As one of the first Protestant ministers to the towns at the head of Lake Superior during their formative period, I have been asked by the president of he Superior Historical Society to give a brief autobiography, and my recollections of the early religious work in that vicinity.
I was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, May 20, 1826. My parents were John Barnett, both of Scotch-Irish ancestry. Their parents were among the earliest settlers of Western Pennsylvania and took active part in that formative period.
My first schooling was in subscription schools, the public school system of Pennsylvania not being then established. Afterward I attended public school for two or three winters. My classical studies were pursued in Blairsville Academy and Jefferson College, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, from which I graduated in 1849. I studied the theology in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, leaving that institution in 1855. Meantime I taught public school two terms in a neighborhood where I had attended subscription school when a lad, and afterwards for three years and a half in Elder’s Ridge Academy, Pennsylvania.
In 1853 I attended the marriage of Miss Martha Bracken, near Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, with Rev. J. Irwin Smith, missionary of the Presbyterian church at Ontonagon, Lake Superior. They were both intimate friends of mine, and before we separated I had agreed to visit them the next summer in their Lake Superior home. Having been licensed to preach in April, 1854, by the presbytery of Blairsville, I spent four months as a missionary of the Presbyterian Home Mission Board on Lake Superior, preached at Ontonagon in Mr. Smith’s absence, and at a number of mines along the copper range, near Ontonagon. I became interested in the region and decided to return the next summer. In April of the next year, I was ordained as an evangelist by the presbytery of Blairsville, and during the same month was married to Miss Martha R. Elder, only daughter of James and Margaret Barnett Elder, of Elder’s Ridge, Pennsylvania.
With a commission as home missionary to the Lake Superior region we left Pennsylvania June 15, 1855, and reached Octonagon June 22. I was to select my own field of labor. Rumor had reached Ontonagon that a new town called Superior had been started at the head of the lake, but nothing definite was known about it. I determined, however, to visit this region and inquire into the prospects for religious work. The lake steamer “North Star” brought me into the Bay of Superior in the early morning of July 14. When I came on deck the steamer was aground, the clouds were dark and lowering, and rain was falling. Behind was the lake, its waters almost black because of the dark clouds hanging over it; around were the brown waters of the bay, and in front the long low shore line, with only two or three openings in the gloomy tamarack and balsam forest that covered the land. The prospect was a dismal one.
When the boat reached Quebec pier I made my way to the land. The inland end of the pier was laid with poles, which were afloat, as the wind had been off the lake for a while. The change was from water to mud. When I reached the top of the bank, which was about thirty feet high, I saw Second Street cut out as far as the Nemadji River, about a mile distant. The trees had been cleared in the winter when the snow was on the ground, and the stumps were still standing high. Winding through them was a wagon road which resembled a canal. I made my way as carefully as possible through the mud to Superior Hotel, a two-story building, the front part of which was built of logs. The town cattle were standing around the front porch, brushing off the flies. Inside the floors were still spotted with the mortar that had been dropped in plastering. After dinner I walked a mile up the bay shore to see Edmund F. Ely, whose name had been given to me by Mr. Roberts, treasurer of the American Board, as a member of the New School Presbyterian church. Mr. Ely told me that he expected a minister of his church soon. Observing that the place was too small for the services of two ministers so nearly allied in principle, I determined to seek a field elsewhere. I thereupon returned to the hotel, but the boat had left the pier and was lying near the entry. Following in a small boat and climbing a rope to reach the deck, I found that the wind was rising and that there would be no departure until Sunday morning. Therefore I returned to the hotel, and on Sunday afternoon preached to about twenty persons in what was intended for the bar room, but was still a work and barber shop, with work bench, shavings, and wash bowl in plain view. At night Rev. Mr. Pritchard, of the Methodist Episcopal church, preached to about the same number.
During the week following I made a number of acquaintances and learned where many of the residents lived. On Saturday night, or early in the week, Mr. Ely received a letter stating that the minister he expected was not coming, but another had been heard of whom it was thought might come. This seemed too slender a hope on which to leave so many people without the gospel, and I decided to remain. I bought a couple of lots and selected church lots and a parsonage lot.
