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George H Hansell.

Reminiscences of Baptist churches and Baptist leaders in New York City and vicinity ; from 1835-1898 online

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Sleminiscences -

Mmerica.
1865-1908.



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THE LIBRARIES




Bequest of

Frederic Bancroft

1860-1945



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You7's sincerely,

JOHN T. GRIFFITHS.



Reminiscences:

FORTY-THREE YEARS IN AMERICA,

From April, 1865. to April. 1908,

BY

REV. JOHN T. GRIFFITH, D.D..

(KENFRt HILL),

Aiitlioi- of " Morgan John Rliys " (two editions) ; " The I^ii ly Welsh

Baptists of Wilks-Barre and Scranton, Pa '.; " Brief Biographies

of Fifty-one Welsh Baptist Ministers of Pennsylvania

and Ohio,"' &c., &c.



M O R R I S T O N :

Printed by Jones & Sons, Crown Printing Works,

1Q13.



; '.I^.'iLl, Hi,<iin;s; reserved.]



III the eaily part df iny ministry I formed the habit of
g-athering' and preservintj tlie history of the Churches I served
and planted. Many of my fiit'nds knew of this habit and often
requested me to pui the materials I had in print so that coming
ages might have them. Manj- of those friends with whom I
laboured have gone to their reward — and now as an expression
of my love to their memory and for the benefit of their descen-
dants I have put thdse materials in print and dedicate the
volume as a token of Christian hne to all the churches I had
the honour of serving and planting in America.

JOHN T. GRIFFITH.

KniJ^g- HilU

April j>mi, njij-



INDEX



PAGE.

My Early Days ... ... ... ... 5

Hyde Park, Pa., U.S.A.... • .. ... ... 9

Crozer Theologflcal Seminary ... ... ... 12

Newburg-, Ohio ... .. •■. .-• -4

Sharpsvilte, Pa. ... ... ... ■■• 28

Stoneboro ... ... ... ... .■ 33

Jamestown ... ... ... .. ... 3^

Greenville ... ... ... ... 43

Slieakleyville... ... ..- ••• 4^

Sharon — Harmony and Scottd.ile ... -. 50

Mahanoy City and Plymouth Meeting ■• ■• 54

Lansdale ... ... . ... ... 60

Reading, Portland and PVeeland, P.i. ... .. 69

Lansford and Summit Hill ... ... .. 81

Jubilee of Cold Point Church ... ... ... 100

Johnstown, Pa. . . ... .. ... 107

Edwardsdale .. ... ... ... .. 114

SpECL\L Papers : —

The Relationship of the Early Baptist of Pennsylvania

to the Welsh Baptists of Wales ... ... 148

Religious Liberty ... ... ... .. 165

Earh- Religious Movements in Wyoming \'alley ... 180

Christ in Hebrews ... ... ... ... 194

Kind words from friends ... ... ... 202



CHAPTER I.



flD^ learl^ 2)a^6.



As an introduction to the reminiscences of my American
life a brief chapter on my early days will be
appropriate.

I was born at a place called Penmark in the Vale of
Glamorgan, January ist, 1845. My parents' names were
Thomas and Lydia Griffith. My father was a native of
Saint Donat's, Glamorganshire. I have no knowledge of
his parents nor of the date of his birth. My mother was
one of thirteen children all of whom were born in the same
house at Llanffa, St. Bride's Parish, Glamorganshire. She
was a daughter of David and Lydia Nicholas. When I was
yet an infant my parents moved to Merthyr Tydfil, where
my dear mother died in March, 1849, at the early age of 27
years, and was buried at Pisgah, Pyle. After mother's
death, as I was the only child living, my grand-parents,
David and Lydia Nicholas took me to raise me, who then
lived at Kenfig Hill, having moved there from Llanffa —
and father remained at Merthyr. It was thus in childhood life
I was brought to Kenfig Hill. In the early part of i860
my father after several months of illness died at grand-
mother's home at Kenfig Hill, and was buried in the same
grave with my mother at Pisgah. Thus at the age of
fifteen I was left alone without father, mother, brother or
sister. My grandparents were devoted Christians, and they
and Aunt Mary, the youngest child, were faithful attendants
at Pisgah, hence they saw that I attended also, and thus
Pisgah became my mother church, and this leads me
naturally to note a few facts respecting my mother church.



