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William Floyd was among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. His nephew, Mathias, and his family were among the early pioneers to Indiana, moving from Virginia in 1826 and settling southeast of Indianapolis. Matthias and Jemima had eleven children. The tenth, whom they named Halleck, was born April 7, 1839.

Halleck Floyd would serve 16 years as a United Brethren bishop, 1889-1905.

Halleck grew up Methodist, but in 1856 entered Hartsville College, a nearby United Brethren schoo. He cited the UB stands against slavery and secret societies as reasons he decided to become United Brethren. He got married the next year, a marriage that would last 52 years, and began pastoring circuits of churches.

Floyd is described in a lot of good ways. Amiable, approachable, a good conversationalist. Strong in his convictions. Quick to help people in need. A natural leader. In great demand as a preacher. A gifted writer. A gentle spirit. A good chairman, who could get a lot of business done without appearing to be rushed. Gracious and courteous. He had a great concern for the plight of American Indians.

Floyd spent some time in the Indiana legislature. An amendment to the Indiana constitution would prohibit alcohol statewide. It was headed to defeat until Floyd delivered a powerful speech in favor of the ban; the next day, the amendment passed.

Floyd became involved with Milton Wright in publishing The Christian Conservator, a periodical designed to counter the liberal views of the official denominational paper, The Religious Telescope. Floyd is credited with coming up with the name “Christian Conservator.”

At the divisive 1889 General Conference, Floyd was among the delegates who walked out with Milton Wright and began meeting elsewhere as the real United Brethren church. He was one of the four bishops elected to lead the United Brethren Church as it basically started over.

Around 1897, controversy arose around the publishing house, and it continued for eight years, with Milton Wright pushing the issue hard. Floyd and Bishop Horace Barnaby, both of whom had been elected in 1889, ended up at odds with Wright over the mess. Wright’s machinations at the 1905 General Conference resulted in Floyd and Barnaby not getting re-elected.

Though retired as bishop, Floyd continued serving in ministry as long as he was physically able. He passed away on November 16, 1917.

The Jerry Datema family moved to Jamaica in 1964, after having served in Sierra Leone 1957-1963. Datema (right) became field superintendent, following founder James O’Sullivan.

In 1966, Jamaica Conference decided to begin work in the capital city of Kingston. They bought two lots in the new Washington Gardens area.

Mrs. Violet Brown, along with her children and mother, lived a couple blocks from the future church. She was originally from the New Gardens UB church, and was eager to have a United Brethren church in her neighborhood. She offered her home. The Datemas set up folding chairs in the carport and began holding services on December 6, 1966. After 13 weeks, attendance hit 87.

Meanwhile, construction was underway. The new church was dedicated on April 7, 1968. It was called Faith United Brethren Church. The congregation hadn’t yet bought furniture, but the church was filled and spirits were high.

Also participating, but not happy about it, was a Rastifarian man who lived next door. He banged a metal pipe against the fence to disrupt the service…and continued harassing the congregation for the next 25 years.

Nevertheless, the Washington Gardens church continued to grow and thrive, with a large constituency of educated and professional people. In 1985, Washington Gardens ranked as the fifth largest church in the denomination, worldwide, with an average attendance of 360.

The Datemas left Jamaica at the end of May 1968, and a couple months later were back in Sierra Leone. It had been a very productive stay.

(See all “On This Day” posts.)

Francis Asbury (left) and Henry Boehm

Francis Asbury (left) and Henry Boehm

Henry Boehm, a son of Martin Boehm, was a traveling companion of Methodist bishop Francis Asbury. It was 1812, and the two ministers were holding meetings in Leesburg, Va. Asbury had a premonition of some kind. Before the meeting ended, he told Henry, “Get the horses ready. As soon as the conference adjourns, we must go to your father’s house.”

Henry reminded Asbury of other appointments on their schedule, but Asbury was insistent. They need to go to Lancaster, Pa., immediately.

It was a 100-mile trip. About a mile from Martin Boehm’s homestead, they heard the news: Bishop Boehm had passed away on March 23.

On April 5, 1812, a memorial service was held for Martin Boehm. A large crowd assembled in Boehm’s Chapel, which Martin had built on his own property.

Asbury preached to a large crowd, using the text, “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile.” He mentioned all the roles Boehm filled–patriarch, father, neighbor, friend, companion. But, he said, “The prominent feature of his character was goodness. You felt that he was good.”

