In writing this brief history of Altoona Methodism the author has been guided by but one thought, namely; That the young people of today, and those of on coming years might be enabled to appreciate more of the sacrifices and the keen struggles of those who, so devotedly and strongly laid the foundation of Methodism in our city and that all might read the one great truth, that Revivals have been the backbone and the sinew; the very life blood and salvation of the church in all her struggles.
The experiences through which the churches of our city have passed, have been varied and many of her early struggles were very severe. Since 1850 she has combatted with the powers of darkness, she has road on the crest of spiritual prosperity, she has comforted many broken hearts, she has always held out the hand to help and spoken to encourage, she has ever pointed to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world and her servants have always cried the one cry of a brave but tender heart. Come!
The author is proud to be numbered among so valiant a people and sends forth this little volume, praying it may encourage some hearts to a more valiant service for Christ the King.
HOMER C. KNOX.
History of First M. E. Church
History of Eighth Avenue M. E. Church 49
History of Chestnut Avenue M. E. Church 77
History of Simpson M. E. Church 97
History of Fifth Avenue M. E. Church 115
History of Walnut Avenue M. E. Church 131
History of Fair View M. E. Church 151
History of Italian M. E. Church 161
Twelfth Avenue and Thirteenth Street. Brick building, 70 feet on Thirteenth Street, 54 feet on 12th Avenue. A two-story building. First floor---Sunday school room, two class rooms, one on either side of hall at 12th Ave. entrance, and a library back of pulpit. Second floor---one room, with raised platform for pulpit and choir. Corner stone laid 1853. Dedicated Aug. 13, 1853. Remodeled 1871. Razed April 1905. Daniel K. Ramey and David K. Ramey, contractors. Contract Price, $5000.00.
Corner Twelfth Avenue and Thirteenth Street. Hummelstown brown stone, fronting, 100 feet on Twelfth Avenue and 120 feet on Thirteenth Street, including parsonage. On first floor---Assembly, festal hall, kindergarten, board and cloak rooms, large kitchen and toilets. Seating capacity of assembly, fully opened, 800. The auditorium, with two galleries over corridors, Epworth League room, hall and church parlor seat 1000. Sunday school room, practically an extension of auditorium, provides 600 sittings. Finished in quartered oak. Heated in parsonage, corridors and small rooms by steam. Auditorium and assembly, festal hall and Sunday school rooms heated and ventilated by the plenum fan system. Electric light, with emergency gas. Chairs used on first floor and Sunday school room. Pews in auditorium and Sunday school gallery. Corner stone laid Sept. 24, 1905. Occupied Sept. 30, 1906. Dedicated April 21, 1907. Cost completed, $81,000.00. Mr. W. R. Brown, Architect. Mr. P. W. Finn, Contractor.
As I begin the History of Methodism in Altoona, beautiful in name, magnificent in character, and full of fruit, my mind and heart are flooded with a rush of remembrances gathered from the lips of the old and the young, some in the beginning, some from the beginning, and others of later years. What I have heard and seen dazzles, and brings a maze of beauties, bewildering, enabling us to look back over about fifty nine years of consecrated effort by the saints of God. The promise of the future of this spot on the mountain side, through the moves that the Pennsylvania Railroad was making, drew people from all parts of the country and there being no regular place of worship for the in coming Methodist, they attended the meetings in the old union school house, in what was then known as the upper end of Tuckahoe Valley. During the year 1850, Rev. Geo. Guyer, Presiding Elder of Birmingham district, and Rev. Plummer E. Waters, preached in the school house, in 1851, the society numbering eighteen members.
Among these were: Miss Maria Shomaker, Mrs. John McClellen, Mrs. Fred Hesser, Mrs. Ellen Baer, Miss Sallie Shank and Miss Rebecca Crissman. The first class was formed in May 1851, with Edward Hawkins leader, who at the end of three months was succeeded by Thomas Elway. The appointment belonged to the Birmingham circuit, with Rev. Plummer E. Waters as pastor and Rev. T. S. W. Monroe, the presiding elder.
The growth of the society brought increased need of service and in February, 1853, a meeting was held in the office of Thomas Burchnell, for the purpose of considering the propriety of organizing a separate charge, asking for recognition by the annual conference, and securing a pastor.
Of this meeting Alexander Enos, of Hollidaysburg, was president, and John Shomaker, secretary. Besides these there were present, Thomas Elway, T. J. Williams, George R. Everson, Solomon F. Ramey, Elias Keemer, Jerry Billman, and John Baer. The feasibility of such a movement was questioned by some of these persons, and the arguments pro and con were warm and animated; although at the time the wild geese and ducks were swimming on the ponds where the Logan House and Central Trust building now stands, and wild animals infested Gospel Hill, these brethren had faith in God and sufficient hope in the future to enable them to sign a petition asking the Baltimore conference to constitute them a separate charge. Among other things the petition stated that the town was growing and would probably become a town of two or three thousand people.
The conference heard the petition with many misgivings, but after considerable debate granted the prayer of the petitioners and constituted Altoona appointment a separate charge, in March, 1853, with Rev. John Ryland the pastor.
Two classes were formed in April of that year, with Thomas Elway and Thomas Burchnell leaders. The society worshipped in the old union school house, on what is now Sixteenth Street, where the African Methodist Episcopal church now stands, except---occasionally, when, through the courtesy of the Presbyterians, they were permitted to occupy their church, then on the corner of Twelfth Avenue and Thirteenth Street. The Sunday School was organized on the second Sunday of April, 1853, George R. Everson being elected superintendent, John A. Baer, secretary and Solomon F. Ramey, librarian. The number of pupils present, was forty. (See history of Sunday School.)
In the summer of this year, 1853, the two lots of ground upon which the present church stands were secured from Colonel John A. Wright of Philadelphia; and in the fall of the same year the Church edifice was commenced by Daniel K. Ramey, and David K. Ramey, contractors and builders, the contract price being $5,000; but during the progress of the work, Mr. David K. Ramey, formerly one of Altoona's best and most liberal citizens, withdrew and his brother Daniel, of Hollidaysburg, completed the work.
However, all did not run smoothly. The members were coparatively poor, and $5000.00 was a large sum for so small a congregation to raise; hence the struggle was long and hard. John A. Collins was presiding elder, and by his fiery eloquence he warmed the hearts of the people and stirred them to increased and nobler efforts and greater activity in their labors to rear a suitable place in which to worship Almighy God. Then, as now, the church could not go forward without the aid of the women. The first Ladies' Aid Society was organized in 1853. Mrs. C. Jaggard was elected president; Miss Maria Shomaker, treasurer; and Miss Ella Clabaugh, secretary. This society held a fair for the benefit of the new church, near the holidays of that year, in an office and library room where the weigh scales stood until recently. This fair netted quite a sum for the laudable purpose for which it was held. This society poured into the treasury of the church for various causes quite a sum of money, and has fed the coffers when the demands for money were so great that the church could scarcely have existed without it. The charter of incorporation was granted May 5, 1856, the following being the original charter of incorporation:
Whereas, the following named persons, Thomas Burchnell, Thomas Elway, Jonathan Lias, Andrew Green, Robert Green, George W. Kessler, Robert A. McDowell, John Trout, and John Shomaker, have, together with others, associated themselves for the purpose of worshiping Almighty God according to the faith and discipline of the Methodist Episcopal church of the United States of America, and have for that purpose formed a congregation at Altoona, county of Blair, and state of Pennsylvania, and are desirous of being incorporated agreeable to the act of assembly of Pennsylvania. They, therefore, declare the following to be, the object, articles, and conditions of their said association, agreeable to which they desire to be incorporated. Viz:
First---The name of the corporation shall be the Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church of Altoona.
Second---This church acknowledges itself to be a member of and to belong to the annual Baltimore conference of the Methodist Episcopal church of the United States of America. As such it accedes to, recognizes, and adopts the discipline and worship of the Methodist Episcopal church of the state of Pennsylvania, and of the Methodist Episcopal church of the United States of America, and acknowledges their authority accordingly.
Third---The rents and revenues of this corporation shall be from time to time applied to the erection and repairs of the church and church yard and parsonage house, and other houses which now do, or hereafter shall, belonged to the said corporation, and to no other purpose or use whatsoever.
Provided, always, that the clear yearly value or income of the real and personal estate held by the said corporation shall not, at any time exceed the sum of two thousand dollars.
Fourth---The board of the trustees of the said church shall consist of nine persons, members of said church, who shall have been in good standing of membership for one year, and at least twenty-one years of age, who shall continue in office for one year, and until others be chosen; and the election of such trustees shall be made every year, on the first Monday in September, by majority of such members of said church as shall appear by the church books to have paid up their contribution to the support of the minister appointed: Provided, always, that the by-laws, rules and ordinances of this corporation shall not be repugnant to the constitution or laws of the United States of this commonwealth, or to this instrument.
Fifth---The said board of trustees shall have full power to choose their own officers in accordance with the discipline of said church. In case of a vacancy, either by death or resignation, the minister in charge shall have power to appoint to fill said vacancy.
Sixth---The following named persons to be the trustees, to continue in office until the first Monday in September next, if said corporation shall have been fully confirmed at that time: if not confirmed at that time, to continue in office until the first Monday of September after said incorporation shall have been fully confirmed, to it wit: Thomas Burchnell, Thomas Elway, Jonathan Lias, Andrew Green, Robert Green, George W. Kessler, Robert A. McDowell, John Trout, and John Shomaker. Signed by Thomas Burchnell, Thomas Elway, Robert Green, Jonathan Lias, R. A. McDowell, John A. Baer, T. W. Weller, Joshua Robertson, Andrew Green, G. W. Kessler, John Trout, John Shomaker, George Hartzell, Jr., G. R. Everson.
This application was presented to the court and ordered to be filed on the second day of March, 1856. The first decree was made by the court on the 5th day of May, 1856, and the same was recorded by Joseph Baldrige on the eleventh day of June, 1856, in deed book, volume "G", page 109. This charter was amended on the twentieth day of July, 1871, so as to allow the trustees to be elected by the quarterly conference on the nomination of the pastor or the presiding elder. This amendment is recorded in letter book 1 page 325. This course was pursued by the society from 1871, until 1895, when it was ascertained that this mode of election was in conflict with the act of April 26, 1855, which has never been repealed, and which act of assembly states specifically that the trustees shall be elected by the members of the congregation who are over twenty-one years of age, and who have paid up their assessments to the church and to the support of the minister. Hence it become necessary to further amend the charter, which was done by presentation of a petition signed by A. P. McDonald, A. C. Lyttle, H. J. Cornman, John A. Smith, James C., Barger, George A. Baer and A. T. Heintzelman, on the 8th day of January, 1895, and was duly confirmed by the court on the 16th day of January, 1895, the following is the decree: Now, January, 16th, 1895, the within amendment to the charter of the First Methodist church of Altoona, having been submitted to the Court, upon examination thereof, finds it in form; and, it appearing that the improvements, amendments and alterations, therein prayed for are beneficial and lawful, and do not conflict with the act of assembly regarding corporations, approved April 26th, 1885, nor with the act approved the 29th day of April, 1874, and the supplements thereto, nor with the constitution of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and do proof of publication of notice having made of the intended application for said amendments, and no objection having been made and no cause to the contrary shown, now, on motion of W. L. Woodcock and C. B. Clark, attorneys for said corporation, it is ordered and decreed that, upon recording of said amendments, alterations and improvements in the office of recorder of deeds of Blair County, the same shall be decreed and be taken to be the charter of said corporation, as amended. (By the court. Jeremiah Lyons, P. J. 41st District, Specially Presiding.). Recorded January 18th, 1895. ''This charter, as amended, was recorded on the 18th day of January, 1895, in letter book volume B, page 364, and by reference thereto it will seem that this is practically a new charter, being full and complete. In addition to regulating the election of trustees so as to comply with this commonwealth, it also changed the name of the society from the Methodist Episcopal church to the First Methodist Episcopal church of Altoona.
