Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Harvey Nininger

Harvey Nininger was one of the young men with roots in the Paradise Prairie church (yesterday's post). Born in 1887, he grew up in Kansas and Oklahoma, where his devout Brethren parents were slow to encourage his scientific inclination. Although he was nineteen years old before he was able to complete elementary school, he would go on to earn his bachelors degree from McPherson College in 1914 and a master's degree from Pomona College in 1916. He would later teach science at LaVerne College (1914-1918) and McPherson College (1920-1930). A leading authority of meteorites, he was curator of meteorites at the Colorado Museum of Natural History (1930-1946).

Many years before Americans lined up to glimpse a fragment of rock brought back from the moon, Nininger had discovered a source of information from outer space. Nininger was on his way home from the McPherson College chapel in 1923 when a meteorite fell some distance away in a brilliant light. Already curious about these "falling stars" he began a search for meteorites, leading eventually to what was reported to be the largest private meteorite collection in the world. He was once credited with finding half of the meteorites then discovered in the world. After thirty-seven years of collecting, he sold his meteorites to the British Museum in London and to Arizona State University at Tempe where they were made available for research and study.

In 1966 he told an interviewer, "The study and quest of meteorites have made me a more deeply religious man than before. I see God all around me."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Paradise Prairie

It had the most promising name for any congregation in the southwest, but that did not guarantee a long life. The Paradise Prairie church in Oklahoma was organized in 1892 by Jacob Appleman with twenty charter members. It prospered for many years, calling 8 men of the congregation to the ministry and reaching a membership of more than eighty members while counting among its active young people a future meteorologist of world reknown (Harvey Nininger) and an educator and writer (Cecil B. Williams).

Williams would tell the church's story in the form of a novel, published in 1953. The book, Paraidse Prairie, describes the farm family, the rural community, and the Brethren congregation that nurtured Williams boyhood and youth. Though in the form of fiction, the book retains the actual names of places and institutions that were important in the author's memories and offers a faithful portrayal of familiar Brethren practices.

Williams writes, "...Whatever the soul of America is ... it has got to be what has been created through the lives of men like my father, and through the dreams of people like those who established the Paradise Prairie Church of the Brethren. It's not a story of success so much as a story of stumbling and falling and getting up again, always aspiring." Of the dream of the early settlers who started the church he writes, "The name of Paradise Prairie was the monument of a dream more than anything else. But it had been a significant dream."

Emigration of young families, begun in the 1920s, weakened the congregation financially and in leadership. Older members died or moved away until the church was disorganized in 1963.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Monday, April 28, 2008

J.H.B. Williams 1918 Editorial

As noted yesterday, J.H.B. Williams served for several years as editor of The Missionary Visitor published monthly by the Church of the Brethren General Mission Board. The following excerpt is from his editorial in the May 1918 issue which included several articles on the Tithe.

"Beware lest thou forget the Lord thy God ... when thou has eaten and art full and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied." [Deuteronomy 8:11-13]

The message of this writer must surely have been meant for us members of the Church of the Brethren, the setting is placed so fine, and the outstanding words are so familiar to our vocabularies. So many of these Old Testament truths sound so commonplace and familiar because of conditions now that fit them. It is not strange that we employ the warnings and exhortations of the prophets, when our twentieth century sins are beheld as being old sins in new clothes.

But strange it is when these things are true that we are willing to deny the obligation of the tithe as resting upon us. Surely we can not give less than the Jew; surely our opportunities are greater, our privileges better safeguarded, and our prosperity more evenly distributed. When other conditions and experiences and environments fit so well with ours we cannot easily avoid the one obligation while accepting the other conditions of life and tendencies towards covetousness and forgetfulness of God.

The conditions implied in the verses above quoted have come to pass -- are being fulfilled literally before our very eyes. What prosperity we are enjoying at this time! And with that prosperity what a tendency to forget the obligations of God upon us! Our prosperity stands out in bold relief when given a background of the world's needs.

Source: The Missionary Visitor. May 1918

Sunday, April 27, 2008

John Henry Bashor Williams

J. H. B. Williams was a mission executive with his beginnings and endings in April. Born in April 1883 near Belleville, KS, he was elected a minister at the age of 20 and studied at McPherson College. While a student, his interest in foreign missions was awakened by addresses by Student Volunteer Movement leaders John Mott and Robert Speer in 1905.

After several years as a farmer and minister, this personable and businesslike young man was employed by the General Mission Board as the Church of the Brethren celebrated its 200th Anniversary year. For several years, beginning in 1912, he edited The Brethren's Missionary Visitor.

