History of Bible Fellowship Homes, Inc.
by James A. Beil
November 6, 1993
I must say at the very beginning that this kind of work is not a particular skill that I possess nor it is particularly to my liking. It reminds me of my college days when research papers were usually an assignment of every course. With that having been said, we will proceed with the "fruits of my labors."
I must also give some acknowledgments at this time. My appreciation is expressed to Pastor Dick Taylor, Archivist, who provided a valuable chronology of the Home highlighting important events. My thanks to Harold Mann who grew up in the Coopersburg Church, served on the Board of the Home, and who was willing to give me several hours of his time to recount his remembrances of the Home and farm as a boy growing up and later as a board member. An extra special thank you to Willard Cassel who also recounted his remembrances and especially because he has loaned to me a set of MBC and BFC yearbooks dating back to 1907. Without those yearbooks, this report would be impossible. I must also thank my wife, Gail, who graciously gave of her time to type this report.
One most valuable portion of research material that has not been available to me are many of the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trustees (later Board of Directors) of the Church Home. Attempts will be made to locate them because they are a very valuable piece in developing such a historical report.
As one researches such a project, questions constantly arise in the researcher's mind as to what the dynamics in interpersonal relationships were which caused certain actions to be taken. Minutes of meetings seldom give much insight into these matters.
However, having grown up in the Bible Fellowship Church, having attended most Mizpah Grove Camp Meetings that were held in my lifetime, having served as a Pastor in the BFC since October, 1958, and having been involved in the work of the Home since October, 1967, and serving as administrator since 1975, I view myself as being able to understand that such interpersonal dynamics existed and some of the reasons why.
Some aspects of this report will also reflect some of my own feelings and understanding from an observer's viewpoint and later as a participant.
I. The Pre-Home and Farm Period
The History of the Home had its preliminary beginnings at the 1892 General Conference convened at Harrisburg, Ohio, on October 1. The following resolution was adopted:
Resolved - That we recommend to the Annual Conferences to consider some adequate provision for the support of widows and orphans.
This resolution does not even imply that the Annual Conferences were to establish homes for widows, orphans, and the elderly, but it does state that the Annual Conferences were to develop a means of adequate provision for them.
In 1893 at the Pennsylvania Annual Conference, the treasurer's report includes a line of money for the poor - $101.36 received and $37.31 expended. This is the first of such reports. The 1910 Report from the Board of the Orphanage and Home stated that two women who were previously cared for by the Board of Deacons of Annual Conference have been turned over to the Board of the Home for care outside the Church Home. There are other occasions when the report on the Home includes a note that some elderly women were provided for outside of the Church Home.
The foundation was laid, as it were, for establishing an Orphanage and Home by such action and work. In 1903 the following was adopted:
Resolved, that we elect a committee of five men, to look after the matter of buying an Orphanage and Home, investing them with power to buy the same, if they see fit to do so. They shall also have the power to appoint one of their number to collect the necessary funds if they purchase the same.
Resolved, that H. B. Musselman be one of the Committee on Orphanages and Homes, and that he appoint the remaining four. He appointed L. B. Taylor, Wm. Gehman, J. G. Shireman, and W. G. Gehman.
Exactly what took place as this committee worked is not exactly known, but their work resulted in the adoption of the following at the 1905 Annual Conference:
Resolved, that the conference elect a Board of Trustees consisting of six ordained ministers and three lay members who shall be invested with full power to take possession, and order and arrange all the affairs of the Orphanage. (See page 5 for a list of the men on this Board.)
It should be noted that only Orphanage is mentioned, nothing about a provision for widows and / or elderly, but in the progress of the work of the Board of Trustees we note the following facts:
1. A farm was purchased in Center Valley - 1906 Report.
2. The report indicates the farm is operating, but no residents of any kind being cared for.
3. Additional property of 10.5 acres was purchased from the estate of Henry Sell. The brick house on the property was noted that it could be used for an Orphanage - 1907 Report. (This is in keeping with the implied mandate in the resolution which passed to form the Board of Trustees for an orphanage).