6 REMINISCENXES — AMERICA.

The Date of its Origin : — As early as 1810 the late
Rev. D. Thomas, Pastor of the Welsh Baptist Church,
Aberavon, preached here at the home of Jenkin Williams,
known as " Siencyn y Tiler."

In 1835 the late Rev. J. James of Ruhamah, Bridgend,
established a Mission here, and preached in private houses —
such as Caegarw, occupied by Mr. Hopkin, Twyn, near
Kenfig, which was the home of Mr. and Mrs. Porter and
also at the home of Mr. J. Howells.

Christmas Day, 1835, the first meeting house was dedi-
cated when the Baptists of Pyle had their first permanent
home.

Christmas Day, 1839, the Mission was organised as an
Independent Baptist Church. Cliristmas Day, 1857, the
second meeting house was dedicatpd. - - The first pastor I
remember at Pisgah was the Rev. Richard Brown Mr.
Brown was schoolmaster as well as pastor. He had charge
of the day school in the old engine house near the home of
Mr. Benjamin Daniel, the manager of Pyle pit. This was
known as the Bryndu school — supported by the work-
men's money, and thoroughly non -sectarian, and was the
mother really of the present Bryndu school at Kenfig Hill
which was built in 1859, and which also should be tho-
roughly nonsectarian. The old engine house was the only
school house on Kenfig Hill, when I was a boy, and it was
here I had the privilege of starting my school life under
Mr. Brown. If space permitted it would be very interes-
ting to follow the hist(n-y of a large number who reached
positions of great usefulness and honour, who had their
start in this old engine house under Mr. Brown and others.
I personally know of several in America. Mr. Brown was a
native of Llanidloes, North Wales, where he was born Dec.
nth, 1814, and baptised in Sept., 1830, and began to preach
in 1836. He v^^as ordained at Portmadock, Sept. 23, 1843.
He went from Pyle to Pentyrch where he died March 8, 1855,
at the early age of 38 years, and was buried there. I re-
member that he gave his pupils a holiday and took them
all to Pyle station to see the first train coming through
Pyle on the G.W.R. It is pleasant to think of those days.

*For details respecting the iirst two chapels of Pisgah see my acticle in
the little book published in connection with the Dedication of the third
chapel of Pisgah. — j.t.g.



reminiscences — america. 7

Rev. John Roberts (Roberts Fawr.)

The-second pastor I remember at Pisgah was the Rev.
John Roberts (Roberts Fawr). He came here from Taber-
nacle, Merthyr. Before he took charge of Pisgah, he kept
school at Cefn Cribwr. After he became pastor here the
old chapel became too small so that it had to be taken down
and the second one built in 1857, Whilst the present meet-
ing house was being built the church held its Sunday ser-
vices in the barn of the Garth farm near by. The name of
Rev. John Roberts is very dear to me, because he was the
one who baptised me at Pisgah, May 20th, 1859. Several
were baptised that day, and among them my old friend Mr.
Anthony Williams, (the late Rev. Anthony Williams), Nebo,
Ystrad, where he was an honoured and successful pastor
for more than 30 years. He died Feb. 12, 1913. Roberts
was a native of Glannefydd, North Wales, where he was
born in 1807. He was ordained at Llanrwst, North Wales,
Feb. II, 1829. He went from Pisgah to Brynmawr, and
from Brynmawr to Minersville, Pennsylvania, where he
died March 3rd, 1863, aged 56 years. He was the most
eloquent Welsh Baptist preacher of his day. Before I went
down into the baptistery I declaimed the following lines —

" Fel hyn y dywedodd ef,

Mae'n rhaid bedyddio.
Mae'n ddrych o gladdu'n Duw,
Ac O, inor weddus yw

Ymostwng iddo.
Mi af iV dyfrllyd fedd

O fodd fy nghalon,
Lie claddwyd Brenin Xef,
• A'i Apostolion.

