Rev. Samuel W. Deakin Writes Home from the USA, November 1911

Methodist Episcopal Ministry, Des Moines, Iowa

Aged 25, Samuel Wesley Deakin (1886-1956) a member of the Wesleyan Church, travelled to Iowa in August 1911 to enter the Methodist Episcopal Ministry. Founded by John Wesley in 1784, the Methodist Episcopal Church was the oldest Methodist denomination in the United States. The First United Methodist Church in Des Moines, on the corner of 10th and Pleasant Streets, was built in the early 1900s and dedicated on 14 June 1908.

Letter Home from Des Moines

A letter from Rev. Deakin, published in the Wigan Observer and District Advertiser on 11 November 1911 reads:

Having been a resident of U.S.A. for about three months, I would like to tell my Wigan friends something of what I have seen and learned during my residence in the great land. I left Wigan on 19th August last, bound for America, where I was to enter the Methodist Episcopal Ministry. I have been in my present charge a little more than a month and I can honestly say that everything I have seen has pleased me so far.

The State of Iowa has a form of Prohibition, which practically amounts to local option. If a city has a certain population, it can have the saloon if a certain percentage of this population want it, but the city must reach this population before it can exercise its right of option. Where the population does not reach the standard the people are under Prohibition laws. This, of course, leads to bootlegging in places where the salon is non-existent, but this does not often take place only on holidays. The authorities, however, are very strict on this practice, and anyone convicted of bootlegging is sentenced to severe punishment. Drunkenness is never seen to the same extent as it is seen in England. Enemies of Prohibition say that it does not lessen the sale of drink. We can be certain of this, though, that the brewers, etc., would not have made the fight they so recently made in Maine, if they had not stood to gain by the downfall of Prohibition. Humanity as it is at present constituted does not labour, except it can gain something in return, and the brewers in Maine stood to gain a lot by the victory of Liquor over Prohibition.

Our local passive resisters should find a haven for their wearied souls if they lived in the States. We have no State Church, every denomination being on an equality. Methodism is the most powerful church in North America. When Wesley left Georgia he thought he had laboured in vain, and certainly there did not seem much result to his labour, but as evidence of the united work of the Wesleys, Whitfield, and Francis Asbury stands the greatest Protestant Church numerically in the world. In the State of Iowa, Congregationalism and Presbyterianism stands next to Methodism. We are also without religious tests for teachers. All schools are rate supported and are therefore open to anyone who possesses enough ability to act in the capacity of teacher. Secretarian teaching in the schools is unknown. I know one teacher who reads a chapter from the Bible every day to scholars, but one would hardly call this sectarianism.

Perhaps someone would like an idea as to the effects of the tariff in U.S.A. Meat is cheaper than in England, and the price of bread is about the same in both countries. Clothes are very dear, and so is hardware and furniture. Work is very easy to get, but this seems to me due to the scarcity of population rather than to any system of tariffs. The President of the States is a Republican, but the Democrats, the Free Trade Party, are in power in Congress at the present time as a result of the late elections. There is one thing that the Conservative Party should remember when lamenting the great emigration of population, especially to Canada, and this is, that there is practically the same emigration from the States to Canada. This is due neither to Protection nor Free Trade, but is simply due to land. There are millions of acres of good land in Canada yet unworked, while most of the best land in the States is now settled on. The land problem is the key to unemployment. Anyone can see it, after a look round here. Farmers own their own land. They bought it, or got it as a claim when land was cheap, and now they have no rents to pay, and as roads, etc., are not kept up in the same condition as they are in England, local rates are not as high. Lots of farmers could make a very comfortable living if they had no rent day to meet, and if this rent was not raised proportionately as the land increased in value, owing to the farmer’s own ability. People at the present day are getting land cheap in Canada. Consequently there is a steady immigration into this British Colony.

Wishing all my Wigan friends health and prosperity.

Rev. S. Wesley Deakin, U.S.A


US Presidents: Willam Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States. His Presidential term ran from 4 March 1909 to 4 March 1913. Taft was followed by Woodrow Wilson, a leader of the Progressive Movement who was President from 1913 to 1921.

Prohibition: Iowa made up one of the three key states that led the prohibition movement. Statewide prohibition was introduced in 1916 this was followed by the 18th Amendment to the US Consitution, which came into effect on 17 January 1920 prohibiting the production, importation, transportation of alcohol which lasted until 5 December 1933.

Emigration of Canada: Between 1905 and 1923 around 330,000 people moved from the United States to the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, in search of work and land. In 1912, over 400,00 people emigrated to Canada from continental Europe. The Canadian government encouraged people to settle to help clear the land, build roads and railways, and to set up farms to produce food for Canada’s growing population.

Advert from 1898 by John Wilson Bengough Work for hire Toronto Globe (Life time: 1851–1923) Original publication: Toronto GlobeImmediate source:, PD-US,

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