Prepared for the 1926 at dedication of S.S. room at rear of church and stairs to basement.
My memory of Bethesda Church dates from the fall of 1863, when my parents moved from Picatonica to Wern Farm, which my father bought from his father, John Andrew Williams. He came here with his wife and two sons from Angleses, North Wales in 1845; and soon after they bought a farm of eighty acres and named it Wern Farm. The east forty was government land and the deed is signed by James K. Polk, president of the U.S. in 1846.
It has been remarked often that one cannot write the history of a Welsh community or neighborhood apart from the history of its church. As some place of worship was a prime necessity for those pioneers who had so much to contend with, so it should be for us in the busy, hustling, overcrowded days.
Thomas H. Evans and my grandfather, John A. Williams, were chosen deacons or leaders – blaenoriaid – of the new church. Mr. Evans – Squire Evans as he was called – moved to the Jerusalem neighborhood in 1864. After the death of my grandfather in 1870, T.D. Fischer and my father, William J. Williams, were chosen for this position. The term of office is for life – or during good behavior, I presume; for the Synod sessions, their character as well as that of the preacher was passed upon and approved or criticized and censured. This applied to the children of both ministers and deacons.
Thomas D. Fisher and Margaret, his wife, joined this church in April 1863. He was a shoe maker by trade, located at Waukesha, and owning a home there. He bought the place now owned and occupied by D. W. Price and moved there, to be near the church which he loved and served so faithfully; but for business reasons he moved back to Waukesha and died there while comparatively a young man. John E. Jones was elected to succeed him. The ministers of those days were: Reverend Owen Hughes, Daniel Jenkins and John H. Evans, who served the Welsh churches in a circuit; the remuneration was $1.00 per sermon with an extra dollar paid them when on special occasions they came to conduct society or class meeting. Rev. John Williams came from Cattaraugus, New York, in 1867 and the weekly salary in his case went up to $3.00 per sermon. Rev. R. H. Evans was, I think, the first regular pastor engaged by the Jerusalem and Bethesda churches. Rev. Hugh Roberts, who lived near Bethania church, was also one of the early day preachers. These pioneer preachers were strong men and true giving a bountiful measure of service to the limit of their ability, and they deserve all the credit and appreciation we can give them.
The order of the services for Bethesda was: preaching every Sunday morning at 10:00, Sabbath School at 2:00, and prayer meeting in the evening – putting in full time every Sunday. If no preacher was available for the morning service then prayer meeting was held instead and every adult male member was expected to take part. It was often difficult to persuade the young members to give out the hymn and make public prayer. The women were to keep silent, not to help except possibly with the singing of the hymns. On two occasions I remember hearing women preachers in first church Bethesda. Both of them were from Wales. The men and boys were seated on one side of the church and women and girls on the other; they entered the church and left by different doors leading to their own side of the church. This went out of style completely and at once when this church was built and occupied. The membership list of the church numbers thirty three to forty during the sixties and there were from forty to forty-five children belonging to those thirteen or fourteen families making up the community. There were David Jones and family, Park and John Jones Garth and Margaret, his wife. The father of each of these families was educated for the ministry in their native Wales and they were very much appreciated – more helpful because of this fact. Thomas R. Price and Elizabeth, his wife, — Price, the singer, as he was called – left a wonderful impression on the children and young people of the church by his love for music and his love for young people. He was never so happy as when surrounded by a group of them, and with tuning fork in his hand he endeavored to teach them to sing. John and Ann Jarmon with their fine family of seven jolly daughters and four sons were noted for their hospitality. Watkin and Margaret Evans, Thos. and Ann Williams, Sunhill Wm. And Catherine Price, and Thos. D. and Margaret Price, who lived on the farm now owned and occupied by Mr. and Mrs. John A. Jones, Wm. And Jane Williams – Maes mawr, Mrs. Wm. Jenkins and her brothers David, William, and John James, will be remembered for her good nature and faithful church attendance. Richard Thomas, Hugh Jones and families, Mrs. Anne Morris and son Edward were members here. Jones Cilmaenan, Wm. Jones TyCoch, David Pugh and their families, Wm. And Margaret Rowlands, John and Jane Rowlands were members or attended church here. S. D. James joined the church by letter from Cambria in the same year. The memory of these people who planted the good seed in this corner of the Mastery is a precious inheritance.
Prayer meeting was held every week, and every Friday afternoon Class meeting, society or a fellowship meeting was held and the members and their children were expected to attend. A large group of children were excused from the day school on Friday afternoon – often much to the disgust of the teacher – to attend this meeting. We children enjoyed coming to church a troop of us together, and when the school bell rang for the afternoon session we started for church and were prepared to repeat a verse of scripture supposed to be a new one each week while the class leader or someone appointed by him would listen to them, make comments, and apply them to every day life.
The only book used in Sunday School was the Bible, after a child had learned to read; and usually we read verse about, taking up the whole Bible beginning where we had left off the Sunday before, the teacher asking questions and commenting as we proceeded. This method in addition to the home reading of the Bible around the family altar, which no one thought of neglecting, I think, gave the young people a wonderful foundation on which to build character and furnished a fine standard of behavior and citizenship. My first S.S. teacher was Thomas H. Evans, a kindly scholarly man who I shall always remember gratefully. Wm. Edmunds taught a class of girls, to which class I belonged for a long time. He was an excellent teacher. I had the pleasure of hearing his grandson and namesake preach at my home church a short time ago. John E. Jones Park was one of the teachers which I remember well. A teachers’ meeting was held every month and teachers were changed about often – I do not remember ever having a woman teacher while I attended S. S. in Bethesda. The time has long since passed by when ones piety can be measure by the length of this face, and it has been well said that one does not need to be stupid in order to be good. There is but little virtue in “simply being good”, one must needs be good for something if one wishes to be counted; for there is real work needing to be done. A live, red blooded Christian will find plenty of opportunities for real service – always needed and rated above par. I have yet to meet that person who does not respect and honor a genuine Christian. It is the sham – the pretender, the hypocrite and the namby pamby kind, — that are ridiculed and not the real advocate of Christ’s teaching. The kind St. Paul speaks of:
Phil. 4:8 Finally, Brethren
Whatsoever things are true,
Whatsoever things are just,
Whatsoever things are pure,
Whatsoever things are lovely,
Whatsoever things are of good report,
If there are any virtue and if there by any praise
Think on these things.
If there be any virtue and if there by any praise think on these things. This kind of Christian is always appreciated and rated to its full value. I feel that I owe much to this church and am glad to pay a little tribute of appreciation and gratitude to those who have labored here and so are as they were able helped to make this church a success. My fondest hope and prayer is that the people of Bethesda and all other churches may hear and heed the divine commission Forward – Onward, Christian Soldiers, and such a blessing as God gave to Abraham. I will bless these and thou shalt be a blessing, will apply to the church and to its people. We must be sure that God is with us and that in our inmost soul we possess the spirit of the Christ.
I thank you.