- Parent Category: History
- Category: Hickory, NC History
- Published on Thursday, 22 June 2006 21:29
History of Hickory, North Carolina Gospel Hall
Oswald MacLeod, 1995
Part 1 - Conversion of Oswald MacLeod
Part 2 - Depression Era Evangelism
Part 3 - Initial Gathering at Hickory
Part 4 - Back to North Carolina
Part 5 - Gathering Again
Part 6 - Gradual Growth
Part 7 - New Building
Part 8 - Conclusion
Part 1 - Conversion of Oswald MacLeod
I first saw the light of day on August 16, 1902 in a farmhouse at Pugwash Junction, (earlier know as Doherty Creek) Nova Scotia, Canada. In contrast to many, it was my privilege to be raised in a Christian home, both my parents being saved 4 1/2 months before my first birthday. I am sure they were exposed to the gospel some ye ars before, as my father would have still been in his teen years and my mother a few years younger when in the mid 1880's or earlier, Mr. John Knox McEwen came and labored in that area, at which time my two grandmothers were saved.
My parents both were saved in the late winter and early spring of 1903 when Mr. David Scott held fruitful meetings in the area and quite a number were saved. During previous months in nearby communities as well, he saw much blessing and many saved. From his own testimony more than sixty in all, during those months.
My first recollection of soul concern goes back to quite an early age, when at dinner on a Lord's Day, my father and a visiting brother were discussing the coming of the Lord for His own. The awful thought of being left behind when He came was a very disturbing reality to my young mind. During the following years, on many occasions I was troubled about my soul and longed to be saved. One event that shook me greatly was when my brother, five years my senior, got saved in July of 1913.
During the spring of 1915, I was led to deeper concern as to my condition, partly because of the coming of the annual conference held over the first of July weekend. By the way, it was quite small in those days, as most visitors from a distance traveled by train, while others closer came by horse and buggy. Automobiles were few and far between in those days. Through the years it has grown until now a crowd of 600 or more is common. That year the late Mr. John Ferguson, not long out from the Old Country and living in the Boston area, came to the conference for the first time, intending to return home promptly for tent meetings, but God had other plans for him. God was moving. A young girl got saved shortly before the conference, some were saved during the conference. I was awakened and in soul trouble. I was deeply impressed with Mr. Ferguson's oratory and solemn preaching of the gospel which stirred me to the depth of my soul. So it was with relief that I heard it announced he would be remaining for a few meetings, for I was convinced that this was God's time for me to get saved, that it was now or never. On Wednesday an eighteen-year-old girl got saved and the meetings went on. Friday night found me, five and a half weeks short of 13 years of age, deeply troubled about my soul. Following the gospel meeting, in the home after the usual family reading, when my name was mentioned in prayer, all the pent up feelings of guilt before God and soul trouble burst forth in a flood of tears.
The preacher sat down beside me and turning his Bible to Isaiah 53:5-6 sought to point me to the Savior. But I saw nothing that I did not already know. My problem was believing, how to believe, how would I know when I had believed enough or in the right way, and expecting some feeling to give me assurance when I had believed. Finally told it was not feelings that gave the assurance, my darkness deepened almost into despair. I arose from the couch and ascending the stairway to my bedroom, I tried once again to believe, but nothing happened. It then dawned upon me that I was lost and all hope of ever being saved was gone and as Mr. David Rea I believe it was who said, "I was resolved to go to hell.
As I walked across the room my thoughts were turned to Calvary. I always knew that Christ had died for sinners, but at that moment it broke in upon my soul for the first time that Christ had died for me. I never thought of believing or of feelings; it was enough that Jesus died and that He died for me. The burden of sin was lifted, peace with God was mine, love for Christ filled my soul and thanksgiving went up to God on that July 9, 1915.
The meetings went on for six weeks during which time more than twenty professed to be saved. Alas, some proved unreal. Of them all, to my knowledge, I am the only one still living.
A few weeks later, on a warm Sunday afternoon along with a number of others I was baptized in a creek on my grandfather's farm. A little later I was received into assembly fellowship, where by the grace of God I continue to this day.
