Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 6 (1889-1890)


Lt 54, 1889

Church, M. J.

Williamsport, Pennsylvania

June 6, 1889

Portions of this letter are published in 3MR 237, 408.

Dear Brother M. J. Church:

I have had many interesting experiences since I left California, and there have been some interesting items in our late experience which have impressed me in a marked manner in regard to the many evils and perils which surround us on the right hand and on the left before us, and that continually. I have been sustained by the Lord’s omnipotent power since I have been laboring in the East. Continually has His right hand upheld me, and I have felt to trust the Lord as a child would trust in its parents. I am so grateful every day that the Lord fulfills to me His rich promises, and His love burns upon the altar of my heart. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 1

I thought when I left California I should be absent only five weeks, but when I saw how much the people east of the Rocky Mountains needed the testimony which the Lord had given me, I decided to remain and speak to the people in the desk and in private counsels. I have been wonderfully strengthened and the Sun of Righteousness has indeed shone into my heart and been interwoven with my experience at every step. I know in whom I believe. I know that the Lord does hear and does answer my prayer, for I have been at times much afflicted but my prayers have ascended to God by day and I can say by night, also. I was pleading my case with my heavenly Father for my health as fast as one infirmity after another came upon me, but, this is the victory even your faith was true in my case. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 2

I have labored never more constantly, never more earnestly and with greater fervor for I have carried the burden of the poor sheep and lambs here in these Eastern conferences. There are many churches so hungry and thirsty for the meat in due season and the water of salvation. But, within the last few weeks in the disastrous floods, I have seen literally fulfilled the very scenes that were presented to me in vision forty years ago. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 3

June 13

Rome, New York

Sister Sara [McEnterfer] and I left Battle Creek for Williamsport to attend their camp meeting held in that place. We had to take the cars at about midnight in a pouring rain. It had been raining three days. We were three hours behind time in Buffalo. Had to wait there five hours. The train had moved very cautiously, they said, because the earth was so softened by the continuous rains they feared being plunged over steep embankments. This caution was praiseworthy in them and highly necessary, but it greatly discommoded us. The train had left when we reached Buffalo, and after five hours’ stay, we stepped on board the train for Elmira. It was late in the evening when we reached Elmira, and they told us we could not go to Williamsport that night for there were terrible disasters. They heard ahead [that] railroad bridges were gone, embankments washed [away], and advised that we remain at Elmira; but we decided to go with the train as far as we could go, and, in the name of the Lord, do our part to get to the meeting, for we believed we were in the way of our duty. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 4

We could progress only a few miles, and then our cars laid upon a side track all night and all day Sabbath until five o’clock. Fortunately our car was left empty with the exception of one family, Brother Taft, his wife and two children, who were on their way to the camp meeting. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 5

After 5 o’clock p.m., we moved slowly to Canton one mile and [a] half, and the train just moved and that is all in passing the trellis work over the horrid gulch the storm had made. On arriving at Canton, we heard the worst kind of reports—bridges, railroad bridges, washed away, also carriage roads—and we were advised to go back to Elmira, but we could see no light in going back one step. We were ready to go forward, but not backward. Many of the passengers decided to go back, but a messenger came with the tidings that they could not get back to Elmira. Directly after we passed Elmira, a bridge behind us was swept away and the passengers that were in the cars were obliged to remain in the cars on side track from Saturday night until Monday. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 6

We went to a hotel and found a comfortable place to stay until Monday. We looked over the place and saw the damage that had been done. Men were hard at work to repair the damage, for the embankment had been washed out thirty feet deep, a temporary trellis had been made for the rails so that the cars could pass on to Canton, but it would be weeks before there could be any cars onward from Canton. Right in Canton, bridges were gone where [there] had been roads and buildings. There was no earth, no buildings. Enormous trees were uprooted. One man was in his barn when it was washed away and he was next morning, Sabbath, taken up lifeless and was lying then in his coffin. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 7

We offered our landlord $10 if he would take us to Williamsport, but on inquiry he told us the roads were impossible. There was a church ten miles beyond Canton at Roaring Branch. Brethren learned that we were at Canton and ventured over the railroads, but not impassable, and took us to their homes which we reached Monday evening. All whom we inquired of said we could not possibly go to Williamsport. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 8

Said as much as they wanted money they would not venture for one hundred dollars. Another man said he would venture with his team for a thousand dollars. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 9

Sarah and I saw the sad condition of the roads, but we talked to Brother Rockwell, and he began to think he might possibly go the mountain road. We said, We will defray all expenses. We will go trusting in the Lord to preserve us from accident and harm and [to] go before us. Horses strong and true were procured and we started on our journey. We found roads that it would not be possible to justly describe. The earth seemed to have been washed away. Where once had been a road were piles of stone, deep holes, uprooted trees, debris, and an accumulation of rubbish—bridges entirely gone. There were large deep gulches. Sara and I would walk a narrow plank that had been placed to span the gulch. We walked half a mile, quarter of a mile and frequently a full mile to make it possible for the carriage to be brought over these bad places. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 10