4. This house in the village had an addition built on, providing for total of 13 rooms - 1909 Report.
5. In 1909 when the Home was opened, 2 residents or "inmates" were taken in.
II. The Founding of the Home
From this we can conclude that the practical application of the mandate given to the Board of Trustees was to establish a Home for Widows and Orphans. The care of Orphans in the early days was not lost to view, but the first use was for aged women. Orphans as we will see were taken in at a later date.
The management of the Home and Farm was under the Superintendency of W. G. Gehman who was listed in reports as Superintendent from 1906 to 1910. The matron of the Home was Kate Fairheller (later spelled Feairheller, and still later returned to Fairheller spelling). The manager of the Home and Farm was O. B. Bartholomew. I take special note of this because he was my great-grandfather. (In the 1907 Report he was listed as one of the Board members.) O. B. Bartholomew was manager for about one year beginning at the opening of the Home, July 1, 1909, and resigning in about the middle of the next year according to the 1910 Report. When O. B. Bartholomew resigned, Titus Hottel became the manager.
At that time the Board also reorganized. The Superintendent was replaced by a Board of Managers. The Board of Managers for the Home was H. B. Musselman, E. N. Cassel, and J. C. Roth, and the Board of Managers for the Farm was H. B. Musselman, E. N. Cassel, and Allen M. Gehman. One year later when J. C. Roth was no longer on the Board of Trustees, one Board of Managers consisting of H. B. Musselman, E. N. Cassel and Allen M. Gehman had the immediate oversight of both the Home and Farm.
III. The Establishing of the Home
The establishing of the Home in the sense of making it firm and stable was largely in the hands of the day to day managers deriving support and assistance as needed from the Board of Trustees.
The name that appears first and remains the longest (other than H. B. Musselman on the Board of Trustees) was the first matron, Kate Fairheller. Willard Cassel gave information which indicated that she came from Royersford. Kate had run a boarding house. Willard was of the opinion that E. R. Hartman (father of the preachers) most likely had a part in obtaining her as the Matron. Harold Mann remembers her as a boy and his description of her leads one to characterize her as a no-nonsense type of person. Perhaps the word to describe her demeanor and countenance as seen through the eyes of a younger boy is that of dour. (His actual term was "Sourpuss"). As he grew older and matured he came to realize that there was more to this woman than what his young boy eyes saw.
Kate Fairheller was matron for many years. From the opening of the Home in July, 1909 until 1934 when she relinquished her position because of her advanced years and failed health, she agreed to become a guest of the Home. It can be noted that about 1930 and on the Board Reports refer to Kate's advanced years but having "kept well". This is an indication of the Board members being aware of her years and observing the condition of her health. The 31st report of the Board of Trustees to the 53rd Annual Conference in 1936 reported that Kate Fairheller died. Her impact on the Home was mentioned as well as brief comments about her funeral service.
Titus Hottel was not the first manager. As stated previously, O. B. Bartholomew was, but Bartholomew's service was for no more than a year. Titus Hottel was a brother of W. S. Hottel, one of the pastors with MBC. Titus was hired as manager of the Farm and Home in 1910. (The manager's wife was the assistant matron until Kate Fairheller relinquished her position as matron, then the manager's wife became matron). The reports do not tell us much about the personality of Titus Hottel. It can be implied that he manifested competency in his work by the length of his service until1922.
In 1915 Titus suffered a severe injury. A breeding bull gored him and caused a fractured femur. This is always a serious fracture because it is the largest bone and a main weight bearing bone. How it was treated in 1915 I do not know, but I do know that today such a fracture must be held in traction for up to 13 weeks which puts a person totally out of commission and circulation. The 1915 Report states that there is improvement by Titus Hottel with fractured thigh bone. The report does not state how injury occurred. Both W. E. Cassel and H. Mann spoke of the bull goring incident. The 1916 report states that Titus Hottel was ". .. restored so that he has been able to take over full oversight and management."
