The Historical Society
of the Bible Fellowship Church
I am at my keyboard again preparing to share some of the goodies I have gathered. I think you will enjoy the selections for this issue.
As I write this issue, the 116th Annual Conference is about 1 ½ weeks away. I have many things to review and prepare before I arrive. I wonder if my elder brothers in the ministry, many of whom are in glory, had such tasks. After thinking about it, I suspect that while they did not have to review statistics and page after page of data but they did have to endure oral reports. I think, all things considered, I would rather do some pre-Conference reading. My bottom is not constitutionally suited for hours of oral reports.
You probably remember that we will be previewing our new video at Annual Conference. I am very excited. Our producer, Jay Ruth of Branch Valley Productions, has been hard at work. I have met with him several times to talk and share information. I am delighted to report that we have sold about 70 videos which helps us a great deal with the up front costs. Our costs will be approximately $3500.00. At this moment, we can pay our bills but the treasury will be pretty low.
I want to share with you that we received two gifts toward the project. One gift was for $500.00. I am keeping this gift anonymous. Those who gave it did not tell me I could not share but sometimes things are left unknown. I tell you about the gift because I am very encouraged by it and glad that the donors felt so strongly about helping to prepare the video.
A second gift of $100.00 was given in memory of Sara Gaugler of our Graterford Church. My first Bible Fellowship Church connection was the Graterford Church. Two couples I remember very fondly were the Copenhafers and the Gauglers. They were both older couples when I knew them and even lived near each other as I recall. What sticks in my mind about Sara Gaugler was her encouragement to me. I needed lots of encouragement in those days. I was not wet behind the ears, I was soaked. Sara showed a lot of patience and helped me a great deal. The fact that she was an older and seasoned Christian who was encouraging me meant more than words can tell. Thanks to Roy and Nan for the gift and the memory.
I want to say a word about Loretta Heist. Loretta served as the treasurer of our Historical Society and was the only officer who served since our beginning in 1983. (You might be thinking that I have always been president but for one year Neil Harding served.) Loretta asked to be relieved in this past year. She and Floyd were regulars at our meetings and could be counted on for the appropriate comments and providing humiliation when it was needed. I can’t say enough about how she stayed on top of writing checks and recording new members. As you know by now, Ardella Bray has taken over and will try to fill her shoes. Thanks, Loretta, for all you have done and for helping to get our society off the ground.
I recently conducted a funeral for one of the members of our church named Anna Reichenbach. She was the sister in law of R. C. Reichenbach. At the graveside as Brother Reichenbach and I stood together, I had a few questions which brought a stream of comments about the Chester Church. I asked him to write them down which he has done. I am delighted to share them with you. I hope to encourage him to give us some more memories.
Many of you already know R. C. Reichenbach and you will know him a bit better after reading his recollections. He has retired from the active ministry but still is active and ministers whenever he can. He lives now near Harrisburg and attends the Lebanon Church.
One more note, following Brother Reichenbach’s recollections, I have reprinted two pictures of Gospel Heralds which contain many of those who are mentioned in these recollections. If after reading the articles and seeing the pictures, you have a memory of any of these men, please write and share your treasure.
SOME EARLY RECOLLECTIONS 1927-1932
My earliest recollection of the work of the Gospel Heralds in Chester Pa. was in the summer of 1928 when my mother, Mrs. Laura Mae Reichenbach attended some tent meetings conducted by the Gospel Heralds at the corner of Eighth Street and Lloyd. Though invited by my mother to attend with her, I declined as I was still attending Trinity M. E. Church located between Eighth and Ninth streets at Butler St. This was just one block away from the little cottage that was purchased by the Gospel herald Society which was at Seventh and Butler. I was told that two of the lay brethren offered to mortgage their homes to buy the property. One, I was later told, was Elmer Lindermuth, who was the manager of an A&P store at Seventh and Lloyd and that he actually did so. The other was Maurice Hartzell. I believe the first penetration of the ministry of the Gospel Heralds was a tent meeting in the vicinity of Crozier Park the year before.
