During her furlough in 1983, Shirley Fretz (right) had a difficult decision to make. Her father had been hospitalized with cancer almost continuously since July 1982. Should she stay home and await his death, or return to Sierra Leone in December as scheduled?

Shirley later recalled, “My dad was very alert right up to the end. He knew exactly what was going on, and I’m sure that if I had visited him the day I was supposed to leave for Africa, he’d have said, ‘What happened? Why didn’t you go?’ I knew he would be gone soon, and it would be good for me to be there, but you can’t just stay home and wait for something to happen.”

She left at the end of November and arrived in Bumpe on December 6, 1983. The next day she received a telegram saying her father had passed away on December 6.

Bishop Jerry Datema was in Sierra Leone at the time for annual conference. He led a memorial service at the Bumpe church the same day as the memorial service back in Canada. The church was full of people—they didn’t know Shirley’s father, but they knew Shirley. The Bumpe primary children sang a couple of his favorite songs, and then Bishop Datema preached.

Shirley said, “It was almost like being home for the funeral.”

John Williams Howe

Rev. John Williams Howe was born December 4, 1829. He devoted his entire ministerial career to being an itinerant preacher in Virginia. It’s what he did. Wrote William Weekley, “From the time he joined the conference to the day of his death, he was a tireless and triumphant itinerant.”

From age 13-20, Howe was “bound out” to a farmer, and proved to be an excellent farmhand, described as “strong, willing, and industrious–but wild and reckless.” He married at age 23, and the next year was converted through the persistent witness of a friend. He immediately sensed the call to ministry. He spent a year under the direction of Jacob Markwood, then a presiding elder, and in 1858 was given his own circuit, which spanned three counties and took 200 miles to make a round.

As Howe set out on horseback for the first time, he prayed, “Lord, if just one soul is won to Christ, I will take it as evidence of your call on my life.” That first year, over 100 persons were converted.

Most meetings were held in private homes, barns, or outside. He battled snow and rain, forded swollen rivers, and sometimes got lost in the mountains. But he kept at it, year after year.

Howe is described in these ways: six feet tall, commanding presence, the “characteristic optimism of a successful general,” strong voice, a good singer, a personality “chargd like a battery with vitality,” jovial, cheerful, enthusiastic.

He weathered the Civl War years, during which his territory was a battlefield. After the war, Bishop Jacob Markwood observed, “There is nothing left of the United Brethren Church in Virginia.”

Not so fast. Weekley wrote: “John Howe was brought to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Fellow preachers may have been just as zealous, just as cultured, just as powerful in the pulpit. “But on his brow rested a crown of leadership that was readily recognized. Very speedily he was forced to the front. It is not to his discredit that he was wiling to go.”

Howe led Virginia Conference for the next 20 years as presiding elder. From the ruins of the Civil War arose a conference with 13,000 members.

He proved to be an excellent evangelist, organizer, and executive. Great revivals resulted in entire communities coming to Christ, and new churches began. He was not a general who stood behind the lines and issued orders to the troops. Rather, he was with them in the trenches, doing whatever needed to be done. And people loved him for it. It’s not surprising that he was very successful in attracting young men into the ministry.

William Weekley portrayed a man of immense gifts, who could have gone far in other careers. But instead, he gave himself entirely to the Church.

“In him we have the gospel preacher, the inspiring singer, the fervent evangelist, the wise organizer, the constructive builder, the successful financier, and the dauntless advocate of the Church with all of its institutions. It is given unto some men to possess most of these talents, but to him was given them all in an unusual degree. If his powers had been so directed, he undoubtedly would have made a notable figure in cvic life, and might have become a statesman of wide-reaching and most beneficent influence. But all his patriotism and all his knowledge of public affairs were made subordinate and tributary to the work of the ministry.”

Howe was a delegate to eight consecutive General Conferences, beginning in 1869. He opposed the new Constitution which led to the division of 1889. But when the Church adopted it, he submitted to their decision and remained a loyal churchman (rather than split off with Milton Wright).

Howe’s wife died in 1879 after 28 years of marriage. He remarried in 1890, and in the words of Weekley, “They walked together as the shadows gathered.” Howe died June 17, 1903, at age 74.

Clarence Mummart passed away on December 2, 1959. He was kind of a utility fielder, serving the church in a variety of capacities.

