When with my brother in the west we sometimes talked of my going to College and while he was a College Man and extremely intellectual he would invariably raise the question of "why spend one, two or even four years in College when there were so many fine opportunities in business life challenging a young man?" And there were many offers of positions pleasing and lucrative.
As soon as he reached home, the young man back on Quaker Lane took the matter up with his sister who had just completed her freshman year at Penn College at Oskaloosa, Iowa - as the name indicates a Quaker College.
It seemed it might be possible for the two of us to live at the old East Hall on the campus and perhaps live more cheaply and enjoy college life together. The plan worked out well and one morning in late summer with wagon well loaded with meager furnishings and personal belongings and provisions, driving father's team, the two struck out southward some 60 miles for College.
The night of needed rest for horses and travellers was spent at the generous Henry Johnson farm home south of Grinnell in the vicinity of Lynville and Scarsboro. The journey, resumed next morning, came to a satisfactory end in Oskaloosa in early afternoon. "Moving in" was simple enough but meager quarters were quite sufficient and a good year was anticipated. Returning home with the team of horses and wagon a day or two was devoted to rest before the prospective freshman returned by train on the old M.& St.L. - or Iowa Central Railway.
While driving one day with his father the young man said - "It seems selfish on my part Father to leave thee and Mother alone when perhaps I might be of some help to you if I remained here, since I am the son of your mature years and am the logical one to serve now." "Well", said the father, "thy life is before thee and while I cannot do much to assist thee, I want to encourage thee to go on and there is not enough work to do here at home to demand us both. I can do it."
Returning to College the formalities for entering were soon over and he was a member of the large freshman class, the class of 1894.
Student life was not too difficult tho' different. Strength was sadly wanting because of the summer battle with mountain fever. Love for athletics took him much to the athletic field - to do what strength would permit in baseball and football and track work - but for want of endurance the help rendered to those activities was meager.
The spending of money with no income seemed hopeless and sometimes even studies seemed both trivial and urksome. A call to become cashier of a state bank in Nebraska had a challenge, but that with other opportunities was put aside for the dice was cast.
College life was pleasing, social activities mildly intriguing, Christian activities inspiring and class work more and more helpful as one came to know and understand some of the Professors. Within a few weeks a new President came to the campus, one beloved from the very beginning and who gave zest to every activity. This man was Absalom Rosenberger, who succeeded the scholarly Benjamin F. Trueblood.
This new President with quiet interest in everything and every person won his place at once as a leader - and for twenty years he guided the affairs of the institution. Multiplied hundreds of students have paid him their tribute of love and devotion and have confessed his power to inspire and uplift them.
It is not necessary to review the experiences of College Life. Those who have had the experiences understand it - and others do not and cannot.
At Holiday time there was home going - and the old home at Le Grand challenged the pilgrim again to Quaker Lane with his two sisters - the older married one, Margaret Latham and the younger one, Elizabeth, a sophomore in Penn College.
Those were good but fleeting days with Father and Mother - just all of us in the dear old home again. But these vacation days were soon over and one went back to her own home and two back to studies at college. These two were taken by the father in the old "bob sled" to the station four miles distant for the evening train south bound. The father with unusual expressed satisfaction and with unusual emotion bade his children good by, and with unusual deliberation lingered - then spoke to his horses to go, but turned to look as they went and watch the station and platform until he could no longer see them.
That was Tuesday evening and on Saturday noon came the message of his sudden - almost instant departure.
The afternoon was spent in readjustments and preparations for the return home in the evening. Mother, dear, patient, courageous soul, was indeed glad to see her children for the unexpected events and duties of the afternoon for her frail tenement - but she had met and continued to meet everything most bravely and efficiently. She reviewed to them how about the noon hour when the noon meal was about prepared, "Father arose from his armed rocking chair as if to cross the room, then placed one hand on his breast, the other on his chair then quietly sank to the floor." With characteristic calmness, devoid of any hysteria or frenzy, she sought to make the stricken one as comfortable as possible, then called to a passer-by to send the Doctor while others came across the street from the Academy to offer sympathy and help. The doctor's judgment was that life was gone by the moment he came to the floor - an instant death.
