"The Lord Led ME." Genesis 24:27 a reference to Isaiah 42:16, "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."
Why this Sketch is written
"The only satisfactory explanation I have ever found for the way journeyed through life is in the words of the Lord spoken by Isaiah "I will bring the blind by the way they know not; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things I will do unto them, and not forsake them". (Isaiah 42:16)
And the key to his explanation seems to be in what Abraham’s servant said of his journeys "I being in the ways
The LORD Led Me." Genesis 24:27
Yet my way has been not more led by the Lord than has that of any other who has sought to follow Christ. My life has had in it nothing of special note than that of my fellow pilgrims. And when requested to give some notes by the way. I at first felt that I would not do so. But as I thought and prayed about the matter it seemed to me that this was another of the opportunities for service that God has scattered all along the way I am led to give this sketch of my life to show to others the larger field for service which is open to the worker of the most ordinary ability. Thus some who have thought themselves wholey unfit for larger service may take courage from my experience and press on unto into a larger field in their work for our common Master.
Birth and early Disadvantages
"Born on a farm about two miles north east from Milan in the southern part of Washtenaw county, Michigan, on July 13th 1862, I lived there till my twenty-second year. My school days were all spent in the "Town-Line" District School and in the Milan High School; though I did pass through the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor(our county seat) one day when father took me to the University Museum. (* Italics added)
But while the most of my training has been outside the school-room, still my longing for higher education and better training has increased, and I am not inclined to believe that self-education is the best. Nor on the other hand; do I think there is no room, no opportunity, for one who has not had a full course of training in our best schools and colleges."
My ancestors were Dutch, Scotch and Irish, as far as I have been able to find out. They came to Michigan by way of New York and Nova Scotia. While I am not able to give you a genealogical table, I am happy to be able to say, that I had just as many forefathers and foremothers as any one else and that many of them were good, respectable people.
Early Religious Impressions.
My mother died when I was but eight and a half years old, but she taught me how to pray and how to live. Praise God for such a mother! Well do I remember the first temperance pledge* ibid. I signed – one that has kept me in the way of sobriety amidst all the temptations of after – life. I signed it while kneeling at mother’s side looking into her loving eyes as her fingers nestled in my curly hair. It was not signed with pen and ink on paper to fade away by lapse of time, but was signed in blood of God’s Spirit on the fleshly tables of the heart. With such memory of such a mother it is no wonder that I have been kept from the Tempter. It was not an ordinary temperance pledge but a promise to have nothing to do with intoxicating drinks, tobacco and profane language.
As to the beginning of my Christian life I can give no date. [there is a schism and pride some take in using a "date" as requisite to being "really born again" in sectarian sects which I witnessed in my childhood and persisting. Interesting that was very early rooted with my great uncle’s generations. Likely the "predestined" bunch like Calvanists-ggf ** opinion]. My heart must have been renewed when I was too young to realize the change. My parents were members of the York Baptist Church, a county church whose church house stands on the Ridge Road about three miles north by west from Milan. When about twelve and a half years old I united with this church. There I learned many of the good things of God’s blessed Word, passing through all the departments of the Sabbath school.
My earliest ambition was to become a clown in the circus; but the desire to go west to be a cowboy or a scout put the clown idea into the shade. Little did I dream then that I would really go west and be a scout for God, looking up and gathering together cowboys and other boys.
Then came the ambition to be a teacher; and if possible, to become a professor in some University. This idea was greatly strengthen by hearing a lecture on "Success", which Mr. Olney, one of the Professors in the State University delivered to a company of young people in Milan. Mr. Olney had had only six months of school instruction and his words and his life were a great inspiration to me, a boy without money.
Beginning Life's Work.
In due time I began the work of teaching, spending about three years in this kind of work. I taught in country villages, and city schools. But, while I enjoyed teaching and found it all I had hoped for; yet I had to give it up as I could not stand the confinement of the school room.
My First School.
My first school was in a country district where several teachers had been "run out". The Secretary of the County Board was kind enough to inform me as to the state of affairs so I went in with my eyes open. I managed to keep my eyes open to the end of the term, too. But I had to put the ring-leader of the opposition out of the way before my staying qualities were recognized. This I did by taking a young man larger than myself by the nape of the neck, and the seat of the pants and plunging him into a snow drift through the school room door, which I had opened for this purpose after getting the stove so hot that the door had to be opened in order to cool things off. Finding himself in the outside with the door locked, he finally decided to go home; and as the School Board were on my side of the case we kept that boy out and all the other scholars in. During the three years of teaching I had only two other cases of corporal punishment, and each of these was a case of spanking administered to sensible boys who
seemed to benefit greatly by the operation.
