Bible Fellowship Historical Society
If you have not guessed it already, I have a new computer and a new printer. I am still playing with all the capabilities and learning what I can do. I am excited about being able to publish more attractive materials. I wish the computer could make me write better but I dare not ask too much.
I will begin by whining about the fact that my mail box has seen little correspondence from you. I have a couple of things to share but I do deeply suspect that some of you are holding out on me. You have a story tucked away and you are saying to yourself, "Oh, he wouldn't be interested in that." If you said that, you would be wrong. I'd like to be polite about my rebuke but you need to know that almost any story or bit of trivia is interesting to me. If it weren't, I wouldn't write these letters. I love it when someone sets me off. Polly Thomann handed me a special card -- more about that later.
When I said my mail box had seen little, it hasn't exactly been empty. I received a video from Norman and Verletta Reed. They had slides and home movies of Mizpah Grove put on the video and did a wonderful job with it. I was only at Mizpah one time but even I felt transported as I saw tents and families and parades. Wow!! I can't give you anything from the video in this letter except a promise that the video will be shown at our next meeting in November.
By the way, if you haven't marked your calendar, do so now: November 5, 1994 at Graterford Bible Fellowship Church. Our speaker is Clarence Kulp. I have never met Clarence but I can't wait. He is a treasure of stories and folk lore. He is going to share some of what he knows about Jakey "Rose Jelly" Moyer and our background. You won't want to miss this meeting.
Enough small talk. Let's get into the good stuff.
Death of a Preacher
Polly Thomann handed me an obituary notice of her grandfather. I was really taken with it. It speaks volumes, it seems to me, about how our church viewed its preachers and their families.
The man in question is named Allen Brunner Musselman. He was a son of Jonas Musselman. Jonas was part of our church from the beginning. The first official meeting of our church was held in the home of his parents, David and Sarah Musselman. Jonas started our churches in Emmaus, Bethlehem and Hatfield. He died when he was 46, probably of some kind of heart disease. Jonas had three sons who became preachers; William Brunner (WB), Harvey Brunner (HB) and Allen Brunner (AB).
The obituary of AB is found in the 1900 Yearbook (page 15). "Brother Allen B. Musselman was born December 29, 1872. Became a Christian in his early years; married Alice Baus in 1892, entered the ministry in Canada in 1894, ordained in 1898. Entered the Pennsylvania Conference in 1899 and was stationed at Reading until the time of his death, May 2, 1900."
What is striking to me is the dignity and care that was shown by the church in recognizing his death. The Quarterly Conference of Reading records the following in its minutes of July 31, 1900:
Resolved that C. H. Brunner, J. G. Shireman and Wm Schearer be a committee to draw up a resolution regarding the death of our Pastor A. B. Musselman.
The Resolution is as follows. Whereas it has pleased our heavenly Father who doeth all things well to remove from us our dear Pastor Bro. A. B. Musselman so early [age 28 - RET's mathematics] we confess that we keenly feel the loss of our dear Pastor faithful brother and worker in the Lord knowing that our loss is his eternal gain,
That we insert this resolution of condolence in the Quarterly minutes and ask the secretary to send a copy to the bereaved family.
C. H. Brunner, Wm. Schearer, J. G. Shireman.
The secretary did his work. He went to a printer and had the resolution copied on heavy stock of paper which could be framed. I include a copy of that condolence here. Again, think of the effect of this kind formal expression from the church on the grieving family.
Thanks, Polly, for sharing your piece of our history. This condolence will become a part of the archive collection of the Bible Fellowship Church and will be a reminder of the quality approach that is part of our history.
ROSE JELLY JAKIE MOYER
One of the subjects of our fall meeting is Jacob Moyer, known to many of the people of that day as "Rose Jelly Jakie." Valeria Boyer, a granddaughter shares a paper with us which she entitled, "The Life and Times of Jacob Moyer." I share it with you and thank Mrs. Boyer.
Material for this paper has been gleaned from Clifford Kauffman, a grandson, from Katie Shelly (92), the only remaining daughter of our grandparents and from Byron Cassel, whose father, Rev. E. N. Cassel, was the pastor of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Graterford and Harleysville, during our grandfather's time, and who credited grandfather with "bringing him to Christ." Byron was a boy of 8 at the time of grandfather's death in 1914. Byron remembers his father speaking of grandfather frequently in his sermons -- sometimes there were three sermons on a Sunday!
