of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.

Volume XXIV  Number 1  February 2007

Indiana Recognizes Brethren's Annual Meetings
by William R. Eberly

It not only takes a village to raise a child; it takes a whole community to host an Annual Conference. At least it did in the nineteenth century. This was never more true than when as many as sixty thousand visitors crowded into the tiny town of North Manchester for the great Brethren's Annual Meeting of 1900! The population of North Manchester was about four thousand at the time and the entire county (Wabash County) had barely thirty-thousand. This was certainly the largest crowd at any Annual Conference at any time, and the largest gathering for a religious meeting in the State of Indiana up to that time.

In the early years the Big Meetings were hosted by individual congregations, with help from neighboring churches as needed. Because of its location at the intersection of three major railroads, North Manchester was a suitable site for the conferences. Three conferences of note were held here during that period; 1878, 1888 and 1900. Twice later (1926 and 1945) conferences were held in North Manchester, but by then the conferences were planned and conducted by denominational agencies and commercial centers were usually chosen as sites for the meetings.

Because of the huge crowd, preaching services were scheduled in a number of the community churches. At the 1878 conference, Sarah Major was chosen to preach at the Lutheran church. Perhaps because of the novelty of hearing a woman preacher (she was likely the first woman preacher to appear in North Manchester) the church was filled to overflowing. The local newspaper said, "The anxiety to hear her was so great that only a small number of the vast crowd that went could get into the church." At least 1500 teams (horses and buggies or wagons) were offered by the community to transport visitors from one place to another. At least fifty-six train coaches full of delegates arrived for the meetings.

In 1888 huge tents were erected in a wooded area adjacent to the fairgrounds to provide for meetings places and eating places. Electricity and running water were installed on the grounds. One of the railroad companies constructed a plank walkway from the depot to the conference grounds. The most notable incident occurred when James Quinter, President of Juniata College and editor of the Gospel Messenger, was to speak. Quinter was by far the best-known Brethren leader at that time. Otho Winger, later President of Manchester College, said, "The greatest desire of my heart was to see and hear Elder James Quinter." Before a huge crowd, Quinter was leading in prayer when he suffered a stroke or heart attack and died on the spot.

But the 1900 Annual Meeting was the biggest and most spectacular of all. The Conference grounds were set up in the east end of Harter's Grove, where the present Warvel Park is located. Five carloads of lumber (100,000 board feet or more) were bought to construct buildings for conference use -- a tabernacle 100 x 120 feet, a dining hall 60 x 120 feet, and a lunch room 18 x 150 feet were the largest. Again, electricity and piped water were supplied. About 100 tents were set up in the grove nearby. Most people stayed in homes of the citizens of North Manchester and the surrounding rural areas. "Many houses in town accommodated twenty and thirty and even as high as forty lodgers in a night, and there was hardly a residence without someone." Some charter trains were left parked near the conference grounds so passengers could sleep there. A special forty-car excursion train came from Dayton, Ohio, just for Sunday, June 3.

The Sunday crowd was truly extraordinary. A newspaper account stated, "early in the morning rigs of all descriptions began to arrive from the surrounding country and neighboring cities, towns and villages. Carriages, buggies, road-wagons, spring wagons and farm wagons filled to overflowing came pouring in from every direction, and each was loaded to its utmost capacity. The streets and sidewalks were soon little less than a great moving mass of activity.. . . By noon there were at least 45,000 people in the grove and scattered through the city." Total estimates of 50,000 to 60,000 were heard.

The support and cooperation of the businesses in North Manchester and the surrounding area was almost complete, as well as the participation of almost all residents of the community. Of course, the returns to the community in terms of money and publicity was extensive. " 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."

It was the immensity of the crowd and the total involvement of the community (not just the Brethren) that impressed the Indiana Historical Bureau that these meetings were historically significant. When one reviews the "social and economic impact of the Brethren Annual Meetings in North Manchester", it is clear that these events are worthy of one of the Historical Markers awarded by the agency. These markers, about two by three feet, in deep blue with gold lettering, are very attractive. The State of Indiana has awarded about 460 such markers throughout the state, honoring important people, buildings, natural features and even special meetings. This is the first such marker to be awarded to North Manchester and the first marker by any state agency to recognize the Annual Meetings of the Brethren. The wording on the marker reads:



