This was the year 1920, the year of the great Friends Conference in London. Friends from Yearly Meetings in all parts of the world were to assemble to review their responsibilities to their peace testimony. Some of these Friends this Quaker College President knew but it had never occurred to him that he would or could attend until one day the College Business Manager, I.W. Cook informed him that he had been chosen by concerned Friends to represent Iowa Yearly Meeting in that conference and that means had already been provided to make it possible. That certainly seemed an innovation and was apparently right, so in due time the necessary preparations were made, again he closed his office door for a period of time and on the evening of July 16th, 1920 strolled across the campus - had a lovely dinner at Charles O. Whetehe's home and went from there on street car to C and Rock Island train. At the station were many friends to say goodby and wish a beautiful voyage. A faithful account of this entire trip is recorded in the "log book" which may still be referred to. There are records too of that great conference all of which must be eliminated from this personal story. The trip was in all a wonderful and a perfect incident. It included rich and helpful days in London and different parts of England, of Scotland, of Ireland and made possible contacts with the outstanding Quaker leaders of our day.
This journey to England, France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales was the opening of a new era in many respects in the career of this pilgrim and in a large way broadened his outlook on life.
It is true that on his return to America he hastened to his tasks on the campus of Penn College, to find the new College year was already in satisfactory progress, with loyal members of the Faculty carrying on in their very efficient manner. He found also that a call awaited him to go almost immediately to Pacific College at Newberg, Oregon to assist in a financial campaign. Thanksgiving time was near and the usual Thanksgiving vacation. Just before the departure for Oregon a call came by telephone from Mrs. Elizabeth Spencer, widow of the late Harry L. Spencer asking if she might come out to the College for an interview before the trip was made to Oregon. Before going on the journey to England the President of the College had made some calls to Mrs. Spencer's home presenting to her the great need on the college campus for a chapel building with an auditorium of sufficient capacity to care for all its public activities of the College. There had been some favorable assurance but as yet no adequate Commitments to warrant the enterprise of building. At this afternoon call at the office of the President she assured him of her desire to finance the proposition at least to the present subscription of $40,000. This was a most happy item of news just preceding another absence from the campus from Thanksgiving to New Years day or perhaps a few days after. Further reference to the Spencer Memorial Chapel will be made later.
The trip to Oregon need not be reviewed. The effort entered into was in a large measure a successful one due to others efforts perhaps, for the visiting College President spent some of his time fighting a serious attack of influenza. This Oregon mission completed and illness relieved the traveler started on his homeward journey by way of California and during the rather long trip he had some quiet time for reflection.
For many lonely though eventful months he had repeatedly had the suggestion that he was quite handicapped in a multitude of ways because he had no gentle and loving companion. He knew his College work and his social life almost demanded that someone should not only relieve the embarrassment but contribute to a better and fuller life in all his relationships. The one thing essential had not occurred. Of course he assumed there were contacts with charming and attractive ladies, but that impulse of heart and soul toward any certain individual had not been evident and that to him was essential.
He had enjoyed friendly contacts temporarily but he did not care to settle so important a matter on momentary impulses. One thing he determined, that not on this trip would he permit himself to think too seriously nor above all things to give the impression that he was in the pursuit of a companion and although he had purchased an attractive little diamond gift he intended it should be his personal property until his return home.
Before starting to the all Friends Conference in London he had been a caller in the home of Andrew F. Mitchell and family in Richmond, Indiana. They had been friends of his for some years in California and he and all others regarded them as a most gracious and outstanding family among friends. It chanced that on the occasion of one visit in their home, the daughter Frances imparted the information that she was to be a delegate to the London Conference and to serve on that trip with Walter C. Woodward, editor of the "American Friend", and in whose office she held the position of private secretary.
When the Pilgrim learned that he likewise was to go to London he quite naturally anticipated the pleasure of meeting Miss Mitchell with other choice delegates from various Friends Yearly Meetings. It did happen from their first meeting in New York to their final separation in the same city on their return, seldom a day passed that these two did not meet somewhere along the way, especially in England and in France.