Rho'f her i wawdwyr byd,
A'u hoU gynlluniau i gyd,
Mi roes fy serch a'm bryd,

Ar lesu tirion."

I found this in the " Little Teacher." Those were happy
days in the history of the church. I can't begin to record
the names of many dear old companions, as space will not
permit.

Rev. John Jones (Mathetes).

My third pastor at Pisgah was the well known Rev. John
Jones (Mathetes), Mr. Jones was a great teacher as well as
a great preacher, and fearless in his loyalty to his convic-



8 REMINISCENCES — AMERICA.

tions of truth. Mr. Jones was the one who first called my
attention to the ministry, and encouraged me to preach.
The name and memory of Mr. Jones is very dear to me. He
went from Pisgah to Penuel, Rhymney, and from Rhymney
to Briton Ferry, where he died Nov. i8, 1878, and was
buried at Pant Cemetery, Dowlais, highly honoured and
deeply lamented. He was a great man, and his " Diction-
ary of the Bible " will be a lasting monument, and will
keep his name in honour throughout the ages.

From the year 1854 to the beginning of 1858, 1 was at
Merthyr Tydfil with my father, wiio had remained there
after the death of my mother — but in the beginning of 1858
I returned to Kenfig Hill to my grandmother who was now
a widow, grandfather having died the year before. I
worked in Pyle pit and other places until 1862, when 1 left
Kenfig Hill for Mountain Ash, to go to my uncle and aunt
George and Cecil Price.

1 now transferred my membership from Pisgah, Pyle, to
Riios, Mountain Ash, The late Rev. W. Williams was the
pastor of Rhos then, an excellent man and an able preacher.
I soon found congenial friends in the church and Sunday
School, among them Mr. R. Richards, now (1913) Rev. R.
Richards, Leeds ; Mr. B. Evans (the late Rev. B. Evans
" Telynfab," Gadlysj; Mr. W. Thomas, now the well known
Prof. Wm. Thomas, Treorchy, conductor of the world re-
nowned Royal Male Party, and several others. Soon after
my settlement at Rhos I began to preach in the society (y
gyfeillach), and continued to do so at different times for
about two years. January 21, 1865, I was united in holy
matrimony to Mrs. Catherine Thomas, of Mountain Ash, at
Aberdare.

March 27, 1865, we left Mountain Ash for America, and
sailed from Liverpool, March 29, in the S.S. City of Edin-
burgh, and landed in New York, April 14, 1865.

I am glad to say that we left Wales with the best wishes
of hundreds of dear friends.



CHAPTER II.



1b^^e pm% pcnne^lvania.



HYDE Park was then a separate borough but it is now
West Scranton. I had an uncle and aunt living at
Hyde Park then, Jenkin Nicholas and Mrs Mary Jones,
brother and sister of my mother. At that time the late Rev.
John P. Harris (leuan Ddu), was the pastor of the first
Welsh Baptist Church of Hyde Park. I found in him a true
Christian friend, and when he found that I had begun to
preach in Wales as stated in my letter from Rhos, Mountain
Ash, he gave me all encouragement to go on. The Welsh
Baptist Church of Hyde Park had no meeting house then.
They held their Sunday Services in Fellows Hall, and their
week evenmg services at the homes of the members.