From the beginning of my Christian life there was always a measure of exercise and desire to give my life to the work of the Lord. But alas, at times there was not the zeal and love for souls there might have been. In the summer of 1924 it was my privilege to spend a few weeks in tent work with the late brethren Robert Milnes and James McCullough just out from Ireland. It was not so easy in those days. Our mode of transportation was our two feet; we lived, cooked, ate and slept in the tent, visited and preached, but I was happy in the work even though results were limited.
At the end of that year I migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the following year to the suburban area of Bryn Mawr. For the next few years I was engaged in secular employment, which limited my movements but gave opportunity to preach the gospel in the various halls in the area on Lord's Day evenings.
My exercise deepened, but to make the choice between remaining where I was in comparative ease and launching out in faith on God was not easy, for I had learned enough from some of those in full time work to know that at times faith was very severely tested. In the summer of 1927 I spent two weeks of my vacation with the late Mr. James Marshall in tent work in Connecticut. This further deepened my exercise. The following early summer, encouraged by a number of my brethren, I gave in my notice and together with the late Mr. Sam Rea, at that time still in secular work, bought a tent which we erected in early July in Hatboro, a northern suburb of Philadelphia where a few Christians lived but there was no assembly. We saw some fruit from our labor there which began a work resulting in an assembly being planted late in 1929 which continues to this day with good growth and considerable blessing from the Lord.
During that summer I met Dr. William J. Matthews of Northern Ireland who was visiting in this country and who asked me to accompany him on his purposed trip to the West Coast of Canada and the U.S.
This appealed to me and with approval from some of my brethren I joined him. The following five months with him proved inestimable in value, both in experience and in learning from him.
In the years since then I have spent time with quite a number of good men in various parts of the U.S. and Canada seeing a few souls saved here and there, but the greater part of my life has been lived here in North Carolina where we have seen somewhat of the blessing of the Lord through the years. Finally in 1991 I made a visit to the beautiful land of Northern Ireland which has been so greatly enriched by the grace of God and also by the love, kindness and hospitality of his beloved people.
Now all the older men with whom I have labored and some younger are in heaven, and I am left here to the present, for some purpose. As I look back over these many years of proving the faithfulness and goodness of God and the loving care of His beloved people, I am very humbly grateful to Him for all the way that He has led me.
There has been much failure, there have been disappointments, trials, heartaches, illness, pain and also sorrow, but He abideth faithful. On the other hand there has been much joy and happiness, much that has brought us pleasure and satisfaction, when we have seen somewhat of the approval of God in what both my wife and I have undertaken for Him. My chief regret is that there has not been much more for Him, who alone is worthy of far more than we could ever give to Him. For love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all.
In closing, the words of Rutherford come to mind:
I've wrestled on toward heaven, 'gainst storm and wind and tide,
Now like a weary traveler, that leaneth on his guide.
Amid the shades of evening, while sinks yon lingering sun.
I'll hail the glory dawning in Immanuel's land.
Part 2 - Depression Era Evangelism
In the latter years of the 1920's, the U.S. was inexorably sliding into the throes of the great economic depression that also affected many other nations of the world. This was climaxed by the great Stock Market Crash in October 1929 when the wealth of multitudes was wiped out in a single day. The full impact of this disaster probably reached its lowest point in late 1932. During these difficult times many lifestyles had to be altered and many people moved from their former locations of residence seeking employment elsewhere and, if possible, to better themselves financially. Many young couples had to move in with their parents. In other cases, parents moved in with their children.
Perhaps a few words as to conditions at that time would not be out of place at this point in our writing. In 1932 in the Asheville area, men were glad to work long hours at manual labor if it could even be obtained. The available work was mostly highway work for only $1.00 per day. Factory work, if there was any, may have paid a little more. In the mills, women received $5.00 or $6.00 per week for long hours. Mrs. Fowler told us one time that during the short days of winter the only time she saw the sun was on Sunday.
