Monday, March 31, 2008

Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray was born April 1, 1806 in Huntington County, Pennsylvania. He moved with his parents to Ohio in 1812. His father died when he was 12 and the boy learned carpentry and the miller's trade to help support his family. He was married and joined a Brethren congregation in 1833. His wife died two years later. He was married four times.

Murray was called to the ministry in 1843 and moved to Indiana in 1851. He traveled widely under difficult conditions to preach for isolated Brethren in Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. His proposal to establish a Brethren college eventually led to the venture to establish Salem College.

Murray died on this date, March 31, in 1906. If he had lived a few hours longer he would have been 100 years old.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Sunday, March 30, 2008

P. R. Wrightsman

P.R. Wrightsman was the youngest minister in his congregation in Tennessee and was away from home studying to be a doctor in 1862 during the Civil War. After some young men of the congregation were imprisoned by the Confederates for failing to serve in the military, the congregation called a special meeting and chose Wrightsman to go to Richmond to seek their release.

Wrightsman traveled to Richmond on a train full of Confederate soldiers when a minister of another faith discovered his stand against the war and insisted "This war is different." Wrightsman stood his ground. When he discovered his challenger believed that God had inspired George Washington to go to war, Wrightsman asked him if he thought so why would he fight against that same country Washington founded. The anger expressed by both the minister and the soldiers put him in jeopardy, but he arrived unharmed and fulfilled his mission.

Over the course of the next few years most of his property was taken by Confederate soldiers. He recalled how late in the war when the soldiers ...came for the last horse they rode up with threats and curses. Their language and manner impressed me that they came with intent to kill me. Part of the squad went to the field for the last horse and part remained with me under their charge. I just stepped inside the stable, stood with my hands upwards, and prayed to my heavenly Father, saying, "Dear Father, save me from these men. Have mercy upon them, and turn them from their evil course, and save thy servant."

I never exercised stronger faith in prayer than at that time. It seemed as if I was speaking face to face with my blessed Lord. When I stepped out to the soldiers I felt that God had answered my prayer, for I could see the Satanic look going down out of their faces like the shadow of a cloud before the bright sunlight.

The soldiers then said to me, "Mr. Wrightsman, can we get some bread?" "O yes," said I, "we are commanded to feed the hungry." I went at once to the kitchen and requested my sisters to cut off a large slice of bread, and butter it for each of them. They did so and I took it out into the yard and handed a slice to each. They thanked me for the bread, bowed their heads, mounted their horses and rode away, taking my last horse with them, however. Feeling sure the Lord had saved my life, I felt happy, "thanked God and took courage." This occurred in the summer of 1863...."

Source: Frank Ramirez, Tercentennial Minute for April 13

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Morrison and Jennie Harris

Among the Brethren who may have read the 1897 ad in Brethren's Family Almanac (see yesterday's post) luring the Brethren to North Dakota were Morrison and Jennie Harris.

Morrison was born on February 14, 1864 in Illinois and immigrated with his parents to Des Moines, Iowa. Jennie was born in Ohio and at the age of 17, following her mother's death, the family traveled by covered wagon to Iowa in 1882. Morrison and Jennie were married March 1, 1885 in Elkhart, Iowa. After the birth of a son in July 1886, they moved to North Dakota in 1897. Morrison went ahead of his family and homesteaded a 1/4 section of land near Kenmare ND. This means they got the land free for living on it and farming it. Morrison built a sod house to live in and went back to Iowa for his family. Later, as his family would grow to include eight children (including my grandmother), he built a small frame house and barn.

Morrison Harris united with the Church of the Brethren in 1887 at the age of 23 and a year later was called to the deacon's office. He continued to serve as a deacon as long as his health permitted and was a faithful member of the Church of the Brethren in North Dakota his entire life. His obituary indicates he was a splendid Sunday School teacher ... His sound advise, his charity and his wholesome viewpoint were always an inspiration to those with whom he came in contact.

Source: Kauffman Family Records

Friday, March 28, 2008

AD: North Dakota for Homeseekers

German Baptist Brethren were among those targeted by railroad companies promoting cheap land in under-developed territories where the railroads had built rails and owned land to sale. The railroad companies were eager to find settlers to buy this land for two reasons: First, the sale of the land helped offset the cost of building the railroad. Second, the railroads needed steady income from customers who needed the transportation they provided. Settlers who turned bare land into thriving farms were the ideal targets - not only did they need to purchase fares for personal transportation, they also needed a way to get their crops to market, and trains were the best way.

In his book, Planting the Faith in a New Land, Steve Bowers includes an ad in Brethren's Family Almanac in 1897. The ad declares: Farming in North Dakota is no experiment. Its record in 1895 was: Wheat 20 to 50 bushels to the acre; flax 15 to 25 bushels; oats 40 to 80 bushels; potatoes 2002 to 300 bushels; and other crops in proportion. It enjoys an enviable reputation for raising livestock and dairying. Its healthfulness is unquestionable. The summer heat never depresses and the winter cold never chills.