Following the retirement of Galen Royer in 1918, Williams became executive secretary-treasurer of the General Mission Board. He reorganized the Board and recruited M.R. Zigler to serve as home missions secretary and H. Spenser Minnich to serve as education secretary.

His leadership in developing mission and social policy ended abruptly with his death in April 1921 at the age of 38. Following an extended tour of Brethren mission fields in China, India, and Europe, he contracted typhoid fever at Mombasa, East Africa (Kenya) where he died on April 17, 1921. Although his death delayed a survey of potential mission fields in Africa, it further stimulated existing interest in African mission which would lead to Brethren mission efforts in Nigeria in 1923.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ted Studebaker

Ted Studebaker was a young Church of the Brethren man who lived out his peacemaking values during his short lifetime. Ted was born in Ohio in 1945. After earning degrees from Manchester College and Florida State University, he entered Brethren Volunteer Service and worked for two years with Vietnam Christian Service in central highland villages to improve agricultural practices.

Ted was killed on this date, April 26, in 1971 in a Vietcong attack on his residence at Di Linh. As a conscientious objector, he spoke out against American military presence in Vietnam and the destruction of the Montagnard and Koho peoples.

His constant affirmation was, "Life is great, yea!"

Ted had been married one week before his death to Ven Pak Lee of Hong Kong.

For much more information about Ted Studebaker and his life, you are encourage to visit a memorial web site with additional stories and links at:

To listen to songs and interviews from the album "Ted Studebaker in Vietnam" by Steve Engle, visit:

Friday, April 25, 2008

Studebaker Family

"Owe no many anything but to love one another." This biblical motto over John Clement Studebaker's blacksmith shop near Ashland, Ohio, reflected the Dunker principles of John, his wife Rebecca Mohler, whom he met at a Brethren meeting, and of the church that met in their home in the late 1830s. These principles also made an impression on a growing family that included five sons who were later to launch the Studebaker Company, builder of wagons and automobiles.

In 1836 John Clement Studebaker built a Conestoga wagon to carry his household from Pennsylvania to Ohio and several years later to South Bend, Indiana, where the historic wagon can still be viewed in the Studebaker museum.

In South Bend two of his sons, Henry and Clement, later to be joined by three others, John, Peter, and Jacob, began to build wagons. By 1878 they were considered to be the leading wagon makers of the world. By 1897 their company had manufactured three fourths of a million vehicles, and this was several years before they produced their first gasoline and electric motorcars. The Studebaker nameplate appeared not only on many of the wagons that helped pioneers open up the American West but on wheelbarrows, bobsleds, bicycles, fancy carriages, and later on passenger automobiles and racing cars.

With all of their enterprise, the Studebaker brothers remembered another of their father's mottos, Always give a little bit more than you promise.

Source: "More Than You Promise," Kenneth Morse, The Brethren Encyclopedia

Thursday, April 24, 2008

George Wolfe II

In the years following the Great Earthquakes of 1811-12, a great revival happened on the frontier including what became the State of Illinois in 1817. Around 1817 Brethren minister George Wolfe II and a Baptist minister named Jones held a series of joint revival meetings in the southern Illinois community where Wolfe resided and where a Brethren congregation was established. Even though this was a time when denominational differences were vigorously debated, the two preachers remained on friendly terms while defending the practices of their respective denominations. At the conclusion of the meetings Wolfe and Jones shook hands.

Thirty-three years later, when Union County (where the meetings had taken place) decided to adopt a seal, the engraver pictured two preachers facing each other and shaking hands. Some have suggested that the name chosen for the county in 1818 reflected the spirit of union manifested by pioneer ministers like Wolfe and Jones.

The atmosphere was not nearly so friendly on another occasion when George Wolfe II was challenged to debate a Roman Catholic priest at Kaskaskia, the first capital of Illinois. Religious issues were intensely regarded then (around 1820) and Kaskaskia was already a stronghold for Catholicism. So skillfully and forcibly did our pioneer preacher meet his opponent at every point that after the debate was over the governor of the new state who presided at the debate arranged for a military escort to accompany Wolfe on his way home.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia
Some Brethren Pathfinders,
J.H. Moore

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Earthquake Revival

The earthquake in the midwest last week had a magnitude of 5.2. The great earthquake centered near New Madrid, Missouri that hit the newly developing Illinois Territory in 1811-1812 was, in comparison, a magnitude of 7.5 to 8.0. We referred yesterday to the quake on December 18, 1811 as the steam boat New Orleans entered the waters of the Mississippi River. That quake was followed a month later by a second quake on January 23 and finally one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the United States on February 7, 1812.

