An Overview of the Life of
Rev. Isaiah Reid
by Isaiah Reid’s biographer

Jim Kerwin

Copyright © 2008

See below for articles by Isaiah Reid.

Bookmark and Share


Rev. Isaiah Reid (1836-1911), circa 1894, founder of the Iowa Holiness Association.

Rev. Isaiah Reid (1836- 1911), pastor, evangelist, author, editor, publisher, columnist, educator, pro­fes­sor, college president, and founding president (1879-1908) of the Iowa Holiness Association.


ne of Isaiah Reid’s contemporaries called him an “Abraham of the holiness movement.” Detailing Reid’s life and ministry has been a passion of mine for the last several years, and considering how difficult it has been to “fit” that life into a 300-page master’s thesis and a biography that has grown much larger than the thesis, I assure the reader that the brief overview presented here is but a tip of the “tip of the iceberg.”

Perhaps the easiest approach would be to present a brief outline of his life, with short comments as applicable.

An Isaiah Reid Timeline

(Excerpted from Isaiah Reid: Portraits of a Prairie Prophet of Purity by Jim Kerwin.  Copyright © 2008. Used by permission.)

  • 1836: Born in Walnut Ridge, Indiana (near Salem) to a godly family of strict Scottish Covenanters.
  • 1850: At age fourteen, moves with his family to a new homestead in northern Des Moines County, Iowa (just south of Morning Sun, Iowa).
  • 1854: Decides on a career as a woodworker, but is thwarted—God has other plans!
  • 1855-1861: Through the recruiting and persuasions of Rev. Dr. Erastus J. Gillett, Reid enrolls in Jefferson Academy/Yellow Springs College (YSC) in Kossuth, Iowa.
  • 1856: Finds salvation in Jesus Christ through Gillett’s ministry.  Heeds a call to full-time ministry.
  • 1860: Marries sweetheart Mary Ellen Braden of nearby Northfield, Iowa.  Their love and marriage will endure for over 51 years.
  • 1861: American Civil War begins.  Reid graduates from YSC with a bachelor’s degree.  Heeding God’s call to full-time Christian service, he heads to a Presbyterian seminary.
  • 1861-1864: Attends Auburn Theological Seminary in Auburn, NY (near Syracuse).  Graduates with an A.M. in theology.
  • 1864: Receives and accepts a call from a Presbyterian prairie “mission church” in Nevada, Iowa.  Ordained to the Presbyterian ministry by the Presbytery of Keokuk, Iowa, on his way to Nevada.
  • 1864-1877: Serves as the first minister of Central Presbyterian Church in Nevada, Iowa (with exceptions as noted below).
  • 1865: Civil War Ends.  Son Edwin James Gillett Reid is born.
  • 1868: Daughter Minnie E. Reid (married name: Wier) is born.
  • 1869: Mary is injured in a cutter (small sleigh) accident and “sustained such injuries that she was maimed for life.”
  • 1873: Isaiah is introduced to the teachings of Wesleyan holiness.  He attends the June Cedar Rapids camp meeting of the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness and is entirely sanctified.  The change in his ministry and preaching are so marked that he prints a full-column, front-page testimony in the local newspaper to explain the startling change.
  • 1873-1875: Serves as “stated supply” pastor for the Presbyterian church in nearby Albion, Iowa.
  • 1875-1877: Returns to pastor Central Presbyterian in Nevada.
  • 1875-1879: Founds a monthly holiness newspaper, Highway Papers.
  • 1877: Isaiah is ousted from his Central Presbyterian Church pulpit over his teaching of entire sanctification “in this life.”
  • 1877-1906: Reid’s non-periodical writing career begins in earnest with numerous booklets and pamphlets, as well as book titles such as Holiness Bible Readings (two editions), Soul-Help Papers, “How They Grow,” Wilda Weeks, and The Holy Way (which even went through two British editions). In addition, he edits and publishes three successive editions of the successful Highway Hymnal.
  • 1878-1906: Starting in Illinois, Reid begins his evangelistic ministry and is a sought-after Gospel preacher and teacher, from Illinois to the Deep South and to California.
  • 1879-1890: Highway Papers becomes the regional, weekly holiness paper called The Highway, still printed in Nevada, Iowa.  The ministry of The Highway Office, in addition to the weekly periodical, turns out over 1.5 million tracts, pamphlets, and booklets over this period of time.
  • 1879: Spearheads the founding of the Iowa Holiness Association (IHA), which has its first camp meeting in July.
  • 1879-1908: Serves as “first and only” president of the IHA for almost three full decades.  His organizational genius, gift for discipling and mentoring, and his tireless leadership and training of this statewide, county-level evangelistic powerhouse (averaged 10,000 salvations, sanctifications, and “recoveries” per year in the early 1900s!) make the Iowa Holiness Association (to put it in modern parlance) the “Saddleback Church” of the national holiness movement, and Reid its “Rick Warren.”
  • 1880: Is tried for “heresy” (the heresy of preaching heart purity!) by the Presbytery of Waterloo [Iowa] and found “guilty on all counts.”
  • 1881: The Presbyterian Synod of Iowa upholds the verdict of the Waterloo Presbytery.
  • 1883: Serves as founding presbyter of the Church of Centralia (Missouri), the beginning of the Church of God (Holiness).  Starts an independent church in Nevada, Iowa.
  • 1886: Becomes a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • 1890-1893: The Highway combines with The Banner of Holiness to form Highway and Banner. Printing operations and ministry move to Des Moines.
  • 1893-1905: In 1893, Reid sells H&B to the “eastern” Christian Witness and Advocate of Bible Holiness, making that periodical a truly national paper for the holiness movement.  Reid serves as the “Western editor” and a major contributor.  His weekly section usually comprises two full pages (sometimes more) of the paper’s sixteen pages.
  • 1899-1908: Isaiah and Mary move to Dallas County, Iowa and name their new home “Sunnyside Place.” Many of Reid’s best articles (particularly his “sermons from nature” articles called “Sunnyside Papers”) spring from the inspiration of planting, gardening, and harvesting on their beloved property.
  • 1905-1906: Serves as a professor in Iva May Durham Vennard’s Epworth Evangelistic Institute in St. Louis, Missouri, while running Reid’s Holiness Correspondence School.
  • 1907: Throws in his lot with the burgeoning Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene.
  • 1907-1909: Serves as Professor of Bible and Theology, as well as vice-president (under the president Phineas Bresee), at Deets Pacific Bible College, a Nazarene-related institution in Los Angeles.
  • 1909-1910: Serves in a similar capacity with a smaller, church-based school in Los Angeles.
  • 1910-1911: Serves as president and professor at California Bible College in Los Angeles.
  • 1911: Takes up residence as Professor of Bible and Theology at Kansas Holiness Institute in Hutchinson, Kansas in September.  Dies unexpectedly on October 3rd after a brief hospitalization.  His remains are buried in his beloved Nevada, Iowa.
  • 1912: The IHA raises sufficient funds to erect a suitable tombstone over his cemetery plot.  The inscription on the backside of the marble marker reads, “He was the founder of the Iowa Holiness Association.”

