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Michael Boly
Pioneer Northwest Gospel Preacher
By Charles Dailey - March 2002

Michael Boly at a Glance:
Born: Jefferson County, MO about 1817
Married: Jemima Moorehead, 1837
Moved:MO> IL> CO> WA> OR
Emigrated:To Washington in 1864
Settled 1st: Walla Walla, WA
NW Ministries: Walla Walla, WA
Waitsburg, WA
Settled finally: East of Elgin, OR early 1880s
Died: 1880 -- Walla Walla, WA.
Buried: Probably Walla Walla, WA.

Michael Boly's father William had been a preacher of the Word and as the son matured, he followed in his father's footsteps. In fact, they lived next door to each other. While his early years were spent as a farmer according to his entry on the census form, he began preaching in Jefferson County, MO. Records exist of Michael Boly performing weddings, where he lists himself as a "Minister of the Gospel, United Baptist Church. United Baptists of Missouri reject several tenets of Calvinism.

Of his several children, sons John and James moved with the family to Illinois, then near Denver, Colorado and finally to Washington State where they settled at Walla Walla, WA. Not only did Michael migrate west but he also migrated religiously, from the view of how to become a Christian held by the Baptists (faith alone, baptism is merely a symbol) to that of the Restoration (immersion is into Christ).

The transition to the Restoration did not run smoothly for "M. Boli." In Waitsburg, he ran into conflict with Daniel Elledge, a man profiled elsewhere in this series. While history has not recorded the issues between them, Mac Waller has chronicled the struggle itself in his Memoirs.

The profile of Daniel Elledge.

The brethren sent from Washington urging him (Waller) to come and hold a meeting at Waitsburg. The church there had had some trouble for some time - the parties being headed by Bro. Boli on the one side, and Bro. Elledge on the other.

Bro. Boli was the pastor of the Baptist brethren there, and he and his people becoming somewhat dissatisfied with the name Baptist, had determined to study the Bible and learn and adopt the Scriptural name for the individual and the church. He came so near our people that a union of the two bodies was being arranged.

Bro. Elledge thought that Bro. Boli did not come over quite near enough to the Biblical standard, so he (Boli?) made further concessions. The result was, a hardness sooner or later grew up, and the union was not consummated. Some followed Boli, and some others followed Elledge. Soon the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus were quarreling over some mint, anise, and cumin. Soon the work was languishing.
-- Quoted from Reminiscenses of Mac Waller

We are blessed with a description of the life and teaching of Mr. Boly in 1869. The difference in spelling is probably due to writing the name as it was heard instead of seeing it on paper.

In the story of her life at Star, Idaho, Belle Fulton wrote:

Now a preacher named Boli came over from the Walla Walla country on a missionary tour of his own undertaking. He was not sent from any organization, but was financing his own way.

He was a Campbellite, a follower of Alexander Campbell who was a noted reformer of that day. As we usually entertained any stranger who came into the country, our place was recommended to him as one at which he might stop. He arrived on horseback, with a pair of saddle bags slung across the saddle.

In them he carried a Bible, a dozen or so hymn books and a change of linen. The latter was in need of washing, for he had been on the road a long time, having stopped and preached in the Payette Valley. But it was not linen, as I learned when I washed it. It was mostly woolen such as everybody usually wore for underwear. His wearing apparel was not of very good quality, and was much worn. He had long, unkempt hair and beard. But in those days we never judged a man by his outward appearance. He told my husband his business, and asked for accommodations.

Frank told him that we would be glad to keep him a few days, and that we would be glad to have him preach at the schoolhouse. This was on Friday, and as the preacher had had a long, hard ride that day, it was thought best to make the announcement that the preaching would be held Sunday morning and Sunday night.

Frank sent Ed Brannin to the lower neighborhood to spread the report of the preaching. This was something new in the community and to many it was good news, for most of the older people had been members of some church back home, and were glad to have the opportunity to attend religious services again.

Sunday morning found most of the people of the settlement gathered at the schoolhouse. Those from a distance had come in lumber wagons or on horseback, and those nearer had come afoot. The back-woodsy look of the preacher may have occasioned some disappointment, but he was a vigorous speaker, and presented his doctrine with a firmness of conviction that aroused the interest of his congregation. Several of the Methodists disagreed with his doctrines, but they had been without Bibles and teachers for so long they were unable to refute his arguments.

After hearing a few of his sermons, I decided to become a Christian; so when the invitation was given, I went forward and gave the preacher my hand, in token of my willingness to be baptized. I did not set the time for this ceremony then, for I hoped that others would follow. When the meeting was dismissed, Jimmie Callaway, Doc Callaway's son, came to me and said, "I am glad you went up and joined the Church tonight."

The next night, at the invitation hour, Jimmie went up and gave the minister his hand. It developed that Jimmie's mother and father had both been members of this church in Texas. Another couple here from Ohio were also members of the Church.

The day for the baptizing was set in late November, and the weather was pretty cold. The little stream was covered with ice which had to be broken. I went down into the cold water and was "buried with my Savior in the watery grave, arising with Him to a newness of life", with the consciousness that my past sins were all forgiven, and a hope of Life Eternal which is promised to all who remain faithful to Christ Jesus.

I have always considered this the most important event in my life. It has helped me to shape my own life and the lives of my family on higher and nobler principles, thereby laying the foundation for happy and useful lives.
From Tales of the Trail by Arabella Fulton. The full 213 page text is available online.

Michael Boly conducted gospel meetings at Athena, Oregon after this time. He preached other places in southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. The following is from Athena church records:
Under the leadership of J.R. Gerking, a small group of believers began meeting in 1871, first meeting in Weston with a Mr. Boli traveling from the Walla Walla Valley to preach for them occasionally.

Note: The Centerville / Athena post office had not been established yet, so Weston was used to describe what eventally separated and became Athena.

Daniel Boone Matheny, writing to the Pacific Christian Messenger in 1879 said, "There is (sic) no preaching brethren here except Bro. Boly, who is doing all his febble health will allow." The letter was written from somewhere in Union County, Oregon.

In the Fall of that same year, Matheny wrote again, "It might be interest to some, to hear, through the Messenger, that the good cause is growing in this part of the State. This should be credited to the assiduous labors of Bro. Boly . . . "

Boly, with his sons James and John, settled east of present-day Elgin, Oregon in the early 1880s. The senior Bolys homesteaded in the area and the sons, John and James, acquired adjacent land holding.

The record is not clear where Michael Boly is buried. One historian says that he went from Elgin to Walla Walla for medical treatment, died and was buried there. Another source says that he is buried at Cricket Flat Cemetery, also called Highland Cemetery on Good Road, east of Elgin. It is certain that his wife and sons are buried there.

Jemima lived with her son John until the close of life. She was a charter member of the Elgin Christian Church when it was formed from smaller churches in the county area.

The original discovery and research for this profile is the work of Kayla Durfee of Athena, Oregon. She connected "M. Boli" with Michael Boly of Missouri. The rest has been easy.

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