Churches, like individuals, have their troubles, and meet with difficulties; but they, like individuals, are the better for the difficulties when they surmount or overcome them. This church encountered a serious trouble in 1856. When it was dedicated on the 13th of August, 1854, there were $3559.00 to raise. Of this amount $1650.00 was provided for by subscription, leaving $1900.00 unprovided for. This was enlarged by interest and shrinkage in subscription, until, in 1856 the contractor claimed $4999.00. His claim was disputed because of certain things not having been done according to contract. In default of the payment, suit was instituted for the whole of the claim, including $700.00 for extras. The case was ruled out for arbitration; but the award of the arbitrators was appealed from by the trustees. The case was tried in court in the spring of 1856; when the jury gave the church a reduction of nearly $1000.00, thus reducing the judgment $3009.00. The trustees, unwiling to have the church sold, availed themselves of the right of inquisition under the act of assembly, and requested the sheriff to summon a jury to inquire whether or not the rents, issues and profits of the said church would pay the debt in seven years. The jury found in favor of the church, and extended the property at the rental of $550.00 per annum, for seven years, or until the said rental of $550.00 per annum would liquidate the debt against the real estate. But the said act of assembly grants the plaintiff in the writ in such cases, the privilege of taking the property at the rental fixed by the jury. Of this privilege the contractor availed himself and took possession of the property by virtue of writ, (liberarifacias), and closed the church, this leaving the young struggling congregation without a place in which to worship; until the Presbyterians, out of their exceeding kindness and generosity gave them the use of their church. The trustees made several efforts to compromise with the contractors, but without avail. Ten members offered to pledge themselves individually for the payment of the rental of $500.00 per annum; but the plaintiff refused to rent the church to them. They even offered to pay the rent in advance; this he likewise refused. This sad state of affairs continued for six months, during this time the church was locked and idle yet in those days of trouble, we can imagine that undaunted hearts were crying out; Must we believe that God has raised these hopes and desires to crush them? Or shall our souls shrink, because of all our efforts falling in nought? No! assuredly not! "'Tis (the God) that stirs within us; 'Tis heaven itself that points out the need. It is not conceivable of a wise and loving Father that when we are ready to burst out in songs of love, and advance into great fields of usefulness. He should permit our church doors to be forever sealed.'' Finally, at a meeting held on the 16th of September, 1856, Mr. Thomas Burchnell measured up to the occasion, declaring, we are able to raise the entire amount, and moving that a meeting of the congregation be called by the presiding elder, Rev. J. A. Collins, for that purpose. Then and there the subscription was started by Mr. Burchnell's giving $50.00. Brothers Kessler, Runyon, and Cochran gave the same amount, John Shomaker, Thomas Elway, Rev. W. Downs, and Brother Lawson each $30.00 All other members present gave something. Brothers Elway and Hawksworth were appointed a committee to secure a place for the purposed meeting of the congregation. At this meeting the members were greatly encouraged and stimulated, a strong faith in God, dominating the meeting, the entire sum being raised. In a few weeks the contractor unlocked the church and turned the keys over to the trustees. Faith triumphed and the debt was paid. The church property is held by deed of John A. Wright and Emma M. his wife, dated the 26th day of March, A. D. 1858, to Thomas Burchnell, John Thomas Elway, David R. Miller, G. W. Kessler, A. McCachren, Andrew Green, Solomon Boyer and Theodore Stark trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church, of Altoona, Pa., and their successors in office, in trust for the members of the congregation, for the worship of Almighty God. It embraces two lots of ground on the corner of Twelfth Avenue and Thirteenth Street, being lots numbered 15 and 16 in block The consideration in said deed is $100.00. The deed is recorded in deed book volume K, page 364, in the office for the recording of deeds in Blair County.
In 1867, a great revival spirit was sweeping over the country. The Civil War was ended; the men had returned to their homes, and become settled; the church which had just come safely through a life of struggle and care, feeling that through their faith God had helped them out of financial distress, they had been increasing in attendance and interest in spiritual things. From the Rev. George Guyer to Rev. Jacob S. McMurray, the pastors were wholly men of God, strong in faith and clean in character; while under Rev. A. E. Gibson, 1855, the church was led into close fellowship with God and of course with one another. It is said of him that as he walked up the aisle on Sunday morning into the pulpit, a wholly hush come over the whole congregation. Under Rev. Wilford Downs, the Holy Ghost preacher, the church was visited with a revival, 1856. But not until 1867, under Rev. Jacob S. McMurray, did God visit this church in mighty saving power. For years she had been struggling, and the dust of financial trouble had filled her eyes of faith for souls. She had people, but not power. Only a few were on their faces, crying to God, for the salvation of the people. But in the winter of '67, God poured out his Spirit in converting power, and 273 souls were saved. The population of the city was continually increasing and God used some of these converts with the other members who lived on the east side to go over the railroad and build another church to provide and care for the strangers coming from all parts of the country. In 1871, under the efficient pastorate of Rev. Finley B. Riddle, the church was remodeled with F. B. Riddle, John Shomaker, Fred Hesser, Martin Runyon, A. Clabaugh and William L. Woodcock, the building committee. The entire structure was changed. The tower was built, with the entrance in it, and the recess for pulpit and choir. The floor of the lecture room was lowered about three feet, so as to make the ceiling of the room higher and easy of access. The windows were enlarged and made Gothic in style of architecture, with many other improvements, so as to make, practically, a new church. These changes and alterations cost $22000.00, the principal part of which was raised by subscription on the day of the reopening, when Dr. R. L. Dashill was present, preaching a strong sermon and conducting the finances. But, like most church subscriptions, these were subject to large shrinkage, so that a debt of several thousand dollars remained against the church for many years. Several efforts were made to liquidate the debt. At least twice the church was refrescoed; the cost of this, of course, added to the standing debt, and a subscription taken up, covering the full amount; but these like the first subscriptions, were subject to a large shrinkage, so that the debt remained with us, hanging over us like a deadly nightmare, for about twenty-five years. From the records this debt did not militate against the spiritual growth of the church to any great extent, for the Lord was gracious and poured out his spirit in those days, in 1871-72 under Rev. F. B. Riddle, the church being visited again by a great revival.
In 1870 there was a split in the church because of an organ. To this some of the older brethren and sisters objected, finally leaving the church and organizing in Elway's hall, Eleventh Ave and Ninth Street, in the spring of 1872. This and the outgoing of the members of the eastside of the city to attend the Eighth Avenue church, of course lessened the strength of this church; but the timely revival under Rev. Riddle, and his firery, strong, and impressive sermons, gave the church a new start, and she has never been any the weaker from the out-going of the Eighth Avenue and the Chestnut Avenue churches. From the beginning of the life of this church the revivals came from God at the most needed times. They healed all sores, supplied all needs, and helped to feed the conference with young men for the ministery, the Sunday Schools with teachers, and the class rooms with leaders and attendance. This church has had a continual growth since this revival season. In 1879 her membership numbered 333, with 16 probationers. She had an indebtedness of $3500.00 and was paying to the cause of Foreign and Home missions and church extension, $342.52 annually. It has had the best ministers in the conferences, and under these men of God the church grew until in 1893, under Rev. D. S. Monroe, her membership had increased to 534 members, and they were able to pay $1800.00 salary, making this one of the leading churches in the district, and of course able to ask for the best the conference had to give.
The conference of 1894 sent Rev. M. L. Ganoe to this church who spent five years of his life at this one charge. During this time the church was again visited with great saving power, resulting in the conversion of scores of souls both young, and old. This in-gathering and revival, a truly pentecostal season, especially amoung the young lasting during his entire stay at this charge, soon began to demand larger quarters and a better house in which to worship Almighty God. As this feeling among some grew, it was strongly opposed by others who had just come threw the struggle and knew what such moves meant. With their experience of nearly twenty-five years of efforts and opposition remembering disastrous panics, and being a congregation entirely dependent upon their day labor for their income, they said, ''we are not opposed to building a new church, but we are opposed to beginning it until we have some money in our treasury. For nearly twenty-five years they had paid on and raised in various ways the $3500.00 that incurred in repairing the church in 1871. Time and conditions increased the need. Under the pastorate of Rev. Horace Lincoln Jacobs the church was greatly strengthened, and the conviction deepened that a new church must soon be built. After a visit of one of the large circus's to our city, Rev. Jacobs made an appeal to the congregation in this wise:---''All who paid fifty cents to go to the circus ought to pay fifty cents to the new church fund; and all who did not go, could pay the fifty cents they saved, to the fund.'' He then proceeded to lift the offering, which, with other small amounts soon made a new church fund. In December, 1901, a subscription was lifted for this cause, no definite amount being ask for, but toward which the congregation gave in pledges and cash, nearly $2200.00. In the spring of 1903, the conference sent to this church Rev. B. C. Conner. This pastor began to talk new church from the day he came to the city; and the seed had been sown by the previous pastors so thoroughly that he found men and women, young and old, willing to stand by any moves he saw best to make. In May, 1903, the pastor ask for $10000.00 in good subscriptions, to be paid by March 20th, 1904, this being the first named amount for the new church. It was given in good subscriptions, and in one year was almost entirely paid. E. A. Dardy, treasurer, reported in December 23rd, 1903, amounts received by him on account subscriptions, donations, Sunday school classes, and Lecture courses,---$7254.26, plus $950.00 from executor of the Mary Couch estate, bequest: making $8204.26. This amount includes the $2200.00 subscribed in 1901, and the interest it made on the money while in the hands of the trustees. Under Rev. M. L. Ganoe, the debt which had lingered with them so many years, had been all paid but $300.00, which amount was partly due to some paving done around the church property, and was paid during Rev. H. L. Jacobs' first year.
With the church free from debt, over $8000.00 in the treasury and a membership of seven hundred, this church began in the fall of 1903, to pray to God to visit them in old time converting power. The pastor preached for one week to the members, calling them up for an altar service every evening, pointing them to their privileges in prayer, their duty to the church, and their relationship to the unsaved world. He spoke of the value of souls, the importance of clean living, and the sorrow that it brings to the loving heart of God to see men and women plunge into hell. He urged and preached and prayed for a deeper consecration in the lives of God's own children. The pastor found this soil sown as full of this kind of life as he already had found it in the New Church proposition, The laity of this church were men and women who stood four square for God. They had in former days sat under the preaching of some of the most sainted men of God. They knew no other service than to stand for what their long-cherished church stood for---salvation of souls and the advancement of the Master's kingdom; and when they heard the true revival gong sound, they were always ready for the march. It did truly ring, and the Saints went on their knees for a revival, a lazy, idolent church, tends toward unbelief; an earnest, busy church, in hand to hand, conflict with sin and misery, grows stronger in faith. Hence, with all their past experience of combating with evil and opposition of every kind, they had the faith to pierce the cloud, and God, for Christ's sake, poured out his spirit again in great converting power. The christian people were strengthened and filled with the spirit of Christ, making them more able to do Gods service. Men and women who had been members for years, found their way to the altar, surrendered their lives to God, and became workers in his vineyard. Conviction came very strongly upon the unsaved, and as the saints lifted their lost fellow-men into the presence of the Father by prayer, and supplicated for their salvation, God, who has always heard the prayer of the righteous remembered his promise, ''the prayer of the righteous man availeth much.''
