October 28, 2000
Richard E. Taylor
Jonas Musselman was a farmer and a preacher. His three sons were preachers and one of his daughters married a preacher. After he died, his wife became a preacher and his youngest daughter became a Christian worker. You might think that preaching was somehow in the Musselman genes.
Jacob Musselman was the first of the line to come to America. The Musselmans came from the Emmental, a German portion of Switzerland. By 1724 he had settled in an area which later became Lehigh County. He had been ordained in the country of his origin and was one of the early preachers in the Swamp Church. His son, Michael, who later worked his farm, was also ordained as a preacher. Another son of Jacob, also named Jacob, married Maria Basler, and went to farming in Allen Township, Northampton County. They deeded their farm to their son, Christian, who had married Elizabeth Geissinger. Christian was listed as a private in the 7th Company of the Pennsylvania Militia though it is not certain whether he actually served or not. In him, the strong Mennonite commitment to non-resistance gave way in the raging and violent debate about freedom called the Revolutionary War. Christian moved to Upper Milford Township settling on land he purchased from Jacob Hiestand. There he and his wife, Elizabeth, raised eight children, the seventh of whom was David Musselman. David was born in May, 1807. He married Sarah Hiestand and fathered two sons. The first, Abraham, was born November 18, 1833. Among Abraham’s children was a son David who married a former missionary named Rose Lambert and left to make a life in Texas and a daughter Catharine who was joined in marriage to Charles Henry Brunner, a preacher in the Mennonite Brethren Church. The second son of David, Jonas, was born six years later on November 12, 1839.
The David Musselmans were part of the Mennonite Church in Zionsville. It had been formed out of a split in 1847 when a group of people followed the direction laid out by the progressive ideas of John Oberholtzer. Jonas followed his parents when they went to church. At home they talked quietly about the fuss surrounding the prayer meetings. The Musselmans were godly people who wanted to put their faith into practice. Many years later, when David and Sarah awoke to find a burglar in their dark bedroom, they did not resist him but gave him their money and, as it was told, went the next mile to offer him breakfast as well. They like some others had come to believe it was important to pray for the unsaved people around them and hold meetings in which invitations would be given for those unsaved people to turn to Jesus and be saved from their sins. The Musselmans were part of the prayer meeting revival that paid a visit to the Hosensack Valley in the 1850's.
The Musselmans joined with like-minded people who were led by their neighbor and fellow farmer, William Gehman. They spent some of their Sunday afternoons in Gehman’s barn praying for God to move in the hearts of unbelievers in their community. Their church was suspicious about these meetings and later banned them. They couldn’t understand how people could be opposed to such meetings. When a division finally came, the Musselmans joined with Gehman and his followers to obey the Lord as they understood God’s call.
When a place was needed to meet, the Musselman home was open. On the 24thday of September in 1858, several gathered there to decide what to do. While it is not known exactly who was there, certainly David and Jonas were. They were joined by William Gehman, his cousin, David Gehman and others. Jonas was a 19 year old lad who probably did more listening than talking during the meeting. The die was cast at the meeting. Gehman and others could no longer be a part of the church that denied the significance of praying for the lost and preaching to them.
While the prayer meeting controversy was raging, the young Jonas Musselman had his mind on other things. It was time for him to find a bride and begin his own family. His eye had fallen on Lucy Brunner. She was a special girl. When he determined that she be his bride, in biblical terms, he got a good thing.
Lucy was born February 16, 1842, to John William and Maria (Sell) Brunner. Among the other children of John and Maria were a son, Joel, who married Rebekah Gehman and bore a son named Charles Henry Brunner, the Mennonite Brethren preacher mentioned above. Also among the children was a daughter named Hannah who married preacher Abel Strawn.
Lucy was a bright and articulate woman who was a valuable and perhaps invaluable part of her husband’s ministry. Her participation and support in his work were evident. When Jonas died at an early age, Lucy continued the work of the ministry becoming a licensed quarterly conference worker and ultimately Gospel Worker #1. Probably, Jonas met Lucy at the church in Zionsville since the Brunners were part of the group of Mennonites who, like the Musselmans, were committed to revival.
Lucy and Jonas were married on October 29, 1859. They took to housekeeping in the home of the parents of Jonas. Jonas listed his occupation as farmer though in these early days the stirring of God had come to him. When the new church called the Evangelical Mennonites listed their preachers in November of 1861, Jonas Musselman’s name was listed there with the others assuring yet another preacher and farmer in the Musselman line.
Almost one year after their marriage, on October 3, 1860, Jonas and Lucy had their first child, a son. They named him William and, according to the custom of the day, gave him Lucy’s maiden name as his middle name: William Brunner Musselman. Later, everyone would know him simply as W. B.
During this time, Jonas had become good friends with Levi Young. They visited and wrote letters to each other. Levi was a peripatetic church goer who wandered around looking for the spots of revival that might nurture his heart. Levi was a sincere and godly young man who agonized over the sinful condition of people he knew. Levi himself would for a short while be listed among the preachers of the Evangelical Mennonites.
Levi spent New Year’s Eve of 1862 at the home of Lucy and Jonas leaving the next morning in the company of David who kindly gave him a lift to Emmaus. He returned to the Musselman home to stay for two days in June of that year in order that he might attend the Conference of the Evangelical Mennonites being held in the church in Upper Milford. Levi and Jonas got together again on September 6 of that year. Levi wrote, “This morning I taught my Sunday School class. Then I went in meeting. Rev. Jonas Musselman preached on 1 Timothy 6:6. Sam’l Landis came with him and closed the meeting by prayer. S. Landis went to the Oxford Sunday school after meeting and Rev. Musselman to A[braham] Bleam’s. After I had taught my class we went to Mr. Trumbauer’s woods where as was appointed Bro. Musselman preached on Rev. 22:17.” On November 5, the eve of his trip to Canada with Eusebius Hershey, Levi again visited with Jonas and enjoyed the hospitality of the Musselmans.
The 1860's were filled with the routines of farming and preaching for Jonas. The semi-annual meetings of the Evangelical Mennonites to which Jonas belonged did not always record those who were in attendance, but when they did, invariably, the name of Jonas Musselman was in the “present” column. If we read into the comments of his friend Levi Young, Jonas preached wherever he could and was busy doing it.
The spring of 1865 brought reports that the end of the awful Civil War was drawing near. Jonas had been spared whether through paying the $300 fine or through simply not being called. On April 1, 1865, Jonas and Lucy welcomed a daughter Emma to their family. For 16 years they enjoyed her presence until her life was tragically ended by typhus.
Three years later another son entered their lives. Harvey Brunner Musselman was born on February 11, 1868. The family of Jonas was growing. Perhaps it was growing too much for the house which they shared with David and Sarah. Or, perhaps it was time for Jonas and Lucy to leave the nest. On April 3, 1868, not two months after the birth of H. B., Jonas purchased land in Richland Township, across the line in Bucks County. He bought one parcel from Joseph B. Taylor and a contiguous second parcel from Joseph Weirbach. His land added up to about 65 acres. Soon they were living at the end of a lane that led off the road between Quakertown and California.
How this move to Bucks County impacted on the ministry of Jonas is hard to say. The blanks in our information do not allow us to determine if it was the ministry that led Jonas to move to Quakertown or the move to Quakertown which led to ministry. H. H. Bergey told of the move to Quakertown as follows:
Sometime prior to 1872, Jonas Musselman, a young man affiliated with the Evangelical Mennonites, who was then living in the lower end of Lehigh County, felt called to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that saves from sin. Rev. William Gehman was preaching in that section of the country, so he looked for other fields to begin his labor in the vineyard of the Lord. He bought a farm about a mile from Quakertown on what is now known as the California Road. There he began to preach and conduct prayer-meetings in homes wherever doors were opened. As time went on there were conversions the number of believers growing to such an extent that it was deemed advisable to have a regular place of worship.
The decade of the 1870's saw the Musselmans settled on the farm and doing the ministry. Their family continued to grow with the addition of Sallie born on April 13, 1870. Like her sister, Emma, Sallie’s life would be tragically shortened by typhus. A short two months after she had been wed to preacher J. E. Fidler, the disease had its way and she passed from this life at age 18 on April 22, 1888.
According to H. H. Bergey, Musselman sought land for the church in Quakertown and bought a plot of ground on Third Street in Quakertown. This plot of ground would soon be the location of a church building. That building which had belonged to Musselman’s brother-in-law, Abel Strawn, and another supportive Evangelical Mennonite, Henry Diehl, was erected in Haycock Township. The church was removed board by board and reconstructed on the lot in Quakertown.
The erection of this church building in Quakertown came in 1872. The semi-annual conference minutes indicate that during the year Jonas joined William Gehman in holding meetings in Fleetwood. And another child for the Musselmans came to stay. They welcomed another son and another preacher, Allen Brunner. Sadly, he too would have a shortened life. At the age of 27, on May 2, 1900, death claimed him.
In 1873, the conference began to keep statistics of the activities of its pastors. During the year, Jonas preached 82 times, visited 40 families, traveled 510 miles. He received $9.40 and spent $16.00. In 1874, he preached 105 sermons, visited 117 families, traveled 1518 miles and spent $24.30. These statistics show 2 sermons, 2 family visits, and journeys of nearly 30 miles every week. For a man who needed to maintain a farm to feed his family, the schedule must have been demanding.
In 1874, the conference began to record its appointments. Jonas was assigned that year to preach in Quakertown and Ironville. In 1875, Jonas was assigned again to Quakertown and reached out to again to Ironville. He was assisted by Henry Diehl and Joel Rosenberger. In 1876, he had a hiatus from the ministry in Quakertown and was replaced by Samuel Musselman. During that year, he focused his ministry on a new work in Springtown which was soon up and running. During this year in Springtown, Jonas was instrumental in pointing a shoemaker and veteran of the Civil War, George A. Campbell, to the Lord Jesus. Campbell later became a preacher in the church. The work in Springtown would in later years be led by Samuel Musselman and Abel Strawn.
During 1876, the Musselman family were joined by a third daughter and their sixth child, Hattie, born February 19. Hattie, who never married, would live to join her mother in the ministry of the Gospel Workers and be a faithful servant of God. Hattie was the last of the children born to Lucy and Jonas. During this year, Jonas assumed some leadership responsibilities as he was elected the Conference Secretary, replacing David Gehman. He served in this capacity for two more years.
In 1877, he was back again in Quakertown. In 1878, he was joined by Samuel Musselman who had replaced him there in 1876.
The newly formed United Mennonite Church had begun to publish a magazine called the Gospel Banner. The people of Pennsylvania began to read it and look for it. Jonas joined them. He wrote the editor in March of 1879,
Dear Brother in Christ:-
I am happy in Jesus. My resolution is to work for him while I live. Brother pray for me and my class; they are working for holiness. Please send me sample copies of the Gospel Banner, English and German. I will do what I can for the Banner.
In October, 1879, Jonas attended a special conference at the Upper Milford Meeting House near Zionsville. At that meeting, the Evangelical Mennonites of Pennsylvania agreed to merge with the United Mennonites of Indiana and Canada. When they were through, the Evangelical United Mennonites were formed. Jonas joined the others in signing his name in agreement to this merger.
Daniel Brenneman, the editor of the Gospel Banner attended the special conference and had opportunity to visit the Quakertown church and get to know their pastor, Jonas Musselman. This seems to have been the beginning of a friendship between them. Brother Brenneman made a report of his visit to Quakertown.
In the evening we met for the first time together in public worship in Quakertown, where we were permitted to address a very earnest congregation, who were evidently hungering for the truth as the hearty amens testified and the power of God was obviously manifested in the uniting together of the hearts of his children in love... Our Evangelical Mennonite brethren have here quite a commodious brick church edifice, in which they hold regular services every Sabbath; have also a Sabbath school and prayer meeting once a week, and from what we have learned since here, have an earnest membership, not easily excelled in point of kind hospitality and friendship, amongst themselves as well as toward strangers.
Conference over, it was announced that a protracted meeting would be held in Quakertown. It was our happy privilege to attend the meetings each evening during the week. In consequence of a lady temperance lecturer giving lectures in the same place, the attendance was to an extent lessened for several evenings: notwithstanding, the dear Savior verified his gracious promise each evening, visiting his people with the gracious outpouring of his Holy Spirit. His power was wonderfully manifested. An eager desire was felt on the part of the dear brethren and sisters, for full salvation, and several soon entered by faith in the “Promised Land,” and were permitted to feast upon the good things which abound therein. The interest of the meeting at once began to increase, and eager souls apparently from all quarters, commenced gathering in to hear the word. It was decided to continue the meeting a week at all events. Although we had intended to proceed further on our visiting tour, by the earnest solicitations of the brethren, consented to stay during this week also, and can say that we enjoyed much our protracted visit at this place. We were permitted to hear not only the earnest groans and petitions of the humble penitents at the altar of prayer, but thanks to the Lord, could also hear their living testimony of sins forgiven. At the close of the second week, the interest rather increasing than otherwise and a number of souls being deeply convicted, the brethren decided to continue the meeting whilst we, according to previous announcement, proceeded to Upper Milford, Lehigh Co.
At the conference in November of 1879, Jonas was assigned to Hatfield and Quakertown with Joel Rosenberger. For a second time, Jonas opened a new work. The Hatfield ministry had a short beginning and then become dormant for a period. Hatfield would later begin a second time and become a permanent fixture in God’s provision for that part of Montgomery County.
The next year, 1880, saw the work in Quakertown continue and the effort in Hatfield moved ahead. One of the congregants of Hatfield wrote about the work.
Hatfield, Montgomery Co., Pa.
January 12, 1880
Dear Editor, – Eld. J. Musselman, A. Strawn, and J. Rosenberger having organized their protracted meeting at this place, in their new meeting house, on Sunday, January 4th; the first night two souls came to the altar, crying for the forgiveness of their sins. At the end of the week six have been brought out of darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. A general revival is expected.
Dear reader, can’t you spend a few minutes in praying for Hatfield and vicinity? It will be pleasing in the sight of God.
Rudy S. Weikel
In 1880, Jonas and Lucy began to look at some freedom. Perhaps they could now leave the day to day responsibilities of the farm in the hands of William who turned 20 that year. In the summer, they set out on a trip. They were joined by John Traub and Abel and Hannah Strawn. They boarded the train and headed west.
On their itinerary was a camp meeting to be held in Indiana. Perhaps during his visit, Daniel Brenneman had told them of this meeting and invited them to come. On the farm of Peter Fetters between the towns of Elkhart, Goshen, and Wakarusa, the Evangelical United Mennonites were holding the first distinctly Mennonite camp meeting. Perhaps the promise of calls to holiness and special preaching drew them. On July 30, 1880, Jonas and his party were there to see this new beginning. What Jonas saw did not disappoint him one bit. Editor Brenneman reported:
The altar of prayer, which was much of the time during altar services, thronged by those seeking pardon of sin and heart purity, varying from children and youth to old age presented a scene beautious [sic] to behold on the part of God’s dear children, especially encouraging, were the many testimonies of seekers, with occasional shouts of victory as well as physical prostration by the power of God’s Spirit... Although there were, as a natural consequence, those on the grounds, who in their hearts and verbally, so far as their influence reached, were set in opposition to the work of the Lord, yet it is very gratifying to state that, “The foolishness of God was wiser than men, and the weakness of God was stronger than men,” and complete victory seemed to prevail over the opposing element during the entire encampment, and many shouts were heard, besides, “leaping and walking and praising God.”
Jonas must have been thrilled by what he saw. Some people had even come and stayed in tents. On Sundays, as many as 3000 people were gathered for the fire. On August 12th, the party from Pennsylvania continued on into Canada. Jonas was drinking deeply of this new camp meeting experience and meeting many people on the trip. In November, he wrote to the Banner to remind people of their new bonds.
Eld. Jonas Musselman, of Quakertown, Pa., requests us to remind those who handed to him their names and addresses, at the camp-meeting, of their promise: namely, to correspond with him. He says he has the names and addresses of nearly fifty brethren and sisters, who have agreed to correspond with him and has written nearly all but has received only one answer. This is doubtless somewhat discouraging to the dear brother, who is so deeply interested in your welfare - who has inquired concerning your prospects for heaven, - and only one answer. Please be so kind as to answer his letters, in the fear of God, thereby showing your regards to him.
This trip may represent something of a turning point in the life of Jonas. Later events would indicate that he was probably beginning to experience problems with his health. At one point, he was said to weigh nearly 400 pounds. Whether it was health or whether he was just weary of the demands and the schedule under which he lived and worked, Jonas was beginning to tire of the life of farming that had been his lot. Perhaps, he had experienced some relief on the trip from the hard routines of the farm and enjoyed the freedom of full involvement in the Lord’s work.
Sometime during the fall and winter of 1880 -1881, Jonas made a significant decision - to give up farming. He reported his decision and sense of relief in yet another letter to the Banner in February, 1881.
Dear Brother: – I feel interested to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. I have not been well for the last month, but thank God am better again. God knows what is best for us all. I am still trusting in God and resting sweetly in him. Bro. Brenneman, God has delivered me from my farm. I am now freed from that and am no longer a farmer. I am only waiting for God to open the way and to direct me as to how and where to labor for Him. I feel to do all for my Savior and for precious souls that I can, and hence have consecrated my will to God and can say, Lord thy will be done. Oh there is much to do here in Pennsylvania. May the good Lord bless us with much courage. Pray for us in faith.
Records indicate that Jonas sold his farm to Tilghman Osmun. It seems he had no regrets. He put his hand to another kind of plow and never looked back. He took his new freedom and plunged into the work of the gospel. In July, he wrote again to the Banner. Editor Brenneman reported, “Bro. J. Musselman, of Quakertown, Pa. writes ‘I am thankful today that we have a full savior, and I am ‘sweetly resting’ in Christ Jesus. Pray for me and our church here. Some have entered Beulah, and others seeking.’”
In March of 1881, Jonas was again assigned to Hatfield and Quakertown. Apparently, he continued to live in the area of Quakertown.
As the summer of 1881 approached, the memory of the camp meeting he saw in Indiana burned in his heart and mind. Why couldn’t Pennsylvania have camp meetings? Jonas sent a notice to the Banner to tell everyone what was coming.
Quakertown Pa. August 10
Dear Brother: – I wish to inform you that we intend by the will of God commencing a camp-meeting, Saturday, August 13th, near Coopersburg. We have received a tabernacle to be used upon the occasion. Now Bro. is the time we need your help. It is true the time is short, but we must do the best we can. Brother, can you be here? If it is not possible then let all pray for us in faith, that the power of God may attend our effort. We are expecting a glorious time.
When the camp meeting was over, Jonas sent a complete and glowing report to his brother in Christ in Indiana. As Jonas shares the particulars and the details, his excitement and enthusiasm for this new kind of meeting were evident.
Quakertown, Pa., August 25.
Dear Brother Brenneman:- For the satisfaction of your readers, I wish to say that our camp-meeting closed Sunday evening, Aug. 21st. Our committee found a suitable place in a grove owned by Bro. Milton Kauffman, where on the morning of Aug. 12th, we met with the brethren to rear the tabernacle for the first time. Having everything in readiness, we first went down upon our knees before the Lord to implore his blessing to attend the measure thus being entered upon to the glory of his great Name. By two o’clock the tabernacle was standing in readiness for use. We next put up a stand, with a sleeping room attached, in connection with several other sleeping apartments, besides other tents and covered wagons were arranged for the accommodation of those in attendance. Also a large house near by was accessible. Thus, Aug. 13th, at two o’clock all was in readiness with plenty of seats. We secured also one hundred and fifty chairs for the large tent in which we held our prayer and class meetings. With the exception of a few days we could comfortable supply all with seats. The masses of people assembled upon the occasion, seemingly came to hear God’s word. There was good order from beginning to end. The order of the meetings was as follows:
In the morning, at half past six, there was family worship; at half past eight, prayer meeting in the large tent; ten o’clock, preaching; one o’clock, and half past six, prayer meeting; two o’clock and in the evening, preaching.
Oh, I can not express my feelings of joy and gratitude to God for the camp-meeting. The brethren and sisters too are generally quite well satisfied with the results of the meeting. The meetings were conducted strictly on the holiness line, and quite a number entered the land of Beulah. Some at the commencement could not understand what these things mean, and were “in doubt whereunto this might grow.” But as the power of God was so wonderfully displayed, many began to change their minds and concluded that after all, it is better in the land of Canaan, than in the wilderness, after having gotten a glympse of the fruits that were brought from thence, and concluded to stand and walk by faith, rather than feeling. Praise God for his power. Each day and night he gave us a new baptism of the Holy Ghost. On Monday morning, the 15th, baptism was administered in the stream near the encampment.
Oh, I can not express my feelings in regard to the work of the Lord! May God be pleased to move the ark forward with all speed. Last year some of us were permitted to attend the first camp-meeting held by the E. U. Mennonites in Indiana; this year we attend the first in Pennsylvania. I can not say as yet how it will be in reference to the first in Canada, to commence Sept. 14th; just as the Lord will. Oh, let us all pray earnestly for those who have entered by faith the land of Beulah, as well as for those who have not as yet ventured over, that God may give to the latter, boldness and faith to launch out upon his promises, and to the former, sufficient manliness and integrity to stand firm upon the immovable rock.
The power of God, as displayed at times upon the encampment, was such that a number were not able to stand, but were crushed to the earth. Some were not able to rise for over an hour. God’s wonderful works and glorious saving power, were to a greater or less extent seen and felt in each meeting during the encampment. Glory to his name! Our Presiding Elder, Bro. Wm. Gehman, became so intensely interested in the work of the Lord, and so filled with his power, that he at once purchased the grove for the express purpose of holding annual camp-meetings there, as it is a beautiful location as well as a central point on our work. May God bless Bro. Gehman.
