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A. W. Dean
Pioneer Spokane County Church Planter
By Charles Dailey - February 2002

Albert W. Dean at a Glance:
Born: Canada April 5, 1841
College:Northwestern Christian University
now Butler University
Ministries :New York, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois
Married: Della L. Lindley
Emigrated:To Washington Territory in 1886
Settled: Spokane County
Planted Churches: Cheney
Deep Creek
Medical Lake
Buried:Medical Lake Cemetery

Even though his ministry in Washington Territory was brief, we are blessed with a number of reports from Albert W. Dean personally and items that were written about him by others. This profile is mostly an arrangement of these early insights. They retain the flavor of the time for the modern reader.

Mr. Dean attended Northwestern Christian University (later renamed Butler University). He had preached several places in the east and midwest before making the long move to Washington Territory.

He reported his 1886 relocation in an article to the Christian Standard:

Cheney, April 1 -- I closed my work with the church at Colfax, McLean county, Ill., on the last day of February, preparatory to our departure for this Territory. At 10:20 a.m., Monday, March 1, we took the train for Chicago. . . . (At St. Paul) we took an emigrant coach for this place over the Northern Pacific Railway. Our coach room was soon crowded with emigrants and their families to the number of fifty five or over, all bound for the far west. Yet we were not uncomfortable, for the accomodations on these coaches is (sic) complete. Too much praise cannot be given to the officers and employees of the N. P. for the care they take in the welfare of their passengers. The trip from St. Paul to Cheney was made in three days, a distance of over 1,908 miles.

We reached Cheney on Saturday, March 6, about 4 p.m., and found Bro. and Sister Merriman and other brethren awaiting us at the depot. It was through the earnest and prayerful efforts of Sister M., that we were induced to come to the territory, seconded by the Board of the G. C. M. C.

Cheney is an active little town in Spokane county, on the N. P. railroad, and is the county seat. . . . The town has had a population of some 1,400 or 1,500, but is much smaller now.

On the first Lord's day after arrival I attended the Congregationalist church in the morning, and by invitation of the pastor I preached in the evening to a good attendance. Thus I had the advantage of an early introduction to the people of the place. I began a series of meetings on the following Friday evening in the Baptist church, which we engaged for the year as they occupy it but two Lord's days in the month.

I expect to preach here and at three other points in each month. I preached to varying and changeable audiences for over two weeks, giving in all eighteen discourses, suceeding thus in getting our plea quite prominently before the people, especially on the last day of the meeting, when I spoke on Christian union in the morning and on the action of baptism in the evening. I had good and very attentive audiences at both these meetings. I have never been in a place of this size where there were so few in attendance at church and so little regard for the Lord's day services.

The result of the meeting was that three were added to the Lord, and a church organized on the last Lord's day of seventeen members. . . . The outlook is fair and the little band are encouraged for the future.

On the next Lord's day I speak at Deep Creek Falls and the following at Medical Lake and Spokane Falls. There are brethren at all these places; brethren who have been hungering for the preaching of the gospel for these many years. Organizations will be effected at these points as soon as practicable. I am well pleased with my field of operations and pray God that the hopes of all these noble disciples may be realized by our coming among them. -- A. W. Dean, Evangelist
Christian Standard 1886

There was a large influx of emigrants to Spokane County with a heritage in the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches. A common term for them was Disciples. Just 19 days later, Mr. Dean wrote:
Cheney, April 19. -- Since my last report I have visited Medical Lake, and find a number of Disciples there and a good outlook for an organization in the no great distant future. I was at Deep Creek Falls on April 4, and preached both morning and evening to good audiences, especially in the evening. They seem anxious to have me return. A congregation will also be organized there soon,. This is the home of our beloved brother, A. M. Merriman, who has a ranch in this vicinity. On the 11th of April I visited Lance Hills, a point seven miles west of Cheney, and spoke in the school-house, morning and evening. Had a good hearing. Bro. Moore lives near here. He is one of the elders of the Cheney congregation. I find Disciples scattered all over this country, and more are moving in.

At present writing I am at Spokane Falls. Came up yesterday afternoon. Attended the Congregational church in the evening, and listened to a good discourse from the pastor, Mr. Edwards. Had the pleasure of an introduction to the audience, and spoke a few earnest words on the love of God.

