Golden Lampstands of Iowa - Hitesville

In the summer of 1925, Mr. Oliver G. Smith was holding tent meetings in Aplington, Iowa. During the time of this series, he noticed a church building six miles north and one mile east of Aplington. In earlier years many by the name of Hites lived in this area, so the place became known as "Hitesville." Located there, was a church and cemetery, with a post office nearby. Later, when the Northwestern Railroad came to the small town of Kesley, Iowa, laying two miles southwest, the post office was moved there. Only the church and cemetery remained. This church building was owned by the "United Brethren" denomination, who only used it for a meeting once a month. One summer day Mr. Smith stopped to visit John DeVries, who at the time was not saved, and asked him to go along with him to look over the building. It was rather quaint, with its gaslights, and it was well cared for. Some days later, Mr. Smith asked George Uhlenhopp to go with him to see the trustees of the church, with whom George was well acquainted. The trustees were Lawrence Christopherson, Ed Uhlenhopp, Jake Uhlenhopp and Mrs. John McLaren. They all agreed that Mr. Smith could have the use of the building for gospel meetings.
The following Spring, on March 24, 1926, meetings began with an interest so great that they continued for nearly a year. The meetings were held nightly, except Monday and Saturday nights. Monday was known as "wash day." Washing clothes was much more work in those days, as the materials were different, and washing machines were far less efficient than they are today. Often, the washer was run by a push and pull on a long handle, as electricity was not prevalent. This was most tiring, to say the least.
Often, Mr. Smith would have an evangelist, who was visiting in the area, spend a few nights with him, sharing the evening meeting. At other times, some of the local men who were recently saved told their conversion experience; so the meetings were very interesting. Meetings were also graced with lively singing, coming from the joyful hearts of young Christians dwelling in their first love to Christ.
The east section of the present hall was the original building. In 1926 It was often packed with interested souls. Among these, at times, were the Butler County Attorney, the County Sheriff, the Kesley banker, local farmers and businessmen. They all listened to the sweet strains of the Gospel. The Word of God affected many lives, as the souls of men and women became concerned about those matters that are most important in this life, and for the eternal future. The convictions of sin gripped many hearts of those who struggled for peace with God.
The first one who found peace and salvation in these Hitesville meetings was Leona Christopherson, the trustee's wife. She was saved on April 10, 1926. She said, "At 3:00 in the morning, I saw that Jesus had died for me. I got up and wrote a letter to my mother telling her I had gotten saved." The next one to be saved was Mrs. Ed Uhlenhopp, another trustee's wife.
It was on the evening of June 16, 1926 that Chauncey Yost was saved. Just after the meeting had closed, Chauncey was walking out and shaking hands with the preacher. As he stopped, Mr. Smith spoke with him, showing him a few verses from God's Word. As the answer came clar from the Word of God, Chauncey said, "Oh, I see, I see!" Christ had been his Substitute, for He died for the ungodly. At this point, Lawrence Christopherson, Chauncey's brother-in-law, had witnessed ktM conversion. Lawrence went out of the door and began running
, some 40 rods west of the hall. On his way, he told the Lord, "You can take my wife, my children and all I've got, just so you save me!" Lawrence was saved a while later and began to live a new life for Christ, which he continued until his homecall.
August Brinkman came to the very first meeting at Hitesville, and went home and told his father and mother, "There's a man preaching the real truth at Hitesville." He encouraged them to go, which they did. Later, August's mother found the Savior to be her own, and she proved to be a real trophy of grace, a very happy soul indeed. August's father claimed to have been saved before, and the gospel preached in all clearness verified it to him. August wasn't saved until June 27, 1928. By this time he was married to Anna, who had gone to meetings with him during their courtship days. She was deeply concerned about her welfare for eternity. On April 24, 1928, brethren George Uhlenhopp and Harm Harms were visiting August and Anna. That afternoon, through the reading of Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the Iniquity of us all," Anna found her burden gone, for God said her sins were laid on Jesus. August observed all this, and continued seeking salvation. Then, on June 27, 1928, while he was out in the field cultivating corn with the horses, Anna came out with lunch for August, and said to him, "Think of the love that Jesus had for a sinner like you." Before he came home that afternoon, he, too, had peace and rest through the truth of Romans 5:6, "Christ died for the ungodly." God had said it! August, the ungodly one was who Christ died for.
