Golden Lampstands of Iowa - Manchester


The saints of God, who gather to the worthy name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Manchester assembly, trace with wonder and amazement, and with joy and thanksgiving, the wonderful workings of God through the Holy Spirit, as the glorious Gospel of His grace was brought to this part of Iowa, and a few souls were saved and eventually the little lamp-stand established. We praise God for His goodness in preserving the testimony for these sixty-four years, and we look solely to Him that the assembly will continue to flourish until the "rapture," when we shall rise to meet our glorious Lord in the air.

It all began back near the turn of the century, probably in the late 1890's, when God moved a young man, by the name of Charles Hoehier, to leave his home in Germany and come to the United States. This young man came to North Dakota and found work on a farm. It was not just a mere coincidence, we are persuaded, but by the hand of God that the farmer who gave him a job was a Christian. Day after day, as Charles Hoehler washed his hands and face at the washstand, he was caused to read a verse from the Word of God which hung above the washstand. It read, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God." (Psalms 9:17) At first, it didn't bother him much, but eventually, the Holy Spirit convicted him that he was one of the wicked, a sinner who had forgotten God, and he was saved by God's grace, washed in the blood of the Lamb. He continued working, saving his wages during the summer months, and then one winter, came to Iowa, to the Dubuque area, where he looked for a place where he could have some meetings to preach the Gospel. While walking along the road one day, he was offered a ride in a bobsled by a farmer, who happened along. He inquired of the farmer if he knew of a place that he could have to conduct some Gospel meetings. The farmer was the director of one of the rural schools, and he gave him permission to use the school building.

Among those living in that area, who went to the meetings and were saved, were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Herman and Mr. and Mrs. John Haltmeyer. Mrs. Herman attended the meetings, and when she came home she said to Charlie, "That man doesn't preach like our preacher does." Charlie replied, "Well, if he doesn't, then he doesn't preach right." So, he went to hear for himself, and he was soon saved.

A few years later, the Hermans and the Haltmeyers both moved from the Dubuque area to farms just two or three miles from Manchester, in what is known as the "Coffins Grove" area. Their farms were just a mile apart, and near by was a brick country schoolhouse. It was in this building that the Gospel was first preached, in the early 1900's, by different evangelists who came through the area, and souls were reached and saved.

Among those living in this area was the Oscar Smith family. In 1905 Oscar bought 100 apple trees for $5.00, and planted them on fifteen acres of his land. He was told he was crazy to think that the trees would grow there, but he was not to be swayed. Today the orchard is still in existence and producing fruit.

Oscar was reared in a religious home, so when their first two daughters were born they were "baptized". In 1909, they were blessed with a baby son. By this time a great change had taken place in their home. Mrs. Smith (Lizzie) had attended Gospel meetings in the brick schoolhouse and had gotten saved. So, when the time for the baby to be baptized came, she said she did not want him baptized.

In 1909, Katherine Haltmeyer, daughter of the John Haltmeyers, went to Cedar Falls to attend college, in preparation for teaching in the rural schools. Prior to this, in March of 1908, the Haltmeyers and the Cocking family were invited to a social gathering in the neighborhood, where Katherine and Louis Cocking met for the first time. Louis said that for him, it was love at first sight. He was 21 and Katherine was 16. In August they began "keeping company," as was the language of those early days. However, the Lord was working, as the hymn writer sars

God moves In a mysterious way His wonders to per form;

He plants His footsteps on the sea, Arid rides upon the storm."

In 1909, when Katherine went to Cedar Falls, she was frequently entertained in the home of Mr. and Mrs. E.G. Matthews. They were saved, and Mr. Matthews often preached the gospel on the street. As a result of her mother's testimony and the help of Mr. Matthews, Katherine was saved January 16, 1910. The Holy Spirit used the words of I Peter 3:18, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God," to bring peace to her soul.

Louis Cocking was a member of a sectarian group, seeking to live an upright life, professing to be a Christian. He and Katherine were married in the home of her parents on March 7, 1911, but after Katherine professed to be saved, Louis began to feel uncertain about his salvation.

In the year 1919, Mr. A.N. O'Brien came to Manchester and pitched a tent, and he faithfully proclaimed the gospel. Louis was further awakened to his need in the spring of 1919, when Oliver Smith spoke on Cain and Abel at a meeting in the yard of Mrs. Davis. For the first time, he realized the necessity of a "blood offering" rather than the offering of a good religious life. They had two small children, Roger and Cecil, and, even though it was a busy season, they drove a horse and buggy to the meetings every night. After weeks of soul trouble, he was saved one morning, while milking the cows, through Isaiah 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Louis often remarked that he went in at the first "all," and came out at the last "all." Brother Cocking was the correspondent of the assembly for about thirty years, until they moved to make their home in Colorado. He went to be with the Lord December 29, 1969.