For weeks the altar of the old Methodist church was filled with men and women, both young and old, seeking Christ, for their pardon of their sins and the blessing of the Holy Ghost. One young man, who had come to make Altoona his home, found his way inside her walls one night. Knowing nothing of the power of a Methodist revival, he thoughtlessly sank into a seat near the front of the church. The meeting began, and the time soon came for the sermon. Rev. B. C. Conner preached on worldly amusements, the dancing, card playing, theatre going, bad associates, and drinking being discussed at length. He spoke of the evil they are doing to the individual, the home, the church, the community, the world in general. He remarked that the church all through the ages had condemned the sins, and quoted Scripture showing Gods hatred of them. Under this unfolding of this young man's life (for he had been a follower of this army of sins) he was brought, to believe, almost against his own will, that he was a sinner in the sight of God.
The message finally ended and the invitation was given, with the usual singing of the hymns suitable to the occasion. Some unsaved responded, and the christian people were gathering around the inside of the altar. This young man had just brought his heart and mind to the decision to quit this kind of living, and was looking back over his past life bidding it adieu. He had never heard of any worse sin than drinking and that he had decided to quit, so that he felt himself, free from the laws of God. Two verses or more had been sung, when the pastor stopped them in the midst of it, and, coming out to the front of the old platform, said that there was a worse sin than anyone he had named---the sin of rejecting Christ---the unpardonable sin, stating that America was the best churched country in the world, he declared it would be better to be born in the jungles of Africa, amid cannibalism, than to be born in America and reject Christ. This, under the power of the spirit and in answer to prayer, started the work anew in the heart of the man. He reasoned that he would not reject Christ any more, but the Spirit answered, ''you are rejecting Christ now.'' The subject became perplexing, there being no way out of it but to surrender and admit Jesus into his heart. This was a new experience in his life, for he had always been able to find some other remedy for the questionable things in his life. The christian people around the alter invited him by their presence there. The church, through the Pastor, had opened the church doors. His own heart was answering to the call. The Spirit plead in language he had never heard before. ''You are now rejecting Christ.'' (The songs, such as---''What will you do with Jesus, your King?'' Say, how will meet Him at last? What plea in that day of wrath will you bring? When offers of mercy are past.''), were being sung, God had called, the seed had been sown, and in a very few minutes he left his seat willing to go any place to be free from the sin of rejecting Christ. He had been at the altar a short time when his wife, to whom he had just been married on September 5th, found her way to the altar, and side by side they sought for forgiveness of their sins and the witness of the Spirit. The wife was soon saved, and joined the prayers of the christian company for her husband and other unsaved people. He struggled long and hard in unbelief, but at last came out on God's side as best he knew, and they were both received into the church on probation, though not until nearly a year after, in the Juninta Machine shop, did he receive the witness of the Spirit. The church had cared for him and led him near God, and one of the members, Brother Hean, advised him to get a copy of the word of God and find the treasures in there for God's children. While pondering over these pages, beside his machine, God, for Christ's sake, helped him to believe up through John 5:24, and the Spirit witnessed to the finished work. He is today preaching the unsearchable riches of Jesus to lost men.
Score upon scores of just such conversions, might be mentioned. The blessing was being ask in homes at newly started family altars, the doors to the secret closets were being swung more frequently, and the converted numbered two hundred. This revival ran into the spring of 1904.
Now that the church was in a good, strong condition, having taking in over one hundred probationers, and being strengthened in the inner man, it was fully ready to proceed with the business of the new church. The members began to ask, ''When are you going to build? " On the 29th of May, 1904, there remained nearly $1600.00 of the $10000.00 subscription unpaid. It was the thought of the board to lift a $25000.00 subscription, payable in twenty-five months. But the suspensions and discharges of the Pennsylvania railroad delayed this intention for some time, and in answer to the question of the people concerning the building, the action of the quarterly conference was that when the $10,000.00 were fully paid, and we had secured in good, reliable subscriptions, $25000.00 more, the committee would be authorized to go ahead, in the fall of 1904, the men were almost all working full time again, and the $10,000.00 subscription, except about $350.00 had been paid. During the short time in the shop some of the members who had subscribed were compelled to leave the city, this accounting for the $350.00 shrinkage. In July, 1904, the following men were elected as the building committee: W. L. Woodcock, H. J. Cornman, H. L. Nicholson, H. A. Hutchison, H. E. Stall, Fred Hesser, and the pastor, Rev. B. C. Conner. This committee selected Mr. M. R. Brown of New York City as the architect. The plans had been gone over by this committee many times, and were so nearly ready, that the committee could ask bids for the new church. At the quarterly conference held Monday evening, October 10th 1904, the plans for new church were submitted and approved, and it was decided to raise the $25000.00 as soon as possible. The congregation was canvassed, the new church picture made from the architect's work was brought into the church, and everything was moving toward the lifting of $25000.00 which was the main subscription. On December 11th, 1904, Rev. B. C. Conner, had secured the service of Rev. H. L. Jacobs, one of the former pastors, and proceeded to take the subscription. After the sermon of Rev. Jacobs, inspiring confidence in God and effort and sacrifice in his service, the Morning offering reached the sum of $21712.45. One little girl, catching the inspiration of the occasion, gave all she had in her savings bank. The spirit of sacrifice greatly affected many hearts. In the afternoon the Sunday School gave $1300.00, at night, $5509.00 were given, making a total of $28,511.45. The evening offering was lifted before the sermon, and (the pastor) Rev. Jacobs took this opportunity to preach for souls. At the close of the service he made an appeal and one lady came out and was saved, crowning the day with great success. The committee wrote letters and visited the members who could not be present and were successful in bringing the amount to $30,000.00. A letter was written to Mr. Carnegie, reminding him of some of his acquaintance in Altoona, and asking him for an organ. When just a young man he had spent many an hour in the home of John Shomaker, whose daughter was a musician, Rev. A. E. Gibson, the pastor in 1856, was a skilled violin player, and they would come to this home and pass many a pleasant hour this way. A letter was received from Mr. Carnegie's private secretary stating ''when you have collected the $25000.00 in addition to the $15000.00 you have, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to provide an organ in memory of old days spent in Altoona.'' It is only fair to mention here that the persistent effort of Rev. B. C. Conner, was largely the reason the church got the organ paid in full by Mr. Carnegie. The subscription now being lifted and the organ being promised on these terms, the next move was to encourage the people to pay promptly, and thereby not delay the work of the church. Each member who subscribed was furnished with twenty envelopes, and urged to pay promptly each month until his amount was fully paid. The pastor published a paper called, "The messenger," and in this paper he kept before the members the financial statements, a little note of encouragement and advise would appear now and then. In one of the copies he stated: Some people have an idea that when a large amount is subscribed the battle is won and the victory is assured. But the real task is before us to pay the money subscribed in the time limit; he also said as fast as the money came in it was being invested in Building and Loan Shares, which drew six per cent interest. With other mentionings in the paper, and the church being talked of everywhere, the spirit kept up and the people were paying promptly, with the exception of a very few.
The time had come for the sale of the old property. On Saturday afternoon, at three o'clock, February 4th, 1905, at public auction, the parsonage and tenant house were sold. Mr. Harry Cornman was the auctioneer. The parsonage, furnace, and bathroom fixtures, brought $425.00. It was bought by Mr. Harry Russell. The tenant house, furnace, and bathroom fixtures brought $305.00, and was bought by W. L. Woodcock.
The last love feast was held in the old church on Sunday morning, March 12th, at nine o'clock. The day was fair and the attendance was good, while the testimonies of some of the old brothers and sisters were encouraging. As some of the experiences of former days were recalled to thought, they were greatly moved and poured out their souls in praise and honor that morning. The saints seemed to think the razing of the old church was like burying an old man; the days of usefulness were past, but the marks of service were there. Some of the things referred to that morning were the old pew that mother sat in, the altar which was doubly sacred, at whose rail thousands of souls had found Christ; the old class room; one pew near the center of the church where John Carr was saved, was very tenderly referred to. However, the day had come when the old church, with all her history must go and something better must take its place. On Sunday, April 2nd, 1905, the last meeting was held in the old church. At 10:30 A. M., a platform meeting was held with the old members as speakers. John A. Baer, Geo. W. Kessler, Mrs. Geo. W.Kessler, John H. Carr, John A. Smith, instructed, inspired and encouraged as they told of the past. At 7:30 P. M. the service was continued, interesting addresses being made by Mr. H. L. Delo, W. L.Woodcock, Mrs. T. G. Haines, Dr. H. C. Evans, John Knox, Geo. W. Lynn and the pastor, H. L. Delo, the brother of Jeremiah Delo, sang a solo:
This and the entire day's service, was an inspiration to the young people of the church. The benediction was pronounced by the pastor, thus ending the life of the first Methodist church in Altoona.
The congregation worshiped in the old Lutheran church on Eleventh Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth Street, while their church was being built, the pastor living at No. 1216 17th Avenue. On Monday, April 3rd, workman began tearing down the old church; the furniture was carried to Ramey's Hall, (old Lutheran church) by the members, and the corner looked very soon as though there had never been a church there. Previous to this, March 25th, 1905, the contract was signed with P. W. Finn, of Altoona, Pa., to erect the church and parsonage according to plans and specification agreed upon, for $500000.00. This does not include the cost of the windows, pews, chairs, carpet and other furniture, heating and ventilating plant.
While the congregation worshiped in Ramey Hall, there were many souls saved and the members were very loyal in attending, not withstanding the fact that in the midst of the pastor's sermon the noise from the Railroad made it very difficult to understand what was being said, and the dust and dirt from the street found its way through many places, and settled on the pews, while quite frequently a rat invaded the platform, these visitors attracted the attention of the congregation, making it very difficult occasionally for the pastor to get the undivided attention of his people. One Sunday, one of the neighbors, undertaking to chop his wood while the sermon was being preached, Mr. Fry was sent out to ask the man if he would kindly wait until the sermon was finished.
Notwithstanding these annoyances the members were loyal to their church. The new church and the interest of the people in general, were looked after by H. A. Hutchison. This brother devoted much of his time to the job, since being a member of the firm of Fay Hutchinson & Co., he could give much of his time to the work. From the day the work began until the last cent was paid, the building committee untiringly worked and planned and paid to this cause. It will never be known until the great Time-keeper reveals the work of the saints, how much time and thought this committee put into the work. The church was in the very midst of the greatest financial enterprise she had ever undertaken, everything was going well, and the conference time was near. The pastor, himself, never thinking of being changed, was sent off to conference, and his people were waiting patiently for his return. But his ability, as a financier, it is said, is great, so the conference of 1906 made him district superintendent and sent to this charge Rev. Horace Lincoln Jacobs, who had just served four years, at this church previous to Rev. Conner. This, of course, looked like a big mistake, and gave the new pastor a hard job, but years proved this move to be a good one; for this pastor stepped into the work and the members rallied around him determined to have success. Before Rev. Conner left, the corner stone was laid; September 24th, 1905, was a beautiful day, and by 3:30 o'clock there were 5000 people gathered around the church corner. The pastors of other denominations took part in the occasion, making short addresses, and the usual service at a corner stone laying was performed. One thing worth noting was the address by Rev. James of the Baptist church. The theatre was being built on the corner below, this leading him to say, I expect you have some members asking, ''What is the meaning of all this waste?'' but, never saying a word about the building below. The christian people show their love to God by spending their money for this cause. W. L. Woodcock read a history of the church which he had prepared. A collection was lifted which amounted to about $275.00. The inscription on the corner stone reads: ''First Methodist Episcopal Church, 1853-1871-1905. The new building was soon ready for memorial windows. On Christmas evening the pastor received this note:
"Dear Brother Connor, chairman of building committee:---I desire to make a Christmas present to the memory of my sainted father, and therefore I agree to take the Thirteenth Street window at $1000.00, in memory of my father, William L. Woodcock. ''
The other large window on Twelfth Avenue was put in by H. J. Evans and wife, in memory of Rev. Jacob S. McMurray. Following is the list of special gifts---Memorial windows, etc.