Nothing of a serious nature occurred and little if any grounds for suspicion were offered, but perhaps a sense of confidence and respect and sincere admiration increased, though unconfessed. Of course on returning to America there were kodak pictures to exchange and some common experiences to review.
Now on board the train from Oregon to California the gentleman in question sat alone in thoughtful meditation.
It was Christmas week in dear old Whittier among hosts of beloved friends - then away again on the train eastward to the campus of Penn College and the many friends there. Again as he rode along his thoughts were of one in Richmond, Indiana. It was New Years Eve - and stepping off the train at some little city along the Union Pacific a brief telegram was addressed to Miss Frances Mitchell, 122 So. 9th Street, Richmond, Indiana. The simple wording expressed his desire that she might have a happy new year and he meant every word of it.
Following this there was the frequent exchange of letters and some visits while respect and admiration deepened into love and devotion, the evidences of which prompted speculation in the mind of the editor of the "American Friend" that he might be compelled to secure a new office secretary sometime in the near future.
The College year moved on, pleasantly on, with many responsibilities in the office of the president and with many calls to service throughout the yearly meeting and much travel outside the state. One trip was made to Philadelphia and from there to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to show the plan of the new chapel to Mrs. Spencer who was visiting in the home of her daughter and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Seymour Lacey. It chanced too that the other daughter, Mrs. Anna Sherman was also there, so all were interested in the plans laid before them. All the plans seemed pleasing but since the estimated cost was somewhat beyond the amount promised they were assured we must wait until cost of material was greatly decreased. There was some assurance of a larger gift but that was not asked nor the subject discussed.
Not until the college authorities were urged by Mrs. Spencer to proceed with the building of the Chapel according to the plans, and assured by her that she would make possible its completion, was the work begun.
The year of 1920 - a most eventful year had come to its close and a new and delightful year of service demanded various activities. This year of 1921 did have unusual features. College affairs moved on harmoniously, Commencement time was followed by a large summer school enrollment and an enthusiastic gathering of the State Sunday School Young Peoples group of Indiana.
Some of the campus activities were well in the hands of others so the President took time off for some personal interests. The time, the afternoon of July 28, was set and due announcements were made and invitations sent. A splendid company of choice Quaker people assembled in the South 8th Street Friends Meeting House to witness the union of Frances H. Mitchell and Henry Edwin McGrew under the efficient guidance of the bride's father, Andrew F. Mitchell. With the beautiful and simple Quaker pledge they promised with Divine assistance their love and faithfulness as long as both shall live. There are these precious moments of life experiences, so rich and satisfying that words fail to express their beauty and their eternal significance. One might simply say - the Quaker continued his pilgrimage but from there - on and on the pilgrimage was never again the same - not changed but shared, no longer a wearied journey, but glorified. First of all the pilgrimage was back to the campus and its multiplied interests and challenging demands.
If this account were historical in its objective there are three or four subjects which might demand consideration, - as "the president and his wife in the dormitory and on the campus" - "the progress and completion of the Spencer Memorial Chapel" - "the Commencement of 1925 when Herbert C. Hoover, Secretary of Commerce under President Coolidge and later himself President of the U.S., was Commencement Speaker and James William Johnson was graduated at the age of 76." Or "the coming of Andrew F. Mitchell, father of the wife of the president of the college, who with his beloved wife Martha Mitchell served the Oskaloosa Friends Meeting in pastoral fellowship for two most satisfactory years." Any of these or all of them and many more, would be worthy in any historic review, but since this is but the story of a pilgrim on a Quaker highway it seems appropriate to give consideration to but one of these - "the progress and completion of the Spencer Memorial Chapel" and that will be reviewed only in the presentation of the Rededicatorial address of the President of the College on February 18, 1923. (see book containing Baccalaureate Sermon)
At the class of the College Year of 1927 the Pilgrim submitted his resignation to the Board of Trustees of Penn College after nine difficult but fruitful years of service. The resignation was not accepted but a release was granted for the period of one year from the activities of the College and plans for the coming year having already been made with the First Friends Church of Pasadena for Pastoral Service, the pilgrimage was definitely resumed in a new Wyllis Knight Sedan - for a long, happy, delightful and scenic pilgrimage over the historic Santa Fe trail - to California and Pasadena.
