News From Terre Haute, Indiana


April 26, 2014

HISTORICAL TREASURE: Shall we gather down by the river?

TERRE HAUTE — In the current exhibit, “That Old Time Religion,” is a photograph of a baptism taking place in the Wabash River. The exact time is not known but it is estimated to be around 1900. We do know that it took place at Durkee’s Ferry Crossing. Just above the heads of the onlookers, you can make out three or four white-robed people in the river, facing the congregation. The unnamed congregation is gathered by the river, standing and sitting on the bank, standing with a horse, and a few people sitting in small boats or a horse-drawn buggy. All are there to witness this special time in the life of a church.  

This photograph reminds me of the many baptisms I have attended, as well as my own when I was 2 or 3 years old. I was baptized by a circuit riding preacher with all those who wished to be baptized waiting patiently for their turn. I have witnessed baptisms where the water was sprinkled or poured. I have seen a baptism done in a swimming pool and several services done in a baptismal tub, and pools built inside churches, but not one in a river. This photo also reminds me of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ baptism.

When I see this photograph, I start humming “Shall We Gather at the River,” or “Down to the River to Pray.” Come in to see “That Old Time Religion” exhibit and when you find this photograph. I hope it brings a good memory or a special hymn to mind for you, too.

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