On August 25, 1961, Wilber L. Sites, Jr., was ordained as a United Brethren minister. The service occurred at Rhodes Grove Camp in his hometown of Chambersburg, Pa.

Sites graduated from high school in 1944, entered the US Army, and served in the Pacific Theater during the final year of World War II in both the Philippines and Korea. He and Mossie were married in 1946, and he worked for a while at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg. Then God called him into the ministry.

They were in Huntington, Ind., 1954-1961 while he earned his bachelor’s and Master of Divinity degrees from Huntington College. During that time, he held two pastorates: 1954-1956 at Hopewell UB church (Auburn, Ind.), and 1957-1961 at the Willshire and Zion churches (Willshire, Ohio).

Then it was back to Chambersburg, where he expected to serve two years as associate pastor under Dr. Clyde W. Meadows at King Street UB church. However, Meadows was elected bishop earlier that summer, and he served those two years under the new pastor, Paul Baker.

Sites served six years, 1963-1969, as pastor of Mount Pleasant UB church in Chambersburg. In 1969, when George Weaver was elected bishop, Sites took his place as pastor of Otterbein UB church in Waynesboro, Pa. He remained there for eight years. Then, in 1977, General Conference chose him as a bishop to replace, once again, George Weaver, who had stepped down from the bishopric to become president of Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, Ohio.

During his first eight years as bishop, 1977-1985, Sites oversaw the West District, which required lengthy trips—often a month—to the West Coast and back, visiting various United Brethren churches along the way. In 1985, he was stationed on the Central District and Bishop Clarence Kopp took over the West District. In 1986, he received the Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

Bishop Sites chaired the Thursday session of the 1989 General Conference. At the end of the day, he gave these farewell remarks:

“Next to the new birth experience, the highest calling for any individual is to be called as a minister of the Gospel. I’ve always felt that when God called me into the ministry, he called me into the world’s highest vocation. To me, the call of the church has been God’s call as well.

“I was humbled when this church elected me as a bishop. It’s been a tremendous challenge, a wonderful experience, and a great privilege. No words can express how grateful I am to God and to the Church of the United Brethren in Christ for giving me the privilege of serving as one of your bishops for these twelve years. Our lives have been deeply enriched by our experiences working on the West and Central districts.

“We’ve had times of joy, happiness, praise; but times of disappointment, too, because we didn’t always see what we felt God wanted to see accomplished. There were times when I felt so inadequate, and realized that whatever was accomplished was done only because of God’s power.”

Wilber and Mossie originally planned to move back to Pennsylvania and enter semi-retirement. But the “semi-retirement” part changed when a new opportunity arose. After his term ended in August 1989, he became associate pastor of Otterbein UB church in Waynesboro, Pa., the church he pastored when he was elected bishop in 1977. The idea excited him.

Bishop Sites retired in December 1998 as part-time Minister of Visitation at Otterbein. The following September, he and Mossie headed to teach and minister at Jamaica Bible College in Mandeville, Jamaica. They spent six years there, and also squeezed in three months as volunteers in Macau in 2000.

Bishop Sites passed away December 28, 2010, at his home in Chambersburg, Pa. He was 84 years old.

On August 14, flooding and a landslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone, resulted in the deaths of more than 400 people, and left thousands bereft of shelter, clothing, food, and safe drinking water. The dead include a number of United Brethren people from our churches in Freetown.

Some have been asking what they can do in response to the devastation. Rev. John Pessima, bishop of Sierra Leone Conference, sent the following update.

We have some of our members whose relatives died in the incident. Some bodies were discovered, and some are still missing. The wife of our national men’s ministry president, Mr. Christopher Mattia, is still missing eleven family members. A steward at the Au Memorial United Brethren Church at Kissy, Madam Sia Mannie, lost all three of her children. Hawa Conteh, a nurse at the Mattru Hospital, lost seven of her relatives in the same house. None of these have been found. We are still investigating as the search is ongoing.

All heads of churches were called on by the government to visit the site and agree on what to do as a church. We are to send to our partners and request assistance for our members whose relatives died in this ugly incident. Locally, we have started making appeals in our local churches for used clothing.

On behalf of the conference, I am appealing to United Brethren around the world for assistance in any form for families of the victims, and for the survivors who are still on the streets without food, safe drinking water, shelter, and clothing.

I am attaching pictures I took at the site during the heads of churches visit. Paramount among these is your prayers for our nation. We have suffered a lot, from civil war to Ebola and now landslide and flood. God bless you as you remember us in your prayers.

