Muscatine Revivals Saved Thousands

Any student of Muscatine revivals finds two that stand head and shoulders above all others. We have seen many revival meetings through the years, but these two really had an effect upon the whole community. Because of the large number of people saved and healed during services, the evangelists Mrs. Woodworth-Etter and Billy Sunday are noteworthy.

Mrs. Maria Woodworth-Etter was an evangelist that packed her huge tent and traveled across the United States beginning in 1880. In 1883, people began to go in trances and fall down under the power of the Holy Ghost beginning the Pentecostal Movement. Mrs. Woodworth-Etter held tent revivals in Muscatine in 1901 and 1902. What stands out even today are all the physical healings and salvations that occurred in the Muscatine revivals plus the number of people that attended the meetings. Hundreds were saved and healed, lives were changed. In her journal, she reports about the Muscatine revivals, “The Sabbath before we closed there, there were nine thousand people on the ground and the Sabbath we closed there were ten thousand. In the morning meeting there were one hundred and thirty testimonies of the healing of the body, and hundreds of the salvation of the soul.” She mentioned that large crowds of several thousands of people came to the revival meetings.

Billy Sunday was a famous ex baseball player turned evangelist and Presbyterian-Methodist preacher. Known for his speed in running he set records for stealing bases in his baseball career only to give it up for the ministry. Sunday had played baseball from 1883 through 1891. Sunday conducted about 300 revivals throughout the United States, attracting audiences estimated at 100 million. He is thought to have evangelized the largest number of people by one person before modern broadcasting. Sunday was a leader in the Prohibition movement (against the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcohol). Prohibition probably played a part in him coming to Muscatine for it was a major dispute in our city at the time.

Billy Sunday’s revivals of 1907, 1908, 1910 and 1911 are the most famous because he drew such large crowds. In 74 meetings, it was estimated that more than 180,000 people came to his meetings. The meetings were held at The Musser Lumber Company in downtown Muscatine. Special provisions were made for Sunday to come to Muscatine and a one-story temple was erected because he dreaded panic or accidents if people were seated in a gallery. In the 1907 revival, it had been reported that expenses were $4500, which Sunday raised himself. The free will offering was an impressive $10,111.23. The banner over the stage read “Saved for Service” with a smaller banner under it that read, “Get Right with God”. The most outstanding fact is the total number of people saved, repented and surrendered their life to Jesus, was 3579. This number is recorded on the pulpit that was made for Billy Sunday. The revival meetings must have had an effect upon our city because it has been reported that in 1908 saloons closed.

Billy Sunday's 1908 meeting taken by Grossheim Studio from Musser Public Library's Collection

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Thank You Father God for reviving us. Thank You, for all the salvations and healings that have taken place in Muscatine, Iowa.