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The Founding of the Iowa Holiness Association

Public Domain1

Isaiah Reid

Editor’s Note: This was originally a two-part article which appeared in a series of Isaiah Reid’s titled “The Real Happening Series.”2 Even as far back as 1901 (the year these “Founding” articles were written), the history of the early years of the Iowa Holiness Association (IHA) was beginning to fade away.  What Reid wished to keep alive for his beloved IHA, we reintroduce here as the organization prepares to hold another of its annual, week-long camp meetings to promote the cause of holiness and heart purity.

Photo of Rev. Isaiah ReidPhoto of Isaiah Reid (1836-1911)
at about the time he wrote
this historical perspective

It was the early spring of 1879. There was no Holiness Association in Iowa. At least three National camp-meetings had been held in the state.3 These awakened great interest, and the work was followed up by a pastor here and there who was in the experience. Outside of the Methodist Church there was throughout the whole state a great ignorance of the doctrine, and much speaking against such an experience. And yet beginning specially with these great National camp-meetings, there were hundreds of hungry hearts wanting to find such a blessing, but not knowing how.

The only publication on the line of holiness at that time in the state was The Highway. For four years it had struggled along as a monthly. With January of 1879 it heroically faced the issue and appeared as a small weekly. A few months before the spring referred to above, the editor4 had drawn up an outline constitution for a State Holiness Association, and published it, asking all who wished to form such an association on the general conditions named to send in their names to O[scar]. Hambleton,5 Nevada, who was designated as temporary secretary. A goodly number of names were promptly sent in. It was encouraging.

In May of that same year it came to the hearts of the secretary and the writer to set apart some time to see the brethren, hold a few meetings, visit a number of places, and tell them of the great salvation. The main thought was not the forming of an association, but the preaching of the great salvation and feeding the hungry hearts. Looking back at it now, I can see that we knew not what we did. We were on a mission whose results and whose wideness of influence only the records of eternity will reveal. Brother Harry May6 tented with me, and I drilled him in Bible study and helped him to take hold in the work. He soon became able to take [i.e., to lead] any of the small meetings.…”] had lately come from Illinois to assist me in the office and in the work, and was made assistant editor. He had not asked how he should live. He did not have in mind a salary as much as the work. He had been with me in campaign work the year before, and his heart was in it. I left the office in his care, and felt all was well and safe. Brother Hambleton had shaped up his business and left the store in the care of a trusty clerk.

I remember our starting from home that first morning. There was a real joy in it, while we felt that we were going for the most part at our own charges, and yet at the same time it taxed faith somewhat to do all this and trust everything at home and abroad in the hands of the Master. Wife7 says she remembers well the starting of the pilgrims. It is photographed fully on her mind. While we felt honored of God in being permitted to go, yet in the eyes of many it was rather foolhardiness than faith. What care we now for the scowls the world then gave! Already “the little one has become a thousand” [Isaiah 60:22].

We went in no palace car.8 We stopped by night at no “two-dollar-a-day” house. Our mode of conveyance was an ordinary buggy drawn by two good ponies. It was eighteen miles to our first appointment, which was at Sheldahl [Iowa]. Brother Morris Snider then lived there. Our home was at his house. Our meeting was held in a Swedish church, the only church in the place at that time. Brother Snider was then in the thick of the fight for holiness, as he is still. In the second issue in May of The Highway, he had published,9

We have just started a holiness prayer meeting, and from the tone of the prayers and the testimonies there are a number of souls hungering. Put us on your program.

Our slate for the trip, as it appeared in the paper, reads:

May 15, Swede Church, Sheldahl, Story County.
May 16, 17, 18, Schoolhouse No. 9, Dallas County.
May 22-25, Highland M. E. Church, five miles northwest Anita, Cass County.

We had other appointments before we reached home again. The service at Sheldahl was but thinly attended, for the place itself was only a small, new railroad village, just opened up, and the country around was but thinly settled. We arranged for a future convention, and the next day pushed on our way westward and southwestward.

