Servants' News

May/June 1999

Early History of the Holt Assembly

by Nina Bigford, wife of Earl Bigford

[This is a very interesting story about the history of a Sabbatarian group that began before Herbert Armstrong taught. It shows that the Eternal teaches His truth on a small scale sometimes. We cannot know how many other places He has done this.]

In the summer of 1927 at a Sunday School Class in the Methodist Church in North Lansing, Mich, Harriet (Mrs. Bill ) Lasky invited the class to a Bible Study in her home. I attended that study. There I met the teacher, Mrs. John (Nora) Bush; Mrs. Vern (Mabel) Whitney, Mrs. Lee (Marguerite) Bashore, Mrs. Pearl T. Coulter, who later became Mrs. E. E. Smith. After Mr. Smith’s death, she became Mrs. Tom Hogarth. There were others I won’t mention at this time.

The studies were about the Sabbath, Second Coming, Clean and Unclean, Feast Days, and many other subjects we had never heard in the churches.

I would tell Earl what I had heard and he asked why the studies couldn’t be held at night so the men could attend. Sister Bush said to find a place and she would come. It was decided to have them at our house. Meetings were called for Friday evening and all day Sabbath beginning at 9:00 in the morning. A round table was held all day on Sabbaths, with a pot-luck lunch served at noon. Women came bringing their babies and older children. We had a two-year-old girl, Marjorie, and then in Feb 1928, another little girl, Barbara was born. The studies went on as usual.

In April 1928, we kept our first Passover and Feast of Unleavened. [The literal Hebrew says "unleavened" which implies "unleavened bread", but there is no word for "bread" so these people called it the "Feast of Unleaved". I do not think the point is worth arguing over, but for those who place great importance on "doctrinal perfection", they have been ahead of the "Church of God" groups on this point. —NSE] They were held at the home of Sister Coulter. We met many more people there, as Sister Bush was holding studies in various places. Some of the new ones we met were Claude Biggs, who was the one who did the immersing for those wishing to be immersed. [Because "baptism" means "sprinkling" to so many people, they avoid the word and use "immersion". —NSE] Also, Harry and Florence Mercer, who became Florence Butterfield many years later after Harry’s death; John Corneil and his family; Bertha Ohlenkamp, now Mrs. Orva Saxman.

More kept coming to the studies at our house, including Oliver and Cora Mae Starks, his mother and aunt. There were many others I won’t mention now. In the Spring of 1929 we exchanged our home in Lansing for a farm. The Bush’s were renting the farm, and moved upstairs when we moved in. The studies and Feasts continued to be held in our country home until we rented a house in Lansing for the winter. Florence and Harry Mercer opened up their home for meetings until we returned to the country. The Bush’s lived upstairs with us until Oct 1930, when our son Richard was born. The Bush’s built a home on their land and began holding the studies and Feasts there. They invited people to build on their land. Several homes were built on the Bush farm, thinking it was a place of safety during the time of trouble.

[The Bush family must have lived a life style worthy of 1Tim 3 and Titus 1, because they lived so close to the many believers whom they taught. Also, they shared their own land with the other believers (somewhat like Acts 4:32-37) rather than asking them to continually send money to a lavish headquarters. Does a "place of safety" on the Bush farm sound silly? Remember, this was just before the great depression and World War II. This "place of safety" really worked. Some CoG groups promise a "place of safety" that God will divinely reveal in the future—even though they have had no other similar divine revelation in their history —NSE]

In Feb 1936, we moved to Grand Ledge, Michigan. By that time Sister Bush was beginning to have poor health, and Sister Coulter took over the teaching by the request of the group. Meetings were held in our home in Grand Ledge, and Earl was asked to take over the duties of the immerser, which he did for many years. [They did not have a clergy and laity, but simply people who had various jobs to do. They were ahead of the Church of God groups here. — NSE] As Mr. Coulter had been dead for several years, Sister Pearl married E .E. Smith, who was a faithful Bible believer. The Smiths and Bertha Ohlenkamp bought a farm next to the Bush’s and allowed people to build on it. Florence and Harry Mercer built a home on the land, and we began holding meetings there. It later became known as "The Camp of Yah". Marguerite Bashore’s niece Marjory, (Mrs. Wilbur) Graham bought a home that someone built and left the State. She is still living in that home.

Our group began to grow. Fred and Helen Duguid, Bill Graham and his sister Helen (now Mrs. Harvey Briggs) built a home in the Camp.

In 1939 or 1940, Brother Owsen from Detroit came with the name of Yahweh and Yahshua. We had read about those names in The Faith, but had not started using them. Soon after that at Pentecost time, Brother Dodd and Brother Traina suggested we have a three day meeting, which we did. We rented a big tent and quite a few people came. We began using the Sacred Name altogether. We had a Feast of Tabernacles meeting in a tent after that. More visitors began coming to our meetings every Sabbath.

Our group kept growing, some not mentioned before: Don and Helen Trowbridge and boys, Ethel and Adolph Florian, Brother Seaton, Cooke, and Harriet Fish, Lloyd and Ruth Helen Parry and family and many, many more.

In 1961, we bought a schoolhouse to hold the meetings and Feasts. The Elders took charge of the meetings, taking turns. Later Dick Francis (married Camille, Lloyd Parry’s daughter) and George Kinney and wife, Bernita began meeting with us. Sam Graham (raised in the faith from a baby) became an Elder. Bertha Ohlenkamp married Orva Saxman. She began writing songs and poems in the Sacred Names. We have over 100 songs in a book we sing from.

In 1968 or 69 we began printing The Faith, which we are still doing.

[If women teaching is upsetting to you, remember Mr. Armstrong learned the Sabbath from his wife who learned it from another woman. —NSE]

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