Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter, August 2000

The Big Meeting -1900 From the town's viewpoint.

Articles from the News Journal

Last week it was our privilege to visit North Manchester, Ind., and look over the Annual Meeting grounds. The place selected for the Conference is in a beautiful grove on the west side of the city. Many of the trees composing the forest are quite large, and there are sufficient trees to furnish an abundance of shade on all part of the ground. We do not remember ever to have seen a grove better suited for a meeting of this kind. In the enclosure, may be found scores of delightful spots, where friends can while away many pleasant moments.

The people of North Manchester are preparing to throw their houses wide open, and will do their utmost to shelter the thousands who are in attendance. A number of tents will also be placed on a high and dry section of the ground, and not a few people are preparing to enjoy tent life for one week.

The membership at North Manchester is large. They are energetic and open-hearted people, and we feel certain that they will do their

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  utmost to make the meeting a success in every way possible.

We left North Manchester feeling confident that the Locating Committee acted very wisely in locating the Conference at this place. The meeting will doubtless be very largely attended. It is looked forward to with far more than ordinary interest, and it is to be hoped that all who can do so will come to the meeting and enjoy the good things provided for them.

Supplies for the Big Meeting

Copied from the Peru Chronicle

Rev. Dan Shively brought into town from North Manchester yesterday a list of groceries on which he will get prices from Peru merchants. The good are intended for the Dunkard conference in May. Sugar 1,500 pounds; coffee, 600; tea, 50; smoked hams, 1,500; lard, 350; prunes, 1,400; pepper, 25; crackers, seven barrels.

From the Huntington News-Democrat 

Rev. Dorsey Hodgden arrived in the city to-day from North Manchester, where he had been in consultation with the German Baptist conference committee. Rev. Hodgden had the following list of groceries on which he will get prices from the Huntington merchants: (same list)... (Several other towns were solicited for prices including, we assume, North Manchester.)

The Daily Journal

It will be Issued During the Big German Baptist Annual Meeting in the Next Month

This issue of the JOURNAL begins its twenty-sixth volume and finds it hale and hearty. It is the custom of some papers to celebrate such occasions as the completion of their first quarter century by the issue of some specially prepared edition. We will not conform to this custom but wish to take this occasion to announce that during the big annual Dunkard meeting we will issue a daily edition.

It is our desire to make the DAILY JOURNAL a credit to ourselves, an honor to the town and worthy of the occasion in every respect. We will endeavor then, as always, to give the news and make the very best report of the big meeting from all points of view that the facilities of this office and the ability of its editors will permit. In short, to get out a first-class daily for the Brethren.

Page Four

  This will not only require great labor but much expense and we hope to meet with as generous a patronage as possible. The daily expenses of the office at that time will considerably exceed the ordinary expenses of a week and it is a venture we enter on somewhat in the spirit of "fear and trembling." In order to make it the success we would like to have it we would respectfully solicit the favors and patronage of the public generally and the business men especially. We promise to do everything possible to deserve it. Further announcement of this matter will be made later.  

The Brethren Generally Say This is the Largest and Best Meeting Ever Held by the Church

At 2 o'clock yesterday if you had asked anybody, "who's in town?" the reply could have very appropriately been, "Everybody."

North Manchester has never had such a crowd in its borders as was brought here Sunday on account of the great annual meeting of the German Baptist or Dunkard church now in session in Harter's Grove. People were here from far and near, and from the faces on the grounds and about the streets one would think that about all the neighboring towns had been depopulated.

Ten or a dozen excursion trains came in on both roads loaded to the guards. The Big Four alone brought in 55 cars of people. The Wabash brought in about as many. People from all the country about for 25 miles in every direction drove in, and these, added to the great influx of Brethren who came in on Friday and Saturday to remain throughout the meeting has made a crowd the like of which was never seen here before.

The crowd has been estimated all the way from 25,000 to 40,000 people, but probably a conservative figure would be 30,000 people. It has taken an immense amount of provisions to feed this great gathering, but so far as we are able to learn all were provided for, though it taxed the town to the utmost.

To tell the individuals who were here or even a small percentage

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  of them is an impossibility. But very few towns in Northern Indiana were not represented in the throng. Harter's Grove, comprising some thirty acres, was full of people, and at the same time the streets of the town were lined with a surging mass moving to and fro. While this big crowd was principally composed of one day excursionists the great body of Brethren who came to attend the meeting are still here, and will remain until the meeting closes, which will probably be Thursday.