The cottage had a nice sized room which was used for the meetings. In front was a closed in porch that was used for Sunday School classes. In back of the meeting room were the living quarters such as they were. The sleeping quarters were in sort of an attic. To get there one had to let down a "Jacob’s ladder.” We boys had lots of fun fooling with that ladder.
I attended Sunday School one Summer day on a Sunday afternoon. Sunday schools were held in the afternoon in those days. My Sunday School left out real early for some reason that I cannot remember. When I got outside, all my friends disappeared and I had nowhere to go. I had been invited to the Mission also by a boy who attended the grammar school where I attended. So I thought I would go down to this Mission Sunday School and see what it was like. I was greeted warmly and promptly put into a class taught by Maurice Hartzell, a very godly man and likeable man.
There were four Gospel Heralds at the Mission at that time; Eugene George who was the leader, A. M. Sprock, Wilbur Hartman and Chester Reed. All of them were very much interested in us young lads and soon I, as well as the Kirkwood boys and others were practically living at the Mission. In fact my mother finally threatened to take my bed down to the Mission. Of course my mother was delighted with what was happening and being an old-type Pennsylvania Dutch woman, her admonition to the brethren was simply this: I bake every Saturday and if your pans are at my house, they will get filled and you will have baked goods. They made sure that they were there.
Another tent meeting was held at the corner of Eighth and Lloyd Sts. Children's meetings were held there as well as the evening meetings. I soon learned a good deal of Scripture. Also, nearby was a big sprinkler hooked up to the fire hydrant. The city closed the street and after the services, this was a big attraction to us kids and many older young people, yes, and even the Heralds on hot evenings.
Soon the cottage was too small and renovations began under the direction of the Brosius family from Sunbury. The roof was raised and an addition put on the back of the building for living quarters as the previous living quarters became part of the Church sanctuary. During the renovation the congregation met in a home on Seventh Street between Pusey and Lloyd Sts. Changes had taken place in the Heralds stationed at Chester. Wilbur Hartman and Chester Reed were moved. One of those coming to take their place was a man name "Fagan,” I believe his first name was Harry but I am not sure. He had formerly been a "Clown" and he would sometimes put on his act. For some reason we boys did not take to him and made things miserable for him, sad to say. I can still remember the day he was trying to fry an egg when the grease caught fire in the pan and he tried to throw the pan outside. He missed the door. He never lived that down.
E. W. Bean and Thomas Turnbull also came to be part of the staff. Bro. Bean then moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where a new work was opened. Mother and I would take baked goods down to them and other things as well. Chester Reed was transferred to Camden, New Jersey, and then to Jersey City, New Jersey, where he died, the only Herald that I know who died in the work (See his obituary following). His life while in Chester and later made an impact on my life and became one of the determining factors in my call to the Gospel Herald Society. When I became pastor at Shamokin, I felt that I was repaying that congregation for sending Chester Reed to make a spiritual impression on my life.
After the renovations were completed, my mother gathered a number of the ladies together who met weekly for prayer and aid for the workers, making curtains and other things for the new living quarters. Perhaps this was the first ladies aid society in the history of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ.
Eugene George loved kids and one day he went to Philadelphia and bought a seven passenger Peerless automobile. Wherever he went, he took kids with him. Tent meetings were held in Trainer and many people were converted and came to the services regularly. On Sunday mornings the Peerless went to Trainer and when it returned for Sunday School, doors opened and many, many more than seven tumbled out of that car. After the tent meetings were over a store room was rented and nightly meetings were held in 1931 and 1932. Though I was just a senior in High School, I assisted the two remaining brethren (Bro. George and Bro. Sprock. I would take them down (only one when there were services at Chester) to Trainer in my Father’s Model A Ford and then lead the Song Service. Many times I would be leading the singing when Bro. George would be getting his message at the door. But this was good training for me.