My Wife & I.
On August 30, 1883, in my twenty second year, I was united in marriage with Miss Minnie May Harper, who had come with her people to my native village within the last three or four years. Coming from Quaker stock she brought into my life some qualities that were much needed, and I owe much to this honest, faithful women.
Immediately after our marriage we went to Cadillac, Mich., where I had secured a position as teacher in the city schools, and where we made our home for a few years.
My wife was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, though she had been converted under the preaching of a Presbyterian in a Presbyterian chapel near the Friends Boarding School, at Tounghkenamon, Penn., where she received much of her education. I being a member of the Baptist Church, but not in full accord with some of the distinctive doctrine we split the difference – thought there was really no difference between us – by both getting our church letters and uniting with the Presbyterian Church. Nor have we ever had reason regret having done so.
[Addendum Source ***: EDGAR F. KNICKERBOCKER, merchant tailor, of Milan, was born in York, Mich., July 13, 1862. His father was born in New York State in 1832, and is of the old Knickerbocker family. Edgar attended school at what was then called the Old Town Line school house; he then [moved] to Milan, attended the Union school for three years, when he began teaching at Pittsfield Junction. August 30, 1883, he married Minnie M. Harper of Milan, one child Edgar Harper [Knickerbocker], was born Oct. 20, 1884. Mr. Knickerbocker was appointed principal of the first ward school at Cadillac, Mich., in 1883. He taught until health failed, and then entered gents' furnishing store at Milan. In 1887 he opened a store of his own, the exclusive one of the kind in Milan.
From: History of Monroe County, Michigan Talcott E. Wing, Editor Munsell & Company, Publishers
New York 1890." http://www.onlinebiographies.info/mi/monroe/knick-ef.htm -ggf
Page 55 Harper, Joseph H., bur. Nov 28, 1958, age 90, husb of Minnie Harper, born May 2, 1868 in Eng., lot 28-C Minnie B., bur. Dec 1, 1950, age 81-2-20, lot 28-C – very unlikely, but needs verifying
http://www.libraryweb.org/~digitized/books/Pittsford_township_cemetery_records_volume.pdf * ibid. p 1]
First Work as Missionary.
Many blessed experiences are connected with our life in Cadillac and its vicinity. Our only child (Edgar Harper) was born there; on Oct. 20th, 1884. My first mission work was done during our stay there. There I began studying for the ministry under our pastor, Rev. James Lamb. My first Mission Sabbath school was organized while we lived there.
Mr. Lamb, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Cadillac, gave me my first thought of becoming a preacher and also my first work as a missionary. He died very suddenly a few years later while on his way to a meeting of the General Assembly. I bless God for the memory of this good man and for all that he did for me. On his invitation I sang frequently at a humble dwelling in one of the suburbs where a few feeble old people and some of their neighbors gathered for worship.
Later on I led the singing and taught class in a suburban Mission Sabbath-school, of which Mr. James
E. Henderson, one of the church Elders, was superintendent. My wife also taught a class in this Sabbath school. After a few months in this Mission S-.S. was discontinued, nearly all of its members going to the main Church S.-S.
But I had already gotten such a good taste of this kind of work that I longed for more of it. So getting free from all official connections with the church S.-S., of which I had been secretary
I began casting about for a place to organize a Mission Sabbath school on my own responsibility. But I still attended all our church services the church S.-S., the prayer meetngs, and sang in the church choir Sabbath morning and evening.
My First Mission Sabbath School.
It was not long till I had found a prime field for a Mission S.-S. About four miles from the city there was a had-been town. Large saw-mills had been located there but they had been removed after the timber was gone. Most of the town had gone when the Mills went. Only the dregs remained. Vacant houses, out of repair, were common. The railway station consisted of one side track and a crane for mail pouches. Some of the trains stopped sometimes—but not often.
A "general" store was the only place of business, and its business was more general than that of the ordinary general store. The post office was in this store, Liguors could be gotten there – by the initiated. gaming rooms over the store were resort of all the toughs of this tough place and nearly all were the tough sort.