Conditions by today's standards were very low. Gasoline at times was as low as 15 or 16 cents per gallon. Sometimes on weekend specials, pork chops might be as low as 2 pounds for a quarter, but few had the quarter. There was no unemployment insurance or Social Security in those days. So with the multitude that had no work and the many whose savings were wiped out by bank failures, living standards reached a very low level. I write this so that folks of this affluent generation will have some idea of what conditions were like in the depression years when I first came to preach the gospel in North Carolina.
Among those who left the area of their birth was a young man named Alfred Dancy. He was born July 4th, 1904 in the vicinity of Jefferson, in Ashe County North Carolina, and he later settled in Lenoir, NC. In the late twenties, he and his young wife moved to Petersperg, VA, where his only daughter, Juanita, was born.
In Petersburg he obtained employment at his profession as a barber in a shop owned and operated by a Christian man named A.W. Hardy who was in fellowship in the Petersburg assembly of Christians gathered unto the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through the testimony and influence of Mr. Hardy, Fred was brought into contact with the simple gospel of Christ. He had a bit of Methodist religion but in time learned he had nothing for eternity and needed to be saved. In the summer of 1931, the McEwen brothers, Sam and Hugh, had tent meetings near Hopewell, VA, a few miles from Petersburg. The Dancys began attending regularly, taken generally by our late brother Samuel Ellison. During those meetings both of the Dancys were saved.
Later on that fall, Mrs. Dancy (Irene) was baptized and received into the Petersburg assembly. Fred had some doubts and uncertainty in his mind as to whether he was really saved or not, so he was not baptized at that time. Before the end of the year 1931 they moved back to Lenoir. With no meetings to attend, they felt lonely, but Fred kept up some correspondence with Mr. McEwen, wishing that someone would come and "Help us" like the call from Macedonia (Acts 16:8). Irene, though her father was a Baptist minister, had no further connection with the Baptist church.
At the New Year conference of 1932 in Newport News, VA, this writer was present. It was my exercise as a young man to get into some new area with the gospel, as the assemblies were well supplied with older men of whom there were many more at that time than the present. At Mr. McEwen's suggestion, I decided to take a trip to Lenoir to visit the Dancys, hoping a door would be open for the gospel.
Considering the financial straits the country was in as a whole, and preachers were not exempt, it was very difficult to obtain a place for meetings. I rented a room in Lenoir and finally obtained use of a church building owned by a cotton mill owner 20 miles from Lenoir in Taylorsville. I commuted and took the Dancys when they could go. The people came well, but I was ordered to close the meetings after two or three weeks. I have always believed this was the work of the clergymen, because some of them were at the Sunday night meeting immediately before this order was given. While in Lenoir, I spent time with the Dancys and sought to help them. After these several weeks in Lenoir, I joined the late brother James Smith for some meetings in Asheville. When the meetings closed, we made a short visit to Bryn Mawr at which time I arranged to have our tent shipped to Asheville.
At that time, apart from a small weak assembly in Asheville, and a mere handful left in Canton which soon was discontinued, there was practically no assembly work going on in western NC. The summer of 1932 was spent in tent work in the Asheville area with Mr. Smith who lived in Asheville at that time. In October of 1932, Sarah Jane Beattie and I were married and settled in Asheville. The summer of 1933 was also spent around Asheville with blessing in the gospel both summers. During this period of time now and then we visited the Dancys. In July of 1933, their son Alfred Jr. was born. He was saved on July 10, 1950 and is now a respected elder in the Hickory Assembly.
Part 3 - Initial Gathering at Hickory
In the summer of 1934, we felt we had "compassed this mountain" (Asheville) long enough so in keeping with my exercise I came to Hickory in August and secured a tent lot on what now is 1st Ave. and 8th St. S.W. Two men with an old truck hauled the tent over from Asheville for a few dollars. I pitched the tent with the only real help given by the two truckers who helped erect the two poles and the roof. Aladdin lanterns which hung on cross pieces on the tent poles gave us light.
A weary looking woman, whose name I have forgotten, walking past on her way home from work, hardly turned her eyes away from us until she was well past the tent. Later we learned she was a widow taking care of two small nephews. She was one of the first at the tent and later on was saved.
I rented a room and contacted brother Gordon Reager who came and shared with me in the meetings which continued six or seven weeks. Two other women professed: a Mrs. Pierce whom we believed was really saved and a Mrs. Setzer. There being no assembly, these and others who professed never left their religious connections, but if they were really saved, they will be in heaven as part of His redeemed bride.
As there seemed to be an interest in the preaching of the gospel in Hickory, it seemed impractical financially and in other ways to be living in a room in Hickory and maintaining a home in Asheville. So my wife and I rented four upstairs rooms on what was then 8th St. but now 3rd St. S.E. and moved what few belongings we had to Hickory. Both Sarah Jane and I were happy to be together again. Those four upstairs rooms were almost unbearably hot in summer and correspondingly cold in the winter. Our home was now in Hickory, but we continued to drive to Asheville to remember the Lord. Occasionally we were obliged to miss a Lord's Day because of circumstances beyond our control.
After those first tent meetings had ended, Mr. Ed Pierce, the husband of one of the women who had professed, told us that the old Cloninger schoolhouse was vacant and might be obtained for meetings. Mr. Pierce was a man friendly toward the gospel and to us, but he was not saved.
We obtained use of the schoolhouse which was on Cool Park Rd., not far from its intersection with Sandy Ridge Road several miles Northeast of Hickory. From whom we obtained permission for its use I do not remember. But schools were being consolidated at that time, so the country one room schools were passing off the scene. This one was already sold, and soon after we used it the school was torn down and rebuilt as a private dwelling on Springs Road.
The meetings went well and continued several weeks. The majority of the people were Lutheran, but we were told that the only two families in the neighborhood that did not attend were Baptist. At that time of course, which is 60 years ago now, the population was probably not much more than 25% of what it is at present.
It was easy to preach to men and women to whom the simple gospel was quite new. Several professed to be saved. One hardened sinner was often seen with tears running down his face to the floor. He professed salvation and seemed real but seemed unable to cut loose from some of his former evils.
We met Mrs. Albert Eckert whom we believe was a real Christian, but who never left the Lutheran church. However, she proved a friend and often came to meetings through later years. We also met the Laman Shepherds with their seven children. Laman professed to be saved. Mrs. Shepherd and the two oldest girls all professed at those meetings, but we will add more about the Shepherd family later.
Toward the end of this series of meetings, a man started coming almost every night. All I learned of him was that his name was Herman. Later we learned that he walked four miles over dirt roads to those meetings after working all day in the woods. We also learned later that his mother had been to some of those meetings and after hearing the preaching remarked to some in the family, "That man is preaching the true gospel." She and others of the family were saved during tent meetings near her home in later years.
A s I did not keep a diary during those years, which I very much regret now, I cannot write a detailed account of all the meetings and developments in their proper order. As no regular meeting place was available, during the months when the weather was not suitable for tent work we had many cottage meetings. But while we lived in Hickory during those years, we at times went off and had meetings in other places.
In the early summer of 1935, we had tent meetings in Highland where the Highland Baptist church now stands. Clemon and Mary Smyre were saved at that time. His sister, Mrs. Haire, had been saved along with her husband and were in the assembly in Raleigh, thus the connection with this family. Horace Bynum and his wife also professed at that time.
Mother being very ill at that time, we went to Nova Scotia for a visit to see her. Later that summer we pitched the tent on Sandy Ridge Rd. The first night I recognized George Herman, the young man who had attended a number of meetings the fall before in the old school. At this time he was living with his sister nearby. During the intervening months, he had been under deep conviction of sin, and the terrors of death and Hell had laid hold upon him. After two or three weeks of meetings, he was saved in the backyard of the home after returning from meeting as he was going out into the woods to pray. His was a real conversion and his life was radically changed. We never had to teach him baptism, separation, or gathering to His Name; all these truths seemed to come with the new birth.
He was married shortly after his conversion, fulfilling his commitment made to Clara Lail previously. The following summer, Clara was saved during tent meetings in Hickory.
Generally, the work progressed slowly and at times was quite discouraging. In the early summer of 1936, we tried tent meetings in Lenoir. Attendance was quite good but no one professed that I recall. This was earlier than the Hickory meetings referred to above. In those days, most of the time I was caretaker of the tent, songleader, preacher, and visitor. However, now and then we had a fittle help from Brother James Smith referred to earlier.
During all those trying, difficult, and often discouraging years, times when both money and food were in short supply, my dear wife now at rest in heaven, stood faithfully by my side. I do not recall her ever complaining of our lot. She made do with what we had. So the words of the wise man are true, "A prudent wife is from the Lord" (Proverbs 19:14).
In due time we baptized a number in the lake. I am not sure of the date nor the exact number. Among those baptized were Mr. Dancy, George and Clara Herman, Mr. and
Mrs. Clem Smyre, Mr. and Mrs. Lamon Shepherd, and their two daughters. Some others were baptized later but never came into the assembly. By this time we were exercised about forming an assembly, but we had no place to meet.
In the spring of 1937, we were able to build a small five room house on what is now North Center St. This we were able to do because of some financial help from my mother. So in the spring of 1938, we felt the time had come to start breaking bread. This simple ordinance, yet so profound, is the focal point of an assembly. No gathering of Christians could be called an assembly, unless they practice the breaking of bread in a scriptural way.
So the appointed Lord's Day came. The Smyres had shown their reluctance and never did take their place with us. The Shepherds were present but requested not to participate. He being a Lutheran was influenced with the erroneous doctrine of consubstantiation and believed the emblems to be more than bread and wine. We discussed it afterwards to no avail. They left the house that day and so far as I recall it was the last one of our meetings they ever attended. We missed them for with their large family they filled a number of seats at meetings.
So in the living room of our home on that Lord's Day morning in the spring of 1938 the first breaking of bread in Hickory, so far as we know, was held. Those that participated that day were the Dancys, the Hermans, Sarah Jane, and I. That the others mentioned above did not take their place with us was a keen disappointment, but only one of quite a number. In the early summer of that year we again pitched our tent in West Hickory. During these meetings some interest developed. Mr. and Mrs. Ford Richardson and Mr. and Mrs. Carl Elmore professed. The latter two and Ford were later baptized, but only Ford came into the assembly and proved to be a help. The Elmores declined for some reason. Later that summer, we pitched the tent out on Springs Rd. across the street from where Killian's Hardware is now located. It was mostly a Lutheran community, and the attendance was excellent. However, after two or three weeks a wire came that my father was dying in Nova Scotia. So we felt obliged to go and be with the family, especially my mother who was far from well. Brother Smith had joined me and I thought he would have continued the meetings, but he felt otherwise and closed Sunday night the day after we left. However, he did come over some Lord's Days to help the few brethren with the meetings until we returned home early in 1939.
During the early part of the new year we were finally able to rent an empty store building on Highland Ave. It was not much of a place, but after a good deal of work it was usable as a meeting place. We also had a series of tent meetings in Collettsville a few miles above Lenoir but with meager results. In the early summer, we made a trip to Nova Scotia to take my mother, who had spent the winter with us for health reasons, home. On our return trip during the Lord's Day in Bryn Mawr, my younger sister, who was traveling with us, was saved during the gospel meeting on Sunday night. This was no small encouragement to us at the time.
In the late summer we pitched a new tent in Granite Falls and had excellent attendance for nine weeks. I was able to buy this tent because an elderly sister in Bryn Mawr whom I used to visit had made me a beneficiary in her will. The family added $100.00 to the $100.00 she bequeathed to me, so that enabled us to purchase a much-needed new tent. A few professed during those meetings, but only one young man, Benny Hice, came into the assembly. But I am not sure, it may have been at later meetings when he was saved. He was a simple lad but real. The first Lord's Day that he broke bread, he arose and repeated the Lord's prayer. The next Lord's Day he arose and with a few sentences thanked God for His Son, which really touched my heart. When the war came he was drafted into the Army. When the war was over he married a German girl and, as far as I know, settled in Germany. I saw him only once after that, but he had lost his luster.