I'he week after I arrived at Hyde Park, which was the
last week in April, 1865, the prayer meeting was held at the
home of Mr. William Williams, at the upper end of Hyde
Park, at which I preached my first trial sermon in America,
from Lamentations iv. 2. All the attendants at that meet-
ing were strangers to me except my old friend, Thomas H.
Price, who had come with us from Mountain Ash ; but
though they were strangers they were exceedingly kind and
sympathetic, and decided at once that I should from that
time on preach in public wherever and whenever the call
would come. So I date my public preaching from April,
1865. Mr. Harris did not remain with us long after this
before he removed to Freedom, Cattaraugus County, New-
York. I was very sorry to part with him for I had found in
him a true friend. In the autumn of 1866 the Rev. Fred
Evans (Eduyfed), came from Llangynidr, Wales, to
America, and received a unanimous call to Hyde Park.



lO REMINISCENCES — AMERICA.

We were all greatly pleased to have him for he was a very
genial man, and an excellent preacher well liked by all. I
found in him also a genuine friend, and one who was
always ready to help. I worked in the mines in the week
and preached almost every Sunday at different places. I
had plenty of opportunities to preach. A little more than
a year before I went to Hyde Park, what is known as the
West Market Street Baptist Church, Scranton, had been or-
ganised, and was then known as the Welsh Baptist Church
of Providence. Welsh Baptist preaching had been carried
on here for years, but the Church was not organized before
1864. This was done in February, 1864, in Panooka Hall
with 32 members. The Revs. John P. Harris, Benjamin
Bowen, A. J. Morton and P. L. Davies preached on the oc-
casion. Previous to this it was a branch of the Welsh
Baptist Church of Hyde Park. Their Sunday meetings
were held at the Notch Schoolhouse, and the week evening
Society at Mrs. Gwyn's home. As they depended on
supplies it was my privilege to supply them, with others for
nearly two years. The meetings continued at the Notch
until the Dedication of their meeting house which occurred
in November, 1866, when the Revs. Benjamin Bowen, D.
Evans, Trelech (Cong.,) Dr. Isaac Bevan, and John T.
Griffiths preached. In 1867 the Rev. John Evans, brother
of the Rev. Fred Evans, D.D., came to them from Talybont,
Cardiganshire, and became their first pastor. I found the
people very kind. For an interesting article on the history
of this church, see " The Dawn " for January, 1895. I
preached also at the school-house at Taylor, before the
church was organised, and at Plymouth, and Wilks-Barre
and Parsons and other places — all Mission work. All these
places now have strong churches. Shortly after I began to
preach the late Rev. Charles Jones, M.A. began to preach.
He preached his first sermon in my house from the text —
^' Because I live, ye shall live also." John 14. 19.

I continued in Hyde Park until January, i858, when
Divine Providence opened the way for me to go to Lewis-
burg to enter upon a preparatory course for the ministry.
For the encouragements I received during the first three
years in America I feel greatly indebted to the First Welsh
Baptist Church of Hyde Park then — now Scranton — and to
my last two pastors, viz. — the late Revs. John P. Harris
and Fred Evans, D.D. For a complete history of the
Welsh Baptist Church — see my w^ork on " The Early Welsh



REMINISCENCES — AMERICA. II

Baptists of Wilks-Barre and Scranton," and for sketches of
the livfes of the Revs. Harris and Evans, 13. D., see my
" Brief Biographical Sketches of Welsh Baptist Ministers."

The First Welsh Baptist Church of Scranton can never
be forgotten by me.

I spent one year at Lewisburg, and have very happy
recollections both of the professors and students. The late
Dr. Loomis was the president then, a noble man ; and the
home of the late Rev. Charles Jones was the headquarters
of the Welsh students. Mr. Jones was there a student
himself, and kept house there with his wife and daughters.



^?)"r



CHAPTER III.