The ad goes on to list fourteen Brethren colonies (two being "Brethren of the Old Order") located in North Dakota and a list of Brethren ministers. The ad concludes: Free Government land can still be taken up within reasonable distance of most of the places named above, except Mayville. It is the wish of the Brethren to strengthen the societies already organized, and a cordial invitation is extended to homeseekers to investigate the country and its advantages....

As late as 1914, an ad urged all Brethren attending Annual Conference in Seattle, Wash., to obtain a ticket on the Northern Pacific Railroad which would travel through these territories and give passengers a view of the farmland and a taste of the climate.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27, 1894

A special train was to make the trip to Cando, North Dakota on March 27, 1894. For several days prior to this date, Walkerton, Indiana was the scene of unusual activity. Everybody from around the Walkerton and Nappanee communities was busy loading household goods and livestock into freight cars.

From all over Marshall and Elkhart Counties in Indiana, they came to Walkerton with their families and household goods, livestock, farm machinery, in fact everything. Those who owned land either sold it or offered it for sale. They prepared to sever all connections with their old homes and to establish themselves permanently in new ones.

All told 350 Brethren boarded this special train with all their belongings to follow Elder Amos Peters to new homes near Cando, North Dakota. This large group was like many others as the Brethren who moved west seldom did so alone. Entire family groups often moved together which often had devastating effects on the congregations they left behind. In some cases, these mass migrations weakened congregations so much that they never did recover and were eventually disorganized ... even as new congregations were started in new areas.

Meanwhile, back in Walkerton, the work of loading the belongings of 350 Brethren onto the special train took a bit longer than expected and the March 27 departure was delayed until 2:00 am on March 28.

Sources: Planting the Faith in a New Land
Preaching in a Tavern,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Massacre in North Dakota

As families in northern Indiana were preparing to leave their homes in March 1894 to move to North Dakota, stories from North Dakota began to make their way back to these Indiana families. There were rumors of terrible hardships to be met in North Dakota, the rigor of its winters, were all under discussion.

In addition there were stories of starving and freezing and news of murder of a Brethren family. Friends and neighbors of those preparing to leave predicted that similar fates would await these Brethren. It seems that in July of 1893 the Daniel Kreider family (mother, father, and four of their children) had been massacred by their cousin Albert Bomberger, who was living with them. The father had asked the young man to leave because he did not approve of the attention the young man was paying to the nineteen-year-old daughter (who survived the tragedy). Bomberger was tried in Cando and hanged.

Despite the news from North Dakota, the colonists were not deterred. They continued their preparations for leaving and found that comradeship in a new and uncertain venture made new friends, so that their sorrow at leaving was not wholly without recompense.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, Morse

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Amos Peters

One of the stories of Brethren moving their families west tells of a special train planned entirely for taking emigrating families from northern Indiana to North Dakota in 1894. The movement had assumed large proportions and a colony of Brethren in North Dakota was definitely assured.

Amos Peters was born into a Brethren family in Franklin County, Virginia, where he grew into manhood. He was drafted into the Confederate army during the Civil War, but deserted and surrendered to Union authorities. After the war he settled near Walkerton, Indiana where he married Barbara Blocher in 1867. He joined the Pine Creek congregation and was elected a minister in 1875 and an elder in 1888. Through an acquaintance with Max Bass of the Great Northern Railroad, Peters was persuaded in 1894 to lead a group of Brethren to North Dakota to begin a settlement.

Peters traveled from community to community in the midwest, telling farmers of the wonderful opportunities that awaited them in the northwest. He visited the homes of those he thought he could interest, took a meal with them, or perhaps stayed overnight. And because he was a poor man in a new country, the people he approached placed confidence in him. In the smaller towns, public meetings were called for the purpose of informing large numbers of people about North Dakota.

By 1894 a new church and cemetary had been built in Zion, North Dakota, and stories of the church activities were circulating in great detail among Indiana farmers who were considering moving.

In addition, to leading 350 Brethren on a special train to North Dakota in 1894, Peters would later assist in establishing Brethren settlements in the Wenatchee Valley of Washington State.

Sources: Planting the Faith in a New Land
Preaching in a Tavern,
Brethren Encyclopedia "Peters, Amos"

Monday, March 24, 2008

Westward by Railway

After the first continental railroad was finished in 1869, there was a tremendous rush of railroad building across the West. Within 25 years, there were five major transcontinental railroad lines. The federal government encouraged this frantic activity with generous land grants. Companies that built lines across the West were given huge tracts of free land as an incentive. Often, this amounted to alternating sections of land five to ten miles deep on either side of the railroad line. The result was that railroad companies had tens of thousands of acres of land to sell. Most railroad companies established land offices with agents who aggressively recruited settlers. Land was sold cheaply for $1 or $2 per acre and, in some instances, was actually given away.

German Baptist Brethren were among those targeted by the railroad companies, and Indiana became a lucrative market. The Northern Pacific Railway was one of the most active railroad companies in recruiting Brethren settlers. Advertisements appeared regularly in Brethren publications touting the virtures and benefits of places like North Dakota, Idaho, and Washington. The ads often listed existing Brethren communities and the ministers who lived there. Potential settlers were invited to write to these ministers for unbiased opinions.