  • Two different terms as bishop, 1921-1925, and 1937-1941.
  • Two stints as president of Huntington College, 1912-1915 and 1925-1932.
  • Two stints as editor of the denominational newspaper, the Christian Conservator, 1909-1911 and 1917-1920.
  • One term, 1905-1909, as general secretary of UB Christian Endeavor.

Mummart was born in 1874 in Franklin County, Pa. His ancestors came from Germany about the same time as William Otterbein. During his formative years, the Macedonia United Brethren church was being built near their farm in Greencastle, Pa. Young Clarence began attending.

Mummart sensed a call to ministry as a teenager, but didn’t pursue that call until 1896, when he was licensed by Ebenezer UB church in Greencastle. By that time, he was married with three children, and had been teaching school. Bishop Milton Wright was presiding a year later when Mummart was granted an annual conference license from Pennsylvania Conference. He was ordained four years later by Bishop Horace Barnaby.

Mummart had a somewhat strange, twisting career, with education and the ministry intertwined in various ways. He was clearly immensely talented, particularly as an administrator. Arguments could be made that he had a short attention span, or that he lacked a clear calling to any one thing, or that he didn’t really know what he wanted to do with his life. Or, you could argue that he just made himself available to be used wherever the church needed him.

Mummart pastored in Pennsylvania until 1903, when he began two years as pastor of College Park UB church in Huntington, Ind., followed by other pastorates in Indiana and Ohio.

In 1905, he was elected to the newly-created role of General Secretary of Christian Endeavor. After four years, he reported that 104 CE societies had begun. He was re-elected in 1909, but he resigned to become editor of The Christian Conservator. In 1911, he joined the faculty of Huntington College (then called Central College), and chaired the Department of Theology 1911-1917, and then 1919-1920. For three of those years, 1912-1915, he was the college president.

He returned to editing the Christian Conservator 1917-1920, though he would write that he didn’t feel “editorially inclined” and viewed himself as “filling the place rather than entering into it with the joy and delight of service.”

Curiously, Mummart spent the 1920-1921 year as Superintendent of Schools in LaCenter, Kentucky. The 1921 General Conference then elected him bishop, even though he had seemingly left the ministry. Maybe it was the only way to recover this immensely talented man.

Mummart left the bishopric in 1925 to become president of Huntington College. He was re-elected bishop in 1929, but resigned to continue as HC president. But General Conference persisted, and elected him bishop again in 1937. This time he accepted, though he simultaneously pastored a UB church in Greencastle, Pa.

He seems to have been a complicated man, and perhaps a bit awkward. Bishop Clarence Carlson said Mummart had difficulty interacting socially with children and young people, and that Mummart once told him, “I never learned how to play, only how to work. You might say that I never had a boyhood such as most boys have. As far back as I can remember, I worked.”

Mummart was known for his administrative and leadership abilities. Carlson described him as “meticulous and methodical.” Mary Lou Funk wrote, “He looked for thoroughness and accuracy in others, and could not rest until he thought a task was well done. He believed in the letter of the law, but when that had been acknowledged, he was willing to grant concessions at times.”

Funk said Mummart sometimes appeared to be “severe and unsociable.” Bishop Lloyd Eby remarked, “I was fortunately to break through Mummart’s outward severity and found him a warm friend.”

Mummart died at age 85 and was buried in the cemetery of Macedonia UB church, where he attended as a boy. His obituary in The United Brethren magazine emphasized his leadership abilities.

Dr. Mummart was an able executive. No man was pushed aside because there was disagreement. The heart of the true executive recognizes the possibility that the other man may be right. Friendship or personal advantage had no part in the decisions he made as bishop. There was one rule which he followed: ‘Is it best for the church and the saving of souls?”

Left: The Baker family in 1949, when they arrived in Sierra Leone: DeWitt, Evelyn, Ron, and Norman. Right: A later picture of the Baker family after the death of Norman, with daughters Joyce and Annette.

For the DeWitt Baker family in Sierra Leone, 1955 began in celebration with the dedication of Centennial High School. But the year ended in tragedy.

Evelyn Baker homeschooled her two sons—Ron, in fourth grade, and Norman, in third grade. The boys often joined their school friends for recess.

On December 1, 1955, Ron and Norman joined Mattru students in their annual end-of-the-year picnic, being held two miles down the Jong River at the island village of Pipah. Colleen Sundstrom, another missionary kid, age ten, tagged along. Solomon George, a teacher, was in charge of the day’s activities. DeWitt went to the wharf at 7:00 a.m. to help Ron, Norman, and Colleen into the crowded boat for the all-day excursion.