I begin a meeting here tonight in the Congregational house. There are a number of Disciples here, and more are being made known as the news spreads that there is an evangelist in the field.

At the close of the meeting last night, a prominent citizen came forward and introduced himself to me-- Dr. Major, formerly of Bloomington, Ill., a Disciple, whom I was glad to meet, having heard of him before I left Illinois.

The prospect is good here. More anon.
-- A. W. Dean

Christian Standard, 1887

After a two-week night-to-night meeting, Dean reported:
Cheney, May 4 -- My meeting at Spokane Falls closed on Monday night May 3. The success of the meeting was far beyond our expectations. A church was organized of 24 members and steps are being taken to purchase a lot and put up a house of worship. -- A. W. Dean
Christian Standard 1887
In March of 1887, Mr Dean wrote a summary of his recent experiences to the Christian Standard:
Cheney, March 1. -- I have a few meetings I would like to report through your columns. On January 23, I went to Deep Creek Falls and began a meeting in the evening. Opened with a good house, and continued the preaching of nights till the 1st of February, delivering 11 discourses in all. The weather was the most disagreeable throughout the meeting we have had this winter, yet the attendance was good all of the time, and the interest was great. The cold at last broke up the meeting, and I closed reluctantly. There was one added -- a lady who was a member of the M. E. Church.

Remaining at home but two nights I went at once to Spangle, and began a meeting on Sunday evening with a crowded house. Mrs. Mary Jones, a Baptist evangelist, had held a successful meeting only a few weeks previous, and 5 had been added to the Church of Christ by baptism during her meeting. I began mine with a deep interest from the first, there being 1 addition the first meeting.

Continued the meeting until the evening of February 23 with crowded houses all of the time. There were 11 added during the time -- 4 by baptism, and the others by commendation and reclaimed. I was greatly assisted by Bro. T. J. Cannon, the pastor, who, by his earnest prayers and exhortations, added much to the growth. There was also a Presbyterian minister present during the last week, who took considerable part in the devotions. The church in Spangle has entered on a new era in its history.

On the fourth Lord's day I visited Spokane Falls, although it was not my regular day at that place. In the morning there were 2 confessions and one added by letter. The Baptists kindly granted us the use of their baptistery, and the two young men were baptized in the afternoon. These, and our esteemed Bro. and Sister L. G. Thompson, who have settled here, and one other brother, were received into the fellowship in the evening -- 6 in all during this day. We will make a supreme effort to build up the cause in Spokane Falls during the year. -- A. W. Dean
Christian Standard 1887

Mrs. J. A. C. Merriman, then a teacher at the academy in Cheney, reported on Mr. Dean's work in a gospel meeting at Cheney, then his work in general. It appeared in the Christian Standard.
Bro. Dean has never preached better sermons; indeed, his great burden for souls seemed to throw the burning coals of truth into the hearts of many, and strange it appeared that there was not a a general breaking up of the icy waters of sin, ignorance, worldliness, sloth and procrastination.

Brother Dean's first year of evangelistic work in Spokane county is nearly at an end and we think he has done a grand work, in word, doctrine and organization. He has won a place in the hearts not only of the brethren, but of outsiders. Our opponents say, "We like Bro. Dean, but have no use for his doctrine."
Christian Standard, May 5, 1887

A contemporaneous writer said of Mr. Dean:

Evangelist Dean soon proved himself worthy of the recommendation given him and in every way well fitted for the work to which he had been called. In social life he was genial, gentle, unassuming, considerate of the rights of others - a Christian gentleman. As an evangelist he employed no silly, sensational methods to draw audiences. In his preaching he was scriptural, persuasive, not afraid nor ashamed to preach the truth, but preaching it, not in the spirit of controversy, but in the love of it. Ever looking to the Gospel, not as his own power, but as the power of God to the salvation of the lost. In all his work he had the cordial sympathy and cooperation of his faithful, self-sacrificing, Christian wife.