Croscr ^beolootcal Seminary



CROZER Theological Seminary is situated on a rising
ground between Chester and Upland, about fourteen
miles south of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which overlooks
the beautiful Delaware river, and other charming scenes.
This institution was established by the family of Mr. John P.
Crozer in honour to his memory and hence very properly
named the Crozer Theological Seminary. Its first faculty
consisted of the Rev. H. G. Weston, D.D., L.L.D., President;
Rev. G. D. B. Pepper, D.D., Professor of Systematic Theo-
logy ; land the Rev. Howard Osgood, D.D., Professor of
Hebrew and Church History. With this equipment of
Instructors the Seminary opened its doors to students in
September, 1868. The first students who entered this
Institution at its opening were W. R. Wright, John
Thomas Grififith, Leroy Stephens, C. E. Harden, William
Barrows, James Sexton James, H. H. Leamy, Harvey
Linsey, F. J. Rebbeck and W. H. EUer. Others came in
later but the above ten were the first students of Crozer
Seminary, as far as I can remember. All arrangements had
been made to give the students the most cordial welcome
by the faculty and the Crozers. The students' rooms at the
seminary had been furnished by different families and
churches. The rooms that fell to my lot had been fur-
nished by the First Baptist Church of West Philadelphia,
of which the late Rev. J. H. Castle, D.D., was pastor then.
I found Dr. Castle and his church very kind to me for
which I still feel very grateful. We all entered upon our
work in earnest and found it pleasant as we advanced in
our different studies. Space will not permit details.
Among others who manifested great interest in the students
was the late Rev. J. M. Pendleton, D.D., who was then




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REMINISCENCES — AMERICA. I3

pastor of the Upland Baptist Church. He and his noble
wife frequently attended our recitations. During the
winter we had lectures from the Rev. Van-De-Meter, Rev.
J. Wheaton Smith, D.D., Rev. G. D. Boardman, D.D., and
others whose names I have now forgotten.

In addition to our studies we were encouraged to do
Missionary work in adjoining neighbourhoods, and I know
of at least one Cliurch that grew from the Missionary
labours of the first year's students namely, what is
known as North Chester, there may be others. The
writer had the privilege of preaching the first Baptist
sermon that gave start to the North Chester Mission.

At that time Dr. Weston had charge of the Ridley Park
Baptist Church as a pastoral supply, hence early in the
part of the year 1869 he came to my room on a Saturday
morning and told me that he wanted me to preach for him
the following Sunday morning, but as I had never preached
in English 1 told him that I could not venture to do so, but
he finally prevailed on me to comply with his wish, hence
Sunday morning 1 went with him in his carriage U) Ridley
Park, and preached from Joshua 24. 15.: " But as for me
and my house, we will serve the Lord."

As we were returning home from the service he spoke
encouragingly to me respecting my first attempt to preach
in English and said that he was very anxious to start me in
English preaching, and after that I was frequently sent to
preach to different English churches, and for more than
forty years Dr. Weston was like a father to me, and his
kindness to me can never be forgotten.

As I have the notes of my first English sermon 1 en, body
them with my recollections of the first year at Crozer.



THE GODLY MAN'S DETERMINATION.

" But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24 : 15.

Men of strong determination have attained honorable
positions in life, and have wrought wonderful things in the
world.

Some men undertake many things, but overtake nothing.
Not so men of the disposition referred to in the text. Such



14 REMINISCENCES AMERICA.

was the character of Joshua. We have an evidence of this
in this chapter and in this text. He was now in the Valley
of ihecheni surrounded by the Jews whom he had called to-
gether in that valley, and to whom he delivered the beautiful
historical address recorded in this chapter in which he shows
how God had led them from the days of Abraham up to his
time, and how they should serve him in view of these facts.
" Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him," etc., (ver. 14.)
The same argument may be used in relation to our con-
dition. God has done great things for us, hence we should
serve him. After having addressed them and exhorted them,
he expressed his own feelings and resolutions. " But as for
me and my house we will serve the Lord."

The subject that I wish to discuss briefly is the godly
man's determination.

1st. riiat the godly man's determination is intelligent in
its foundation.

It is based upon a proper knowledge of God and his claims.
This was the foundation of Joshua's determination. He
declared his knowledge of him in this chapter. He had a
perfect knowledge of him as far as he had revealed himself
to man, hence he said '' I will serve the Lord."