Following the great earthquakes of 1811-12, there was a tremendous revival of religion across the frontier areas. Among the leaders was George Wolfe II. His family had earlier migrated by flatboat from the Alleghenies down the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers into Kentucky where his father George Wolfe I was active in gathering other Brethren to establish church life in the new area.

The sons of George Wolfe I, George II and Jacob, were among the early explorers of the forested land in Southern Illinois as early as 1803; and became the first white settlers in what became Union County in 1808-09. Following the great earthquakes, the younger George Wolfe led his neighbors in bringing together a Dunker congregation; they chose him as their first minister. He was to become the outstanding leader of the so-called Far Western Brethren. His influence was always cast on the side of maintaining union and harmony, while at the same time preserving the unique positions of the Brethren on the frontier.

Wolfe was a stalwart defender of traditional Brethren practices over against other aggressive religious bodies. He is known to have held debates on these points with Baptist and Catholic opponents. More on this tomorrow.

Sources: "New Madrid Earthquake," Wikipedia
Fruit of the Vine,
Donald F. Durnbaugh

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Great Earthquake

The rare earthquake that shook much of the midwest last week reminds us of what J.H. Moore (Some Brethren Pathfinders) refers to as The Great Earthquake. The year was 1811 when Kaskaskia on the river of the same name, and near where it empties into the Mississippi, was the seat of government for the Territory of Illinois. The first Brethren were just beginning to move into the Territory of Illinois which at this time had a total population a little in excess of 12,000 and more than half of the people lived within twenty miles of the capital.

The rivers were beginning to be used to transport products and crops. Early in December 1811, a steamboat, the New Orleans, was launched at Pittsburgh, PA. It was the first steamboat to plow the western waters. Down the Ohio River it came, puffing, whistling, and lashing the water. The news of the river monster traveled faster than the "fire boat" as many called it, and here and there the banks were lined by people, some of them coming quite a distance to see the floating craft go by.

On December 18, just as the boat was entering the waters of the Mississippi River, occurred the greatest and most remarkable earthquake ever known in the history of the country east of the Rocky Mountains. Those on the boat could see the trees waving and nodding in the absence of wind. ... The earth rose and fell like laboring in great pain. Islands disappeared and others came upon the scene. In places the earth opened and streams of water and mud rose to a great height. At one great upheaval the waters of the Mississippi River were seen to run upstream only to come rushing back a bit later.

At New Madrid, on the Missouri side of the river, and a short distance south of where Cairo now is, a large tract of land, timber and all, sank to a considerable depth, forming a lake sixty miles long and from three to twenty miles wide.

And that's the way it was, according to Brethren author J.H. Moore, on December 18, 1811, when the first steamboat entered the waters of the Mississippi River.

More on The Great Earthquake tomorrow.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Reverend Elhanan Winchester

Elhanan Winchester was born Setember 30, 1751, in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1780 he began a seven-year pastorate of the largest Baptist church in Philadelphia. Winchester became well acquainted with the Dunkers in the years that he resided in Philadelphia, and specifically mentioned in his book the fact that he was with the Dunkers at Germantown on the first Sunday in April 1781.

He had a very favorable opinion of the Dunkers and Moore [J. H. Moore, Some Brethren Pathfinders] claimed that he "seriously thought of uniting with their church." Certainly he was a welcomed visitor in their homes and at their places of worship. He had come to know and appreciate the high quality of these Dunkers.

In 1787 he wrote the following which is one of the finest statements preserved for us about our eighteenth century ancestors.

The Tunkers, or German Baptists, in Pennsylvania and the states adjacent, who take the Scriptures as their only guide in matters both of faith and practice, have always (as far as I know) received, and universally, at present hold these sentiments: But such Christians, I have never seen as they are; so averse are they to all sin, and to many things that other Christians esteem lawful, that they not only refuse to swear, go to war, etc., but are so afraid of doing anything contrary to the commands of Christ, that no temptation would prevail upon them ever to sue any person at law, for either name, character, estate, or any debt, be it ever so just: They are industrious, sober, temperate, kind, charitable people, envying not the great, nor despising the mean:: They read much, they sing and pray much, they are constant attendants upon the worship of God; their dwellinghouses are all houses of prayer: They walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless both in public and private: They bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: No noise of rudeness, shameless mirth, loud, vain laughter, is heard within their doors: The law of kindness is in their mouths; no sourness, or moroseness, disgraces their religion; and whatsoever they believe their Savior commands, they practice, without inquiring or regarding what others do.

...Rev. Morgan Edwards...once said to me, "God will always have a visible people on earth; and these are his people at present, above any other in the world."