Kindergarten Room---Five windows by the Primary Department and Cradle Roll, Mattie Long, Superintendent.
Assembly Room---Mrs. W. C. Fletcher's class, Elizabeth Heacox's class, Joseph and Sarah Story, by son. Thomas B.
Board Room---Alice Hoover's class, Ira Baker's and wife's classes, Mrs. Bertha Russell's class.
Epworth League Hall---For my sons, Horace Lincoln and Henry Strobel, by Helen Strobel Jacobs; by Charles B. Seem's class: To Mrs. Mary McCrorey: To my sons, Edwin Earl and Gerald Custer, by Jennie Rittenhouse Stall: In honor of Robert Cox, by his friends.
Sunday School Room---By Mrs. W. Merel Heintzelman---Raugh's class; by J. K. William's class; by Mrs. C. W. Hawkin's class; to Thomas McCartney, by Bertha C. Fickes' class; in memory of John A. Baer, by Gertrude Carpenter's class; by Mrs. John W. Gaines' class; three windows by S. M. Calvert's class; to Bishop C. C. McCabe and to Rev. B. B. Hamlin, D. D.; three by John S. Knox's class; to George W. Kessler, a friend of Prohibition; three by W. H. Ritter's class; in memory of Jacob Snyder, superintendent and Mrs. Mary Couch; two by W. G. Hean's class; C. W. Werner's class; in memory of Rev. James Curns, by Mrs. Annie Winnaugle's class; by Lulu G. Cunningham's class; by Mrs. Emily E. Taylor's class; by Mrs. Albert L. Baker's class; by Ellis W. Neal's class; three by Jessie Burchfield's class; two with scholars names, S. E. Aaron, W. H. Winnaugle, A. J. VanScoyoc; four by C. A. Rogers' class; two with scholars names, Gerald Stall, Aiger W. Rice, Robert S. Royer, Clarence A. Rogers, Earl E. Rogers, Byron M. Hutchison, George S. Smith; by Virginia Hurley's class; by Nan Miller's class; by Bertha Hoover's class.
Sunday School Dome---By Mrs. Tillie Haines' class, in honor of Haines.
Church Parlor--- In memory of Alfred Atkinson, Sarah A. Atkinson, James Garfield Atkinson; two presented by Queen Esther Circle in honor of B. C. Conner; two presented by Dr. A. L. Baker and wife; in honor of Mrs. Caroline M. Monroe; to the memory of Mrs. Caroline Fultz, by her children; in honor of H. A. Cornman, by his Sunday school class.
Pastor's Room---By Nellie L. Burchfield's class; to Rev. W. R. Mills, a beloved Pastor, by his children; by Blanche M. Conner's class.
Vestibules---Presented by Byron M. Hutchison; in memory of Harry A. Hutchison, Jr.; presented by Pauline Hutchison; presented by Marguerite Hutchison.
Auditorium---two, right gallery, in memory of D. H. Munson; left, presented by Martha V. Whitehead; Pulpit window, in memory of Samuel Shank; large window, Thirteenth Street, in memory of 1890---John Woodcock---1874---Clean Hands; A Pure Heart; An Active Upright Life. HIS END WAS PEACE. Tribute by his son, William Lee Woodcock; large window, Twelfth Avenue, centre section, dedicated to Rev. Jacob S. McMurray, D. D.; a Beloved and Honored Pastor, by H. J. Evans and wife; two sections of this window reserved unmarked; two circular windows dedicated by the Newell Mission Band to the Pastor, Horace Lincoln Jacobs, and his wife.
Auditorium Dome---By Young People's New Church Fund Society.
Pulpit Furniture from Rev. D. S. Monroe, D. D., a former pastor.
Collection Plates from H. L. Nicholson and wife.
Pulpit Bible and Hymnal from Mrs. Robert Green.
Communion Table Linen from Mrs. George W. Clark.
Sunday School Gallery Curtain from Mrs. W. F. Keisel, Jr.
Communion Set from Mrs. H. J. Cornman, Mrs. H. A. Hutchison and Mrs. W. F. Keisel, Jr.
Organ from Mr. Andrew Carnegie.
Memoral Tablets---To James Lowther; to Mrs. Clement Wright Jaggard; to the Charter Trustees, from Annie, E, Gilson.
Honor Tablet to the building committee.
The rooms on the first floor were ready for use, and on September 30th 1906, the congregation marched up in a body from Ramey's Hall and occupied the church.
Rev. Jacobs secured the service of Bishop E. G. Andrews, D. D., L. L. D., Bishop B. H. Moore, D. D., L. L. D., for dedication day, and Rev. D. S. Monroe and Rev. B. C. Conner to assist. On Sunday morning, April 27th, 1907, Bishop Andrews preached a strong and impressive sermon, his subject: "The will of God.'' In the evening, long before the hour for service, the great building was filled to its utmost. The sermon was preached by Bishop Moore, who held the great crowd spell-bound after which a subscription was taken. $25000.00 was ask for and before the service was ended $26000.00 was pledged in good subscription to be paid in twenty-five months. When the money was raised, the Bishop dedicated the great building to the worship of Almighty God.
Now that a new and better building was erected, the church was well attended, and under the preaching of Rev. H. L. Jacobs she was greatly strengthened. In the winter 1909, beginning with January first, a revival was begun. For two weeks the clouds hanging low and heavy. The church had surpassed any church in the Central Pennsylvania conference by their promptness in paying the subscriptions they had made, and the new church was very beautiful. But since its erection, it had not been visited by a revival spirit in soul-saving, hence some, who did not believe in large churches, thought God was not pleased with the work of his people in this particular.
The pastor preached and the members seemed interested in a way; the young came but was not concerned enough to quit worldly amusements; two weeks had past, and the unsaved that come were few. The pastor took his followers in this work and went to Eleventh Avenue and Thirteenth Street, for an open air meeting each evening before the service. Some of the workers met each evening in the board room for prayer. In this room, at bedsides, early in the day, in study, store, shop, and everywhere saints were found, they were breathing out prayer for a revival. God's ear was not heavy, nor his hand shortened; and in the third week of January the cloud was broken and a revival came from Heaven. The pastor preached better and the christian workers found their place around the altar while others in the audience were opening the word to the unsaved near them. Lost men, young and old were being saved. One Sunday morning, during the sermon, the members began going out to the altar, and the pastor fell on his knees, crying, "My God, you have turned the hearts of these people with me!'' The organ stopped, and the choir, one after another came down and joined in the praying for God to use them in any way he should choose. The meeting kept up until nearly one o'clock, the writer having had the privilege of being there that morning. Some of the members sank into their seats after the meeting was dismissed, and were so filled with the Spirit that they were unable to leave the church for almost one hour. When the evening came the church was filled with precious hearts, inquiring the way to be saved. One man, who had not been in a church for fourteen years, came to the meeting, and in a short time, conviction fastened upon his heart. He was spoken to about his soul, but was very irritable. However, prayer continued to be made unto God, by the church, for him and one evening, after visiting his lodge room and the theatre and finding no peace at either, under the deepening and powerful conviction of the Spirit he left his seat at the theatre and went to the church. He found his way to the altar, and in a few minutes he was soundly converted. This meeting went on until two hundred souls were saved. The writer, being a member of this church, would like to say, before this history closes, that God began to lay his hand on some of the young people of this revival for larger fields of labor.
In May 1903, the first subscription was lifted for the new church, $2200.00, having been raised before this.
On May 23rd, 1909, $81000.00, the entire indebtedness of the church had been fully paid.
This church has given from 1864 to 1909, pastors salary $69400.00.
Home and foreign mission and church extension, $30829.41.
Her first building, church and parsonage, was valued at $8100.00
Her present probable value, $125000.00.
Number of deaths since 1864---*222.
*Could not get record from 1853*
A history of the Epworth League of First Church must include some mention of the Oxford League, its predecessors, which was organized in April 1889, during the pastorate of D. S. Monroe, with Mr. Wm. L. Woodcock as president. This League followed the various activities of the young people's societies of the day, working through ten departments or committees, viz: Committees (1) Finance and Collections; (2) Young People's Prayer Meeting; (3) Flowers; (4) The Hunt-up committee; (5) Committee on Invitation; (6) Visiting the Sick; (7) Visiting the Poor; (8) House Prayer-Meeting; (9) Literary Exercises; (10) Music. The emphasis placed upon literary training is noteworthy. An article of the constitution provided that "All active members shall pursue a course of reading to be indicated and directed by the Committee on Literary Exercises." The course for 1889 included a study of the New Testament, Four Chautauqua Spare Minute Courses and a Foreign Tourist Course. The large number of books purchased shows that this clause of the Constitution was not disregarded. At the regular business and literary meetings, which were public, there were debates on questions such as: "Resolved, that the surplus in the United States Treasury be used in extending our coast defence." After a year's existence as the Oxford League, this society, on May 24th, 1890, voted that it "be merged into the Epworth League" the new organization rapidly spreading among Methodist young people everywhere. With characterictic promptness they proceeded at once to elect officers according to the requirements of the Epworth League constitution, sent for one hundred copies of the constitution, and ten yards of ribbon for badges, and made application for a charter. It has always been a matter of pride that among the thousands of chapters we were number 497. The first officers elected were:
President, Wm. L. Woodcock; 1st. Vice President, Department of Spiritual work, Ira Atkinson; 2nd. Vice President, Department of Mercy and Help, George W. Lynn; 3rd Vice President, Literary Work, H. T. Hammer; 4th Vice President, Social Work, F. C. Lower; Treasurer, E. A. Darby; Secretary, Margaret Schneider. The change in name and difference in organization changed not at all the zeal and enthusiasm of active society. Great things were attempted and achieved. Its members were a force in their own church and interested as well in the young people of other churches. The spirit of fraternity existed and frequent were the invitations given, and received from other Epworth Leagues in Altoona, Bellwood, and even so far as Tyrone. At one of these social and literary meetings, held on Thanksgiving evening 1892, when the Leaguers of the city were guests of the First church chapter, the Epworth League Alliance of the city of Altoona was formed, an organization that did much to foster denominational spirit and Epworth League interest.
In the same year, 1892, the League ventured to purchase a piano, by no means a small undertaking for a society of young people. This was long a most treasured and guarded possession and is still giving good service in the assembly hall of the new church. While paying for this piano, other interests were not neglected. We read of a special missionary service held, on the evening of Thanksgiving Day when the offering for mission, mainly gifts from the League members, amounted to $24.00. To the Epworth League belong the credit of raising almost the first monies paid toward the new church enterprise. In the minutes for 1898, we find that in April, of that year Bishop Fowler was secured to deliver his famous lecture on "Abraham Lincoln."