Magazines, such as Gospel Messenger, The Inglenook, and The Brethren Family Almanac that came into Brethren farm homes carried full-page advertisements paid for by railway companies and their agents. The railways also used special promotional activites at Annual Meetings with the assistance of ministers who were employed as agents.

The railroads were more than accomodating in getting Brethren moved. Families who bought individual fares were often given free freight cars to transport all of their household goods, farm machinery, and livestock.

We will be following these developments as the Brethren made their way west by railroad this week.

Sources: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana
Preaching in a Tavern,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Statement of Faith and Benediction

From the writings of Alexander Mack, Sr. comes this Exhortation, Statement of Faith and Benediction of Alexander Mack, Sr., at the close of his conversation of father and son. It is taken fromLawrence W. Shultz book: Schwartenau: Yesterday and Today.

Thou wilt find nothing of any other holiness at all in the Old and New Testament, than in doing the will of God. This has always been, and it will always be the salvation of the soul.

This then is the way of salvation for every soul, namely, to do and act agreeably to the will of God. But to refuse doing so, and to oppose him in his will, and disregarding him one thinks and says, 'This and that I do not find necessary for me, though God has commanded it'; such a soul is an enemy of God....

Hence, in conclusion I will advise thee to look only unto Jesus, our Redeemer and Savior. And when thou has learnt from Him His doctrine, as literally commanded in the (New) Testament, then try to continue steadfast therein, and to resolve firmly within thyself, much rather to lose thy liberty, property, the friendship and all that thou hast in this world, and even thy life, than to fall away from the doctrine of Jesus. Thou must accustom thyself to take up thy cross daily, denying thine own will, or else thou canst not be a disciple of the Lord Jesus, much less be an heir of his kingdom.

Now, may the Lord Jesus bless thy soul, increase thy faith, and let this simple exhortation grow in thee, and bear fruit, which remaineth unto eternal life, and then we will praise and glorify our God in unison for evermore. Amen

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tomorrow's Heritage

Saturday before Easter - on the verge of something new. Easter is a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but first comes this day in between Good Friday and Easter. In some respects it seems the Church of the Brethren is also in this in-between time.

Linda Logan who wrote the Whatza Wissahickon? heritage curriculum for children in 1992 includes the following reminder in her closing chapter:

In some ways the church has changed a lot since 1708 when we had only eight members. We no longer dress plain. We live like everyone else in America. Most of us were German in the early days. We lived on farms and had country churches. Now we have 150 thousand people and we are white, black, hispanic, and Asian, a rainbow of wonderful people. We are poor and rich, country people and city people. We have big churches and little churches. ... we welcome people of all colors, cultures, and languages. We believe that God wants us to live, work, and worship together. Remember that Paul said our bodies have many different parts. We are not all legs or all arms or all heads. As the Church of the Brethren body grows in variety, it looks more and more like a real body with many different parts. This is how God wants us to be.

Even though the church has changed in 300 years, many things stay the same. We still believe that Jesus is our example and redeemer, that God guides our every decision. We still believe in feetwashing, love feast, simple living, no force in religion, the priesthood of all believers, and peace.

The stories of your lives will be the stories that Brethren in the future tell their children. You are the church today and you are tomorrow's heritage. ... How would you like to be remembered?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Abraham Duboy

Abraham Duboy was a Brethren preacher in both Germany and America. In 1715 he fled to Schwarenau to escape persecution and became an assistant to Alexander Mack. He had intended to travel with Mack to America in 1729 but for some unknown reason his journey was delayed until 1732.

In 1738 he was called to the Great Swamp congregation where he served as a faithful preacher until his death in 1748. He never married and was known as an earnest, zealous and modest man. He is reported to have had a number of remarkable visions. The strangest was a vision about his own death.

One morning when he arose he informed the family with whom he lived that the time for his departure had come. He dressed himself in a shroud which he had prepared for the occasion, and asked the family to join with him in singing a hymn. After the singing he delivered a fervent prayer and, reclining on a couch, he quietly breathed his last on this date, March 21, 1748.

Source: A History of the German Baptist Brethren, M.G. Brumbaugh

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Love Feast

When the Brethren gather this evening for Love Feast in their various church buildings, it will be a meaningful worship service they have continued since the beginning of their history.

Ken Shaffer, writes in Let Our Joys Be Known - A Brethren Heritage Curriculum for Adults: Perhaps the love feast Brethren worship at its best. Historically the love feast was preceded by a deacon visit to every member. The purpose of the visit was to see if members were still faithful to their baptismal vows and at peace with other members. Today the love feast typically begins with a period of self-examination. Then feetwashing recalls both the forgiveness (cleansing) represented by baptism and the need for Christians to follow the servant role of Jesus.

After feetwashing, members partake of the Lord's supper, a fellowship meal based on the practice of the early church. Finally, the bread and cup communion remind the participants of Jesus' sacrifice of himself for all humanity.