Mr. Bert Street was the Northwestern Railroad section foreman. He, too, was saved by grace. His wife was very negative and opposed to the gospel. It seems strange that anyone would be opposed to such good news, yet truth in Romans 8:7 says, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God." The new birth had changed Bert Street, and now his own dear wife sought his downfall. She burned his Bible, kicked his shins as he prayed and thanked God for his food, and put water in the gasoline so his car would not run. Also, she would hide his good clothes, so he often showed up at meetings in an overall. Thus, she sought to keep him from attending further meetings. Dear Bert was graceful to bear it all, and finally, Mrs. Street was broken by conviction of sin and came to know the Savior Who still loved her, and Who gave Himself for her.
Walter Eltjes was the local Kesley auto mechanic, who had tried to find satisfaction in the world and many of its lusts, all ending in dissatisfaction. Now, the Spirit of God was speaking to Walter, and he was gripped with his own personal need. On May 26, 1926, standing in the garage doorway, he came to realize that Jesus paid it all on Calvary for him. Walter's life changed dramatically. Now, with a new birth, a new love for the Lord Jesus was manifest. He often shared in the Gospel and ministry services at Hitesville. Later, in 1946, Walter sold his garage business so as to spend more time declaring the good news of God's love to others. We all felt the loss when Walter, due to a heart condition, passed on to Glory in 1951. His funeral was the largest ever held at Hitesville, with over 800 people filing past the open casket.

When Bert Street and Walter Eltjes were saved, their fellowship was sweet. Bert, at the Kesley depot of the Northwestern Railroad, would call down the street to Walter, in his garage. One would ask the other, "What do you know for sure?" The other would answer, "I know I'm going to Heaven." Many must have heard and wondered what it all meant.
Harm Harms and his wife attended the tent meetings in Aplington in 1925. It was there that Harm's wife, Margaret was reached. Harm had listened outside the tent, and the first night, after 10 minutes, he said, "What those men have, I need. These preachers are pointing men to Christ." Harm became deeply concerned. As they visited in the Richard home at Bristow, Mrs. Behrends asked him, "Why aren't you born again?" "This," Harm said, "stopped my mouth, for I didn't know the answer." That very night, August 3, 1926, on the way home, those words, "Christ died for sinners" came into his mind and answered the great question. He said, "Christ died for me. That settles it!" For over 50 years Harm has been a blessing to God's people, and has often ministered, and spoken faithfully in the gospel.
In 1926 Carl Asche was out sowing oats and grass seed. He was so troubled about his soul's welfare that he never noticed that the grass seed attachment had fallen off, and he kept sowing oats with no grass seed. Both Carl and his wife were soon afterward saved.
William (Billy) Miller and his wife were also saved. Carl's and Billy's wives were sisters. The night Billy was saved, he was sitting in the southwest part of the hall near the old bookcase. In the middle of the song, "Hallelujah! 'tis done, I believe on the Son, I am saved by the blood of the Crucified One," he started to sing with real zest and happiness in his soul, on finding rest in the blood of the Crucified One. The great truth of Romans 8:1 filled the soul: "There is no condemnation." All the black past was blotted out. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Why is there no condemnation? The answer is, "because they are in Christ Jesus." He is the refuge of the soul. In Him we have put all our confidence. Here the soul is as secure as Noah was in the ark. To be "in Christ" is to be cleansed from all sin, and wrapped up in the center of God's eternal purpose. To be "in Him" is to be a branch in the True Vine, fitted to bear fruit.
