Success Under Disadvantages
Christian Recorder: September 2, 1886
Mr. Editor: Notwithstanding I have just reached home from an extended tour both sick and exhausted. I am tempted, nevertheless, to pencil you a few lines which I think timely and necessary.
While in my district proper there is much by way of success for the general Church to congratulate itself upon. Souls are converted, thousands are joining the church, ministers are having revivals by scores, grand camp meetings are being held, a large number of churches are also being erected and some are being built under the most favorable circumstances, demonstrating the power of the man of God, when he has a mind to work and will trust heaven and go at it. Several of the cases might be instanced, if I felt able to write them up, but as I do not, I will notice but one—an instance, too, of the most gloomy in point of prospect of any that has come under my observation.
In 1870 a mission was established at Somerset, Ky, a lot was procured in the suburbs of the town, and an old house was improvised into a meeting place. From that time up to the last session of the Kentucky Conference Somerset was looked upon as a starvation centre, and any preacher sent there regarded himself as being thus appointed to gratify some revenge of the Bishop or presiding elder; and under the supposition that he was the victim of episcopal vengeance, he smarted all the year and waited for conference to relate his fearful hardships and the dreadful ordeal through which he had passed. Those who were so unfortunate as to get the Somerset appointment neither did nor tried to do anything for the betterment of his successor or the improvement of the people. Thus sixteen years have rolled their contents into eternity, without the accomplishment of aught good for this place.
About a year ago the writer visited Somerset in person, surveyed the situation and took in the possibilities. He believed that a good worker could build a church there, and lift the standard of the connection to a plane of respectability to say the least. When conference met and the appointments were made, the lot fell upon Rev. Robert Davis to go to Somerset But nothing daunted, he took up his bed and walked, and reaching the seat of his operations, his half blinded eyes turned loathingly away from the hut where so many predecessors had essayed to eke out a year’s existence. Encouraged and even grandly helped by his presiding elder, Rev. George W. Hatten, a man of eminent qualities, Brother Davis resolved upon a new church. Space will not permit me to give in detail the labors of Brother Davis. Let it suffice that last Sabbath, the 15th inst., I dedicated to the glory of God a church edifice at Somerset, erected, painted, plastered, towered, belled, seated, pulpited, altered, carpeted and completed in all respects, worth at least fourteen hundred dollars. The church ranks as third of the city, including all white churches. The white people of Somerset, influenced by the Christian deportment and unflagging zeal of Elder Davis, deserve grateful notice for their literal contributions in the erection of our church there, as well as several colored persons who are members of no church at all. From many white donors I select a few names, some of whom gave money, and others gave bricks, lumber, nails, shingles, paints, lime, hair, &c. The white donors were Robert Gibson, Judge I.T. Tarter, H G Trimble, Judge T. Z. Marrow, J.S. May, County Clark, A.J. Crawford, H. C. Smith, Mr. Bates, L D. S. Patten, J. R. Richardson, Gurdly & Co., George Sally and Co., James Woods, Samuel Newell, Fish Hall & Co, James Dunn and others.
Some colored donors who are not members of any church—Mr. and Mrs. Williams, who gave eighty, Henry II. Barker, William Sindusky, Eliza Sindusky, Henry Ellet and others.
I have not written up this Somerset triumph so much to find an excuse to praise Elder Davis and his white supporters or friends, grateful as I am to all of them, as I have to show some of our ministerial grumblers what can be accomplished when there is a will to work and a character behind the will that merits respect and confidence. Brother Davis is by no means a prepossessing man in personal appearance; all he had to depend on was his spotless deportment and the vim of a man of God; hence his success, and a grand success it has proven to be. Inasmuch as we live in a day when everybody is in pursuit of titles, such as colonel, major, captain, lieutenant, professor, A.M., B.D., D.D., M.D., L.L.D., etc., it does appear that a title for church builders would be highly in place. I think I shall confer such a title upon every minister who erects a church under such embarrassing circumstances as Brother Davis, at Somerset; Bickham at Jackson, Tenn, and Bartlet Taylor, at Louisville, Ky. I presume my right to do so will be questioned, for I am neither a college faculty, a trustee board nor has the General Conference authorized it; yet, believing some honor should attach to those who construct houses of worship, as well as to others who know a little about Greek, Latin, and sometimes, Hebrew, I hereby exercise the right to confer upon Rev. Robert Davis the title of D.C.C., (Doctor of Church Construction) and shall hereafter write his name Rev. Robert Davis, D.C.C.
I halt at this point, as Rev. W. J. Gaines, D.D., has just told my wife to inform me that if I desire to see Mrs. Rev. J.G. Yeiser alive, I must go at once.
Three hours later.
Just returned from Elder Yeiser. Mrs. Yeiser died in great peace before I reached the house. She was, without doubt, the most serene, peaceful and beautiful corpse my eyes ever beheld. Mrs. Mary Ellen Virginia Yeiser was born about the year 1853 or 54. She was the daughter of that great man Rev. Edward Davis, so long a member of the Ohio Conference, and who would have been a Bishop had he not been called to heaven so early. She joined the A.M.E. Church when eight years old and remained such until she left for heaven to day. She graduated from the collegiate department of Wilberforce University in 1873 in company with the present President of the same and others, who have made their mark in the arena of usefulness She became the finished wife of Rev. J.G. Yeiner, B.D, June 17th, 1876 and leaves a son and husband to lament her great loss. Her last words to Oscar, her eight year old son, were, “Son never tell a lie,” and to her husband she gave directions, which will be written up in the future. Mrs. Yeiser was a fine scholar, polished writer, model teacher and one of the most untiring workers I have ever met. Since her husband has been building that massive church in this city, known as Allen Temple, she worked with a zeal and success that will ever be gratefully remembered, raising by solicitations alone hundreds of dollars and leading the membership with influence and not excelled by her able husband. Her husband takes her death with heart writhings inexpressible, and well he may, for her place cannot be fulfilled. As I am sure that other pens will trace the life and character of Mrs. Yeiser, I will close by saying that in the death of this great woman in the A.M.E. Church and the colored race lose one of their brightest gems, modest, retiring, yet learned, aggressive, defiant and daring when necessity demanded it.