The reports from 1917 to 1920 refer to Titus Hottel and his work in general terms until 1920 when the Board of Trustees' report states that the Board of Trustees meets monthly at the Home to make settlement with the manager, Titus Hottel. In 1921 the report states that the Board had nine meetings to make settlement of accounts with the manager, Titus Hottel. I do not know what the phrase "make settlement with manager" means. It could mean several things:
1. Help was being provided to the manager so he was able to devote his time and energy to farming.
2. He was unable to keep the books properly due to his injury and the Board was helping him get caught up.
3. He was asking for some form of compensation due to the injury.
4. He was manifesting a growing dissatisfaction with his work, the Church, and the church leadership, and thus they were endeavoring to resolve problems.
5. The worst scenario - He was less than honest with the accounts.
6. There was a conflict of interest.
At any rate the 1922 Report of the Trustees again refers to his work in general terms.
In 1923 the Board Report states that Frank L. Musselman was hired as manager. This means that Titus Hottel resigned. Titus Hottel became the pastor of a church in Allentown then known as the 12th Street Baptist Church. The measure of success which he obtained as a pastor is unknown. Other men who had a decided influence in the early establishing of the Home were pastors H. B. Musselman, W. G. Gehman, and E. N. Cassel, whose terms were from inception of the Home until their retirement or death. These men are so well known that I do not intend to say more.
One other man with great influence was a layman, Allen M. Gehman. He was a son of William Gehman and a brother of W. G. Gehman. By profession he was a dairy farmer. One can then immediately understand how his influence would be manifested in a dairy farm used to support a home for the aged and orphanage. He was a member of the Board of Trustees from its beginning until his death in 1943. By extension his influence was manifested through his sons. Timothy H. Gehman worked on the farm for about 2 years beginning in 1926 as a hired hand and in 1928 becoming an "interim" manager until I. K. Wismer was hired. Another son, Allen W. Gehman worked for several years in the 30's as the herdsman. Timothy H. Gehman became a Board member in1938 and continued through the expansion years until after relocation in Nazareth. Timothy was one Board member who favored building a new modern home on Farm property in the mid 1950's. I personally asked Tim why he thought that the home which was fully designed by an Architect was not built. His reply was that he was of the opinion most of the men on the Board at the time lacked the faith to move ahead.
In summary of this beginning through the "middle period" in the growth of the Home and Farm, it is best to use the Report of the Trustees submitted to the 48th Annual Conference in 1931.
It is now twenty-eight years since the conference held in Mt. Carmel October 16-20, 1903, that a committee consisting of H. B. Musselman, L. B. Taylor, Wm. Gehman, J· G· Shireman, and W. G. Gehman was appointed to look into the matter of the advisability of purchasing a property for an Orphanage and Home. At the conference held in Bethlehem October 12-16, 1905, the following Board of Trustees was elected: H. B. Musselman, president; C. H. Brunner, secretary; E. N. Cassel, treasurer; W. G. Gehman, L. B. Taylor, J. G. Shireman, H. L. Musselman, O. B. Bartholomew and Allen M. Gehman. On March 28, 1906, this board of trustees took title to a farm of 85 acres about one-third mile east of Center Valley station. Edwin Fehnel and Thomas Knauer were secured to do the farming. In the fall of 1908 the Board bought the property of the late Henry Sell in the village of Center Valley, Pa. and took title to this property in the following spring.
After some additions and alterations the Home was opened on July 1,1908, with Kate Fairheller as matron. Since the appointing of the first committee to look into the advisability of purchasing a property for a Home and the present time, the experiences of the Board have been varied, some very agreeable and some not so pleasant, but we trust and believe to the profit of all who love the Lord and undertake in His name and for His glory. It is surely still true as James says in his epistle of good sense that 'Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world.' The Home is small in size as might be expected in a small denomination but large in its purpose to help the needy. Possibly the Home does not come up to what all expect it to do, and possibly not all have done all that they might have done to bring it to what they expect it to be .