At the end of the day, everyone climbed aboard the boat for the trip back to Mattru. Many children were atop the cabin roof, doing an African dance and beating a drum. Before the launch cast off, Solomon George asked the missionary kids to come down from the roof. He spoke specifically to Norman, the youngest, warning him that it was safer inside the boat. Norman complied.

As the boat swung into the swift current, the supporting struts buckled and the roof collapsed, throwing Ron, Colleen, Solomon George, and many students into the river. Mr. George, who couldn’t swim, grabbed a floating board, but when he realized that Colleen couldn’t swim, he gave her the board and told her to hang on. A canoe eventually picked her up, but Mr. George drowned. Ron, a good swimmer, helped another struggling teacher make it to the shore.

Twin brothers John and Jonny Williams also fell off the launch. One reached shore, then swam back to help his struggling brother. Both boys drowned. So did another student, James Sankoh. In all, the accident claimed the lives of Solomon George, three male students…and Norman Baker.

When the capsized boat was pulled back to shore, Norman’s body was found under the crumpled roof. He had been sitting under the roof, but leaning out over a partition to watch the diesel engine. When the roof collapsed, rafters fell across his neck and killed him.

DeWitt Baker wrote in his autobiography:

“Norman was laid on a cot in our living room near a front window. Some came inside to look at him and went back out, calmly and respectfully. They had never known a fatal accident to occur to a missionary child….Our calm acceptance of Norman’s death was a witness to the crowd of mourners of our faith in God.

“Despite our faith and despite taking sleeping pills, there was no sleep that night for any of us. Nurse [Juanita] Smith lovingly washed and dressed Norman’s body. Carpenter Lincoln built a casket and brought it to the house at 1:30 a.m. Soft rain fell from 3:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m.”

That morning P. C. Dole, a Sierra Leonean pastor, led a memorial service for Norman at the Mattru church. Burial would be in Gbangbaia, 25 miles away, where the Bakers had lived for two years. A long procession followed the pallbearers as they carried the casket to the ferry. Two miner’s jeeps then carried the casket, missionary friends, pall bearers, and others on the bush trail to Gbangbaia. Friends lined the path leading to the church, where Pastor Henry J. Becker led a second memorial service. Then the casket was carried downhill to the Danville cemetery, where other missionaries and nationals were buried.

Norman’s tombstone.

Evan Towne, a UB missionary, found a large stone in the river, about three feet long and two feet wide. It was set deeply into a cement base in the secluded mission cemetery. With loving care, Evan chiseled into the stone:


Our Little Missionary
Norman Dean Baker
January 4, 1948 – December 1, 1955
 

The Bakers spent New Year’s in Gbangbaia with other missionaries. During the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, DeWitt and Evelyn walked down to Norman’s grave. They took communion that night at the Danville Watch Night Service. Baker wrote, “How we missed having Norman standing by our sides, taking communion with us.”

The Baker family still had seven months on their term, and they completed it. DeWitt wrote, “The end of 1955 was a very difficult time for us, yet we believed that the Lord would use us to do His work in Sierra Leone. We stood in awe of our Lord as He worked out His plan for our lives. We continued to stand upon Romans 8:28. His will be done.”

Martin Boehm was born on November 30, 1725, the youngest child in the family.

His father, Jacob, had come to America ten years before, in 1715, emigrating from Holland. Jacob settled in Lancaster, Pa. He bought a 381-acre farm, built a house, and became the area’s first blacksmith. He also married a Mennonite girl named Barbara Kendig, who sometimes worked alongside him in the blacksmith shop.

Martin grew up embracing the Mennonite doctrines and practicing their ways. As an adult, he proved to be a successful farmer in his own right. He started with 181 acres from his father’s farm and kept buying additional land, ultimately ending up with 400 acres. At age 28, he married 19-year-old Eve Steiner, and they had eight children.

It was in 1756, when Martin was 31 years old (some accounts set the year at 1758), that he was chosen by lot to be a Mennonite minister. That set in motion events which led to his own conversion, his becoming an evangelist, and eventually, a Great Meeting in 1767 during which he met a German Reformed minister named William Otterbein. Thirty-three years later, Boehm and Otterbein would become the first two bishops of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

Bishop Lloyd Eby (right) passed away on November 27, 1969. He had lived a full life–missionary in Sierra Leone, pastor, planter of many churches, and bishop for eight years (1949-1957).