A lovely parsonage awaited. The new pastor and his wife and the reception given was all that could be desired. The home became a real Christian home for the family and very much an open home for the congregation throughout the ten years of the Pilgrim's sojourn.
To say that these years were uneventful would be far from the truth as to declare they were strangely or phenomenally eventful. The ministry of this preacher was always a sacred and challenging privilege and during these years he had evidence and much assurance that many were nourished, some born again and that many young lives found spiritual direction for great decisions for life.
There are many demands on a preacher's life - the regular Sunday meetings for worship and preaching, the midweek prayer meeting, meetings for business and no end of Committee meetings and social occasions, the Quarterly Meeting and the Yearly Meeting demands, the pastoral visits with the sick and troubled, the many funeral occasions and sometimes wedding events, the sharing of the sorrows and the joys of all - children, young people, middle aged and the 4 score group, but there is promised strength for all.
Routine duties were sometimes interspersed with other contacts such as the City Ministers Union, the United Church Brotherhood, the City Council for Religious Education of which council the Pilgrim was for years vice president and for two years was Dean of the School of Religious Education and Teacher Training.
There were also vacation periods at the Beach or brief trips to the mountains, or to the deserts during wildflower season, sometimes to the parks as Yosemite and the redwood forests, or on the eastward highways to the Hoover Dam, or northward through Inyo County or on to Lake Tahoe and northern Nevada and return through Sacramento and Berkeley, and one lovely trip through the great Redwood Forest - northward on the coastline to Oregon - to Grants Pass - up the mountain highways along the shores of the Rogue River to that charming and astonishing bit of scenery known as Crater Lake.
Extended articles might be written about many of these trips - but the apparently less colorful life of the Quaker Pilgrim must now suffice for he believed there are no joys like the spiritual joys and no beauties like those in the Garden of the Lord, so back to the task he came with new zest for the eternal varieties. A decade of such service was almost done. It was early springtime approaching the Easter Tide.
The Pilgrim and his good wife were in the midst of their worship period preceding their breakfast when the doorbell rang and a telegram was received. It was dropped on the breakfast table until the worship was over and the breakfast was well begun when it seemed a desirable time to see what the Western Union had to say. The massage was simple and quite direct in its announcement that at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of William Penn College the Pilgrim had again been elected president of the College - of course without his knowledge and consent - and that the said board desired he accept this call and come at the earliest possible time. After a consideration of some days and a long distance telephone call, supplementing the telegram, the call was accepted and a resignation submitted to the Pasadena Church.
In due time there were again good byes to be said, housekeeping to be broken up - some goods to ship and more to be stored, an automobile to be checked and pronounced in perfect condition and the trip to make and what a trip it was scenic and delightful by way of Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon - through delightful valleys and over mountain ranges, over stretches of prairie country with sheep and cattle on the ranges and finally into great farming areas of the valleys of the Big Muddy and The Father of Waters, and to College again with it needs and its challenges.
It was a Five Year effort this time and the tasks were most difficult.
For justifiable want of confidence the Faculty seemed hopelessly meager and the student attendance greatly depleted while indebtedness threatened further progress. The summer must be spent rebuilding the faculty and student attendance, on the theory that the best way to prove the need of a good College is to have one and that first year restored the necessary confidence and as the years progressed the increased strength of faculty and yearly increase in attendance gave zest to the campus life and confidence to the community and constituency. One by one the unhappy features of finance were cared for through the agencies of hard work and prayer until William Penn College was free from a long term mortgage indebtedness and from her molesting judgments on the County records against the Penn College of former years.
This Quaker Pilgrim would be unworthy of such title if there was not due recognition and reference made to a multitude of people who were most sympathetic and most helpful in every forward enterprise. Back of him always was a Board of Trustees of the College. These people composing the Board were men and women of large sympathy, great intelligence, and generous spirit and sacrificial devotion. They were forward going helpers.