Donations can be sent through UB Global. Mark a check as “Sierra Leone Relief” and send to:

UB Global
302 Lake Street
Huntington IN 46750

You can also go here to give online. Select “2-9898 Sierra Leone – Special Projects,” and indicate in the comments box that your gift is for “Sierra Leone Relief.”

The Administration Building, now Becker Hall, as it looked in 1897.

The Administration Building, now Becker Hall, as it looked in 1897.

The August 18 post got missed thanks to vacation scheduling. Since no other “On This Day” item is scheduled for today (August 23), we’ll post it now.

In 1896, our de facto “denominational” college was Hartsville College south of Indianapolis, Ind. It was under the control of a board of trustees sympathetic to, but not accountable to, the United Brethren church. The denominational Board of Education wanted a college directly under its control, so they began looking around. Then, out of the blue, they received an offer too good to refuse.

A group called the Huntington Land Association, headed by a United Brethren minister who was also a contractor, wanted to develop an area north of Huntington, Ind., just outside the city limits. They used an arrangement which was not uncommon back then. There would be 262 lots in what was called the College Park Addition. These lots would sell for an average of $225. Here’s the deal: if the church would sell 102 of the lots, the Huntington Land Association would donate land for a college and spend at least $35,000 to erect a building.

We would basically be getting a college for free. A contract between the Huntington Land Association and the denomination was signed on March 11, 1896. Hartsville’s president, Bishop Halleck Floyd, protested on behalf of the Hartsville trustees, but in vain. The contract was signed. And thus began Central College–to be renamed Huntington College 20 years later.

Construction on what became the Administration Building started almost right away, and the foundation was completed by August. That meant they could lay the cornerstone.

That happened on August 18, 1896. It was a big event, with about a thousand people coming out. Two days before, a Chicago evangelist had conveniently concluded several weeks of revival meetings in Huntington. They moved his tent, platform, and chairs to the college site for the ceremony. A band from Huntington played music.

All of the bishops took part in the ceremony—Milton Wright, Horace Barnaby, Halleck Floyd, and Henry Becker. The cornerstone was a two-foot-square white marble block. Wright put a number of items into it: a Bible, a history of the United Brethren church, an 1893 UB Discipline, a copy of the Christian Conservator church paper, Sunday school quarterlies, the 1896 United Brethren yearbook, the business card of the contractor, and other papers. Two stone masons helped Wright position the cornerstone. And there it remained for 100 years.

The cornerstone was opened in 1997 during the college’s centennial year, and the time capsule was removed. Copies were made of all documents and placed in the Archives for a while. Then everything was returned to the time capsule–copies, in some cases, since insects had partially eaten some documents–and the time capsule was placed back in the cornerstone.

What about Hartsville College? On June 15, 1896, the Hartsville board of trustees voted to suspend operations for a year, and got on board with Central College. They gave the denominational Board of Education, which doubled as the Central College board of trustees, all of Hartsville’s books, records, student grades, etc. On January 30, 1898, fire destroyed the Hartsville building (possibly arson). No going back.

On Wednesday, August 22, 1980, Sierra Leone missionary teacher Jill Van Deusen couldn’t get out of bed.

The day before, she had told Dr. Ron Baker that she was experiencing weakness in her right hand. The sudden paralysis shocked Dr. Baker, and he wondered what they could do at Mattru Hospital, a minimally equipped bush hospital. How would they keep her breathing if her respiratory muscles became paralyzed? Could she survive being evacuated from the country?

He consulted, by radio, doctors in Freetown and at the Wesleyan hospital at Kamakwie; a doctor from the Catholic hospital in Serabu came to Mattru. They all agreed that Jill probably had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disease of the spinal cord, and that she needed to leave for Freetown immediately.

All of the missionaries pitched in. Judy Hoath ran the outpatient clinic. Sharon Frank took the Catholic doctor back to Serabu. Sharon Birdsall gathered the necessary drugs and medical equipment. Dennis Burkholder and Scott Taylor ran lab tests on Jill. Tina Wilkins helped care for Jill. Phil Fiedler made last-minute mechanical repairs on the hospital van. Cathy Jordan packed Jill’s things, and Jane Baker packed for Ron. Throughout the day, many Africans came to show their concern.