During that period we had numerous meetings and some professed but scarcely any growth in the assembly was seen. Then the war broke out in Europe, and in December 1941 the United States entered the war. As there was very little war work in this area, the people began moving elsewhere. The Hermans with their three little boys moved first. Ford moved to Newport News, and Benny Hice joined the Army. This left only the Dancys and my wife and me. Fred felt at the time he also would have to move because barbering was slow, but as it turned out, he remained.
In 1941, we had a discouraging tent effort not far from where we now live. The year before we had good meetings there at the same location when a number professed to be saved, but the second try proved disappointing which often is the case. After this disappointing effort, I joined Mr. McBain in Dayton, OH. A few Christians met in a home in Dayton and needed help so we were encouraged to move there, which we did in the late spring of 1942. In so doing, the testimony was discontinued in Hickory.
Our stay in Dayton lasted about seven years. Things did not develop as we had expected, so a move seemed inevitable. We had considerable encouragement to move to Akron, but our little house which we were obliged to buy in 1942, for rental properties were practically unobtainable, did not sell as we had anticipated.
Part 4 - Back to North Carolina
In the fall of 1947 I came back to North Carolina to visit the Dancys and others, expecting to return home and begin a series of meetings at Chicago Blvd. in Detroit soon afterwards. But as a fellow worker was not available, the meetings were put off until early in 1948.
Brother Dancy had by this time built a new building in Whitnel for his barber shop, one half of it for rental. This portion being empty, Fred suggested meetings in it. A visit to the junkyard found some discarded theater seats which we procured and with some repairs made usable. And, obtaining some chairs in addition to these, we began meetings. An excellent interest developed and preaching was easy. As the building was rented and the occupation date was at hand, we had to close after a month.
Because of the interest in the Whitnel meetings in the fall of 1947, we returned in the summer of 1948 with our tent and pitched it near the school in Whitnel. The late James Smith Sr. came and shared in the meetings, part of the long series. Several professed, among whom was Opal Price, Lois Cannon and her daughters, Faye and Helen, and Mr. and Mrs. Glen Watson. The interest and attendance were encouraging.
After a short visit home over Labor Day and the Cleveland conference, I returned and pitched again in Granite Falls. I obtained a room in Hickory in order to take the Church family to the meetings. During those meetings Mrs. Millard (Mattie Lou) Church whom we visited earlier in the summer and found interested, was saved.
A man named Snyder who professed in Granite Falls in 1939, but in whom we had little confidence, turned up at the meetings in Whitnel in 1947, with three or four other men with him, and attended well. He proved to be a real case of conversion and supported our meetings but never came into the assembly.
During the winter of 1949 we returned to NC and had some meetings in the basement of the Church's home. During the summer of 1948, the Herman family moved back to Hickory. The fall before in Whitnel we contacted Mr. and Mrs. David Younce who years before had been in fellowship in Bristol, VA.
Through these many months we were much exercised before God as to our path relative to the interest in NC. I contacted at least three of our younger preaching brethren to see if any of them would consider taking up the work to see how it would develop, but none of them responded favorably.
We would have been heartily welcomed in Akron, but our house was still unsold. Maybe I should say at this point, that when we left Hickory in 1942 it looked like our work in the area was finished. Discouraged, we had little desire or intention ever to return unless for a visit. But God's plan for us was different. In Psalm 77:19 we read, "Thy way is in the sea and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known." This we believe refers to Israel at the Red Sea, but it was our experience to quite a degree at that time. But I relate all this to let all who may read it see how God may lead us in paths contrary to our liking or intention to accomplish His purpose and His work. Abraham's servant said, "I being in the way the Lord led me" (Genesis 24:27). After considerable waiting upon Him through prayer and submitting our wills to His, my dear wife and I decided if the house would sell we would buy a house trailer and haul it down to Whitnel, NC. We would then live in it until we would see how the work developed.
