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Preaching on the Plains, Chapter Seven – Summer of 1928

In Princeton Theological Seminary, Rev. David K. Myers, D.D. on July 19, 2010 at 9:34 am

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Chapter VII
Preaching on the Plains
Autobiography of the Rev. David K. Myers, D.D.
(1983)

“Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
The meek will he guide in judgment : and the meek will he teach his way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth
unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.”
(Psalm 25: 8-10).

Now turning to another summer, 1928. An interesting experience introduced the summer following the second year at Princeton Seminary. High blood pressure and sleeplessness was still a problem, so I deferred from an opportunity to return to Nova Scotia on the doctor’s advice to back to manual labor. Again in my parents’ home in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, I sought and gained employment promise to the former cement sidewalk construction work. It was to start the followiing Monday. But before that, an interesting experience developed. Following the Sunday morning service in the Wheaton College Campus Church, I met again David Otis Fuller, a Wheaton-Princeton Seminary classmate. He later was to have a long and splendid ministry for 50 years as pastor of the the Wealthy Street Baptist Church in Grand Rapids. “Duke” — we called him that as fellow students for had a “bearing” — said he was going out to Montana to a place called Square Butte for a summer student ministry. He asked me what I was going to do. I told him, but said I was wondering whether it would have been best, too, to go out for another summer. Now I did not know this, but later, either by telegraph or by some other means, he must have been in touch with Dr. MacLain, Synodical overseer in Montana. For he asked “Duke” if he could recommend another man from Princeton.

Now the remainder of that first week at home, I had trouble sleeping nights awaiting the Monday return to work. One night, late in the week when awake for hours, I prayed and said to God that if He would show me a place to go without my seeking, I would take it as a sign to go out preaching after all. Then, going to sleep at dawn, then at nine when mail came, I was awakened by the ringing of the postman’s call. It was the doorbell. The thought at once came to me that this was the answer to my prayer. And it was. A telegram was delivered which read: “Are you available for a summer pastorate? There is need for a man at Fairview, Montana.” I am sure Montana was far from my mind as a possibility before it. But feeling this was the Lord’s call, I wired back. “Available immediately, wire particulars.” The answer came back explaining in detail. “Ninety dollars per month and one way fare.” And I was soon entrained for Montana after getting release from the sidewalk work commitment.

Those four or five months at the eastern edge of the state, on the lower Yellowstone River were a real eye opener for a city neophyte in the West. Yet so many people were kindly, even with their western frankness. There was an elder, once a cowboy, Roy Collins, beet farmer and later also Post Master. He was dependable, frank and open. There was Will Morrill, the other elder and his mother, Mrs. A.D. Morrill, widow of an early-day rancher and elder. The Dr. A.M. Treats took me under their wing almost so regularly it was embarrassing, but they were true to their name, for they treated me oft to meals. He was a fine physician. And with the doctor was Lew Thompson, the banker. Both acted as Trustees of the church. And the Blanchards, fine godly people with a fine family of children. Mr. Blanchard in time was to be builder in charge of construction of a new church for the people which was begun the following summer. And there was Mr. Collins’ son-in-law, Kenneth Gardner, handsome young giant from the rugged Redwater River area in the wide open country well west of Fairview. Kenneth was straight, honest and a Christian. God prospered him. The summer went fast. Before it ended I decided to go the 43 miles east into North Dakota to the small city of Watford City. For there was a Presbyterian church there and mine was a loneliness for another one (man) of my kind. But on arrival in the town, I found the church had no pastor. Mrs. Clyde Staley, to whom I was first directed, suggested I go to see Elder John Bruins in the country. I did so with the outcome they invited me to preach and conduct services Sunday evenings for the remainder of the summer. It was 43 miles by a state road. However, the first 20 miles east of Fairview, it was a quite narrow dirt graded road. The rest, after Alexander, North Dakota was reached, in time became a new direct gravel highway to Watford City but I believe that summer was routed through intervening villages and was still dirt most of the way. I purchased a 1922 Model T. Ford. It was open but with a canvas top which could be raised and was attached in front was it not to fenders or radiator. It cost $100.00 and at the end of the summer’s driving sold for $80.00. People would just fill that Watford City church and attendance, I believe, was larger than that of Fairview. Fairview was a town of less than a thousand but with probably a dozen churches. So the division brought less opportunity for attendance than did Watson City where there were but three Protestant churches an a city of perhaps 1,600. However, it was a situation in Fairview not unlike that in Economy, Nova Scotia, the previous summer. The M.E. (Methodist) church and the Presbyterians had had joint services in the Methodist church under the Methodist pastor. The Methodists did not like their minister and got rid of him. The Presbyterians like him and, angry over his firing, decided to go it alone and that is where I entered the picture.

By the way, I began to feel quite in the West after hearing the sound of horses’ hoofs and shooting into the air and shouts often on a Saturday night passing the Presbyterian manse just as I was endeavoring to do last-minute preparations for the Sunday’s sermon to come the next day. It was a bit unnerving for a tenderfoot like myself. I often wondered if it was some “joy juice” in enervated cowboys from back country, or just local young gentry thinking they would give the young pastor some western-style practical initiations. I imagined there were some places where liquor might be had in town. Will try to give the picture later in another chapter telling of the “Feds” from Miles City who made an unannounced raid and caught a bootlegger who had been long plying his trade. I do not mean to demean the town. There were some fine people in the city and will try to ‘tell it as it is.’

At the end of the summer I returned to Princeton for the last year in the Seminary. But did not then know that my first four years in the ordained ministry were to be in this same dual field. And thereafter, the first 20 years, the prime time of my life were to be in the northern Plains, with some of the most lurid experiences of my life to come in the next four years.

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