I believe it will be profitable to give an account of the early life, development, and work of the Seventh Day Churches about Berea. As I have before said, Berea was called Seven Day Town. It was settled early in the nineteenth century by Asa Bee, Job Meredith, Jonathan Lowther, Preston Zinn, and a number of others who kept the Sabbath.
Pine Grove Church: I do not know the exact date (but about 1850) they called Ezekiel Bee (a minister of some ability but not ordained) to move to Berea and preach for them. He accepted the call provided they gave him a farm. There were two farms offered him (which shows the religious zeal of these people). He accepted the one then owned by Preston Zinn, which included all the land on which Berea now stands. I have never heard where the other farm was. He continued to preach here until old age made it impossible. He died in Berea about 1892 at 93 years of age.
This church was called “Pine Grove Church.” It was Seventh Day Baptist, but it never was accepted into the Seventh Day Baptist Denomination as the leaders-that is the Bees and Merediths in particular-had some very peculiar notions. For example, they would not wear clothing of cotton and wool or any other mixed material. Women would not wear artificials on their hats, nor ruffles on their skirts. If a boy who did not belong to the church took a girl home, she was to mention joining the church the first night. If he did not agree to join the church the second time, she was to fire him.
Besides this, they believed that the elders should manage all the temporal as well as the spiritual affairs of the church. For example, when a cow grew old, they would say to its owner, “You had best sell that cow.” The elders were to be absolute dictators (I don’t think they ever got it to work). Women were to have absolutely no say in anything; in fact, they were not to speak in meeting. If they wanted to know anything, let them ask their husbands at home (which I am afraid would never have made them very wise).
I don’t think they ever got this to work in the church, but it cost them some new members. In about 1865 Perie and Callie went to church intending to join the church one Sabbath. Perie overheard one of the elders ask the others if they should mention artificials, ruffles, etc. The others said, “No, wait till these young folks have joined, and then we will mention that.” The girls did not join.
The Ritchie Church: There were several Seventh Day Baptists who did not belong to Pine Grove and did not like their beliefs and practices but wanted to belong to the Seventh Day Baptists. So about 1870 to 1875 they organized the Ritchie Church and built a church on Otter Slide. Some of the early members were Jake Ehret and wife, William Jett and wife, E. J. Maxson and wife, Leve Stalnaker and wife, Father and Mother, Perie and Callie, some of the Kelleys and probably some others.
Adventists in Berea: Soon after the Ritchie Church was built (about 1879) an Adventist preacher by the name of Sanborn came to the Pine Grove Church and held a meeting for about six weeks. Before he left, they organized an Advent Church. They built a church in Berea the next summer. The principal members were the Merediths, the Lowthers, Charley Bee and wife and a few others. This left the Pine Grove Church so weak that they decided to unite with the Ritchie church provided we would hold meetings month about in the Pine Grove and Ritchie churches. Several of the members did not join the Ritchie church, so about a year later Marcus Martin (a Seventh Day Baptist minister of little ability) decided to revive the old church. So he filed a key to fit it and called a meeting and started the church again. It did not last long till they asked the Ritchie church to take it over, but all meetings were held in the Ritchie church except some union meetings.
The Advents continued to grow very slowly, but always trying to tear the Ritchie church down (especially every time we had a good revival) until the early summer of 1892, when a preacher by the name of Babcock came to Berea and preached for several weeks. He was a very glib talker, very well coached in the Advent doctrine but not an educated man.
The Advents told wonderful stories about him; one I will narrate. As a young man he was working on his father’s saw mill (which was running at full speed) when he accidentally fell into the saw. He grabbed the teeth and stopped it instantly. It cut off his thumb and cut his hip, but his great strength saved him. Elder Seager heard just how it happened. Babcock’s father had an edging which had the high tenser off so that the saw was merely turning over when he fell into it and cut himself. I am telling this so that you will know the faith they had in the man.
This was the first meeting, outside of our own meetings, I had ever attended to amount to anything. I would generally go three or four nights a week. One night the preacher told us that he would prove by the Bible the next night that the “Old Dragon” was pagan Rome and that the “Seven Horned Beast” was Rome after she became Christian- so I went to hear him. He soon began to prove his point by reading from Revelations. “The Red Dragon that old deceiver which is the Devil.” “Oh,” he said, “I read too far.” I have never had any use for the Advents since then.