In conclusion of this section, "The Establishing of the Home," mention must be made of the Farm manager, Isaiah K. Wismer and his wife, Lulu (Cassel) Wismer, who were responsible for the day-to-day management of both the Home and the Farm. I. K. Wismer became manager in 1928 and his wife, Lulu, became assistant Matron of the Home. Mrs. Wismer, the daughter of E. N. Cassel, became Matron in 1934 when Kate Fairheller relinquished her position. Mr. and Mrs. Wismer managed the Farm and Home well during their tenure, and, because of their good management, caused the Board to consider expansion of the Home.
IV. The Orphanage
The Home began in 1909 with two female residents· In 1910 the first orphan was received at the Home. Elmer Arndt of Vera Cruz was a boy of whom it was said that since he came to the Home he has been converted, baptized, and added to the Church. In 1912 another boy, Martin Hoffman, came from Sunbury. In 1917 one boy is mentioned, Martin Hoffman. The Arndt boy would have become a young man, age 20, and capable of going out on his own. The Home also cared for the Moser children whose father, Albert Moser, worked on the Farm. Evidently their mother was not present, most likely due to death. The 1923 Board Report states that Albert Moser was rehired and in 1925 that Albert (the farmer) lives in the Tenant Houses with his son, Edgar (a hired man). In 1919 three orphan boys from Mt. Carmel; George, Raymond, and Kenneth MacNutt were admitted. Harold Mann gave the account in which Kenneth MacNutt ran away from the Home and evidently joined the Army. During his army days he came to their house and stayed with the family for 2 weeks before he was picked up by military police for being AWOL. The 1921 Board Report states that Martin Hoffman left the Home "on account of his age and is doing well in the class where he has made his home." The 1923 Report mentions, "The boys are doing well." The 1924 Report states that George MacNutt is married, is living in the Tenant House and is working on the farm. His name occurs again in 1932 to late in the 1930's as hired man.
The Glass boys, Edgar and Frank, fatherless boys of Gertrude Glass of West Philadelphia were admitted January 1931. Mention of them continues through 1935 in the plural - orphan boys. In 1936 and every year thereafter, no mention of boys or orphans is made in the Board Report.
V. The Expansion Period
In 1933 the first evidence is found that the Board of Trustees were beginning to see a need for expansion. That year the Board Report states that a waiting list exists and there is a call for prayers for God's leading and for Him to provide the means to expand. In 1934 more room is said to be needed and evidence is given of making extensive repairs and improvements which did not provide more room but made living areas more comfortable. In 1935, in the midst of the depression, indebtedness was not substantially decreased, but the assets were increased by $3300. In the Report of 1936, the need for larger quarters is mentioned again. But, in the 1938 Report of board of Trustees, it is declared that additional land was purchased making the farm 175 acres and having 3 farm houses and 3 barns; and again in 1939, it is reported that the Bethlehem property was exchanged for more land bringing the total to 228 acres. No more do the Reports contain references to needing larger quarters for the Home until we reach the 1950's.
The Board of Trustees of the Home used the defense for the farm as being necessary to support the Home. This is certainly a most accurate statement. I am of the opinion that it was also very wise. It not only provided the necessary financial support, but also provided most of the necessary foodstuffs. But, I raise the question: Was a farm this size which grew to 225+ acres and a herd of cattle of almost 100 head necessary to support a Home that never cared for more than 6 elderly people at any given time, and many times the number was even less. I would also agree that a farm was most excellent in caring for orphans in an agrarian economy. In this manner they could properly be trained for earning abilities when grown. But again one wonders, was the farm too large? I once heard a church member wonder out loud, if the Home Farm was not an excuse for the preachers to prove their farming abilities. The criticism may have been a bit harsh but it does represent how church members were viewing the program.