Note: We are just starting to reproduce Isaiah Reid’s articles and books.  Christians, laypeople and scholars alike, are taking another look at this dynamic man of God.

  1. The first of a three-book Isaiah Reid series was released in April 2007.  Titled Boyhood Memories and Lessons, the book contains the moving musings of Reid as he looks back from the vantage point of his late sixties to see how God used the influences of his childhood to mold him into the man of God he became.  Boyhood is compiled, edited, and annotated by Isaiah Reid’s biographer, Jim Kerwin.
  2. October 2007 saw the release of the second of the three-book Isaiah Reid series, Sunnyside Papers: Inspirational Sketches from God’s “Book of Nature” (edited by Jim and Denise Kerwin).  A nature lover’s devotional, Sunnyside Papers is full of Reid’s enlightening, thoughtful looks at God’s truths revealed in and through His creation.
  3. Also scheduled for release in 2007 is a reprint of several of Reid’s extant, but rare, booklets, republished by holiness bibliographer Dr. Charles E. Jones (compiler of the masterful, two-volume magnum opus The Wesleyan Holiness Movement).
  4. With a tentative release date of late 2017, the first biography of this fascinating holiness leader will be titled Isaiah Reid: Portraits of a Prairie Prophet of Purity (by Reid scholar Jim Kerwin).



New Material by Isaiah Reid

Books by Isaiah Reid

Bible Teaching Articles by Isaiah Reid

Online Books by Isaiah Reid

Historical Articles by Isaiah Reid


Isaiah Reid Material in Process and Planning

  • The Story of Wilda Weeks (beginning July 2012)


You Can Help…

…by making tax-de­duct­ible gifts to this ministry using PayPal.

The “Send” Button

Image of passport linking to Jim Kerwin's itinerary

New & Featured