After leaving the bishopric, Lloyd and Eula Eby went back to Sierra Leone for one more term (their third). Then, in 1962, they settled down to retirement in Fort Wayne, Ind., and faithfully attended Third Street (now Anchor) United Brethren Church. During this twilight years, he focused on prayer. Tim Hallman wrote about it in the chapter on Lloyd Eby in “United Brethren Bishops, Volume 2.”

Eby regularly prayed for over 500 missionaries and staff personnel around the world. He kept a notebook with a page for each of “his” missionaries–photo, country, description, needs, etc. Maps and calendars supplemented his praying, along with at least 50 mission publications which kept him updated on the broader world of missions.

Eby divided his prayer list into sections, and covered some of it each day. He said he would kneel until he got tired, then would get up and walk around or stand and pray.

Eula Eby kept her own missions prayer list. They received at least 25 letters a week from missionaries. They also sent out a newsletter titled, “Intercessory Fellowship for Missionaries,” and opened their home to missionaries passing through Fort Wayne.

Bishop Clarence Carlson said of Eby: “I know of no other person who prays as fervently and persistently as he does. Most of his time throughout the day is spent in prayer.”

Nettie Birdsall

Nettie Birdsall, a 26-year-old from Clare, Mich., went to Sierra Leone in December 1920 as a teacher and served two terms, up through November 22, 1926.

After concluding her United Brethren work in Sierra Leone, Nettie spent five years with a Protestant French faith mission in French Equatorial Africa (what are today the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Congo, and Gabon). Then she served seven years in the Belgian Congo.

After those lengthy assignments, Nettie returned to the States. In 1948, she once again applied with the United Brethren mission board. They sent her to Sierra Leone in January 1949 for a third term, where she served at the Minnie Mull Home. However, a stubborn illness cut her term to 11 months, and she returned to the States in December 1949.

In July 1966, Nettie married John Swales of Lamont, Iowa. They had been students together, 1915-1918, while attending Huntington College. Nettie passed away February 3, 1970, and John died two years later.

Rev. Michael Long

Rev. Michael Long passed away on November 17, 1891, at age 77. He is considered one of the greatest soul-winners in the history of the United Brethren church, and is credited with being instrumental in the salvation of over 5000 people. Historian William Weekley wrote, “He lived for it, prayed for it, and put all else aside for it….It may fairly be questioned whether any one minister in the history of the denomination, [Christian] Newcomer excepted, has made a greater record as a soul-winner.”

Michael Long was born May 3, 1814, in eastern Ohio. He became a Christian, and a UB, at a young age. He was licensed to preach in 1836 by Sandusky Conference (northern Ohio) and was assigned to a circuit of churches—28 appointments which took 400 miles to cover (including nine crossings of the Auglaize River). He preached at each place once a month. At the time, there were no church buildings in the entire conference. Services were held in homes, barns, groves, and other places.

Long spent his entire ministry, nearly 60 years, in the Great Black Swamp of northwestern Ohio. The Black Swamp was tough on preachers. There were few roads and bridges, and many ways to get sick. Where horses couldn’t travel, preachers had to trudge through the swamp on foot.

Long was described as having a strong, “impressive” physique. His mighty voice was perfect for campmeetings, and he was a gifted singer, too. He was personable, cordial, with a “sunny disposition and a merry humor.”It was said that Long once preached three times a day for 30 days straight. He attended Sandusky Conference 56 years in a row, and never missed the opening prayer.

Long was a demonstrative speaker, and an extraordinary evangelist. His preaching, noted Weekley, “had that quality that broke down stubborn wills, melted the hardest hearts, and caused multitudes to repent of their sins and to accept Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Said one person who knew Long, “Entire communities were transformed by his noble Christian influence and the marvelous power of his ministry.”

William Weekley said many of the early United Brethren preachers were focused on evangelism, and neglected discipleship. Consequently, churches of other denominations picked up our new converts and trained them in Christian living. But Long was both an evangelist and an organizer. “The fruits of his great evangelistic campaigns were largely conserved to the denomination. This was the exception in those earlier days.”

In May 1864, Long traveled to Fort Ethan Allen in Virginia, where many soldiers from northern Ohio were stationed. He preached to them from 1 Chronicles 4:10, the Prayer of Jabez, which was quite appropriate: “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.”

