THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO
The crop was light in Richland County, Montana, in 1923. I helped harvest the crop on several farms that fall. We used the header. Then I went to Froid, Montana, and threshed. I made enough money in this operation to pay up all my past debts. I was now looking to the future. A certain young lady had promised to be my wife. Brother Lloyd Welty, now of Kalispel, Montana, was my companion during the weeks we spent at Froid. I asked my boss if he would object to me having a service on his lawn. He said there was no objection. Some fifty people gathered the first Sunday and about forty the next.
I turned my way north again and went into Saskatchewan. I worked for only a few days and we had a rain. It dried up and we worked but a day or two and we had another rain so I knew that it would be at least a week before there would be more work so I went back to Elmdale, Montana.
There was a call for some one to work in and around Buffalo, Montana. There were a few members there. I volunteered, and was accepted. I did some more threshing there. I preached a few times when there came an urgent appeal to hold a meeting at Dore, North Dakota. Before I left I put all the money I had in the bank at Buffalo. I went to Dore, North Dakota and preached in the hall there. There were nine that became obedient to the faith. Some of these have crossed the turbulent river of death but at least one faithfully continues her pilgrimage here. After this meeting we went out to a country school house on the Montana side. There was an old bootlegger attended that meeting. I suggested to him that he should obey the gospel. He said, I know I should, but the devil has a terrible hold on me, but if I get to the place that I think I can shake him off, I want to go right through, right then.
The following Wednesday night as we sang, O, do not let the word depart, I saw the tears come to his eyes. He dropped his hymn book and came forward. Before that audience he confessed his faith in Christ and I asked him when he wanted to be baptized. He said, When it is convenient. I said, Tonight. A little smile lit his face and he said, Yes.
He and I went for a change of clothes. Some of the brethren present went for an ax and a saw. You may wonder why we wanted an ax and a saw. We had to cut a hole in the ice in order to baptize this man. So on that December evening in 1923 I baptized the old bootlegger to arise to walk in the newness of life. This was the first time that I had gone into the ice to baptize but it was not the last time. Some years later this man died with his face half eaten away with cancer. I have always been glad that I taught him the better way.
I had ordered a new suit. I was going to get married. I received word about the time that the meeting closed that the bank in Buffalo had closed its doors. I did not have enough money to pay for my suit. A brother heard of my predicament and asked me how much it was, that is, how much I lacked. I told him and he gave me the money. I then made a trip out to Elmdale to tell my fiancee (I do not think young ladies were called by any such name in those days) that we would not be able to get married as I had lost what I had saved to buy our furniture. When I got there my heart failed me and instead we set our wedding day. It was 32 below zero the day we were married. On January 3, 1924, Myrtle Deane Buckallew became my wife.
I am glad that I did not tell her my purpose on that visit some ten days before we were married. I am sure that I could not have accomplished many things that I have accomplished if it were not for her. The wedding ceremony was performed by Brother J. 0. Golphenee, the man who had baptized her into Christ less than a year before. We have just heard that Brother Golphenee has passed to his eternal reward. Our paths crossed many times during the years.
The weather was so cold that we could not even make the trip to the station. We went as far as Brother William Golphenee's the night after we were married and we stayed there until the Lord's Day. Of course, we went to worship with the brethren that then met in the Pedrick school house. A chinook on Sunday changed the temperature and it turned out to be a good day. Some of the folks at the service that day spoke about a charivari. I told them if they came Sunday I would not have anything to do with them. I thought we were safe. We were going to catch the train early on Monday morning. However, our brethren and friends had other plans. About three o'clock Monday morning they came. We all enjoyed ourselves. Even if some people did not have any sleep that night. We did not get started on our journey Monday morning but went to Lambert to stay all night. I had come to Lambert nine months before not knowing a single soul in all the State of Montana. I knew hundreds now. I had helped start a new congregation, in fact two of them, and was on my way to Buffalo with my wife to carry on the work of the Lord.
It had been arranged that we would stop at Big Horn and hold a meeting on the way back to Buffalo. Friendships were born then that have continued through the years. It was then that we met the Kissees and the Hollisters. Both Brother Kissee and Brother Hollister have answered the summons that all must heed some day but their wives still live in Billings and we have often visited them. We held a Bible School in the day and meetings at night. There was a young lady expressed a desire to be baptized. Again the ax and saw went into use. We cut three feet of ice this time and surely this baptistry looked like a grave. The hole was cut in a place where the brethren knew there was deep enough water for immersion. The water did not rise to the top of the hole. We cut two steps into the ice before we came to the water. There on the 13th day of January Sister Aline Hollister was united with her Lord in baptism.
We left Big Horn to go to Buffalo and we made our home for several months with Brother and Sister Cecil Barnhart. They have been stalwart people in the kingdom of God and have raised a good family. Only a few months ago Brother Barnhart was called from earthly scenes. His faithful wife lives in California.
We began to explore the possibilities of meetings in the community around and the first one was in the school house where Sister Ella Guild became obedient to the faith. There were some unpleasant incidents in connection with this meeting. Some people who professed to be Christians came and created considerable disturbance. In fact some rather wild threats were made. This school house was located in the mountains and we did not know where to find water deep enough in those mountain streams to immerse. We hit upon this plan. We took a wagon box and set it in the creek and made a temporary dam. I wish all that I have baptized had been as faithful in the kingdom of God as Sister Guild. Her husband and ten children have all followed her example and rendered obedience to the gospel.
