Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Religion is a very powerful force that can change a person’s moral nature. When Daniel Lane excelled over several who were using profanity in their speech, one of his shocked friends exclaimed "Now Dan! Quit that!"

Cut to the quick, and deeply moved by the rebuke, Daniel resolved to become a follower of Jesus Christ, whose name he had been denying and using so loosely. This turning point at age 16 was the real key to his future. Soon, he united with the Congregational Church.

Left orphan by his parents and plagued with poor health, Lane was reared by an uncle and his wife. Thought to have consumption, he was told at Brighton Academy that he wouldn’t live beyond his second year of college. Nevertheless, he entered Bowdoin College. The critical deadline passed, and Daniel Lane graduated in 1838 at age 25.

While teaching in Freeport, Maine he met his future wife Elizabeth, the daughter of a sea captain named David Staples. He taught English and languages at North Yarmouth Academy, then completed a three-year course at Andover Theological Seminary in 1843.

By this time he was pale, emaciated, and friends whispered that if he lived he would never be well. He suffered from a perpetual form of dyspepsia, a chronic gastric condition sometimes related to digestive ulcers, gallbladder disease, and recurring appendicitis.

Deeply pondering his physical condition during the graduation ceremony, he abandoned his long-cherished plan to become a New England minister in favor of missionary work in the west. Rugged frontier life might counteract his ailment, because the great self-denial necessary for success would strengthen his spiritual character.

As he formulated a plan, he prayed, "May I be found in the right place, doing the right work! Prepare me for it and make me willing to enter upon it!" A member of his graduating class quickly joined him and recruited ten others as prospective home missionaries. The twelve chose Iowa Territory and became known as "The Iowa Band."

Before the men ventured west, Daniel and Elizabeth were married September 9, 1843. When nine members of the band including Lane began their journey, a Wisconsin agent who was one of the people financing the band, ignorantly tried to discourage them by saying, "Iowa will never amount to much, as it has only a narrow strip of good land along the Mississippi, beyond which is the Great American Desert."

Continuing their trek, they were surprised to find a new, awesome, inspiring, wonderful wilderness of trees, streams, and rolling meadows where they could get meals for a bit (half a quarter, or twelve and one-half cents.) They arrived at Denmark in Lee County, on October 25, 1843.

This was a frontier mecca for Congregationalist missionaries. Soon after exploring the Black Hawk Purchase in 1836, Rev. Asa Turner founded a colony of New England people in Denmark, established a Congregational church, and became pastor in 1838. From this seed, fourteen churches had been organized by the time the Iowa Band arrived. On November 5, 1843 seven members of the band (including Lane) were ordained and dispersed to their new appointed fields of labor.

At Hadden’s school house, Reverend Lane came face to face with the challenging work God had chosen him to perform, as he preached his first sermon in Keosauqua on November 12. With two rooms to themselves, Brother Lane and his wife boarded with the Hadden family.

Presbyterians made up this first congregation, but gradually many agreed with him spiritually, and his strong Congregationalist beliefs led several to join him in establishing the first Congregational Church in Keosauqua in November, 1844. The first five members were Moses Root and wife, Comfort Barnes and wife, and Mrs. Lane. Hadden, who had been instrumental in bringing the Lanes to Keosauqua remained Presbyterian and did not subscribe to Congregationalism for several years.

It was improperly said that Hadden built the first church in Keosauqua in 1840. After all, the Methodists formed the first church group taught by a circuit preacher back in 1837.

However, Rev. Lane was the first resident minister in Keosauqua and was instrumental in erecting the first real church building. Early Methodists met in stores and people’s homes, and Hadden’s building in 1840 was only a small house intended to be rented for school purposes. Ministers of several denominations preached in the structure always known as "Hadden’s school house" and never referred to as a church.

During the winter of 1845-1846, Lane returned to Maine to recuperate from malaria that he contracted in Keosauqua. While in Maine, he wasted no opportunities to preach, and brought several people to Christ including Lowell Valentine, who followed Lane back to Keosauqua and eventually became Superintendent of the Congregational Sunday School.

Daniel Lane was better known for his academy, which he operated in the Des Moines House for three years before he accepted employment at Iowa College. He was promoted to chair the mental and moral science department, but the college in Davenport closed in 1858 and moved to Grinnell. Judge Wright and other prominent Keosauqua people solicited Lane to return and enlisted his services to teach in Keosauqua’s second academy, conducted in the three-room basement of the Methodist Church. Within two years after Lane’s return, the average number of attending scholars reached 70.

Lane loved his country, strongly supporting the Union, and devoted Friday afternoons to literary exercises which took on a patriotic character. Keosauqua’s glee club made up partially of Lane’s students, sang at rallies for recruits all over southeast Iowa and helped raise the patriotism levels of many young men to the point of enlistment.

Illness forced Daniel to quit teaching in 1862, but he continued his ministry. In 1872 he raised funds for Iowa College, and from Oskaloosa undertook pastoral charges at churches, where he preached for short periods until a regular minister was installed. In this capacity he was at Eddyville for six months, then at Keosauqua for three. His 34 years of active labor as an educator and/or minister included 21 years as pastor of churches in Iowa, and about 7 combined years of operating the two academies in Keosauqua.

In old age, he and Elizabeth yearned for the land of their youth, so they returned to Freeport, Maine in 1882. This man labored long and successfully for God in spite of continuous health problems. Contrary to the dark prophecy of his college physician, Lane died on April 3, 1890 at the age of 77.

(from Annals of Iowa, April 1915-April 1921, pp. 283-306.)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick