The Historical Society of the Bible Fellowship Church
I will begin with the reminder that if you have not renewed your membership, you need to do it now because in the next month, I will be reviewing the mailing list and removing the names of those who have not joined for the coming year. I will include a form for you to send to Jack English so that you will not suffer this awful consequence.
I encourage you to tell someone about the Historical Society or better yet to give them an introductory membership as a gift. You may use the enclosed form for that as well. I know that not everyone has an interest in our history and in preserving the heritage of the Bible Fellowship Church. However, you know people who are. I meet people who “discover” that the society exists and ask why they never heard about it. Our best advertisement is word of mouth - your words, your mouth. With all the flyers on your church’s bulletin board, ours gets lost. Few churches are going to make a pulpit announcement about our meetings. At any rate, see if you can get us a new member. Share the joy.
Jansen Hartman went to be with the Lord last month. Articles about him will appear in Fellowship News. I followed my interest to present a bit of background about the family of his parents.
Hartman Family Roots
R. E. Taylor
The American roots of the Hartman family extend back to George Hartman who seems to have arrived in America from Germany sometime before 1850 and moved to Lower Salford Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Internet sources indicate that George was married to Amalia Breitung, also of Germany. George and Amalia are buried at the Harley Burial Grounds next to the Klein Meeting House. The tombstones indicate that George was born February 12, 1809 and died February 2, 1872. Amalia was born on December 11, 1818 and departed this life on March 21, 1909. The census records of that period show a George and Maria Hartman. I cannot tell if they are the same. The birth dates are somewhat different but the recorded information in census records is not always exact. George’s occupation was that of laborer.
George and his wife became the parents of Adam Hartman. Adam was born September 18, 1850 and died on July 13, 1944. Like his parents, Adam lived in Lower Salford where his occupation in 1880 was that of a house painter. He married Katherine Reiter, born March 29, 1859 and died on November 9, 1929. On May 15, 1881, Ellsworth Reiter was born to them, joining an older sister named Lydia.
While I know little of the details, E. R. Hartman came to the Lord under the ministry of Pastor George Campbell. Campbell pastored the Harleysville / Graterford Circuit from 1899 to 1902. His contact with E. R. probably came during this time. By 1904, E. R. was serving as the delegate of the Royersford / Spring City Circuit.
In 1900, E. R. was still living with his parents in Lower Salford working as a painter. One would assume that he was working with his father. By 1904, E. R. must have been living in Royersford and attending the MBC church there. By that time he had married Nora Weidner.
Nora was born in 1883. Nora’s parents were Daniel (born 1830) and Rosanna (born 1846) Weidner. Rosanna was born in Wurtemburg, Germany, and had come to America in 1854. In 1880, Daniel and Rosanna lived in East Vincent Township in Chester County. By 1900, Rosanna was a widow living on New Street in Spring City. She had also become a follower of Jesus. Her Christmas day baptism on Christmas Day, 1897, was captured on film. Her willingness to be baptized outside the ice line shows that she was serious.
Among Rosanna’s children were Luther and Nora. Luther and his wife Jennie had three children, Erma, Mildred and Stanley. Mildred became a Gospel Worker. Stanley was a long term member and stalwart leader in the Spring City Church. Nora married E. R. to become mother of the Hartman clan.
While I do not have documented details, I can only assume that E. R. met Nora at an MBC function. Whether he moved to Royersford before he met Nora or whether he met her and moved is unknown to me. Perhaps a family member will be able to fill in the gaps in my information.
By 1910, E. R. was a foreman at a planing mill. In 1920, he was working as a machinist. Later, he sold paints, returning to his earlier expertise.
E. R. and Nora Hartman gave birth to six children: Herbert (1904), Ernest (1905), Lillian (1906), Wilbur (1909), Elnora (1915) and Jansen (1918).
What makes this family special is that four of its sons were part of the ministry of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ / Bible Fellowship Church. All began in the Gospel Heralds and were later licensed and ordained. Herbert began in 1925, Ernest in 1924, Wilbur in 1927 and Jansen in 1937.
Since I did not know E. R. or Nora Hartman, I cannot comment on them. I can only speculate that they were pleased that their sons were in the ministry and did much to encourage them. Family gatherings must have been full of “preacher talk.”
Our spiritual genealogy goes back to the Evangelical Mennonites who came out of the Mennonites associated with John H. Oberholtzer who came out of the Old Mennonites of the Franconia area. The dissension was not a sudden dramatic breaking but rather a slow unfolding disagreement that developed over a couple of years. Jill Davidson recently sent a copy of the minutes of the meetings in which the controversy surfaced. I thought you might enjoy reading how the trouble evolved.
October 2, 1856 - Seventeenth Session
Held in the Hereford Mennonite Meeting House, Oct.2,1856.
Since there exists many differences of Opinion concerning outward practices in the Mennonite church, as well as other churches, the mutual love and growth of the church has been made to suffer on account of entirely too much insistence on the one hand as well as too much opposition on the other. In order, if possible, to end these disturbances, the high Council, meeting in Skippack, Montgomery County, May 8, 1855, directed that all Bishops should meet; which meeting was held May 3 and the following statement was drawn up and signed by them:
Whereas, at a meeting of the High Council, held in Skippack, Montgomery County, Pa, the first Thursday of May, 1853, the question, May Prayer meetings be Conducted? was answered that under certain circumstances they are to be approved. Since, however, this resulted in considerable discontent and evil, because of incorrect explanations and interpretations in the congregations of our church, the High Council, held May 1,1856, directed that all the Bishops assemble the following day, if possible, to promote a return of unity and peace. In compliance we, Moses Gottshall, Henry G. Johnson, J. H. Oberholtzer, Christian Clemmer and William Shelly met in the house of William Gottshall (deacon) and unanimously resolved that the resolution be recalled and made void, but when any ministers or members gather at proper times for mutual edification through teaching and prayer, it is not and shall not be forbidden, but it is not to be regarded as an evangelical command that public appointments be made for Prayer Meetings, men shall at all times pray to God in Spirit and Truth, the which we recommend to all the members of our congregations.
Submitted May 2, 1856.
Henry G. Johnson
John H. Oberholtzer
William N. Shelly
The statement of the Bishops was then laid before the Council and upon thorough examination was unanimously accepted as being in accord with the Gospel.
Upon all of the members of the Council determining to Stand true to the order of the church it was resolved to meet again in the Saucon Meeting House in Lehigh County the first Thursday of May, 1857. The meeting adjourned in love and wishing upon one another the grace and blessing of God.
John H. Oberholtzer, Chairman
Samuel Clemmer, Secretary.
October 1, 1857 - Nineteenth Session
Held in Springfield Meeting House, Oct. l, 1857.
1. Since the Bishop's Report of May 2, 1856, concerning Prayer Meetings was presented some of our ministers have manifested dissatisfaction and Bro. William N. Shelly presented a formal protest against it with the request that he be allowed to show publically that it is unevangelical. The request was allowed. The vote that followed showed 3 for declaring the Report unevangelical and 24 sustaining it.
2. The Council then considered what was to be done in the matter of the brethren Henry G. Johnson and David Bergey, both ministers of the Skippack congregation who were involved in certain misunderstandings. It was then resolved, to refer the matter to a committee for investigation in accord with the requirements of the Constitution.
3. The Council was then moved to inquire; What is the reason that there are so many factions and schisms in the Mennonite church and how they may be healed and prevented in the future?
This resulted in the passing of the following Resolution:
Since our fathers in the faith, not long after the death of Menno Simon thought it necessary if their and our church was to be established and maintained, in unity and belief, to adopt a standing confession of faith and this resulted from time to time in the drawing up of several confessions of faith, among then the old Catechism of 148 questions and answers which we hold the most important, we therefore resolve that this Catechism be referred to our ministry for examination and report at our next meeting whether it is accepted as our established confession of faith.
Resolved that the next meeting of the Council be held in the old Swamp Meeting House, Milford, Bucks Co. the first Thursday of May,1858, at ten o'clock in the morning.
S. Weinberger, Secretary.
May 5, 1858 -
Held May 5, 1858, in the West Swamp Meeting House, when J. H. Oberholtzer was chosen Chairman and Samuel Clemmer secretary.
Since there were two committees appointed at the last "meeting of the Council, the first Committee appointed to investigate the difficulties between the minister Wm. N. Shelly and the Bowmansville congregation presented its Report which was accepted and approved.
Since for some time the minister Wm. N. Shelly has been contrary minded toward the Council he was asked whether he could accept the former decision of the Council and as he declined to do so it was then unanimously resolved by Council to strike his name from the list of ministers of our church.
Since for some time a number of ministers and deacons have absented themselves in contempt of Council, it was resolved that they be notified by the Chairman and Secretary, either by letter or in person, that they give to the next meeting of the Council the reason for their absence, in the event of their not responding they are no more to be regarded as members of the Council. See Article 6,Section 7 of the Constitution.
October 7-8, 1858 - Twenty-First session
Held in Gottshall's Meeting House near Schwenksville, Montg. County, Oct.7 and 8, 1858.
Since the last meeting of the Council the question was raised, whether the ministers and deacons who for a longer or shorter period "have contemptuously neglected their duties should have their names carried on the list of members of Council. It was then voted See minutes of the previous conference) that they all be notified either by word or letter to give their reasons for their absence before the October meeting so that it might be properly decided whether their names are to remain on the list.
As none of the absent brothers replied or in any other way indicated why this should not be done, it was therefore decided that the names of Israel Beitler, John Latshaw, Nathan Pennypacker, and William Gehman be stricken from the list. And, since the names of David Henning and Jacob Gottshall have not yet been entered upon our lists, the circumstances, however, being the same, they are no more to be reported as in our fellowship.
Resolved that the 8th Article, Section 5, be changed to read as follows: A person desiring to unite with the Mennonite church who has already been baptized upon confession of faith shall not be rebaptized, since we confess that it is only necessary for one to enter this covenant once.
The matter of Missions was presented and discussed and the Mennonites in Europe have been engaged in Missionary work for some time it was resolved that J. H. Oberholtzer, chairman, prepare a memorial in the name of our church addressed to the European brethren with the object of securing more definite information concerning their missionary teaching and practice, namely, how they do it in Europe, and that Samuel Clemmer, Secretary is to preserve a copy of the memorial for future reference.
Resolved that the Council meet in the so-called Deep Run Meeting House, Bedminister, Bucks County, the first Thursday of next May at 9 o'clock in the morning.
J. H. Oberholtzer, Chairman,
Samuel Clemmer, Secretary.
It was moved to amend Article 6, Section 6, of the Constitution that the above Article might be interpreted to mean that such who have already been baptized upon the confession of their faith may not request another baptism, since this does not agree with the spirit of our Constitution as it was regarded by all from now on as superfluous -However further discussion was postponed until the next meeting.
LeRoy Wilcox has been poking about again. I always enjoy what he sends and am grateful that he sends it. This time, he has been looking at our church in Springtown. It has passed out of being but made a significant contribution.
Springtown lies along the road that leads up the valley of Durham Creek in the northeast part of Springfield Township in Bucks County. On October 3, 1739 Christian Shuck obtained 237 acres which embraced present Springtown. A post office was established on April 9, 1805 and David Connard was appointed postmaster. The Springtown Hotel opened around 1830 and a line of stage coaches ran between Springtown and the village of Riegelsville, located on the Delaware River.
Leaders in the new conference of Evangelical Mennonites were looking for good places in which to begin new congregations and Springtown, a growing community, appeared to be one of them. Jonas Musselman began holding protracted meetings in March 1876 and the Semi – annual Conference of November 1876 appointed him to pastor the new work there. A building was erected by Abel Strawn and dedicated on September 15, 1885. On June 15, 1885 William Gehman wrote in the Gospel Banner that a meeting house would be built in Springtown. On December 15 he wrote, “A house of worship was also erected in Springtown, Bucks Co., which was dedicated free of debt. There also was a glorious feast of good things from the land”. The work at Springtown was growing. Enthusiasm was prevalent. Many pastors labored at Springtown. Samuel M Musselman was sent to that work in 1877. Among others who served there were Abraham Kauffman (1882-3), William Heffner (1887-8), William G. Gehman (1903-4) and William S. Hottel (1905-6).
Springtown, named for its numerous springs, was also growing. By the end of the 19th Century it was a bustling community. There were blacksmith shops, a tannery, several dairies, a bakery, flour mills, a tool handle works, a canning factory and fertilizing factories. The Quakertown & Easton Railroad was opened to Springtown on August 1, 1896, a distance of ten miles, and was completed to Riegelsville in the fall of 1900. A volunteer fire company was formed as well as a spring water company. There were several churches, an academy and a music and literary society. A general store was opened in 1876 and thereafter housed the post office. A newspaper was founded in 1885 by a descendent of Abraham Funk. The Springtown Horse Company was incorporated in 1887 for the apprehension of horse thieves and the return of stolen horses. This merged into the Globe Mutual Livestock Insurance Company in 1887. Springtown was growing and enthusiasm for self-government grew. A petition for borough status was presented and on March 21, 1895 borough status was approved. For some reason no further action took place. In the ensuing years businesses disappeared and the village became less dynamic. There is no longer is a railroad, school, hotel, or newspaper. Businesses are absent. They did keep their fire company. Today Springtown is just a quiet village in Springfield Township.
As the community declined our church also declined. In 1924 the Springfield church was no longer listed in the Conference minutes. The last pastor listed was Richard Woodring. On Saturday morning, October 13, 1923, the Conference minutes recorded, "Resolved, that the Church property at Springtown be under the control of the Board of Trustees of Coopersburg, Pa.”. One can only speculate on the reasons for the decline of the Springtown church. The pastors at Springtown also served other churches at the same time. Did the people at Springtown become deficient? Did the pastors spend too much time at the other churches on their circuit, depriving the church at Springtown? Did the church decline because the community lost its vitality? It does seem that the decline of the village coincided with the decline of the church. Was the work there a failure? Two Christian workers came from Springtown, William James Fretz and George A. Campbell.
The Fretz family can be traced back to the 1400’s when they lived in Germany. They became Mennonites, followers of Menno Simon, and of German or Swiss origin. Many Fretz families still reside in Alsace, which was under German dominion originally but is now part of France. Jacob, son of Johannes Fretz and Drytken Schroder, was born on September 4, 1492 and lived in Lubeck, Germany. He married Gretchen Offerman and became the father of Hans, who married Martha Witmer. Hans, born in Michaelstadt, became the father of Jacob, who married Margaretha Kratz. A son, Jacob, married Maria Kolb and their son, Johannes, married Barbara Wismer. Johannes was the first of four to successively bear that name and was later referred to as Johannes I. Johannes II was born in 1647 and married Anna Schwartz in 1679. A son, Johannes III, was born in 1680 and married Anna Maria Gross. Their first child was born on February 7, 1704 and named Johannes IV. Poor crops forced Johannes III to sell his property in Hagenau, Alsace and he moved to Ketterich where his youngest son, Jacob, had settled.
Johannes Fretz IV and his brothers Christian and Mark emigrated to America from Mannheim, Germany sometime around 1715-20, due to religious persecution. Mark died en route. Johannes settled in what is now Bedminster Township, Bucks County and Christian settled in Tinicum Township. They were of the Mennonite faith and were among the founders of Deep Run Mennonite Church. Johannes purchased what became the Fretz homestead in Bedminster Township in 1737 or 1738. It consisted of 230 acres of land for which he paid 106 pounds. Johannes willed the farm to his son Christian, who married Barbara Oberholtzer. They had twelve children, Abraham being the seventh. He married Magdalena Kratz and they became the parents of ten children, Abraham being the last. He married Sarah Detweiler and they had six children, Oliver being the first. Sarah Detweiler’s sister, Margaret, married Peter A. Moyer and became the parents of Joseph, who married Sarah Ann Landis. They became the parents of three children, Ida Getrude, Harold, and Hilda Margaret. Ida married Franklin Musselman and Hilda married Allen Woodring, both men becoming pastors in our Conference. All of the four were members of Ebenezer Church at Bethlehem. Oliver Fretz married Susanna Meyers and they had two children, William James, our subject, being the second.
William was born on August 6, 1877 in Bedminster Township, Bucks County. In a paper on the history of the Ebenezer church, he states, “In the month of January this writer was saved in a Revival Meeting in the Evangelical church in Springtown, Pa.”. He also wrote that he “settled it once and forever” at the last Chestnut Hill Camp Meeting of our Conference. He moved to Bethlehem and in December 1895 he was baptized and taken into church membership by Adam B. Gehret. William received a Quarterly Conference license during the ministry of Oswin S. Hillegas. Meetings were begun on New Street in Bethlehem and William agreed to help out. He married Sallie Long in 1899, the daughter of Milton and Elizabeth Long. That same year William entered the ministry, serving at Girardville. He served at several other churches before leaving the ministry in 1918, reverting back to a Quarterly Conference license. He moved back to Bethlehem where he found employment as a salesman for a grocery store but later moved to Allentown. One of the older members at our Bethlehem church remembers that he had a very deep voice and taught a Sunday school class up in the balcony. His wife, born on August 28, 1879 in Freemansburg, died on February 2, 1938 in Bethlehem and he then married Matilda Keiper. He was active in Christian service until his death on October 26, 1950. He and Sallie are both buried in the Fairview cemetery in Bethlehem.
Another Christian worker who came from Springtown was George A. Campbell, who was born on July 25, 1875, the son of John and Juliana nee Amey Campbell. According to one source the Bucks County family originated in Germany but emigrated to Scotland where they changed the name to Campbell. The census of 1860 records him as living in Philadelphia in the household of Anthony Hauser and working as an errand boy but after the Civil War began he enlisted in the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, 112th Regiment of Volunteers. After a harrowing experience as a prisoner – of – war he returned to his home where his mother was now a widow. On September 28, 1867 he was married in Bethlehem to Helena Mann, the daughter of Peter and Catherine nee Sames Mann from Springfield Township. Rev. Isaac Loos, the new pastor at the Christ Reformed Church in Bethlehem, performed the marriage. In the 1870 census George’s occupation is given as “shoemaker.” He began to attend meetings held by Jonas Musselman at Springtown in March 1876 and recounted his experience in a letter to the Gospel Banner in September 1879.
It was three years last March, since I gave my heart to Jesus, with my dear wife… We were converted in a protracted meeting conducted by Eld. Jonas Musselman, and soon after received baptism “as the answer of a good conscience before God”. … I am not weary of serving the Lord.
George and his family were faithful members at the new work in Springtown. On November 15, 1881 he wrote,
We had erected our new tabernacle in Springtown two weeks, but on account of the cool weather prevailing it has visibly not been such a marked success as we hoped, yet at seasonable times it was crowded with people anxious to see and hear the word of God which was wonderfully proclaimed in spirit and power. And we trust the good seed sown will yet bring blessed results in the future… on the last Sunday three were willing to follow the footsteps of Jesus even into the Jordan to be baptized, and it pleased the Lord to abundantly bless us. There were perhaps a thousand people present and they gazed on us with awe and wonder as to what these things meant.
In 1887 George became a probationer in our conference and was assigned to the Hatfield and Quakertown circuit. In 1890 he was assigned to Westmoreland County in western PA but in May 1892 he returned to Bucks County as his health was declining due to his Civil War imprisonment. He continued to minister in our Conference until 1908 when he was listed as a local preacher in the Quakertown – Harleysville circuit. He lived in Quakertown until his death on November 7, 1911 and is buried in the Trinity Union Church Cemetery in Springfield Township. Despite health problems he was a faithful servant from the time of his conversion at Springtown. Helena, born on November 10, 1847, died on March 1, 1923, at Coopersburg.
The church at Springtown no longer exists. Servants die and churches die but while they are living God uses them for the advancement of his work. Was the Springtown work really a failure?
The last presentation is a series of photographs. You saw the earlier picture of the baptism of Rosanna Weidner on Christmas Day, 1897. Recently, Jill Davidson came across a book on the history of Royersford and Spring City, Pennsylvania, by William Brunner. In it, he had a picture of this baptism only it was a different picture. Mr. Brunner sent us the photos he had. We can see that at least two, perhaps three, different women were baptized and we can see the crowd which gathered to watch this blessed event. I cannot see that there is any way to put the pictures in chronological order. They give you a larger look at a special day.
I received the picture above from Stanley Weidner who identified the woman as his mother but I wrote that it was Rosanna, his grandmother. I think that raises the possibility that one of these women is Rosanna and another her daughter, Nora, the mother of the Hartman clan. Because I served in Spring City for 9 years, I can almost immediately identify the area in the Schuylkill River between Spring City and Royersford. The ice in the river is a testimony to the significance of baptism and how serious those were who were baptized. They did not wait for spring.
If you look closely at the pictures that follow you can make some observations. First, the picture of Rosanna printed above is different that the others. Pictures 1 and 2 show the spectators. 1 is probably first as the ice is being broken. It is Christmas Day, 1897. 2 shows the larger crowd from the bridge. Notice that the clothing is not unfashionable. Pictures 3 and 4 may be of the same woman. The woman of picture 5 seems a bit heavier. The woman of picture 6 is dressed in white. That leads me to suggest that perhaps at least three women were baptized on this special day. Because the pictures are in black and white, I cannot tell if W. G. Gehman turned blue after being in that cold water.
Included with the pictures that William Brunner sent to us is the following picture of the Spring City Church. It looks as though it were taken when the church was newly built.
The death notice of Joel Brunner, father of C. H. Brunner caught my eye. Two services and two churches with railroad transportation provided.
For those who remember the good old days when the young people of the MBC gathered, this poster from 1949 or 1950 may carry some memories. Were you there?
I have received a copy of the 100th Anniversary book prepared by the Shamokin Church. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, contact me and I will send your name and address to the Shamokin Church so they can mail you one. The booklet has 38 pages of information about the church and its history. The church has not set a price for the booklet but the cost, including postage, will be about $5 - $10. Since they are not sure, I can’t give you an exact figure.
I need to end. I hope what you have seen has added a little warmth to your winter.
Write to me to share memories, to fill in gaps of my information, to correct my mistakes, or to make my day.
723 South Providence Road
Wallingford PA 19086
Telephone and Fax: 610-876-8725