I had sprained my ankle and was for days upon crutches before leaving Battle Creek, but on this occasion I walked over the rocky, uneven road, jumping over large gaps, climbing up hills and I was not daunted or intimidated. About three o’clock it commenced raining, and we were anxiously looking for a house where someone lived where we could remain over night. We saw deserted houses and old sawmills, but no living inhabitants for seventeen miles. It was growing dark, and it looked rather dubious to travel such roads in the woods after dark. We had met logs in our way and broke the doubletree in getting over them. One tree directly across the road had to be cut and another we cut a track through the trees and went around it. It was a welcome sight to see a village in a basin-like narrow valley. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 11

We asked a Dutchman who kept a hotel if he could keep us. He said he had a bed but they were out of grub. We had a little food with us so that did not trouble us, but when we asked some present if we could go over Trout Run, [we were told there was] a swiftly running stream that was now very swollen, as though it would sweep out of existence the little hopeless village of Trout Run. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 12

We looked over the place Wednesday morning. I could not have believed a few days of rain would have made such terrible work. Rubbish of all kinds, fences, old cupboards, logs, debris of every kind came tearing down the valley, sweeping everything before it, sweeping away the bridge, washing out the rails and piling them up one above another in a grotesque manner. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 13

We went into a lady’s house, and she showed me what the water had done for them. They had five acres of rich, well cultivated land, but we walked out and surveyed broken down and uprooted trees. They declared this to be the most beautiful residence in the place, but it made the heart sick to look at the state of things now. I walked on sand two and three feet deep. Beneath this was a grain field and the sight my eye rested upon is beyond my powers of description. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 14

And now we counseled what could be done, and what we had better do. Trout Run could not, they declared, be forded. We said, “Do what you can for us, we must be put across that river.” It took three hours to prepare and complete the work of preparation of a raft. A boat was hired and a large rope attached to the horse and held by one in the boat, and they swam one horse across. I could see nothing of him once or twice. When he tried to find a place to climb the steep bank—steeper and worse than the roof of a house because it shelved over—the earth, being eaten away between the road and the river—after several ineffectual attempts at different points, he then climbed straight up the bank, and then the other horse was ridden across. He was the larger of the two and less nervous. When he came up the bank all right, I wept like a child and praised the Lord aloud. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 15

The next move was to make a raft, and this took much time, and then the wagon was securely fastened to it, and it was towed over. The boat had a rope that was tied to the raft, and by considerable maneuvering, the raft was hauled up the bank, and we soon were seated in the wagon and went on our way with thankful hearts, and before reaching the campground we were told the camp had broken up for it was three feet under water. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 16

As we entered Williamsport we saw something of the destruction of the flood. Houses were overturned, and we were wet. About fifty lives were lost. So suddenly did this come upon them that they had no time to know scarcely what came upon them. Williamsport looked like a complete wreck as far as roads and sidewalks were concerned. Everything was piled together in a promiscuous heap of rubbish. This had been a beautiful place, but its glory has departed. Every store in the city was about ruined. I cannot describe it. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 17

One old colored lady was talking with great zeal. She said, “This is the curse of God because of the wickedness of this place. Oh, it is terrible, terrible.” 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 18

The water reached the encampment, and tents that had been pitched had to be moved up on higher ground. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 19

When we came into camp Wednesday, all were surprised to see us, and they were [as] glad as we were to see us safe. All communications by telegraph had been cut off and they knew not where [we] were. The Lord strengthened me to speak thirteen times in Williamsport. Nearly everything in the stores like eatables were in the water and scented and tasted so badly [that] we could not eat them, and our food was rather meager. But we had no disposition to murmur. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 20

The most terrible calamity was the flood in Johnstown. Nearly the entire city was swept out of existence. It was said to be a very wicked place. All that we could think of was the first flood that came to our world, and these disasters will be of more constant occurrence, for the Spirit of the Lord is surely being withdrawn from the earth, and the restraining power that the Lord has held over Satan is being withdrawn, and he is not prevented from exercising [his power] over the inhabitants of the world. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 21

Our only safety is in being wholly on the Lord’s side. We cannot with any safety give place to the enemy, for if we are found on the enemy’s side, we will perish with the wicked in the plagues the Lord shall allow Satan to create in the earth against men and against beasts. This terrible calamity in Johnstown and surrounding towns should cause fear and trembling, but I fear that the impression will soon die away. 6LtMs, Lt 54, 1889, par. 22