The larger settlement was then at Superior; there was a smaller one at Superior City, a mile distant; a few people at Connor’s Point, West Superior, which was a swamp; a few more at Duluth; and a few at Coffee’s Landing some at Ontonagon; and others at Fond du Lac, up the St. Louis River; in all about fifteen hundred around the head of the lake. Whether the decision to remain was wise and whether I should remain was discussed with friends and with ministers and member of the New School for two or three years; it ended by my remaining six. It is certain that if the wind had not blown from the lake on that Saturday evening, and if Mr. Ely had not received that letter, I should have gone elsewhere. Or had the principles of Christian comity been practiced then as now, or could we have foreseen that in 1869 the New and Old School Presbyterians would be happily united in one body, the decision to remain would not have been so difficult.
Having come to this conclusion, I returned to Ontonagon July 21, and on August 11, with Mrs. Barnett, reached La Pointe on the steamer “Illinois,” where we tarried until August 21, when the steamer “Planet” carried us to Superior. These delays were caused by unwillingness to travel on Sundays. Afterward some Sunday travel was undertaken, because it was found that otherwise appointments could not be kept. On the morning of August 25, 1855, I began my chosen work by preaching in Superior City at Mr. Ely’s house to an audience of eleven adults and eight children. That afternoon service was held in Superior in a room in Buchmans Block, over Neill’s drug store, where twenty-three people had gathered. Services were continued in the Upper-town as it was then generally called, in a room furnished free of rent by Mr. George R. Stuntz, until the new school-house was finished, and then that was utilized until it became too cold. The attendance varied from ten to thirty. A Sunday school was started on September 23, which continued with an attendance of from five to ten until November 4, when it was discontinued because there were but few children in the settlement, most of the men being there without their families.
In Superior, service was held in the Buchman building or in the Barstow Block, with an attendance varying from ten to thirty or more. The weather, walking, and the coming in of boats in summer had much to do with the attendance. A Sunday school was started on September 23, with three little girls and seven adults. The girls were Mary Post, Nellie G. Hall, and Helen M. Gates. This school was continued with the same interruptions as a union school until it gave place to the present denominational Sunday schools. Among its early teachers were Mrs. J. I. Post, Mrs. E. B. Dean, and Mrs. J. M. Barnett. The first funeral took place on September 9, when the service was held in Barstow Block with a large attendance, mostly strangers to each other, but drawn together by the common bond of humanity and sympathy for the sorely afflicted family. The occasion was the drowning in the Nemadji River on Saturday afternoon of Fred H. Newton, a very promising young man, the youngest brother of Mrs. Hiram Hayes and Mrs. H. M. Peyton. Two weeks later occurred the second funeral, infant child of Mr. and Mrs. George E. Nettleton. Quietly and with tearful sympathy the little one, whose life had been so brief, was laid to rest on Minnesota Point, where the waves continually sing its lullaby.
On Tuesday evening, October 30, in accordance with a previous notice, part of the congregation met in M. S. Bright’s law office and resolved to begin the organization of the First Presbyterian church, Old School, by the election of a board of trustees, to which office were chosen George E. Nettleton, J. B. Culver, George Hyer, John C. Funston, and John M. Barnett, president and treasurer, and J. R. Carey, clerk.
At this time I was the only Protestant minister in Superior. Inexperienced and far distant from any minister to whom I could go for advice and counsel, my nearest neighbor of the cloth being one hundred miles or more distant, the sense of loneliness was often hard to bear. Mr. Ely, who had been a teacher among the Indians under the American Board, showed his Christian manliness by coming with his wife to spend the evening with us. He said he could not join with us in a church organization because he was pledged to the New School Presbyterian church, and had ordered a bell for a new church building; but as a Christian brother he would gladly do all he could to help our work.
On November 3, Rev. Joseph G. Wilson, New School Presbyterian minister, arrived on the evening boat. He appeared to be between fifty and sixty years of age a man of experience, ability, culture, and considerable literary attainments. He preached both sermons on Sunday, November 4, and in the evening organized at the house of Mr. Ely “The First Presbyterian Church of Superior, New School.” The members were Edmund F. Ely and his wife, then of Superior City, afterward of Oneota, Mr. H. W. Wheeler and wife, and L. H. Merritt of Oneota. The arrangement of services in Superior City and Superior was continued, the ministers alternating in preaching during November and December. The services in Uppertown were held at Mr. Stuntz’s or the school house, with an attendance of from five to twenty; and in Superior in the Buchman building, or the Minter building, with an attendance of from five to thirty or more. The first floor of the Minter building was occupied by a saloon and the third by a gambling room, so the preacher could often hear the jingle of the glasses below and the noise of the card tables above.