Paul Elliott was the barber's son in Aplington. His father was in failing health, and Paul learned the barber trade at a rather young age. Besides this, he also loved sports and was very active in them. Paul had his eye on a young lady whose father, Mr. Henry Uhlenhopp, was a true believer and always encouraged them to listen to the Gospel. One Sunday afternoon Paul and Bena called on her brother, Harm, who with his wife, Mary, had recently been saved. When Harm bowed his head and gave thanks for the food, God began to speak to Paul. At this, Paul thought to himself, "He has something I don't have. I wish I could pray like that." It had touched Paul's heart. This desire deepened, along with
the convictions of his great need, until on December 14, 1927, at 2:00 a.m., through John 3:16, Paul found the Savior to be his. The "whosoever" meant him, and the "everlasting life" filled his heart with assurance.
Surely the mighty workings of God were clearly evident, as a great many souls were reached by God's grace in 1926-27. According to Mr. Smith's diary, there were over 70 professing to be saved. A number of baptisms were held, too; and finally the long series of almost a year came to a close.
The young believers still came together for fellowship and prayer on Thursday evenings. They also read the Scriptures together, usually reading two verses a piece. At ten o' clock on the Lord's Day mornings they also came together and read, prayed and sang hymns. Some of the young brethren would give a word of ministry, as the Lord had opened a truth to them here and there. In the evening, they enjoyed their regular Gospel meeting. Brother Smith heard about this exercise, and he returned for ministry meetings, very especially for these young believers. He took up the subject of Church truth, in view of an assembly of believers being formed to honor His Holy Name. Much of this truth the young believers had already realized, as brother Smith had a rare gift of being able to give simple basic ministry right along with the truths of the gospel. It was not long after these meetings that the assembly was formed, and the Christians began to break bread in remembrance of the Savior on the first day of each week. The first such meeting began on October 30, 1927, when about 55 believers sat down around the table of the Lord.

The sisters learned that in church meetings they were to be silent. This was God's Word to them found in I Corinthians 14:34, "Let your women keep silence in the churches...," along with I Timothy 2: 11, 12, in confirmation of this truth. It was the woman who was deceived in the garden of Eden by Satan, as she acted on Satan's lie and ate of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them. The result was God's word to her in Genesis 3:16,"... and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." She becomes a type picturing the Bride of Christ, or the Church, composed of those who were once deceived and had sinned, but who now look to their Savior for guidance and care. They also realized that the Word of God spoke with special reference to their appearance, which was to be modest, not attracting special attention to themselves. Rather, their radiant, happy appearance would reveal the "hidden man of the heart," thus really displaying Christ in them. The sisters found in I Corinthians 11:15 that their long hair was a gift from God, given to be a glory to her, and was a natural covering. To have the long hair was a mark of spiritual beauty and pleasing to God, as they showed respect and appreciation for what God had given them. Further, they covered their heads with a second covering, a veil, scarf or hat, in church meetings when they were gathered in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Instruction for this practice was found in I Corinthians 11:6-15, showing to the angels that the woman, who once openly rebelled against God's Word in Genesis 3, is now showing her submission to God.

The brethren, too, realized their responsibility to act according to their  position as being a type of Christ on earth. The Word of God taught
them, in Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it," to live clean, honorable and industrious lives; leaving behind the testimony of lives changed and now lived for the glory of their Savior whom they represent on earth in His absence. They learned that they were to appear "manly", as the woman was to appear "womanly." Their shorter hair was to be a distinct difference in the appearance of the man and woman.

The young believers met together and learned together, all babes in Christ; and the fellowship was sweet and precious. Together they were glad to be submissive to the Word of God, since such a great salvation was theirs. They had the Word of God for what they were doing, which assured their hearts. The grateful believers saw the great truth of baptism, and how it identified them publicly with the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, their Savior. They responded to this truth, and, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, were "buried" by submersion into a watery grave and were raised again to walk in newness of life. This was according to the teaching of Romans 6 and the pattern left in Acts 18:8, where the Corinthians heard the Word of God, believed the Word and were baptized.

