Death of a Pioneer
Elder Thomas E. Inman Gone to His Rest
On Thursday, May 18th, 1882 at 2 p.m. at his home in the town of Inman, this county, there breathed his last one of the first settlers, and, reckoned by his talents and virtues, one of the foremost men of Northern Minnesota, viz: Thomas E. Inman. His malady was paralysis and Bright's disease. On Saturday the 6th inst. he walked about eleven miles to Leaf Lake to preach the following day in a settlement he had never before visited, and in the evening, while sitting in his chair, suddenly became ill and unconscious, and was conveyed to his home the following day on a bed. He was thus stricken down in the harness, while attempting to preach the gospel to frontier settlers who are without church privileges.
From our lack of authentic information we can only speak in a general way of his early history and past life. We believe the deceased was born in the state of New York about seventy years ago, and that his early advantages for an education were quite limited. As a young man, before making a profession of religion, he was a sailor on the great lakes, and there acquired a rough and vigorous manner which has ever distinguished him. After his conversion he united with the Baptist church and entered the ministry in about the year 1836, and for many years preached in Northern Ohio, where he earned a wide reputation as a zealous man and able preacher. He came to Minnesota while it was yet a territory and settled in St. Cloud, where he was the first pastor of the Baptist church, and also engaged in the saw mill business, but broke up after the great financial crash of 1857.
When the war broke out his patriotic spirit rose to fever heat, and though upwards of fifty years of age he enlisted and served through the war, first as a Captain in the Fourth Minnesota and after as chaplain at Fort Abercrombie. He earned a reputation for bravery and was seriously injured from the effects of a rebel bullet which knocked him down by striking the roll of his rubber blanket over his breast, and which resulted in a permanent injury to his lungs.
After the war he lived and preached at Main Prairie, Stearns County until in 1870, when he made a trip to Parkers Prairie and located on the prairie in T. 13, R. 37 in this county, which took his name and has since given name to the town. He was poor and getting old, and in those early days he largely subsided by trapping and hunting, but preached to the settlers as occasion offered. In the past twelve years his ministerial work has been spent at the following points; at Lake Park, New York Mills, Wadena, Deer Creek, Inman and Parkers Prairie.
Gentlemen well qualified to judge of the merits of a public speaker, agree that Elder Inman possessed in a rare degree the elements of a true orator. He was logical, fervid, abounding in apt illustrations, never failing to interest his hearers, and often thrilled them. Hon. Judge McKelvy, who set under his ministry in the early days of St. Cloud, bears the most emphatic testimony as to his worth and character, as a preacher, orator and man. Supt. Cowing, whose visitations of the schools in the eastern part of the county occasionally permitted him to hear the veteran preacher, has uniformly borne the highest testimony of his praise. He was a natural orator, and had his early education been liberal he would have been distinguished. He also excelled as a stump speaker, and always took lively interest in political questions, strongly espousing the cause of right and humanity, and dealing his heaviest blows against wrong and oppression.
The funeral services were conducted by Elder Reeves, of Parkers Prairie, at the school house in Inman, on Saturday last, where a large number of the friends and neighbors of the deceased assembled to pay their last respects to one who was held in the universal esteem. The remains were buried in the Wadena cemetery by the side of a favorite daughter.
Elder Inman leaves a wife, advanced in age and broken in health, who had been his companion for forty-seven years. His only remaining child is John B. Inman, well known as a telegraph operator on the line of the N.P.R.R. The deceased had been recently allowed a claim of several hundred dollars for back pay while in the army, and which he was preparing to use in the erection of a comfortable house for his old age. The pure Christian character, the consistent life and the devoted friendship of this man are worthy of a lasting monument, and his remarkable career will form the theme of many a story in generations to come where he has been known.
We are indebted for facts and assistance in the preparation of this article, to Mr. Chas. F. Mason, who has known the deceased intimately as neighbor and friend for eleven years past.
(Source unknown, on file at the Otter Tail County Historical Society, Fergus Falls, Minnesota)
Submitted by Gregory A. Inman