LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 11

 

 

THE ROBERTS BOYS AND ALLIE IRICK

 

 

In the early days of Texas there lived a man by the name of John F. Roberts, and there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. This man located in Wise County. In 1897 Mrs. Peppers and Mrs. Hogan began the first holiness meeting that this family had ever attended. Some of the boys were sanctified in this meeting, and one by one they swept into the experience, until the seven boys were all sanctified and called to preach. Two of them have gone around the world preaching, while some are pastors, some evangelists, and one is superintendent of a rescue home.

They afterward moved to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), which was then owned, but unallotted by the Indians, and was leased mostly to cattle men, while in the rich valleys farmers had claims; that is, they took leases for farming purposes. They lived in dugouts and log cabins with dirt floors. The inhabitants were Indians, cowboys, and many desperate characters who had gone there to escape the law in other states.

To this pioneer country God had led this father with his seven sons. They located near Simon, which is now in the very heart of the great Healdton oil fields. The people spent their Sundays in drinking “chock,” a native beer manufactured by the Choctaw Indians, and in gambling and carousing in general. Like all truly sanctified people, the hearts of the Roberts boys burned within them to start something for God, and a cottage prayermeeting was started and carried from house to house, until the interest became so great that they had a protracted prayermeeting, which began in the home of an infidel, and lasted eight days; winding up at the home of an old Indian. The service was held on the porch, as not half the people could get into the house, and the yard was full of anxious people hungry for God. After a few fervent prayers and some soul-stirring songs, these old toughs, cowboys, and farmers began to tell what wonders God had done for them, and how the joy of salvation flooded their souls. Their neighbors broke into tears, while the power of God melted the crowd, and many literally fell off their chairs on to the floor, screaming and begging for mercy. The people in the yard fell to their knees in prayer, and such groaning and praying you never hear except at a holiness meeting. Then the very air was rent with the shouts of victory as more than a dozen people prayed through that night.

These prayermeetings paved the way for a mighty revival that soon followed, led by Rev. Lonnie Rogers and Rev. John Friar, under a great gospel tent, erected near a schoolhouse where the Baptists had a church organized and regular preaching services.

In this meeting scores of people were converted and sanctified, and among them many members of the Baptist Church were gloriously sanctified. This enraged the orthodox Baptists and charges of heresy were preferred against these holiness professing Baptists, and at a regular church meeting in the schoolhouse near the gospel tent, while the revival was still in progress, they were expelled from the communion of the Baptist Church.

They left the schoolhouse shouting the praises of God and came to the tent that night to testify and leap for joy, which put awful conviction on their neighbors and brought them to the altar for prayer.

The next day was the regular day for the Baptists to preach at the schoolhouse, and the tent was turned over to them for their services. While the people gathered, a song and praise service was started which ended in an altar call as usual, and when the time arrived for preaching it could not be stopped, for there were twenty-five at the altar praying at the top of their voices to be sanctified.

This enraged the Baptist preachers yet the more and they called their crowd to the schoolhouse and started a service. The pastor called on a brother to pray to God to stop this heresy or smite the leaders of the holiness meeting. Their first song was, “How tedious and tasteless the hour, when Jesus no longer I see.” The preacher arose and announced his text and fainted and fell lifeless to the floor and was carried out into the yard and water poured on him until he revived.

 There was no preaching, either at the schoolhouse or the tent, as the altar service continued unabated until eighteen prayed through at that one service and the woods rang with the shouts all day long. Other meetings were held with equal results and great persecution broke out. The opposers to holiness got a family to rent a dugout near the home of J. P. Roberts, in order to watch him and see if he did not get mad at his team while plowing in the stumps. They went to a revival nearby where the wife got under such conviction for holiness that the power of God struck her on the way home and she was helpless. This so frightened her holiness fighting husband that he called for Brother Roberts to come over and help him. Brother Roberts knew what the trouble was and assisted in getting her into the house and began to pray for her. As he prayed his voice rang out on the night air until his brothers ran over to see what was the matter, and they, too, joined in the prayer until God sanctified her. The man then asked for prayers for himself, and was soon shouting the victory, and afterward was called to preach.

Other meetings were conducted by these boys all over that country and hundreds of old hardened sinners were saved and sanctified. Such great power was on the people that strong men fell off their seats and lay like dead for hours, while throngs of anxious people looked on. Calls for such meetings came in from all over the country, and great campmeetings sprang up in many places. At one of these camps a man fell under the power of God and lay for hours, frothing at the mouth like the demoniac of old. Finally he began to pray and begged the people not to let the Devil drag him into hell. He declared that he could see the Devil after him with pitchforks, trying to pitch him into hell, but at last he prayed through, and his testimony brought twenty-seven people to the altar screaming for mercy.