Source: "Historical Notes" by Roger Sappington in Brethren Life and Thought, Spring 1957

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Not Years Alone

Not Years Alone*

by Ora W. Garber

O Church beloved, ‘tis not your years alone
Which measure in God’s value scale your worth.
O’er many an institution on this earth
Have far more years, with scant achievement, flown.
Through these three hundred years now^ you’ve grown
In scope and numbers, though you’ve had some dearth
Of soul. As you commemorate your birth
Mark well those points by which you’re judged and known:

Your faith; your love poured out to those in need –
The lost and groping souls to Jesus led,
The minds enlightened, the hungry people fed,
The naked clothed, the sin-bound prisoners freed,
By faith and Christ-like deeds shall you be known,
And not, O Church beloved, by years alone.

*Adapted for the Church of the Brethren 300th Anniversary Year
^Originally read "these two hundred fifty years you’ve grown"

Source: Brethren Life and Thought, Vol. III, No. 1, Winter 1958

Saturday, April 19, 2008

End of the World Rescheduled for April 19, 1875

On September 27, 1868 a small group of Brethren climbed a haystack to be closer to heaven as they waited for their Lord to descend from the clouds. Despite their fervent prayers, and their belief in the biblical calculations of William C. Thurman (c. 1830-1906), nothing happened. Eventually some local rowdies set fire to the hay, forcing the Brethren to come down, severely disappointed.

It wouldn't be the last time.

Thurman was a Virginia Baptist who joined the Brethren in 1862. That same year he wrote a book on biblical nonresistance that helped many Brethren in the south win exemption from the military draft. However, he was eventually expelled from the Brethren because of his contrary stance on the subject of feetwashing.

But he was best known for his views on the end of the world. In Sealed Book of Daniel Opened he set the date for the return of Christ on September 27, 1868. Many Christians, Adventist, Brethren, and others, were attracted to his ideas. Undeterred by the failure of his calculations he rescheduled the end of the world for a month later on October 28. Then October 17, 1869. Then April 19, 1875.

Even though his recalculations proved to be just as flawed, over a hundred Brethren left the church and joined him. Some of these Thurmanites, as they came to be known, later rejoined the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church in the 1880's.

It is said that when one Brethren elder was offered one of Thurman's books he declined, wryly noting that he already had enough kindling. Thurman continued to predict the end of the world until he died, penniless, in 1906, by which time he had recalculated the end of the world for 1917.

Sources: Frank Ramirez Tercentennial Minutes and The Brethren Encyclopedia

Friday, April 18, 2008

Elder George D. Zollers

The death of Brother George Zollers occurred on the afternoon of April 18, 1911. He had gone to the roof of his home to repair the chimney. When through with that he proceeded to repair a few places on the roof, and in some manner slipped and fell, striking his head on the pavement. Sister Zollers who happened to be at the back door at the time, saw her husband fall and was the first one to reach him. He lived only thirteen minutes after the accident.

Brother Zollers had some remarkable experiences. Born in Pennsylvania in 1841, he entered upon a whaling expedition at the age of 22 that kept him on the ocean for three years. He doubled Cape Horn twice, crossed the equator six times, and entered the Artic Ocean twice.

Upon returning from this expedition he lived for a while in Pennsylvania where he joined the Brethren before moving to Illinois in 1867 where he was called to the ministry by the Hickory Grove congregation in 1869. By occupation he was a plasterer following his trade during the summer and giving attention to evangelistic work during the winter months.

About 1900 Brother Zollers left Northern Illinois and located in South Bend, Indiana, where he resided at the time of his death. The last years of his life he had laid aside his trowel and gave his time to the work of ministry, proving to be a most successful minister.

He was the author of two interesting books, one entitled "Thrilling Incidents on Sea and Land," and the other, "Poetic Musings on Sea and Land." He was said to be one of the most lovable and spiritual preachers of his time.

Source: History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, 1952

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sinking of the Zam Zam

Three Brethren nurses en route to Nigeria were among the 120 missionaries on the Egyptian freighter Zam Zam when it was shelled by a German raider in the South Atlantic, April 17, 1941. They were Ruth Utz, Alice Engel, and Sylvia Oiness. The passengers were already apprehensive about traveling in a thirty-year-old ship under wartime blackout, but they would have been more alarmed had they known the boat was carrying contraband. The Germans knew it, and they shelled the ship without warning.