The marker was presented to the town and dedicated on Friday, August 11, 2006. About 150 persons heard a choir of local singers present some favorite old-time hymns, heard a talk by Sarah Major (aka Joan Deeter), witnessed the unveiling of the marker and heard further remarks by Ms. Paula Bongen of the Indiana Historical Bureau, Ferne Baldwin, president, North Manchester Historical Society, Don Rinearson, president, Town Council, and Kurt Borgmann, pastor, Manchester Church of the Brethren. The marker is located in the park just off seventh street, the actual site of the 1900 Annual Conference. After this ceremony, about seventy people gathered at the North Manchester Center for History to hear an illustrated lecture on "The Social and Economic Impact of the Brethren Annual Meetings in North Manchester" by Bill Eberly.

The Social and Economic Impacts of the Brethren Annual Meetings on North Manchester - Details

Three railroads made North Manchester a transportation center.

  1. The Detroit, Eel River and Illinois R. R. (later known as the Vandalia) reached N. Manchester in 1871.
  2. Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan R. R. (known as Big Four) was completed in 1872.
  3. Chicago and Atlantic R. R. ( Erie R. R.) came in 1883.

The first two crossed in North Manchester and the Chicago and Atlantic south of town on a line from Ijamsville to Servia.


Annual Meeting of 1878

The Headquarters for the Conference were at what is now known as the West Manchester church. A large frame tabernacle, 272 feet by 80 feet wide was constructed. One half was used for meetings and the other half for dining. After the conference, the land was donated for use as a cemetery, now the Pleasant Hill Cemetery.


Annual Meeting of 1888

The dining hall was a large tent 67 feet by 100 feet with tables and benches built as combined units. A tent 100 feet by 140 feet, seating at least 5000 was used for meetings. There were electric lights on the grounds as well as water throughout the grounds. Thirty head of cattle were fattened specially for the meeting and averaged 1200 pounds. The dining room served eight tons of bread, 2000 pounds of butter and many barrels of potatoes, eggs, pickles, sugar, coffee, tea, rice, salt, pies, cakes and buns.

The welcome was signed by fifty local citizens and read: We, the undersigned citizens of the town of North Manchester, by the consent of the committee of arrangements, request that the Rev. R. J. Parrett deliver an address of welcome to our German Baptist friends at their coming annual conference.

The Welcome by Rev. R. J. Parrett read: "I esteem it a great honor to be chosen by my friends in harmony with the wishes of your committee to deliver this address of welcome to you. It is with no little degree of interest that we have all looked forward to this great national gathering. We have as citizens in common felt a degree of pride because of the consideration given us as a community, and the preference shown in deciding to hold your annual meeting here. Indeed we feel like complimenting your committee for the good judgment displayed in the selection of a place, North Manchester being the "Mecca" of the United States, with her splendid railroad facilities, unsurpassed for their kindness and generosity, situated in the richest of agricultural valleys on the banks of one of the purest and most beautiful rivers, with population of church-going and peaceable citizens known by all who ever pass this way for their charity and liberality.

The preceding is a brief statement of the meeting of one of the strongest religious bodies in the country and one of the largest gatherings ever held in our state. Our citizens should extend an open-hearted welcome to all and use every effort to make it a pleasant meeting to all so that North Manchester will be long remembered in the hearts of the visitors with feelings of gratitude."

Note from local newspaper, May 7, 1888. ...

"Will publish a daily edition, the DAILY JOURNAL, to keep people posted on the daily proceedings of the conference. "Business man will find it a valuable advertising medium". The DAILY JOURNAL will be published for six days with a circulation of 2,000 copies daily. Fifteen cents for the week or 3 cents per copy.

The C.W. & M. railroad is preparing to build a plank sidewalk from their track north of the depot to the grounds in Harter's grove for the transfer of baggage and passengers coming to attend the Dunkard conference."

A Resolution --

We, the members of the many churches representing our beloved Brotherhood, do with pleasure express our thanks,...

The Conference of 1900

The Conference was held in the eastern part of Harter's Grove (today Warvel Park).

People began to gather on Friday, June 1 with some worship and preaching services on Sunday, June 3. Again, many Brethren preachers held services in local churches. "In addition to the services in the tabernacle, the pulpits in the United Brethren, Lutheran, and Methodist churches were filled by the visiting Brethren and the various places of worship were filled to overflowing at every service."