According to William Beahm, a former missionary and seminary professor, the love feast is the "interrelationship between our religious experience and our social relations, between the power of God and our human needs."

Source: Let Our Joys Be Known, Richard B. Gardner and Kenneth M Shaffer

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Peter Becker Gravestone

When Peter Becker died on March 19, 1758, he was buried in the old graveyard and a simple sandstone marked his grave with the inscription: "Anno 1758, P.B." The gravestone was so small that it finally sunk beneath the sod and the grave was unmarked and almost forgotten.

Abraham H. Cassell will later reveal that his old aunt pointed out the grave to him, explaining she was perhaps the only person living who knew its location. She died soonafter. For years after Brother Cassell was the only person to know of the burial place of this early American leader of the Brethren. In his later years, Cassell was seized by typhoid fever, and in his sickness he remembered that he alone knew of the exact spot where Peter Becker was buried. On his sick bed he made a solemn vow to God that if his life were spared he would, at his own expense, erect a fitting memorial over the grave.

God was good to him and in due time he was well. Then the order was given and a beautiful Carrara marble stone was prepared and fittingly engraved. When the workmen under Brother Cassel's direction dug the soil away to set the stone, their picks struck an obstacle, - a rough old sandstone. It was removed to allow the new stone to be securely set. The inscription on the old stone was plainly cut and now continues to stand beside the new stone two hundred and fifty years later on this anniversary of the death of Peter Becker.

Source: A History of the German Baptist Brethren, Martin G. Brumbaugh

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peter Becker

Peter Becker was an early leader of the Brethren. He joined the church in Creyfelt, Germany in 1714 and in 1719 led the first migration of Brethren to America. From the arrival in America until his death in 1758, Becker provided leadership to the Brethren. He was a weaver by trade and owned twenty-three acres of land in Germantown which he cultivated in cereals and flax.

In 1720 he had an apprentice named Conrad Beissel who would later make a name for himself among the Brethren, but that's another story. Beissel lived in Becker's house for a year; then left for the Conestoga country where Becker baptized him and made him the head of the Conestoga church. The bitterest cup that Peter Becker had to drink came in 1728 when Beissel separated himself from the church to begin his own movement in Ephrata. Not only was there a large loss to the church, but Becker himself was personally attacked.

During these years, however, Becker was a faithful and steady leader of the Brethren despite the ongoing turmoil with Beissel and the Ephrata movement. It is said that from the time of this seaparation in 1728 until his death in 1758 the pious old man in his patient grief labored and wept in memory of the fateful events in the Conestoga country.

In 1747 Becker moved from Germantown to the Skippack and spent his remaining years living with his eldest daughter. Here he was happy and worshipped with the Indiana Creek congregation on the spot where a home was later built for Abraham H. Cassell - but that leads us to another story for tomorrow.

Source: A History of the German Baptist Brethren, Martin G. Brumbaugh

Monday, March 17, 2008


The first Brethren worship service in Nigeria was held on March 17, 1923, by H. Stover Kulp and Albert D. Helser under a tamarind tree in the village of Garkida. "Each of us prayed that this spot might be a fountain to which people might come and drink of the Water of Life and eat of the Bread of Life," Helser wrote. Although beset by personal tragedies, the missionaries began to translate the Scriptures into the local Bura language, engage in health care, and establish schools and a hospital. []

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Peter Nead

Peter Nead (1796-1877) would become one of the most prominent writers and theologians of the 19th century Brethren. Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, he was a Lutheran by birth, and received a good education but he was dissatisfied with the faith of his childhood. Later in Virginia he became actively involved with the Methodists, but his desire to find a church who followed the New Testament led him to become an itinerant preacher - until he read a booklet published in 1823 by the Brethren minister Benjamin Bowman. Within a year Nead was baptized into the fellowship.

He was called to the ministry in 1827 and became known as "the English preacher." For the rest of his life he devoted himself to preaching and writing. Though not born Brethren he became the most articulate defender of the faith. In 1850 his several writings were collected into a single volumn, ofter referred to as Nead's Theology. His books are still held in high esteem by some Brethren bodies.

However, in his early years in the ministry he alarmed a few of the Brethren because he wore a tall hat favored by clergy of the day, but quite different from the simple Brethren style. Since he was much beloved they were slow to confont him, but according to the story the same Benjamin Bowman who had written the booklet that caught Nead's eye approached him and said, "Brother Peter, the Brethren feel that the hat you wear is not in harmony with the humble profession you have made. We love you and desire that you may do a great deal of good in the church. Now Brother Peter, here is a new Brethren's hat that I bought for you. Will you wear it? " Brother Nead said he would.

Notice the Brethren used understanding and tact, complimented him on his gifts, and made it clear that the fellowship was very excited to have him in their midst. Thus they cemented the relationship and enriched the Brethren denomination.

Peter Nead wasn't born Brethren, preferred speaking English to German, and wore a tall hat. Despite these obstacles, he was and remains one of the most important figures in Brethren history. He died on this date, March 16, 1877.