At Buckhorn, I. T., the Hudson Band joined in with the Roberts Boys and a meeting ran thirty-four days in which every home in the country was touched and more than one hundred people were saved or sanctified and several men were called to preach out of these meetings. While these meetings were going on a wealthy farmer by the name of Lorance fought the holiness meetings with all of his might, and finally, in order to get away from the meeting, hitched up his team to the buggy and drove over to Tishomingo to visit his people, but when he arrived there, another big gospel tent was up and a holiness meeting going on over there. He immediately returned home and went to the altar and God saved him. Then he confessed that he was a backslider, and was only fighting conviction when he ran away. A number of his friends had joined in prayer for him as he drove away that God would follow him and strike him down, and show him his own heart.

At one of these meetings there was a man who had not walked a step without crutches for seven years. When he heard of the great power of God to sanctify and to heal he came and asked that he be anointed and prayed with, and as they prayed for him the healing power came and he threw away his crutches and leaped and shouted like the man at the beautiful gate, in Acts 3:8. This brought great crowds to the meeting, to see the man who was healed. After all these years he has never needed his crutches again.

In 1902 they went to Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, and continued in revival work, where great meetings were held and hundreds of people swept into the kingdom. In this country the wife of J. P. Roberts got a call to rescue work, soon after which they went to Oklahoma City to attend the annual convention of holiness workers, where Rev. Seth C. Rees preached a great sermon on “The Power of the Gospel in the Slums.” This stirred J. P. Roberts, and God laid His hand on him as well as his wife, and called him also to rescue work.

In a short time he moved to Pilot Point, Texas, where the Hudson Band had an orphanage started. While there in the home of Rev. Lonnie Rogers, after three days of fasting and prayer, he fell into a trance and there appeared to him in a vision some ten girls from the slums, kneeling just outside the door of the building that he was in and begging him to help them out of their old life of sin, and give them another chance in life.

At a public service the next day he told of his call to rescue work, and waves of glory swept over the congregation, while people shouted aloud for joy. A beautiful piece of property adjoining the college lot, containing six acres of land and a splendid large residence, was for sale for $3,250. This was a large sum for these poor holiness people, but on Friday, while the power of God was on the service, the matter of this property was mentioned. The assembly was small, but God was present and a lady came to the altar weeping and said, “I have no money, but here is my watch that God wants me to give to start the fund to buy the property.” A young man said, “I have no money, but I will give a house and lot.” Another gave his farm, a lady gave a feather bed, and Lonnie Rogers gave a house and lot, while another watch and some bills were laid on the table. When the amount was summed up, it was found to be equal to $2,250. Just then another lady arose and assumed the last thousand dollars. The property was purchased and Rest Cottage was established, and now, after fifteen years, the records show that 750 fallen girls have found their way to Rest Cottage, and we are told that fully 80 per cent of them have been redeemed and gone out to live different lives and to bless the world; and from that a great work was started in Pilot Point, Texas, out of which grew the first holiness church school in the South and a church paper. The General Assembly of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, at which the holiness churches in the South united, met there.

 

CHURCH PAPER AND BIBLE SCHOOL

 

In the summer of 1904, in a tent on the Sunset camp grounds, a company of people composed of Rev. J. P. Roberts and wife, Rev. B. M. Kilgore and wife, Rev. C. B. Jernigan and wife, met for the purpose of discussing the advisability of starting a distinctively church paper, as a means of communication between the Independent Holiness churches, and for the advancement of rescue work. After a season of prayer, they decided to launch such a paper, to be published at Pilot Point, Texas, with Rev. C. B. Jernigan, editor, and D. C. Ball, publisher. This paper was called Highways and Hedges, and its publication continued under that name until the union of the Independent Holiness church, and the Church of Christ. At the first General Council after the union, at Texarkana, the name was changed to The Holiness Evangel, and Rev. C. B. Jernigan and Rev. J. D. Scott were elected editors. This paper ran as a bold advocate of organized holiness, and distinctive church work, which was not at all popular when the paper was launched, as most of the holiness work was undenominational.

When the General Assembly convened at Pilot Point, Texas, they had a splendid equipment, consisting of a good cylinder press, a good building, and all other necessary fixtures. This paper about a year later was united with The Pentecostal Advocate at Peniel, Texas, which paper was merged into the Herald of Holiness at the General Assembly at Nashville, Tenn., in 1911.

Here also the church had a splendid Bible and training school, with Rev. H. M. Guy Bible teacher at first. Afterward, Rev. J. D. Scott became president, with a corps of competent teachers, and a fine student body. Many of our church preachers and missionaries received their training there, as the undenominational schools were not very favorable to church work.

This work at Pilot Point grew out of a work started by the Hudson Band, who established an orphanage there in the early days. The opposition was so great that Oscar and Nettle Hudson were arrested and carried to Denton, the county seat, and lodged in jail charged with lunacy. When they appeared before the judge, Mrs. Nettie Hudson pleaded her own case, and the judge declared that she was perfectly sane, and that it was only a case of persecution, and sent them home.