Sunday was the biggest day of the conference. Estimates of the Sunday crowd ranged from 40,000 to 50,000. "The largest crowd that was ever seen in the little city of North Manchester was on the annual meeting grounds. Early in the morning rigs of all descriptions began to arrive from the surrounding country and neighboring cities, towns and villages. Carriages, buggies, road wagons, spring wagons and farm wagons filled to overflowing came pouring in from every direction, and each was loaded to its utmost capacity. The streets and sidewalks were soon little less than a great moving mass of activity. Excursion trains soon began to arrive and a huge mass poured into the grounds from them."

The Dining Hall seated 800 people. There were 45 cooks and 75 waiters. The daily demand was for 1900 pounds of bread, 150 dozen eggs, 600 pounds of ham, 25 bushels of potatoes. Thirty-one 1200 pound beeves had been killed to Monday of the meeting. Besides the Dining Hall, there was a lunch room 18 x 150 feet, arranged to serve people on both sides. It is a "model of its kind."

After the conference was over, the Brethren had a great auction to sell the materials and supplies used to conduct the meeting. For sale was 100,000 feet of lumber, queensware, glassware, cutlery, tinware, twenty new iron bedsteads, one hundred and fifty new bed springs, seventy new mattresses and many other articles

The oldest man on the meeting ground was Addison Sebring of near Silver Lake, born in March of 1800 and a little over a hundred years of age. He was well acquainted with Gen. Harrison and had seen Henry Clay and Thomas Jefferson. I. J. Morris, the oldest resident of Warsaw was in town. He knew North Manchester when Peter Ogan's cabin was the only house in town.

F. J. Bechtold & Co.'s new soda parlors and drug store were open all night during the big meeting. There were two newspapers in North Manchester; both published daily editions during the conference. In order to avoid "conflict of interest", the MORNING JOURNAL published in the morning and the DAILY RAYS OF LIGHT appeared in the afternoon.

The grounds were wired for electric lights and piped for water. About 100 nice tents were put up in the grove to accommodate those who prefer them to other lodging

The railroads helped. The Big Four road ran an excursion train of forty cars here for Sunday from Dayton, Ohio.

The Wabash railroad (Vandalia) arranged to build a platform 1,000 feet long beside its track at the entrance of the grounds where all trains stopped, thus permitting passengers to alight at the very entrance of the grove.

Calvin Ulery had charge of the bicycle checking stand on the annual meeting grounds. The charges were very reasonable and all wheels were carefully looked after while in his care. It was necessary to check all wheels taken to the grounds as no one was allowed to ride on the grounds.

Comments from some of the neighboring newspapers included the following -

Peru Republican--

"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."

Huntington News-Democrat--

"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." It is conservatively estimated that 4,000,000 bags of peanuts were eaten Sunday and enough lemonade drank to float the United States navy.

The committee paid out something over $6,000. Butter, $300, Fruit, $1200; Bread, pies, buns and other bakery goods, $900; Beef cattle, $1600; Other meats, $400; Potatoes, pickles, apple butter, etc. $150; Milk, $50."

Remember the population of North Manchester was 4,000 at that time.

The last word from The Manchester Journal, June 14, 1900--

"Not only did the great gathering do the town much good from the very considerable amount of money spent here, but it has proven an inestimable advertisement for the place. People were here from nearly every state in the union and the attendance from those states having a large Dunkard population was immense. These people have gone home feeling that they were excellently treated and that their lines had fallen in pleasant places. These visitors will have a good word for North Manchester. They not only were pleased with the town but say that the arrangements for the meeting generally were superior to any they ever attended."

Brooks and Jefferson

continued from the last issue

216 East Main St. - An account by Harry Leffel in the News Journal said that Jake Flox had The Boston Store at this address in 1915. Harry said that there was then a restaurant here, but didn't identify it. A & P, managed by Dennis Dulaney, started here in 1918 and then moved to the Urschel building down the street. Another account stated that A & P started here in November 1919.

Homer W. Leedy advertised The Electric Shop at this address in early 1930. He went bankrupt in August 1932. An ad ran on June 29, 1933 for an auction of the Style Shoppe goods in the Leedy Electric room, which we presume was vacant due to Leedy's bankruptcy.

Green Furniture Company advertised their new home here on September 4 and 7, 1933. Sometime after 1933, Donald Hatfield (we think) owned the East End Tavern at this address. Charles Betton, and then Joe Mosier, purchased and ran the tavern. Wade Clark also owned it, but we don't know where he fits in. Bill Nordman bought the tavern in the late 1950s or early 60s. This has been a Tavern for many years, and is to this day. During our study period, only beer and wine were available because liquor licenses were very expensive and hard to come by. Soup and sandwiches were served.