Source: Frank Ramirez

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Jacob M. Thomas

Jacob M. Thomas was born on this date - March 15 in 1795 in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. At the age of 15 his family moved to Markleysburg, PA near the West Virginia line. Jacob worked on his father's farm and took advantage of the little schooling available in those days. At the age of 23 he was married and bought a farm only 8 miles from his parent's home. There he spent the rest of his life.

At the age of 35 he united with the Church of the Brethren and was from the start an earnest student of the Bible. He could read German and English equally well, had a wonderful memory, and soon had a storehouse of biblical knowledge that was a great help to him all through life. Where Jacob and his bride Mary located there was no churchhouse; neither was there any minister. In 1835 the Sandy Creek congregation was organized and a year later Jacob was called to the ministry. Under his leadership the congregation increased rapidly and soon a large house, named Salem, was erected. This was much enjoyed by a people who had been holding their meetings and love feasts in barns and homes under many discomforts.

Jacob did not limit his ministry to the local congregation but would travel astride his horse over a large territory of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and even into Maryland. Sometimes he was gone for four months at a time. By requests of judges and lawyers he preached in the courthouses of three counties. All this was done without compensation but he lived to see his labors bear fruit in multiplied congregations.

When he was in his mid-70s he became very sick and the attending physician told him one morning that his end was at hand, and left, telling his neighbors that Brother Thomas was dying. But not so. He called for the anointing, recovery speedily followed, and the doctor, who said he had felt a death pulse in him, was amazed.

Source: Some who led, as told by Bishop Jeremiah Thomas

Friday, March 14, 2008

George Carl

Less than a year after Wilbur Stover began foreign missionary work in India, George Carl began home mission work on the west coast. For nearly a half-century he gave vigorous leadership to church extension. In his work in Oregon, Washington, and California, he reached his appointments by boat, oxcart, dogcart, horse and buggy, wagon, and automobile. In addition to his preaching and spiritual leadership he built five churches.

When the church called him to the ministry he wanted to go to college to prepare himself better for church work, but the older Brethren talked him out of it. Instead he bought the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Preacher's Homiletic Commentary. These, along with attendance at the Bible class of a Dr. Brower, scholarly Brethren physician and minister, constituted his preparation for his significant ministry.

He moved his family to Washington in 1895 under General Mission Board sponsorship to serve a circuit of five preaching points. For 33 of the next 42 years he served under national and west coast district mission boards. His efforts involved much traveling, often over very primitive roads. On occasion he pitched a tent for his family in a vacant lot and held revival meetings while working during the week to construct a meetinghouse with his own hands. He helped establish seven congregations and built five meetinghouses, assisting in the construction of two others.

Sources: Meditations on Brethren Life, DeWitt and Mary Hartsough Miller
The Brethren Encyclopedia

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wilbur Stover

Wilbur Stover was not only a pioneer missionary (1894-1920 in India); he was also one of the first home mission pastors. For years his vital Christian spirit and his enthusiasm for missions left an indelible impression upon the student body of Mount Morris College. He wasn't content with the status quo. He was often out of step with his contemporaries. He saw the challenge of the city and the lands beyond the seas. It is said that this vision filled his eyes and his voice with glory.

While serving as the pastor at Germantown, Brother Stover continued to preach missions. It is said that at Annual Conference he talked missions to anyone he could get to listen. At first he did not think of himself as a candidate to go as a missionary. He was convinced of only one thing: Someone must go. When conservatives argued that the church was not ready for such progressive ideas he replied, "It is my business to help the church get ready for her great first-work."

In 1892 he offered his services to the Missionary Committee as a candidate for mission work in India. The board hesitated, primarily because Stover's full beard did not conform to the uniform, plain dress of the German Baptist Brethren, but finally approved him on condition he place himself entirely under the board's direction and agree to adopt the Brethren "uniform." Stover, however, was not yet married, and his future father-in-law and other leaders, in keeping with Victorian values, thought it best that marriage precede departure for mission service. Wilbur Stover and Mary Emmert complied on June 29, 1893.

Other complications delayed the start of the venture and it was not until October 1894. that the Stovers, together with Bertha Ryan (Shirk) sailed for India.

Sources: Meditations on Brethren Life, DeWitt and Mary Hartough Miller
The Brethren Encyclopedia, "Stover"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Moving in a Snow Storm

It snowed in Indiana forty years ago today.

It was moving day as residents of the Mexico Home were moved to their new quarters at Timbercrest (North Manchester) on this date, March 12, 1968, in the middle of a snow storm.

The Church of the Brethren in Indiana had operated a home in Mexico, Indiana since 1889, originally built to house older people and younger orphaned children. By the mid-1930s, there were 75 children and 60 older residents living there. State rules governing orphanages changed in the 1940s leading to the closing of the orphanage December 10, 1942.

Stiffening state regulations and aging facilities at the Mexico Home again forced the Indiana districts to make some hard choices in the 1960s. A long-range planning committee selected a 20-acre site near North Manchester. Initial cost estimates of $900,000 grew to $1.5 million. By the time bids were open on March 15, 1966, the combination of bids were $1.8 million. The cost was brought down to $1.4 million and the board approved selling notes to finance construction.