Saturday night street meetings were held at Sixth and Edgemont Streets in downtown Chester and many of the congregation participated in these meetings singing, playing instruments and giving our testimony. One Easter morning Bro. George aroused his fellow Heralds and an impromptu meeting was held on the church steps as the Roman Catholic folks were coming home from early Mass. Bro. George and Bro. Bean who was also a part of the Chester staff for awhile, also liked to attend the services of the black congregations on Third Street and were always well received. At Camp Meeting time Bro. George always took a number of us boys to Mizpah. We would sleep in the bunker tents that were filled with straw for overnight guests. It was there that Bro. George and I sang a number of duets, songs such as "When I take my vacation in Heaven."
The enthusiasm, the love, the encouragement that the brethren displayed to the young people lead many of the young people into Christian service. At one time I believe I counted 10 of the youth of that group that became pastors or the wives of pastors. Included in this group is yours truly, two of the Kirkwood boys, a Harris boy, two of the Lindermuth girls, a Harris girl and others. God moved and used these men of God to make a deep impact on our lives and I thank God for them.
Folks in the congregation were made conscious of the need of others who lived about them. My own mother contacted the Greist family when they moved into our block of Ninth Street and was allowed to take the children to Sunday School. The parents followed. Only heaven will reveal what was accomplished in those years.
Baptisms were held at the present site of the bridge between Chester and New Jersey, in the oily waters of the Delaware. It was a very, very cold day in the Spring but Bro. George was still wearing his overcoat. My mother forgot extra dry pants for me and Bro. Lindermuth was missing some dry clothes also. So he drove home and also picked up some dry clothes for me to put on after baptism. Bro. George wanted to wrap me up in his overcoat and take me home. My mother suffered a heart seizure while being baptized but the Lord saw her through. That night she had another seizure in the Lindermuth home. The brethren immediately anointed her and prayed with her and five minutes later she was playing the piano and singing.
I left Chester to enter the Gospel Herald Society on May 4, 1932 and have never regretted my decision. In 1937, I received my license from the Mennonite Brethren in Christ. In 1939, I spoke to the President of the Society, W. G. Gehman, and asked him how I could join the church. He was dumfounded. I believe I am the only one in the history of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ who ever received his license from the Mennonite Brethren in Christ and was not a member. Having been in the Herald Missions from 1932 to 1940, I was never in an organized church and no one ever questioned if I was a member or not. I assure you that W. G. Gehman saw to it that very day at Shamokin Campground that I became a member.
The Gospel Heralds at Chester believed in reaching out to lost sinners, holding what were called in those days, Revivals, seeking children for Sunday School, indoctrinating those who came with the Word of God, showing compassion and love and God blessed their efforts for Him. The Wallingford Church was raised up on a good foundation and though there are not too many of the old-timers left, God has not forgotten His Church.
Please forgive the personal character of some of these thoughts. I could not write this without the personal thoughts as I lived them in those years of l927 to 1932 with the help of God's servants and God.
Obituary of Chester O. Reed
(from the 1930 Year Book, page 39)
Chester O. Reed was born January 3, 1907. He was a member of the Mennonite Brethern in Christ Church at Shamokin, Pa., until he joined the Gospel Herald Society, in which he labored faithfully for about three and a half years. He died just a few days after he had been twenty-three years of age. At the time of his death he was assisting H. W. Hartman in the Gospel Herald Society Mission in Jersey City, N. J. He was buried at Shamokin. Brother Reed was a faithful, promising young man, beloved by his co-workers and friends. He labored at Harrisburg, Chester, Camden and Jersey City. He desire had been - and he believed that it was a call from God - to go as a missionary to the Belgian Congo, Africa, Which he expressed in a letter to the Foreign Mission Board, dated July 2, 1929. However, God’s will was otherwise and we humbly bow to it. Some day we shall know even as we are known.
The following list is a list of all the church starts. I prepared this list as a resource in the production of our video. I thought you might find it interesting. There may be some errors because I went through a lot of data to put it together. I counted the start of a church from the time a pastor was assigned. Any corrections or remarks you might want to share will be welcome.
List of Churches and Year of first pastoral assignment
1874 [These churches were in existence when the list of Pastoral assignments was started.]