This revival caused the Advents to decide to have their Camp Meeting there that summer. We had a new pastor by the name of Brown. Elder Hoffman (a man of great ability and greatly hated by the Advents) preached on Sabbath morning. He preached a very strong sermon against the Advent religion. He told them he had planned to stay at Berea for over a week but that he would have to leave Sunday. The Advents said he was afraid of them because their ministers would be there at the end of the week. After preaching that night he told them he heard they said he was afraid of then. He then said, “There is but one thing I am afraid of, and that is the Devil, and I don’t suppose he will be there.” He went on to say that he could come back at the end of the week and debate the issue for one day or a week with any of them or all of them (Sister White thrown in) if they would give him equal time, but at the end of that time he would have to go to Nebraska. They said no; but after he went West, they said they would debate.
I will now tell a little joke about their trip over from Pennsboro. Mr. Kildow (one of our members) had a fine team, and they hired him to haul some of their tents and fixtures over. When they got there, they found more people than they expected; so they asked Kildow if he would be willing to bring a load of people instead of tents. He said he would just as soon haul livestock as anything else. They talked about one of their preachers (Stone) who had gone to Virginia and went to keeping a saloon. They kept saying they didn’t see how he could, seeing the end was so near. Kildow got very tired, so when a little shower came up (it was in July and very hot and dry), one of the men said he hoped it was raining on his corn. Kildow replied, “I don’t see what difference it makes seeing the end is so near.” The man got so mad he got out and walked for a mile or two. This is 58 years ago, and I fear the man’s corn got rather dry if it hasn’t rained yet.
They had great crowds and took several of our members-our Pastor Brown, Dolph Bee and family, Ida Bee and some others. They bragged that they had destroyed the Ritchie church and that they would soon all join the Advent church. Uncle Nelson Bee told Ellsworth that they said he and Sarah would soon join them. Ellsworth replied, “Yes, they took a good plan to get us. They took our flour up there and thought we would follow.” (Someone took a batch of flour during the meeting.) I attended the meeting enough till I could preach most of their sermons as well as they could; in fact, when you have heard four or five, you have heard them all. One night the preachers said that everyone of the wicked were burned up except the Devil, and that he was to be punished forever and ever, day and night (which means he was to be burned up in a day and night). This kind of foolishness does not appeal to me.
The next summer many of the Advents sold out and went down to Newark, where they had started a school from where they went out to sell Advent books. They soon ran through with their money. They were taught that they should not eat but little. They were so nearly starved that when fever broke out the doctors said there was nothing to build on, so they died. Several families with mothers gone came back to Berea. Joe Bee’s wife, Davis Meredith’s wife, and Foggin’s wife died, and several children. Some of these had lost everything they had; and Joe Bee was badly crippled, lost his home and had two small children to raise. This greatly reduced the Berea church, and they never were so strong again.
More About the Ritchie Church: The fall after the Camp Meeting, Elder Seager held a meeting at the Ritchie church. This was in October, 1892. The meeting lasted for a month, and there were about 75 conversions. A large number of us young folks joined the church at this time, and it was much stronger than it had been for years. So the prophecy that it was dead was proved totally false, as often happens.
Many of the Sunday people in the neighborhood were troubled about the Ritchie church. They said it had been the center of religious thought; all the children for miles around had made a profession there; and it had done enough already so that it should live for years for what it had already done.
One winter our pastor (Riley Davis) and the pastor of the U. B. church (Rev. Steele) held a union meeting in the Pine Grove church. After two weeks, as there seemed to be but little interest and Pastor Steele had to go to another church to preach over the end of the week, they decided that Riley should hold the meeting Sabbath and Sunday night. There was quite a stir these two nights so that the meeting went on for two or three weeks longer. Many were converted, and it looked as if both churches would be greatly strengthened.
Seventh Day Baptists and Adventists Debate: I have often noticed after every great revival, Satan makes a very great effort to destroy the work done. So it was again. The Advents had been bringing in one of their ministers as soon as a revival ended to destroy the work that had been done. This time they brought in a man who was very abusive. One of our ministers, Elder McClarin (who was a very highly educated Scotchman), had written a pamphlet exposing many of their beliefs. He was hated by them like a snake. So Westworth (that was the Adventist’s name) told in his sermon that the pamphlet was like bad soap, more lye than grease. Later in the same sermon he said that McClarin was a “liar, rascal or fool!” and that they all knew he wasn’t the latter.