Many old Brethren who have attended the annual meetings of the church for years, and some times in much larger cities than North Manchester, say that the attendance Sunday was larger than they had ever seen at any annual meeting, both of members of the church and citizens generally. They are also well pleased with the general treatment and reception accorded them by the people of the town, which they say is one of the most hospitable they have ever experienced. This is the third time for the annual meeting in our town, and many are here who were present on both former occasions, so they do not feel just as they would in going to an entirely strange place.

Certainly our town has made a reputation among the Brethren which will be favorable and lasting.


What Our Neighbors Say

Some Comments of the Press on the Big Meeting, Complimentary and Otherwise

It is said there were 50,000 or 60,000 people at North Manchester last Sunday at the big Dunkard Meeting. After eating out the boarding houses and everything else in sight they spread out over the country and surrounding towns in search of victuals. This is the misfortune of pulling up the meeting from Peru after it was located here and taking it out into a little country town. Peru Republican

The accommodations at North Manchester have been so utterly inadequate to properly care for the German Baptist people attending the conference that the towns along the line of the Eel River railroad have been impressed to help it out. Mexico has ever since Sunday found hospitality for several hundred every night, and Denver has also been drawn upon for accommodations. ---Peru Chronicle

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  An immense crowd was present at the German Baptist meeting at North Manchester Sunday. Four hundred and thirty-seven tickets were sold by the agent here and a proportionate number of people were present from other towns in the vicinity. Notwithstanding the great multitudes the accommodations furnished by North Manchester seemed to be sufficient for their needs. Columbia City Commercial.

At North Manchester the crowd was variously estimated at from 30,000 to 50,000. There were excursions from Dayton, O and other points and the entire assembly seemed orderly and well behaved. Eight thousand tickets were sold for dinner at the large dining hall and visitors who inspected the cooking departments were astonished at the large scale on which this part of the meeting was carried on Huntington Herald.

Many went to the various restaurants and although extensive preparations had been made, all were not satisfied. The efforts made to feed those present, however, reflect credit on North Manchester and the committee having the meeting in charge. The crowd was very orderly and was easily handled by Sheriff Stewart and his deputies except at train time, when the press of the crowd allowed some pickpockets to get in their work. A few arrests were made. Wabash Plain Dealer.

Sunday was a big day in North Manchester and will no doubt be the largest of the German Baptist meeting. Order was quite good during the day and some of the special officers had nothing to do. One was so anxious to make a showing that he went to the deport and tackled some of the Columbia City boys who had indulged some, took them from the train and had them fined $11.50. Columbia City Post

The Sunday crowd was good natured and the best of order was maintained. The day was pleasant, the exercises novel, the crowd simply immense and the sentiment of the excursionists is that they had an "awfully nice time." Scouting for something to eat made them forget the flight of time. It is conservatively estimated that 4,000,000 bags of peanuts were eaten Sunday and enough lemonade drank to float the United States navy. ---Huntington News-Democrat.

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Aug 1998

Three Church of the Brethren Annual Conferences Drew Large Crowds to North Manchester Area

In 1878 the national Annual Conference (of the Church of the Brethren) was held at North Manchester for the first time, being held at the West Manchester church. It was one of the biggest meetings of the day, and ranked well along with the crowds that (later) gathered at Winona for a meeting of this character when held under the most favorable conditions for people to attend.
On Saturday before the meeting opened on Sunday, 56 railway coaches arrived at North Manchester, filled with delegates. It is estimated that between fifteen and twenty thousand people attended this meeting on Sunday, and there were over 1500 teams. For this meeting a tabernacle 80 feet wide and 272 feet long had been built south of the church where part of the Pleasant Hill cemetery is now located. This was used for preaching services and dining hall.

The sermon in the church was by S.H. Bashor, while Moses Miller preached in the tabernacle. Other ministers preached in various churches in North Manchester that day and evening. It was that evening that possibly the first sermon ever given by a woman in North Manchester was preached in the Lutheran church. Sarah Major, who was attending the conference, gave the sermon, and so great was the curiosity of the people to see and hear a woman speak in public that the North Manchester Journal of that date says, "The anxiety to hear her was so great that only a small number of the vast crowd that went could get into the church."