Asbury then called on Henry Boehm to speak.

Henry stood at the pulpit–the same pulpit where he had often heard his father speak, in the church that bore his father’s name. Many people were weeping. He saw his elderly mother and numerous relatives. Looking out the window, he could see the new grave in which his father had been laid.

Henry was overcome with emotion. His eyes filled with tears, and all he could say was, “Let silence speak.”

Lloyd and Eula Eby, 1933

Lloyd and Eula Eby, 1933

At age 17, Lloyd Eby became a Christian during a Salvation Army street meeting in Ontario. He later joined what is now the Stanley Park United Brethren church in Kitchener. In 1913, at age 22, he married Lizzie Thornton, who was born in London but moved to Canada as a child. Lloyd and Lizzie had met as teenagers at the Salvation Army.

Lloyd and Lizzie moved to Toronto, where they started three churches. Most men were fighting the Great War, so the churches ministered mostly to women and children. But when the men returned, they too filled the pews.

In 1918, Lizzie died in childbirth, along with their infant child.

Eula Sherk, an outgoing young woman from the Sherkston UB church, was doing mission work in Toronto. A relationship developed, and Eula and Lloyd were married April 5, 1920.

Lloyd and Eula enjoyed 49 years together–years of diverse ministry which included three missionary terms  in Sierra Leone, planting six churches in the Detroit area, and eight years in the bishopric. They retired in Fort Wayne, Ind. Lloyd passed away in 1969, Eula in 1988. (Read more about them in the March 2 post.)

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Milton Wright, United Brethren bishop and father to the Wright Brothers, died on April 3, 1917. He was 89 years old. Wright was a controversial, somewhat polarizing figure. But this is certain: without Milton Wright, there would be no United Brethren Church today.

In 1889, some controversial decisions prompted Wright and 15,000 sympathizers to leave the quarter-million-strong United Brethren denomination. The other group went through a couple mergers and, in 1967, was absorbed into the Methodist church. But thanks to Milton Wright, the United Brethren name, and its legacy, endures.

Those 15,000 people lost their church properties and had to start from scratch. Under Wright’s leadership, they rebuilt–new church buildings, a publishing house, a college and headquarters in Huntington, Ind. Then, in 1905, less than two years after sons Orville and Wilbur had become world famous at Kitty Hawk, Milton stepped down as bishop and entered retirement.

Milton had buried his wife, Susanna, in 1889. Wilbur died in 1912 of typhoid fever. In 1914, Milton left the home in Dayton, Ohio, where he had lived for 40 years, and moved into Orville’s new Hawthorn Hill mansion in Dayton.

On April 2, 1917, Milton read the evening paper, did some writing at his desk, talked to daughter Katherine for a while, and went to bed. The next morning, he didn’t come down for breakfast. They found him in his bed, as if asleep.

In 1910, Orville ask his father, then 81, if he wanted to take a ride in an airplane. Milton did. The flight lasted just under seven minutes, and flew up to 350 feet. Milton reportedly said only two words to Orville during the flight: “Higher, higher.”

Betty Brown, 22 years in Honduras

Betty Brown, 22 years in Honduras

On April 1, 1950, Betty Brown boarded a ship in New Orleans. Two days before, her best friend at Huntington College, Juanita Smith, had arrived in Sierra Leone to begin what would be 15 years as a UB missionary nurse. Betty was headed in a different direction–to Honduras, where she would spend the next 22 years. That’s longer than any other missionaries to Honduras except for the Archie Cameron family.

Betty was one of those silent saints whom history can easily overlook, but who, during their years walking the earth, leave a trail of goodness and light. Said Archie Cameron: “I always characterized her as a person who really lived, ‘I am crucified with Christ.’ Everybody saw Betty as a godly woman. She did all the little things that no one else would do, and was always there to help in every way.”

Betty came to Honduras as a trained schoolteacher, but after the school closed, she found many other valuable ways to serve—working with children and youth, training Sunday school teachers, organizing Vacation Bible Schools, directing children’s programs, leading the Honduras Women’s Missionary Association, helping with music, and so much more. She planned the flannelgraph lessons given in villages, and kept everything organized so she knew which lessons had been given in which villages, and which lesson needed to come next so they could systematically go through the Bible.