The evening following the baptism of Sister Guild a sister-in-law made the good confession. These people who had acted in such an unbecoming way when Sister Guild obeyed the gospel went nearly wild with anger. They not only threatened the life of this woman but they told me that if I baptized her I would never get out of the water alive. I told them that if she wanted to be baptized she would be baptized and I told them when and where. I am sorry to say that she listened to their threats and never rendered obedience to the gospel.
Sad to say she died a very painful death only two years later. Her husband married a woman that had not been a good woman. The oldest little girl had disgraced her life when she was hardly sixteen. Oh how true it is that the way of the transgressor is hard! How much better it would have been to have died with a bullet through head or heart, in obedience to the Lord, than to see all the misery that came to her and her family.
Sister Guild was a zealous soul. When she married Brother Guild she had insisted that he join the Lutheran church. Now she had left the Lutheran church. He assured her he would not follow her so willingly this time. However, in a little over a month he had been taught sufficiently that he desired to obey the Lord. Not only so but the two oldest children were now anxious to put on the Lord in baptism. We did not need to use the wagon box this time for we had found a place that was sufficiently deep but these three precious souls were baptized in the worst snow storm I ever saw. It was a spring storm and it soon passed.
When spring came we made our abode in the village of Buffalo and started service in a home that we had rented. Three young people became obedient to the faith. The day two of them were baptized a large concourse of people came. I used the opportunity to preach to them. This was in the month of April. It was a hot day but the ice was floating in the creek. I was sweating from preaching. I could not walk into the water. I had to step right into water up to my waist. I have never gone into water that seemed so cold since. Blessed memories!
The brethren at Dore had decided that they would have an ALL DAY meeting on the first Sunday in June and a meeting on Saturday night before. That was before brethren learned that Saturday night belonged to the devil. In those days we would have a crowd on Saturday and Sunday night whether we had a crowd the rest of the week or not. I was asked to be the chief speaker. Brother Barnhart had donated his Model T to the work and we decided that we would motor from Buffalo to Dore. It was a brave undertaking. As near as I remember there was not a foot of gravel on the whole road to say nothing of hard top. Many miles of the road were not even graded. Then people talk of the good old days!
We were up and away with the rising of the sun. We were in Billings by noon. That is we had traversed 126 miles in something like seven hours. We decided or had decided, that we would stay with the Big Horn brethren for the night but alas it rained. I remember being stuck on a hill. Four boys came along and they shoved their car up the hill but they did not even offer to help us get to the top. We must have made it but how I have not the slightest recollection. It got so late, and we likely burned out our lights; we usually did with a Model T when you had to use the low a great deal, so we asked and were graciously received into a home. The name of the woman we have long since forgotten. In the morning after the roads had dried a little we started out again and we were in Miles City by noon.
We had about 175 miles to go and we were about ten miles north of Glendive when we put new bulbs in the Model T. We burned them out again before we got to Fairview and ran into the ditch. However, we arrived.
There were good crowds at the services. Whether there were any baptized or not I do not recall. There were several restored. One, a Sister Dayton from the Christian Church. We were very dear friends from then until the time she received the call to the unseen world.
It took money to make this trip. There was a brother that owed me some money from harvesting the fall before. He told me he would pay me when I got to the meeting. When we got there he said he was sorry but he did not have it. I was afraid I would be short going home but we started out. We burned out a rod. That was not as common as burning out bulbs but was not uncommon. We had that put back in and I figured that we could still make it IF everything went all right. Night came on and how it rained! We had to have shelter as we had the latest?? in an open car. We saw a house that we thought was empty and we decided that we would stay in that for the night but it was not empty. There was a family living there. However, they made us welcome and we slept that hot night between feather beds. We did appreciate their hospitality though.
We were in Billings the next day before noon. From Billings to Buffalo is a steady climb up hill and it rained all the way. We were using gas at the rate of a gallon every six miles. We were still 40 miles from Buffalo and I had 19c left. My good wife asked, What are we going to do? I said, I am going to put in 19c worth of gas. She said, But that will not take us home. I replied, No, but we shall be that much closer than we are now.
If any one who reads this story is acquainted with that country, southeast of Judith Gap, he will know that the soil is very gravelly. We were able to make it to the next town. We were now only 28 miles from our destination. I remembered that my wife's mother had put a pound of butter in the car. I traded that pound of butter for a gallon of gas. It was a good trade then. It would not be a good trade now. My wife again assured me that that would not be enough gas to take us home but again I assured her we would be nearer home than we were then. We were just about a quarter of a mile from Judith Gap when the gas played out. I walked into town and went into the first garage I came to. I told the proprietor that I lived at Buffalo, that I was broke, that if I lived until Monday I would send the money, but if not, she would never get it. She asked me how much I wanted. I said, Two gallons. She said, You better take five. I said, Two gallons will take us home and that is all I want.
I sent the money on Monday morning. God had supplied our needs. I forgot that there were some eggs in the car. We could have traded them for gas but we forgot they were there.
I continued to preach in country school houses or where ever opportunity afforded throughout the country. This year the crop was very poor in the Judith Basin and there was an excellent crop in Eastern Montana. The brethren at Dore wanted us to return to live in their midst so we bid adieu to our brethren in that part of the country and returned to the eastern part of the State.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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