Another spiritual exercise that the believers desired to obey from God's Word was to gather alone in the Savior's Name, "outside the camp" of all sects and systems of men, and to carry out the Lord's own command of I Corinthians 11:23-26, "This do in remembrance of me." They noted that an assembly of Christians gathered unto the Name of the Lord Jesus was not merely an improvement over, or nearer to the Word of God than the best sects and systems of men. But they discovered that the assembly of believers was different in its origin, not an organization, but organized. For God alone can plant an assembly, which is a living thing made up of sinners, washed and cleansed, with their allegiance and love to Christ alone. Their allegiance was not to any human being or organization. Acts 20:28, "Feed the church.. .which He hath purchased with His own blood," reveals the living body of believers taking food that nourishes the soul. Acts 11:22 shows the church hearing, where It is written, "Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church." In Acts 12:5, the church "talks," as it is praying for Peter. So the assembly Is an organism made alive by God, gathered outside the camp or religious confusion, alone unto the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The worship of the assembly is also different, for when the set hour was come, on the first day of the week (the resurrection day, as in John 20), the believers were together to fulfill the command of the Lord in Luke 22:19 and I Corinthians 11:24, "This do in remembrance of me." The saints went to the place where He placed His name. There, with collective worship, the priesthood of all believers was functioning. It was the remembrance of the Savior and what He did for them that moved prayer after prayer of thanks, and songs of praise to arise from redeemed hearts. During this time the bread was broken, and each partook of the broken bread in remembrance of Him. Then followed the partaking of the cup with its fruit of the vine within, the memory stirred to think of the precious blood of our Savior shed at dark Calvary. At this service, the offering was taken as a part of their worship, and willing hearts gave as they were exercised before God according to the way God had prospered them. The offering was used to both further the work of the Lord and to meet the needs of the local assembly. There was never any asking, nor even hints given to tell the believers what to give. This was always between the individual and the Lord. Thus, in God's assembly, there has never been a begging spirit, but, rather a thankful spirit; and truly God has seen to it that there is no lack in any quarter.
Another difference, very evident to the observer, was that the assembly of believers gathered unto His Name relied on the leading of the Holy Spirit in all its functions. The Holy Spirit appoints and makes evident the overseers of the flock, exercising men, gifted by God, to give helpful and encouraging ministry to the people of God. He also raises up those to preach to the unsaved the message of the glorious Gospel of the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who "once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." (I Peter 3:18).
Baptisms were often held, usually in the spring, summer and fall in the open waters of Iowa streams. Scriptural Christian baptism requires six things:
First; IN WATER (Matthew 3:11), "I indeed baptize you with water."
Second; IN MUCH WATER (John 3:23), "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salem, because there was much water there."
Third; GOING DOWN INTO THE WATER (Acts 8:38), "And they went down both into the water, both Phillip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
Fourth; BURIAL IN THE WATER (Romans 6:4), "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Colossians 2:12), "Buried with him in baptism.."
Fifth; RESURRECTION FROM THE WATER (Romans 6:5), "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection."
Sixth; COMING UP OUT OF THE WATER (Acts 8:39), "And when they were come up out of the water..." (Mark 1:10), "And straightway coming up out of the water.."

Pouring or sprinkling, that requires only a little water, is nowhere referred to in the Bible as Christian baptism. Believer's baptism is the "answer of a good conscience toward God," and "Not the putting sway of the filth of the flesh." (I Peter 3:21) These believers had a good conscience before God. The sin problem that they formerly had was now cleared away, as Christ, "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." Baptism was never before, or for salvation. It was an outward sign of an inward work that always followed salvation. In Acts 8:36, 37, the saved eunuch said to Phillip, "See, here is water; what
hinder me to be baptized?" And Phillip replied, "If thou believest all thine heart thou mayest." thus, as the believers were obedient the Lord's command of Acts 10:48, their hearts were filled with joy; for the step they had just taken did please their Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of the baptisms mentioned in Mr. Smith's diary were as follows:
Sunday, May 23, 1926, "Had baptism in the P.M. 21 were baptized. About 1500 there to witness the same. Then drove to Hitesville. Had a full house."