She also poured her life into a small group of girls, organizing a three-year training program with the goal of developing them into godly women. She taught them during the week—child psychology, techniques for working with different age groups, how to craft an effective Bible lesson—and on weekends took them to villages to minister in homes and churches.

“As far as missionaries went, she was the best you could find,” said Reina Velez, one of those girls.

Missionary Leora Ackerman: “You talk to any of her former students and they’ll say, ‘Oh, Miss Betty was special.’ She was a wonderful, wonderful Christian girl. Solid. The teachers loved her, and the students loved her, too. We loved her; our kids still call her Aunt Betty.”

Archie Cameron: “Her contribution was great. She ran the school well, she trained those girls well, she worked in the bookstore well, she worked well with young people and children. She was professional in everything she did—it had to be done correctly. But she was always in the background. Her greatest contribution was just all the little things that she did.”

Missionary Vernon Macy: “There wasn’t anything too great or too small for her to do. She was a tremendous person.”

Archie: “Betty was the kind of person who did little thoughtful things for people, things that other persons wouldn’t do. She would wrap up a bottle of Coke to give somebody for a birthday. I wouldn’t do that because that’s too small, but it wasn’t too small for Betty. And can you imagine how much that person appreciated receiving the bottle of Coke? That was Betty all the way through.”

Betty did many things well and with high professionalism. But most importantly, everybody could see that Betty Brown walked with God. “Just being here,” said Archie, “she was valuable.”

Betty finally left Honduras 1972 to take care of her elderly father and stepmother. She passed away on April 19, 1987. Easter Sunday.

Throughout 2017, as we celebrate the United Brethren denomination’s 250th anniversary, we are looking at events from our history.

Around 2 a.m., on March 31, 1982, our mission house in Freetown came under attack. Bob Eberly, the Sierra Leone business manager, was awakened by voices outside the house, which was located on a hill overlooking the city. Looking out a window, he saw a group of men just outside his daughter Brenda’s bedroom. Not long before, thieves had broken into the Wesleyan mission house just down the road. Now it was happening to them.

The Eberly family had gone to Sierra Leone in 1979. They were from the Otterbein UB church in Greencastle, Pa.

As the thieves began pelting the house with rocks, Bob gathered his wife and two children in the master bedroom at the other end of the house. The telephone line had been cut, so they couldn’t contact the police. Returning to the living room, he saw that the curtains in Brenda’s room were on fire. Rocks continued hitting the house, and the thieves yelled threats like, “Your money or your life.”

They tried unsuccessfully to put out the fire, running back and forth in the dark. But finally, Bob just closed the door and let it burn. Fortunately, it never spread beyond Brenda’s room.

Bob tossed them his wallet. They said it wasn’t enough, and began trying to break through the main entrance. Bob opened the safe to get more money. But suddenly the thieves just went away.

Turns out their watchman, Amadu–whom Bob feared might be dead–had run to a neighboring house and called the police. About 3:30 a.m., the police pulled up in an old Landrover, and ten heavily-armed men disembarked. The siege was over.

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Juanita Smith, RN, arrived in Sierra Leone on March 30, 1950. She was the daughter of Rev. Cecil Smith, a longtime UB pastor in Illinois. Her sister, Leora Ackerman, was a UB missionary in Honduras. One of Juanita’s best friends at Huntington College, Betty Brown, was then on her way to Honduras, where she would move in with the Ackermans; Betty and Leora were childhood friends from one of the churches Cecil Smith pastored. (Juanita and Leora, it must be noted while in the midst of March Madness, were first cousins to legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith.)

In 1935, we opened a medical clinic in the town of Gbangbaia, the center of much of our work in Sierra Leone. But when the Missions board decided to start a full-fledged hospital, they opted for the up-and-coming town of Mattru. There were no buildings and, more importantly, no doctor–not until 1957. Until then, a string of nurses ran the medical work at Mattru. Starting with Juanita Smith and Oneta Sewell, who had come to Sierra Leone in 1944.

In 1950, these two nurses opened a medical dispensary in Mattru, and held daily clinics in Mattru and surrounding villages. At the same time, recognizing that a full-fledged hospital would require a lot of nurses, they started a nursing school with three students, all of them graduates of our Minnie Mull School for Girls in Bonthe. In the years ahead, many more students from Minnie Mull would enroll. The students made their own uniforms—blue dresses with white aprons and caps.