They removed the middle seat from the hospital van to accommodate a stretcher. Then, after a prayer time, Ron Baker and Sharon Birdsall, along with an African driver, began the long journey to Freetown. Cathy Jordan and another African followed behind in a Suzuki jeep. The bumpy dirt road jostled the stretcher, so they stopped several times to readjust it.

After two-and-a-half hours, they arrived in Bumpe, where Jerry Datema and June Brown were waiting. Datema offered a prayer before they continued the remaining 150 miles to Freetown. They arrived at Connaught Government Hospital in Freetown at 1:30 Thursday morning.

Jill’s paralysis hadn’t spread very much. Dr. Baker later wrote, “Her attitude in the face of near death and almost total paralysis revealed an underlying faith that we will never forget.”

Everyone agreed that Jill needed to be evacuated to a country where she could receive intensive medical care. They made arrangements for a flight on Friday morning. Ron realized he wouldn’t be able to care for Jill by himself, as previously planned, so he asked Sharon Birdsall to accompany him on the flight.

They got Jill used to breathing with the help of a hand-operated respiratory bag. As she grew accustomed to it, she relaxed and was able to breathe much more deeply than she could on her own.

Ron and Sharon kept busy the entire flight. Sharon stood on Jill’s right side with all the drugs and equipment, while Ron crouched in a seat behind Jill’s head. Every 2-3 minutes, he would hold the face mask snugly over Jill’s nose and mouth while Sharon squeezed the respiratory bag. Occasionally, they used a portable respirator, which delivered oxygen at a higher pressure so she could breathe more deeply. They kept her alive.

Within minutes of landing in Amsterdam, the waiting ambulance whisked them to the Wilhelmina Gasthuis medical center. Ron stayed there four more days, and was pleased by the excellent care Jill received. She seemed to be improving. Though still on a respirator, she was beginning to swallow liquids and slight movement had returned to her fingers.

Sharon stayed with Jill in Amsterdam. Jill was soon able to move her fingers and forearms, and then to breathe on her own for about ten minutes each hour…and then 30 minutes each hour. By September 15, she was moving her legs and sitting up in bed. Finally, she left the respirator entirely. During those weeks in Amsterdam, Jill received over 200 cards from people in Sierra Leone, North America, and Holland.

Jill and Sharon flew to the States on October 3. Sharon returned to Sierra Leone on October 10, while Jill continued to improve under regular physical therapy in Michigan.

Jill later wrote about that take-off from Freetown. “God comforted me with a dream. I saw our jet climbing, and I saw the curvature of the earth. We climbed higher until I saw the west side of the continent of Africa and we started veering west over the Atlantic toward the States. As we got higher, I noticed people standing around the globe in a ring, all holding hands. The jet went faster and faster. We started flying parallel with the people holding hands. No matter how fast we flew, the person next in view was already bowed in prayer. Only later did I know that by that time, people in the States had a fantastic safety net of prayer woven under me.”

Jill returned to Sierra Leone in September 1980, but her health didn’t hold up and she returned to the States in August 1981. She finished her career in Archbold, Ohio, as a teacher and library employee.

Jill Van Deusen passed away on May 23, 2013, at age 70.

An event called “UB Connected” will be held November 5-6, 2017, at Rhodes Grove Camp in Chambersburg, Pa. It is sponsored by the United Brethren Association.

The event begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Novemer 5, with a missions presentation by UB Global Dirctor Jeff Bleijerveld and Sierra Leone Bishop John Pessima. A business meeting will be held at 6 p.m., and Bishop Todd Fetters will speak at 7 p.m.

Bishop Emeritus Ray Seilhamer and Rev. Joe Abu will speak on Monday morning. The event concludes with a noon meal.

There is no cost to attend sessions. However, there are fees for meals and lodging.

You can register here.

The ruins of Lawrence, Kansas, after the raid.

The ruins of Lawrence, Kansas, after the raid.

Early on the morning of August 21, 1863, Confederate raider William Quantrill and about 450 guerrilla fighters descended on Lawrence, Kansas, a town of 3000 people which was considered an anti-slavery stronghold. During the next four hours, they massacred 185 men and boys–anybody big enough to carry a rifle–and left over 180 buildings burning.

The first person killed that morning was a United Brethren minister. Rev. Samuel Snyder was milking his cow on his farm outside of town when a couple guerrillas rode up and shot him three times. Since Snyder had ministered in Lawrence for nearly ten years, we can assume that other United Brethren men and boys were among those slain that morning.

