committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER X.
EDUCATIONAL WORK.


      In the early years of our history our people in general were indifferent to the subject of education, especially higher education. Some of them, indeed, were more than indifferent; they were opposed to education?even to the education of young men for the ministry.

      The characteristics and ancestral history of the people with whom our work had its beginning, as set forth in chapter one, partly explains their attitude and opposition relative to education. A further explanation is found in the religious movement of which they were a part and which was of more absorbing interest to them than anything else. This movement was a spiritual awakening along evangelistic lines, which had for its chief opposition the formalism of certain denominations. It so happened that these denominations had most of the ministerial education of that day. Their pastors were well educated. They were intellectually strong but spiritually weak, and the churches to which they ministered had the form of godliness without its power. On the other hand, the men who were preaching the gospel to our people were without the training of the schools, Winebrenner being almost the only minister of those years who had received a classical and theological education. But these men had the power of the Holy Spirit. They preached with the divine unction, and the people greatly rejoiced in their ministry. It was not, therefore, unnatural, though very unfortunate, that they placed education and the Holy Spirit in contrast. The same was true of certain other religious bodies of that day which had sprung up through the evangelistic awakening. For a good many years their leaders, in their efforts to establish schools, had to contend with the opposition of many of their people to an educated ministry. These people were entirely sincere. They believed that their "preachers should be made by the Lord, not by the schools"; they wanted a "religion of the heart, not of the head." That there is no essential conflict between an education and the Holy Spirit; that genuine religion is of both the head and the heart; this, the real truth, they finally grasped; but it required years of waiting and teaching.

      In this matter of patient training and tactful agitation Winebrenner's leadership was no less efficient than in other departments of our work. He urged the matter of education privately and publicly. And his precepts were supported by an example which gave them peculiar power. Both education and the Holy Spirit were clearly in evidence in all that he did for the churches, and thus his personal example did much to correct the erroneous impression that the former is antagonistic to the latter.

      At the first General Eldership, in 1845, the following resolutions were adopted:

      "Resolved, That this Eldership consider the subject of education of vital importance, both from a civil and religious point of view.

      "Resolved, That we recommend to the members of the churches to have their children liberally educated to the utmost extent of their ability."

      Other leaders came to the aid of Winebrenner in this agitation in favor of higher education as a church movement. Official actions were adopted by various Elderships and the General Eldership from time to time and several unsuccessful attempts were made to establish schools under ecclesiastical control.

      The first of these efforts was made by the East Pennsylvania Eldership when, in October, 1850, it appointed a committee with authority to establish an institution of learning. Nothing definite was accomplished, however, until 1856, when a site of about three acres was purchased on the Swatara creek, near Middletown, for $1,000, and plans secured from an architect for a school building which was to cost $20,000. The institution was to be known as The Swatara Collegiate Institute. The school was to be established and largely supported by the sale of stock. It was an ambitious undertaking, but it came to an early end. The building was not erected, and the following year the trustees were authorized to sell the ground and the project was abandoned.

      In the meantime an academy had been opened at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It was also a stock concern, and was controlled by members of the Church of God. George U. Harn and James Colder were especially interested in this project. It was called The Shippensburg Institute. It received favorable consideration from many of our people, and indorsement from some of the Elderships; but it lacked permanency.

      In the Fall of 1861 the East Pennsylvania Eldership took under advisement the project of purchasing the academy at Mount Joy and appointed a committee to take further steps in this direction. And, while the effort was unproductive of results, and was abandoned the next year, it shows that the importance of education was not lost sight of, and that the leaders of the Eldership were not daunted by previous failures.

      A few of the other Elderships also took official actions looking toward the establishment of schools, but without any substantial results.

      These commendable efforts and unfortunate failures illustrate the two facts already stated; namely, that while the importance of education was recognized by the leaders, who were therefore willing and anxious to do their part in establishing schools, it was not recognized by the brotherhood at large, upon whom such schools must depend for their students and financial support.

      By this time leading brethren were beginning to grasp the idea which, in the light of subsequent events we now know to be the true one, that the only successful plan for establishing and maintaining an institution of learning is the co-operative action of all the Elderships in support of one institution, instead of each of several Elderships trying to maintain its own school. And, as a natural corollary, that the establishing and maintaining of such an institution should be under the direction of the General Eldership.

      The first practical step in carrying out this plan was taken by the General Eldership of 1866, when it accepted a prospective academy at Centralia, Kansas, called The Centralia Collegiate Institute. It consisted of an unfinished building, a fund of several thousand dollars, and considerable land. But it was necessary for the General Eldership, as it had been for annual Elderships, to learn in the school of experience?an experience characterized by the dark hours of failure preceding the dawn of success. The General Eldership would not, of its own accord, have located an institution of learning for the general body so far removed from its constituency as Centralia, Kansas. Nor did it do so in this case. The infant enterprise at Centralia was probably adopted because it is easier to accept a gift than to reject it. But the fact of its extreme distance from our people in what was then the far west, and the additional fact that the matter of a college in a central location was being agitated at the same time caused the failure of the Centralia project and its abandonment in 1868.