Sunday, June 27, 1926, "Drove to Stout in A.M. Took Bible Class. 2 p.m. had baptism. 15 obeyed the Lord, eight men and seven women. Estimated crowd of 2,000, 450 some cars counted. Had largest crowd ever at Hitesville. Spoke on Jeremiah 8 with Luke 13."
Sunday, August 22, 1926, "Had Baptism in the afternoon, 17 obeyed the Lord. Had good crowd at Hitesville in the evening."
Sunday, May 22, 1927, 'Had Baptism in Ben Hinder's pasture in the P.M. Rained most of the day. Baptised 15- eight women, seven men."
The United Brethren group, who owned the hail offered it for sale. Brother Carl Asche heard of it and talked with some of the local brethren about purchasing it. They too, desired to buy it, so Carl went to the sellers, and found the asking price to be $200.00 for the hall, plus $40.00 for the parsonage. Carl saw that it was an excellent deal, so a deed was drawn up and signed, and the price was paid. Carl consulted Attorney Brower, who advised him to have the deed recorded immediately, which he did. The day following, he had visitors. The United Brethren realized that a Hitesville Christian assembly might be started there, so they requested to buy it all back, offering Mr. Asche more money for it. Mr. Asche, looking a bit beyond the present, suggested to them, "Let's Just let it ride a while and see how things work out." Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Hites occupied the parsonage, and the brethren gave them the privilege to continue to live there the rest of their lives, rent free.
They have both long since passed away. The house has been removed, and the area is now used for parking.
The original hall, which is the east part of the present hall, is where the meetings of the new Christians were first held. It had gas lights and a banister around the pulpit area, which was at the north part of the building. There was a very small basement, containing the furnace. The
brethren soon changed this by excavating, and making a full basement with a new furnace. This served them well, until in 1947, when more room seemed very necessary, the whole west side was added with its full basement, now making room to comfortably seat well over 400 people. Among the brethren themselves, were those who had the "know-how" to build, and they, for the most part, did the work. There were five brethren who usually labored on the hall. They were August Brinkman, Harm Uhlenhopp, George Frey, Folkert Alberts, and John Wessels. Others, also, gave a helping hand as time permitted.
In the last few years improvements have been made to the present hall. An excellent lighting system, air conditioning, and comfortable cushioned seating have been added.
The first Bible Conference was held on August 29th and 30th in 1931, with a prayer meeting on August 28th. These conferences have continued yearly to the present, with a large attendance. On New Year's Day there is also an All Day Meeting. Occasionally, however, the weather and roads have prevented this happy time together.
The early conferences began with the use of one tent. But very soon the crowds increased, and it became necessary to use two tents. One tent was a large white one, approximately 30' by 70'. This was called a "mule tent," as it had been used to house mules on roadwork projects, before it belonged to the believers. The other tent was a 30' by 50' oval one that Mr. Smith used for tent meetings. The two tents were attached and opened together, making a large seating area for the large crowds attending. When the weather was dry it was ideal and "airy." When the weather was rainy and cool, it was just the opposite. There was no gravel or crushed rock during those days, so during wet times it was very muddy underfoot.
In those early years the obstacles seemed endless. Seating was a problem. Tables and dishes were borrowed and hauled from the Waterloo assembly 40 miles away. Water had to be hauled in from Kesley, as there was no well. There were only outdoor toilets, and washbasins were under the trees. Looking back, the task of having a Bible Conference, with invitations to all the believers and assemblies, seems monstrous. Yet, with many warm hearted Christians in their first love to Christ and His people, the problems just seemed to melt away. These days spent together in our homes, where hospitality was extended to visitors for the night, and at the hall during the day, were very happy arid long to be remembered days. The fresh Word of God was ministered and warmed our hearts still further, and encouraged each of us to go on out of love to Christ. In later years the facilities improved and comforts increased as well. Often, between 600 and 700 brethren attend and fellowship together.
There was a lot of gift and exercise in the new and growing assembly, with at least eight brethren often sharing in public speaking. The Lord opened ways for these gifts to be used so there was room for all to develop.