I can say that during my ministerial labors, I have never enjoyed myself better than I did during our camp-meeting. I heard a number saying that if spared to see the return of another camp-meeting occasion, they would move right to the encampment, and continue there to the close, as they had learned by experience that home was no place of contentment during a time of a good camp-meeting.
Dear pilgrims, let us live by faith, trusting in God, and whatever we need, let us bring it to God through Jesus in prayer. Oh, “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” “I am very happy,” and just now I am “Sweetly resting.”
From the heights of joy they had experienced on Chestnut Hill, the Musselmans returned to their home to face the depths of tragedy. On September 9, their daughter Emma died after being afflicted with typhoid fever. On September 13, after funeral services conducted by Jonas Schultz and William Gehman, they placed her body in a grave in Quakertown Cemetery. How they dealt with their grief or the impact of Emma’s death simply is not expressed.
By November of 1881, Jonas was planning more for the ministry in Quakertown. He got wind of another planned visit from his new friend, Daniel Brenneman. He aggressively pressed the preacher to join them again in Quakertown.
Dear Brother Brenneman,
I infer from the Banner that you think of coming East. I trust the time may be near but you will come. Although you are requested to come to Lancaster County, you will not fail to come also to Quakertown as we desire your help here. You remember when I was at your place you made me a promise, and I hope you will stop with us about three weeks or more at Quakertown. The people here, and the brethren and sisters are waiting for you, and I feel sure that Lord wants you here. Now you will ask the Lord, and it seems to me he will say, go at once. Your Brother in Christ,
There is no record that Brenneman was able to come and preach as Jonas so forcefully requested.
In 1882, Jonas and Lucy moved to Emmaus to begin a new work. At the conference in February, he was assigned with traveling mate John Traub to serve the circuit consisting of Upper Milford, Fleetwood and Emmaus. For a third time, Jonas opened new territory for ministry as he moved to Emmaus and began a new established work. By July, he had written from Emmaus of his intention to attend again what was now called the Bethel Camp Meeting in Indiana. Summer saw the Chestnut Camp Meeting in full operation. It was held for one week, commencing on August 23. The Camp Meeting was another significant event. Ida Bright came to share the dramatic story of her healing on August 29 when 323 children from the Upper Milford, Coopersburg and Quakertown churches were present. Daniel Brenneman attended what was for him the fifth camp meeting of the summer. He said of this one, “In point of power and interest, this meeting was equal to any we have attended.” The camp closed with three minute sermons from all the pastors and the formation of a large circle for prayer and song.
Daughter Sallie wrote to the Gospel Banner of her time at camp meeting.
Dear Brother:- By the help of God I will try to write a few lines for the Banner. I am twelve years old. I with some twenty others, gave my heart to God at the Chestnut Hill Camp Meeting. We had a glorious time. I want to serve the Lord as long as I live. Pray for me. This is the first time I ever wrote for the Banner as for any other paper. I love to read the Youth’s Department.
Sallie B. Musselman
Sallie’s brother, H. B., was also deeply affected by this camp meeting. His biographer, Sylvester Knerr recorded that in August, 1882, the young Harvey
attended a camp meeting, held at Chestnut Hill, Lehigh County, and while at this place he was convicted of his sins, though only fourteen years of age, and had no rest until he settled the question with his best friend, Jesus... He left that camp-ground saying, that “all seemed new to him;” even the rain drops seemed to sparkle with the goodness of God’s love, but it was he who had been made a new creature in Christ Jesus, for old things had passed away and all was new.
The impact of the camp meeting upon the lives of his children must have caused Jonas to be even stronger in his commitment to such meetings.
In September, the Banner promoted a new book, “Lost Eden Found,” translated into German by Lucy Musselman. The book could be ordered by writing to Elder Jonas Musselman, Emaus, Lehigh County, Pa.
Two months later found them fully involved in the work in Emmaus. Editor Brenneman reported:
Bro. Jonas Musselman writes under date of January 18th: Our meeting here at Emaus (Pa.) is still going on. Next Sunday it will be nine weeks since we commenced and I cannot tell yet when we will close. We do not expect to close until all the seeking souls find peace in Jesus. Fifteen have already found peace. The house is sometimes crowded to over flowing. So far I have preached every evening this year and sometimes feel nearly worn out. Pray for me!
The conference held at Coopersburg in February of 1883 reassigned Jonas to the Upper Milford, Fleetwood and Emmaus circuit which he had served the year before. During the year, he continued with his colleagues to seek places of ministry and establish preaching stations. In January, he was engaged with his brother-in-law Abel Strawn in holding meetings in Skippackville, Montgomery County, at the home of George Detwiler. Strawn sent a verbal glimpse of these meetings to the Banner.