In a letter which he had written to his children at college was the statement - "The pains in my breast still trouble me some, but do not worry about me for whatever may happen, He leadeth me by His own right hand." The funeral was simple, quiet and very large. The Undertaker was Harvey Simpkins, the minister in charge was Isaac P. Wooten, a Friend and neighbor, who spoke beautifully and impressively. In the old cemetery which Davis McGrew had helped to put in order and in which already had been buried many of his loved ones, and under the shadow of trees of his own planting, he too was laid to rest. One sentence from Uncle Sidwell Heald is at least significant - "Thy father was universally esteemed."
Yes, there were many readjustments to make. The freshman could drop out of college with less loss to any and all concerned, than could his sister and possible at that time in midwinter could be also of more help to the Mother since there was stock, horses, cattle, hogs, poultry, etc. to care for - so the winter months passed in rather a dull way except for the fact that he was helping his Mother in her brave effort.
It was possible to carry on some study and some reading as well as meeting the daily tasks of the premises, so in a poor way perhaps the Freshman year at college was partially carried on.
The summer vacation was one of fairly steady farm work - then while the sister taught a year of country school near home, the brother could return to his second College year.
A great year it was. Being Business Manager of a boarding club compensated for his table board, - rooming at the water companies filter house and standpipe with answering telephone calls, guarding pressure especially in case of fires within Oskaloosa and sundry other duties, the price of room, rent, fuel, etc. for two students was met.
There was in the College some demand for instruction in Commercial Branches, such as Bookkeeping, Commercial Law and Penmanship. It was possible for this young Quaker therefore to earn his tuition. All of these combined however gave little time for athletics and other extra curricular activities. There was something wholesome about it all and the year was a good year.
A word must be said about the year at the "Standpipe." There were two very comfortable rooms, a living room on the ground floor and a nice sleeping room above it. The room mate was Milo Hunt then a freshman from New Providence. What a royal fellow was this Milo - and the two became not only roommates, but companions with a high sense of brotherhood which after that year together never changed, save to grow richer. Lifelong friendships grow more and more sacred with increasing years. As older men now and conscious of some weakening faculties, there remains the confidence, the high regard and the tender solicitude which began on the old campus and grew strong through all the College days.
The sophomore year completed or practically so, this Le Grand Quaker Lane Pilgrim had no thought other than to return the next autumn and take on the Junior year studies but just before Commencement the Principal of Le Grand Academy, John H. Hadley, appeared on campus and asked him to come back to the old home and become a teacher on the Academy Faculty. It did not seem a very wise arrangement, but it did afford another opportunity to help his Mother and to give the sister her freedom to return to College, so the arrangement was made.
During the years this young man had many friends both among young men and young women. His ideals were wholesome and his standards were high and many happy friendships were made. He believed in fairness and honesty and tried never to allow young lady friends to become other than "just good friends."
During these spring months however he had become intimate with a neat, attractive, gifted girl - the young sister of one of the higher classmen. A quiet evening on the campus, the evening following Commencement and everybody going home next day, it seemed a good time to talk things over, but not too definitely. It did seem right to exchange letters and to think in terms of enduring friendship with some possibilities in the distant future. Thus began an experience which greatly effected all the future.
There will be no effort, indeed no willingness on the part of the writer of these lines to invite in the sacred events of sincere people who had their rights and privileges within the bounds of Quaker ideals and Quaker proprieties. It is enough to say that holy and sacred covenants with devoted Christians must happily remain holy and sacred unto the end.
Charming and gifted persons may suffer the serious disappointment which may come through no fault of their own but the true soul never changes its desire nor shifts its loyalty.