Our people had grown tired of this abuse, so Ellsworth and our pastor wrote to the Missionary Board to send McClarin down (he was in Rhode Island), and we would pay his way back. When he came, they sent for the Advent preacher to come over to Riley’s. There McClarin told him to go into the pulpit and show wherein he had lied and he would apologize publicly. This he refused to do, but in turn challenged McClarin to debate the thing in difference with the Bible as the only authority. This was to keep McClarin from bringing Mother White into it, as he had been president of their college in Battle Creek and learned all about her. This debate was intended to prevent McClarin from making a reply to their charges on the pamphlet as McClarin had told them that he had to go back on Monday and the debate was to be Sabbath night, Sunday and Sunday night.
The first subject was the “Sleep of the Soul.” McClarin had the first speech. When it came Westworth’s turn (he was the Advent speaker), he made fun of the soul and said, “How does God poke a soul into a child? Does He have a lot of souls made and stored up in heaven, or does He make a new soul every time a child is born? If He does, He is a partner in the crime every time an illegitimate child is born.” By the time the evening debate was done, there were a great many people (even the Sunday people) saying it was a disgrace and that Westworth ought to be egged.
People say many things without thinking, which they should not. In the evening debate Westworth accused McClarin of having been expelled from the college. McClarin said he would show them the next day how he was expelled. Westworth became more abusive, and McClarin called for order. Mart Powell, who was chosen by both sides as chairman, said he was out of order. But Cobb, the Advent moderator, jumped up and said, “My brother has not had a fair chance, and I intend to see he talks.” I was sitting in the back of the house by the side of a fighter who jumped up and started for the pulpit with me at his heels. Everybody jumped up and started for the pulpit with fire in their eyes. Just as a free-for-all was ready to start, Westworth said, “I’ll be moderate.” So everybody sat down.
The next day Westworth and Cobb came to hear McClarin speak on the pamphlet and what had happened while he was president. Some said the Advent preachers would call McClarin a liar while he was speaking. I said, “If one of them calls him a liar, I’ll knock him down.” Ellsworth said, “You must not do that.” But I replied, “I will anyway.” So they decided that Ellsworth, as moderator of the church, should take charge of the meeting. He told them that any appeal from his ruling would go to the Ritchie church, so they said nothing. They sat right in front facing the pulpit. Ellsworth said they made faces, stuck out their tongues and did everything they could to insult him. I told Ellsworth I would not have stood for it, but he said it did not seem to bother McClarin any so he let them go.
McClarin told that when the Advent leaders found he would not accept Mother White, they cut his salary so he had overdrawn his full salary already. A couple months later he met one of the leaders on the street and this man said to him, “How are you getting along without any money?” He replied, “That’s my business,” for he said, “I know when I’m insulted.” They made no effort to pay him, so he notified them Friday if they did not pay him his full salary before sunset that evening he would sue them. Before sunset he had his pay. He then showed us a paper over a yard long with over a hundred names of those who had come to his place as a surprise party and had given him $25 in gold to show their appreciation for the splendid work he did in the school. When he finished showing this, he said, “That’s a pretty nice way to be expelled, isn’t it?”
An Egging: The Advents proposed to answer McClarin that night. As I said before, some people (Sunday as well as Seventh days) had said they ought to be egged. So some boys (both Seventh day and Sunday boys) hid on a bank and egged them. Of course, this was all wrong, but I blame the grown folks more than the boys. Two men ran them down, caught them down on their farm (the Advents). They refused to let the boys go, and a fight occurred. Mounty Bee (an Advent) struck Hayse Bee (one of the eggers) on the head with a fence rail and knocked him out (in fact, he has never gotten entirely over it). He knocked Cnood Ehret down, and he lay there (afraid he would get hurt, I think). That only left one of the eggers, Roy Bee. He seemed to think they were going to kill him, so he slipped an old pocket knife out of his pocket and began to cut them down to his size. The noise of the combat brought reinforcements to the Advents from Berea, but Roy proceeded to cut them up, too. The boys finally got away and went home. Two other boys who were with the eggers got scared and ran before the egging began.
The Advents had the eggers indicted, but they found one of them would get a trip to the pen for hitting Hayse Bee with a fence rail and swearing he intended to kill him and wished he had. So they compromised it and made the sentences light.
Some good came of it, for the Advents said they wanted us to let them alone and they would let us alone. They have kept their word fairly well, for which we are truly thankful. Their church had been going down ever since the exodus to Newark soon after the camp meeting in 1892, which I have already told about. After this trouble they began to die rapidly. They have had no meetings for many years, and the church house is torn down.