As the passengers prepared to enter lifeboats, some of them were pushed aside by frightened crew members. Although the Zam Zam was severely damaged and was later scuttled by the Germans, no one was killed during the attack or in the confusion of abandoning ship. The missionaries prayed and sang hymns; those who had managed to snatch their Bibles before leaving shared them with others. Their faith sustained them through a month on a German prison ship, the Dresden. Some of the Zam Zam's passengers were sent to prison camps in Europe, but the Americans (the U.S. had not yet entered the war) were taken to Portugal from German-occupied France, when the Dresden made land, and returned to New York on ships crowded with refugees.

Source: Preaching in a Tavern, Kenneth I. Morse

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Quotable William Beahm

William Beahm (see April 13) was affectionately remembered by Brethren and others who knew him for his quick wit and warm humor. Many of his unique observations were gathered by Earle W. Fike, Jr., in A Raspberry Seed under God's Denture, the title of which was taken from one of Beahm's descriptions of sin. From the book come other examples of his wit and wisdom:

  • Prayer: It is not prayer that changes things, God does. It is something like a long belt on a threshing machine. The belt does not change things, the tractor does.

  • Trinity: The trinity is like a three-legged milking stool. The whole stool is God, and the legs are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  • Elders: An elder is an overseer and a supervisor, according to the New Testament. What that means is that a good elder knows what to oversee and what to overlook.

  • Solomon: Solomon was supposed to be so wise, but can you imagine day after day walking into the bathroom and getting tangled up in a thousand pairs of nylons?

  • Sin: Sin is central, not peripheral, in the experience of man. You can't clean up the water by painting the city pump.

  • Church: When a church comes alive it has problems. A dead church is easy to serve. The easiest part of the church to manage is the cemetary.

  • On teaching a course in basic doctrines: I gave them "hell" yesterday. I've got to give them "heaven" today.

Source: The Brethren Encylopedia

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Martin Grove Brumbaugh - part two

The man who became governor of Pennsylvania in 1915 and who was promoted as a "favorite son" candidate for the presidency in 1916 revealed early in life many of the qualities that marked him as a leader.

When Martin Grove Brumbaugh was eight years old he upset the careful plan of the James Creek Sunday school to encourage Bible memorization. The Pennsylvania Brethren Sunday school offered a red card for each remembered verse and a blue card for ten correctly recited. Martin took most of one class period to recite 145 verses from memory, capturing a year's supply of cards and demonstrating his eagerness for learning.

When Martin was eighteen he helped his father secure twelve hundred logs for telegraph poles for the pennsylvania railroad. After they were assembled on a river, ready to be delivered, a violent storm scattered them for great distances. For weeks father and son searched for their lost logs and finally replaced all that were missing. The next year, when Martin was running for county superintendent of schools - the first of many responsible jobs he held as an educator - a farmer who was committed to support his opponent asked him, "Are you any relation to that young Brumbaugh who helped his father with the telegraph poles?" Martin's affirmative answer got the farmer's vote, and the election, for Martin. He won the contest by just one vote.

Source: Kenneth Morse in The Brethren Encyclopedia

Monday, April 14, 2008

Martin Grove Brumbaugh - part one

Martin Grove Brumbaugh, educator, author, historian, and governor of Pennsylvania was born on this date, April 14, in 1862 in Huntington County, Pennsylvania.

He attend the Brethren's Normal (Juniata) College and taught in the Normal department while completing a three-year program in the Scientific Department. He was elected at the age of 22 to a six-year term as superintendent of Huntington County schools. He was the first Brethren holder of a PhD degree and was awarded seven honorary degrees. He served from 1895-1906 as President of Juniata College.

In 1900, President McKinley appointed him the first commissioner of education for Puerto Rico where he organized the educational system. He later served as a member of a citizen's committee to reform Philadelphia schools and was appointed in 1906 as superintendent of Philadelphia schools.

On the basis of his reputation as an effective educator and out of a desire to serve the people of the state, he declared his candidacy for governor in 1914 and was elected by a large margin. When he was inaugerated in January 1915, he did not take the oath of office; rather, he affirmed his dedication to perform his duties. In 1916 he received 29 votes as a favorite son candidate for US President at the Republican convention.

He joined the Church of the Brethren in 1879 and was elected a minister in 1891.

M.G. Brumbaugh was a noted author including A History of the German Baptist Brethren in Europe and America (1899).

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Sunday, April 13, 2008

William Beahm

William Beahm was born in 1896 to I.N.H. and Mary Bucher Beahm and spent his childhood and youth at various locations in Virginia, California, and Pennsylvania. After marriage in 1921 and serving on the mission field in Nigeria (1924-1937), he joined the faculty at Bethany Biblical Seminary in 1938. He was appointed dean of the seminary in 1944, a position he held until his retirement in 1962.