In reading the Reports of the Board of Trustees of the Home as given at Annual Conferences, I often got the feeling that the tail was wagging the dog. I state this conclusion not to be harsh and critical but to see how we sometimes get caught-up in God's work in such a way so as to make the secondary more important than the primary. When I read the reports I must confess I was somewhat disappointed (maybe grieved) to see that the vision God was giving to these men was lost in the expansion of the wrong portion of this God given ministry. I am not implying that these men sinned, but rather that their human viewpoint may have clouded over the divine vista.
In conclusion of this slight detour, I want to add that, when interviewing Harold Mann who served on the Board in the 1950's and 1960's, he stated that many times too much attention was given to Farm business rather than the Home. He stated that he often sensed throughout the Conference, the Farm, rather than the Home, was the butt of jokes. While we may wonder if the men may have become side-tracked at times, we must also stop and praise God for raising men of vision in the early days who were willing to labor and sacrifice for the success of this ministry and in this sense they were most successful and really blessed of God in spite of (or perhaps because of) their shortcomings.
The 1940's brought changes, not only to the Home but also to the whole church. W. G. Gehman died in 1941; Allen M. Gehman died in 1943; and in the mid 40's the church leadership changed. These changes were reflected in the Home. Greater financial stability was being seen. The size of the herd fluctuated when some of the herd were sold and then more added in an effort to improve the quality of the herd. The assets were increasing. By 1947, all indebtedness was removed and the total assets were more than $82,000.
In 1943 P.T. Stengele became a Board member and Paul I. Wentz became treasurer. Edgar O. Mann of Bethlehem (Harold Mann's brother) was elected to fill the vacancy created by Allen M. Gehman's death. In 1946 C. H. Brunner was replaced by T. D. Gehret and in 1947, H. W. Hartman replaced B. B. Musselman. The only members of the "old guard" were E. N. Cassel and H. B. Musselman. I believe H. B. Musselman was allowed to remain on the Board out of deference to his past leadership. He was a godly man whose labors were blessed of God in many ways, but I believe he rendered little, if any influence on the Board after 1945. E. N. Cassel remained, a man who was far more flexible than many will allow in their opinion of him. A new Board of trustees was now directing the affairs of the Home with T. D. Gehret, President; E. N. Cassel, Secretary; F. B. Hertzog, Assistant Secretary; and Paul I. Wentz, Treasurer. In 1948, 33 acres and one building were sold reducing acreage to 194 acres. A herd of 55 cattle and assets over $90,000 were reported. In 1948 the small tenant farm of 10 acres and one set of buildings were sold and the herd was at 56 head. The two remaining farms totaled 184 acres and investments were at almost $20,000. The Building Fund was at almost $10,000, and the total assets were at $96,000. In 1950 the herd was at 62 and the total assets were $102,974.
The Board of the Home was entering the second half of the 20th century with a different outlook and thrust. Society had also changed. We had gone through two World Wars with a severe economic depression between them. Our economy had changed from one primarily agrarian to one which was primarily industrial. I state this not to imply it was right or wrong, good or bad, but merely to remind ourselves of the change. Though I have had difficulty confirming this from the yearbooks, it appears that 1950 or 1951was the last year H. B. Musselman served on the Board of Trustees.
In 1951 the Board concluded that after 46 years of existence the present facilities were inadequate and a new Home needed to be built. A Search Committee was established to look for property in Coopersburg, Emmaus, or Quakertown. In this same year at a special meeting it was resolved to sell the dairy herd. 66 cattle were sold for more than $25,000. The remaining cattle were valued at $1375; the milk provided gross receipts of $14,500.
In 1952 it was reported expansion plans were being considered further and in 1953, an Architect, George E. Yunt was engaged to draw plans and the preliminary plans were submitted to the 1953 Annual Conference. In 1954, completed plans were submitted to Annual Conference. The 1954 yearbook has a picture of the proposed Home. It was a beautiful building and had it been built I am sure it would still be in use. The Board of Trustees Report in1955 tells a different story from 1954.
