LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 24

 

 

PIONEERING IN OKLAHOMA

 

 

What is now known as Oklahoma was in the early days of the holiness movement the Indian Territory, inhabited by the American Indians, few of whom ever settled down and made desirable citizens, as they do not like to work, and seem never to learn how to farm. They like to carouse and drink. They go about in droves mostly, and live in cloth tents, and houses made of weeds well tied together, especially among the uncivilized tribes.

The Indian has a high ideal of religion, that will radically change and make him new all over. They think that when God saves a man he must give up his tobacco, pipe, Mescal bean, and whiskey. At a campmeeting held at the Ponca Indian agency especially for the Indians, in company with Rev. I. G. Martin, in 1910, a great many Indians came and camped. We saw thirty Indians at the altar, praying in Ponca language and weeping with broken hearts over their sins. Many were really saved. At the close of the meeting Brother Martin called a council of the leaders of the tribe to know if they desired the continuation of the Nazarene mission among them. All the old braves were asked to speak. White Eagle, the last chief of his tribe, who was known among them as their silver-tongued orator, arose and spoke through an interpreter. He said, “When I was a baby they took me to a priest who sprinkled water on my head, and told my mother that I was a Christian, but it did not touch my heart. Same bad heart. The government takes our children and makes them learn from book. Heap smart when they leave school, but still they have a bad heart. They go to the Methodist mission; learn to sing good; listen to smart man talk; still same bad Indian. They go to Nazarene meeting; get on their knees, cry and pray to God till face shines; they go home, read a Bible, pray. No more eat Mescal bean; no more drink whiskey. No more smoke pipe. No more steal. Come on Nazarenes.”

The Indian Territory was known as the wild and woolly territory, on account of the class of people who inhabited it: bandits, cowboys, and people who could not legally live in any state, thought themselves safe here, hid away from the world among the Indians. Yet among them were some very choice characters, and a people who seldom heard a real sermon of gospel salvation. It was indeed a very needy field, and ripe for the sickle of the pioneer who dared trust God and go without the promise of a cent for remuneration, and expect to get his reward at the end of the race.

Some choice characters sacrificed their all to carry the gospel to these needy people, and such a harvest of souls they did reap for their reward. Among them were Rev. M. O. Meadows, Rev. A. W. Rodgers, Rev. J. D. Scott, Rev. John Stanfield, Miss Mattie Mallory (now Mrs. Morgan), Dr. Ellison, Dr. G. W. Sawyer, and Rev. S. M. Stafford, our first missionary to Mexico. These and others whose names I do not now recall played their part well, and planted a work that will never die.

 

THE OKLAHOMA ORPHANAGE

 

Miss Mattie Mallory came from the North to the Indian Territory, as a missionary teacher in the Dawes Academy, located at Berwyna, I. T. She was employed by the Baptist Missionary Society, of New York. This was an Indian mission school. Passing through Oklahoma City, she seemed to hear a voice calling her to care for the homeless children of this wild country. In 1898 she was called to take charge of a holiness mission in Winnipeg, Canada. The call came clearer, and in September the same year she opened the Oklahoma Orphanage in two rooms on Reno Street, given to her by a man for that purpose. She was so sure of the outcome that she brought two children with her when she came to locate, and as yet had not so much as secured a room, but God opened the way.

By Thanksgiving Day she had twelve children, and a Miss Shaw came from the Dawes Academy to assist her, and brought along a printing outfit with which to start a paper that was called The Guide. A school and a Sunday school were started in the orphanage.

Thanksgiving Day found her with twelve children and two workers, and $1 in money with which to provide a Thanksgiving dinner. With faith in God she went to the market to purchase the meat and cranberries. While she waited in line with the rich who carried off great dressed turkeys to their children, she prayed almost audibly for God to give her a turkey for her children in the orphanage who had no father to buy it for them. As her turn came at the counter she placed her dollar down and called for a small piece of meat for the orphans. The dealer, knowing her, asked, “Why don’t you get them a turkey?” When he was told that this was her all, he replied, “Oh, well!” and cut off the 50 cents’ worth of meat. But just as she reached the door, he called her back, and handed her a big turkey, saying, “Feed the children good,” and took back the piece of meat and gave her back her money. The children had turkey and cranberry sauce for dinner. In this way the orphanage has been supported for twenty years.

The same year in December they had so outgrown their home that they had to move, but houses were hard to find just then, and for two weeks she walked the streets seeking a large house, but finding none. Tired and weary, she called her children around her with her faithful band of workers, and went to prayer for God to help them find a house. While they prayed she arose, saying, “I know which way to go, God has shown me.” She went and soon found the very house that she needed at 519 West Fifth Street. She went to the office of the agent, telling him that she would take the house and asked for the key. He gave her a look that startled her, and said, “House rent in this city is cash in advance.” The rent was $20 and she had not a cent. She took off her gold watch, and told him to keep that till Monday, when she would bring him the money. He took the watch and gave her the key. She hastened home and wrote a letter to her sister, asking for the loan of the needed money, and ran to the incoming train to mail it, but she had no stamp, nor pennies with which to buy. Sad and almost discouraged, she walked home praying. God spoke, “Can you trust? Why not trust me with this matter?”

