Montour County, Reverend William B. Montgomery

Reverend William B. Montgomery

About 1821, Mahoning, from having been on the frontier, and dependent, to some extent, for religious instruction on missionary labors, began to send missionaries abroad. Of these were Reverend o William B. Montgomery, son of Colonel John Montgomery, one of the prominent pioneers of Mahoning, and Jane, his wife, daughter of Mr. Robinson, a devout and worthy pioneer of the same place. Mr. Montgomery was a lineal descendant of Captain Montgomery, born in 1666, and was an officer under William of Orange at the battle of Boyne-Water, and for bravery in that memorable conflict was promoted to be a major in the British army. His son was Alexander Montgomery, born about 1700, and died in 1746. His son was William Montgomery, born 1736, 0. S., and was the leading pioneer of Danville, and died here in 18r6. His son was John Montgomery, born in t 765, and died here in 1834. His son, the missionary, was born here about the year 1788, and died in Indian Territory, in 1834. He was the eldest of the nine children of John Montgomery and Elizabeth, his wife, nee Bell. His brothers were James, Daniel, and John; his sisters, Jane, Margaret, Mary, Rebecca, and Elizabeth.

William was a pious, studious youth, and his parents resolved to educate him for the ministry. His academic education was obtained at Nassau Hall, Princeton, where, it has been said, he was the classmate of Alem Marr, who resided in Danville in 1813, when Columbia county was organized, and was the first lawyer resident in the county. As theological seminaries were not then established in the country he studied divinity with that eminent divine Reverend John B. Patterson, who for nearly a third of a century was the pastor of the Grove Presbyterian church. His devotion to his religious duties and ardent zeal made him desirous to engage in missionary labors. Having been brought up on the border, where most of the pioneers had imbibed strong prejudices against the aborigines, with whom they had long feuds from the very beginning of the Mahoning settlement, and were generally more ready to injure or destroy them than to promote their temporal or spiritual welfare, he was not influenced by the popular prejudice against the savages, but, on the contrary, was elevated above it by his education and religion. He was accordingly appointed a missionary by the Union Foreign Missionary Society, to the Osages in the valley of the Arkansas. A few years later, this society was transferred to, or merged in, the great A. B. C. F. missions, without any material change in the relations of the missionaries.

He was married to Miss Robinson in 1820. His wife was well educated and pious, possessed of every Christian grace, undaunted courage and unbounded zeal in the cause of missions, and was truly a help meet for him in the great work to which he had devoted his life. But their friends looked upon their acceptance of this appointment as a great sacrifice on their part. Their mission was to the Osages at Union Station, on the margin of Neosho river, west of the Mississippi, twenty-six miles north of Fort Gibson, Indian Territory. It seemed at that day to be as remote from Danville as Tangariyika lake in equatorial Africa does now, and required doubly as long a time to journey to it. And yet, that station is now not very far from the geographical center of the nation. Amidst the benedictions and sorrowing farewells of their many friends who with reason feared they should behold their faces no more, these devoted and devout missionaries departed on their errand of Christian love and mercy early in the month of April, i8zi. Samuel Robinson, Mrs. Montgomery's brother, accompanied them. They, with a number of others, composing a considerable mission family, went via Pittsburgh, the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Osage rivers, enduring much exposure; suffering, and privation, and ended their toilsome journey of about four months August 2. Some idea of the hardships and exhaustion they endured may be earned from the fact that during their travels and within three months after their arrival the number of their family was diminished by the deaths of seven of them including Mrs. Montgomery and her infant child. Pious, noble, and heroic woman! Her sacrifices in the cause of her Divine Master, so far as visible to mortal ken, were unavailing for the promotion of the great cause to which she had dedicated her life and energies It was well. Her Father in heaven in kindness, mercy and love, removed her from the afflictions which are in the world to the Paradise of God.

After this afflicting bereavement Mr. Montgomery commenced his labors, but owing to his ignorance of the barbarous language of the Osages he found it extremely difficult to address them, as he was obliged to do, through the medium of an interpreter. He at once resolved to master their uncouth language. But it was only after long, persistent and laborious efforts he succeeded so as to address them in their vernacular tongue. He reduced it to writing, and with the aid of Mr. Requa, completed an elementary book, containing a translation of various portions of the Bible. This was the first book ever written in their language. After long delay it was ultimately published by the society in Boston. Thus following a similar course to that pursued by John Eliot, the apostle of the Indians, two centuries before.

The privations to which these devoted Christians were subjected was fatal to many of them, particularly to the female portion. About two years subsequently to the decease of Mrs. Montgomery, her husband was again married, to Mary Weller, his second wife, who lived only a few brief years, leaving him again bereaved. Nevertheless, he never faltered in his labors for the welfare of the Usages, though surrounded and almost overwhelmed with discouraging difficulties, which would have caused most persons to have despaired. His energies and life itself were consecrated to the cause, and his efforts ceased only with his life.

About 1831, he was married the third time to Harriet Woolley. The health of the missionary family began to be more promising, when that scourge of mankind, the Asiatic cholera, invaded this continent. In two short years it reached Union Station, in all its appalling virulence. On the 14th of July, 1834, it broke out at Hopefield Station, near Union. Mr. Montgomery, assisted by M. Beatt, with great care and solicitude nursed and cared for the sick Indians and assiduously ministered to their wants, but "the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday," prostrated him on the 17th. His unremitting care for the poor Osages who were dying around him proved too much for his strength. In the midst of his. Christian efforts for their temporal and spiritual welfare, he was removed from the midst of his earthly labors. The swift-winged messenger of death came without warning, yet found him with his lamp trimmed and burning. In twelve hours from the attack God took him to himself. Servant of God! Well done! His missionary brethren at Union hastened to him at Hopefield, but the vital spark had fled. From so pure and righteous a life as his the end could be none other than a triumphant one. Upon the first attack he exclaimed: "Can it be that in less than twenty-four hours I shall be walking in the streets of the New Jerusalem? I know in whom I have believed." And he peacefully passed away to the bosom of his Father and his God. He left messages of love to all his Christian brethren. He urged them not to abandon the Usages, and not to count any sacrifices too great for their salvation. His wife bore her irreparable loss with great fortitude, and placed her trust in the Lord who doeth all things well. A few days subsequently she returned to Union Station.

Beatt, the Frenchman, was the only assistant his wife had through his fatal illness. "Oh," said he, "I never saw a man die as happy as that man."

His devoted wife was a few weeks later attacked by a bilious remittant fever, which on the 5th of September proved fatal. It was reported she also died of cholera, but she died of the fever, as here stated.

Honor and praise to the memory of these devoted evangelists. Their labors and trials bring forcibly to mind those of the apostles, and especially those of St. Paul, who, leaving to others the conversion of the Judeans, labored long and successfully in Asia Minor, and ultimately extended his mission to the very pillars of Hercules in his efforts to supplant paganism by the light and power of the Gospel. So Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery, leaving their native homes and civilization behind them, and regardless of the perils which beset them, without hesitancy braved them to end their days amongst fierce and savage men. Yielding to the convictions of duty they zealously labored in their Master's vineyard and sealed their devotion to His cause with their lives. And no Christian hero ever rejoiced more than they when called to depart to their homes in the heavens. "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."

SOURCE:  Page(s) 53-57; Danville, Montour County Pennsylvania; D.H.B. Brower, Harrisburg; 1881