At a subsequent meeting Dr. Ganoe, then pastor, moved "that the League congratulate itself on the results achieved.'' Another motion provided that ''Brother Darby, treasurer of the church, be appointed by the League to take charge of the New Church Building Fund and the proceeds of the lecture be given into his keeping."
The fall of this year 1898 witnessed a larger venture. Under the direction of the 3rd Vice-President, Mrs. William Ketler, a course of nine lectures and entertainments was given in the Opera House of Altoona, a course of unusual excellence including as lecturers Dr. Gunsaulus, Dr. Thos. Densmore, and entertainers Katharine Ridgway, and Leland T. Powers. Through admirable management and cooperation, this proved a great financial success, dispite the fact that two other entertainment courses were offered the townspeople the same year. The next year 1899, a second excellent course was given, this time in First Church, and under the direction of the minister, Rev. Mr. Jacobs. The profits of this also went to the New Church Fund. Since building operation had not been begun, and the money was not yet needed, $130.00 was loaned to the trustees of the church, the interest on which, helped to augment the fund. The Epworth League has paid altogether toward the new church, Four, Hundred and Thirty-eight Dollars and Sixty Cents ($438.60) and this while practically all the members were making individual subscriptions and helping other societies. These are some of the material achievements of a united young people, definite acts which can be put down in black and white. How much more difficult to record the results in life and service of the spirit of the League as it has influenced and guided its members. A devotional meeting every Sunday evening for twenty years means some thing, a meeting in which the young people are trained in christian testimony, voluntary prayer and in leading meetings. One has but to look at the office-bearers of the church today, in the Official Board, the Sunday School and other societies to realize that the Epworth League has been proving true to its mission of being a great Training School for the King.
The more recent achievements of the Chapter have been in the First Department the organization for Bible Study, in which four courses have been given. Sixty-five young people have studied in the two classes, in the "life of Christ and Romans" held in 1909.
The Second Department which, with the re-organization of the League at large in 1903, became the Department of World Evangelism has in four years conducted six Mission Study Classes. Through the energy and practical enthusiasm of the members of the classes, Forty Dollars has been given to the Italian Mission of Altoona. Gifts not only by money but of time are made. The young women proved efficient helpers in the Italian Kindergarten, while the men render valuable service, as teachers of English in the evening school.
The Department of Mercy and Help continues to aid the poor, call on the sick, conduct home prayer meeting, and enlist young people for the Sunday service in the Hospital. Every Sunday some message of Scripture is carried to the sick or afflicted, with the flowers which the League delights to furnish each week for the pulpit. From the beginning ten per cent has been set aside from the receipts of the society for the use of the 3rd Vice President in his work of Mercy and Help.
The social work of the League is not neglected. If the number of social and literary evenings is less than formerly, it is not strange in view of the multiplied societies of the church.
There is manifest on the part of the Leaguers a very earnest desire to meet the needs of the present and help the young people of the church and community in every phrase of life.
What was true of the past will be true also of the future.
The young people bound together by their pledge of loyalty to Christ and His church will, in so far as they "look up" to the Father, not fail to "lift up" the Father's children everywhere, and in so doing prove worthy of their heritage and of their name Epworth Leaguers.
THE HISTORY OF THE FIRST METHODIST EPISCOPAL SUNDAY SCHOOL OF ALTOONA, PA.
(By WILLIAM L. WOODCOCK)
The word history is from the Latin Historia and signifies to know or to learn facts by inquiry---a written account of that which is known to have occurred---a record of the past, a true story in contradistinction form a romance. To write a complete history of the First Methodist Episcopal Sunday School would require much research and time and would occupy too much space in this book; therefore I cannot tell the whole truth in details in this sketch but what I do tell will be ''the whole truth and nothing but the truth.''
The school was organized on the Second Sunday in April, 1853 in the old Union School house built of logs and located on what is now Sixteenth Street, where the African Methodist Episcopal Church now stands. George R. Everson was elected Superintendent; John A. Baer, Sec'y; and Solomon F. Ramey, Librarian. The teachers were: Elias Keemer, Thomas Elway, T. J. Williams, Ellen Baer, Miss Maria Shomaker, Mrs. John McClellan, Miss Ellen Clabaugh and Miss Anna Elway. Number present on that day---forty. Eight classes were organized and portions of Scripture read and taught to the pupils who could read, but the children who could not read were taught the A. B. C. and spelling. There were no International lesson and no uniformity of lessons in those days. Each teacher made his own selection of Scripture and taught it as he thought best. Some of these teachers, however, were ripe Bible scholars and men of deep piety. The Sunday School, like a young Cypress tree, grew and spread her sheltering boughs over new homes and new territory, until August, 1854, when it numbered over 100 and moved into the new Church then erected, on the corner of Twelfth Avenue and Thirteenth Street, where the beautiful Methodist Cathedral now stands. John Shomaker, a man of good mind and well informed on the Scripture, was then the Superintendent. He was succeeded by Robert Pitcairn, until recently, Superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division P. R. R. and whose demise on the 25th day of July last, we note with deep regret. John Swartz, a man of great versatility and a fluent speaker, was elected and served for two or three years. Up to 1869 we can find no records of the School and therefore, cannot give the time of service of these Superintendents and indeed there may have been some other Gentlemen honored by being elected to the Superintendency of the School from its organization up to 1869, but we have been obliged to depend upon the memory of two or three persons who were in the School at it's organization, for the facts up to 1869, from which time we have the records and give the dates from the records, which are more reliable than memory. In March, 1869, E. B. McCrum, the founder of the Altoona Tribune and for many years its Editor and successful Manager, was elected. Mr. McCrum was a man of sincere purpose, deep piety and thoroughly competent. Rev. W. H. Hipsley, a local preacher, was elected in 1870 and served for one year. In 1871, Jacob Snyder was elected and was reelected in 1872 and 1873. Snyder was a man of strong convictions and upright life and enjoyed the confidence of the people of the City as well as the Church body, to a remarkable degree. In 1874, E. B. McCrum was again honored with the position and served acceptably for one year when A. J. Greer, then local Editor of the Tribune, was elected and served for one year, to be succeeded in 1876 by A. P. MacDonald, a man of pleasing address and courteous manner and, for several years, Altoona's Postmaster. He was followed in 1877 by Dr. Hugh Pitcairn, our recent Counsel to Hamburg, Germany. In 1878, Wm. L. Woodcock, Esq., was elected and served for two years to be succeeded in 1880 by Jacob Snyder. In 1881, Woodcock was again elected and filled the position for three years. In 1884, the honor was thrust upon H. O. Kline, Esq., who served one year. In 1885, the pastor, Rev. G. D. Pennepacker was elected but resigned before the close of the year and Joseph Calvert was elected for the unexpired term and was re-elected in 1886. In 1887, John H. Carr, deceased, was elected and served for three years. Carr was a man of strong faith and Christian integrity. After the close of his three years service as Superintendent, he taught a Bible class in the School for many years and it was said of him that his most potential teaching was his daily life. A. C. Lytle was elected in 1890 and in 1891, to be succeeded in 1892 and 1893 by George W. Lynn. In 1894, Dr. H. J. Evans was elected and served for one year, when in 1895, J. Fred Snyder was elected. At the expiration of one year, March, 1896, G. W. Lynn was again elected and served one year when J. F. Snyder was again honored by a second election. At the end of one year, namely in 1898, Wm. M. Calvert was chosen and served one year. In March, 1899, Lewis W. Mattern was elected and served until August of that year, when by reason of his entering the Public Schools in Washington, D. C., as a teacher, he resigned and William L. Woodcock, Esq., who had organized the Walnut Avenue Sunday School and served as it's Superintendent for ten years, was elected and has been re-elected each year since that date and is the present incumbent, with A. T. Heintzelman, Mrs. H. L. Jacobs, John W. Gaines and Miss Mattie Long, his competent associates.
Many of these Superintendents have given the school strong administrations, but we forbear comment on those who still survive.
The Secretary of a Sunday School is an elective office of such importance and with duties so arduous that we feel that this sketch should embrace the names of those who have faithfully performed this important part of the Sunday School work. As we have indicated, we have no records with which to be guided from the organization of the School up to 1869, but we have satisfactory evidence that John A. Baer was the first Secretary. We do not have evidence as to how long he served. Probably several years. During the sixteen years from 1853 to 1869, it is probable that Thomas Burchnell and Robert Pitcairn may have served in this capacity, as they were young men and resided in the City during most of that period. Beginning with 1869, we give the list of names of the Secretaries from that date to the present time with the date of their election and term of service as follows:
Mr. Darby was re-elected each successive year and rendered most efficient service for seventeen years from March, 1886 to March, 1903, at which last date Mr. Wm. T. Kettler was elected and served for three years. In 1906, Mr. Howard Winnaugle was elected. In 1907 George Rutter was elected and has been re-elected each successive year since, being the present incumbent, with Grant Sheffer and Charles W. Hawkins, his capable assistants.
This First Methodist Sunday School has been a great power for good in the growing City on the Eastern slope of the Allegheny Mountains. From its ranks have gone out a large number of young men to preach the Gospel of Christ. The school has always been loyal to the Church. In all the great revivals with which our Church has been blessed, the Sunday School Officers and Teachers and many of the pupils have been found in the front rank, aiding the pastor and at all times holding up his hands. In the battle against the saloon, they were always found on the firing line, and to all ecclesiastical and moral reforms they have given their unqualified support.
While we cannot recall any who have gone into foreign mission fields direct, yet much missionary work has been done by Members of this school. Several new Sunday Schools have been organized which have resulted in the founding of Churches, which are now self supporting and flourishing societies.
The school has ever been sur-charged with the missionary spirit, as shown by its contributions to foreign missions. As the charge was embraced within the bounds of the Baltimore Conference up to the year 1869, we are unable to give the amount of the schools contributions to missions from its organization up to 1869, but we find that since the last date, the school has given $9,571.07 direct to foreign missions, to this we must add $1000 special offering by an officer of the school, and about $500 in smaller special contributions, which bring the total gifts to Foreign missions by this school alone, up to $11,071.07. This does not include the contributions of the Woman's Home Missionary Society nor of the several different societies of the church, such as, The Newal Mission Band, all of which societies are made up of members of the Sunday School nor does it include the contributions to the Home missions.
Believing it may be of interest as well as useful in the future, the writer has prepared a tabulated statement, which he embraces in this sketch, showing the missionary contributions of the School and the Church year by year, from the organization of the Central Pennsylvania Conference, which was in 1869, up to and including 1908, and five months of the conference year 1909, up to July inclusive. This statement also shows the growth of the School and Church, year by year. The following is the statement:
The growth of the School will more fully appear by contrasting the figures. In 1853, when the school was first organized, 40 members on the roll; 1909, 1,101. Missionary money contributed $12.82 in 1871; 1909, $459.00.
Behold what great things God hath wrought.
At the General Conference held in Chicago, May 1868, the Baltimore Conference was divided and the Central Pennsylvania Conference erected, which embraces the middle part of the State, being bounded on the East by the eastern line of York County, Pa., and the Allegheny Mountains on the West. At that time the conference was composed of 156 members; now it is composed of 291 members. The conference minutes of 1869 embraces the proceedings of the first session of the Central Pennsylvania Conference.