214 East Main St. -- In 1909 J. M. Jennings moved the Jennings Grocery Store to this side of the street from the south side; then they moved to their final location at the corner of Main and Market Streets in 1913. The 1923 and 1924 phone books list Wonderly & Reif Grocery, operated by Henry Reif and his father-in-law, Harry Wonderly, at this location. We also found an ad as early as 1921. They had been on Walnut Street before moving to this address. In 1930, they had a gasoline pump out front selling Conoco gasoline. Norval Faurot, St., formerly manager of the A & P Store, bought the grocery on January l, 1942 and operated it well into the 60s. He bought the building from Joseph Strickler on May 28, 1945. This was a typical "Mom and Pop" type grocery store. Outside our time frame, the building was sold to Wayne Lukenbill in 1963.

212 East Main St. - Willard Felter had an auto top, harness shop and sporting goods store at this location in the 1924 phone book. On February 19, 1931 he advertised a closing-out sale. Then an ad appeared on May 19, 1932 for Manchester Bakery owned by James Hoover.

J. O. Malsburg and his wife, Alberta Malsburg, announced the grand opening of the Economy Drug Store at this address on June 11, 1936. The ads carried the phrase "You are always welcome at Ted's", using the nickname for Mr. Malsburg. Ad ad appeared in 1939 for Economy Cut Rate Drug Store, with the names C. A. Waggoner and L. S. Emmert as owners. For one year they advertised as The McKesson Store (a trade name), and the ad said "You are always welcome at Stans."

Hall's Drug Store, owned by Chester A Hall, had a grand opening on October 31, 1940, Halloween Night. Chester ran the store for the rest of the 1940s and into the 1950s. This was a typical drug store with a soda fountain. Mr. Hall's son-in-law, James Smith, took over the store in later years.

210 East Main St. - The Morris 5 - 1$ Store had been on the south side of Main Street until Brady's Men's store occupied the space in March, 1922. Sometime after that, the "Dime Store" moved to this address, but we are not sure when. We do know that they were at this address during most of our time period.

208 East Main St. - In 1921, Daniel Sheller moved his grocery to this address from next door, sold an interest in the business to Marion Tilman, and added a bakery at the rear of the store. John Delvin and his baker, John Fanning, owned the bakery. Sheller was listed at this address in the 1923 phone book.

The A & P grocery store was at this address from 1930 to 1938. Norval Faurot, Sr. was the store manager the entire time here. The building was then vacant for a time. After a fire in his building in February, 1944, Clarence Brady temporarily moved his men's store to this address. Clarence then moved to 203 East Main Street - a more permanent, but still temporary, location.

Urschel's eventually occupied this address, as well as the next address in later years, but still kept two separate storefronts. After our time period, Harold Urschel remodeled both buildings and made one storefront, which he then rented to Hirsh department Store. After Hirsh, the double front was occupied by the Coast-to-Coast store for many years well outside our study. No details are given for Hirsh or Coast-to-Coast and they are listed purrely to help younger readers recognize the location.

206 East Main St. - Daniel Sheller was at this address before he moved next door to 208. Then R. F Hayes and his son Harry Hayes had a department store here around 1900. After Harry's father died in 1905, Lou P. Urschel bought an interest in the store and it became Hayes & Urschel. Then Hayes left the partnership to open another store, and Lou became the sole owner of Urschel's Department Store. Lou's son, Harold Urschel, joined him and took over the business when Lou died in 1960. This department store carried a line of hardware in addition to clothing and operated here throughout the 1930s, 1940s and actually well into the 1950s. After the A & P moved out of 208 East Main St., Urschel eventually occupied both sides, keeping separate entrances.

204 East Main St. - David Ginther and his wife, Laura Ginther, operated a drug store at this location in the early part of the century. On December 8, 1921, Albert F. Sala purchased both the stock and the building from the Ginthers. Sala Drug Store was listed at this address in the 1923 phone book. Mr. Sala passed away a couple of years later and his widow, Clare B. Sala, became the owner. Mrs. Sala sold the store stock to James Benjamin Marks on October 20, 1925 and he changed the name to J. B. Marks and Son Rexall Drug Store. Mr. Marks managed the store and did the bookkeeping. He had an office in a rear balcony where he could oversee the operation of the store. Mr. Marks' son, Harold L. Marks, Sr., was the pharmacist and compounded the prescriptions in a room at the rear of the store. Ten years after opening his store, on June 15, 1936, Mr. Marks bought the building from Mrs. Sala.