The house in which our grandparents live was built in the early 1800's. It is located in the Vernfield, Pa., area. The house consisted of a large kitchen and a parlor on the first floor. There was a summer kitchen, as it was known then. I April the family moved into the summer kitchen and in October they moved back into the winter kitchen. The bedrooms were on the second floor.
Also on the first floor was a room which had, and still has folding doors. I understand this is the only farm house of this vintage in Montgomery County with this type of door. When opened a large area was created which was used for religious services. The people who attended these services were very demonstrative and there was much shouting and handclapping. Initially this small group of Mennonites had no church building and so our grandparents made their home available for services.
As a young man of 24 grandfather went to Canada with his brother, Abraham,
where grandfather became a partner in a cigar-making business. It was during these
years that he states he became involved in "worldly" pleasures: drinking, gambling and dancing. However, grandfather was much distressed and under conviction because of his way of life. It was in Waterloo, Ontario, that he experienced a personal conversion, after much anguish and wrestling (as he put it) with Satan. When he was finally at peace he witnessed for Christ wherever he went, telling people about the peace and joy he had found.
After a number of years in Canada he returned to his native Pennsylvania where he met, and married, Jane Blackburn who was 20 years his junior. An interesting story is told by Byron about their wedding by Rev. Frank Haas, then pastor of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Graterford. When our grandparents presented themselves at the parsonage and requested to be married, Rev. Haas was dubious. At that time grandfather had no steady employment and there was the difference in their ages. "Well," said Rev. Haas, "I must have a witness for the Lord before I can marry you!" He then left the room and, after a two-hour session with the Almighty, returned to our grandparents and proceeded to marry them. I remember grandmother telling me that she herself, early on, was uncertain this was a step she should take but that grandfather had assured her the Lord had told him to marry her. She said she had retorted, "But he hasn't told me!" Apparently he did finally tell her because she consented to be his wife.
The family was poor. There were 10 children, four of whom died when they were quite young. In those days, without penicillin and other drugs, there was very little a doctor could do for critically ill children.
Grandfather made his living by selling religious books and patent medicine. He was known as "Rose Jelly Jake." Rose Jelly was one of the preparations he sold and , supposedly, it was good for any malady! In serving his customers, he witnessed for Christ. His testimony was not always well received. He was ridiculed, even persecuted. On one occasion, the family was pelted with stones as they rode to church in their house and buggy. In those days they didn't talk about going to church; they talked about "going to Meeting" ( the fersommling).
Grandfather was a deeply religious and dedicated man-- in some quarters he was considered a radical. He believed in divine healing and was sometimes asked, sarcastically, "Why do you sell medicines if you believe in divine healing?" Grandfather said, "I sell medicines to people who do not believe in divine healing.!"
Grandfather believed in tithing. Byron remembers his father telling that grandfather gave one of every 10 eggs his chickens laid to the Lord's work, as well as all the eggs the chickens laid on Sundays.
Grandfather was in poor health most of his life and much of the work around the small farm was done by grandmother. She worked in the "Patch" (their garden), she cleaned the stables, assisted with the butchering and slaughtered and dressed pigeons for the market. She baked the bread, the pies, the cakes and made the cheese and churned the butter. Much credit is due grandmother for providing for the family.
My cousin, Clifford [Kauffman], spent several summers with our grandparents as a small child. He frequently went with grandfather as he made his round with his books and medicines. He said grandfather would return home from one of those trips, exhausted, and sink into his favorite rocking chair, saying "Ich bin so meet" (I'm so tired).
Our grandparents were strict disciplinarians. On several occasions when his daughters were teasing among themselves, grandfather warned them, "Don't forget, you'll have to account some day for every idle word you say!" When his children wanted to do something or go somewhere, he would often go into the barn and pray for guidance. When he returned he would give them his decision.
Grandfather's influence in the small community in which the lived was considerable, as well as his influence on his descendants. As a result of his life and their upbringing, eleven of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are in some form of Christ service: pastors, missionaries, etc.
Grandfather died in 1914. He was not popular during his life but much revered after his death. I think it can be said of him, "He fought the good fight, he finished the course, he kept the faith."
Thanks, Valeria, for your work in putting this paper together and sharing it with us. Next time, our reminiscences of Rose Jelly Jakie will continue when you will get to read Clifford Kauffman's memories of the Moyer homestead.
I need to wrap it up now. Don't forget that I am waiting for your letter and your story. Remember that people like us will listen to anything. That's the great part of being in the Historical Society. While others are yawning, we are still ready to listen. Send your story.
Richard Taylor, 723 South Providence Road, Wallingford, PA 19086-6940.