biography from Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
REV. THOMAS BALLINGER, of Oskaloosa, was born in Logan County, Ohio, Dec. 21, 1817. His parents, Samuel and Ann (Walker) Ballinger, emigrated from Burlington County, N. J., about 1809. The children born to them in that State, were: John, Oct. 7, 1796; Elizabeth, Nov. 2, 1798; Martha, Dec. 11, 1800; Joshua, Feb. 5, 1803; Henry, April 21, 1805; and Hope, Dec. 17, 1807. Mary was born in Ohio, Sept. 24, 1810; Samuel, May 9, 1812; Jane, Nov. 28, 1814; Charles, March 6, 1816; Thomas, Dec. 21, 1817; Isaac, June 11, 1820, making twelve in all. Those dying quite young were: Henry, Jane and Charles. All the rest lived to old age and raised large families, having the noble example set them by their venerated parents. At the writing of this sketch (January, 1887) only two are living. Isaac, in Liberty, Union Co., Ind., and the subject of these lines, in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Mr. Ballinger has been married three times; first, to Miss Mary Devore, of Champaign County, Ohio, June 8, 1837, and to their union were born three children, namely, Oliver S.; Elizabeth, now Mrs. Ed. Mott; and Mary E. Oliver and Mary E. died in childhood, and their mother April 25, 1845, at the age of twenty-four years. It may be truly said of her, that she was one of the best of earth's children; and died in the hope of a blessed immortality. The following autumn, Mr. Ballinger married Mrs. Lydia A. Hildreth, of the village of Brandon, Knox Co., Ohio, with whom he lived thirty-aix years. They had three children. Thomas Mott, the oldest, was born in Ohio, Aug. 10, 1846. In 1850 the family moved to Iowa, and made their first permanent home in Oskaloosa, where Mr. Ballinger organized a Universalist society in the year 1851. The society numbered some fifty or more, and had preaching once a month for several years. During these years lots were procured on which to build a church. But various causes prevented it from being done. One of the main reasons, perhaps, was the expiration of the time for which Mr. Ballinger was engaged with the society, public opinion in those days, particularly in the West, being molded by the itinerate custom of the Methodists, in making a change every one and two years. After about four years Mr. Ballinger thought the cause could be better served by having a new minister occupy the field, and accordingly the society had various ministers call and preach for a short time, but made no permanent agreement with them until Mr. Josiah Davis settled for a year or two with them. His labors were very acceptable, and but for the stringent times in money matters in 1857─58, would have made a success in the work. Mr. Davis went to other fields of labor, and was succeeded by Mr. Fishback, Col. J. P. Sanford, and a Mr. Clayton, all able men, who succeeded well for a season, but being somewhat eccentric touching various theological opinions, finally withdrew, and went into other employments. In the meantime Mr. Ballinger located on a piece of land in Mahaska County that he had owned for some time, and improved a farm, preaching at various country places, mostly in school-houses, working hard at the same time, improving land and farming. In 1864 Mr. Ballinger's only living son, Thomas Mott, died of typhoid fever. He was nearly eighteen years old, tall, and well proportioned, good hearted, kind and industrious, loved farm work, and took a pride in making himself useful. He was dearly loved by all, and his death made a vacancy in the family never to be filled. Mrs. Ballinger was so affected that she never fully rallied from the nervous shock she then received, and a few years later closed her earthly life, and sleeps by her only son in Forest Cemetery. Her two remaining children are Augusta and Ella. The former married Marquis Barr, for several years Sheriff of Mahash County, now Warden of the Anamosa Penitentiary, in this State; the latter married David Woods, and lives in ,Kansas. Mr. Ballinger was married the third time, in the spring of 1882, to Mrs. E. J. Johnson, a widow lady residing in Oskaloosa, and they are living on North Market street, if not in grandeur, at least surrounded with the comforts of life. We close this sketch by introducing one or two short articles from the pens of others, touching the religions and political status of Mr. Ballinger. The first from the pen of A. C. Edmunds in a publication called the "Life Boat", and the other from the history of the township, by H. J. Vail. "Thomas Balhinger is a native of Ohio, where the father died in 1845 and the mother in 1854. Thomas was raised and well trained in the laborious industries peculiar to a farmer's life. He shared the advantages of the common schools of Ohio─ attending from three to six months a year until about fifteen years of age. Since that date he has been engaged in battling with the duties of life─ receiving some benefit from private instruction in the higher branches and in the languages. In 1834 he experienced a