"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

What was this young preacher saying?

By on March 27, 2021 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
“Dear Sister Ella…” the 1878 letter (with its three cent stamp) John Samuel MacGeary wrote to a puzzled Ella Hapgood.

Loving letters from long ago, part 2

By Dale Foreman

 In 2018 a packet of very old love letters arrived in Wenatchee, passed down to family members.

Written by a dozen people over 100 years, these shine a light on the ways and means to keep a family, and a nation, together during hard times. Times like these. 

 Miss Ella Hapgood smiled a lovely smile but at the same moment she was a little miffed at this John Samuel MacGeary. 

Was he proposing marriage or not? She was 23 and had been waiting for him to ask her. His letter was just full of sweet poppycock but he never got to the point.

 She always opened his letters with high hopes and read each word carefully, looking for his real message, searching for a hidden meaning, dying to read the words: “I love you. Please marry me.” 

But instead he wrote about the weather, his work, his travels. He was an itinerant preacher in New York. He was so formal, calling her Sister Ella. 

It was Aug. 19, 1878. John was 25 years old. He had preached the day before in Jamestown, NY. He promised to come to visit her in Olean on Sept. 5. Surely he would propose then? 

His letter began:

“Dear Sister Ella, I will endeavor this morning to redeem my promise of writing to you… I preached here yesterday a.m. and p.m. in the morning from Hebrews 12:28 and in the evening from Romans 8:16-17. Dwelt particularly on ‘the kingdom’ and had a good degree of liberty…

 “I do not think I have ever felt my own unworthiness than I do this morning. I wonder how it is that the Lord can bear with me at all, but He does, bless his name. 

 “As with reference to the matter of which we talked I have got some things from the Lord since I saw you. I am more and more settled in the opinion that it is of God. But of this when I see you. I wish I could see you this morning as I have many things to say but I can not write them… 

“You will find my experience this morning in the 130 and 131 Psalms. There are many things I would like to say but I defer. Praying that God may bless you in all things temporal and spiritual and bring you to His kingdom. I remain yours in Jesus.

 “J.” (He signed it J., not John.)

 Ella read the letter again and pondered. John was a good man, a good preacher. His heart was warm. She would say “yes.” 

 On Sept. 5, 1878 John did come to Olean, NY and he proposed. One year later Clara was born, then in 1881 Herbert followed and in 1887 my grandmother Frances was born. 

The family lived in New York and after years as a pastor, John and Ella boarded a steamship, sailed through the Suez Canal, and became missionaries to South Africa and then to India. 

 Frances was a gifted musician. In 1907 she was a student at Greenville College in Illinois when her brother Herbert, who was an accountant at the US Treasury Department in Washington, DC, wrote to her:

 “Dear Frankie, Your dandy letter came yesterday. You must have received mine about the time you wrote. I had seen in the Advocate mention of your entertainment… I would have enjoyed seeing you do your recital. I should like to slip into the room unseen when you are playing alone, for at such times that the soul of the composer and the piano unite with the soul of the player to work out a grand expression of harmony. Music is as near a solace for all ills as anything I know of…

“My regards to any friends and bushels of love to you. Herbert.”

By 1914, Frances had married Clyde C. Foreman of Tionesta, PA. They felt called to be missionaries. 

Clyde spent a year before their marriage in Portugal learning Portuguese, but when he returned to the States, met and married Frances, they decided to go to India as the work in Yeotmal was in need of additional missionaries. 

On Jan. 27, 1914 Daddy MacGeary (by now a bishop in the Free Methodist Church) wrote to them:

 “Dear Children, I am afraid you are having a long, hard tedious trip from Ceylon to Bombay on that old tub (of a steamship). In all probability you are now in Yeotmal and are beginning to get a little insight into the missionaries life…

“There are plenty of things to test ones grace and patience in the work anywhere. Only one thing will prevent occasional fits of the ‘blues’ and that is to keep ‘the vision.’ Underneath all the indifference and ingratitude you will find coming out of the natives are the ‘jewels’ Jesus wants to polish for His crown, the souls for whom He died. 

“How little I thought when my curly headed bright-eyed baby was born that I should ever write to her in India. 

“Whole bushels of love to you both. Daddy.”

 Little did Bishop MacGeary think that Frances would be infected with malaria and that Clyde Foreman, his son-in-law, would soon be in the jungle, perched up in a tree, holding a rifle, in the dark of night trying to shoot a marauding tiger that was killing all the livestock and threatening the children of the village. 

But that is another story, another letter from long ago.

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