Construction of the original building took nearly two years. A public open house was held February 25, 1968, preceding the move in date on March 12. The central unit was finally completed in September with dedication ceremonies September 22, 1968. Two additional wings were added in 1969 and 1970. Additional expansion has been done since that time.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land: Church of the Brethren in Indiana

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dr. Peter Fahrney

Dr. Peter Fahrney made a fortune in proprietary medicines. He was a grandson of the famed "walking doctor" Peter Fahrney of Maryland (from whom he inherited his formulas). He moved from Pennsylvania to Illinois in 1865 and to Chicago in 1869. He developed there a business with an international clientele producing and distributing patent medicines, of which the best known was Dr. Peter's Blood Cleanser or Panacea.

He rebounded from the loss of his laboratory in the great Chicago fire of October 1871, shipping his product again within a few weeks. Fahrney advertised widely in Brethren periodicals, often printing testimonials from Brethren leaders.

He died in 1905 a multi-millionaire, reputedly the wealthiest member of the Brethren. Soon after arriving in Illinois, he had written an article for the Christian Family Companion entitled "Dying Rich"; it begins, "Of all the cases of human folly which men are addicted to, few are more common that the desire to hoard up wealth, that they may die rich." It continues, "Think of these selfish, narrow-minded, close-fisted souls at the bar of God, giving an account of their stewardship. They spent their life in hoarding up wealth, and had the honor of dying rich, and now the Master is auditing their accounts!"

Source: Fruit of the Vine, Durnbaugh

Monday, March 10, 2008

Marriage of Sarah Righter and Thomas Major

On this date, March 10, 1842 (a Thursday), Sarah Righter (age 33) and Thomas Major (age 30) were married in a service performed by Elder Peter Keyser in Philadelphia where Thomas had been called to the ministry the preceding year and where Sarah was also a member with a gift for preaching.

Following their marriage they moved to Ohio in 1843, eventually settling on a farm in Highland County and joining the Fall Creek congregation in 1847 where Thomas became the presiding elder. The couple had five children, three of whom survived infancy.

The Majors held many preaching missions in Ohio and Indiana, speaking at homes, churches and prisons. Thomas would usually open the service, then invite Sarah to preach. If the congregation asked that she not preach, she would often lead in prayer. Those who heard her preach, remember her as an able, inspirational preacher.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Martin Weybright

Martin Webright moved to Elkhart County, Indiana from Montgomery County, Ohio in 1829 where he had also been a pioneer. Along with Jacob Studebaker and Daniel Cripe, Weybright became one of the Brethren patriarchs in the area. Newspaper reports referred to him as the first Protestant minister in Elkhart County. The following account was included in Durnbaugh's book, Fruit of the Vine:

In 1829, Mr. Weybright sold his farm in Ohio and came to Elkhart County, making the journey with a yoke of oxen and a three-horse team, and being on the way seventeen days. In the spring of that year they first settled on the land ... and put out a crop of seed corn. Two weeks later he moved to the farm ... on the southwest side of the prairie.

The first night the family slept under the spreading branches of a huge oak tree and the next the neighbors met together to assist Mr. Weybright to build a log cabin. This was erected and places cut out for the door and window; mother earth was the floor to the cabin and continued as such until the fall. The bedstead Mr. Weybright made by driving stakes in the ground in one side of the cabin and covering them with poles and split clapboards. On this was then spread blankets and comforts until it was made very comfortable, and in this huge bed the entire family slept until better arrangements could be made.

Source: Fruit of the Vine, Durnbaugh

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Jacob Studebaker

One of the most prominent and respected members of the early church in Northern Indiana was Jacob Studebaker, who with his family came to Elkhart County in 1830 with the Daniel Cripes. He and Martin Weybright were the first Brethren ministers ordained in Northern Indiana.

In Old Testament times (Genesis 46), a venerable elder named Jacob led his people out of Beersheba into a place called Goshen. There, under his spiritual guidance and encouragement, they overcame the hardships of a generally hostile environment to become productive farmers and friends of neighboring tribesmen.

The Studebaker family has its own latter-day Jacob, who went with a band of believers into the wilderness of Northern Indiana, to a place they named Goshen, and there overcame the harshness of frontier life. Like his biblical namesake, he too lives on in history. Every one of the half dozen histories of Elkhart County, Indiana, make reference to his role, often at considerable length.
[The Studebaker Family in America]

Soon after coming to Indiana, the advanced age of Daniel Cripe "put the leadership responsibility on Jacob, and he performed that role for most of the following half-century. Children and step-children of the two men married, bringing the Cripe family at least peripherally into the Studebaker story."

Jacob was a farmer and preacher, and in addition owned a sawmill on the Elkhart River. He was known as a "good home carpenter," so when it became necessary for the commissioners of Elkhart County to build a Court House in Goshen, he was engaged to draw up a plan and build the structure. Jacob remembered a building in Dayton, Ohio, and walked through the forests and swamps to Dayton in order to copy this building. He then walked back to Goshen and with the help of his sons and step-sons created the building and many of the furnishings as well, from standing timber.