"One ship drives east and another west,
While the self same breezes blow;
'Tis the set of the sail and not the gale
That bids them where to go.
Like the sounds of the air are the ways of fate,
As we journey along through life;
'Tis the set of the sail that decides the goal,
And not the storm or the strife."
It was Thanksgiving Day November 24, 1892 when Henry Edwin McGrew was united in marriage with Edith Beulah Ware and until her death which occurred August 21, 1919 - more than 26 years - they met life's joys and disappointments together with every assurance and with continued confidence that they had been directed in their decisions and their holy pledges by the unseen but unerring One.
There come some moments in every sincere life when definite and final decisions must be and are made. The young Friend on the Quaker highway had spent this eventful year teaching in the Friends Academy at Le Grand - just across the Quaker Lane from his home. It had seemed the right adjustment as has already been indicated for the Pilgrim to spend this year quite definitely on Quaker Lane.
Summer vacation had now come and the Sister and her husband needed some help on the old farm, four miles away, so the opportunity was accepted and there was much driving back and forth with Sundays always at the old home and for church or meeting - morning and evening.
On a certain Sunday evening in mid summer the minister seemed rather definite about some people he knew who were withholding from complete consecration to the Lord, least in doing so they might be called to some task or definite service not of their own planning or desire, as for instance the ministry. This was rather a sensitive point for our young Friend and on the way homeward and after reaching home he spoke rather positively his resentment. This brought forth the remark that it might be that obedience to that call might bring greater satisfaction.
This he contended was unthinkable since he was a Quaker and to become a Quaker preacher would mean poverty and want and the giving up of all hope of home and the ordinary comforts of life. According to the adopted custom a portion of scripture was read and there were evening prayers but in all no further reference to the question, perhaps already sufficiently discussed.
Retiring in this spirit of rebellion there was no intimation that the end of it all was so near at hand. How long after retiring no one will ever know nor whether he was asleep or awake he could never tell, but at his side he heard a voice, clear and distinct yet tender and compassionate - and the voice said - "Read the first of the 14th Psalm."
In an instant without emotions of fear or anxiety he arose and in response to the question of why he was getting up he said simply, "I just want to look at something here." Lighting the small lamp on the table he picked up the Bible that lay there as it had been left but a short time before. One glance at the 14th Psalm closed all argument. "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." This young man who for years had been a Christian and had known of the presence of God so repeatedly faced the fact that he did not know a God who could be trusted with his implicit obedience. A God who could provide for those who would walk with Him.
Then and there without struggle or compromise he simply gave up his opposing spirit and said "It is all over." In answer to the question of what he meant by this expression he said "If God wants me to preach or not preach I'll obey Him." Retiring he found refreshing sleep and in the early morning arose to the tasks and privileges of the day without concern about being a preacher. More than fifty years have come and gone - all of them filled with active service preaching in humble places, out of doors, in school houses, in churches, in Colleges, in homes, from coast to coast in many Friends Yearly Meetings, in America, in Britain, in Canada, in mission fields, through Japanese and East Indian interpreters and perhaps others, he has enjoyed the friendship and hospitality of rich and the poor without the least anxiety as to God's ability to provide all.
When Penn College opened for the autumn this Quaker from Quaker Lane was enrolled as a Junior - a member of the class of 1895. The events of the year were not unusual but most happy.
It was the custom in the Student Organization of the Y.M. and Y.W.C.A. to elect officers for the coming year during the spring and much to the surprise of this young pilgrim he was elected president of the college Young Men's Christian Association, which position he accepted with a sense of responsibility. That very spring the Y.M.C.A. of the city of Oskaloosa was passing through some trying experiences. The General Secretary had resigned, the rooms were in a seriously untidy condition and an indebtedness threatened to close the association work altogether. The only hope was to secure someone as General Secretary at low salary and see what could be done, so with his consent the organization elected the new president of the College Y.M.C.A. as General Secretary of the City association.