The trustees of the church I had organized met on the 8th of November in M. S. Bright’s office and decided to clear the lot, 236 West Third Street, and erect thereon a building 40X22 feet in size, for the church purposes, the foundation to be laid now and the structure to be put up later. During December a thorough canvass of the region was made and the destitute supplied with bibles by give or sale. A large number of copies of the American Messenger were distributed. It was expected that the new school-house in Superior would be occupied January 6, 1856, for religious worship, but on Saturday the paint which had been put on green, frozen wood, was not dry. Mr. J. B. Culver and I rubbed it off so that on Monday, January 7, 1856, the first public school was opened with seventeen pupils, Miss N. C. Barnett, my sister, being the first teacher. Mr. Thomas Clark, one of the directors, who was deeply interested in the school, was present and at his request the first session was opened with prayer. The first religious service was held in the school-house January 13, 1856. It was pleasant to know that for the present we had a permanent abiding place. Rev. Joseph G. Wilson conducted the opening service, and I preached the sermon to a congregation of over thirty.
On Monday night, January 14, 1856, in Mr. Wilson’s room, trustees of the New School Presbyterian church were elected as follows: E. D. Neill, E. C. Becker, E. F. Ely, L. H. Merritt, and J. R. Carey, and they were duly organized as such. Three days later, the trustees of the First Presbyterian church, Old School, met and discussed the matter of a church building. It was stated that the proposed building would cost about $1,200, and it was thought that $500 could be raised in town. A committee, previously appointed, reported that they had raised $270 for the minister’s support, to which ten dollars was then added. This same evening Rev. J. W. Wilson delivered in the school house the first lecture in Superior on the subject Mormonism, Priestcraft, and Witchcraft,” which was ably handled. The following Sunday, a new arrangement was begun, according to which two services, morning and afternoon, were held in Superior, and an afternoon service in Superior City. The same evening at 6:30 I attended the second Protestant Episcopal lay service, conducted by E. C. Clarke. On February 17, the first child was baptized. Franklin Augustus, son of J. Warren and Mrs. Mary Jane Smith. February 18 of the same year, Rev. James Peet, a licentiate of the Methodist Episcopal church, and his wife, reached Superior after a perilous ride from St. Paul across the country. Young and inexperienced, of fair ability and education, yet strenuous for all forms of the Methodist Episcopal church, even in union meetings, he preached for me on the next Sunday, but after that, except at communion, he held separate services for a time until finally, after a number of conferences, alternate preaching was arranged. A communion service was proposed, and after conference the following notice was agreed on and the announcement made February 24, in the school-house: “A Communion of the Lord’s Supper will be administered here on next Sabbath, March 2, at 2:30 P.M. It is designed to be a communion of members of the three churches, Presbyterian, New and Old School, and Methodist Episcopal, whose ministers are here. All evangelical professors are cordially invited to unite with us in this celebration. Mr. Edmund F. Ely, elder-elect of the New School Presbyterian church, will be ordained in connection with this service.”
According to appointment, a number of persons in sympathy with the Presbyterian church, Old School, met in my study on the evening of March 1, 1856. After conference and prayer it was decided to organize an Old School Presbyterian church. John Gatherer, who had been a member in Scotland, but had no certificate, and John O. Jones, were received on examination: Mrs. G. W. Hall, by letter from the Baptist church of Brockport, Michigan; and Mrs. J. Warren Smith and Mrs. J. M. Barnett by letter from Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania. A form of covenant was adopted and accepted by all. It as resolved to record the communion of the following day as the first communion of this church, as it is also recorded as the first communion of the New School church. On the Sunday announced, Rev. Mr. Wilson preached in the morning on the “Body and Blood of Christ.” In the afternoon, after the reception of J. R. Carey and wife into membership in the New School church, and the ordination of E. F. Ely as a ruling elder thereof, I explained the ordinance of the supper and distributed the wine. Mr. Wilson distributed the bread, and Mr. Peet made the closing remarks and offered the prayer. The communicants were: New School Presbyterian: E. F. Ely, Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, L. H. Merritt, J. R. Carey and wife; absent (sick), Mrs. Ely. Old School: John Gatherer, Mrs. J. Warren Smith, Mrs. G. W. Hall, Mrs. J. M. Barnett, Miss N. C. Barnett; absent, John O. Jones, sick. Methodist Episcopal church: Charles Felt, Mrs. Webster, Mrs. Stuntz and Mrs. Loomis; absent on account of illness, Mrs. Peet and Mrs. Felt. Protestant Episcopal church: Mrs. J. I. Post, Mrs. George E. Nettleton. Baptist church: Mrs. J. B. Culver, Mrs. Daniel Dewar. Also Mr. Bonyquin, Moravian, and Mr. Raymond, Congregationalist, visitors.