Bangor (Not now in existence - [from now on nie])
1875 Lancaster nie - second start in 1950's
1876 Springfield nie
1880 Hatfield nie - second start later
1887 Remps nie
1888 Norristown nie
1889 Allentown 2nd
Western PA ? nie
1892 Spring City
1893 Erwinna nie
Norristown 2nd nie
1897 Athol nie
New Tripoli nie
Plainfield 2nd nie
1899 Girardville nie
1900 South Allentown -Salem nie [later restart as Hispanic Mission - 1999]
1901 Fleetwood 2nd
Norristown 3rd nie
1903 Phillipsburg NJ (Gospel Herald - begun 1900) nie
1906 Philadelphia - Salem (GH - 1899)
1909 Easton nie
1913 Stroudsburg (GH - 1903)
1915 Shamokin (GH - 1907)
1917 Sunbury (GH - 1907)
Lebanon (GH - 1911)
1922 Philadelphia - Wissinoming
Scranton (GH - 1916)
1927 York (GH - 1914)
Philadelphia - Emmanuel (GH - 1918)
1935 Harrisburg (GH - 1915)
1936 Chester (GH - 1925)
1937 Philadelphia, Roxborough nie
1940 Jersey City NJ (GH - 1920) nie
1943 Camden NJ (GH - 1925) nie
1944 Newark NJ (GH - 1927) nie
1952 Lancaster (Home Mission Society - 1949)
1953 Staten Island NY
1960 Denville NJ (HMS - 1957)
Finesville NJ (HMS - 1953)
Paradise (HMS - 1953)
Millers Heights (HMS - 1957) nie
Millersville (HMS - 1954) nie
Trenton NJ (GH - 1937) nie
1961 Belvidere NJ nie
1965 Sinking Spring
Maple Glen (was Philadelphia - Salem)
1966 Allentown - Cedar Crest (formed by people from Allentown Bethel)
1973 Englishtown NJ nie
1979 Howell NJ (Church Extension Department - 1973)
1980 Camden DE (CED - 1977)
1983 Poughquag NY (CED - 1974)
New Fairfield CT (CED - 1977) nie
1986 Newark DE (CED - 1976)
Kutztown (CED - 1981)
1987 Wappingers Falls NY (CED -1979) nie
Mt Pocono (CED - 1985)
1988 Bangor nie (daughter church of Nazareth)
1992 Ocean Countty NJ (CED - 1988)
1993 Whaley Lake NY (CED - 1982)
Edison NJ (CED - 1984)
1996 Pleasant Valley NY (CED - 1990)
1998 Broadheadsville (daughter church of Stroudsburg -1991)
Aberdeen NJ (CED - 1995)
These missions never became churches:
Hackettstown NJ (GH - 1909)
Washington NJ (GH - 1909)
Elizabeth NJ (GH - 1928) nie
Wilmington DE (GH - 1930)
Wilkes Barre (GH - 1932) nie
Irvington NJ (GH - 1934) nie
Richardson Park DE (GH - 1934) nie
Port Richmond NY (GH - 1935) nie
Brooklyn NY (GH - 1937)
Binghamton NY (GH - 1939) nie
Glendale, Long Island NY (GH - 1940) nie
Franklin NJ (CED - 1973) nie
Freehold NJ (CED - 1973) nie
Neptune NJ (CED - 1973) nie
Carmel NY (CED - 1977) nie
Irvington NJ (CED - 1981) nie
Mays Landing (CED - 1986) nie
Union Cty NJ (CED - 1988) nie
Spencer MA (CED - 1988) nie
Gilbertsville (CED -1995) nie
These are current and active missions which have not yet become churches:
Newark NJ (CED - 1980)
Somers Point (CED - 1986)
Thompson CT (CED - 1991)
Beacon NY (CED - 1997)
South Allentown [restart, now Mission to Hispanics] (CED - 1999)
Chesapeake VA (CED - 1999)
Las Cruces, NM (CED - 1999)
That ought to be enough to keep you busy for awhile. As always, I would love to hear from you. Send me memories of the Gospel Heralds. Send me any stories. I would love to hear.
723 South Providence Road
Wallingford, PA 19086-6940