After making this decision, not sure what all might be involved, almost immediately the house which had been on the market for months was sold at a good price. So now with most of our furniture put in storage we were ready for our return to North Carolina. We purchased a trailer 8 feet wide and 25 feet long and stocked it with as many necessities as possible. After an arduous two day trip in June of 1949, we finally landed in Brother Dancy's yard where we lived for a year.
Part 5 - Gathering Again
A young man, James H. Smith Jr. of Detroit, drove down with us and helped with the tent work for a number of weeks before returning home. Attendance was quite good with blessing resulting from the effort. A little later in September, we baptized several of those who had professed during these two tent efforts.
As there was now a nucleus of Christians in the area, our thoughts were turning to the idea of gathering them together in assembly capacity. This of course would necessitate a place in which to meet. To this end we decided to build a large portable hall. So we pitched our tent on Brother Dancy's lot above his house, and during the fall built the hall under the canvas roof. The new hall was 20 feet by 36 feet. The floor sections were 10' x 6' and the roof sections were 12' x 6'. The walls of half-inch plywood were in 8' x 8' sections. During this period we had numerous cottage meetings, and on Lord's Day mornings we went to Asheville to remember the Lord, usually taking some of the Christians with us.
In the early weeks of 1950 we set up the portable hall on a lot owned by the late Sam Miller at 2nd St. and 10th Ave. N.E. in Hickory. He let us occupy this lot rent-free for four years. Shortly after setting it up, we had a series of meetings during which Mrs. Claude (Delia) Wright was saved.
On March 19, 1950 we met together to remember the Lord Jesus Christ, thus forming the current assembly in Hickory. Those who made up the little company at the first were Fred and Irene Dancy, George and Clara Herman, David and Mae Younce, Mrs. Mattie Lou Church, Opal Price, Oswald and Sarah Jane MacLeod, and Lois Cannon and her two daughters Faye and Helen. The latter three later dropped out. Of the other ten, only Clara Herman and I are left; the others have all been called home to heaven.
With the assembly gathered, and the leading of the Lord so definite, we had no question but this was the portion of His vineyard in which He would have us labor. So we bought a lot and started building the house in which we still live. In one year we moved in and sold the trailer which had now been at 3045 North Center St. for a year.
In June we pitched the tent in Whitnel again. In this series we had the joy of seeing John B. Setzer, his wife Juanita (nee Dancy), and Fred Dancy Jr. saved. These three folks, young at the time, were soon baptized and received into fellowship. These two men, now matured, have been considered elders in the assembly for many years.
In the late summer of that year, we had tent meetings in the Highland area of Hickory. Attendance was quite good but we saw little in the way of results. The late Mr. Arthur G. Christie was with us for those meetings and a while afterwards.
Through the years we spent at least a part of each summer in tent work. Altogether we pitched a least four times in Granite Falls, once in Rhodhiss, once in Hudson, once in Taylorsville, at least twice in Lenoir, three or four times in Whitnel, once in Morganton, and once in Connelly Springs. Memory fails to recall how many times in Hickory, Conover, Statesville, and also several series in a portable hall built after the assembly was formed and smaller than the first. Some of these efforts were disappointing, and in others we saw some profess who never came into the assembly.
In the latter part of the summer of 1951, we pitched our tent on Springs Road close to where the J.D. Bowmans live. They attended faithfully, but were not saved until about five years later. During those meetings we met Mrs. Lily Lail and her daughter Virginia, both of whom were widows and were also saved at a later date. Several professed during those meetings, but none of them desired to be added to the assembly in Hickory. So growth in the assembly was slow.
That fall Brother George Baldwin, commended from Bryn Mawr, PA, came down to Hickory and worked with us for some time before moving to Indiana where he spent the remainder of his life. In the fall of 1951, Brother Baldwin and I had meetings in the hall when Mrs. Lail professed. She proved to be a faithful soul to the end of her journey. Raymond Zander also from Bryn Mawr spent some time with us in 1952, when he and George worked the tent in Lenoir during our absence on a visit to Nova Scotia. He also was back for a short time in 1954.