      During the next thirteen years no definite steps were taken, but the subject of education was kept alive by discussion through The Church Advocate and by Eldership actions. Then came the year 1881, which, for two reasons, will ever be memorable in the history of our educational work. It was in that year that an academy was opened at Barkeyville, Venango county, Pennsylvania, which proved to be the most successful effort of that kind which had so far been made. And it was the same year that the General Eldership took the action which resulted in establishing Findlay College, our splendid institution of learning at Findlay, Ohio.

      Rev. John R. H. Latchaw was the founder of Barkeyville Academy. He started the school in the year named, in the bethel of the church of God at that place, of which he was the pastor. He was aided financially by public-spirited citizens and church members, especially by Henry Barkey and Abraham Hunsberger. The school made a good beginning under local management, but soon became an Eldership institution. By means of local gifts and Eldership support considerable ground was secured, a school building was erected, and later a boarding hall. There was a good attendance of students, not only from West Pennsylvania but also from other Elderships. Latchaw, after a term of four years, was followed in the principalship by E. F. Loucks, J. F. Bigler, Charles Manchester, W. C. Myers, Ira C. Eakin, G. W. Davis, H. K. Powell, and W. H. Guyer, in the order named. The principals and other members of the faculty who served from time to time were devoted servants of Christ. A genuine religious spirit was the controlling influence. A Christian atmosphere was always in evidence. And for a quarter of a century this Academy exerted a splendid influence among the churches and sent out young people who later successfully filled positions of leadership and responsibility. A striking illustration of its far-reaching influence is found in the fact that five of the six presidents of Findlay College, before going to that institution, were connected with Barkeyville Academy, as principal, professor or graduate. The West Pennsylvania Eldership, therefore, has the distinction of being the only annual Eldership which successfully established and maintained an institution of learning. "Success" and not "failure," is the proper word to use. For while Barkeyville Academy ceased to exist some twenty years ago, the cause was not an inherent weakness, but the combination of two conditions which arose in the natural course of events. The one was the establishing of high schools which provided, as a part of the free school system, training equivalent to that for which tuition had to be paid at academies. The other was the establishing of Findlay College, a higher institution of learning, but also having facilities for doing the work which had been done by Barkeyville Academy.

      The decision of the General Eldership in May, 1881, to establish a college was followed by immediate results. In about two months the offer of the citizens of Findlay to donate ten acres of ground valued at $10,000 and $20,000 in cash on condition that the college be located there had been accepted, and collectors had been appointed to secure funds for building and endowment. This enterprise involved heavier responsibilities than any other upon which the General Eldership had so far entered. And, while many difficulties were encountered, the prosecution of the work was remarkably successful. The building decided upon was of beautiful design and ample proportions. The response of the people to financial appeals was encouraging. It was felt that something of real and substantial worth was being accomplished. The corner-stone was laid May 25, 1884, and the building was finished in the Fall of 1886.

      Rev. John R. H. Latchaw became the first president of Findlay College, in 1885. He entered upon his work with enthusiasm and gave his undivided attention and energy to the tasks before him. Many preliminary steps had to be taken, including the selection of other members of the faculty and the advertising necessary to bring the college to the attention of prospective students. This done, the time long and eagerly looked for arrived, and the brotherhood rejoiced in the auspicious opening of our first college, with about a hundred students, in September, 1886.

      Here, then, we at last had an institution of learning where our young people could receive their training under Church of God influences, and which would provide not only the educational advantages of other colleges, but also give special attention to the teaching of the Bible and the preparation of young men for the ministry of the gospel. The objective goal of many years had at last been reached.

      This was not only our first effort to establish a college, but, as we now know, a successful effort. Success, however, has come at the cost of many a financial struggle. It is one thing to establish a college. It is another thing to secure an endowment large enough to maintain it on a creditable basis. The first had been accomplished by 1886. The second remained to be done. This required faith, patience, teaching and agitation. Our people responded to financial appeals, but not to an extent sufficient to meet the expenses of running the college. The result was an annual deficit, which, by the time the General Eldership met at Findlay, in May, 1893, made an aggregate debt of about $25,000. In other respects, such as the strength of its teaching force and the size and character of its student body, the college had made a good record. But the amount of the debt, and the realization that a continuation of the conditions which created it would keep on increasing it, caused wide-spread dissatisfaction. This led to an investigation of the whole situation by the General Eldership, one result of which was a change in the presidency of the college.

      Rev. William N. Yates, a young man of twenty-eight years, who had graduated from the college two years before and who was then pastor of the Front Street Church of God in Findlay was called to this responsible position. His magnetic personality, his effectiveness as a speaker, his radiating enthusiasm and his deep spiritual devotion?the elements of his character which have become so familiar in later years?were already in evidence in 1893, and indicated to his brethren that he was the logical leader for that critical period in the history of our educational work. His first and hardest task, that of providing for the troublesome debt which his administration inherited, was undertaken with courage and determination, with the result that the Board of Trustees, when it met in June, 1894, announced that the debt had been assumed by the Elderships, each Eldership having pledged itself to raise a proportionate share of the amount. Yates resigned as president the following year. During the two years of his incumbency, the first as Acting President and the second as President, the college was in splendid working condition and a fine spirit prevailed.