Long and his wife Sarah were married in 1837 and had five children. All three sons became ministers. Sarah, three years younger than him, preceded him in death by two years.

Long was a close personal friend, and one-time neighbor, of President Rutherford B. Hayes (they were both buried in Fremont, Ohio). When Hayes learned of Long’s death, he said, “In the history of northwestern Ohio, the name of the Rev. Michael Long can never be disassociated from the very highest rank of moral and religious leadership. Nothing my friends might say of me when I am gone will be more truthful and honorable than what I can say of my friend Long—he was a devoted and successful minister of the Gospel.”

Philip William Otterbein. This painting was done in 1810, three years before Otterbein’s death.

William Otterbein, one of the founders of the United Brethren Church, died on November 17, 1813. He was 87 years old. He had been a minister for 65 years, and a bishop for 13 years. Martin Boehm, the other founder and bishop, had died a year-and-a-half before.

Since June, Otterbein’s health had been failing. He continued as pastor of what is now called Old Otterbein Church in Baltimore, and for the most part continued his ministerial responsibilities. But, as A. W. Drury wrote in his biography of Otterbein, “His fund of vitality was gone.”

By the time October arrived, Otterbein had stopped preaching. Rev. Frederick Schaffer, who had emerged from Otterbein’s ministry at his first pastorate, in Lancaster, Pa., filled the pulpit. Meanwhile, everyone around knew of Otterbein’s deterioration.

At the time, Otterbein was the only ordained United Brethren minister. UB ministers Christian Newcomer and James Hoffman came to Baltimore at the beginning of October with the request that Otterbein ordain them, so they could then ordain others in an unbroken chain from Otterbein to…well, to the present. That happened on Saturday, October 2, during a ceremony in Otterbein’s home. He also used the occasion to ordain Frederick Schaffer. The next day, both Newcomer and Hoffman preached at Old Otterbein Church, and Schaffer joined them in administering communion to the congregation. Newcomer and Hoffman left town the next day.

For the next six weeks, Otterbein’s health continued to decline. He finally passed away at 10:00 pm on Wednesday, November 17. His final words were recorded as, “The conflict is over and past. I begin to feel an unspeakable fullness of love and peace divine. Lay my head upon my pillow and be still.”

The funeral was held on Saturday morning. It was quite an ecumenical event—a true tribute to William Otterbein, who wasn’t very concerned about denominational labels. Most of Baltimore’s ministers attended. A Lutheran minister, with whom Otterbein had labored for 27 years in Baltimore (and the son of Otterbein’s neighbor at his Tulpehocken pastorate), preached in German. Then a Methodist minister spoke in English. An Episcopal minister led the graveside ceremony in the church yard. Curiously, no United Brethren ministers participated in the funeral services. Newcomer and Hoffman had engagements in Pennsylvania.

Otterbein didn’t have many possessions to pass on. He willed $50 to Miss Elizabeth Drucks, a woman “now living in my family…as a testimony of my esteem for her.” Everything else he willed to “my friend Elizabeth Schwope, as a small but the only compensation in my power for her faithful services and uncommon attention to me for many years past.”

His most important legacy, as Drury points out, was the nearly 100 ministers who had been raised up under his influence, and who were now preaching the Gospel in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio—the core of a movement which, within 40 years, would spread from coast to coast.

During the last year of his life, Otterbein became concerned about whether or not the United Brethren movement would survive. He summoned two UB ministers, Christian Newcomer and Jacob Baulus, and they talked about the state of the church. They apparently relieved his concerns. Before Newcomer and Baulus left, Otterbein told them,”The Lord has been pleased graciously to satisfy me fully that the work will abide.”

Over 30 historical posters were displayed at the US National Conference in July. They were developed for this year’s 250th anniversary of the United Brethren Church. They cover a range of subjects–bishops, missionaries, mission work, higher education, the Civil War, General Conferences, and more.

People inquired about being able to make their own copies of some of these posters, to be used in their churches.

All of these posters can now be downloaded from the UB website. You can then take the high-resolution PDFs to a place like FedEx/Kinkos or FastSigns for quality printing on posterboard. Or, for a really nice look, get them printed on canvas (the website easycanvasprints.com does good work for a decent price).

The posters are designed in one of three sizes: 12×18, 18×24, or 24×36.

On this page, you can:

  • View thumbnails and descriptions of each poster.
  • View a larger version of the thumbnails.
  • Download the high-resolution PDF of each poster.