Bro. Abel Strawn writes from Coopersburg, Pa., under date of Feb. 12th: I held a protracted meeting near Skippack, Montgomery Co., Pa. The power of God was wonderfully displayed amongst us. The meeting was held at the private residence of Bro. Geo. Detwiler, which, with its folding-doors, was arranged to accommodate quite an audience. As high as 300 persons were assembled. The meeting lasted three weeks, during which time there were fourteen seekers at the altar, some for sanctification and some for justification, greater number for the latter. Tears rolled from many a cheek, and sobs and cries were heard in every direction. Brother and Sister Detwiler have done much for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God, and I trust God will reward them for their services. Brother and Sister J. Musselman came to our assistance and remained four days. Brother and Sister Hillegass from Quakertown, Brother Ellinger, from Philadelphia, and my wife rendered effective services. Brother and Sister Bean, belonging to another branch of the Mennonite Church, also came to our assistance and exerted a good influence. May God wonderfully bless them for their self-denial. At the close of the meeting I read the Church Discipline to their general satisfaction, and afterwards gave an opportunity to join in church-fellowship. Five persons, who had previously been baptized upon the confession of their faith came forward and a new class was organized. Brother G. Detwiler was chosen class-leader and immediately there were six different calls for prayer meeting. Others are expected to join us soon. This class has been given over to the Quakertown and Hatfield circuit, which is under the charge of Brother Kauffman. I expect to hold another protracted meeting at Emaus before long, and Brother Musselman has promised to assist. Pray for us, that God may send his blessing to the saving of souls.
The conference of 1884 was held in Terre Hill in February. The conference assigned him to a new circuit encompassing Coopersburg, Springtown, Ruch’s and Saucon Valley. The Banner dutifully reported, “Bro. Jonas Musselman has taken charge of his new field of labor and his post-office address is now Coopersburg, Lehigh County, instead of Emaus, Pa.” Jonas and his brother preachers were restlessly and relentlessly seeking to preach the gospel. The Banner reported,
Brother Wm. Gehman writes from Vera Cruz, Pa., under date of December 2nd: “Our ministers are everywhere engaged in protracted meetings, and at each place there have been some conversions. Bro. Strawn is engaged at Hereford, Bro. Kauffman at Skippack, Bro. Haws in the Ruch Church, in Bucks County, Bro. Jonas Musselman in Ruch’s Valley, and Bro. Wm. Musselman in Blendon, Bucks County. I trust they will each send a report of their meeting for publication in the Banner.
A new assignment came in 1885. The circuit Jonas was called to serve was re-defined to include Bethlehem. For a fourth time, Jonas was assigned to a new station to establish a new work. From his base at Coopersburg, he established contact with people from the Bethlehem and a new opportunity was pursued and another city was entered by the church now called the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. He attended the General Conference held in October of that year in Upper Milford. While not listed among the delegates, he was called upon to pray at one of the sessions.
Coopersburg and Bethlehem were the fields assigned to Jonas Musselman in 1886. He would continue what had been started the year before and continue to build the work. He was primed and ready to go. This was, however, the last conference and the last assignment. On Friday afternoon, March 26, 1886, Jonas Musselman breathed his last. The busy schedule and poor health caught up to him. He was 46 years, 4 months, and 14 days old. On April 8, they brought his body to a plot near the front corner of the church building where he was serving. Abraham Kauffman preached at the house and William Gehman at the church. The text of the message was, almost predictably, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me but to all who have loved His appearing.” (NASB)
One of the local papers recorded his death notice. Son Harvey clipped it and kept it. It reported the death as follows:
Rev. Jonas Musselman, who we reported seriously ill last week, died at his home near Coopersburg on Friday afternoon of last week. His funeral took place on Sunday and his remains were buried at the Coopersburg Menn. Brethren in Christ church. The deceased was a faithful minister of the Gospel, and preached according to the doctrine of the Ev. Mennonite, or as it later called itself, the Mennonite Brethren in Christ church. He held the charge here in our town for many years and his labors were crowned with many conversions and a growing congregation. His funeral was attended by a very large number of members of the church under which he served, besides many other friends, and the church could not hold more than one-half of the many who had come to pay him their last honor. In consequence there were no services held in the church on Third Street, on Sunday, as most of the members attended the funeral. It is not yet known who will fill the charges, Coopersburg and Bethlehem, which the deceased minister held at the time of his death.
