Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Faith on the Frontier

The history of the First Presbyterian Chuch of Iowa City reveals that one of their leaders had served as a missionary and church founder along the northern border of Missouri where he preached against the practices of the infidels who inhabited the region.

Gamaliel Carter Beaman, born in Worcester, Massachusetts on March 20, 1799 died in Keosauqua on October 26, 1875 at the age of 76 years. He began his ministry while in his 20s and graduated from Andover Theological Seminary in the Massachusetts town of Newton, in 1831.

The suicide of one neighbor and drowning of another led him to what he believed was his calling into the service for Jesus Christ. Adopting the ways of his new Master, he set out by the grace of God to adhere to the rules of life which are taught in the scriptures, and many of these behavior patterns became fixed habits as he preached the gospel message. Although the Bible does not address the use of tobacco specifically, he decided that chewing or smoking the addicting plant in any form was against the teachings of the Master because it was filthy, offensive, expensive and injurious to the health... thus he quit using the substance once and forever and suggested that others do likewise.

After leaving the seminary, he became a missionary which brought him to the far away state of Iowa in 1846 by way of Chillicothe, Ohio where as a minister he distributed tracts, testaments and bibles. He stopped in Montrose for a while, lived in a small log cabin and preached across the river in the city of Nauvoo. Meanwhile, he organized churches near and along the Des Moines River where he had his hands full.

His gospel message met with severe opposition, not as much from Mormonism but rather as a result of the teachings of Abner Kneeland who authored a Pahtheistic paper. Pantheism in itself is a belief that nature and God are one and the same, but splintering from it are the concepts and ideas against any form of organized religion, as the people who claimed to follow Kneeland seemed unswerving in their sinful defiance. According to Beaman, many of the infidels desecrated the Sabbath advocating horse racing, drinking, fighting, swearing and gambling all of which were being practiced in defiance of Christian thinking.

When the Battle of Athens raged across the river in Missouri and touched Iowa at Croton, Beaman continued his fight for biblical principles and beliefs as the Confederate bullets whizzed over his head. At his funeral in Keosauqua it was said by Dr. W. G. Craig that Reverend Beaman was indeed "one of the soldiers of the cross, and he stood during his entire ministerial life on the high places of the field and in the forefront of the battle."

As the morals of others around us slip into decay, we can be thankful that fortunately the message of the cross has not changed in 2000 years. As we are able to look back at the history of our region, we can also thank people like preacher G. C. Beaman who fought all kinds of hardship and animosity to bring Christian teachings to the frontier.

(material from the Presbyterian Library submitted to me by reader Dwight Miller of Iowa City)

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