Tour.—Meeting at Danville.—Running against a Camp-Meeting.—Wins.—Methodist
Cousin.—Number of Additions during Summer.
As soon as school closed (June, 1854), the Doctor left home on his
preaching tour. Bro. T. M. Allen (letter to Harbinger) says:
"Aug. 14.-This morning I left Danville, the county seat of
Montgomery county, and reached home this evening. Bro. W. H. Hopson, of
Palmyra, had commenced a meeting Friday night.
"I joined him the following day, and continued until
Wednesday night, up to which time there had been ten confessions. Bro.
Greenup Jackman was present part of the time, and Bro. S. Jones, of
Fulton, came Wednesday evening. He and Bro. Hopson remained to continue
the meeting for one or two days longer. It was the first time we had ever
had anything like a hearing in Danville, and a favorable result far
exceeded our most sanguine expectations.
"The Methodists were conducting a camp-meeting near town at
the same time, and had long been in the ascendant. Yet we had large
congregations day and night, and the interest was increasing up to the
time of my leaving."
This meeting was a remarkable one in many respects. Upon the
Doctor's arrival he found the church he had expected to get, closed
against him. It was thought best by some that he should give up holding
the meeting. He told them, no, he would not. He had come to hold a meeting
at Danville, and, the Lord willing, he would hold it. He had some cousins
who were not in the
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church, and they and their friends among the young men said they would do
all they could to aid him.
He told them he would preach in the court-house. They looked
a little perplexed, but he insisted, and they all went over to see what
could be done.
The Doctor has often since laughed over that day's work. They
found the door open, and some porkers quietly snoozing the noontide away.
In the corners spiders were weaving their silken webs undisturbed.
Blue-bottles were buzzing everywhere. The brick floor was covered with
dirt to the depth of several inches. From the walls hung festoons of dried
cedar, left from Christmas festivities. The people were so peaceable they
had no use for a court-house.
The outlook was not inviting, but willing hands soon
transformed it into a clean room, and by next evening it was seated with
plank and ready for occupancy. Rustic chandeliers were made of pieces of
wood crossed and suspended from the ceiling, while tin sconces flashed the
light from lamps on the walls.
When all was ready, the voting men asked the Doctor what they
could do to help him get a congregation. "It will be hard work to run
against a big camp-meeting, but we will stand by you."
He told them to rally all their friends and go out to the
camp-meeting, and stay all day: "Talk to all you can influence, and get
them to come in and hear me at night. If you will get them here, I will
The young men rode out that evening, and at night the
court-house was well filled with young ladies and gentlemen, most of whom
looked upon the whole thing as a frolic.
With full houses at night and increasing interest, he
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preached on till Sunday, Bro. Allen joining him Sunday, and assisting by
his wonderful exhortations.
By this time the audience had outgrown the house, and the
young men had made a large arbor at the side of the house and taken out
the windows, so that all might hear. By church time the house and yard
were full of people who had come to hear what the babbler had to say. He
made an appointment for Monday morning and night; the interest increased.
Bro. Allen left Wednesday, and Bros. Jackman and Jones held up his hands
till Saturday morning, when they left.
He continued several days longer, and closed with about
thirty-five additions. Twenty persons made the confession the day before
the meeting ended.
An amusing incident occurred during the meeting. A relative
of Dr. Hopson's, and her husband, were good, pious Methodists. They were
in attendance on the camp-meeting when the Doctor commenced his meeting,
but the lady thought it would never do to let Cousin Winthrop come to
Danville, and she not hear him one time; but her husband felt under no
special obligations, so he dropped her at the court-house and went on to
camp-meeting. She heard every word of the sermon, and was not
satisfied-she wanted to hear more. The third sermon she heard she made the
confession, to the surprise of everybody.
It cost her a severe struggle, knowing that her husband would
be very angry with her; but she braved all for Christ's sake. Her husband
was very bitter, but could not refuse to come to see her baptized, for he
loved her tenderly, and was a good husband. She was immersed on Saturday.
The camp-meeting had closed, and the Doctor made a special request that
all should be
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present the following day who had been baptized during the meeting.
Of course the gentleman had to bring his newlyconverted wife
again. The Doctor preached one of his characteristic sermons on the
"Setting up of the Kingdom," closing with a warm appeal. Our friend was on
the back seat just inside the house, but the song was not finished before
the Doctor saw him coming struggling through the crowd, over benches, the
best way he could. The Doctor met him, and took his hand; eight or ten
followed, and we came near having a camp-meeting scene in the court-house.
I never witnessed a happier meeting. Everybody shook hands with everybody
else, while tears ran down the cheeks of many who still turned a deaf ear
to the gospel story.
Dr. Hopson will never forget those noble young men who
contributed so much to the success of the meeting; and away up high on the
heart's tablet stand the names of Knox and Saulsbury.