As Kansas and Missouri were opened to settlers, the question was: when they achieved statehood, would they be pro-slavery or anti-slavery? The two sides clashed, often violently. United Brethren people were particularly conspicuous, since the denomination had taken a strong stand against slavery in 1821 and forbid members to own slaves.

Bishop Henry Kumler Jr. and Rev. Josiah Terrell visited southwestern Missouri in 1853. They preached in various places and organized several churches, which were organized in 1854 into the Southwest Mission Conference. Annual meetings were held until 1859, when the “violent and murderous frenzy” of pro-slavery people made it too perilous for our ministers and people. Historian Daniel Berger wrote, “The work was permitted to decline, and no further sessions were held until after the close of the [Civil] War.”

Historian William McKee wrote about the work in Missouri, “Hatred to the United Brethren Church by slaveholders, on account of her testimony against the institution of slavery, well nigh extinguished the work in that part of the state….Our preachers were compelled to leave the country and seek homes elsewhere.” But in northern Missouri, a conference was organized in 1858, with 358 members and nine locations. By the next spring, membership had grown to over 800.

Kansas, located to the north of Missouri, was more friendly to the anti-slavery cause. But not by much.

The first United Brethren missionary to Kansas was Rev. W. Cardwell, who came from Indiana in the early 1850s and started the first UB church in Kansas; it was located in Lecompton, about 50 miles west of Kansas City. He was soon joined by two ministers from western Pennsylvania, Samuel Snyder and J. S. Gingerich, who settled near Lawrence, about 15 miles from Lecompton.

Rev. J. C. Bright wrote in 1855: “The political sky in Kansas is cloudy at present, but freedom must in the end prevail. If Kansas should ever be a slave state, we ought not to abandon it. The gospel of Christ is light, and wherever the dark cloud of slavery is spread, there the light should be diffused. Through sore troubles and persecutions, our brethren continue to prosecute their work, frequently mobbed, waylaid, shot at, threatened, troubled on every side, but not in despair.”

In October 1857, in a meeting at the home of Rev. Snyder, Bishop David Edwards officially organized Kansas Conference with nine ministers and about 200 lay members.

Daniel Berger wrote that these United Brethren, even in the years before the Civil War, “literally passed through fire, being often waylaid and shot at by assassins, had their houses broken into, and were themselves dragged into prison. Their persecutors sought to intimidate them by threats and violence, and by repeated assaults to drive them out of this country. But they were brave men, after the true apostolic type, and continued to preach in the presence of armed foes, often themselves guarded by rifles in the hands of those who came to hear.”

According to one source, Snyder was the only active military officer killed in the raid. About 20 black recruits whom Snyder had recently enlisted into the Second Kansas Colored Infantry camped in Lawrence. All, upon hearing gunfire, were able flee to safety. However, 22 young white volunteers who had joined another regiment were sleeping in tents a few blocks away, and all but five of them were chased down and killed.

Rev. Jeremiah Kenoyer

Rev. Jeremiah Kenoyer

Rev. Jeremiah Kenoyer was a true pioneer preacher. He began his ministry in frontier settlements in Illinois and Wisconsin. In the years ahead, he would help extend the United Brethren church into three new states–Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

At age 33, he heard that the new Home, Frontier, and Foreign Mission Board was recruiting ministers to go to Oregon. He offered to go if the board would pay $150 of his expenses. They agreed. With that amount, Jeremiah and Elizabeth Kenoyer committed themselves–and their seven children, ages 12 to a few weeks–to the 2000-mile journey.

The Kenoyers were penniless when they reached the Willamette Valley in Oregon. A grandson wrote that they left one or two milk cows with a ferryman because they couldn’t pay him. The Kenoyers immediately went to cousin Rev. Jesse Harritt, who lived near Salem. Kenoyer split rails and chopped wood to earn a living, and preached every night of the week and twice on Sundays.

Rev. T. J. Connor, who led the wagon train, once wrote, “I will put Jeremiah Kenoyer against any man I ever saw for the ability to call seekers to the altar or bring members into the church.”

Oregon Mission Conference was organized in 1855 and by 1861 had forty-eight preaching places and five hundred sixty-five members.

In 1868 (some sources say 1863), Kenoyer and his family–now 11 children, soon to be 13–moved to Washington Territory, where he continued as a pioneer itinerant until old age. He led efforts to establish what became Walla Walla Conference, and played a key role in sending workers from there to Idaho Territory in the 1870s.