With all this in prospect it seemed logical that the young man attend for two weeks - including days in June and early July - the Y.M.C.A. summer school at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Here was great inspiration and opportunity. What contacts of lifelong value.
It is not necessary to review in detail the daily procedure of such a conference, but it was there this young student first met with choice college men from all colleges of the middle west and first met some great Christian leaders. Among the former were George Washington Carver who was then a student at Ames State College. Later in life there were other contacts with this remarkable, talented genius, this strange personality coming up from slavery through poverty and disappointment - never knowing his age, never knowing his name, once traded for a horse, yet to become one of America's foremost scientists, one of the greatest benefactors of his race and a most unselfish and devout Christian man. With him at that conference was the president of the Ames Young Men Christian Association, Arthur Ashby - later associated intimately as a member of the Friends Church, which the Quaker served as pastor.
Among the leaders in many lines at that conference were W.W. White, later of Bible School in New York City, R.A. Torry - evangelist and great Christian teacher, Dr. W.F. McDowell at that time Chancellor of Denver University and late Bishop in the Methodist Church. Professor Alonzo Stagg in Athletics, later the great football coach of Chicago University, many great Secretaries of Y.M.C.A. from different states and that great Missionary Y.M.C.A. leader in the inception of the Student Volunteer Movement, Luther D. Wishard who had just returned from a journey around the world in which he had visited every foreign Y.M.C.A. Center.
On the shores of that most beautiful body of water, Lake Geneva, in the commodious but plain buildings, in the dining room, out on the athletic field there was holy atmosphere, delightful beauty, helpful contacts and deep and inspiring messages. It was here this young man found a solution to a problem concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in the individual life which was satisfying, quieting and peaceful and which affected the entire future of his pilgrimage.
Another Penn student and classmate on this Lake Geneva trip was the good Monroe Dimmitt - a fine wholesome companion. Our return to Iowa was not without concern. The great 1894 Railroad Strike was in full swing and they left Chicago on the only passenger train in 24 hours, with soldiers everywhere on guard and with every station platform crowded by curious people who "came to see the cars." It was, because of inexperienced Engineer and fireman a very slow and tedious journey. On reaching Iowa they found the great excitement to be the progress of the historic "Coxey's Army."
The task at the Oskaloosa Y.M.C.A. was begun at once without any great publicity. It was a need for faith and work, for prayer and sacrifice, and it is enough to say that when the summer was over the Y.M.C.A. had clean and attractive quarters, a completed subscription list, debts all paid and a renewed interest and confidence - insomuch that when some years later when Theodore Roosevelt helped dedicate a new building in the city of Oskaloosa, Harry L. Spencer, then president of the Association referred to the Quaker Pilgrim as the savior of the Y.M.C.A. in that city - though that was but one man's opinion.
How long sometimes seems the forward look. That is quite true always in student life as one enters college for a four years course, - then looking back - how short it has been. Soon it is over - the tasks, the comradeship, the many duties and privileges - and Commencement is upon us. One young woman, an excellent student, strong, ambitious, sincerely Christian, Ella R. Naylor, and eleven young men from various neighborhoods - some from Academies, some from High Schools, strong, wholesome, commonplace Iowa fellows. A better group of eleven fellows could never be assembled, and they were Harvey D. Crumly, - G. Monroe Dimmitt, - Francis F. Everett, - Milo Hunt, - Samuel A. Jackson, - Charles A. Kent, - Edwin McGrew, - Clement F. Patterson, - H. Elmer Pemberton, - Jesse C. Perisho, - and John Ervine Roberts. Without exception they were a clean, upright, honorable group.
Of the entire class with one exception all spent some time in teaching, some making the teaching profession a life work. Five of the class became ministers of the Gospel and all established homes of their own. Not a member of the class ever used tobacco or liquor or indulged in any form of dissipation. After Commencement Day each went his own way and while two and three and sometimes four or five met from time to time in the happy contacts of life, yet the entire class never met again. After the span of 50 years five of the twelve have responded to the inevitable summons while the remaining seven have quite naturally retired from the more strenuous tasks of life.