A sweet relief came and she tore the letter to bits and strewed it along the streets as she went singing home. This was Thursday, and on Friday they moved to Fifth Street, and on Monday the money came in a way that she had never thought it could. The watch was redeemed, and needed furniture was bought besides. They had been in this house only one month when the landlord demanded the house. The money was tendered, but he replied, “No; I want my house. You people pray too loud to suit me.” Again it was to move, and not enough money to pay house rent, as they had found a house for $25. The Lord sent in a friend who offered the loan of the needed money, but he was told that if he could trust the Lord to get it back for him in time that it would be accepted, and he agreed, and finally gave the money outright.

Here they stayed three years, when Miss Mallory sold her property in Kansas and made the first payment of $300 on a twenty-acre tract of land located on what is now West Twenty-Seventh Street, Oklahoma City, then a suburban farm. Brother Creek gave his time and raised other money needed just then for building a house, which was constructed mostly by the boys in the home and the workers.

They stayed there three years, and sold out and bought still farther out of the city that was growing very rapidly. The property was known as Beulah Heights, just outside the city limits. Rev. J. B. McBride then came to assist them in a meeting, which was a great revival. In this meeting the rescue work for Oklahoma was born, after much prayer. An Organization was formed, known as the Oklahoma Orphanage and Rescue Commission. The first thought was to run both institutions under one management, which was soon found could not easily be done. Dr. W. L. Ellison, of Oklahoma City, was sanctified in this meeting, and was made superintendent of the rescue home. After him there were two other superintendents of the home, Rev. H. B. Beau and Dr. G. W. Sawyer. This home did much good and sheltered many girls.

 

OKLAHOMA-KANSAS DISTRICT

 

At the close of the General Assembly at Pilot Point, Texas, Districts were formed and Superintendents were elected in the old fields, and a new District was formed of Oklahoma and Kansas, and at the suggestion of Rev. J. B. Chapman, Rev. C. B. Jernigan was appointed District Superintendent, covering the vast territory of these two states, in which were only six struggling churches and three small church buildings, located at Howard, Kas., Newberg and Durant, Okla. Much of the lands in Oklahoma were Indian land and unallotted at this time, and the people had to live in log houses and dugouts. This did not discourage the District Superintendent, as he was a pioneer to the manner born, and loved the front of the battle.

The appointment was made in the last of October, 1908, and in November he was on the field. With no money and little encouragement, he packed his photographic camera into his grip and started for Oklahoma. Traveling expenses were heavy, and his people were poor, and he would go as far as his money would take him, and stop and find a schoolhouse in which to hold meetings at night, while he went from house to house making photographs in the daytime, until he had gathered enough people to organize a Pentecostal Nazarene church, then he would secure a pastor and put him over the little flock, and pack his grip for other fields. Some of the roughest and toughest men would attend these meetings, at whose homes the Superintendent had gone to make photographs, and they would fall into the altar and get saved and then join the church.

Thus he went from place to place, making pictures, preaching holiness, and shouting the victory, and planting Pentecostal Nazarene churches, and leaving faithful shepherds to guard the little flock, until the state was well worked, and many churches planted in Kansas. He secured five hundred copies of a special edition of the Nazarene Messenger, then published at Los Angeles, Cal., which contained a full description of the church union, and the general workings of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. These he paid for out of his photograph money, and had them mailed to people whose names he had gathered, who he thought might be interested in a Pentecostal Nazarene church. A little later he got out a special church number of the Holiness Evangel, the church paper of the South, of which he was one of the editors, and mailed a thousand copies of the same to such people in these two states as he could get their names. This made a call for church Manuals, and later for Pentecostal Nazarene churches, which caused the Superintendent to have to travel day and night to make his appointments. Soon the camera was left behind, as there was no time to make pictures, but calls from every quarter came.

 

REVIVAL AT PONCA CITY

 

During the first year the Superintendent was called to assist Rev. J. H. McIntyre in a meeting in Ponca City. Rev. Mr. McIntyre had found a flock of holiness people there without a shepherd, the result of the labors of Dr. H. H. Miller, who was a Methodist pastor. Brother Miller had been sanctified at Camp Sychar, Ohio, and transferred to Oklahoma, and had a great revival in his church at Ponca City conducted by Dr. D. F. Brooks, Dave Hill, the sawmill evangelist, and Rev. Frank Doty. This trio stirred Ponca City as it had not been before. Dr. Miller had over one hundred members in his church and never over a dozen attending prayermeeting. A real revival broke out as was expected, but the official board took the seat of the scornful, and fumed and threatened all sorts of things while the meeting rolled on. Restitution was made by many, and some indescribable scenes took place. Often no chance for a sermon, and people kneeled all over the house and began praying out, without an invitation, and scores swept into the kingdom. Two Sunday school teachers were sanctified, and began teaching holiness in their classes.

