Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - Coster


The unsaved man had questions and Oliver was answering them from the Word of God. Seated in the man's living room, he leaned forward and pointed to several verses of Scripture and began reading them aloud. Then Oliver spoke of the day that God had saved him and of the peace it had brought to his burdened soul. The man listened for some time and then began to peer out the corner of his eye at Oliver's partner sitting quietly in a chair across the room. Abruptly, he cut off the conversation and pointed his finger at the silent figure. "What's the matter with that guy?" he asked brusquely. "Does a cat have his tongue?"

Oliver faced him squarely and said, "You come out to the meeting tonight, and we'll see if the cat has got his tongue."

He did attend and discovered like others in the large crowd that the preacher did indeed have a tongue, one which he powerfully used to present the truth of God. This fellow-laborer had arrived from Michigan and his name was William Warke.

They held their first meetings together in 1928 in a little village called Coster, ten miles east of Hitesville. Chauncey Yost and Walter Eltjes had rented an old church building there and were holding weekly meetings. When a good interest developed, they sought the help of Mr. Smith, who consented to hold a Gospel series.
The town was located on a narrow dirt road and consisted of an old creamery, two church buildings, a cemetery and a store. The store was a popular meeting place and was often filled with people who came to buy merchandise or swap stories.

Needless to say, news of the meetings was a hot topic of conversation. Inquisitive farmers strolled in from the countryside to hear these strange men preach. Those who recall these meetings have memories of a building packed so full that people had to stand. Children often sat on the platform around the preacher's feet so room could be made for incoming adults.

Winter nights were especially cold as the wind blew through cracks under doors. One evening Oliver pulled off his overcoat and threw it to the floor in front of a door blocking the entrance of a bitter draft. But temperatures had little effect on the effort and hearts were warmed that cold winter, as repentant souls found rest in Christ.

Many times the preachers had to forego their evening meal while visiting with strangers right up to the meeting. Entering the hall on just such a night, Mr. Warke asked Oliver what he intended to speak on. "I haven't even thought about that yet," he answered. "I'll get my message while you're up preaching."

"The Way of Life Made Plain" was a favorite tract of Oliver's, and he handed it out in many homes. One young woman was saved as a result of this tract, and the change in her attitude left deep impressions on those who knew her. One of her brothers was startled to hear that she was saved and marveled at the assurance she seemed to enjoy. This kindled an intense longing in his own soul, and a short time later he was also rejoicing in the knowledge of sins forgiven.

As on other occasions, the two men encountered a variety of responses when they approached people's doors. Often Oliver would crack a door open and holler into the house, "Does anybody here know the Lord?"

In one home, an irritated man with clenched fists asked Mr. Smith to kindly take off his glasses so he could punch him in the nose. When Oliver instantly obliged, the man felt foolish and shut the door in embarrassment.

On another day in 1928, word reached Oliver that a Jewish man who claimed to be saved, was going to speak in Cedar Falls. He dropped by the meeting and listened to the man's message. "He preached so well," said Oliver, "that when the meeting was over I took out a $10 bill to have fellowship with him." Placing the money in his pocket, the Jewish preacher

Oliver with Ed Junker, who along with his wife, Henrietta, was saved in the
meetings at Coster.

"What do you mean by that?" asked Oliver.

"I know who you are," said the man. "You're one of the Plymouth Brethren, but you won't own up to it."

"That's right, I won't own up to it," replied Oliver. "I'm not one of the Plymouth brethren, I'm one of the Waterloo brethren."

"I was suddenly wishing that I had my ten dollars back,' said Oliver later. "I didn't get it back, but I was kind of wishing I had it back. He was calling me a false name."

At another time, Oliver was invited to a debate northwest of Coster in the Bristow schoolhouse. A local preacher said he intended to prove to the town's citizens that salvation was not attainable through faith in the death of Christ alone. When Oliver arrived the place was filled with curious individuals. Many attended the showdown just to hear what Mr. Smith would have to say. Verse by verse, Oliver led them through passages of Scripture and touchingly told of the Saviour Who had shed His precious blood that sinners might be saved. The opposition was silenced. A man stood up and closed the meeting with a hymn:

"What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

"Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow; No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

The entire congregation joined to sing. Even the opposing preacher.

For nearly eight years the gospel was proclaimed in Coster by Oliver Smith, William Warke, Archie Stewart, Sam Hamilton, Chauncey Yost, Walter Eltjes, and others. Those saved in these meetings gathered with believers at Hitesville or Stout, so a permanent testimony was never established. The little town is gone now its buildings toppled and its voices hushed. But, in the minds of a few it lingers still and will always be remembered as the birthplace of many souls.

Chauncey Yost with Sam Hamilton