A short time before that eventful Commencement Day the president of the College, A. Rosenberger, called the Pilgrim - Quaker young man into his office for a friendly chat and in due course the conversation gave out that he had at a recent meeting of the Ministry and Oversight proposed the name of the young man as one to be recorded as a Minister of the Gospel.
This was in due accord with the faith and practice of Friends, for with the Quaker there is a recognition that a call to the Ministry is a Divine call, and that ordination is the act of God himself and it is the province and the business of the local meeting and the Quarterly Meeting to recognize the "gift in the Ministry", to examine the individual regarding life and conduct, Christian Experience and Doctrinal views and then to "Record" the person as a Minister.
While this young man had long resented the idea of being a preacher, yet since the strong experience of two years ago, already related, he had given the subject not a passing thought, so the announcement in the President's office that day was a complete surprise and rather an unwarranted procedure. There had been some thought entertained that work in the Y.M.C.A. or in the teaching profession might be accepted and there need be no farther consideration of this proposition. President Rosenberger had his settled conviction about the matter however and let no argument stand in the way of it.
The "meeting" proceeded with its part of the enterprise so it came to pass that the same springtime the College Degree was conferred, which was Bachelor of Science, this young Pilgrim on the Quaker Highway became also by action of the Oskaloosa Monthly Meeting and Quarterly Meeting a Recorded Minister.
It has been said that some things have a settling effect and perhaps when a young man reflects that he is about out of College, is married and is in debt, he is ready to conclude the time is up for something quite definite. As already suggested a number of Friends Academies were operating to good advantage in Iowa at this time. On a certain Friday evening this young and needy subject was a passenger northbound. When he returned it was with assurance he might become principal of either of two such Academies while another was quite possible. On reaching Oskaloosa he learned that a telegram had been sent him from President Rosenberger asking him to accept nothing until his return. While this message had not been received there had been no acceptances. Immediately then came the offer of the Principalship of Penn Academy, for the College at that time had a flourishing preparatory school.
While this proposition was but tentatively accepted, the secretary of the Y.M.C.A., - W.A. Magee appeared with the assurance that the Young Men's Christian Association of the city of Clinton, Iowa desired this young man to become their General Secretary at a salary of $1000 - for the year. On the advice of President Rosenberger this offer was accepted and the work immediately undertaken.
For near a century now the Young Men's Christian Association has been one of the great Christian Enterprises of history. The movement began in London in 1844 when George Williams organized his fellow clerks into a society for fellowship in Bible study and prayer since which time it has become a world wide movement to help young men along the lines suggested by the Y.M.C.A. Triangle - Physically, Mentally and Spiritually. It is a great and challenging work.
The Association in Clinton received the new secretary with a sincere welcome and he in turn soon learned to appreciate the fine Church people and the thrifty and enterprising businessmen, the clean, genteel, active young men, - in fact the entire City of Clinton - beautiful Clinton, in many respects the most beautiful city in Iowa, located as it is on the great "Father of Waters" the Mississippi River.
The year spent there was of life long value to the secretary and though the Board of Trustees sought to have him continue at increased salary there seemed to be a strange pull into the educational field and the ministry.
On learning of this anxiety to return to the work of Friends, President Rosenberger of Penn College arranged a meeting with the young Quaker Minister at which time assurance was given that the position of Principal at Penn Academy was still open to the young man and that he might come to the work in early September. That meant a resignation at Clinton and goodbyes to a list of lovely people as well as a pleasant return to the old campus and the familiar experiences of the schoolroom and the meeting where his membership had been ever since his Freshman year.