Some of the brethren were exercised about using the old empty church building at Coster, some ten miles to the east and north of Hitesville. In August of 1928, meetings began there. Brethren Chauncey Yost and Walter Eltjes were usually there to speak, and other brethren also shared on many occasions. In 1929, brethren Archie Stewart and Samuel Hamilton had a series of Gospel Meetings there. In January of 1930, brethren Smith and Warke were there. The Lord reached and saved some 35, and among them were five members of the Albert Kluiter family, and some of the Jerry Kluiter family. Some of the John Wessels family were saved, as well as Jerry Kramer, Clarence Leerhoff, and Fannie Sluiter, who later became Clarence s wife.
Often, open-air meetings were held on Saturday nights in the surrounding towns. The street meetings were usually well attended, as most farmers and their families stopped work early and came to town for groceries, and to hear the band concert, which was usually also held in the summer months. This was another outlet for the good news of the Gospel, and the brethren had great joy in telling, far and near, what great things the Lord had done for them.
The brethren also ran into some opposition. Sometimes eggs and tomatoes were thrown at the believers. Other times it would be loud opposition in one form or another. There were also false statements that were very prevalent. One man said, "I know Oliver Smith takes money from the people. I saw him take a check for fifty dollars from a person, hold it up and then tear it in two, saying, "If it isn't worth more than this to be baptized it isn't worth anything."
Others said that there was a large charge in order to be baptized. One of our brethren stopped a few loud mouths by saying, "I'll give you $100.00 if you can prove that Oliver Smith ever took a thin dime from anyone for baptism." Many of us could add to this, that Mr. Smith was far more ready to give than to receive. I am reminded of an incident that happened on the George Smith, Sr. farm. George Smith claimed that he was saved. He handed Oliver Smith, the evangelist, a $10.00 bill as fellowship in the work of the Lord. There was doubt as to whether George was truly a born again believer, so the evangelist told him, "I'll take it now, but if you find out that you are not saved, I want you to agree to take it back." This was agreeable to George. However, a few weeks later he discovered that he only had a profession, without the reality of the new birth. Hearing of this, the evangelist returned the $10.00. This proved to be an eye-opener to George and caused him to realize that, as an unsaved man, he could have no part in God's work or plan of salvation. This left him destitute of works and showed him how lost he was. Then he was ready to appreciate Luke 19:10, where it says, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
In these early years many of the farmers often came to the meetings dressed in clean blue overalls. The ladies wore clean printed cotton dresses. Things were very plain and common in comparison to our present day. One of the brethren remarked, "I used to preach in overalls."
There were few graveled roads and no black top roads, so often, they were very muddy and rutty. The cars were open for summertime, with side curtains for the winter. Heaters were very limited, and often it was very cold in the cars. Many used robes or blankets to keep warm. In spite of all this, meetings were very well attended. There was a real desire in the hearts for the Word of God and its truth, and for the warm fellowship of fellow believers.
Through the past years, the assembly of believers gathered unto His own Peerless Name, at Hitesville, have cared and prayed for the following brethren, who have been commended to the work of the Lord:
Paul Elliott, Walter Eltjes, Leonard DeBuhr, and Robert Orr. These brethren have gone forth into new fields and have spread the Gospel in the region beyond. The Lord has blessed their efforts. Souls have been reached, assemblies strengthened, and new assemblies have been planted to honor the Savior's glorious Name and Person.

The assembly of believers has often been saddened by the Home-call of many of its early members. Yet, they were saddened only to the point of an earthly affection and a feeling of loss for the present, knowing it is of the Lord, and that the time comes when His fellow laborers are called home. We miss them, but we also know it is only for a little while, then, once again, together in harmony and fellowship, we shall worship the Lamb in Glory.

Through the years, the assembly has often had the extreme joy of witnessing the salvation of loved children, family members, and friends. Many times special Gospel efforts have been held, and the Spirit of God has worked among the unsaved, continuing to reach them with the warm message of the Gospel.