Whether translating the New Testament into the Bura language of northeastern Nigeria or interpreting the biblical message to seminary students over a period of twenty-five years, Beahm was known as an articulate and profound teacher. He was also known for his keen and ready humor, in his teaching and conversation the profound was often punctuated by the pun; wisdom was often laced with wit. While he enjoyed word play, he equally enjoyed astonishing people he had met only once before by greeting them with their first, middle, and last names.

Beahm was a respected denominational leader, serving twice as moderator of Annual Conference in 1954 and 1959. He served eleven years as secretary of Annual Conference and two terms on the General Board.

After a courageous struggle against cancer, he died on this date, April 13, in 1964.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Birth of Heifer Project

One of the more creative service ministries growing out of Northern Indiana was Heifer Project. Dan West had developed this idea as a result of his experiences in Spain. The germ of the idea was presented to a District Men's Meeting at the Middlebury Church in Northern Indiana on April 12, 1942. Interestingly, the theme for the day was "Christianity has the Answer."

The 1942 District Men's Report for the year, written by Abe Neff, reports: "Through the suggestion of Bro. Dan West the cabinet initiated the Heifer Project. One milk cow will mean the difference between life and death, by starvation, for ten children in Belgium and other Nazi-occupied nations of Europe when the war is brought to a conclusion. After the project was set on foot by No. Indiana it was presented to Annual Conference. There it was accepted as a National Project. Our committee of 3 with 2 others appointed at Annual Conference form the National Committee. The plans are already under way to be ready when the time comes to send dairy heifers to Belgium for post war rehabilitation."

World War II prevented shipment of the first heifers to Europe. However, Brethren investigation discovered a great need in Puerto Rico. Following a dedication service at the Rock Run Church, the first shipment of heifers were shipped from Mobile, Alabama to San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 14, 1944. Shipping records in the District Office show that by February 1950, 11,320 animals had been shipped including 5,729 heifers, 81 bulls, 45 horses, and 5,465 goats. These shipments were made to such places as: Greece, France, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Albania, Ethiopia, Japan, Austria, Ecuador, and Germany.

In 1953, the Heifer Project, with its humble beginnings by the Men's Work of Northern Indiana, was incorporated as an independent, non-profit organization known as Heifer International.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dan West and the Spanish Civil War

A turning point in the life of Dan West came in 1937 when he went to Spain for five months where he worked with a relief campaign aiding the victims of both sides in the Spanish Civil War. He wrote a number of letters and articles that opened the eyes of many to the need for better relief organizations.

The idea that eventually became Heifer Project International began to take shape while West was in Spain. He often handed out powdered milk and water to long lines of mothers and children. While he knew the supplies he was distributing were saving lives, he also knew these same people would be back the next day. The eyes of these people haunted him, and he became determined to find a way to break the cycle of handouts and hunger.

Upon his return from Spain in 1938, West began proposing the idea of shipping dairy cows to areas in need to restock the devastated farms so a steady supply of milk could once again become available. In addition, the recipient of the animal would agree to give the first female offspring to someone else in need.

Many of his neighbors in Elkhart County, Indiana took up the idea and .... Stay tuned tomorrow, an anniversary of sorts, for the official beginnings of Heifer Project.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dan West, Dunkers for Peace, and BVS

Dan West served as director of youth work beginning in 1930. He was active in peace education and was one of the organizers of 20,000 Dunkers for Peace in 1932 which sought commitments from those who agreed not to engage in war. He encouraged young people to participate in work camps and peace caravans.

Due in large part to his leadership, a group of young adults came to the 1948 Annual Conference to propose that "A broad plan of volunteer service be instituted for Brethren, especially those of conscription age, at once." Annual Conference approval was granted and the program began that very summer under Dan's leadership.

His many contributions to the church was summarized by W. Harold Row: "Dan West provided the ideological base and first practical demonstrations on which others have established programs. In a genuine sense (he was) our architect of brotherhood."

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dan West

One of the giants who strode large across the Church of the Brethren in the 20th century was Dan West. Kermit Eby, one of his good friends, once wrote of him, "Dan West is a modern mystic, yet, like all his Brethren forebears, practical."

Dan was born in Preble County, Ohio in 1893 and graduated from Manchester College in 1917. He spent most of his adult life on farms near Goshen, Indiana, with his wife Lucille and their five children.

As a young man, West was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1918 with the understanding that he would be assigned to noncombatant duties. When he was assigned to a machine gun batallion, he refused to serve and expected to go to prison for his stance. Instead, he was discharged from the army.