The Faculty of the College was of high intellectual ability and ready to serve beyond the terms of mere contract. No task was avoided and extra burdens willingly accepted so that the President of the College was relieved of undue anxiety, knowing that whether he was present or absent the work was cared for and every interest of every student was carefully guarded.
One person above all others was always an intimate comrade in service, that person was Charles O. Whitely, a man of energy and unselfish devotion - a true and generous friend. If in the fifteen years of service there was some progress, some achievement, some constructive building of a real Quaker Educational College, it must be understood, all this is the result of unselfish devotion on the part of many.
The toil and grind of this five year period was modified by most friendly contacts within the city of Oskaloosa, the state of Iowa, within which are many Friends Committees to be visited, the local church work and the Yearly Meeting, and with all these the friendly and helpful contacts with other colleges of the state. An organization had been formed many years ago known as the College Presidents Association of the State of Iowa. Shortly after the return to the state of this Quaker Pilgrim he was elected president of the Association to succeed the President of the University of Iowa. All these contacts with their various activities contribute much to a broader and more intelligent view of life.
In addition to these more or less local activities there had been trips to the Atlantic coast - to New England, New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere and to Indianapolis on Church interests and to the Five Years Meeting at Richmond. Other journeys were made to the west - two or three to California and one to Pacific College at Newberg, Oregon, when just 40 years after his first commencement as President of the College, this Pilgrim was called to give the Commencement Address.
One trip to California is especially noteworthy.
That trip was made in the early summer of 1939 beginning in the late afternoon following Commencement on June 2nd. The weather did not seem favorable, but why delay? It was raining but for all that, travelling was quite possible in the good Plymouth car, which had been thoroughly serviced and checked over by reliable men.
The car was packed and ready to go and a little before 4 p.m. they started for an evening drive on the first part of the journey.
The company consisted of the Pilgrim and his beloved wife, and Professor and Mrs. Albert Ellis who desired to spend the summer vacation with their parents and relatives in California.
Before stopping for the night at the Hotel Franklin at West Bend in north west Iowa, the speedometer indicated they had travelled 214 miles. It will not be possible in this narrative to enter into descriptions or even note impressions - for that might require volumes, so it must suffice to note the important points on the journey.
At West Bend is the Church and the Grotto of the Redemption, a showplace worthy of much study. Beyond this in passing is Lake Okoboii and Spirit Lake - then westward - touching Minnesota - then the far reaching plains of South Dakota - on to the Bad Lands then rising from these into the beautiful and thriving center of Rapid City on the eastern slopes of the Black Hills. It was the morning of June 5th and all must see the stupendous Rushmore Memorial, the work of Gutzon Borglum, in solid granite at an altitude of 6000 feet the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. That mighty work of art and courageous endeavor will remain we trust through the coming centuries to inspire the American people to holy and constructive tasks. These gigantic characters or men in granite are on the scale of a man 468 feet tall. This mighty work of art adds greatly to the already charming, rugged, magnetic, colorful scenery of the Black Hills and to their equally colorful and rugged history. Over these same hills the Quaker pilgrim had driven in earlier years in company with his brother. Well he remembered the nearby "badlands" and their interesting marks of erosion throughout the centuries leaving what appears to be natural castles and weird pinnacles and domes holding to this day hidden fossils of primitive horse and camels and other ancient life on these undulating plains in prehistoric ages.
Then resuming the journey there were hurried glimpses of buffalo pasturing in a small herd of one or two hundred, the passing of small towns as Custer City and Wind Cave and Hot Springs and last of all Edgemont and the treacherous Cheyenne River on the banks of which stream in the days of the railroad construction was the site of the thriving primitive town of Dudley where this same Quaker operated a hardware store, contracted mountain fever, and from which town he returned to Crawford, Nebraska to recover, then back to Iowa and presently to Penn College as a freshman student.
On this automobile trip in later years the journey was westward toward the Big Horn mountains - a majestic, snow covered range. In reviewing this experience in his diary there are statements like the following - "such a drive toward and over the mountains cannot be portrayed in paragraphic,
..........................and here the Pilgrim's story ends.