Upon J. B. Marks death in 1938, Harold L. Marks, Sr. continued the business under the name Marks Drug Store; and Mr. Marks' widow, Lillian A. Marks, retained ownership of the building. Upon the widow's death in 1964, Harold L. Marks, Sr. and his wife Louise E. Marks became owners of the building. In 1965, Harold L. Marks, Jr. purchased the store from his father and continued the proud tradition under the same name. The above information may be in conflict with other accounts, but we are confident in the information and dates that were supplied by an article written by Louise E. Marks. This location is currently an antique store.

In 1986, the prescription department was closed and the store was transformed into Hallmark Card and Gift Store. Through our time period, in the 1930s and 1940s, this was a typical drug store of the time with a soda fountain.

204 1/2 East Main St. - This address was on the second floor above Marks Drug Store. Clevenger and King advertised here in the December, 1930 News Journal. Then a January 4, 1932 ad listed Ira L. King as a successor to Clevenger and King. The Ira King insurance Agency remained here the entire period of our study. Mr. King was primarily an agent of the Travelers companies.

202 East Main St. - John W. Ulrey and Jesse J. Tyler built this building, called the "Ulrey Block," in 1889. Ulrey operated a dry goods store in the new building.

Gordon Gresso, son of founder Ellis W. Gresso, owned the E. W. Gresso Company from 1921 to 1944 at this address. The business was founded in 1905 at a store in Silver Lake. In 1919 a Gresso store opened in Warsaw. Then in 1921, the store in North Manchester opened with Gordon in charge. In 1943, Gordon and his father bought out the other partners and then sold the store in Silver Lake. At that time, Gordon was running the Warsaw store and his wife was running the North Manchester store. This department store also featured groceries in the basement.

An article in the News Journal dated March 2, 1944 reported that the store was sold to Scott Burr, Inc. a subsidiary of Butler Brothers. There was an ad for Burr's Department Store at this address two weeks later, but strangely, just one week after that, an ad (dated March 23, 1944) announced Burr's Department Store closing business.

E. Eugene Snyder and brother Paul R. Snyder bought the building from Logan Ulrey, according to an August 10, 1944 News Journal article. The article said that they would take about 60 days to remodel the building for occupancy. The Snyders, who had an IGA on Walnut St, opened the IGA grocery store at this location on December 15, 1944. They operated this store well into the 1950s before they moved out to the suburbs.

After the grocery left this location, P. N. Hirsch Department store, out of Chicago, occupied this address for a time. Hirsch's then moved down to where the Urschel store had been. In more modern times (and completely outside our time frame) Maynard's Men's store was here. Late in the 20th century, it became a Pizza Restaurant that is still here in 2004.

132 East Main St. - In the 1901 Wabash County directory, The Central Union Phone Company is shown as "Above Burdge." George Burdge started Burdge Drug Store at this address on August 5, 1893, according to an article in the Monday August 6, 1923 News Journal. The article was written to mark Burdge Drug Store thirty years in business at this address. The article went on to explain that Mr. Burdge got started by buying the book business of Ernest Ebbinghouse. From that day forward, Burdge added other lines including drugs, paints and wallpaper.

Mr Burdge died on January 4, 1926 well before the start of our study. He left the store to his sister, Etta Brown, and to David O. Horning. In the early 1930s, Burdge also occupied the 130 East Main Street address next door. They sold schoolbooks and supplied in the 130 room, but the main address was a typical drug store with a soda fountain. The west room, in the early days, had the length of one entire wall lined with shelves displaying hundreds of beautiful dishes and crystal-ware that would have to be collector's items today.

Verling Landis and his wife, Winifred "Winnie" Landis, bought the store on May 15, 1938. They advertised their grand opening for Thursday and Friday June 9 and 10, 1938. They made the store a Walgreen's Agency and remained here well beyond our study period. Verling Landis worked at the Marks' Drug store at one time prior to buying the Burdge Drug Store, according to Harold Marks, Jr. In later years, Landis moved his drug store to the suburbs and Wible Shoe store occupied both this and the following address.

[to be continued]