This, so far as known, was the first communion held in Superior. It is said that a communion service had been held on Wisconsin Point. The Methodist Episcopal church at one time had a mission among the Indians at Fond du Lac, and it is probably communion was held there.
Seven days later, Mr. Peet organized a Methodist Episcopal church in Superior City, with Charles Felt and wife and Mrs. Peet as members. There were two or three other members of the Methodist Episcopal church there, but they waited to get their letters before uniting with the organization. Mr. Wilson spent this Sunday at Oneota, Minnesota, and held there its first service. On March 15, the first bell, a steel composition one, was erected in Superior by join contribution of money and work by friends of the church. It was placed on the rear end of a lot back of Dr. Hohly’s drug store, on Second street, and at it dedication Rev. Mr. Wilson made an appropriate speech, and I rang it for the first time.
A colporteur, William S. Mitchell, of the Presbyterian Board of Publication, Old School, came to Superior, the 28th day of May, 1856. He visited the community generally and disposed of a large number of religious books. The organization of a prayer meeting was next attempted, when on the evening of June 1, M. S. Bright and wife, Mrs. J. Warren Smith, Mrs. J. M. Barnett, Miss N. C. Barnett, W. P. Young of Milwaukee, William S. Harbison and his brother of Shelbyville, Kentucky, met at my house, and William S. Mitchell conducted the meeting. It was decided to make the effort to continue this as a union prayer meeting and an appointment was made for the evening of June 12. At that time only William R. Perry, a warm-hearted and intelligent Baptist, and myself were present. We made another appointment and the prayer meeting lived and was continued with varied success till denominational prayer meetings took its place. Occasionally there were intermissions, occasionally two prayer meetings, and occasionally it would be held for two or three weeks daily.
The middle of June, Rev. Mr. Wilson left this field of labor, departing on the “Lady Elgin,” and Rev. Mr. Peet and I had the field to ourselves until July 8, when Rev. A. McCorkle, New School Presbyterian minister, arrived with his family, consisting of his wife and her sister, Miss Foster, and two children. This clergyman was younger than Mr. Wilson, of good ability and training, and a gentle spirit, and readily agreed to follow the mode already adopted in our service, to alternate in preaching. His first sermon was given in Superior on the morning of July 13, and we both spent the night on Oneota, where he went to get acquainted with the people.
On the sixth of July, the new rector of the Protestant Episcopal church, Rev. J. O. Barton, having arrived, their church, though not entirely completed, was occupied for service. A number of their people who had worshipped with us and kindly aided us in our service went of course to their own church and others were drawn thither by curiosity. We had only one lady left to sing, Mrs. J. Warren Smith, who although very timid led the singing well. The congregation numbered sixty-two and ours twenty-five.
I preached my first sermon in Duluth, on the 20th of July, in a little unfinished house on the Point, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ryder, to a congregation of twelve adult and some four boys. Twenty-five years later than that, I preached on the same text to the First Presbyterian congregation of Duluth in an $80,000 stone building.
During my absence in Pennsylvania from July 28 to October 26, Rev. Mr. McCorkle and Rev. Mr. Peet kept up the services, although the prayer meeting was given up for a time, but by November 26 it was resumed. Nearly all the people having moved away from Superior City, services ceased November 16. On the 2nd of November, George Newton was elected superintendent of the Superior Sunday school, and Miss Foster assistant superintendent. New faces had come into the congregation and the number in attendance was as large as it had been at any time.
The trustees of my church, encouraged by the increase of population and the building of houses in that direction, finally decided to build on the church lots on Sixth street, but the decision proved unwise. In 1857 a building 50 x 30 was begun, which was to cost $2,500; the frame erected and roofed, and the cornice put on. The panic of ’57 was, however, beginning to affect the Northwest and the growth of Superior was checked, though its full force was not felt in this locality until 1860-61. Colonel Jones, the railway contractor, had agreed to finish the room for prayer meeting and Sunday school, but the collapse of the railroad took him away before his promise was fulfilled and no further work was done on the building.
The Protestant Episcopal was the only church observing Thanksgiving Day, November 20, 1856, when Rev. J. O. Barton, the rector, preached a sermon on the “Duty of Thanksgiving.” Previous meetings for arrangement having been held on November 22 and 29, a temperance meeting was held December 5, in the school-house, at which thirteen persons were present, all of whom signed the pledge. A constitution was adopted and the following officers elected: Hiram Hayes, president; Rev. W. A. McCorkle, vice-president; Richard Washington, secretary; George Newton, Charles Felt, and another, executive committee. A number of such meetings were held at irregular times, and addresses were made by several persons, when many signers of the temperance pledge were obtained.