1. Jonas the man.
Little exists that allows us to get to know Jonas Musselman, the man. Some have shared their personal recollections.
Sylvester B. Knerr wrote a biographical sketch of Harvey, the son of Jonas. He wrote of Jonas that he “was a farmer, and an honest, industrious and sober-minded Christian man and minister of the Gospel – a powerful preacher in his day. He was not “slothful in business,” but diligent in all things, and on the Lord’s day, he, ‘fervent in spirit,’ would proclaim the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.”
W. B. Musselman, a great grandson of Jonas, recalls the family history that tells that Jonas weighed over 400 pounds. He records that Jonas had difficulty staying awake, even to study. He recounts that Lucy would read one of the sermons of C. H. Spurgeon to him while on their way to church which he would then preach. There is enough evidence, including his untimely death, to indicate that Jonas was suffering from some medical condition though the benefit of a modern diagnosis is not available.
From the letters of Jonas, we gather a sense that he was a man who was focused on his task. His schedule and the early demands of maintaining a farm and caring for his family while being busy in the ministry indicate that he was a very active and restless man who gathered very little dust because of his desire to serve the Lord.
2. Jonas, the preacher.
Sylvester Knerr writes, “The writer is please to state that he was privileged to hear him [Jonas Musselman] preach several most powerful sermons. Hundreds of souls were brought to the Christ and saved through the ministrations of this good man. As a minister, he was sincere and very zealous in the work of the Master.” Of his public ministry, W. B. Musselman says that while Jonas “was lining the hymns, he would do it with such feeling, that tears would pour down faces, as the people would sing the lines after him!”
On a number of occasions, Jonas was called upon to preach during Conference. The texts which he chose reflect a concern for holiness and righteous behavior. This concern explains his great enthusiasm for the camp meetings with their calls to holy living. Clearly, Jonas saw these meetings as a way to build people up and make them strong in their walk with the Lord. His delight for those who “entered the land of Beulah” can be felt by those who read his reports.
3. Jonas, the evangelist.
The work of evangelism was at the core of the heart of Jonas Musselman. We know nothing of his own conversion or of the personal leading of God in his life. We can only reflect on his activity. On the occasions when his statistical reports are listed, he was clearly, as S. B. Knerr said it, “not slothful.” He was busy in the work of the Lord. While Jonas endeavored to reach others, it was clear that he was not satisfied with mere converts but rather was committed to building the church. He was part of a great time of revival that emphasized the call of men and women to receive Christ and live holy lives.
If there was a methodology of evangelism among the Evangelical Mennonites / Mennonite Brethren in Christ during the 1870's and 1880's, it was reflected in the evangelistic ministry of Jonas. He received his assigned location. For much of his ministry, that location was Quakertown. His restless evangelistic vision led him to nearby communities where he preached and sought to win people for the Lord Jesus. He did not always see successful results, but he persisted. This methodology was reflected later in the circuit system in which a preacher doubled his efforts by preaching in two or more different assignments that made up the circuit.
The Legacy of Jonas Musselman
The time has come to shake off the archival dust and peer through the mistiness of past years and see the legacy of Jonas Musselman. Jonas was both a result and a cause of the movement that is now known as the Bible Fellowship Church. As an 18-year-old lad at the time of the formation of this church, he was shaped by the events and the teaching that took place. He grew with the church and we can be sure that his fervent desires for holiness and his zeal in planting churches to nurture and support new believers have helped to shape and form us.
His legacy includes a family who served the Lord. He certainly was blessed to receive a wife of the quality of Lucy. Together, they raised three sons and a daughter who served the Lord faithfully. Those who enter the ministry do not enter it because they are genetically predisposed nor even because they choose it for themselves. God worked in the Musselman family. Three sons and a daughter had role models. The model of their father and mother gave them encouragement. That legacy led to later generations of men and women who have served and are serving the Lord. It is not possible to list all of the descendants of Jonas and Lucy who have given themselves to the ministry. Today, David A. Thomann, a descendant of Jonas through his son Allen, carries on that legacy as an ordained minister of the Bible Fellowship Church.
The legacy of Jonas includes churches of the Bible Fellowship Church. Jonas was instrumental in the formation of at least four different churches, Springtown, Hatfield, Emmaus, and Bethlehem. The Springtown Church did not survive. The other three are alive and well and engaged in active and vital ministry. In some way, they are the carriers of the spiritual genealogy that comes through this man of God.
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