Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jacob and Sarah Berkey

Elder Jacob Berkey was born in Somerset County, Pa. and moved to Indiana in 1848. He and Sarah were the parents of eight children. The Berkeys settled on a quarter section of land located across the road from the present site of the Rock Run Church east of Goshen.

When they arrived in Elkhart County, the closest congregation was Elkhart (West Goshen). The Berkeys soon began to actively organize a new congregation closer to their home. Rock Run was organized in 1850 and Jacob Berkey was elected to the ministry and placed in charge of the congregation. He became widely known for his preaching, both in German and in English.

Jacob Berkey was described as a man without fear who was not afraid to confront sin. He was strongly opposed to the use of tobacco and whiskey and one of the earliest Dunker temperence lecturers. He was often considered progressive in his thinking, advocating the single mode of washing feet at love feast and the formation of Sunday schools. One of the first protracted (revival) meetings was held at Rock Run under his leadership.

His wife was well known for her hard work in keeping the Berkey household intact while her husband was often traveling for the church. She was largely responsible for the home and the farm while her husband was gone for days at a time.

The story is told that when the Rock Run congregation began talking about building a meeting house, some of the members objected on the grounds that they would have to wait to eat their noon meal until they had traveled all the way back home instead of having a fellowship meal. Elder Berkey reportedly volunteered to feed anyone in his home who felt this was a problem. There is no record that Sister Sarah raised any objection to this offer.

About 1879, Jacob and Sarah moved to northeast Texas where he was instrumental in establishing several congregations. In the spring of 1881, he was called to conduct an anointing service. His route required him to cross a rain-swollen stream near Gainsville. A man on the other side warned him not to cross, but Elder Berkey waded into the water on horseback and was swept away. His body was recovered the following day. The judge and lawyers of the county, who had been impressed by his preaching, paid for his burial outfit. Sarah lived until October 26, 1888.

Source: Planting the Faith in a New Land