During the summers of 1927 to 1930, he spent most of the summer months providing leadership to summer camping programs with other leaders such as Chauncey Shamberger, Perry Rohrer, and Alvin Brightbill. He served on the denomination's Board of Christian Education from 1928 to 1930, then accepted an appointment as director of youth work in 1930. He met and married Lucille Sherck in 1932 and, although he was a member of the national staff, he chose to live on a farm near Goshen, Indiana, rather than at Elgin, Illinois, saying he preferred to remain close to the "grass roots" of the church. He was a member of the Elkhart Valley Church for many years.

He became the first lay person to be elected moderator of Annual Conference in 1965. Delegates to the 1966 conference still recall his use of a towel of service instead of a gavel to conduct the business sessions.

Dan contracted amytrophic lateral sclerosis in 1968 and died on January 7, 1970.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land, Bowers

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

William Beery

William Beery cheated death at least twice, and the Church of the Brethren hymnody is the better for it. Born April 8, 1852, near Bremen OH, he was the tenth of thirteenth children. It is said that the doctor took one look at the newborn and told his mother that he would not survive. The prediction proved incorrect. Though he was sickly as a child, he lived for nearly 104 years.

He attended Juniata College and arrived to a small pox epidemic which would close the college for the first half of the year. He was afraid that if he went home he might never return so he and a couple of classmates when to a deep gorge about 15 miles away known as Old Forge. There they settled into abandoned dwellings and built tables and chairs with equipment at on old saw mill. Farm families turned them away out of fear they might be contagious - although a teenaged Martin Grove Brumbaugh walked several miles to bring them milk.

Beery later taught vocal music at Juniata, and later would return to become head of the music department. He conducted music institutes and singing classes in the midwest as well.

Beery was married in 1888 to Adaline Hoff, who often wrote poems that he set to music. In 1910 they moved to Elgin IL where both were employed by the Brethren Publishing House. Beery had begun writing tunes in 1878 and two were included in the 1879 edition of the Brethren's Tune and Hymn Book. His music has also been included in the past 3 Brethren hymnals. He wrote over 100 tunes during his lifetime. Three of his tunes are included in the current hymnal including "Lo, A Gleam From Yonder Heaven", the words written by his wife.

Beery remained active throughout his lifetime and performed on the Chicago TV station WLS on his 103rd birthday in 1955.

Sources: The Brethren Encyclopedia and Frank Ramirez

Monday, April 07, 2008

Elgin Offices Dedication

Tomorrow, marks the 49th anniversary of the Church of the Brethren General Office building dedication on April 8, 1959.

According to The Brethren Encyclopedia, the General Brotherhood Board began a long-range study of the church's headquarters in Elgin in 1952. Four years later in 1956 the Annual Conference "adopted with gratitude" a plan for purchasing land and construction of new facilities.

Located on 24 acres on the northeast edge of Elgin, the facilities consist of a building with an area of 97,000 square feet. The building includes office space for the staff of the General Board, BBT, ABC, Brethren Press, a chapel, and the Brethren Historical Library and Archive.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

District Meeting - April 6, 1863

As congregations developed throughout the State of Indiana, gradually there grew up a natural division of the State, because of geographical convenience, into a northern and a southern part. In 1863 two meetings were held, much resembling our modern District Meetings.

The 1863 District Meeting in Northern Indiana was held near Goshen on April 6.

Historical records show that six Queries were dealt with at that meeting:

Query 1. About the difference between the ancient order of holding love feasts and the 43rd query of last Annual Meeting. Considered to abide by our established order till farther light is given, and for this purpose the matter is referred to next yearly meeting for reconsideration and bringing about a union in this and other matters of difference.

Query 2. About the avoidance. That brethren should engage seriously in examining the matter in order to come to a union in practice as soon as possible.

Query 3. About the kiss between the supper and the breaking of the bread. Agreed to continue in this practice as before.

Query 4. About attending political and war meetings and voting at political elections. Considered not to have anything to do with politics at all, much less with war efforts.

Query 5. About a lamb to be used at the Lord's Supper. United in leaving it as heretofore decided at the yearly meetings. (Note: no mention of what that was.)

Query 6. How shall we deal with members who will not come under the order of the Brethren with regard to dress, especially ministers wearing fashionable coats and sisters wearing hoops? United in the conclusion of yearly meeting of 1861.

And that's the way it was April 6, 1863.

Source: History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, 1952

Saturday, April 05, 2008


A new organizational structure arose in the mid-1800s which came to be known as the districts. Churches in Indiana and throughout the brotherhood had worked together on an informal basis for years, but there was no formal structure.

This began to change with a decision by Annual Meeting in 1856 which gave conditional approval to the formation of districts by groups of adjoining churches. Final approval to this structure was given in 1866.