Source: A History of the West Goshen Church 1830-1980, by Dean L. Henry

Friday, March 07, 2008

Some Observations at Church

J. H. Moore was a long-time editor of the Gospel Messenger.

The following writing of his is titled, Some Observation at Church

One Saturday Night

While seated in the pulpit, one Sunday morning, I observed a care-worn woman entering, carrying one child and leading another. Three other children followed. She gathered them around her as a hen would her little chicks. Presently the husband entered, a strong man, looking as though he enjoyed life as well as the table. He picked out a good, comfortable seat at one end of the bench, and fixed himself to take things easy. So far as I could discover he had no concern about the mother and her five children. He came to meeting to enjoy it, and meant to get all the good possible out of the service.

I looked at the woman. She seemed tired and yet she did her best to appear cheerful. Hers were good children, accustomed to attending services, and yet they required her constant attention. She was a hard-working woman in her home, for the family was poor. Instead of having to care for the entire little flock she should have been relieved in some manner. I wondered why that strong husband of hers could not have taken at least two of the children to the seat with him. That would have been a relief to the overworked mother. Then it would have looked manly for him to have assumed at least part of the family burden. It would have given the mother a better opportunity to enjoy the service and get some of the rest she needed. I certainly pitied the woman, and felt very much like preaching a sermon on the text, "Husbands, love your wives."

Presently, a man entered, carrying a child, which he took care of during the meeting. His wife looked real cheerful and happy. She occupied another seat with some of the larger children. To me that looked sensible, and I felt like commending the man for his fatherly and sensible conduct. His good wife got the full benefit of the service and went away from the meeting a stronger woman, spiritually. To her the service was restful as well as instructive.

Source: She Hath Done What She Could, Pamela Brubaker

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Vernard Eller's Editorial

Back in his younger years while serving as the youthful editor of the Church of the Brethren Youth magazine, Vernard Eller had not yet gained a national reputation as a writer. However, he had heard stories of such Brethren editors of Gospel Messenger as J.H. Moore and Edward Frantz. One such story is of a Pennsylvania farmer who visited the Brethren Publishing House but was disappointed when he found Frantz gazing reflectively out his window. The farmer felt he was wasting time, rather than considering Frantz was reflecting on an upcoming editorial.

Eller later noted that he too could come up with editorial ideas by looking out his window. A year later he almost gave up window-looking after he watched sign painters use the back wall of the Rialto Theater across the river for an advertisement showing an eighty-foot giant carrying nine-foot glasses of beer. The sign bore this message, Meister Brau Beer - brewed for the likes of you.

Before he shut off the view, however, Eller's quick mind had translated Meister Brau into "The Master's Brew," and he was already comparing the glass of beer with Jesus' cup of suffering. Eller's editorial concluded, The brew of the Master was bitter; there was nothing likeable in it. In fact he prayed that the cup would be taken from him.... So choose you this day which cup you will drink - the Meister Brau, brewed for the likes of you, or the Master's Brew, brewed for the life of you.

Sources: Preaching in a Tavern, Morris

Horizons, January 26, 1951

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Howard C. Urey

I thought it might have a practical use in something like neon signs.” said Urey, the 1934 Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry, after he discovered deuterium or heavy hydrogen. His discovery of the deuterium isotope aided the development of the atomic bomb and although he was at one time head of atomic bomb research at Columbia University, he later actively opposed nuclear weapons. He warned that "atomic bombs are evil ... and cannot be used to maintain peace."

Shortly after one of the early atomic explosions on the desert flats of New Mexico, he wrote: I am trying to frighten you. I am myself a frightened man. All the experts I know are also frightened. In a January 1946 Colliers magazine article titled "I'm A Frightened Man," he said: "Most scientists think wars and national boundaries are a menace to the true creative spirit by which science must live, they hate war and they are terrified of atomic war –- because they know its possibilities"

Howard Urey was born in Walkerton, Indiana. His father was a school teacher and Brethren minister and served for a time in the Cedar Lake congregation, before his death when Howard was only six. Howard was later clerk of the Cedar Lake congregation as a young man. His early education in rural schools led to his graduation from high school in 1911 after which he taught for three years in country schools.

Sources: Preaching in a Tavern, Morse biography biography

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Myra Brooks Welch

Myra Brooks Welch was a prolific poet who had three volumes of her poetry published by the Brethren Publishing House. Her faith and courageous optimism, as reflected in her poetry, are not shallow and untested phases of a life outlook. She achieved them despite - perhaps in part because of - circumstances that confined her to a wheel chair for twenty years. Writing out of what she knows as well as what she feels, she brought inspiration and courage to thousands.

All writers of verse aspire to create at least one song that will wing its way down through the years. A few succeed in so doing; a larger number must be content with lesser achievements. For Myra Brooks Welch that long-lasting poem was written in 1921 and published in the Gospel Messenger on February 26, 1921. It was accorded immediate popularity and quoted and widely reprinted, often as an anonymous production. Here for those younger ones unfamilar with Myra Brooks Welch is her poem: The Touch of the Master's Hand.

