This letter was written by Rev. William Nelson Stimson (1808-1903), a native of Worcester, New York, who became a devoted missionary of the Presbyterian Church in Indiana in the 1840s. William attended the Oneida Institute in New York before graduating from the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1841. He was ordained as a preacher in 1842 by the Presbytery of Indianapolis and served the following churches: Amity, New Pisga (1841-1843); Noblesville (1843-1844); Stony Creek (1844-1848); Bethel and Thornton (1848-1849), New Pisga (1849-1854).
William was first married to Mary N. Johnson in 1841. After his first wife died, William married Mary Ellinore Bryant Cury (1828-1865), twenty years his junior, in 1849. In the 1850 census, William and his family were enumerated in Franklin, Johnson County, Indiana; in 1860, they were enumerated in Marion, Monroe County, Indiana; and in 1880, in Sugar Creek, Vigo County, Indiana. William died in Portland, Oregon in 1903, where he had resided the last fifteen years of his life.
Rev. Stimson indicates in this letter that the Stony Creek Presbyterian Church had its beginning in 1844 and by the date of this letter — December 1846 — they had built a church a few miles east of Noblesville on Middletown Road. The church is long gone but a cemetery remains in the church yard where several of the first members of the Presbyterian society are interred.
Addressed to Rev. Milton Badger, New York City, 152 Nassau Street
Noblesville, Hamilton County, Indiana
January 27, 1846
Rev. Milton Badger
Your letter informing me that the application of the Stony Creek Church for aid in my support was rejected came to hand yesterday. Our application seemed to have impressed your committee very unfavorably. Hence I wish to make a few statements which perhaps ought to have been made before. I have no doubt that the committee not only acted from the purest of motions, but upon principles which are essential to the successful prosecution of the great and good work of Home Missions, principles too which have been tested by a long experience. An apparent increase of dependence was an unfavorable aspect of our application. The first year we need $100. The second $150 and the third $200. A dull prospect say you for future independence. Is there not a possibility, my Brother, that we asked too little the first year and little enough the second, and that we needed an increase the third to make up the deficiency of the first? This was the case.
The first year our application was made to the Committee at Cincinnati and I suppose that they recommended us to you for one hundred when in fact we asked and needed at least $150. After I had been on the ground eight months, only five of which my commission covered during which time our church came into being, and having spent all my means of living, and without clothing decent to appear in public, even in the estimation of our western farmers, my commission came to hand giving me $100 dollars only $100. Yet under the circumstances, it was very thankfully received because it relieved my present distress.
The next year when our officers came together to consult about my support, $500 was supposed to be the amount needed. But I knew that $100 was as much as could possibly be raised by the church, and to make me a salary of $300 they must get $200 from the Missionary Society. Now I knew that I needed $500 a year but to induce the church to come up to their duty, I professed to them that if they would endeavor to raise $100 and ask your society for $150 more, I would try to live on $250 and I thought by that economy that I should be able to do so. I felt oppressed to drawing anymore from the Missionary Society than was absolutely essential. But the $100 was not raised by the church and of course I was unable to meet all the expenses of the year.
When we came to make our last application, I told my people that if they could do no more than was on the subscription, they would be compelled to tell your committee so, and ask for $200. I needed $50 more this year than I had last to enable me to pay some small debts incurred during the first and second years, and to pay for my periodicals for which I was several dollars in arears. But have the church done what they could, or what might be reasonably expected? Fifty dollars is not far from $2 per member. It will be found on comparison that this is not far behind the amount given by our sister churches in this region to their ministers. For example, the church of Greenwood and the church of Buck Creek under the care of one of your missionaries. The church of Greenwood report 150 members. The church of Buck Creek about 30. Not it is quite manifest that if these churches were to pay on a average 2 dollars for each member for the support of their minister, there would be no longer any necessity for them to call upon your committee for help. It is farther to be remembered that their churches are of 15 or 20 years standing, and not only so, but brought up from their infancy in the Presbyterian Church. while it must be remembered that our church is of two years standing only and without a meeting house and now at this time putting forth all their pecuniary ability to build one. If the cause of the Redeemer demands that Presbyterian Churches be planted and sustained in the West, the importance of sustaining our church — it being the only church in the county — can not be questioned. This you do not question. But is there in reality an increase of dependence? I think not.
Two of our members subscribed the first year, the one 2 dollars and the other three. This year the one was ten and the other fifteen. Some who formerly helped us have been converted and have joined other churches, and of course, now support other ministers. These were converted under our ministry too, but for family considerations and other things I can not mention, joined other churches. Now we must have time to learn our members how to give. We must have time to fix in their hearts the principles of entire consecration.
But as I supposed you do not question the necessities of our church nor the importance of our field, but the propriety of sustaining me here as a missionary. This is a point delicate for me to touch. But I suppose that my success depends mainly upon faith and prayer because these take hold on God. The same faith and piety that labors successfully in one place may fail another place. And fr me to feel that I could not labor successfully here would, in my opinion, be to indulge in unbelief and I could do nothing which would more surely destroy all my usefulness both here and elsewhere. But the Lord has accepted my labors and given me a pledge of future blessings.
The first year he gave me seals of my ministry. The second year also he blessed my labors in the conversion of a score or more, and the third in greatly edifying and building up the church in faith and love. I have been here three years and our church has enjoyed three refreshing showers of devine grace. Last spring no sinners were converted but Christians were greatly built up and comforted in holy joy. This was characteristic of all the revivals reported at the last meeting of our presbytery. Last year we received eight as the fruits of our revival. Now in all revivals of a mixed character, the different denominations will get members according to their influence in the community, which is usually according to the number of their members. We had 20 members and we got 8. Had we had 100, we must to have received according to our members have received 40. This number looks and sounds large and would have given me the reputation of being successful. However, I am in no wise opposed to leaving this field for I am pretty fully convinced that my constitution will not endure this climate. I shall not yet leave because I am discouraged, neither yet for the sake of fixing myself more comfortably in this world.
I came out to this field without a pledge from mortal man. But Christ was able and had promised to sustain me and he has verified his promise thus far. And if he still gives me health to labor here, I shall expect that he will raise up help to me from some source. As my Lord lives, if the committee can not give their money to me as unto Christ, whose I am, let them keep it and bestow it where they can thus give it. I have promised my people from the beginning not to leave them till someone could be got to take my place. I can not leave them in the present state of affairs. I have been in this field three years next October. I have received from the people $200 and from your society $250 — in all $450 for three years service — during which time a church of thirty members has been planted and a meeting house built. Hereafter all our missionary business will be done through our presbytery. The presbytery wishes to constitute itself a Missionary Society Auxiliary to the A. H. M. S. As chairman of a committee appointed to prepare a plan, I was directed to hold correspondence with you or the committee or agent at Cincinnati. We are under the impression that you have already published a plan for such societies. If so, please send us a copy. If not please make some suggestions for our guide, and you will oblige the Presbytery of Indianapolis. Please write immediately as presbytery meets early in September. Pardon me for so long trespassing upon your time.
Your brother in Christ, — William N. Stimson