David Bacon was a prominent Congregationalist missionary in early nineteenth-century Ohio.
Bacon was born in 1771 in Woodstock, Connecticut. He became ordained as a minister in the Congregationalist Church. In 1801, Bacon and his wife established a mission in Detroit. Residents of Detroit did not embrace Bacon with open arms. Many residents were frontiersmen, more interested in alcohol than religion. The four Roman Catholic priests already in residence in Detroit also did not like Bacon's presence. In 1802, Bacon tried to establish a mission along the Maumee River. Little Otter, a leader of the Ottawa Indians, rejected Bacon's efforts. He declared:
Your religion is very good, but only for white people; it will not do for Indians. When the Great Spirit made white people, he put them on another island, gave them farms, tools to work with, horses, horned cattle, and sheep and hogs for them, that they might get their living in that way, and he taught them to read, and gave them their religion in a book. But when he made Indians he made them wild, and put them on this island in the woods, and gave them the wild game that they may live by hunting. We formerly had a religion very much like yours, but we found it would not do for us, and we have discovered a much better way.
Following Little Otter's address, Bacon returned to Detroit. The missionary next tried to spread Christianity's influence among the Chippewa Indians near Mackinaw. Although he spent two years here, Bacon had no success among the Chippewa.
In 1804, the Congregationalist Church made Bacon the minister of a church in Hudson, Ohio. He also was to travel throughout the Connecticut Western Reserve, continuing his missionary efforts among both whites and the Indians. The Congregationalist Church also authorized him to establish the town of Tallmadge, Ohio. The church building was to be located in the center of town with all roads radiating outward like the sun's rays. Bacon constructed one of the first cabins in Tallmadge for his family and moved there in July 1807. By February 1808, only two other families -- one English and one German -- had joined the Bacons.
Bacon spent 1808 recruiting more members for the community. He was away from home for extended periods of time. Fearing the Indians, Bacon's wife pulled in the latchstring on the door to make access into the cabin from the outside more difficult and she blockaded the door of the cabin. Bacon had limited success in finding new residents for Tallmadge. By the end of 1808, only twelve families called the town home.
Bacon continued to struggle to establish the town. Unfortunately, he had purchased the land for the town on credit. He had hoped to pay off his debts by collecting a land tax. With so few families moving to the community, Bacon could not collect enough in taxes to pay his creditors. He was evicted from his land in 1812. He returned to Connecticut, where he spent the remainder of his life selling religious texts door to door. He died on August 17, 1817. Although Bacon did not live to see Tallmadge grow, the community eventually became the center of the Congregationalist faith in Ohio.
- Evening News Association. Men of Progress: Embracing Biographical Sketches of Representative Michigan Men. Detroit, MI: Evening News Association, 1900.