On visiting this had-been town for the first time, the first person I met was the proprietor of the store mentioned above. After I had stated to him the object of my visit he said:"Well as I am one of the School Board I can say that the school house can be used for a Sunday School so far as I am concerned provided the rest of the people want a Sunday School, but one member of the Board is a Roman Catholic and I doubt if he will be willing to have the School House used for such a purpose. While I admire your place in coming all the way from town to help us, and while I have no doubt that you mean well I must inform you that we are not in any need of a Sunday School; and you would be unable to help one going if you did start it."
This opinion was delivered in what was calculated to be a very pleasant manner, and was calculated to nip the thing in the bud but it didn’t nip so easily.
That Roman Catholic was one of the most encouraging items in the whole matter, for two of his son’s were fellow teachers with me in that county and they volunteered to help in the Sabbath school, whenever at home, and encouraged me to go ahead with my plans to organize such a school.
Every family was visited so far as possible. In one house – it could hardly be called a home – I found an elderly woman nearly dead with a raging fever. She was alone and unable to rise from her bed of rags.
None of the neighbors had visited her, though her daughter, who lived in the next house had put a bowl full of coarse food inside the doorway some hours before. The fever was so great that the skin of her face and arms was cracked and the blood oozed out through the cracks.
Getting some water I bathed her face and arms and gave her a cooling drink. Then I spoke to her of Jesus. Through her tears she told me her story of shame and woe. After praying with her I went to the proper township officer and reported the case to him.
But he flatly refused to look after the poor woman, stating that she had been living in adultery with her own son for years and that now the son had run away and left his mother. When I told him that she had told me all this and more and had asked me to pray for her and to do all I could to save her life that she might not die in such a state he began to weaken and said he would run in and see what he could do for her when he got a little spare time.
He was a hardened old sinner himself. But when I threatened to report the matter to the county officials if he did not immediately look after the woman he started right away to see what could be done for her. I afterwards learned that she was properly cared for.
There was only one Protestant Christian in this community: an old man who persisted in reading his Bible and praying through his wife and sons abused him shamefully for so doing. It was from him that I had learned of the need of Christian work in his neighborhood. With tears he had begged me to come to his place and conduct a Sabbath school; and he greeted me with tears when I visited him at his home. His wife treated me very rudely however.
I can never forget the first meeting we held. In describing it let me quote from my diary,
"Sunday July 4, 1886. – At 1-00P.M. I started on my journey to __the countryside of Cadillac__ **** Oh, how sultry it was! Sometimes I felt as though I could walk no further. The distance is about four miles. The road is sandy and very dry. To make matters worse, forest fires were raging on either side of the road for about a mile.
"I reached __the had-been town area___**** ibid. in good time, however. But how tired I was! My lungs were well loaded with dust too. I stopped at the home of Mr. S______****ibid. and rested a few minutes; washed the dust from my face and, hands and felt greatly refreshed.
"The audience was composed as follows: One old gray-haired man; another man nearly as old, but not gray – haired; a man in the prime of life; two young ladies; two young men; two girls about twelve years and another about six years of age; ten in all.
"For about an hour I spoke of regarding the need of a Savior, and tried to show Jesus as the only Savior. In doing so I read and expounded the ninth chapter of John. I am to follow the International S.-S. Lessons, and I pray the Lord to give me power to lift up Christ to those soul-dead people. As I looked into the faces of my hearers I could see but little to encourage me; but when I looked away to Jesus on the cross for those very people I was given strength and cheered on to labor for Him.
" I left an appointment for next Sunday afternoon."
Let the story be continued from my diary,
"Sunday, July 11, 1886 – I kept my appointment at __the rail stop___**** ibid. p 5 this afternoon, and was as well pleased with the result that I made another appointment for next Sunday. I delivered the gospel message with the help of God, and He has promised that the seed shall not return unto Him void. Interest seemed to be awakened in a few minds. The number in attendance was the same as last Sunday".
Illness prevented me from keeping the next appointment; but for July 25, 1886 I find the following entry in my diary:
"I went to __the town__**** ibid. p 5; but as it rained about the time people would be starting for the meeting, I had an audience of only five God directed the exercises, however, and before that the Word fell into good soil. All I can do is to sow and water; God must give the increase. I left an appointment for next Sunday. Perchance the attendance will be larger next time or if it be not, one soul is worth saving.