Mission director George Fleming, after a visit in 1952, wrote about Juanita Smith and Oneta Sewell, “I was truly amazed at their well-organized schedule day after day. They had full charge of the hospital, and without an attending physician, they possessed both skill in their healing ministry and skill at management and organization.”

Nurse Martha Bard continued running the Gbangbaia dispensary by herself. When she went on furlough, Oneta and Juanita took turns holding monthly clinics at Gbangbaia.

Juanita usually rode her bike to Gbangbaia, which involved bumping along rough paths, pushing the bike up hills, and carrying it over fallen trees and other obstacles. One of the African male nurses typically followed behind, carrying medical supplies on his head. After seven miles, Juanita would stop in the village of Kabati and wait for the nurse to catch up. They would treat some patients, eat lunch, and continue their journey.

Toward evening they would reach Imperreh, where they would spend the night and, the next morning, hold a small clinic. When they reached Gbangbaia later that afternoon, DeWitt and Evelyn Baker and family would be waiting. Juanita would spend two days there, treating people from surrounding villages.

When Juanita Smith returned from furlough in September 1958, she brought a new microscope, along with a new set of skills: she had taken a laboratory course at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind. Dr. Alvin French, who had arrived the year before, put her lab skills to work—blood counts, urinalysis, stool examinations, and more. It provided more accurate diagnoses, which enabled more specific treatment.

Altogether, Juanita Smith served four terms in Sierra Leone, up until 1965. She later married Charles Guenzler and settled in Mt. Carroll, Ill., where her father had pastored many years before. Juanita passed away in August 1981.

ed-roush300Dr. J. Edward Roush passed away on March 26, 2004. He was 83. Roush served eight terms as a US Congressman from northern Indiana, and was instrumental in establishing the 911 emergency phone system. Roush was deeply committed to the United Brethren church and to Huntington University. He and his wife, Polly, were longtime members of College Park UB church in Huntington, Ind.

After graduating from Huntington College in 1942, Roush entered the US Army. He served as an officer during World War II, and was caught behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge. He was later called to active duty during the Korean War.

After graduating from the Indiana University School of Law in 1949, Roush went into private practice and served as a Huntington County prosecuting attorney. Then, in 1958, he ran for Congress on the Democratic ticket. After five terms, Roush was defeated in 1969 followed a redistricting, but he won his seat back in 1971 and served three more terms. He was defeated for re-election in 1976 by Dan Quayle, who went on to become a US Senator and Vice President. After several years as a director in the Environmental Protection Agency, Roush returned to private practice in 1979.

Ed and Polly Roush lived on a house on the Huntington University campus, next to Livingston Hall and across the street from the Administration Building. He served six years on the college board of trustees, and one period as interim president during 1989 while President Eugene Habecker was on sabbatical.

Dr. Roush was also very active in the denomination. He was the UB legal counsel for many years, and served on various leadership boards and committees. He was a frequent visitor to the National Office, usually for meetings with Bishop C. Ray Miller. He always carried himself straight and tall, with a distinguished bearing. He could argue a position forcefully and eloquently, but he always wrapped his words in grace, civility, and consideration for those on the receiving end.

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March 25, 1924, marked the premature end of a promising missionary career.

The new Minnie Mull Memorial Home opened in August 1923, and two new missionaries came as teachers: Ellen Rush of Alma, Mich., and Mabel Shultz of Sutton, Neb. They arrived at the Bonthe pier to see hundreds of people waiting there. It seemed like a royal welcome. But actually, the fanfare was to welcome the British governor, who was to arrive at almost the exact same time.

George Fleming described Mabel Shultz, a Huntington College graduate, as a quiet, unassuming person whose Christian influence quickly endeared her to the staff and the 70 girls who attended Minnie Mull. However, after seven months Mabel became very ill and needed to be sent home. Fleming took her to Freetown and booked passage on a steamer bound for New York—which was fortunate in itself, since the ship could carry just 12 passengers.

Fleming talked to the ship’s captain, explaining his concern for Mabel’s care, since nobody from the mission could accompany Mabel back to America. The captain told him not to worry. “We have a party of six missionaries en route from Liberia to the States, and one of them is a registered nurse.” Fleming then met with some of those missionaries, who promised that they would take good care of Mabel. Which they did.

About ten days from Freetown, Mabel started to mend. However, her missionary service was over.