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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > Brethren's Annual Meeting Brethren's Annual Meeting

Brethren's Annual MeetingBrethren's Annual Meeting

Location: Harter's Grove (Warvel Park), 108 West 7th St., N. Manchester. (Wabash County, Indiana)

Installed: 2006 Indiana Historical Bureau and North Manchester Historical Society

ID# : 85.2006.1

Text

Side one:

Church of the Brethren founded 1708 in Europe. By 1778, Brethren met annually to determine church policy. First annual meeting in Indiana was in Elkhart County 1852. North Manchester Church of the Brethren hosted annual meetings 1878, 1888, 1900; last two meetings held here in Harter's Grove. Had enormous social and economic impact on area.

Side two:

Business meetings and preaching by prominent Brethren leaders drew thousands from U.S. In a fair-like atmosphere, visitors had access to modern conveniences of the time, including in 1888, electric lamps. Area residents cooperated in providing visitors with housing, transportation, vast quantities of food, goods, and clean, running water.

Keywords

Religion, Special Events

Annotated Text

Church of the Brethren founded 1708 in Europe.(1) By 1778, Brethren met annually to determine church policy.(2) First annual meeting in Indiana was in Elkhart County 1852.(3) North Manchester Church of the Brethren hosted annual meetings 1878, 1888, 1900;(4) last two meetings held here in Harter's Grove.(5) Had enormous social and economic impact on area.(6)

Business meetings and preaching by prominent Brethren leaders drew thousands from U.S.(7) In a fair-like atmosphere, visitors had access to modern conveniences of the time, including in 1888, electric lamps.(8) Area residents cooperated in providing visitors with housing, transportation, vast quantities of food, goods, and clean, running water.(9)

Notes:

(1)Otho Winger, History and Doctrines of the Church of the Brethren (Elgin, Ill., 1919), 187. (B00012) The Church of the Brethren was founded by Alexander Mack in Shwarzenau in the autonomous county of Wittgenstein in the western region of what is now Germany. In 1729, Mack and his followers immigrated to Germantown, Pennsylvania and established the first Church of the Brethren in America. Ibid., pp. 22, 23.

In 1809, Four Mile Congregation was founded in Wayne County. Ibid., 77.

Joseph Harter, member of Church of the Brethren, settled in the North Manchester area in 1836 and organized the Eel River Congregation in 1838. Harter was a wealthy landowner who built the first mills in the area. He served as the church elder from 1838 until his death in 1861. Otho Winger, History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, (Elgin, Ill., 1917), 83. (B00011)

The town that became North Manchester was originally named Manchester and was platted on February 13, 1837 by Peter Ogan, who settled there in 1834 and surveyed the town site in 1836. When a post office was established on October 6, 1838, it was called North Manchester, since there was already a post office called Manchester in Dearborn County. Ronald L. Baker, From Needmore to Prosperity: Hoosier Place Names and Folklore History (Bloomington, 1995), 245.

The United Brethren College at Roanoke moved to North Manchester due to lack of accommodations. It was renamed North Manchester College. The United Brethren in Christ operated the school until 1895; at that time because of financial difficulties, the campus and buildings were sold to the Church of the Brethren. Construction began in the summer of 1895, and Manchester College opened in November 1895. William R. Eberly, Manchester Church of the Brethren, 1838-2000 (North Manchester, Ind., 2000), 13. (B00005); Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 263-65.

For information on the Church of the Brethren and United Brethren in Christ see, L. C. Rudolph, Hoosier Faiths: A History of Indiana's Churches and Religious Groups (Bloomington, 1995), 221-33, 245-55. (B00009)

(2)William R. Eberly, the marker applicant and author of a book on the Brethren church in Manchester, explains, "Even though the congregation was the primary focus of ministry and fellowship, when issues arose that affected the whole denomination (The Brotherhood), the entire membership should be involved in making the decisions. The first assembly was in 1742 in Pennsylvania. . . . By 1778, the Brethren began meeting together every year. . . . As the . . . Brethren church became larger and established in more states outside of Pennsylvania, the Yearly Meetings were frequently held in new territories when membership and facilities justified the change of location." Eberly, 13. (B00005)

Donald F. Durnbaugh, Fruit of the Vine: A History of the Brethren, 1708-1995 (Elgin, Ill., 1997), 114, indicates that "This gathering, in late spring 1742, is thus 'the beginning and foundation of the Great Assemblies of the [German] Baptist.' " Item provided in Eberly to Stephen Berrey, e-mail, November 8, 2005.

