for safety to the bluffs. If it had not been for the warning tones of that church bell, by which the people were aroused to know their danger, many of them would undoubtedly have perished in the flood which . carried away one hundred and eighteen buildings. The Baptist church building was saved. The location of Vermillion was at once changed from the low lands to the bluffs overlooking its former site. The church building which had for years been centrally located, was now out of the way, and not easily accessible to the people. An unsuccessful effort was made to sell the property. It was then decided to move it up the long ravine to the bluffs on which Vermillion was rapidly being rebuilt. The lecture room was first taken away and moved to its present location as a part of the present parsonage. The church building was then removed in September, 1881, to^its present site, greatly to the joy and satisfaction of the church. For more than three years there had been no pastor to lead and feed the flock. Since the removal of the building and the improvements and additions made, there has been almost continual pastoral work on this field, and a good measure of prosperity as its fruitage."






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