At that time there seems to have been three Sunday Schools, credited to the first Church, which evidently embraced a small school, held in the old Glass school house, which was organized and conducted by the writer of this sketch, about one and one-half miles northwest of Altoona, and what is now the Eighth Avenue Methodist Episcopal Sunday School. These three Sunday Schools are estimated together and we are unable to segregate the amount which belongs properly to the First Methodist Sunday School. They jointly contributed to the Missionary cause, $97.82. This of course, should be divided between the three schools, so that we are unable to determine the exact amount to be placed to the credit of the First Methodist School, but we deem it fair to place at least one-half of the amount to what is now known as the First Methodist Sunday School, which we have done in the tabulated statement.
The Sunday School, to our thought, is, next to preaching the Gospel from the pulpit, the most important work of the Church. It is pre-eminently the greatest field of Christian activity in which the laiety of the Church is invited to work. Its importance will more fully appear when we consider that many of the children who come into our Sunday Schools gets no moral training at home. Their parents, absolutely immoral themselves, have no ambitions above the animal, hence, their children are sent into the Sunday School with nothing above the animal instincts. The Sunday School teacher, therefore, has the moral nature and character of the boy and girl given to mould and fashion. He puts into tiny fingers the cue with which the child may grasp a crown. He terraces up character from childhood to manhood and then plants those terraces with the flowers of holiness.
Men and women with thought and brain tinged with the heavenborn desire to do good and make the world better, never had a more auspicious opportunity to mould the young life than they have in the Sunday School in this the first decade of the Twentieth Century. To build character and bring young men and women up to and introduce them to the man of Galilee, and teach them to so live that the man or the woman whose shoulders they touch will be made better, is the greatest work of a noble life, and this is the work of consecrated men and women of the Sunday School to-day.
One of the features of the First Methodist Sunday School of which we are most proud, is that we have been able to hold our young people in the school after they have arrived at their majority. We have today, not less than three hundred young men and women in our school, between the ages of 20 and 30 years.
Another feature of the First Methodist Sunday School and that which is greater than all others, is that we have emphasized the Spiritual life and have striven to keep its paramount importance ever to the fore. We have kept in mind that in the estimation of the Master, a great Sunday School does not consist in a beautiful room with brown stone walls, beautifully frescoed; not in art glass windows; not in rich velvet carpetings, nor yet in it's commodious appointments, but in the spirituality of its members. With this feature dominating our efforts, our school has been a revival school and thousands of our scholars have found the pearl of great price at the foot of the Cross. Every year souls have been saved. Last Conference year over one hundred of the pupils of the school were converted. Incidents occurred during this revival, which were beautiful and touching and at which the Angels rejoiced. Many teachers were seen leading their scholars to Him who alone can forgive sin. One whole class of young men, led by their teacher, was seen marching from gallery to altar, where the teacher, with the open book in hand, pointed to the word and taught them to listen to Him who ''Spake as never man spake,'' and they heard his loving voice saying to their storm-tossed souls, "Peace be still." Thus the consumation of our highest aims and desires were secured. This result was reached by the co-operation with Pastor and Superintendent, of a splendid corps of consecrated teachers I use the word consecrated advisedly, for, whether it was Ballington Booth in American Prisons, Dewey in Manila Bay, Schley at Santiago, or Grant at Appomattox, victory came alone by consecration, and the same is true in the spiritual realm.
We give below a list of the officers and teachers of the Sunday school at the date of this writing:
Built part of stone and part of brick. 47 feet on Eighth Avenue, 75 feet on Thirteenth street. A two-story building. First floor---Vestibule, two class rooms, one on either side of hall, one Sunday school room. Second floor---Main auditorium, choir loft over stairs at entrance, raised platform for pulpit. Corner stone laid September 1, 1868. Dedicated 1873. Cost of building, $18,000.00.
Corner Eighth Ave. and Thirteenth Street. White sand stone, 75 X 12O feet. Corner stone laid June 23, 1901. Two stories. First floor (or basement) fully equipped for socials or suppers of any kind, with toilet and lavatory attached. Second floor---Sunday school room with large gallery, small rooms under gallery with glass partitions that can be adjusted, throwing all into one room. All departments then can be used by opening doors, seating 350. A large curtain dividing Sunday school room from auditorium. Auditorium seating capacity is 600. A large pipe organ costing $10,000, donated by Andrew Carnegie, three entrances, two large memorial windows. Dedicated May 18, 1902. Cost of building complete $75,000. Architects, W. O. Weaver & Son, Harrisburg. Contractors, Finn-Vipond Construction Co.
History of Eighth Avenue M. E. Church
Methodism now has many strong rocks in Altoona. It started very humbly, with its first rock on Twelfth Avenue and Thirteenth Street, but as every good movement should do, it soon became great. The second great rock of Methodism in Altoona was placed on Eighth Avenue and Thirteenth Street.
In the year 1867, Altoona was a very busy little town. The Pennsylvania Railroad was enlarging its works. At Twelfth Street there had been but about three tracks, over which was a small bridge. But at this time there were several tracks beyond the bridge, so that many walked straight across the tracks, instead of using the bridge. This year marked a great spiritual growth as well as a temporal one. The First Methodist Church had a great revival, under Rev. Jacob S. McMurray. This man of God thundered against the powers of Satan until 273 souls were wrested from His evil power. There were now about as many members on one side of the railroad as on the other, so that it was quite natural for the people of the East side to think of building a church which would be in their immediate community. Accordingly, it was not long until a Board of Trustees was elected to look after the interests of the proposed new church. The board held its first meeting Feb. 28, 1868, in the office of John Shomaker, and organized, electing J. W. Weber, Secretary; Henry Bell, Treasurer. The other members of this board were A. Kipple, Joseph Nixon, Solomon Boyer, George Rosenberger, and William C. Jacobs. Rev. McMurray, pastor of First M. E. Church, was of course president, ex officio. Shortly after, on the resignation of Henry Bell, Ambrose Ward was elected, and when George Rosenberger resigned from the building committee, Jeremiah Delo was elected.
At the second meeting of the board, April 3, 1868, Messrs Ward, Rosenberger, and Weber were made the building committee for the temporary chapel, to be erected on the rear of the lot where the church now stands. This chapel was soon built with pine boards, and the window frames were so made that they could be used in the basement of the New Church when it was ready for them. In this chapel a very perplexing problem soon presented itself. Just now, fifty years after it is amusing to read of one of their little difficulties. It was all on account of an organ, many people having their doubts about the propriety of an organ in church. A little quotation from the record of the Board of Trustees will show how it was all settled. ''Resolved: That, as a Board of Trustees for the Second M. E. Church in Altoona, we do not favor at present the introduction of an organ in the regular worship of God in the Chapel, and have never given it our official Sanction.'' ''Resolved: That we do favor the use of an organ in the Sunday School of the old Church, (First M. E. Church).
Of course, during the erection of the Chapel, and while occupying it, subscriptions were being taken to pay for the church.
At the 4th meeting of the Board of Trustees Rev. William M. Frysinger, their future junior pastor, was present. Rev. Frysinger was officially appointed as junior pastor by the Conference in March of 1869, to work in harmony with Rev. McMurray of 1st church.
On June 27, 1868, the building committee was officially given the privilege to let contracts and go ahead with the building, which they very shortly did. The foundation was laid at $1.75 a perch. September 1, 1868, the corner stone was laid. The stone had a cavity of 6" X 10" X 6", in which several articles were placed. The Rev. Thomas of Johnstown, assisted throughout the day, which was a great one. The building now went on smoothly for two months when one night, early in November, a strong wind came up and blew the rear wall of stone over. It fell with all its force on the little chapel, and smashed almost every board in the little frame to splinters. The loss, not including the loss on the chapel, was $350 which was indeed a hard blow to a congregation hardly yet born. It tried the faith and courage of these early Methodists to go on, but on they went, to glorious victory in the end. One very interesting fact is worth noting here: although very nearly every board in the little chapel was smashed, the little organ was taken out without being injured beyond a few scratches.
The little chapel is gone, but its memory is still vivid in the minds of the old members. From these we learn that although the chapel was small, the spiritual atmosphere of the place was great. We often hear of the old time Methodist meetings: this very chapel held many such meetings. There is a tendency to-day to build large churches, and have too much room for close fellowship. But no such trouble was there. The members were close to each other---elbow touching elbow---each strengthening the other until they moved very close to God. It is said they had a revival all the time,---every meeting finding some heart melted because it had seen the Cross more vividly than ever before. We know they must have had a very sweet time because the old men of God who tell us about their meetings in the little chapel always end with tears in their eyes, in remembrance of those times.
One month later the building committee decided to go on with the building and finish the basement. They at first decided to have one coat of plaster, but later they decided to finish the plastering before occupying the room. It was at this time they also decided to have a lamp-post placed in front of the church. January 14, 1869, was the day the basement of the church was occupied, $89.69 was received in the basket collections during the day. Carpet was placed on the floor and twenty-four new chairs were bought. The Board of Trustees rescinded the motion formally passed with regards to an organ in divine worship. On March 1, 1869, the male members met to take action on the charter. This charter had been prepared by John Shomaker, who presented it to the Court, which granted it. (v. form of charter given in history of 1st church.) The charter was accepted and the church thus became official in law; i.e., they could borrow and loan money and transact business the same as an individual.
Up to this time the church had Rev. McMurray of First Church as their pastor, with Rev. Frysinger as junior assistant pastor to the Rev. McMurray. But the Conference of March, 1869, gave them John Donahue who was their first exclusive pastor. Rev. Donahue served one year very successfully. It is interesting to note the Teutonic sticktoitiveness of this church. Here they were, just started, the first year in their church; yet they decided to give their pastor a salary of $1000 and pay house-rent for $104. You can find many older churches in the conference to-day where they do not pay as much. But when they decided to pay $1,000, that settled it---they raised it; they paid their house-rent, gave $105 to Missions, and went on with their New Church subscriptions all in the very first year. This church from the start showed its calibre. They soon had more members than the older First Methodist Church. They have kept their pace for forty years. They now pay the pastor $2000.00, and give him a house with a rent value of $500. Their membership has jumped from 240 in 1870, to 1174 in 1909; and their Sunday School has more than tripled itself. In 1870 they gave $105 to missions and in 1909 they gave twelve times that much or $1256. So that it was a great movement when a Second Methodist church was builded, and there were some great and progressive men who started it on its road.
During Conference week, 1870, the Board of Trustees changed the name of the church from ''Second Methodist Episcopal Church'' to ''Eighth Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church;" and it goes by the latter name to-day. The Conference of 1870 gave Rev. D. S. Monroe to the church, who served two years as their pastor. Heretofore, instead of a parsonage for the preacher a suite of rooms over a store was rented on Sixth Avenue and Twelfth Street. As soon as Rev. Monroe came, he started a movement to build a parsonage. On April 22, 1870, the Board of Trustees bought a lot on Sixth Avenue for $700, on which they intended to build a parsonage. In the meantime Rev. Monroe rented a house on Sixth Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street. The parsonage was soon completed at a cost of $3,700.
When Rev. Monroe came to the church it was in an unfinished condition, the upper part was finally completed, and opened for divine worship in October 16, 1870.
On this day Rev. Robert L. Dashiell, D. D., President of Dickinson College, but later Secretary of the Missionary Society was the preacher. The building as it then stood, cost $18,000. We are told that the day was a beautiful one and that the people responded splendidly. A call was made for $4,000, and before the day was over $4,083.43 was raised exceeding the call by $83.43. The Sunday School (organized by Rev. Monroe) raised $831.01 of the whole sum. This Sunday School it may be remarked, starting with thirty-one members now has 806 members. This new church was 47 feet wide and 75 feet long. The walls were partly of stone and partly of brick; there were about eight lightening rods, running from top to bottom, but as yet there was no spire, because the Board of Trustees had decided not to have one, on the inside there were two aisles, and the seats were made of selected pine, with walnut-panelled ends. The church was heated by two furnaces in the cellar. The roof was afterwards finished with shingles.