A short visit to his Mother's home on Quaker Lane at Le Grand, which was always a pleasant privilege and doubly so now that the half brother Bennie and his wife Mary Chaney McGrew were spending some time in the same old home. So these were happy days, a review of which need not be made except to say that wishes were expressed that the older brother might occupy a light teaching position in the same College while he was endeavoring to regain his health. This was made possible, so a year of delightful association was before these brothers and their wives.
In the pasture at Mother's home was a trim and beautiful colt or young horse which belonged to our Quaker Pilgrim. The colt was three years old, of excellent ancestry on his mother's side and a thoroughbred "Golddust" sire.
An investment was made in new harness equipment and a light running buggy so the outfit with the young horse "Rockford" was beautifully complete. There was much of driving to be done - the first a 60 mile drive to Oskaloosa, the new home for all concerned.
The brother and wife came later by train. Ample apartments at limited cost were furnished for the two McGrew families and months of happy fellowship were passed.
The approach of spring saw no improvement in the brother's health. Unable to carry on the work he so much loved, they moved in the early spring to Boise, Idaho where he spent the remaining years of his earnest beautiful life.
That was the year, later in the spring, of the arrival of a new and most welcome spirit in the Pilgrim's household. This was the precious baby Marion Edwina, the baby girl, the developing child, the charming young lady and presently the efficient woman and mother.
Her appearance was on June 3rd, at 10 a.m. - 1897.
During that summer a call came for a temporary minister for the New Sharon meeting because the pastor had been granted a summer vacation. It was possible for this young man to teach in the College Summer school during the week - then drive on Sundays to the New Sharon meeting and make the parsonage their home as they wished. Thus passed a quiet and happy and somewhat uneventful summer -and how could it be otherwise with wife and baby, Rockford and the buggy, a good little Jersey cow named Bessie in a nearby pasture, with a small income and the supreme opportunity of preaching every Sunday.
One event did occur however which had much to do with all subsequent life.
A Friends Community at Earlham, Iowa, thirty miles west of Des Moines, Iowa had some years before built a fine new brick Academy building and had operated quite successfully a school of high school standing. Now they had no principal and the rather large meeting would soon be without a pastor. An appeal was made to Penn College for someone who could fill both positions at the same time. There was in this call a real opportunity, at least for experience and responsibility. The meeting would provide a good and commodious parsonage home, with garden and barn and would pay as support the sum of $400 for the year, and if the school was large enough and tuition fees collectable there might be some money after paying the modest salaries of two under teachers. This latter supposition proved something of a venture and soon the pilgrim recognized he would be unfair to his helpers if he appropriated any salary to his own account. Accordingly he informed his first assistant Robert B. Pemberton that if he would assume collection of tuitions he might pay the other assistant, Luke Dean, and retain all the balance for himself, while the Pilgrim would for the year remain as principal and teach classes each forenoon and be satisfied to subsist on the support of the meeting. Just in passing it may be said that his plan worked and it was a good school year.
Goods were loaded in a box car at the Rock Island Station in Oskaloosa and shipped directly to Earlham. Robert Pemberton had household goods and a cow, while the Pilgrim had household goods, a horse and buggy and a cow. As the car was unloaded the horse and buggy won the fancy of some, the Jersey cow attracted others and when the mother and baby came some two days later the great hearted community took all into their hearts and homes and community and church life. Christian Charity prevailed - they "brought stuff in" for home and table, they kept the barn filled with horse and cow feed, they paid the promised salary promptly and a hundred dollars more than they had promised. The second year they increased their promise to $500 - and paid $600 - and the third year promised $600 and paid $700 - but that was not all - they were kind and generous in ways that cannot be expressed in money. Never was there occasion for anxiety and never did a small household share so generously the care and love and sympathy of the community and to have remained in that atmosphere to share the joys and the sorrows, to recite to those dear people the glad tidings of the Gospel, to guide their thoughts at their weddings and their funerals would have been a most precious privilege and many other calls were unheeded or declined.