religious awakening which resulted in his joining the Methodist Church. Having his attention directed to the subject of baptism he finally became a member of the Disciples' Church, and for ten years was a preacher of that faith. Coming in contact with believers in Universalism, and studying the subject of the Divine government and the final destiny of the race as the result of beneficent economy, he finally concluded that if salvation was good for one it was good for all, and that God in His wisdom, justice and goodness would so arrange the dispensation of His providence as to insure this impartial and universal result. This mode of reflection led him to embrace the Abrahamic faith, and for twenty-five years he has been proclaiming the unsearchable riches of God's impartial grace. "In October, 1845, he married Lydia A. Hildreth, a native of Vermont. In 1850 he moved west and settled first in Van Buren County, but shortly moved to Mahaska County, and settled in Oaksloosa, where he lived until 1854. For the next two years be engaged in farming near Oskaloosa, and being invited to take charge of the society at Bentonsport, he preached for them for two years and then returned to the farm. In 1861 he moved on his present farm six miles north of Oskaloosa. During these years he has preached extensively through Southeastern and Central Iowa. He has held some eighteen discussions with prominent preachers of different denominations. In these discussions he has displayed more than ordinary forensic ability, and a well grounded knowledge of the Bible and of biblical interpretation. In 1867 he was elected to the Legislature and served through the 12th General Assembly as member of the House. He made an independent member─conscientious in all his acts─too much so to be trammeled by party tactics. He had sufficient manhood not to join in the bitter and uncalled-for tirade of partisans against Andrew Johnson as manifest by a majority of the members of the Legislature. Such is Thomas Ballinger. He is widely known throughout Eastern, Southern and Central Iowa. In fact he has a reputation extending through the range of Universalistic believers throughout the West. He is a social, whole-souled, genial and upright man, without a peer in the West or in the world. Long may he live to bless the circle of friends whose burdens of life are sweetened by his words of counsel and by the influence of his pure and upright life." "The last Christian society organized in Sharon is the Universalist. Although some of the oldest citizens of this part of the county were well established believers in the doctrine of final restoration, and occasional preaching was had, yet their organization as a religious body is an event of quite recent date. For many years the Rev. Thomas Ballinger, of Madison Township, this county, preached in the school-house to good sized companies, and at such times as invitation had been extended. This gentleman may properly be regarded as the chiefest among the pioneers of the faith, in this part of the State. He has preached all over Iowa, traveled much into Missouri and Illinois, and held numerous theological debates with various able exponents of different branches of the orthodox faith, and never without forcing the conclusion, and establishing beyond dispute, that he justly ranks as an able and skillful debater. No man ever engaged him without realizing that he was full mated in the contest, and he did well if he successfully parried his cimeter thrusts, and succeeded well if he preserved his theological armor, and was able to retreat from the field with the shield of his faith untarnished. He is a strong, good man, and despite all differences of opinions, despite all creeds and jealousies, there are none but must admit his religious fervor, his theological skill, his strength of intellect and breadth of thought, his largeness of heart and superior social qualities, and now that his feet are treading the pathway that nears the narrow home ordained for all of earth, his years numbering almost the `threescore and ten,' and his locks as white as the frosts and snows that so oft have come and faded while he earnestly labored, there are none but honor his worth, and think kindly of this one of Christianity's earnest advocates and humanity's able defenders." Mr. Ballinger has been in Iowa nearly thirty-seven years. Oskaloosa was a village of 300 or 400 inhabitants with only one small church house; the court-house, then a small frame building, is occupied now by the First National Bank, and contains several offices built in good style. A magnificent court-house looms up across the street from the northeast corner of the square. The city has a population of 8,000 souls, and the county is unsurpassed in the State. He has witnessed all this great change and now, like good old Simeon, is ready to depart, saying, "I have seen Iowa increase its population from 100,000 in 1860, to over 3,000,000."
Portrait & Biographical Album of Mahaska Co., Iowa, 1887
Mahaska County, Iowa Genealogy