It was indeed a long, weary day of travel in the sun, and with the poor roads of the country at that time. Our next stop was at Schoolhouse No. 9, in Dallas County. It is about twelve miles from our present Sunnyside home at Dallas Center.10 It was very primitive in those days, but meetings were not so frequent then, and people were quite anxious to come out, busy and unpropitious as the time of the year was. Our coming to this place was through the efforts of Brother W. G. Woodard, a preacher from Illinois, who had to rest on account of his health and had located here on a farm. He now lives at Ladoga, Oklahoma, and the fire still burns in his soul. Our convention lasted in Dallas County for three days. A number were sanctified, and some converted, and a good interest awakened. In a camp-meeting a few years since we met some of the fruits of this meeting, though the settling of the country has changed all the appointments. Beheld from our present outlook, it was indeed “a day of small things” [Zechariah 4:10]; but, by the way, the day of seed sowing is always a day of small things, as compared with the harvest. That meeting eventually put Brother Woodard again in the field and sowed a wide acreage for the coming spiritual interests of many souls.

We… will add some items which will help to picture the condition of things in the central part of the state.11 There was all over a great inquiry about holiness. The public mind had not been poisoned and prejudiced against the work, as it is now, by opposing preachers, fighting churches, and backslidden professors. It was common for calls to come from every direction almost for meetings. Preachers who believed the doctrine were not then afraid to ask holiness evangelists to come and lead a meeting. There were no such rulings in conference as now, “to regulate the work.” Looking over the May files of The Highway:

  • Brother H. C. Laub, of Denison, was writing his first communication to our paper.
  • We were building our first little office, and looking out for a press of our own. Bro. L[aub]12 wrote in favor of the purchase.
  • Brother J. T. Bryant, M[ethodist] E[piscopal] pastor at Paloma, Ill., writes of spiritual needs.
  • Sister M. E. Scott, one of our first sister evangelists, long since gone to her blessed reward, writes of the blessed work in the region of Brookfield, Mo.13
  • U. E. Richeson writes of the condition of things in Texas, making mention of Brother M. L. Haney,14 who had just made a trip to that country.
  • Among the names reported in the issue of May 2 as new members of the Association, that is, those who sent in their names, are:
    • Brother and Sister Sawyer of Burlington,
    • John Daggett of Ames, and
    • Brother J. W. Martin, then of Riverton, Iowa.
  • Brother R. J. Laughlin writes of the establishment of a holiness prayer meeting at the Dobson Schoolhouse in Tama County.
  • S. C. Strattan15 notes victory and a blessed time at the holiness prayer meeting at the house of Brother Bardwell, of Ames.
  • Brother Will S. Smith, who had been sanctified at our Monroe City meeting the fall before, writes of a meeting at Santa Fe, Missouri of a week’s duration, where there were twenty conversions and about the same number of sanctifications.

Glancing along the May issues we see old, well-remembered names, some of whom continue to this day, though many are fallen asleep,16 or dropped out of the work. We note as follows:

  • J. S. Inskip,
  • J. A. Wood,
  • G. D. Watson.
  • Sister F. J. Collins announces the Second West Union camp-meeting, in charge of Brother Patterson and the writer.17

Then there are items sent in by the following:

  • Etta Belden, J. H. Allen, E. A. Welch, T. H. Agnew, M. A. Tucker, Mrs. Belle Moore, Miss M. E. Stambaugh.
  • Brother S. Reid18 writes of the establishment of a holiness prayer meeting at Waco, Texas.
  • G. W. McClure writes from Palmyra, Mo.
  • Brother Harry May had been out with Pastor Feghtly19 on his Ontario charge and had a blessed day, and made arrangements for a convention.
  • Abbie Mills writes of “The Greater Riches.”
  • Beulah Land was then first published and being widely sung, and the words appear in our issue of May 23.20
  • Eva Axford writes from Good Hope, Ill.
  • Ida E. Marsh, from Hannibal, Mo.
  • Emma Snyder from Farmington, Iowa.
  • Sister J. B. Fenn was raising a “dime fund” to “furnish the editorial needs” of our new office.21
  • Sister J. M. Hartsough writes an original hymn for our column on Consecration.
  • Brother W. R. Mathews writes of the Holiness Movement.

All the way along we note that the testimonies and reports are full of good cheer and a conquering faith. We do not find any complaints. Many of our readers will note names of precious memory, and also many who remain until this present day, all on the same old line of labor and work. The camp-meeting announcements were made as early as possible, and were hailed by thousands with great gladness and expectation.