Albert Dean's health begin to decline following an accident. We believe the accident happened in July. It was reported in the Christian Standard.
Bro. A. W. Dean, of Medicine Lake, W. T., writes on the 5th that he was thrown from a wagon on the 4th, and suffered a fracture of his right leg, one bone just above the ankle, and a dislocation of the ankle, which he fears will lay him up for some weeks. We hope that the injury will not prove so serious as he fears.
Christian Standard 1887
Recovery was slow and restricted his preaching:
I wish to say to my friends, through the STANDARD, that I am improving and able to be about. Yesterday I was taken in a boat to the stand on the camp-ground and discoursed to a fine audience while seated in a chair, not being able to stand. I am not able to meet my regular appointments, and could not have preached yesterday had it not been that the stand was handy on the lake shore and I could go to it in a boat. I expect in a few weeks to be able to keep my appointments.

The cause here at the Lake is looking up considerably. We have had considerable opposition from the Baptist preacher, he having tried to close the doors of the church against us. But it is working to our favor as some of the Baptist members are about on the eve of throwing in their lot with us. The close communion cords can not be drawn so tightly but what they can break bread with us and enter into all our worship. May God bring about a union of all his people.

The other parts of the field are prosperous. We have just begun work at a new point of great interest -- Mondovi, in Lincoln county. I have preached there once, and the people are very anxious for me to improve, so that I can be with them again.

Deep Creek Falls, Cheney, and Lava Hills are all in good condition, and earnest and anxious for the good work to go on.

Spokane Falls is trying to take care of themselves and want a preacher. There is a good opening here for a live and energetic man.

Bro. Cannon is doing a good work in Spangle, but just now is in rather poor health and is taking a vacation at Spirit Lake, Idaho, trying to recruit.

Bro. W. E. Richardson is holding forth the word of life in the southern part of the county at Mt. Hope, where he has organized a church, and at Latah and Rosalia, where we hope to organize before long.

A. W. Dean
County Evangelist
Medical Lake, W. T. July 25

Christian Standard 1887

In addition to the four congregations generally known, this report revealed one at Lava Hills, an unidentified community in the vicinity of Cheney.

Undaunted by his injury, he was soon back in the pulpit:

Medical Lake, August 29: -- I was able to fill my regular appointment by standing in the pulpit on one crutch. This is the first time I have been able to meet my engagements since I preached here seated in a chair. At the morning meeting, there were 2 confessions. Immediately after the close of the services, I baptized these in the lake. I did it by kneeling in the stern of a boat while the candidates stood in the water in front of me. Thus the good work goes on. -- A. W. Dean
Christian Standard, September 17, 1887
By the Fall of 1877 it was becoming clear that Mr. Dean's health was on a down hill course. John Boggs of Cincinnatti, Ohio was secured to work for several months, but declined to remain for the long term.

Boggs summarized his work:

Stevens, April 6. -- On the 5th of December last I started for Spokane county to fill out the remaining four months of the missionary year, made vacant by the sickness of Bro. A. W. Dean. During the winter the weather was very stormy and cold; and the meetings at all the regular points were considerably interrupted by epidemic sickness; and in Cheney a protracted effort entirely prevented. I organized two new churches, one at Stevens, in Spokane county; the other at Spring Lake School-house, in Whitman County. In all, 6 baptisms, 2 by letter, 3 from other denominations, 3 reclaimed and 14 by relations, making a total increase of 28.

At Spring Lake no person of any denomination had ever preached a sermon until I began my meeting there. It is a field requiring much labor, and can only be cultivated at a heavy personal sacrifice on the part of those who do the work. I have appointments between here and California reaching down to the 4th of July. -- John Boggs
Christian Standard, May 1888

Two new congregations have been established during Mr. Dean's illness: Stevens and Spring Lake School-House.

In 1888 F. M. Walden reported in the Christian Standard of A. W. Dean, ". . . he is now prostrate with some nervous trouble and is not able to preach at all."

Dean declined further and finally came to accept the fact that his church planting days were over. Linus Rogers, a friend from earlier years, moved to Washington Territory to take up the work that Mr. Dean was too ill to continue.

He wrote following Dean's death:

He struggled bravely for life amid intense suffering. But when he saw that his life's work was finished, he longed for rest and the crown of righteousness awaiting him.
Christian Standard
Albert W. Dean was buried at Medical Lake Cemetery and is listed on the roster there.

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