In the year 1913, a man by the name of Tom Olson came through Iowa, traveling by foot, preaching the Gospel as he went. He had meetings in the Coffins Grove area, and, again, the Lord blessed His word, and a few souls were saved. Among those that were saved at that time, were Oscar Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Kimball and Mr. William Herman. We remember Mrs. Kimball telling us of her conversion in the later years of her life, while we visited her. After going through much soul trouble, she told how her joy was so great that, while doing her daily chores, she found herself pumping water in the coal pail and filling the water pail with coal.

In 1914, Mr. Samuel Keller came to the area for gospel meetings, and others in the area were saved. Among these were Silas Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Willie Tharp. The Smiths lived near the apple orchard, about a mile from the brick school. Silas was saved January 15, 1914, sitting in a chair in the bedroom. Mrs. Smith was not much concerned, but tells that he woke her up and told her he was saved. "Although," she says, "I don't remember it, but he said he did." The Lord is good, and Mrs. Smith got saved in December 1914.

Later, on May 15, 1916, Mrs. Carl Foster (Pearl) was reached and saved. She was Mrs. Smith's sister and lived five miles south of Winthrop.

During the years between 1913 and 1920, a number of preachers visited in the vicinity, and souls were reached and saved. The gospel preachers were, Charles Hoeler, Tom Olson, A.N. O'Brien, Fred Hillis, William Grierson, Oliver Smith, W.W. White, and no doubt others.

In the spring of 1920, Mr. Fred Hillis and Mr. Willie Grierson began a series of Gospel meetings in the North Manchester Union Church building, and continued for six weeks. It was while this series of meet-

ings was in progress that the little group of thirteen believers, who had been saved and baptized, gathered for the first time, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Willie Tharp, to remember the Lord. This was on the Lord's Day, May 9, 1920, and those present on that occasion were: Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Silas Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Willie Tharp, Mrs. John Haltmeyer, Mrs. Louis Cocking, Mrs. Fred Kimball, Mrs. Carl Foster, Mrs. Fred Arduser, Miss Flossie Parratt and Miss Ruth Parratt. Also present were the evangelists Mr. Hillis and Mr. Grierson, and two visitors from Waterloo, Mr. E.G. Mathews and Mr. Andrew Barr. Today, sixty four years later, only two of the original thirteen are living. They are Mrs. Katherine Cocking, who is 92 years of age and resides at Linn Manor Care Center, and Mrs. Carrie Smith, 90 years of age, and also a resident of Linn Manor Care Center.

Thus, the little lampstand was planted, and through the years the Lord has continued to bless His word in salvation, and preserved His people and the testimony unto His name.

After the formation of the assembly, the Christians continued to meet in various homes, in the North Manchester Church building and, at one time, above one of the business establishments downtown. Other servants of the Lord began to come, such as O.E. McGee, J.J. Rouse, Fred Watson, William Ray, Fred Mehl and others. The Gospel was faithfully proclaimed from time to time, and the assembly grew.

In 1922, Oliver Smith preached the gospel, at which time others were saved. One of these was Mrs. Adam Hilsenbeck, a sister with whom we often visited in her last years before the Lord took her home. She had a large family and always took pride in her good works; a good wife, a good mother and a good neighbor. She had heard the Gospel preached on the street, by our brother Oliver Smith, that Salvation was "not of works," but "By grace we are saved." She often related her conversion in these words, "I had my little bundle of 'good works' tied on a stick over my shoulder, hoping this would take me to heaven. Mr. Smith came to see me and read that verse in Isaiah 64, 'All our righteousness are as filthy rags,' and there went all my hopes of heaven. I was bringing to God my "filthy rags." When we visited her, she always wanted us to sing "I Must Needs Go Home by the Way of the Cross."

Others saved in meetings in these years were Mr. and Mrs. Tom Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. George Roberts, florence and Hazel Noyes, (sisters of Ruth Roberts), Eugene and Alma Maiers, Jim and Ella Smith, Charlie and Millie Smith, Mrs. Lily Smith and, no doubt, others.

George Roberts had come to the United States from France and could neither read nor write English. After he heard the Gospel and was saved, he taught himself to read and write the English language. Our dear brother could read better than some who had gone to school, and his penmanship was excellent. George was a barber by trade, who gave "butch haircuts" to the French military during World War I, only they called them "brush haircuts," or "short pompadours." George had a big heart, loved the Lord's people and God's assembly, and seemed to be able to accomplish anything he set his heart to do.

In 1924, during Gospel meetings by Oliver Smith, others were reached by God's grace and brought out of the denominations into the assembly. It was at this time that Dan Lubben, Ben Lubben and their sister, Zena (Mrs. Clifton Legg) were saved. In later years, when the Louis Cockings moved to Colorado, our brother Dan became correspondent of the assembly, and he continued until his age and health caused him to gave it up. We recall brother Dan, many times relating his conversion. Brother Oliver Smith had made the remark that the same sun that softens butter, hardens clay, and it smote him, because he couldn't seem to saved. He thought, perhaps, the Word of God was going to harden heart. One day, while he was in the barn, he spoke out loud, saying "Well, I guess I'll just have to go to hell." The devil impressed his thoughts with, "You'd better be quiet, or someone might hear you." Dan replied out loud again, "I don't care who hears me. I want to be saved!" His brother Martin, was at the other end of the cow barn, and he said to Dan, "Jesus said, 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' " Dan looked at his brother and said, "I'll come to Jesus right now," and he was saved right there.