At this time the Banner was the leading weekly paper. Neither the Standard nor the Witness were published as weeklies. The monthly which preceded the Witness, and was in one sense the monthly Witness, then called the Advocate of Holiness, was already established, and a paper which eventually became the Standard was published. Brother Doty was publishing the Christian Harvester, and the Guide to Holiness was the pioneer monthly of the continent, and had a large circulation.22

After the close of the schoolhouse meeting in Dallas County, we immediately pushed on southwest to our appointment in Cass County. It was beautiful weather in May. The prairies were freshly carpeted with the tender green of God’s renewal. The fields were starting with the promise of good harvests. The corn was showing its first tender spears of green, sufficient to mark the rows. The wheat fields were high enough to billow in the wind—waves of living green, like waves of the sea. The dark green of the oat fields seemed to run a race with the wheat fields for the harvesting. The forests, where there were any, were putting on their cleanest and most delicate vestures. By and around a few homes there were shrubbery and young orchards, with an occasional evergreen, as the homes were mostly new or only of a few years’ build.23

The whole scene was inspiring, but we grew tired before our long day’s drive of over fifty miles was completed. Yet we carried warm hearts, and hope lit the whole route with prospects fair. Before sundown we reached the home of Brother Henry McDermot, near Highland Church, about five miles northwest of Anita. We were expected. Arrangements had been made for this meeting more than any other place on our route. One sister, now wife of Rev. J. W. Martin, had driven 114 miles planning and getting things in order. The services were quite well attended. Brother E. G. Woodward was with us the last two days of the meeting. Here we first met Brother J. W. Martin. He had been a pastor on the charge. Here we first met our brother Henry McDermot. These old ties, how they remain unto this day.

Brother J. W. Martin reported the meeting in a future number of the Highway, saying,

While the meeting was not one of thronging crowds and pretentious display, yet the blessed presence and mighty power of the Lord Jesus was very specially manifest throughout the entire occasion.…

We shall ever praise the Lord that He ever sent Bro. Reid and Bro. Hambleton on to help on the cause of Full Salvation in these parts.

The Highland meeting closed Sunday night. Monday our chartered commission again went on its way through long, hard drives in Cass, Audubon and Carroll Counties, halting at Bro. Lombard’s, in Green County, near Maple Grove Church, where we had held meetings the previous winter. The next day we had a blessed prayer meeting in the afternoon, and at night preached in the church and met the glad saints, and those who entered the kingdom in the winter’s meeting.

The day following we drove to a point southeast of Jefferson and southwest of Rippey, for a schoolhouse appointment, where Bro. Potter, of the U[nited] B[rethren] Church, had a charge. The people were tired, and so were the preachers.24 tired that I could scarce keep awake while preaching.…”] We did not get started till late, but the fire was glowing. The folks from near the old Centennial campground, the Winklemans, Myers, Hendersons, Smiths and others, four miles away, came in full force. We had met them the summer before at Clear Lake.25 The tide ran high. But we must let Bro. Hambleton tell the story here. The account is from a report he made to the State Secretary26 a number of years after. His soul was aflame with the same desire to spread the knowledge of holiness that possessed our own spirit. Though a lay member, the true fire burned in his soul. He usually wrote himself “Timothy,” and always referred to me as “Paul” [Acts 16:1-3, etc.], with a bit of subdued Quaker wit he always carried with him. He begins the story of the afternoon before we reached the schoolhouse above-mentioned.

The last afternoon on our way towards Rippey, after a season of silence, each soul pondering over the object of our long journey, and communing with God, Brother Reid said, “We are nearing our journey’s end and have traveled nearly 200 miles in our open conveyance, have spent almost three weeks in the work, souls have been helped and strengthened. The Lord has surely blessed our work; must we stop now?” We both felt there was a great work to be accomplished, but how was it to be done, and who should accomplish it? I think I said, “If this is of the Lord, He will manifest it to us in some way.”

We had a good congregation in the evening.  Brother Reid preached in the power of the Spirit.  As I looked back over the trip it seems as if the Holy Spirit visited him with a special enduement for the closing meeting of our trip, concentrating all the powers of his soul for the great work that was about to begin.  The Lord’s Spirit seemed to settle on every heart and Pentecostal glory filled the room.

The following is from Brother Hambleton’s “Reminiscence,” written for the Highway and Banner in 1892, and continues the account of that meeting:

The first hymn was one of triumph. The prayers that followed were not the prayers of Jacob, but of Israel.27 The Holy Ghost fell upon Bro. Reid as he preached, the very heavens seemed to be opened. God’s presence was felt. Shouts of praise went up from many hearts. Some spoke with new tongues. God was there in power. The meeting was dismissed, ’mid shouts of victory.