It is true that our plans for the construction of a new and larger Home have not materialized. Paramount in the minds of the Board has been the desire to do only that which the Lord would be pleased to bless and which would be for the good of our constituency. It is sometimes easier to plunge into projects without regard to the ramifications than to wait patiently for the definite leading of the Lord. A careful investigation of building costs made it prohibitive to build as was proposed last year.
The conclusion of this is that it would cost too much. As was noted earlier, Board member Timothy Gehman was of the opinion the men lacked faith. However, the report continues to state:
The Board, however, having viewed the Henninger property at Sigmund, after prayer, consideration and discussion concerning the use which might be made of that property, offers the following recommendation: Resolved, that the house on the Henninger property and part of the ground be considered for a Home for the Aged; and further Resolved, that the Board offer to assist in financing the purchase of the property. There is sufficient acreage available for such other uses as Annual Conference may determine.
Concerning this possible move, Harold Mann said that Martha Seifert who was a guest of the Home told him, "If the Home moves here, I hope I die the day before the move."
Harold was on the Board at the time and he stated that after a little investigation there really was not much interest in relocating there. This Henninger property was, however, purchased by the Conference and Victory Valley Camp is located there.
Another statement made in the 1956 Report that can be viewed with some chagrin - "The picture before us is obviously not one of intriguing beauty as several unsolved problems have deterred us from launching the building program which has been one of our prayerful objectives. To commit ourselves to such a venture would involve a considerable liberalizing of our policy of providing for our own members." (emphasis mine) Why admission of non-members to a new home was an unsolved problem is a mystery to me. This was done in the past. In 1914 Mary Roberts from Bethehem and a member of the Evangelical Association (which later divided into the Evangelical Congregation Church & the Evangelical United Brethren Church) was admitted.
In 1920 Maria Widmaier of German birth from Philadelphia and a member of the Evangelical Association was admitted. (This woman is remembered by some of the older folk of the Coopersburg Church as one of the old women from the Home who could not speak English with any degree of fluency). And in 1933, Mary Sauerwine, a friend of the 12th Street Baptist Church, Allentown was admitted. To consider admitting non-members to be a "considerable liberalizing of our policy" may indicate that a provincial attitude had unwittingly crept into our churches and denomination.
Though one may view this failure to build as proposed in 1954 with disappointment, the Board of Trustees of the Home did not deter from the search for a way to expand.
For the next three Reports of the Board to Annual Conference (1957, 1958, 1959) no mention is made of building plans or relocation. It can be noted that the dairy herd is again being increased with the gross receipts of the milk sales also increasing. In 1957 the value of cattle was $18,625 and milk sales $14,155. This increased by 1960 to a value of $23,755 for 79 head and milk receipts to $21,992. But, it was reported that on February 9,1960, the Board acquired a three story brick building at 38 S. New Street, Nazareth, and an adjoining lot (100 feet x 62 feet) was also purchased for parking and future expansion. (Note the words - "future expansion"). The new Home was opened for occupancy on September 9. Clara Messner was the matron and Mary Beyer, her assistant. Alice Werley and Martha Seifert were transferred from the Home at Center Valley. No, Martha did not move to the Henninger property; and, no, Martha did not die the day before the move. I can personally attest that Martha was most appreciative of the new Home in Nazareth. On October 1, the Home was dedicated.
At this point, it would be well to review the farm managers. When Titus Hottel resigned in 1923, Frank L. Musselman was hired as manager and continued until 1928. Timothy Gehman was hired and served as an interim manager until 1929 when I. K. Wismer was hired. I. K. Wismer continued as manager until April, 1952. The Board Reports normally expressed that the farm managers had provided excellent work and performed "as unto the Lord." In April of 1952, Raymond Ritter and his wife, May, were hired as manager and matron respectively. They were listed as members of the Coopersburg Church. Raymond Ritter and his wife were described as excellent workers and serving well.