According to Otho Winger, "The history of the Church of the Brethren has been largely directed and formulated by the Annual Meeting, which originated in 1741. From 1741-1778 there are no minutes or records of these Conferences. After 1778 there are many blanks in the records. For some years the entire minutes are missing. For some years the places of the meetings are unknown. Not until 1830 do the records begin to be complete." Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 205. (B00011)

(3) Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 207-08. (B00011); Winger, History and Doctrines, 189. (B00012)

(4) Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 213-15, 220-22, 223-25. (B00011) The location of the 1878 meeting was held approximately "[t]wo miles west of North Manchester." Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 213. (B00011)

(5) The 1888 meeting was held on the western side of Harter's Grove, and the 1900 meeting was held on the eastern side of Harter's Grove. Because this area was near the railroad tracks, passengers could disembark just outside the gates to the meeting place. Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 220, 223-225. (B00011)

(6) North Manchester Journal, June 13, 1878; (B00054) "Additional Locals, " North Manchester Journal, April 12, 1888; (B00105) North Manchester Journal, April 26, 1888; (B00106) "The Coming Conference, " North Manchester Journal, May 3, 1888; (B00055) North Manchester Journal, May 17, 1888; (B00150) "Big Day, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 4, 1900; (B00060) "Business Session Begins, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 5, 1900. (OD 887)

Regarding the local impact in 1878, the local newspaper noted: "Preparation has been going on for some time for the entertainment of all that might come; but the crowd Tuesday was beyond all expectation and they were not prepared for so many and in the evening none but delegates were given supper. Not less than 15, 000 were on the ground at different times throughout the day. In the morning 2, 500 pounds of bread were ordered but before the morning train left Wabash the committee telegraphed for 1, 000 pounds more. 5, 500 persons took dinner on the grounds." North Manchester Journal, June 13, 1878. (B00054)

(7) North Manchester Journal, June 13, 1878; (B00054) "The German Baptist Conference, " North Manchester Journal, May 10, 1888; (OD 880) "The Conference, " Daily Journal [May 21, 1888], as quoted in North Manchester Journal, May 24, 1888; (B00024) "Big Day, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 4, 1900. (B00060)

According to Winger regarding attendance at the 1878 conference, "All reports say that there was one of the largest crowds ever assembled at an Annual Meeting up to that time." On one day of the meeting delegates, visitors, and families arrived on fifty-six train coaches, and on the following day 15, 000 to 20, 000 people were reported to be on the meeting grounds. Winger, Brethren in Indiana, p. 215-216. (B00011)

At the 1888 meeting, the local newspaper reported that 10, 000 people were at the meeting. "The Conference, " Daily Journal [May 21, 1888], as quoted in North Manchester Journal, May 24, 1888; (B00024) this source also names the bishops, who served on the Standing Committee, which determined the business for the meeting; Bishop Christian Hope was the representative of the District Conference of Denmark and Sweden. Ibid.

Reporting on the 1900 meeting, the Wabash Daily Plain Dealer estimated that there were 40, 000 people in North Manchester for Sunday services and that 20, 000 people were at Harter's Grove at one time. "Big Day, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 4, 1900. (B00060)

According to "Dunkard Conference, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 2, 1900, (B00149) "the annual conference . . . has been thronged with the brethren from the far away mission points of Africa and Japan and from the different states of the union. Continuing, it indicates that "The standing committee consists of forty-two members, including one from Denmark, D. L. Miller, one from Sweden, S. R. Zug, and one from Asia Minor."

(8) "The Coming Conference, " North Manchester Journal, May 3, 1888; (B00055) North Manchester Journal, April 26, 1888; (B00106) "Ready for Dunkard, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, May 21, 1900. (B00123)

(9) "Dunkard Conference, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 2, 1900; (B00149) "Big Day, " Wabash Daily Plain Dealer, June 4, 1900; (B00060) Winger, Brethren in Indiana, 220-22. (B00011)

For the 1888 meeting, the food supplied for those at the meeting included 30 head of cattle, 8 tons of bread, 2, 000 pounds of butter, barrels of potatoes, eggs, pickles, sugar, coffee, tea, rice, salt, pies, cakes, and buns. "The Coming Conference, " North Manchester Journal, May 3, 1888. (B00055)