Then the saints got together to talk about an organization. I think it was Bro. Bennie Winkleman who suggested a camp at the Centennial campground, near Jefferson, in July. “Amen!” went forth from every heart. The pillar of cloud and of fire was in the camp of Israel. Committees were appointed to make proper arrangements.

The next Highway went forth freighted with glad tidings that a holiness camp-meeting was to be held, and an organization effected. Local papers published it. Saints everywhere were asked to pray that God would bless it. Thanksgiving of praise went up from many hearts, that at last the day was breaking, that light from the day star was to be seen in the east.




  1. The text itself is public domain. The original book, Soul-Help Papers, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's work
  2. These two articles appeared in Reid’s “Beyond the Mississippi” section in Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness 7 March 1901, page 5, and 4 April 1901, page 5. It is in the heading of the second that Reid titles this story “The Making of I.H.A.”; we have opted to re-title it slightly, calling it The Founding of the Iowa Holiness Association.
  3. There were actually four earlier meetings in Iowa of the National Camp-Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness (later, simply “The National Holiness Association”). These were held at:
    • Cedar Rapids, 1873;
    • Cedar Rapids, 1875;
    • Clear Lake, 1877; and,
    • Clear Lake, 1878.
    • Of course, the “editor” of The Highway was none other than the author himself, Isaiah Reid. See the note a little farther below for a brief history of the evolution of that periodical.
    • Oliver Hambleton, the owner of a grocery and produce store in Nevada, Iowa (where Reid lived and printed The Highway), had been sanctified and discipled under Reid’s ministry and was an ardent proponent of entire sanctification.
    • Harry May (“of blessed memory,” as A. M. Kiergan wrote of him), was saved from a rough and “wild frontier life” under the preaching of Evangelist J. T. Patterson in 1877. Also in 1877, after having met at the second National Meeting at Clear Lake, Iowa, Reid and Patterson agreed to join forces, and the summer of 1878 (and, apparently for several years thereafter), the “Patterson-Reid” evangelistic band held camp meetings in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Harry May joined that team the first summer as “a lay worker and helper.” Isaiah personally discipled him in the faith and as an evangelist, saying later, “[Harry May
    • “Wife” — Mary Braden Reid (1840-1918) — is how Isaiah Reid always affectionately referred to his beloved spouse in his writings and even (from the one sermon of his we have transcribed from shorthand) in his preaching. Isaiah and “Wife” were married for fifty-one happy, sacrifice-filled years.
    • For those unfamiliar with this old railroad term, a palace car was a custom-built passenger car. Usually special-ordered by wealthy individuals for their travel comfort (not to mention an ostentatious display of personal wealth), they included sleeping quarters, dining accommodations, and a “living room,” all ornately appointed with carvings, wood inlays, and gilt fixtures. Reid, fairly far down the opposite end of the economic spectrum, is drawing the contrast with a twinkle in his eye.
    • Alas! There are no known extant copies of any of Isaiah Reid’s earlier holiness periodicals, either Highway Papers (the “monthly” he mentions, published 1875-1879), The Highway (1879-1890), or Highway and Banner (1890-1893). Thus this particular discourse on the “Founding” is of special historical interest, because it is an example of the instances when Isaiah would pull down bound volumes of his old periodicals from his office shelves to quote from them and muse over them.
    • Isaiah and Mary Reid in 1899 moved from Des Moines to nearby Dallas Center, Iowa. There they had purchased a small, two-story cottage on a piece of property they immediately named “Sunnyside Place.” For the story behind “Sunnyside” and its fruit (both spiritual and natural!) see the book Sunnyside Papers by Isaiah Reid (edited by Jim and Denise Kerwin; Chesapeake, VA: Finest of the Wheat Publications, 2007).
    • The ellipsis (“…”) indicates an omission. The reader will recall that Isaiah originally wrote this story in two separate articles four weeks apart. Realizing that he did not have sufficient space to finish the entire story, at this point he had originally written, “We cannot in this paper continue our account of this trip, but will…” (Italicized words indicate the omitted phrase.) Since we have the luxury of combining the two articles into one, we have set this phrase aside.
    • The name is provided and assumed from the immediately preceding context.