All nations acknowledge the existence of a supreme God,
whom they should worship, but all nations have not the
knowledge of this God. " There is in the nature of man, or
in the circumstances in which he is placed, something that
prompts him to recognize and serve the Supreme Ruler.
What that something is, wliether it is a natural instinct in
human nature, or the effect of tradition coming down from
generation to generation, whether it is one of these or not
the fact is the same, he must worship some object, and see-
ing this tendency in human nature, some have called him
"a religious animal." But the majority of the human race
are ignorant of God, therefore they cannot worship him, but
the true worshipper knows him ; hence worships him. This
shows that the godly man makes the proper use of his know-
ledge of God. Thousands of ungodly men have this
knowledge who do not use it properly.

2nd. That the godly man's determination is practically
illustrated in life.

He serves God. After having known what the character



REMINISCENCES — AMERICA. I5

and claims (jf God are, he then acts accordingly. The first
question of a sincere inquirer is : " Lord, what wilt thou
have me to do ?" And his entire life proves the sincerity of
his inquiry. His powers, wealth and influence are all used
ioT God ; he can say as Jesus said, that his " meat and drink
is to do the will o God."

3rd. That the godly mans determination is formed indepen-
dent of the conduct of others.

" But as for me," etc. Some men are governed entirely
by the voice of public opinion. Even though a question
may be settled by the majority, it is not always an evidence
of its correctness. The majority were opposed to the young
men in Babylon, yet in the end the majority had to yield to
their decision. They could stand in the face of the multi-
tude and the king and say, " We care not to answer thee in
this thing." The majority were opposed to Peter and John
yet thev could say, " We cannot but speak the things which
we have seen and heard." This principle of independence
shown bv Joshua in Shecheni is the true principle in the
choice of religion. If men were asked why they belong to
this denoiJiinatiou or that denomination, the only reason
they could give, would be that they had been compelled
either by their parents or somebody else. The right and
privilege of private judgment and tiie choice (^f religion and
the jov to a believer of ol^edience to baptism has been taken
from them by infant sprinkling.

" Everyone of us shall give account of himself to God,"
hence, everv one must make liis own choice.

4th. That the qodiv man is constant and consistent in his
life.

" But as for me and my house." .A. man may appear well
in the church and in public, but act entirely different in his
private life. But Joshua was not simply a godly man in
appearance, but he was sfi in reality. As Mattheu- Henry
says: "Joshua was a ruler, a judge in Israel, yet he will
not make his necessarv application to public affairs an ex-
cuse for the neglect of family religion. ■•■ •■■ ■■■ Though
all the families of Israel should revolt from God and serve
idols, yet Joshua and his family will steadfastly adhere to
the God of Israel."

This is one of the great needs of our country and churches
to-day, the purification of our houses by the lives of such
men as Joshua.



l6 REMINISCENCES — AMERICA.

May we all have the courage to see and do as Joshua did.
" But as for me and my house we will serve the Lord."



I stated above that after I had preached my first English
sermon I was frequently sent out to preach. One of the
first places I was sent to was Roxborough, and as the visit
was productive of historic results I wish to make note of it.
This occurred in the spring of 1869 :

j\fter having arrived there on Saturday afternoon, I called
at the home of the pastor — the Rev. D. Spencer, D.D. (Dr.
Spencer of Lehigh Ave., now.) After a brief conversation
he told me that he wanted me to go with him to see an
aged godly Welsh woman who was a member of his
church and who was very much interested in the Welsh.
In accordance with his wish I went with him and we soon
reached her home, where we received a very cc^rdial wel-
come. She was not able to speak Welsh, but was very fond
of the Welsh language, hence she asked me to read her a
chapter in Welsh from her father's Welsh Bible. I read the


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Online LibraryGeorge H HansellReminiscences of Baptist churches and Baptist leaders in New York City and vicinity ; from 1835-1898 → online text (page 1 of 17)