During Rev. Monroe's ministry, the home missionary spirit showed itself in the building of two chapels the one on Sixth Avenue and Twenty-fifth Street and the other on Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street, which was then in the woods. Rev. Monroe had had a renewing of the old revival spirit shown in the little chapel several years before. There are times when we get so deep in temporal and financial problems that we get a little cold; that is, we just listen and attend the meetings, without much thought towards the sinner who does not know Christ. Probably for a year or so this church was thus, until the strong gospel appeal and special revival efforts of Rev. Monroe stirred everyone under his preaching. It wasn't long before the members brought sinners into church to hear the story of how a sinner could escape from eternal death because someone else had suffered a penalty which would have been his. Soon the altars were crowded with penitent ones seeking their only salvation. It was the first great revival in the new church, and before it was over they not only had a new church but a new membership. Even the old members were renewed. In two years over 500 souls accepted Christ as their Savior, and thereby were assured of eternal life.
In 1872, Rev. R. E. Wilson was appointed to Eighth Avenue. Rev. Wilson went on with the completion of the church until in 1873, on July 18, the spire was completed, the roof put on and shingled, the outside painted, the inside frescoed, and the whole church in its finished state was presented to Almighty God for his worship. It was a great and historical day. Rev. Guard, Rev. R. L. Dashiell, D. D., and Rev. W. J. Stevenson, of Harrisburg, were present and helped throughout the day. A glorious subscription was taken, $11,200 being raised. For five years the church had been on the road: first, in the little Chapel in '68, then in the basement of the church, then in the upper part---then the final dedication in 1873 under Rev. Wilson.
The next historic period is in 1882. But because there is no particular history from '72-'82 does not mean that the church stood still. In times of war there is much history in times of peace, little nevertheless, greater progress is being made. The peaceful nation is a great one. So here there was great progress, in the quite train of events. To resume the building of a church is not so great a job as paying for it when it is built. The struggle in church building generally comes after the building is up. The people of Eighth Avenue stuck to their church and paid the subscriptions for almost ten years until, in 1882, under their pastor, Rev. Jesse B. Young, D. D., the entire indebtedness of $5,000 was liquidated and the parsonage improved and refurnished.
In 1884 the church had gone about ten years without many repairs. The trustees saw it needed repairs, and immediately set to work upon them. First, they had the walls repaired ($40); the bricks were painted red and the mortar penciled white; all the outside woodwork was painted white with two coats of paint; the spire had three coats; the shingles were also painted a slate, color (on the spire); a whole new roof was put on, of the best tin, painted on both sides ($351.75); the stairway was wainscoted and painted, and a railing put up; the vestibule was frescoed ($20); and a change made in the seats---the choir box being moved to one of the ''Amen corners'' after the inside work was well under way, they laid a brick side-walk, with curbing ($250); the lightning rods were repaired; and finally the parsonage was repaired and beautified. The Trustees went at these repairs properly. They saw they needed certain repairs and then there was not much delay about having them. The whole bill came to about $2,600. At one time, it is interesting to note, the trustees' authorized the Pastor (Rev. Leidy) to take up a subscription to pay for the repairs, amounting to $1300. Rev. Leidy merely presented his wants and got what be wanted, for at the next board meeting he reported $1,300 in subscriptions.
Some repairs also went on under the pastorate of Rev. S. Creighton in '86. The parsonage was thoroughly gone over: a two story back building, 18 X 16 ft., with porch front and back; a veranda in front of main building, a front fence and board-walk; a tin roof; the entire parsonage painted; a heater put in the cellar; all these repairs were made at a cost of $1,560. Also a new heater was put in the church cellar, costing $114.90, and the lecture room was remodeled at a cost of about $500.
Often to lessen expenses, members of the board would take upon themselves the doing of certain tasks. This spirit seems to come down from the very beginning of this church's history. The first men met in an office and decided to build a church. Did they have a list of members who were pledged to support the movement? Did they have the assurance that they could raise the money to build a church? Were they sure it would be a success even after it was started? Did they ever hope to receive some compensation? No, to all these. They simply remembered that faith is necessary for victory and is the essence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. These were brainy fellows, and their intellects became instruments of faith. In fact, faith is the heroism of intellect. Another fact worth looking at: The men who plan for a church do great things for nothing in the way of money compensation. In looking over the record of the trustees, I find at first they often met twice a week and spent the evening planning for the church, and never once got a cent for doing it. At first they met in John Shomaker's office, who never charged rent for its use. The man who does the most talking publicly or in class-meetings is not always the man who is doing the greatest service. Sometimes it is thought the man who handles the money and accounts of a church is good for that place only. But it is well to remember the church could not get along without that man. It is also well to remember that such a man often sits up late at night getting accounts settled, or preparing envelopes for the ensuing night. His time is surely worth something and all that it is worth he gives to the Lord, getting credit for it in Heaven, but on no earthly book or account. His name is unspoken when the people are praising some spiritual workers, who of course are seen and heard; but nevertheless his work, in more ways than one, is just as important to the church. These men who look after the running of the church in times of building, or in times when there is no money in the treasury, often gave their bond for the money needed, or advanced the money and waited till the congregation refunded it, taking no interest. Several other times members of the Board of Trustees agreed to do some repairing to the church and to look after other work without compensation. It is well to talk of a fine book; but the author is just as good as the book. So, the men who are behind the church are just as great as the church. One example of how the Board of Trustees went into their own pockets: On June 11, '92, $500 was raised to pay the architect for remodling: six members of the board promptly gave $81 making $486, while the seventh one gave the remaining $14. They never received a cent of this money, voluntarily let stand until March 1, 1897.
In 1888, Rev. William W. Evans was appointed to Eighth Avenue, and served one year. In 1889, Rev. A. Duncan Yocum was appointed there. Rev. Yocum preached a short time when one Sunday, while preaching, he had a stroke, was carried to the parsonage, where he died three days later? Rev. J. W. Olewine came temporarily, until in about two weeks Rev. Franklin M. Welsh was appointed to fill out the year.
In '89 the street in front of the church was paved. In the same year a Sunday School library was started. Young people will read (and if they do not they ought to), and the books they get hold of often shape their lives; so it can readily be seen how important a Sunday School library is, where good books can be got in abundance. Here was a movement started which it is hoped will bear much good fruit.
The next preacher was Henry R. Bender, D. D. Rev. Bender was well liked, and served three years, from 1890-93. The great movement which finally ended in a new building started at this time. On Feb. 15, '92, a committee advised the board to go ahead and remodel the old church, to conform with modern ideas. The expense was not to exceed $15,000 and not to be less than $10,000. Things began to look as if they would start that very summer. Bids were received, and it was finally decided that if they remodeled, they would accept the $27,000 bid, which included light, heat and organ. The architect was authorized to go ahead and get plans and specifications ready. It was further found that the cost could be reduced, by changing the material, to about $22,000 Rev. Bender had announced that he wanted a subscription of not less than $10,000, for the purpose of remodeling the old church. He canvassed the whole congregation--- little discouraging at first, but on July 18, '92, he reported that he had received subscriptions for $15,558. The trustees were in doubt, whether or not to proceed in spite of Rev. Benders assurances that the congregation had said ''Go ahead,'' by their subscriptions. They went ahead a little, they appointed a committee to look after bids, but nothing ever came from that. Some of the members did not want to take such a step so they often stayed away from the board meetings. Finally, on May 8, '93, Mr. Mason got up and said, ''It is the sense of this board to take immediate action to remodel the present church, or to erect a new church on a new site.'' Such was his motion and it carried, but on the next move it was spoiled again. They appointed a committee of five to consider the matter of location and report as far as they got. Finally the church needed repairs so badly that they voted $6200 (this was during the ministry of Rev. J. Ellis Bell) October 2, '93, for repairs to the church such as fixing leak in spire, frescoing the walls, putting down some new carpet, and putting in some new glass.
At the same time the Board was considering remodeling the church, they were considering another important proposition. In December '91, the quarterly conference appointed a committee to look after the buying of lots on Seventh Avenue and Twelfth Street.
This committee reported that they could buy said lots for $200 each. The committee in March of the next year found that they could buy the property next to the church for $12,932.22, including street paving.
At a meeting of the Board on April 1, '92, the quarterly conference committee on purchasing adjoining lot, said that in their judgment there was no use of improving the church without more ground in width, and recommended the purchase of one-half the adjoining property. The board immediately appointed a committee to proceed with the purchase. On September 9, '92, the quarterly conference again gave the board the privilege of purchasing the adjoining lot. But the Board, knowing their financial situation only too well, there being an indebtedness of almost a $1,000, made a report that they thought it unwise to purchase the whole of the adjoining lot. The quarterly conference again sanctioned the buying of the lot. A committee was appointed to see what terms could be got, and there it ended. The committee may have done their part, but nothing was definitely accomplished. Although these two movements---the remodeling of the church and the buying of the adjoining property---failed at that time yet they were the real beginning of the one great movement which finally placed the church in its present condition. And who knows but what the Trustees acted wisely in keeping the church out of debt as near as possible. The people may not have been prepared for so great a movement.
In the meantime Rev. J. Ellis Bell came to Eighth Avenue (1893) Rev. Bell's popularity is shown in the fact that he stayed five years. Under his strong hand the church moved upward. Both Sunday School and church membership was increased by 200. It was during Rev. Bell's ministry that one of the old charter members died, who is worthy of note. In February of '97, Joseph Nixon died. Besides being a charter member, he was a trustee and had held many other responsible positions ever since the church was built. In his will he left $500 toward building a new church.
Rev. Bell was succeeded by Rev. B. H. Mosser, in 1898. Rev. Mosser, in his regular sermons was probably not considered as strong as some preachers because he preached the gospel pure and plain, yet in spite of all he could do, the spiritual atmosphere of the church seemed to be low. When he started his revival, in '99, there was a lack of interest; he preached a whole week to a handful of people, and even those who did come being very cold, and of course there was no success. This weighed on Rev. Mosser, until, on the next Sunday, he preached a sermon on sanctification. He said some of his people had not presented themselves wholly to the Lord, as Rom. 12: 1 exhorts us to do: because the man or woman who simply listens and does nothing, or has no great desire to see sinners saved, is not wholly in the Lord's hands. He told them that there were barriers somewhere and the only way to have a great revival was to get rid of those barriers; that they were too stiff and formal; that they should remember the time when they were saved---how they were timid, and how the crowds around the altar finally encouraged them to go forward, feeling free because there was company there. Finally, he went to the front of the pulpit, and stepped down, with the tears rolling down his cheeks, and asked the congregation to join him at the altar in prayer for a true spirit of revival. The listeners were all broken up, old chords were vibrating again, and there was a rush for the altar-place,---everybody seeming to be of one accord. That was all that was needed---the ice was now broken, everybody who went there in the evening felt at home to do what his inner soul told him to do, and as a result the altar was crowded with penitent ones. Formality---stiff formality---will often intimidate a spirit that wants to do right; and it was because that stiff formality was thrown off that a great revival came under Rev. Mosser. Some of the younger members had heard of shouting in a Methodist meeting but did not know what it was or meant, but however, it was not long before they learned. When some of the seekers began to see the wonderful sacrifice that had been for them and the marvelous gift that was theirs if they would only believe, of course they shouted; to think that such poor sinners as they could come into such a rich inheritance filled them to overflowing, and the best way to let out their feelings was to shout. It is not always the preacher's fault--in fact seldom---that there is no revival. If the people really do not want a revival, no preacher could have one. It generally rests with the congregation, whether or not there shall be a great revival. And so it was with Rev. Mosser---when the people were willing, they found the Spirit willing to act, and one of the greatest revivals Eighth Avenue has ever had, followed.