Sunday, Aug. 1, 1886 – the attendance at _____________**** ibid. p 5 was larger than it was last Sunday. There seems to be a slight rustling among the dry bones. Now is the sowing time. In its season God will give the forage.
The harvest time did come and that quite early, too. After a few months I left the city of Cadillac. But before leaving I interested our pastor and some of the elders in my Mission Sabbath school. After a time a series of evangelistic meetings was held at ____________**** ibid. p 5 and a large number of people confessed faith in Christ and united with the church in the city. A good Sabbath school was in progress at ____________**** ibid. p 5, the last time I heard from them and the entire community was so changed for the better that one would not have known it as the same place.
Reviving A Sabbath School.
A few months before I organized my first Sabbath school I had the pleasure of helping to revive a Sabbath school that was living at a poor dying rate. It was at a place in the county about fifteen miles from Cadillac, near where a town of Bain has since been built. Our pastor Rev. Jas. Lamb [?Lamb, Rev. C. A. Reminiscences by C.A. Lamb. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections 5 (1884): 46-51. ] preached in the school house – where I taught—each alternative Tuesday evening. A Methodist Episcopal minister preached there each alternate Sabbath after Sabbath school.
On beginning my work as a teacher of the public school, I immediately took a part in the work of the Sabbath school. The Supt. asked me to take a class of Boys. Not many weeks past till my class was twice as large as when I took it. Each boy had been supplied with a Bible, and they all learned to use the Lesson Helps between the Sabbaths and to use only the Bible in the class.
only from notes. At first everything had to be prepared in my native tongue and translated into Chinese; but after a few months I was able ot do all my thinking and preparing in Chinese.
Within less than a year after coming to our distgrict the Missionary-in-Charge"
Rev. James Williamson, of Scotland, was compelled to return to his native land on account of
Ill news, from which he never recovered; and thus it fell to my lot to superintend the work in our whole District. In due time other workers came to help us; but during the eight years of our work there I had to act as Pastor-at-large, or Bishop.
Our Mission District.
Our Mission District was in the province of Cheh-kiang, the central coast provice of Chiina, Ningpo being our Chief port. The District comprised three counties; (1) Funghwa (Fung-hwa), opened as a
mission in 1866; (2) Ning-hai, opened in 1868; and (3) Tren-tai, opened in 1874.
This District covers an area of about 5,600 square miles and has a population of about 1,000,000 (one million) .
The seat of government in each county is a walled city of about 30,000 inhabitants each city being the name of the county –or giving its name to the county.
The Mission station for each county is located inside the walls of the county seat.
Churches and Schools.
When we went to this Mission District it had five churches and fifty Christians. Two of these churches were in Fung-hwa county, two in Ning-hai county and one in Tren-t’ai county. Before we left the District it had two hundred fifty (250) Christians in nine Churches—two in Fung-hwa, three in Ninghai and four in Tren-t’ai.
No schools had yet been established in this mission District where we went there but we had the joy of helping establish five schools before leaving the District, besides conducting a Bible Institute for a month each year, beginning with 1895.
The District a Presbytery*
The work in our District was begun and carried on as a Presbyterian work. The workers came from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the United States.
Finding that this District adjoined the Presbytery of Ningpo, I transferred my membership from Hastings Presbytery to Ningpo Presbytery. Thus I was enabled to attend a full organized Presbytery while helping to build another.
In due time our District will become a part of Ningpo Presbytery, or else be organized as a separate Presbytery. In fact, one of our Chinese helpers has been ordained by Ningpo Presbytery and is a member of the same.
Thus, although the Lord led us to China through another Missionary Society, He seems to be leading in the direction of adding the result of our work to the work done by the workers sent out by the Board of Foreign Missions of our own church.
1. Italics added, * ibid. p1 Empasis
2. Parenthetical ** ibid. p2 Opinion
3. Comments: Presbytery*** ibid. p 3 Definitions:
A. a body of church elders and ministers, especially (in Presbyterian churches) an administrat ive body (court) representing all the local congregations of a district. a district represented by a presbytery.
B. the house of a Roman Catholic parish priest.
C. ARCHITETURE the eastern part of a church channel beyond the choir; the sanctuary.
4. Missing information Missing information marked with blank underscores filled in partially need authenticating.
______example______ **** ibid. p 5