On December 12, Charles Felt met with a number of persons to ascertain what could be done to secure a class for the study of vocal music, when J. G. Parkhurst and Hiram Robbins were appointed a committee to inquire into the matter. Although I have no further record of this movement, my recollection is that a class was organized and that Mr. Felt gave instructions in vocal music during the winter. A meeting was held at Mrs. Bright’s on December 15, to consult about the formation of a sewing society to aid in the erection of the church building. There were present Mrs. M. S. Bright, Mrs. J. Warren Smith, Mrs. J. T. Smith, Mrs. T. A. Taylor, Mrs. G. W. Hall, Miss J. R. Shaw, Mrs. J. M. Barnett. This society continued in active operation till ’59 or ’60 and raised a considerable amount of money, which was used for the benefit of the church.
On December 18, 1856, I had my first wedding in Superior. It was a double one in two respects, for there were two couples and a rehearsal was had before the real marriage, because not understanding English very well they were afraid they might not say “yes” in the right place. The parties were Peter Hoffenberger and Miss Dora Basolo, and Andrew Rorig and Miss Margaret Hoffenberger, and the wedding took place in Mr. Hoffenberger’s house.
On December 26, a meeting was held at the house of Hezekiah Shaw to organize a Union Tract Society at which Revs. McCorkle, Peet and Barnett, Mrs. Hiram Robbins, Mrs. H. W. Shaw, Miss J. R. Shaw, Mrs. E. H Brown, Miss Hattie Harmony, Mrs. J. M. Barnett were present. Mrs. Barnett was elected president, Mrs. T. A. Taylor secretary and treasurer, Mrs. Brown, Miss Harmony, and Mrs. R. G. Coburn, executive committee. This society continued its work until about the close of 1858 and visited many families and circulated a large amount of religious literature.
During the week previous to December 28 a heavy snow storm had driven a large amount of snow in on the ceiling of the school house. While service was being held it began to melt and ran down on the heads of the congregation, and before the close of the exercises the audience was gathered in one corner of the room to escape the water.
On the 15th of January, a donation party in the interest of the Presbyterian minister, Old School, was held at the house of Hiram Robbins, when about fifty persons attended, and the cash results were $114.25 and groceries, etc. $43. The next night the school-house was crowded to hear an admirable lecture from Hiram Hayes, president of the temperance society. In the same place a month later, Rev. William A. McCorkle gave a fine lecture before a large audience, on “Education.”
The Presbyterian organization, New School, having completed a chapel 40X22 on Third street, the union congregation was invited to worship with them. The invitation was accepted, and on February 22, 1857, the union congregation met in the new house of worship. Rev. E. A. McCorkle preached in the morning and Rev. James Peet in the afternoon. Sunday school and prayer meeting were also held in the new church. Rev. James Peet made appointment for his prayer meeting and class meeting to be held in the school house on Thursday night. The audiences in Superior now reached sixty or seventy. On March 3 I delivered a lecture in the school house on “The Duty of the Working Man to Educate Himself.” Services were continued at Superior, Superior City, Oneota, and Duluth, with occasional services at Coffee’s Landing, except as the preacher was hindered from reaching there by ice, or water and storm. The attendance in Superior often reached sixty or seventy, and July 12 reached one hundred, and at other points fifteen or twenty. Rev. Mr. Bertram, a German Methodist Episcopal minister located at the Cliff Mine, Michigan, came on the 28th of May, and visited the German people and preached several times, and during the following summer made two or three more visits.
June 14, Rev. D. Brooks and Rev. James Peet came under appointment by the Methodist Episcopal church, the former to act as minister in charge at Superior and the latter to labor at Bayfield. According to a previous notice, a meeting was held in the Presbyterian Church on June 20, 1857, and the Bible Society of Douglas County organized. The constitution proposed by the American Bible Society was adopted.
William R. Perry was chosen president; J. T. Smith, vice-president; I. W. Gates secretary; George Newton, treasurer; I. W. Gates, R. M. Hall, J. G. Parkhurst; and H. Robbins, executive committee. The annual meeting was fixed for the third Monday in July. An effort was made to canvass the whole community to see that every family was supplied with a bible.
