Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - 1934


It was a year of great economic depression in America. Incomes had vanished and thousands were losing their homes and farms. Compounding the situation was a severe drought which plagued much of the nation; dust storms in the Great Plains were so intense they could be seen halfway across the country. These were difficult days, but in the midst of them, God was carrying on His work.

In Iowa interest in the gospel continued to thrive inspite of economic and natural conditions. Many, who had nervously watched their family fortunes dwindle, listened with wonder at news of "an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away..." (I Pet. 1: 4). Several despairing hearts, unsettled by the loss of earthly possessions, were enraptured as they turned from their sorrows to the Saviour and became the possessors of eternal life.

The year marked the beginning of three new assemblies in Iowa. Believers in Cylinder, Hampton, and Mason City gathered together for the first time to remember the Lord. Oliver was involved with each place and encouraged them in the things of God.

The work in Cylinder actually began in the summer of 1933 when Oliver visited the area through the urging of a young Christian whose family lived there. The small town was located nearly 150 miles from Oliver's home in Waterloo. For two weeks he preached the gospel in the open air and had the joy of seeing a few souls saved. He returned in November for a longer visit, and several others professed. In a letter, he wrote: "I am here at Cylinder having a wonderful time. Five professed last week and five this week, which now makes twenty-seven all together..."

He closed the series in late December and opened the new year with meetings at Stout. Abundant fruit was witnessed there, so it wasn't until the middle of March in 1934 that Oliver returned to Cylinder. The following month a baptism was held at Aredale, and "two loads" from the Cylinder area came down to be baptized.

Little by little, the Cylinder Christians severed all ties to former religious affiliations and expressed a strong desire to gather according to the pattern of Scripture. Oliver Smith and Louis Brandt traveled to the little town in May. After a week of meetings, they met with believers in a home and partook of the Lord's Supper. That same day a large crowd gathered beside a stream and watched as another twenty-seven individuals obeyed the Lord in baptism. Later that night, Oliver recorded the following words in his diary:

"Had a big day in Cylinder. Fifty came from away. Started new meeting. Had a baptism in the p.m. -Four spoke: C. Yost, P. Elliott, L. Brandt, and me. Four spoke at night in the gospel: Harm Uhlenhopp, Ed Weber, P. Elliott, and me."

Veloy Hansen, a fifteen year old from Cylinder composed a poem which she eventually sent to Oliver. It was a poem that he always treasured.

"You 'd better get saved a voice said to me,

The longer you linger, the harder t'will be;

On the thirtieth of September - a warm afternoon,

I lay on my bed, alone in my room.

"I knew I was lost and could never be saved

Unless in the Lord I firmly believed;

I couldn't see salvation, just quite that plain,

But I knew in the Lord, I did have some claim.

"Then I realized that Christ had died for me,

On that cruel old cross called Calvary;

He forgave my sins and now I am free,

 To reign with Him through eternity.

"My faith in the Lord is secure and sound,

Since I have been saved, much peace I have found.

And now dear reader if you are not saved,

Believe on the Lord -from damnation be raised."

Hampton, somewhat larger than Cylinder, lay near rolling hills sixty-five miles west of Waterloo. Oliver had traveled through it on previous occasions and had stopped to preach the gospel in the city park. Since a few Christians from Hitesville were living there, he was encouraged to pitch his tent in the town in 1933. He covered the whole community with tracts, even stopping at the local jail to speak a word to the prisoners.

A dozen souls were saved during these meetings, and in 1934, they formed the nucleus of an assembly there. For a while they met in the home of a believer but soon moved into a rented room above a grocery store.

In 1941, a hall was constructed and Oliver showed a special interest in the work. He painted signs and Scripture texts and on October 31 helped the brethren put seats in the new building. Two days later he joined them as they gathered for the first time in the new hall.

Mason City, with a population reaching 30,000, was an eighty mile drive from Oliver's home. For almost twenty years it had been the focus of gospel activity. Mr. E.G Matthews and Mr. William Robertson were some of the first to hold meetings in the community. A number of others followed including Oliver Smith.

In the fall of 1933, Oliver hauled chairs to Mason City for use in meetings which Mr. Warke and Mr. Buzz Jamison were having. Several professed at that time and were baptized in a river north of town.

Oliver returned for some meetings almost a year later, and a few more souls were saved. His trips enroute to Mason City were not aways pleasant. A minor wreck on September 5 was followed eight days later by another accident, where his car rolled, fracturing one of Oliver's ribs. Though bothered by considerable pain, he finished his journey on both occasions and even wrote in his diary later; "Had a good meeting tonight."

The Christians gathered in assembly capacity on September 9. Brethren Sam Hamilton and Sam Keller were present with Oliver and gave  uplifting ministry from the Word of God. The evening was capped off with another soul professing to be saved.

Near the end of 1934, a young couple from Hitesville requested that Oliver marry them on Christmas day. Since Oliver had already made plans to attend the annual Bible conference in Kansas City, Missouri, he asked them to come along, and he would marry them there. They quickly agreed, and along with two others made the trek to Kansas City. On the way, they stopped in Bethany, Missouri, where Oliver stood on the bumper of his Hudson Terraplane and preached the gospel to holiday shoppers. After singing a hymn, he caught the attention of the throng by saying, "I have something in my hand which you have never seen before, and after I show it to you, you will never see it again." Opening his hand, he displayed a peanut. He cracked open the shell, held up the nut, and then put it in his mouth and swallowed it. He then proceeded to preach on the brevity of life and the opportunity it affords to prepare for eternity.

On Christmas morning, the couple were married in a believer's home and then set off to spend the remainder of the day at the conference. On the cold journey home, one of the ladies sat in the front and continually waved a hose which Oliver had rigged to the car's heater. back and forth across the front window to prevent ice from building on it. It had been quite a trip and quite a year. But God had blessed, and there was a joy in each of their souls.