The Methodist Church had drifted a long way from her early purity and power even when Father was a young man. And some time about 1875 they became acquainted with the Free Methodist. I remember however, Father telling how the Lord held him to preaching the old fashion gospel while still in the Methodist Church.
Once, he told to a fine dignified minister hearing him preach. He had very special liberty. Jesus was preciously near. Father, after service, was speaking to everyone and came to the minister. This man was a tall man and as Father shook his hand, he leaned over and whispered in Father’s ear, “It is God Almighty’s truth and I’d preach it if I dare.” That was the trouble—men scarcely dare preach holiness unto the Lord.
Now in the spring of 1876 one of the Free Methodist ministers resigned his charge. It mav he in some old conference minutes I can find the name of that first circuit of Father’s, but I know it was in the vicinity of Flint.
Bro. Septer Roberts had persuaded Father to join the F.M. Church and fill the vacancy on that large country circuit.
To be a regular circuit rider, no he didn’t ride on horse back but he did ride in an old open buggy.
Mother has told me in the long ago about their going to that first circuit. Their clothes were poor and shabby. Mother cleaned and mended and pressed Father’s best suit as best she could, and other clothing. She had fixed her best dress, her coat, etc. Father had mended and polished their shoes. Mother had washed and ironed and fixed my clothing, for I was less than a year old and had the honor of accompanying my father and mother on their first circuit.
Mother told me years after how she had said to Father then, “You know, Pa, we want to present as neat an appearance as we can for people are so influenced by first impressions.”
Father had written a card to a certain bro. Howard, telling him they would be at Davison Station on a certain afternoon, arriving on the train.
They arrived safely, but there was no bro. Howard there to meet them. Father tried to find a ride out, hoping some farmer might he going out that way, hut it was a rainy day. The roads were muddy, and no way to ride presented itself. They made inquiry and found this Mr. Howard lived some five miles out so started to walk.
Father carried me and mother carried the satchel. They tried to pick their way along carefully so to not soil their nicely cleaned garments, but it grew dark and finally in order not to fall in the ditch, they had to keep to the middle of the road, mud or no mud.
They finally, after some stops and inquiries, found the place, and when Mother use to tell me about the tears would come and she would say, “I will never to my dieing day forget the kindness and sympathy with which Sister Howard received me. I had no change of shoes, but she provided a pair for me, and helped me change my wet muddy garments to dry clean ones.” Father was also provided for. I had not myself been walking in the mud, and when my coat was removed, was dry and happy.
Father preached Sunday in the Bently school house which was the school house nearest Howards. Then Howard took Father over to Pettice’s Mill where he preached.
I do not remember just how long it was before the family were moved over on the circuit, or just where we lived at first, but I do remember that we finally were settled in a neat little house i4 a country place called Richfield Center. It surely could not be called a village. There were’two general stores kitty corner from each other, there at Richfield Center. Then on one corner was the town hall. Then perhaps a house and then the school house. On the other side of the street was a row of houses and in one of these lived the Walter Haight family. It was in 1876, so brother David says, when Father moved on this circuit.
I have often sat and heard Father and Mother talk of their first revival effort. They held meetings in the town hall there in Richfield Center, and I’ve heard Father when trying to encourage some discouraged young preacher tell how they held meetings every night in that town hall for 6 weeks before there was even a break. But the break came and God came in mighty power.
Revival was held in Bently school house, and now in the Free Methodist paper, March, 1931, I read the experience of one who was gloriously saved in that meeting. It is as follows: “Jennie Pierce, Temple City. It cheers my heart to read in the paper of so many young people being engaged in the work of the Lord. My mind goes back to 1876, when I was 22 Years old when I sat under the powerful preaching of Rey. W.S. Haight near Flint, Michigan. One evening the text was ‘The Master is come and calleth for thee’. Before the sermon was done, I knew Jesus was calling me. I made my way to the alter. The pilwims told me I must pray. I began to say the Lord’s prayer. I got no farther than the first few lines when a flood of glory burst over my poor benighted soul. And now after passing of more than half a century, that sermon, that scripture, that prayer are as fresh in my mind as though the circumstance occured last week. I have forgotten many other things, even the names of many of my friends, but not that time, the day of all days to my soul. And now the end draweth near. I shall soon go to live with Him whom I have loved and served so long. Oh I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith. Oh, it pays, It pays.”
After reading this experience I wrote to this sister and she remembered Rev. W.S. and Mrs. Haight’s baby girl, Delia. Now not so long ago I read the obituary of this aged sister in the Free Methodist. Yes, it pays, It pays to mind God.
Near Bently school house lived Tho and Mary Harrington. They were Methodist and prosperous and worldly, hut they commenced to attend the services in Bently school house and yes, to go over to Richfield Center and here God cleared up their spiritual sky and used them to the building of God’s cause. They were more than ordinary prosperous farmers. Had a beautiful well kept farm, a dear old large comfortable farm house. Its many many years since I saw that house, hut I can see every room in that house in memories picture. It contained 8 large rooms all furnished old fashion but so homelike. Mother use to tell me I took my first steps in that dear old farm house.
Brother and sister Harrington were very devoted to the cause after they got out of • spiritual bondage in Father’s meeting there in 1876. Sister Harrington was especially devoted to the cause of Christ. She was a very small woman, short and tiny, while he was a tall broad shouldered heavy man. But Mary was a power in more ways than one. It was she who would say, “Thof, remember this is Thursday. Better not work Flora and Nancy today.” And sure enough Flora and Nancy would more likely than not spend at least the afternoon in the pasture and Bro. H. would likely come in himself at four o’clock and chores and supper would be finished early and they would be off for prayer meeting.
Yes, they often followed Father and Mother around on their circuit all clay Sunday, going to Bently perhaps for morning service, returning home for lunch, then on to Pettise’s Mill for afternoon service. Supper at the hospitable home of Bettises, then to Richfield Center at night. Next Sunday it would likely be Latermer in the morning, Frost in the afternoon, and Webster at night.
It is true Harringtons kept a hired man most of the time and quite often a man and his wife, so it was possible for them to go like that to meetings and a great help and blessing it was to Father and Mother on this their first circuit.