His first meeting in June, 1854, was at Frankford, where he
had 30 additions; next, Paynesville, 43; Louisiana, 7 ; Louisville, 31;
Middletown, 25; New London, 16; Shelbyville, 35; Bloomington, 20;
Danville, 35. Total, 243.
After three months' hard work, he returned, to enter at once
upon his school duties.
But one interruption occurred in all our school life in
Palmyra that gave us any trouble. In 1857 the small-pox broke out in town,
and we had to close the school in May instead of June. The Doctor
deputized me to take the young lady boarders home, who were from St.
Louis, Ralls and Pike counties, and he would go with those who lived in
Clark, Lewis, and Warsaw,
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Illinois. He left Saturday, to take the packet at Marion City, and I left
on the cars for Hannibal with the young ladies committed to my care.
Dr. Hopson told me to tell Dr. Morton he would come down on
the Sunday evening packet from Keokuk, and would preach for him Sunday
After I had disposed of my various charges, I went to the
home of Bro. John Smith, father-in-law of Bro. David Morton, to remain
during my visit. And now comes one of the strangest experiences of my
life, one for which I do not pretend to account.
I retired at the usual hour, after having spent one of
the most delightful evenings of my life, with the families of Brethren
Smith and Morton. I never felt happier or more cheerful than when I went
to my breakfast. Dr. Morton proposed that I should accompany himself and
children to the Sunday-school. I was delighted, as I knew every member of
the church and most of the Sunday-school scholars.
I had scarcely exchanged greetings with the friends when a
feeling of unaccountable uneasiness came over me, and I burst into tears.
I wept for an hour. I knew no cause for it, and felt ashamed of my want of
control. I left the house, and went to a friend's near by and washed my
face, and returned to church. In a few minutes I commenced to weep again
and never stopped until church was nearly over. We returned to Bro.
Smith's, and by the time dinner was announced I could smile at my
apparently foolish conduct. After I was seated at the table I began to
tell those who were not at church of my singular behavior, but before I
was through I burst into another paroxysm of tears. I left the table
deeply mortified, and seated myself in the family room.
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Sister Lizzie Smith followed me and begged me to tell her what the matter
was. I could not tell her, for I was as ignorant as she was.
I heard the whistle of the packet and knew the Doctor would
be with me in a few minutes, and felt heartily ashamed to meet him with
such signs of distress on my face. While I was endeavoring to dry my eyes,
Miss Lizzie glanced out the window and exclaimed: "Who in the world is
that coming in at our gate? What a singular looking man!" I looked up,
and, notwithstanding his odd masquerade, recognized Dr. Hopson. He had on
blue jeans pants too short for him, brown woolen socks, embroidered
slippers, a coat too small for him, and a slouch felt hat. He walked as if
weary or sick. I met him at the door and shed the remnant of my tears with
my arms around him.
When I became quiet enough for him to account for his strange
costume, we learned that at the moment I was so strangely affected in the
morning, he was struggling for his life in the rapids at Keokuk.
The packet reached Keokuk too late the evening before for him
to take the pupil to Hamilton, and had to wait till morning. He was unable
at the early hour he wanted to cross to get a large skiff, and had to
cross in a canoe. It was a risky undertaking, with three persons in it;
but the owner was a river man and said if the parties would sit still he
could take them safely over, which he did. Just as they were leaving on
the return trip, a man ran down to the river and begged them to take him
across. He said he had left a package of money on the packet and he must
get back; this was his only chance. The owner of the canoe hesitated. He
said it was too
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much load for his boat, but the Doctor said he thought they could make it
if both would be quiet.
Just as they were nearing the Iowa shore a small steamer came
out from below the packet and headed up the river. This threw them below
where they were to land, and the swift current swept the canoe with its
living freight under the bow of the boat. The great wheel was already
slowly revolving, and the captain was only waiting the Doctor's return to
leave the wharf. As the boat went under, a deck hand threw a large rope,
which fell in a coil round the Doctor, who went under first. The man in
the other end of the boat sprang up and caught one of the fenders which
projected below the guards, and so soon as that end was lightened, the
boat turned over, throwing the Doctor into the swift, rushing current. The
rope was swept beyond his reach, and he was left to struggle out as best
He said it was about eight feet out to a fender and ten
to the wheel. His only safety was in reaching the first before going under
the last. He said he thought of his wife, child and mother, and a great
cry went up from his heart to God for strength. Placing his feet against
the bow of the boat, he sprang forward towards his only means of rescue.
Fortunately he reached it, and was soon drawn on board, thoroughly
exhausted. He was unable to stand for some time.
I shall always believe that the same passionate cry for
help that ascended to heaven that morning must have reached my heart and
wrung from its depths those bitter, blinding tears, and from that hour I
realized how closely our lives were knit together. What message did his
soul send to mine to say, "He whom you love is in deadly peril?" Explain
it who can.
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The officers of the boat furnished him with the best the largest of them
had, and his own clothes followed him in a few minutes, and were ready for
him by the time the bell rang for night meeting. He was a little weak, but
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