At a meeting previous to this, conducted by Rev. H. L. Averill and Rev. Bert Freeland, the opposition grew so great that one night after the service while a man was sleeping under the tent, some one threw gasoline all over the tent and set it on fire. When the man asleep under the tent awoke, the tent was ready to fall, and he only had time to drag the organ off the platform and get it out from under the tent.

Several times after the opening of the rescue home by Brother Roberts threats were made to burn the home down, but after some years the people of the town became fast friends to the home and its workers.

 

EVANGELIST ALLIE IRICK

 

Among the many pioneers in the early days of Texas, were Solomon and Allie Irick, the sons of an old-time Methodist circuit rider of the John Wesley type who contended earnestly for the supernatural in religion, as all the old-time Methodists did. It is a good thing to get the right kind of a start. Allie was converted at an old-fashioned brush arbor meeting when in his twentieth year, and, like Charles Wesley, thought that the moon was under his feet. His conversion was very bright, but he soon made the discovery that all do, sooner or later, that there was another spirit warring within. At a holiness meeting, conducted by the Hudson Band under a big gospel tent near his father’s home, he was gloriously sanctified, September 19, 1898, and called to the ministry. Like Paul, he did not confer with flesh and blood, kinfolk, nor committees, but started out to find a place to preach and to tell the world what God could do for a poor boy reared on the farm, with very meager educational advantages.

 

THREE BOYS START A REVIVAL

 

Allie and Solomon Irick, in company with Andy Fritzlan (now our missionary in India), started out to find a place to hold a holiness meeting. This was their first attempt at revival work. Brother Fritzlan had a buggy pulled by a mule, but the buggy was too frail and the mule too poor to pull the three, so the Irick boys walked.

These boys hunted up the school trustees and secured permission to use the schoolhouse for the revival, bought their own oil for lighting purposes, furnished the wood for fuel, swept the house, rang the bell, and walked the country and invited the people out. They invited themselves home with people for entertainment. They were really in earnest about their call to preach, and “preach or burn” was the spirit that impelled them. This sort of consecration will always bring a real revival. They had the pioneer spirit indeed. This will tell you why Texas was the hot-bed and battle ground for holiness for a number of years. “They went everywhere preaching the word.” “These men who turned the world upside down” went there also. This was so out of the ordinary that it provoked great opposition and persecution from the formal church of that day.

At Hail, Texas, in 1899, they opened fire on the enemy, ably assisted by Rev. Lonnie Rogers and the Hudson Band. Here they met stubborn opposition. The toughs and backslidden church people gave them a shower of overripe eggs. Hen eggs, turkey eggs, and goose eggs were used, the fragrance of which was lasting. The windows were large and opened wide, as it was summer; and the eggs fairly rained in for a few moments, from windows in all directions, but not one of the workers was touched by an egg. Their aim was bad. When the service ended the mob followed the preachers away down the road hurling stones at them from the darkness, and firing off their revolvers into the air to frighten them, but not a stone touched one of them.

The next day there was an instrument of writing posted up in four public places, warning the holiness preachers to leave town in six hours, or worse things were to follow. Also, all people were warned not to attend these meetings any more lest they receive bodily harm by accident. The meetings went on with increasing interest, as all these things only served to advertise the meeting. Great crowds came to see what all this meant and were convicted by the meek way in which the preachers received the insults, without any effort at resentment, but sang and prayed and shouted with liberty. Scores were saved at this meeting, and at the close they were presented with a petition, signed by more than fifty of the leading citizens of the community, to return for another meeting.

 

A TENT OILED AND BURNED

 

In a meeting in central Texas the same band of workers were conducting a meeting, and God was pouring out His Spirit in an extraordinary way, which mightily stirred the Devil and his allies. The meetings had run on for several days when one night after midnight the near neighbors were awakened by a very bright light, and on closer investigation it was found that the big gospel tent was on fire. Some parties had thrown gasoline all over the tent and set it on fire. The gasoline had been taken from the can near the tent, which was used for lighting the tent. Before service time the next morning the people met at the grounds and had a nice brush arbor built, and the meeting went on.

In a meeting in Manitoba, Canada, in which Ed and John Roberts were engaged, the boys were having rather a hard pull, as the people up there did not attend the meetings very freely. One night John Roberts began to pray in his characteristic way for “the fire to fall.” “O Lord, send the fire,” was the cry that fell from his lips. Just at this juncture some mischievous boys lighted a giant firecracker and threw it into the altar, right among the workers in the meeting. The report was deafening, and the altar services closed without any formal amen, and people scattered in all directions. The city papers gave the holiness meeting and the falling fire considerable space the next morning, and this advertisement brought great crowds and a lively interest, and many were saved.

In 1905 Dr. Godbey, the Roberts Boys (Ed and John), and Allie Irick made a tour around the world, preaching full salvation, and saw thousands kneel for prayer among the heathen in the orient, and hundreds of them really prayed through to victory.

Rev. Allie Irick and his wife, Emma, have preached in most of the states and organized Pentecostal Nazarene churches, and today are engaged in evangelistic work.