On Friday, January 6, 1961 about 10:30 p.m., fire broke out in the straw mow of the barn. While Raymond Ritter was making his routine final inspection, he noticed the fire. All the cows and calves were spared, no person was injured. However, two cows were injured and slaughtered. Cows were quartered in a rented barn several miles away in Limeport and the calves were quartered at Timothy Gehman's dairy farm. By April, the first floor of the barn was rebuilt with 23 tie-ups.
Perhaps this can be viewed as God's providential guidance because I am certain it was one of the major factors which brought the Board of Trustees to the decision to sell the two farms to Joseph B. Teator, MD and his wife, Sara. (It was later learned that the Teators functioned as "purchasing agents" for the Roman Catholic Church). The property was sold for $120,314.19. This property has become the major portion of the campus of Allentown College of St. Frances De Sales, a Roman Catholic liberal arts college. Raymond Ritter was commended for being faithful as farm manager until the final disposition of the farm. He was manager for almost 11years.
VI. The Modern Period
The Report of 1962 also included the statement - plans for "larger quarters" were being studied. With the move to Nazareth, the sale of the farm, and continued study of plans for "larger quarters", we move into the present period which I call the Modern Period. The primary leader at the beginning of this period is F. B. Hertzog. The membership of this Board names T. D. Gehret, Chairman; E. W. Bean, Secretary; David E. Thomann, Assistant Secretary; Paul I. Wentz, Treasurer and members as C. E. Kirkwood, F. B. Hertzog, Ernest B. Hartman, Timothy H. Gehman, Harold Mann, George Krigor, John E. Golla and Earl M. Hosler. Few of these names appear on the Boards during that time which I called the Expansion Period.
It should be noted that since 1961 this Board in the Yearbook is listed as the Board of Directors of the Home rather than the Board of Trustees. However, this Board was not incorporated as a not for profit corporation until 1963. In 1962 the plans for a larger building were being studied. In1964 the property at 7 S. New Street, Nazareth, was purchased. This property is located diagonally across the street from 38 S. New Street. The property consisted of about 1 ˝ acres with a large "somewhat" Victorian brick house and a large 2 car garage with a fairly large apartment above.
The original plans called for a two story addition to be built as an attachment to the house for 32 residents. These ambitious plans called for a building start in the spring of 1965. But, it was soon learned that in order to comply with fire and safety requirements, it would be better to build an unattached building.
Therefore, it was back to the drawing boards. The Home at 38 S. New Street continued in operation under the able leadership of Clara Messner assisted by Kathryn Rosencranz. The maximum number of residents the Home could serve was seven (perhaps eight). So it was seen immediately to be inadequate and space did not permit an addition to be built to it. Therefore, the 7 S. New Street property was purchased. In 1966, F. B. Hertzog moved into the apartment over the garage and remained living there until his death in 1984 and his widow, Rena, continued living there until 1988. The purpose of this move was to oversee the construction of a new home on the property. On July 22, 1967 actual construction began with the initial excavation. The Home was completed in 1968 with dedication occurring on September 14, 1968. The total cost for construction and furnishings was $184,137 with accommodations for 28 residents, though in the earlier days of the Home, some residents had the pleasure of a private room. The 1970 Report states that plans to expand the Home were under consideration.
However, with hindsight, it can be said these plans never came to fruition.
In 1969, the property at 38 S. New Street was sold for $36,531. Plans were approved to convert the large house beside the Home into five apartments. This conversion really turned out to be unprofitable. The old building proved to be difficult to maintain and very expensive to heat. Finally in 1985 the building was demolished.
The plans to expand the Home on two different occasions with two different additions could not come to fruition because the local zoning Board would not grant approval. This was due to some overly powerful people in the community who primarily wanted to preserve the ability for the Moravians to obtain approval to build a new retirement community in the Borough.
