By James P. McPherson, Esq.
Part 3, Springdale's Churches and Schools.
The western branch of Sugar river runs through the west and southwest part of town, and the village of Mount Vernon. This village was platted in 1850-51 by Mr. George G. Britts, who then commenced the improvement of the water-power and built a sawmill. In 1852, Dr. P. Bram obtained possession of the village site and much of the adjacent land, enlarged the village plat, and built a small but well arranged grist mill, which has been of great convenience to the citizenships.
Near where the river enters the town, there is a place familiarly known as the Mormon Baptismal Pond, because at an early day several of the followers of Joe Smith, having come from the south after the government had ordered their removal to Utah, and settled in several places in the west, among others here, where they were accustomed to preach and baptize converts. The excitement at these services is said to have been equal to any fair, and perhaps with but little differences, as Saint and Gentile, for miles around, met more for the hilarity incident to the occasion than for any great conversions that followed. Although some of the preachers were powerful orators. It is said that during the baptismal rites the excitement would become so great that an occasional mistake would occur as some poor unfortunate dog was forced into the river by wicked Gentiles, and then seized by some excited Saint and devoutly immersed. These poor animals were afterwards know as Mormon proselytes, put on probation.
Religious discussions between the Mormons and others were of common occurrence, and three of their most eloquent preachers challenged a Mr. Cameron, a Scotch layman, to a public discussion of their doctrines in the school house. Though a busy time among the farmers, they nevertheless assembled early in the morning from far and near, to hear the combatants. The discussion continued the whole day, and though the layman had persuasive and subtle orators to contend with, he came out the victor, and not long afterwards, as well as by a number of indiscreet acts of a moral character, the Mormon cause began to wain, and finally to move out of the town.
The town is divided into five whole and three joint school districts, with six school houses located in the town. Two of which are stone and four are frame buildings, all of which are in good condition. The citizens, at town and school district meetings, have always evinced the interest they feel in the existence and prosperity of our common schools, by providing liberally for their support.
There are but two church edifices in the town, the Norwegian Lutheran, occupying and elevated position on the prairie ridge, in section 8, and the Baptist church, in Mount Vernon. A German Lutheran congregation meet for worship in the school house of school district No. 3, on Section 25, and a German Methodist congregation meet at the house of the members in the neighborhood.
(Note: The early Scots attended the Presbyterian Church in nearby Verona, though later there was a Presbyterian church in Springdale. JGH )
PUBLISHED & COPYRIGHT BY WM. J. PARK & CO., 1877. BOOKSELLERS, STATIONERS AND BINDERS, 11 KING STREET. DAVID ATWOOD, STEREOTYPER AND PRINTER, MADISON, WIS.