      This second presidential crisis in the history of the college was met when the Board convened in 1895 by the adoption of a plan which made Rev. Charles T. Fox, who had been a professor in the college for nine years, the Acting President. He rendered faithful and efficient service in this position for one year, and then declined a re-election. No man who has been connected with Findlay College has maintained a higher standing in the estimation of the general brotherhood and the student body than Dr. Fox. His long period of service of nearly forty years as a member of the college faculty, where he holds the position of Dean, is a fitting tribute to the satisfactory character of his work.

      Rev. Charles Manchester was the fourth head of Findlay College. He held this position for eight years?from 1896 to 1904?the first year as President of the Faculty, then as Acting President of the college, and later as President. Manchester was a thoroughly loyal, hard-working and self-sacrificing servant of the Church, and he carried these desirable elements into the work of his new position. He was a man of sterling Christian character and unimpeachable integrity, one in whose sincerity the entire brotherhood had the fullest confidence. Beginning with a reduced enrollment, the student body was gradually increased. Rigid economy was practiced. Considerable money was raised for available and permanent funds. And when Dr. Manchester offered his resignation (in 1904) the Board of Trustees coupled with its action of acceptance a tribute to the character, loyalty and devotion of the retiring president.

      The vacancy thus created was filled by the election of Rev. Charles I. Brown, who served in this position for nine years. He came to the college primarily as its executive head. He devoted his efforts principally to securing funds for the support of the institution, in distinction from his predecessors in the presidential chair, who, in addition to their financial activities, were also engaged in the regular teaching work of the college. Brown had succeeded in raising the amount which the East Pennsylvania Eldership had assumed of the debt of 1894, and in doing so had given evidence of ability which the Board of Trustees felt could be used to good advantage in the wider field of securing contributions from the brotherhood in general. To this task he devoted himself with hopeful energy. He introduced quite a number of financial plans, most of which succeeded and some of which are still in use. At the same time he was mindful of the intellectual interests of the school. He won favor among the churches and was influential in drawing students to the college.

      Rev. William Harris Guyer, who died July 22, 1926, had borne the responsibilities of the president's office since 1913. As a graduate of Findlay College, and having served as a member of its faculty, he brought to his new position a thorough familiarity with the institution whose work he was to direct. Brought up in the Church, and with a successful experience in the ministry, he was equally familiar with the college constituency. This fellowship between Church and College had been cultivated wisely and with fruitful results. The student body was enlarged and the character of its work was maintained at a high standard. The college prospered in a material way beyond that of any other period of its history, both in regular income and by special gifts. Dr. Guyer's Christian character commanded the confidence of the entire brotherhood. He had also won a place in the favor of the people outside of our own communion, which brought him before them frequently as a public speaker. He was passionately fond of his books, and the results of his extensive reading were in evidence in all of his work, whether as speaker, teacher or writer. His victories were won by meeting difficulties with faith in God and in God's people.

      Beginning forty years ago with one building and a small endowment, the college assets have grown to six buildings and an endowment of nearly $300,000. The magnificent college building stands in the center of the beautiful campus. On adjacent streets are the President's Home, the Girls' Dormitory, the Boys' Dormitory, the Conservatory of Music and the Physical Culture Hall, the last just completed, at a cost of about $50,000.

      One other church school remains to be noticed?the Collegiate Institute at Fort Scott, Kansas. It had its inception in a private school started by Rev. O. A. Newlin, our missionary at Fort Scott, in 1901. Encouraged by this effort, Newlin, who was talented, optimistic and aggressive, opened the Collegiate Institute the following year, in a good building provided by local citizens. He believed that this school would afford a fine opportunity to our young people of the southwest, and that their training thus secured would, in turn, mean much to the work of the Churches of God, especially in that part of the country. He had the approval of the General Eldership, and for seven years devoted himself earnestly to the arduous task which he had undertaken. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles Manchester, Rev. W. W. Richmond and Prof. J. A. Connor, in the order named, under whose administrations the Collegiate Institute continued until 1917, when its work ceased. The number of students, especially during the first few years, had been encouraging, and the school exerted a splendid influence locally and over our frontier mission field. Its record shows fifteen years of commendable work. But it had no endowment, and its constituency was too small numerically and too limited financially to provide a continuous and adequate support.

      In addition to what has been said about institutions of learning, it should be mentioned that the Elderships, for many years, have had courses of studies for the benefit of ministers who have not had the advantages of higher educational institutions. These studies, which make a good ministerial course, are pursued privately, and examinations are conducted at certain times by boards or committees of the Elderships.

 
 
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