Because of this inability to obtain zoning approval, the Board began to search for other property. An attractive parcel of land was found in Upper Saucon Township, just north of Coopersburg, but again zoning approval was not forthcoming. A continued search brought us to Whitehall Township where zoning approval was obtained.
The result of that search and the somewhat prolonged zoning work resulted in the construction of Fellowship Manor on a 42 acre tract of land where Rural Drive bisects Mauch Chunk Road. A 13 acre tract is also included which is across Mauch Chunk Road. On this tract is located the original farm house and various garages and outbuildings which were necessary to farming. A large double thrashing floor bank barn was also on the land, but has since been removed because of its poor condition.
Fellowship Manor was completed in August, 1988, with the first residents being admitted on August 15. The cost of the planning, land purchase, development of the tract, construction, and the furnishings of Fellowship Manor was approximately $7,050,000.
Fellowship Manor has continued since August, 1988, and has been able to meet all its financial obligations. By God's grace, this ministry of providing professional long term nursing care is carried on so that the Lord may be glorified.
Fellowship Home in Nazareth continues as a ministry as well. The type of care provided at Fellowship Home is known as Personal Care. Professional nursing services are not a part of the program and any nursing care is provided only on a limited basis. By internal modifications, 32 residents are accommodated.
These two ministries are yet to be complemented with one other component of care for the elderly known as independent living. It is hoped that the financing can be completed very shortly so that the first phase of this component can be built within a year from now (November, 1993).
In such a brief historical survey one can easily conclude that the ministry of Bible Fellowship Church Homes, INC., has had a long and illustrious history. Truly blessed of God but with its mistakes due to human frailties. At times human misdirection can be seen, but it can also be seen that our gracious God soon properly redirected to accomplish His purposes. I truly believe that the leadership of the Home and its ministry has always been by people who genuinely wanted to serve God and have a ministry for His glory and the good of the people being served. Thanksgiving must be given to our Gracious Lord for raising up such men and women of leadership.
It has often been said that God will often perform his work through families. I think two such families involved in the work of the Home through the years illustrate this truism.
First to a lesser degree is that of O. B. Bartholomew, a member of the first Board of Trustees and the first farm manager. Due to the untimely death of his daughter, Jennie, O. B. Bartholomew took three of his grandchildren to raise. One of those grandchildren is Kathryn Rosencranz, who was the Assistant Matron at the 38 S. New Street Home in Nazareth. And his grandson is Oliver W. Beil, and, while Oliver Beil never served the Home directly, his son, a great grandson of O. B. Bartholomew, is James A. Beil, the present Administrator of Fellowship Manor and President of the Board of Directors of BFCH, Inc.
Second and to a greater degree is the Gehman family. Wm. Gehman, one of the principle founders of the Bible Fellowship Church, and his son, W. G. Gehman, were on the original committee formed by Annual Conference to research and plan for a Home. On the first Board of Trustees for the Orphanage and Home we find W. G. Gehman and another son of William Gehman, Allen M. Gehman. Both W. G. Gehman and Allen M. Gehman served on the Board of Trustees until their deaths.
Two of Allen's sons, Allen W. and Timothy H., worked as hired men on the Farm at different times. Timothy H. also served as an interim farm manager and later served commendably on the Board of Trustees, later known as the Board of Directors. He was one of the facilitating Board members when the Home moved to Nazareth and when the present Home was built. It was a great privilege for Fellowship Manor to be able to serve and meet his physical needs in his closing days. He too appreciated the fact that he could be provided for by the ministry which he helped to develop.
However, the Gehman story is not completed. Presently at Fellowship Manor, the Housekeeping-Maintenance Department is headed by Allen M. Gehman, a son of Allen W. and a grandson of Allen M. (not the same middle name) and a great grandson of William Gehman.
These remarks are submitted to assist us in realizing how God works through His people to accomplish His purposes. In so doing our great loving God and Savior blesses His people and makes them a blessing to others.