The Fourth of July was celebrated by an excursion down the north shore on the steamer “Illinois”.
Mr. T. R. Elder, of Elder’s Ridge, having accepted an appointment as missionary to Lake Superior, was ordained as an evangelist by the presbytery of Kittanning April, 1857, and having married Miss Maria Elder he came to Lake Superior and located at Bayfield. On August 15, in the evening, a meeting was held in Bayfield and a Presbyterian church was organized, consisting of J. H. Nourse and Mrs. Nourse, and Mrs. T. R. Elder. Mr. Nourse was elected elder and ordained to that office on Sunday, the 16th. In May of that year the general assembly of the Presbyterian church, Old School, erected the presbytery of Lake Superior to consist of Rev. J. Irwin Smith and the Presbyterian church of Ontonagon: Rev. John M. Barnett and the Presbyterian church of Superior; Rev. T. R. Elder and any other Presbyterian churches, Old School, that might be organized in the lake region. The presbytery was to meet at Ontonagon on August 19, at eleven A.M., and to be called to order and the opening sermon reached by Rev. John M. Barnett, who was to preside until a moderator was chosen. On August 19, according to order of the general assembly, the presbytery of Lake Superior met in the Presbyterian church at Ontonagon at eleven A.M. Present: Rev. John M. Barnett, Rev. T. R. Elder, and two ruling elders. Rev. J. I. Smith was absent because of the sickness of his wife and daughter. Adjourned until seven P.M. At that hour the presbytery met and was opened with a sermon by Rev. John M. Barnett, who called the presbytery to order and constituted it by prayer. Rev. J. I. Smith was elected moderator, and Rev. John M. Barnett temporary and stated clerk. The presbytery transacted its business that evening and the next day it adjourned to meet the next spring in Superior. On August 28, I left Mr. Elder at Bayfield and came home. But on Sunday, September 6, hearing that Mr. Elder was very sick I went to Bayfield on the 7th and found that he was dead; and thus the newly organized presbytery was broken up. He was buried September 8th, on the bluff just out of the town. The body was afterward taken back to Pennsylvania and buried at Elder’s Ridge among his kinsfolk.
The New School presbytery met at Marquette September 18, 1857.
Rev. D. Brooks, who seems to have been absent since his first visit to Superior, returned on September 6 and took charge of the Methodist Episcopal work at that place. Mr. Brooks was of middle age, born in England, and while there a member of the Wesleyan Methodist church; we found him in the main a very pleasant co-laborer.
Thanksgiving, November 26, was observed by our congregation, when I preached the sermon. On the 6th of December, 1857, the Methodist Episcopal people having completed their church building, dedicated it to the worship of God. Rev. W. A. McCorkle preached at the morning service, while I made the dedication prayer and preached at night to good congregations. After this Mr. McCorkle and I alternated, and kept up service in Superior, Superior City, and in Oneota, where the school house had been completed November 1; and in Duluth as strength and weather permitted. While some of our members had left and gone to their own churches, others came in and our congregations were but little reduced. By January 1, 1858, the Sunday school had grown to forty children, with a number of adults.
On December 29, a second donation was given us, seventy or eighty persons being present. The resents were: cash, $81, and dry goods and groceries to the amount of $106.58. On the next day Colonel Hiram Hayes presented me with a gold watch, which I still carry, except as it has been changed by repairs.
On May 11, Rev. Mr. McCorkle left to attend his general assembly and Rev. Mr. Whitney, Methodist Episcopal minister now in charge, went to attend his conference, so I was left alone. The attendance at prayer meeting reached sixty and during this month the meetings alternated between the Presbyterian and Methodist churches. My congregation May 30, 1858, was one hundred and fifty.
On May 31, Rev. J. I. Smith and Rev. William B. McKee, who took Mr. Elder’s place at Bayfield, came to Superior. They reported that our general assembly had re-erected the presbytery of Lake Superior with Rev. W. B. McKee as the third member, and had appointed a meeting in August at Superior; but it seemed very important in the exigencies of the case that presbytery meet earlier and therefore they came at this time. June 1, at 10:30 A.M., the presbytery of Lake Superior, Old School, met in the Presbyterian church, New School, and was opened with a sermon by Rev. J. I. Smith and constituted with prayer by him. He was elected moderator, and John M. Barnett temporary and stated clerk. After transacting its business, presbytery adjourned June 3 to meet in Bayfield. Rev. Mr. McCorkle returned from the general assembly and preached in the evening of June 1. Brothers Smith and McKee likewise preached in Superior several times.