When the assembly was formed in 1950, we set aside one offering a month to establish a building fund. Early in 1954, Mr. Miller, who had charged us no rent for the lot we had occupied four years, suggested we move the hall when we could find a lot. Although I was feeling very poorly following a nervous upset the previous November, we started searching for a lot. After some frustration, we finally procured the lot on 17th Ave. N.E., for $1400.00, where the hail is now located. We had enough in our building fund to pay for the lot, but little more.
Soon a basement was dug in the new lot and the hall was taken down, moved, and put up permanently. It was lengthened by eight feet. The aluminum roof was replaced by asphalt shingles, and the windows were replaced with larger double-hung sash windows. It had a full basement with restrooms. Neither city water nor sewer were on the street at the time, so a well had to be dug and a septic tank installed. Later, both city services became available and connections were made. This improved building served the assembly admirably for twenty years.
Part 6 - Gradual Growth
During the following years a few were added to the assembly, but not having kept a diary I cannot recall them all in order. Gayle Dancy, wife of Fred Dancy Jr., was saved August 20, 1954 during tent meetings with George Baldwin. In the early spring of 1957, Brother Lorne McBain joined me in meetings. Interest was good and souls were saved. J. D. and Mary Lou Bowman who had faithfully attended meetings since 1951 were saved. Floyd and Virginia Sigmon and Mrs. Clarence (Madge) Church were also saved. These five are still with us and are faithful to the assembly. Several others professed but did not continue with us although I believe some were really saved.
In later years the late James McCullough had meetings when Paul and Dorothy Herman were saved. Other brethren who had meetings at times were Robert Surgenor at least twice, and Paul Elliot in 1969 when Elsie Herman was saved. Eric McCullough was here when Larry Lail was saved. Robert Orr came once. George Graham and William Lavery came when Janice Lail and Harold Noe were saved. In 1975 in our new hall, Brother Surgenor joined us in fruitful meetings when a nice number professed, several of whom are still faithfully going on in the assembly fellowship.
On the morning of December 13, 1990, all were deeply saddened when it pleased the Lord to take to Himself by way of death, my beloved wife of 58 years, after nearly a year of suffering from cancer. Sarah Jane was born in Northern Ireland in March of 1903, and was born again in Yeadon, PA in June 1925. A few weeks after this she was baptized and received into the Bryn Mawr assembly, where she enjoyed fellowship until we were married in 1932. Her quiet, consistent spirit endeared her to many, as did her gracious hospitality. She was a true "Mother in Israel" and has been missed by both the young and old. After nearly three years alone, the Lord brought another helpmeet into my life in the person of Gertrude Van Elswyk, for which I am truly thankful.
In July of 1966, the MacDonald family, Mn, Marge, and their two little girls came to Hickory from Detroit; they were the first Christians to join us from a distance. Later in 1968, Stan and Chris Moore with their family came. Benny and Willa Stabile and the Howze family came in 1970 (the date is uncertain). Kurt and Wilma Petterson and their family came in 1979. Some of the Ernie Moore family came in 1981, the rest later on. A good number of the children of these families have professed and are in the assembly. Sadly, some are still not saved and others no longer meet with us. Roland Duncan's family came in 1986 and the Turnbull family in 1981 and are all with us now. The Kuopus family came in 1984. Three years ago, the McCandless family moved to the area from Iowa. In 1993 Gertrude Van Elswyk came as Mrs. Oswald L. MacLeod. The last to come were David and Cathy Procopio from Saugus, MA, in 1994. All these have added to the number and are appreciated. Some have professed through the years and did not go on. Others who professed and became part of the assembly dropped out for one reason or another even though some of these we believe were really saved. But we thank God for the number who go on steadily proving reality and a desire to please God. We have considered it unnecessary and unwise to mention names of certain ones who once were with us but are not any more.
Part 7 - New Building
The growth of the assembly was never spectacular, but it continued steadily. By the early 1970's, we determined that a new hall was needed. So we decided to tear the old one down to the floor and keep the basement but enlarge it. When plans were drawn and approved and permits obtain, work began in the late fall of 1973. Eighteen feet were added onto the back end and twelve feet on the lower or west side. The walls were built with 8 inch blocks