The ministry ran deep in Kenoyer’s blood. His father was Rev. Frederick Kenoyer, and his mother was the daughter of Rev. J. G. Pfrimmer, who was instrumental in the UB church’s earliest days. Three sons, a son-in-law, and five grandsons of Jeremiah Kenoyer became ministers. One grandson, Fermin L. Hoskins, served as bishop 1905-1933.

Bishop Milton Wright, who spent two years in Oregon, recalled hearing Kenoyer preach a sermon in which he “ground into the very dust the pro-slavery prejudices which spurned a quarterblood negro from the school by simple protest; and yet it was so masterful as well as kindly done, that no one could be seriously offended.”

Rev. Jeremiah Kenoyer died on August 17, 1906, in the state of Washington.

When the 1900s began, the field superintendent in Sierra Leone was Rev. D. F. Wilberforce, a Sierra Leonean. He was replaced in November 1900 by an American, and missionaries held that role right up until 1985. Jerry Datema had been field superintendent until being elected bishop in 1981. He was determined, as bishop, to put Sierra Leoneans in charge of our oldest mission field.

Hong Kong and Nicaragua conferences had never had missionaries. Jamaica Conference was now under national leadership, and Honduras Conference would be there in a couple years upon the retirement of Archie Cameron.

“In Sierra Leone I believe the time has come for more nationalization,” Bishop Datema said in 1983. “We have to give the nationals more responsible positions and let them make some of the important decisions….I strongly feel that if we have nationals to do the job, it is wrong to be using missionaries.”

In August 1982, Bishop Datema appointed 15 Sierra Leoneans, plus missionary Ron Baker, to what he called the Future Planning Committee. He asked them to draw up their own proposals concerning the future of the field, looking 10-12 years down the road. They energetically jumped into the task under the chairmanship of John Labor, principal of Bumpe High School. They envisioned nationalizing all United Brethren work by 1996, with the possible exception of the hospital.

Kyle McQuillen (right), then a United Methodist pastor, was recruited in 1983 to become the new field superintendent in Sierra Leone. He and his wife, Mar Louise, had previously served two years as UM missionaries in Nigeria. They flew to Sierra Leone in late December 1983. His main task was the lead the field toward nationalization.

McQuillen began meeting with the Future Planning committee, which had already been working for a year-and-a-half. Things quickly came together. A few missionary roles had already been turned over to nationals–the Education office, leadership in our many schools, the Christian Education department. Even the position of secretary to the field secretary.

The Future Planning Committee settled on a structure with three positions. The General Superintendent, as the spiritual leader and the highest administrative authority, would be the closest thing to the present field secretary. He would be joined by an administrative assistant, and a director of Evangelism and Stewardship.

The Sierra Leone church couldn’t afford three new fulltime persons. But McQuillen said it could work if his $11,050 salary remained on the field after his position ended. It would be enough to provide salary, housing, travel, and medical care for the three fulltime nationals. In addition, McQuillen figured the Missions board would save up to $10,000 in missionary-related expenses—family airfare, shipment of goods to and from the field, pension, Social Security, medical allowances, and children’s allowances.

In July 1984, McQuillen gathered all of the missionaries in Mattru. They spent three hours going over the detailed proposals from the Future Planning Committee, and fully agreed with the nationalization plan. But several wondered if the Board of Missions would accept the proposals.

The Board meeting was only a few weeks away, in mid-August. They knew that if the plans were to be implemented, action had to be taken at that meeting. Someone raised the idea of McQuillen attending in person. Field secretaries didn’t normally attend meetings of the Board of Missions–especially not after having been on the field for just nine months. But this was special, even historic. To show their united support, the missionaries agreed to pay McQuillen’s travel expenses out of their own salaries.

The day before McQuillen left, Dr. Ron Baker called him on the radio and told him of one more way the missionaries had agreed to show their support. Every missionary had signed up for one day of prayer and fasting during the seven-day period McQuillen would be gone.

On August 16, 1984, Kyle McQuillen gave his presentation to the Board of Missions. He covered all of the bases and answered every question. He said the Sierra Leone church currently had the personnel to make it work, and emphasized that unless his salary remained on the field, the proposals would have to be shelved.

They were convinced. The Board unanimously passed the nationalization plans. They also picked up McQuillen’s travel tab.

It was a quick trip for McQuillen. He arrived August 11, attended a week of meetings, and flew back August 18. Didn’t even stop to visit his Stateside children. But it was a successful trip—successful, in that it eliminated his own job.