The first meeting of this kind (in Northern Indiana) was held in 1857 at the Bethany Church, then known as Solomon's Creek. Another similar meeting was held in 1859 at a love feast near Goshen. This meeting was attended by 25 elders and ministers.

The first meetings which closely resembled today's district conferences were held in 1863. More about that first district conference tomorrow.

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

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mary Geiger

Mary Geiger was born the daughter of Jacob and Mary G. Schwenk. She was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church and married a physician, Henry Geiger, in 1848. They moved to Philadelphia in 1852 and joined the German Baptist Brethren. Henry became a Brethren minister and developed a flourishing wholesale grocery business.

After Henry's death in 1885, Mary became philanthropist, contributing funds for Brethren church buildings in Philadelphia and other cities and supported Brethren colleges, orphanages, and mission programs. It was her financial support which paid the salary of T.T. Myers, the first full-time salaried pastor at the Philadelphia First Church beginning in April 1891.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tobias Timothy Myers

Tobias Timothy (T.T.) Myers was born March 29, 1865, in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. He moved with his parents in 1876 to Illinois. He attended Mt. Morris Academy and taught in public schools. He was elected a minister by the Milledgeville congregation in 1886.

With the assistance of his brother, he was called in April 1891 to become one of the first salaried pastors in the denomination, and is thought to have been the first full-time salaried pastor at the Philadelphia First Church of the Brethren where he served until 1907. His service as pastor there was interrupted several times: for 6 months travel in Europe and Palestine; a 2-year study leave; and one year of pastoral service at Germantown.

In 1907, T.T. Myers became professor of New Testament at Juniata College. He traveled widely and wrote Sunday School lessons for the Brethren Quarterly from 1906-1920. He had given special attention to Sunday Schools during his pastoral service in Philadelphia to confront problems of the urban church.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mutual Aid Association

Happy Birthday, Mutual Aid Association!

On April 1, 1885, members of the Northeast District in Kansas formed the Mutual Aid Association to provide property insurance protection to Brethren Farmers. From its simple Kansas beginnings, MAA has grown and flourished to be a highly recognized provider of property insurance in the 21st century. Today its headquarters are located in Abilene, KS.

Frank Ramirez, in his Tercentennial Moment for April 6, has this story behind the beginning of what we know today as Mutual Aid Association.

Mutual Aid has always been at the heart of Brethren faith and practice. If your barn burned down, a flood destroyed your home, or your crops were wiped out by a storm, your fellow Brethren took care of you. As Peter Nead, in his book Primitive Christianity, put it: "It is very evident, that if the members of the church are in love and fellowship towards one another, they will not suffer their poor brethren and sisters, if it lies in their power, to want for any of the necessities of life."

As long as most Brethren lived in the east it was still possible for mutual aid to be provided on a personal basis. But Brethren were on the move, advancing with the frontier. In Kansas and other western states this was becoming harder and harder. There simply weren't enough Brethren in the western states. Starting in 1847 Brethren began to discuss the possibility of first property insurance, and then life insurance.

For some Brethren insurance was a form of gambling that indicated a lack of faith. God and God's people would always take care of the believers.

... Brethren ... were finally able to settle the important question of insurance, giving the go-ahead to a group from Kansas. On April 1, 1885, in Osawkie, located in Jefferson County, a group of Brethren, led by Civil War hero P.R. Wrightsman, found the Brethren Mutual Aid Society of Northeast Kansas. The organization has been known by many names, but it still exists today as the Mutual Aid Association, and still insures many Brethren churches and homes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gas Explosion Wrecks Church





These were the headlines on April 1, 1906 after a terrible explosion of an acetylene gas system wrecked the rear end of the German Baptist Church in West Goshen on the preceding (Sunday) evening. The explosion was heard a distance of four miles, and houses in the city were shaken by the shock.

In the basement of the annex was an acetylene tank which furnished the gas for the gas lighting system for the church. This acetylene gas plant had been in use at the church for four or five years.

A meeting preceding the Sunday evening service was drawing to a close and the congregation was singing with the service about to commence when the explosion took place. About 150 people were seated in the church and Elder John Stafford had taken a seat on the platform.

The lights suddenly went out and MH, who takes care of the church, went to the basement to ascertain what the trouble was, and struck a match. The explosion followed. The rear addition to the church was blown to pieces, and fragments of the door leading into this part of the church was hurled down the aisle that leads up to the door.

The congregation was thrown into the wildest confusion and the explosion shook the city.

The one-story rear addition (40 x 12 feet) was a complete wreck and there was no insurance on the building. The damage to the building was estimated at $500.00.

Source: A History of the West Goshen Church by Dean L. Henry