    • The American Holiness Movement, in general, and the Iowa Holiness Association under Reid in particular, were very open and encouraging to the ministries of female pastors and evangelists. (Considering the enormous influence and fruit of the ministries of Phoebe Worrall Palmer, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, her sister, Sarah Worrall Lankford, how could the movement believe otherwise!?) They believed that, when the Holy Spirit fell, in the words of the Prophet Joel, “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy.”
    • Milton Lorenzo Haney and Isaiah Reid struck up a fast friendship in 1877 or perhaps even earlier. Haney, though his ministry was based out of Illinois, was an ardent supporter and booster of the Iowa Holiness Association, and served for many years as one of its officers.
    • Simon Cope Strattan was “only” a layman, a sorghum mill owner in Ames, Iowa. Happily, Isaiah Reid never saw anyone as “only a layman.” (See the notes on Harry May and Oliver Hambleton above.) Strattan was recognized as an IHA-certified evangelist for many years, and, despite being “only” a layman, held evangelistic campaigns from Indiana to Oregon. He also involved his daughter, Mertie May, as a song evangelist in his meetings when she was old enough to travel with him.
    • The allusion is to Paul’s words about the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:6
    • The “Patterson-Reid Band” (see note above) ministered together for the first time in the schoolhouse in the hamlet of West Union, Schuyler County, Illinois. Thus it was that Reid was fully inaugurated into the camp-meeting circuit, setting out on his life as an evangelist. Although it could be said that, in a sense, he “apprenticed” himself to J. T. Patterson in this relationship, as the summer progressed, a subtlety similar to one in the Book of Acts began to replay itself. From Acts 11:30 through 13:7, the “team phrase” encountered is “Barnabas and Saul” (in that order). But from Acts 13:42 until the team breaks up in Acts 15:36-41, the order reverses to “Paul (with the name change) and Barnabas” (with three exceptions), with Paul assuming the role of chief preacher. Similarly (but without the breakup), by the time the Patterson-Reid band had ministered in Illinois a few weeks, and then crossed the Mississippi to Hannibal, Missouri, eyewitness reports tell us that it was Reid who usually did the preaching, with Patterson giving the altar calls. Nevertheless, Reid and Patterson never saw a need to change the band’s name, and they teamed up again in the summer of 1879 to minister in West Union and numerous other places.
    • This might well have been one of Isaiah’s “blood” brothers, Samuel Reid, who owned a dry-goods store in McCallsburg, Iowa not far from Nevada, Isaiah’s ministry center. However, it is difficult to place Samuel in Texas at this time, so this association is a surmise on the part of the editor. Samuel was an active layman, and, along with at least one other brother, Robertson, professed to have been wholly sanctified.
    • Like Squire Rice (the man who gave Isaiah Reid a book on sanctification in January 1873), Methodist pastor Jacob Feghtly was used of God in bringing Reid into the experience of entire sanctification. Feghtly was the Methodist Episcopal minister assigned to the Nevada M. E. Church during the years 1872-1873. He accompanied Isaiah Reid to the June 1873 national holiness camp meeting at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The rest,” as they say, “is history.”
    • Edgar Page Stites (alias Edgar Page) first published Beulah Land just three years before, in 1876.
    • Just so that readers are clear on the point, we note that the various references to an “office” in this piece are to the first iteration of what would be called The Highway Office. The Highway was the name given to the second incarnation of Isaiah’s holiness periodical, when it transitioned from Highway Papers (the original, monthly version of the paper) to its smaller weekly format. The Highway Office seems to have undergone several expansions, having started off on the Reids’ property (the northwest corner of the intersection of modern-day J Avenue and 8th Street in Nevada, Iowa). The office eventually wound up in a one-story building on the east side of what is today the 1100 block of 6th Street, the “Main Street” (so to speak, though it was never called that) of Nevada.
    • The first of the two original articles ends at this point.
    • This is one of the many nature descriptions that pepper Reid’s writings. He wrote many articles focusing on God’s “first book” of nature. A collection of these has been issued in the book Sunnyside Papers. (See note above.)
    • Reid later recalled of the final meeting of this May 1879 itinerary that “at the close… I was [so
    • That is, at the second “National” holiness camp meeting at Clear Lake, Iowa in 1878. See endnote above.
    • Reid means the State Secretary of the Iowa Holiness Association.
    • That is to say, the praying was heartfelt and mighty, akin to Jacob’s wrestling and intercession with God, because of which God renamed him Israel, that is “Prince with God.” See Genesis 32:24-32 and Hosea 12:3-5.
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