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer

Thought it scarcely worth his while

To waste much time on the old violin,

But held it up with a smile,

"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,

"Who'll start the bidding for me?"

"A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two! Only two?

Two dollars, and who'll make it three?

Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;

Going for three - " But no,

From the room, far back, a gray-haired man

Came forward and picked up the bow;

Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,

And tightening the loose strings,

He played a melody pure and sweet

As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,

With a voice that was quiet and low,

Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"

And he held it up with the bow.

"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?

Two thousand! And who'll make it three?

Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice,

And going, and gone," said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,

"We do not quite understand

What changed its worth." Swift came the reply:

"The touch of a master's hand."

And many a man with life out of tune,

And battered and scarred with sin,

Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,

Much like the old violin.

A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;

A game - and he travels on.

He is "going" once, and "going" twice,

He's "going" and almost "gone."

But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought

By the touch of the Master's hand.

Source: The Touch of the Master's Hand, Myra Brooks Welch

Monday, March 03, 2008

What the Church Has Heard from God by L.W. Teeter

L.W. Teeter, from Indiana, spoke to the gathering of Brethren at the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Church of the Brethren in June 1908 at Des Moines, Iowa. (Note: the name "Church of the Brethren" was first adopted in 1908). His address, along with many others, was collected and published as: Two Centuries of the Church of the Brethren: Bicentennial Addresses.

Teeter begins his address with the following statement: To tell what the church has heard from God is nothing less than to tell what God has said to the church. God being perfect, he gave to the church a perfect message, with the design that the church should hear and accept that message in its perfection.

Teeter then goes on to clarify what is meant by the word "Church" in his address. That was the subject of yesterday's entry.

Next comes the heart of his message summarized in the following paragraphs:

The message, therefore, which the church of 1908 has heard from God, is the same message that her primitive ancestress heard from God, through his Son Jesus Christ, during his personal ministry and teaching among his disciples; and his spiritual ministry from his resurrection to his ascension; and through the inspiration of his chosen apostles.

Thus the entire message was delivered to the church during a period of nearly a century from its beginning. As to the contents of that message, our only reliable source of the most direct information is the last twenty-seven books of the Holy Bible, as canonized by the best ecclesiastical authority, many centuries ago, and entitled The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

This blessed volume has ever been held as strictly sacred and divine.... It has stood the test, and been preserved, as we must believe, by superhuman power, and kept intact and inviolate against the fiercest opposition of all its enemies and critics. ....

L.W. Teeter goes on to present the New Testament message beginning with the birth of Jesus and concluding with "the great Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ; which God gave to him to give to the church."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Defining the word "church"

In his Bicentennial Address in June 1908, "What the Church Has Heard from God," L.W. Teeter began with this understanding of the word "church."

The term "church," as used in our subject, must necessarily be understood to mean the assembly of persons converted to God by the hearing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, proclaimed by himself, founded and organized by him into a covenant body of worshipers during his personal ministry on earth, with himself as the head. The body of which Jesus said, that the gates of hell should not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). That organization which in the first centuries of its existence endured the severest persecutions, - even martyrdom; in which many of its most faithful adherents sealed their faith with their own life's blood. That body whose Chief Shepherd preserved a succession of faithful representatives of its doctrine, faith and love through the long, dark period of the Middle Ages; and nourished it through the years of the great Reformation of Martin Luther and others; and until it resumed its ancient organic form, in the year 1708, at Schwarzenau, Germany; of which Alexander Mack, Sr., wrote, saying: "We have, indeed, no new church, nor any new laws; but in simplicity and true faith we desire to remain with the old church which Christ instituted through his blood, and to follow the commandment which was from the beginning" [Mack's Writings, p. 138]. That body, which from this time on, has by regular succession expanded and developed into its present magnitude, as the General Assembly of the Church of the Brethren.

Source: Two Centuries of the Church of the Brethren

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Annual Meeting of 1865

The Civil War was continuing as the Brethren gathered for the Annual Meeting in 1865. After four consecutive years with John Kline as Moderator, and having been killed shortly after the 1864 Annual Meeting, H. D. Davy served as Moderator in 1865. The Minutes indicate a large number assembled for worship on Saturday and Sunday, with 140 churches represented by 182 delegates for business. Some 57 queries or articles were dealt with during the meeting. Two are noted below.

Article 7. Whereas, the brethren at our last Annual Meeting decided that "Civil Government is of divine authority" (article 23, 1864); and, whereas, all civil governments are, and always have been, sustained by the sword; we therefore wish to know if it is right for brethren to bear arms, when called upon to do so by the authorities, in order to sustain the civil government? Answer: We consider that we have no right to take up arms.

Article 47. How are the churches to hold and proceed with those members, who, in heart and soul, have been in sympathy with the rebellion, denouncing the government, and speaking evil of our rulers, especially of President Lincoln? As many members are unwilling to commune with such, a scriptural answer is required. Answer: We consider such brethren as transgressors of the Word, and admonish them to make satisfactory acknowledgment to the church; and if they refuse to do so, they should be dealt with according to the gospel.