In December 1984, Rev. Henry Allie, a Sierra Leonean pastor, was elected as the first national General Superintendent.

DeWitt and Evelyn Baker

DeWitt and Evelyn Baker

On August 15, 1965, Dr. E. DeWitt Baker became president of Huntington College. That brought a conclusion to 16 years of missionary service in Sierra Leone–years which saw the birth of two daughters, the death of a son, and the start of over 20 schools, including our first two United Brethren high schools in Sierra Leone.

On April 22, 1965, DeWitt Baker received a letter from Bishop Clyde W. Meadows. Would he let himself be a candidate for the presidency of Huntington College? He said he would, though he didn’t necessarily desire the position. But in late May, DeWitt learned that he had been selected as the new president, and would start on August 15, 1965.

Their son, Ron, then a freshman at Huntington College, returned to Sierra Leone for the farewell activities. On July 15, the Baker family—after planting four roses the grave of Norman, who had died in boating accident in 1955–left for America.

In the second chapel service of the year, Ron “inaugurated” his father by placing a freshman beanie on his head. He wore the beanie for several days.

Just as DeWitt Baker had spent 16 years in Sierra Leone, he now spent 16 years as president of Huntington College. During those years, enrollment grew significantly, and several new facilities were added—Hardy Hall, the Huntington Union Building, the original Merillat Physical Education Center, and the 77-acre Thornhill Nature Preserve. New majors were launched in accounting, medical technology, and recreation management, and the Graduate School of Christian Ministries was formed. The Baker Hall dormitory and a new president’s home were added in 1981, just as Dr. Baker was leaving office.

George and Keziah Bethers in 1849.

George and Keziah Bethers in 1849.

George Washington Bethers was born August 12, 1821, in Pickaway County, located just south of Columbus, Ohio. A lot of United Brethren lived there. In 1843 he married a Kentucky girl named Keziah Newton, and during their 35 years of marriage, they had 13 children. After her husband died in 1878, Keziah lived another 39 years.

Sometime in the late 1840s, the young Bethers family headed to Oregon. The idea had been on George’s mind for a while. He wrote of backing out in 1847, something he regretted. “Every once in a while I would get the notion, then I would hear some bad story and give it up again, so I decided I would go anyhow….I am glad to be here.”

Up until 1840, Oregon was inhabited mostly by Indians, fur traders, a few missionaries, and an assortment of other settlers. In 1841, a group of 70 pioneers left Independence, Missouri, following a 2000-mile route originally blazed by fur traders across the Rocky Mountains and into Oregon. Another 100 settlers made the trip in 1842, and a wagon train of over 1000 made the trek in 1843. It was just the start of a massive migration–an estimated 400,000 people by 1869–as people in the eastern states were drawn to the promise of better opportunities on the West Coast.

Both Great Britain and the US had vied for control of the area, and the US won out in an 1846 treaty. The Oregon Territory was officially organized in 1848. It included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming. Britain was left with everything to the north.

The Bethers family established one of the pioneer farms of the Marys River Settlement, near present-day Philomath, Oregon. In the distant Northwest, they were sheep without a shepherd. George Bethers began writing letters to The Religious Telescope, the denominational magazine, begging for a preacher.

In 1852, the church came through. An appeal was put out for United Brethren to meet in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to journey together to Oregon. Rev. T. J. (Thomas Jefferson) Connor, a minister in Indiana, was appointed to lead the UBs westward and organize the church. He was joined by four other ministers and over 90 other people. They left Council Bluffs on April 9, 1853.

Among the travelers was Basil Longworth, a young single man. He kept a diary of the seven-month journey. On September 17 he wrote, “At the Columbia River, we met George Bethers, who had come from Oregon to meet us. He had butchered a beef, and we had a feast.” It was no doubt a joyous occasion for Bethers.

Soon, the first United Brethren church meeting was held in a schoolhouse at the Marys River Settlement. The first UB church was organized near there in January 1854. Other churches arose rapidly. The Oregon Mission Conference organized in 1855 with 17 preaching appointments and 120 members. By 1861, there were 42 preaching points and 565 members. The 1869 minutes recorded 1051 members. George Bethers lived long enough to see it all happen.

Today, we have just one church in Oregon: Philomath. Why? Because the other churches remained with the main body–now the United Methodist Church–when our small group split off in 1889. Once again, Oregon is, essentially, unreached by UBs. Our only foothold is there in Philomath, near where it all started with George Bethers writing letters.