(From Tales of the Old Days by W. E. Billings - 1926)

Annual Conference was in Manchester next in 1900, then in 1929 and the News-Journal compared those two meetings.

The Church of the Brethren Conference in North Manchester called attention to certain changed conditions as has nothing in recent years. Tuesday morning, a time when there was a general exodus of Conference folks, there were eight or ten people waiting at the Conference station for the early Pennsylvania train. Only one special train came in with Conference people, and that contained only about l50 people. Contrast that with the Conference of 1900 when the Wabash road, which then controlled what is now the Butler division of the Pennsylvania sent 55 coaches filled with Conference people, the Big Four ran a number of special trains, and every regular passenger train was filled with Conference people.

This year people came by automobile. California, Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan and license plates of other states were common on the automobiles. Some of the people came with camping equipment. There were nearly 200 tents scattered in the College woods and on the lawns about the College.

Many of the people had friends and relatives in nearby communities and stopped with them instead of registering and being assigned by the lodging committee. The lodging committee had arranged for beds on a basis of experience of other years at other places. But no one took into consideration that at Winona and other places, the Conference was being held among strange people, whereas in and about North Manchester there are a dozen or more congregations of the Church of the Brethren, members of which had friends and relatives from all parts of the country who arranged to stay with them. Whereas at other places people were requiring accommodations in the Conference towns, here they were scattered into the country, and North Manchester could have easily provided lodging for a thousand more people.

... The Camp Mack people, remembering the experience at Winona four years ago when they had great difficulty in feeding the people, this time prepared much larger eating quarters. They, too, overplanned, for Sunday was the only time they were really rushed. Many visitors Sunday brought their own lunch. The parking field east of the College and the lawns and streets west of the College was one big picnic ground Sunday. Some no doubt expected difficulty finding a place to eat at Conference lunch stands and brought their food with them. The crowd was here but conditions were changed.

...All who desired could hear the speakers and music by means of the amplifiers scattered in the tents, halls and about the ground. There were no accidents or serious illness to mar the spirit of the Conference. People were orderly and well behaved and showed a reverence that was praiseworthy.
The crowd at the 1929 Conference was variously estimated at from 17,000 to 27,000.
President Winger spoke at the Conference and summarized the Conference as follows:
Having attended the last twenty Conferences of the Church of the Brethren, I have made some observations upon the present Conference in contrast with others. While the Conference has been held in good places in the past, there were many who did not hesitate to say that Manchester entertained the Conference the best they have ever seen. I am merely stating some of the things that were said over and over by the visitors.

In the first place people liked our town. They liked our homes and they liked our wide, shady streets. They liked the cordial welcome which was given to them by all. They very much appreciated what the business men and others have done to make possible the Conference at North Manchester. The lodging committee had a most difficult job, but did it well.
Many spoke of the way the meeting was handled and how everything went off without any conflicts. Among other things, they mentioned the excellent way in which the traffic was handled. Some one by count and estimation declared that there were 6000 automobiles here on Sunday. To handle this large number of cars in traffic, so that no accidents occurred, is no small matter and deserves commendation.

In general the people were surprised that Manchester had the room and accommodations for the meeting. They were surprised at the large campus and buildings of the College. Never before did the Conference have so many buildings for auxiliary meetings. The chapel, the gymnasium-auditorium, halls and classrooms provided ample rooms for all kinds of meetings. While these places were close together, yet after all they helped to scatter the crowds and avoid any jam.

The remark was made again and again that there never had been such large and adequate provisions for feeding the people. The visitors were well pleased with the eating accommodations which they received at the Camp Mack dining hall and other places. They spoke about both the excellence and the cheapness of the eats. While some people did not like the water, no one feared the healthfulness and purity of it. Even the sewerage and toilet system came in for commendation.
Speaking of disadvantages, perhaps the only one that could be mentioned would be the fact that a better auditorium was needed, but that was partly overcome by the system of loud speakers. People were even more interested when they learned that these had been built by the physics department of Manchester College and that they were to be the property of the College.

...One thing that was new was the chimes. This is the first time in the history of the Annual Conference that people had the advantage of hearing chimes during the meeting. Hundreds of people heard chimes for the first time, and everyone enjoyed the music. Hundreds of people climbed to the chime tower to see the bells and view our city.

...North Manchester has shown that they can take care of a large conference. All who have had any part whatsoever in helping to make this meeting a success are to be congratulated on what they have done.