The Conference of 1899 appointed Rev. Thomas S. Wilcox to this church. Those who knew this man will never forget him. The church took a great stride under his leadership. Rev. Wilcox was a great man to raise money---also a great man to get rid of it. Till October of his first year he had collected $2,132.21 on old subscriptions. There bad been a scarcity of funds for many years, even for current expenses. Notes having to be renewed as best they could, so that the interest used up all they could get together. About every four months a subscription had to be taken to raise enough to put in the winter's coal, or to do some little repairing. The Board of Trustees was troubled all the time with these affairs and often only part of a subscription would be raised, thus causing more worry and trouble. It was not able to keep up, not because the people or the church was not able to keep up, but because of the lack of a good plan to have them always ahead. When Rev. Wilcox came, there were standing bills for over $2,000---some for a long time. When the pastor announced that he had raised $2,132.21, the Board of Trustees breathed a sigh of satisfaction and heartily thanked their pastor for relieving their minds.
Another important matter which was terminated by Rev. Wilcox was the purchase of the property adjoining the church I have already mentioned how this property was thought of in 1891, but was finally let wear itself out. But now that they were on a firmer financial basis the pastor thought they ought to go ahead and buy it. Accordingly, in a Board meeting to arrange for the purchase of the adjoining property. But the board laid it over until in July, when they took action and appointed a committee of three to ascertain what the lowest price at which the adjoining property could be bought. They soon found it could be bought for $12,000. Arrangements were made at once to sell the old parsonage for not less than $5,000. On October 25, '99, the committee was authorized to go ahead and buy the property at $12,000 also to sell the parsonage for $4,500, as part payment. Arrangements were soon made, and the old parsonage was sold for $4,500 to the owners of the adjoining property, which was bought for $12,000, Nov. 3, '99, this incuring an expense of $7,500, $1,000 of which was ready in cash in the treasury. The voting members of the church ratified the above purchase, on Dec. 11, ' 99. The pastor and his family immediately moved into their new quarters next to the church.
On the last day of the year, before the centennial year of 1900, a fire threatened the church with destruction; but was put out before much damage was done, outside of water and smoke. The whole ceiling in the front of the church was smoked black. The damage was covered by insurance amounting to $40.75.
During the last ten years nothing specially had been done toward a new church but it must not be thought that the idea was dropped. We read in the Trustees books how every once in a while they would take up the subject and discuss it a little. In 1900, both congregation and officials were ready to go on with the project. At the 4th Quarterly Conference, held February 8, 1900, the following resolution was passed: "That a committee of five be appointed to take into consideration the matter of plans, etc., without expense to the church, make a canvas of the congregation, and if one-fourth of the amount needed to complete a chapel can be secured, that it be built, and that we consider the question of an audience-room later," At the 2nd Quarterly Conference July 30, the following report came from the committee on new church plans: ''We have procured the accompanying plans and drawings, according to the conditions of our appointment, without cost to the church, and recommend that said plans be adopted, and that the work of constructing a new church be proceeded with, provided the sum of $15,000 be first raised in cash and good subscriptions.'' The following committee was appointed to carry out the report: J. W. Weber, Andrew Kipple, Jeremiah Delo, W. H. Swartz, E. E. Lewis (who resigned W. W. Rudisill taking his place). Now, here it was either raise $15000 or stand still. But the church was ready for action. The pastor sent out cards to each member, asking each to pledge his share of the $15,000, and hand it in, to be paid, if the whole $15,000, be raised. September 23, 1900, was new-church day. Rev. J. Wesley Hill, of Harrisburg, was present to help along. The cards with subscriptions on them, ran the amount to $8,800, the very first week. On October 30, 1900, the building committee met and found that $15,000 the financial condition was met so they ordered the plans and specifications. Things were moving along nicely now. The Architects got to work immediately, and on Feb. 15, '01, the plans of W. O. Weaver & Son of Harrisburg, were adopted. Two weeks before this the committee had secured the Second Presbyterian Church for a place of worship during the building.
After several delays waiting for other contractors to bid, the bids were opened on March 12, 1901, and the contract was let to the lowest bidder, Finn-Vipond Construction Co., for $33,869. The agreements was that the Sunday School room should be finished by October 1, 1901, and the main building by April 1, 1902. Just two weeks later the contractor started to work (March 26, 1901.) The congregation, on the next Sunday March 31, 1901, worshipped in their temporary abode, the Second Presbyterian Church, on Eighth Ave., between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets.
Ever since the $15,000.00 subscription was taken, the people had been paying their amounts with very creditable regularity. Every subscription was to be paid by August 15, 1901, and that time saw the great bulk raised.
The contractors had the old building razed, the foundation dug, the wall put up and ready for the laying of the corner-stone by June 23, 1901. This was a great day. The Opera House was used, free of charge, for the services. In the morning at 10:00, a large house assembled to hear Rev. G. H. Corey, of Washington open the exercises of the day. Dr. Corey preached with his usual vigor. In the afternoon, at the new church, Rev. D. S. Monroe, a former pastor, was the principal speaker. These exercises were made beautiful by the music which was directed by Mr. Williams. The chorus consisted of seventy-five voices, while the orchestra was also a feature, there being twenty-five pieces, The sermon of the evening in the Opera House, was preached by Rev. George W. Miller, D. D., of Asbury Park, N. J. The whole day was a success, and reflects credit on those who had it in charge.
The next great historical event was the opening of the chapel of the new church. This was on November 17, 1901. For a month back preparation had been going on. Mrs. Lockie, the organist, had been busily training a chorus. Before and after the sermon of the morning (which was given by Rev. George H. Corey of Washington) the chorus gave some of the best music ever heard in this church. At Sunday School there were addresses made by Reverends J. Ellis Bell (Presiding Elder and former pastor), Wesley H. Schwartz, and G. H. Corey. In the evening the Presiding Elder, J. Ellis Bell, preached.
For six months the congregation had worshiped in the Second Presbyterian Church. Now for six months they were to worship in the Sunday School room of the New Church. The regular services went on in the S. S. room until the great and final day, May 11, 1902. This was the starting of a great week. It would be impossible to relate in detail what happened that week, but a reproduction of the program will give some idea.
9:45 A. M. Preaching by Rev. Bishop H. Fowler, D. D. Address by Mr. Joseph W. Powell, of Buffalo, N. Y.
2:30 P. M. Sunday School and Parents Rally.
6:30 P. M. Young People's Rally.
7:30 P. M. Preaching by Rev. J. Wesley Hill, D. D.
Monday, May 12. P. M. Lecture on "William McKinley by Bishop Charles H. Fowler, D. D.
Tuesday, May 13, 7:30 P. M. Preaching by Rev. William W. Evans, D. D.
Wednesday, May 14, 7:30 P. M. Preaching by the Rev. Samuel Creighton, a former pastor.
Thursday, May 15, 7:30 P. M. Preaching by Rev. William M. Frysinger, the first preacher at Eighth Avenue.
Friday, May 16, 7:45 P. M. Organ recital by Prof. W. L. Mayer of Pittsburg.
9:15 A. M. Class Meeting.
10:30 A. M. Preaching by the Rev. Bishop Cyrus D. Foss, D. D.
2:15 P. M. Sunday School Rally.
6:30 P. M. Young
7:30 P. M.
Preaching by David S. Monroe, D. D. And in a maze of
glory the crowning feature of the day came off. After the sermon the church was
dedicated in a few brief words to Almighty God, by Bishop C. D. Foss, D.
D. In the spring of
1903, the conference sent to this charge, Rev. George M. Klepfer, who spent six
years at this place. During Rev. Klepfer's term the church was visited with two
splendid revivals. Rev. Klepfer secured the service of Mr. Hemminger, a singing
evangelist and he by his silver toned voice drew great crowds. Rev. Klepfer's
sermons were strong and impressive, and there were over two hundred souls saved.
At the March conference, 1903, Rev. Wilcox reported having raised $40,438.00 on
the church debt leaving a balance of $28,500. While Rev. Klepfer served the
charge the church reduced the debt to $10,500. Rev. S. B. Evans is pastor now
and it remains to be seen in what ways God will use this man. He has been highly
recommended by the Ridge Avenue church, Harrisburg, where he last served. This
church entered life in 1868 with a very few members, and the probable value of
this church which was not reported until 1870 $11,000. The probable value 1909,
$75000 (parsonage included). The church's enrollment at this time is 1226 full
members and 82 probationers. Since the organization of this church until the
present day she has stood out as one of the strongest missionary churches in the
Central Pennsylvania conference. Since Rev. Samuel Creighton 1887, her home and
foreign missionary collections have gone over the $1000. mark, and as high as
$1380.00. This great loyal and strong church, has comforted and cheered the
hearts of many while from their ranks 349 members have passed to join the church
triumphant. There still remains a great company, who feels that the mantels of
their leaders has fallen on them and the writer having been in personal touch
with these members finds their hearts and lives are in their church. They are
expecting God to visit them this fall in old time converting power, God grant
that this may be true. O
blessed work for Jesus!
O Rest at Jesus feet!
Their toil seems pleasure,
Their wants are treasure
Their pain for Him seems sweet,
Lord, if we may,
We'll serve another day.
7:30 P. M. Preaching by David S. Monroe, D. D.
And in a maze of glory the crowning feature of the day came off. After the sermon the church was dedicated in a few brief words to Almighty God, by Bishop C. D. Foss, D. D.
In the spring of 1903, the conference sent to this charge, Rev. George M. Klepfer, who spent six years at this place. During Rev. Klepfer's term the church was visited with two splendid revivals. Rev. Klepfer secured the service of Mr. Hemminger, a singing evangelist and he by his silver toned voice drew great crowds. Rev. Klepfer's sermons were strong and impressive, and there were over two hundred souls saved. At the March conference, 1903, Rev. Wilcox reported having raised $40,438.00 on the church debt leaving a balance of $28,500. While Rev. Klepfer served the charge the church reduced the debt to $10,500. Rev. S. B. Evans is pastor now and it remains to be seen in what ways God will use this man. He has been highly recommended by the Ridge Avenue church, Harrisburg, where he last served. This church entered life in 1868 with a very few members, and the probable value of this church which was not reported until 1870 $11,000. The probable value 1909, $75000 (parsonage included). The church's enrollment at this time is 1226 full members and 82 probationers. Since the organization of this church until the present day she has stood out as one of the strongest missionary churches in the Central Pennsylvania conference. Since Rev. Samuel Creighton 1887, her home and foreign missionary collections have gone over the $1000. mark, and as high as $1380.00. This great loyal and strong church, has comforted and cheered the hearts of many while from their ranks 349 members have passed to join the church triumphant. There still remains a great company, who feels that the mantels of their leaders has fallen on them and the writer having been in personal touch with these members finds their hearts and lives are in their church. They are expecting God to visit them this fall in old time converting power, God grant that this may be true.
blessed work for Jesus!