Holiness had triumphed, and the Sunday school had increased in attendance from sixty-seven to over 160. The church was enlarged, at a cost of $2,200, to accommodate the increasing crowds, and all this was easily paid off before conference. Dr. Miller was removed from Ponca City, but the seed had been sown. The next summer they had a holiness campmeeting conducted by Rev. Bud Robinson and Rev. I. G. Martin, which was a great success. The following fall was the General Assembly at Pilot Point, Texas, and Rev. Mr. McIntyre had gathered a little flock together and organized them into a Pentecostal Nazarene church, and Dr. Bresee, returning from the General Assembly, stopped off and visited them.

When the Superintendent went to hold the meeting, he invited Rev. Ernest Roberts, then a young preacher, to assist him. They found a neat little hall on the main street of the town with a sign, “Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene” across the street, and thirteen members of this church with a pastor who knew no fear, nor hesitated to go up against any enemy, a man of conscientious convictions.

The first few days the house was so crowded that the revival was moved to larger quarters, and for thirty-two consecutive days there were two services each weekday and three on Sunday. Crowds came, the power fell, and night after night the long altar bench was filled, and sometimes twice in one night. Backslidden preachers raved, hypocrites roared, tobacco soaks roared, but some of the hardest men in the town were saved. The editor of one of the daily papers was gloriously saved and sanctified, and kept the meetings well advertised.

One of the town pastors met the evangelist on the street, and was invited to attend the meetings, but was met with the prompt response, “No, I am not coming. I do not like that kind of a meeting.” When asked why, he replied, “Oh, that noise; it’s all put on, and it makes me nervous.” The evangelist replied, “You were never more mistaken in all your life. It is not ‘put on.’ it is ‘put in’; and, like grease in a gourd, it will work out.”

This revival resulted in about one hundred professions, and sixty-seven additions to the church, and the baptism of thirty-five in one service. Lots were bought for a church, and the foundation was being laid when the meeting closed, and today they have church property worth $10,000. This was the result of a pastor who stayed by the stuff, and would not be satisfied with a ten days’ meeting, and an evangelist who went to plant something.

 

A MARVELOUS GROWTH

 

The Oklahoma-Kansas District grew until in June of the second year Kansas was made a District with twenty-three churches, and at the close of the fourth year Oklahoma was divided into two Districts, having about forty-five churches each.

The opportune time had come, and with a determination to win, the work went on. The Superintendent hunted places to plant churches, in this new and unorganized field, he did not wait for a call, nor for something to turn up; he simply went out with the avowed purpose to turn something up.

The rapid growth of the work in that state attracted the attention of many preachers who professed holiness, but were in other churches. These wrote to the Superintendent, asking what he had to offer them if they would come to Oklahoma and become Pentecostal Nazarenes. One man especially continued to write for an opening until the Superintendent wrote him that the kind of preachers who would succeed in Oklahoma were men who would “Take the bull by the horns, and break his neck, and skin him and make a tent of his hide, and peddle the meat for a living. I know the pasture that the bull runs in, and if you will come over I will show him to you. Come on.” He did not come.

On one occasion one of his pastors wrote him that he was thinking of giving up his charge, as it was a hard place, and the people were fussy, and closed his letter by asking, “What shall I do?” The Superintendent wrote back that “The only thing needed there was a man. Can you furnish that?” The pastor stayed and the work went on.

 

A SCHOOL AND A RESCUE HOME

 

In this rich new state there were no church institutions, and soon the need for a school was felt, and the Superintendent was invited to Beulah Heights, Oklahoma City, where Miss Mattie Mallory, assisted by others, had opened an orphanage (the Oklahoma Orphanage), and a school called the Oklahoma Holiness College, and a rescue home for the redemption of erring girls

Here a church was organized, and plans laid to take over the school and rescue work by the church, to become the property of the District. Miss Mallory retained the Orphanage under her personal oversight, not taking it into church work.

They had some very good buildings at the orphanage, and the school had a good brick building, although small, and a good frame dormitory, all of this belonging to the orphanage work; while the rescue work had ten acres of land and a good little cottage on it. This was turned over to the church and became the property of the District. This property was sold for $6,000, and property bought at Bethany, Okla., four and one-half miles west of the city limits of Oklahoma City, on the El Reno interurban car line. Here forty acres of land was also bought and the Oklahoma Holiness College was located there, and the Oklahoma Orphanage was also moved to Bethany. The school opened in September 1909, and has run continuously since, with Dr. H. H. Miller, Rev. Fred Mesch, Dr. A. M. Hills, Rev. G. B. Burkholder, Rev. E. J. Lord, and Rev. C. B. Widmeyer presidents successively.

The rescue home was opened the same year and ran seven years under the supervision of Mrs. Johnny Jernigan, and during that time 700 girls registered there, most of whom were saved, when Mrs. Jernigan’s health failed when, at the District Assembly at Altus, Okla., the property was turned over to the Oklahoma Holiness College and the home was discontinued.