Rev. Mr. McCorkle expected the presbytery of Lake Superior, New School, to meet here after July 11. On the 12th Rev. Dr. Duffield of Detroit came, but no others. It was a great disappointment. Dr. Duffield spent Sunday, July 18, with us and preached an excellent sermon. At night Rev. Mr. McCorkle preached, and after service Mr. Robbins came into my house and surprised me greatly by saying that was Mr. McCorkle’s last sermon and that he would leave on the following Friday, the reason being insufficient support. When Mr. McCorkle left, the trustees of the church placed it in my care for the time they might be without a minister. He left Superior on the steamer “North Star”. When the vessel came in she brought Rev. George Hill, who had been my boyhood pastor, his wife and three children. What a joy it was to us! Broken down in health he never expected to preach again, but came with the hope that the climate might benefit him. He stayed until the next June and went home and preached for eight or ten more years. Rev. John Robinson of Ashland, Ohio, came with Mr. Hill and remained two Sundays and preached twice, on the 21st and 28th, and left us August 2.
Rev. Joseph G. Wilson came back on a brief visit August 2 and preached on the morning of August 8. I had now Superior, Superior City, Duluth, and Oneota to supply, and this I did to the best of my ability. On the 22nd of August, the school-house in Superior City was opened for preaching and service was held in it at night.
September 26, Rev. Mr. Peck, a Baptist minister, with his wife came on the “North Star,” to remain here and preach to the Baptist people. I received a note from Rev. J. . Smith, of Ontonagon, telling me that he was at Bayfield and that I should come that we might have a meeting of the presbytery. Securing Rev. Mr. Peck to preach for me, I went on the “Star” to Bayfield, sister going with me. The presbytery of Lake Superior, Old School, met in Bayfield September 27 at 10:30 A.M. Rev. J. I. Smith preached the opening sermon and constituted presbytery with prayer. Sessions were held on various days and two sermons preached until October 4, when presbytery finally adjourned to meet in Ontonagon the next April.
This autumn a box of clothing was sent to the Presbyterian missionaries on Lake Superior. This was divided between those at Ontonagon, Bayfield, and Superior, and brought very substantial comfort to them all and filled their hearts with gratitude to the givers and to Him who had prompted the gift. October 26, the Douglas County Bible Society met with about thirty present. The town was divided into three districts and distributers appointed so that every family might be reached, and an agent was appointed for the county.
On the 7th of December it was agreed by the three ministers present, Revs. Brooks, Peck and Barnett, to hold three union meetings the next week, to pray specially for a revival of religion, and they agreed to be guided in regard to future meetings by the interest manifested. The union meetings were continued for three weeks with some encouragement when they were broken up by the severe weather. There were some gains in membership to the churches, but these did not equal the losses, as many were moving away because of the hard times.
The second day of the new year, 1859, communion was held in the Presbyterian church, when Rev. Mr. Hill assisted. The attendance was not large, but nearly all present remained through the service. After this I went with Rev. Mr. Hill on a visit to the St. Paul and Hudson and returned February 2. St. Paul at that time had a population of about 12,000. On the 20th of February by request I held communion at Oneota and baptized Mr. Ely’s two younger children. The communicants were Mr. Ely and wife and son Frank, Mr. and Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Brown, J. R. Carey, L. H. Merritt, Mr. Wheeler, Napoleon Merritt and wife.
According to appointment I met April 9, with some Swedes, at the house of John Johnson to arrange for meetings with them for religious service. Thirteen of that nationality were present, when part of a chapter was read and prayer was offered and Mr. Hunter read one of Luther’s sermons. Later, additional remarks were made and a hymn sung. They agreed to meet every Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock. At the second meeting sixteen were present. This meeting was kept up for some time with a varying attendance of from fifteen to twenty or more, until it was found that Mr. Hunter was an infidel and his talk was likely to counteract any good that might be done.
A temperance meeting with an attendance of about forty, was held May 2, in the Presbyterian church. Remarks were made by Rev. Mr. Peck and myself, but the principal talk was by Rev. George Hill. Twenty-two signers to the pledge were obtained and a committee appointed to consider the best course of action to aid the temperance cause.