On April 29, 1929 the brethren purchased the lot on the corner of Union and Wayne streets, and the Gospel hall was built. By October 6th, the hall was finished, and was opened with an all day meeting, having meals served in the basement by the sisters. Ministering brethren present for that occasion were Mr. Oliver Smith of Waterloo, Iowa, and Mr. William Ray of Portland, Oregon.

The first Bible Conference was held June 7th and 8th, 1930, in the Gospel Hall. A few years later the conference was held in the Grange building. Later still, the conference meetings were held in the old high school auditorium, just a block from the hall, and the meals were served in the Gospel Hall. After a few years, the hall had a kitchen and classroom for Sunday School added on the west end. As the conference gatherings have continued to grow, they are now held in the Middle School Auditorium, with meals served in the school dining hall.

In 193Z, Oliver Smith held a series of Gospel meetings in what was known as the Copperhead School, south of Manchester. Mrs. Raymond Hippenhammer (formerly Edna Dempster, from Manchester) wrote saying, "I remember the day that Oliver Smith came to the Copperhead School, which I was attending, to ask permission of the teacher to use the schoolhouse to conduct Gospel meetings in the evenings. The teacher said it would be alright with her providing he would agree to leave the place clean and in order. Then, Oliver Smith invited all the children to come and asked all of us to tell our parents to come, also. As he left, and the door closed behind him, the teacher waved her hand and said, "Good bye, 'holy roller',"

Edna and her brothers, Edwin and Howard, went to the meetings and found them so interesting, they hated to miss a night. The Lord had prepared their hearts earlier, when a baby brother had died, and they were told he had gone to heaven. Now, the many questions they had about death, God, heaven and hell were being answered.

Mr. Smith used the "Two Roads and Two Destinies" chart, and when William Dempster heard from his children and neighbors about getting saved, he decided that he had better go and find out what his children were getting into. At the very first meeting he realized that he was on the wrong road. Oliver would stop in for short visits, and ask, "Are you saved, yet?" Then, when he left he would say, "See you tonight." After much soul trouble Mr. Dempster was saved while he and Mr. Smith sat at the dining room table, through the words of Isaiah 53.6.

Mrs. Dempster got tired of Mr. Smith always asking "Are you saved yet?" So, one day she answered, "Yes, " and then she was more troubled to think that she had lied - and to a preacher, too. She was saved one day in the garden as she found herself singing the words of a hymn, "How Much I Owe." This was a hymn that Mr. Smith often sang when he would sit down to their piano and play. The words became real to her soul, and she trusted Christ there in the garden.

Twenty-six professed to be saved during that series of meetings, which began in January and continued three or four months. Nineteen of these were baptized one Sunday afternoon, May 15, 1932, in the Maquoketa River at Bailey's Ford.

In 1932, Oliver Smith was having a series of meetings in Garnavillo. Ben Lubben took some of the Gentz family to the meetings, and thus the Gospel message and salvation came into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Gentz. Their family was all reached and saved. This included Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Gentz, their daughter, Florence (Mrs. Dan Lubben), Gilbert and Rueben Gentz. Their oldest daughter, Amanda, was married to Thomas Welch and lived at Clinton. Tom was saved at that time during the first Gospel meeting he ever went to. He said he always knew there was something lacking in his life. Amanda was saved later, in 1934, and at that time Tom had never given up smoking. One day she said to him, "If you are saved, you'd get rid of those things." So, he went to the kitchen range, lifted the lid, dropped them in, and that was the end of them.

Over the years, and through many series of Gospel meetings, many of the children of those saved in the early 1900's were also saved, baptized, and brought into the assembly.

Oliver Smith held meetings south of Manchester, towards Marion, Iowa. Meetings were first held in Viola, and then in a rural schoolhouse, and several were saved. As Manchester was the nearest assembly at that time, these new converts were baptized and received into fellowship here. In the 1960's there were forty to fifty children in the Sunday School, and we considered enlarging the hall. But, eventually those in the area around Marion and Cedar Rapids, where some lived, began having a Gospel meeting on Sunday nights and a prayer meeting during the week. In time, there were enough Christians to form an assembly, so they began to break bread, and then built a new hall in Marion.

Presently, in 1985, there are 57 in fellowship in the assembly at Manchester. We do, indeed, praise the Lord for His tender mercies and all His wondrous ways of grace. The longing of our hearts is that all those who, through the years have known the Gospel, but are still on the outside of Mercy's door, will yet be gathered in. Our God is able, and we look to Him in all our need.

- C. F. Foster