The trustees of the New School Presbyterian church building, in view of my expected absence for two months, asked that the care of their church building be restored to them, which was done with earnest thanks for its use. On May 22 I preached in the morning and told the congregation that I expected to be absent for two months or more on a visit to Pennsylvania, and that I expected to return and resume my work. Three days later the “North Star” came although the lake was free from ice, the harbor was still closed, and the boat lay outside. Rev. J. I. Smith had gone on the previous trip of the “Star” to attend the general assembly, as a commissioner from the presbytery of Lake Superior, Old School. The boat left at dark with Rev. George Hill and family and myself and wife and child. We went to visit home friends whom we reached safely May 31, after an absence of three years. While on this vacation I visited Kentucky and raised there and in Pennsylvania $887, for the church in Superior. On our return we left Pennsylvania September 3 and reached Ontonagon September 10. Rev. Mr. McKee came from Bayfield, and presbytery met in Ontonagon Thursday, September 15, at 7 P.M., and after a sermon was constituted with prayer by the moderator. A call for the ministerial labors of Rev. J. Irvin Smith from the First Presbyterian church of Ontonagon, Old School, was placed in his hands. He accepted it and was installed as pastor. At the installation service Rev. William B. McKee preached the sermon, Rev. J. M. Barnett presided, proposed the constitutional questions, and gave the charge to the pastor, while Rev. William B. McKee gave the charge to the people. The presbytery completed its business and adjourned September 18.
We reached our Superior home September 18, 1859, and I at once resumed my work, preaching at Superior every morning and sometime in the evening in Superior City and Oneota and Duluth. The New School church building was occupied until April 22, 1860, when we entered our own rented building which we had fitted up for church services on Second street, next to Dr. Hohly’s drug store. Rev. J. Pugh was preaching in the Methodist Episcopal church and Rev. Mr. Peck to the Baptists. The New School was still without a minister. From this time on services were held mostly in the Second street place of meeting, sometimes in the New School church. The members of the latter, faithful in their attendance and support, helped in all ways they could to carry on the work of Christ.
On the 10th of May, 1860, the steamer, with the one the week before, had taken away four of my best families, including about twenty-five persons. The tide that had been flowing in to Superior and Duluth was checked and was now ebbing. The population was growing less in numbers and means.
On the 5th of August, Rev. Mr. Rice, of Lafayette, Indiana, came to Superior for a month’s visit and preached to the New School people. On the 19th we communed with them in the New School church by invitation and had a very enjoyable occasion.
Rev. J. I. Smith and Rev. William B. McKee came on the 29th of August, 1860, and the presbytery of Lake Superior, Old School, held its annual meeting. Communion was held on Sunday, September 2, with an attendance of seventy. Two Sundays, October 9 and 16, were spent in St. Paul attending the organization and meeting of the synod of St. Paul.
On November 29 a union Thanksgiving meeting was held in the Methodist Episcopal church, where I preached the sermon.
During the winter of ’60 and ’61 one or two series of union meetings were held for two or three weeks at a time, usually with a quickening effect on the members, but with little ingathering from the world. February 15, 1861, I held communion at Oneota. Miss Jane Ely was received on examination. Seventeen persons communed. For several months the prayer meeting was held alternately in the New and Old School places of worship.
Early in May of this year I started to Philadelphia to attend the meeting of the general assembly of the Presbyterian church, Old School, as commissioner from the presbytery of Lake Superior. After being absent four months I returned to Superior and preached in my own church September 8, 1861, to a congregation that now reached over sixty or seventy. I took up the work and continued preaching at Superior, Superior City, Oneota, and Duluth as weather permitted until November 2, 1861, when I finally left the field. The hard times were pressing very heavily on all. The population was reduced to almost what it was six years before, and in consequence the membership of all the churches had greatly diminished. My own little flock suffered more perhaps than any other. It was with great regret that I left the field, and I have watched with interest the later growth of the region and the increase of the church. The memories of my stay in Superior are very pleasant. I was treated with unvarying kindness by all, Catholic and protestant alike, with whom I came in contact. There are now many churches and church members, and the Presbyterian church has a number of organizations and nearly two thousand members in that region. The great reaper has been constantly at work through all these years and but few remain whom I knew before I left in 1861; but my visit in 1904 proves that there is true friendship in the world and that friendship will stand the test of many years. God grant that all friendships may be such as will last throughout eternity.
After leaving Superior in November, 1861, Dr. Barnett became pastor of the Old School Presbyterian Church at Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County, Pa., where he remained eight years; and upon the union of the two schools had charge of the Connellsville church for twelve years. In May, 1882, he became financial agent for Washington and Jefferson College, and ten years later was chosen chaplain of Markleton Sanatorium, at a town of the same name – an office held until his death, December 17, 1907, at the age of 82 years.
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