Minutes of the Annual Meetings of the Brethren — 1778 - 1917

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First printed in 1876 by the Christian Publishing Association of Dayton, Ohio, under the authority of the Annual Meeting of 1874, the original work has been constantly updated thru the years. The committee in charge of the gathering of the minutes for the first printing were Elders Henry D. Davy (1811-1895) and James Quinter (1816-1888). This authority was invested in them by the meeting of May 26th to the 27th, held on the farm of Joseph Filbrun (1823-1889) in the bounds of the Sugar Creek congregation of Macoupin county, Illinois, Henry D. Davy, moderator.

The consent to have the minutes published grew out of a desire by the laity to know what had been brought forth to the standing committee, and the decisions thus decided upon. Previous to this time the minutes had been printed, the first known instance being in 1845, as referenced in Art. 24 of 1873.

Art. 24.  Inasmuch as there are constant additions to the church and to the ministry of young brethren who are desirous to learn the proceedings of our Annual Meetings, would it not be advisable to publish, in pamphlet form, all the minutes of Annual Meetings since the last date of those contained in the Encyclopedia, previous to said date, and have said pamphlet arranged so as to admit subsequent minutes. Answer: We think it best to defer this question.

Yes, it reads oddly in that it suggests that it was in 1873 that the minutes were printed in pamphlet form. This is not so as in 1850 article 2 and 42 denotes that they were, at that time, already in a published form:

Art. 2.  How is it considered, inasmuch as our beloved brother, Henry Kurtz, is not present at this meeting, for to appoint a committee, to have the minutes of this meeting printed, and to receive all moneys appropriated to defray the expenses of printing? It has been agreed upon, by this meeting, that Bro. Benjamin Bowman, of Virginia, Daniel Summer, of Ohio, and David Hardman, of Indiana, be this committee.

Art. 42.  Is it consistent with the gospel for the brethren to recommend to the churches a day of fasting, to be observed annually, and to have it published in the Minutes of the Annual Meeting?. . .

So. . . there was, in pamphlet form, a published edition of the Annual Meeting Minutes, prior to the printing of a book. Indications are that they were printed annually as there are scattered copies of them. And, it was from these pamphlets that Elders Quinter and Davy produced their 1876 edition. One example, held by the High Library of Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, are the minutes of the 1845 meeting. In this year, on May 9th and 10th, the meeting was held within the Roanoke congregation on the farm of Eld. Daniel Barnhart (1791-1869) in Roanoke county, Virginia. It was printed in German.

Ben der jahrlichen Berfammlung der Brüder, gehalten am Haufe von Bruder Daniel Bernhart, in Roanofe County, Virginien, am Freitag und Samstag vor Pfingften, 9. und 10ten Mah im Jahr unfers Herrn 1845. wurden die famtlichen befratigten Brüder gegenwartig als eine Comittee ernannt, die Botchaften von den unterfchiedlichen Gemeinden zu empfangen, und die Punkte und Fragen einzubringen, welche der jahrlichen Berfammlung darzulegen waren zur Berhandlung in der Furcht Gottes. Sie waren wie folgt:

At the Yearly Meeting of the brethren, held at the house of Bro. Daniel Bernhart, in Roanoke County, Virginia, on Friday and Saturday before Pentecost, May 9th and 10th, A. D. 1845, all the ordained brethren present were appointed as a committee to receive the messages from the different churches, and to bring in the points and queries which were to be laid before the Yearly Meeting, for discussion, in the fear of God. They were as follows :

It should be noted that the above Germanic text will not translate as the original manuscript uses some non-traditional characters. For instance, Bersammlung, should read Versammlung, which in English means Meeting. It has been exactingly reproduced except the unavailability of a Germanic font for use online.

Whom the printer was is not definitively known, nor where it was printed. It is more than likely that Eld. Henry Kurtz (1796-1874), who had been in the printing business since the early 1830's, was the printer and publisher. Often during the late 1830's, and into the 1840's and later, he was the writing clerk for the Brethren's yearly meeting. There is no record within the minutes of the standing committee ever having the subject of the printing of the minutes brought before them.

Eld. Kurtz would, in 1851, begin publishing the first German Baptist Brethren newspaper, The Gospel Visiter, later The Gospel Visitor, in Mahoning county, Ohio.  This is recorded in the minutes of 1851, Article 8, which did not forbid it, and carried forth in a similiar manner the following year, 1852.  In 1851 annual meeting, later to be called annual conference, took place within the bounds of the Brick congregation near New Hope, Augusta county, Virginia, beginning on June 7 and ending on the 10th.  The 1852 meeting took place on the farm of Jonathan Wyland (1797-1864), some five miles south of Goshen, nearer to Baintertown, on May 29th to June 1st in his large bank barn.

Art. 8.  What is the opinion of the Yearly Meeting, with regard to having a paper published, under the title, "The Monthly Gospel Visitor?"  Considered, at this council, that we will not forbid Bro. Henry Kurtz to go on with the paper for one year; and that all the brethren or churches will impartially examine the "Gospel Visitor," and if found wrong, or injurious, let them send in their objections at the next Annual Meeting.

Art. 4.  In regard to the continuation of the "Gospel Visitor," it was concluded, that inasmuch as there is a diversity of opinion upon the subject—some in favor, and others opposed—we can not forbid its publication at this time, and hope those brethren opposed to it will exercise forbearance, and let it stand or fall, on its own merits..

The first edition of a cumulative printed book, as previously stated, was published in 1876. The second volume, expanded to include the years 1877 to 1885, was entitled "Classified Minutes of the Annual Meetings of the Brethren: A History of the General Councils of the Church from 1778 to 1885."  Printed in 1886 by The Brethren Publishing Company of Mt. Morris, Illinois and Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, it is not included in the three-volumes-in-one that this series of pages represent.  That being said, on the reverse of the title page to the original 1876 volume (Book First), it states that the book was copyrighted, using the old style of "Entered according to Act of Congress," in 1886.  This is recorded in the roles of the Office of the Librarian of Congress by Elders Joseph I. Cover (1834-1889) and Samuel Murray (1806-1906).  The volume herein displayed has three "books," covering the time spans of 1778 to 1876, 1877 to 1881, and 1882 to 1917. Though the Publisher's Notice on page three states that books two and three are indexed, they are not. There is an index only for book three, 1882 to 1917. Unless this singular index is for books two and three.

Book Second, included as Supplemental Minutes, has no notation as to whom the editors may have been and covers the years of 1877 to 1881.  Supplemental Minutes Book Part Third, covering those years from 1882 to 1917 signifies that the volume herein represented was printed by the Old German Baptist Brethren.  In other words, not by the German Baptist Brethren, now more commonly known as the Church of the Brethren.  It states in the preface of this printing that queries that came before the Annual Meeting that were "laid down or returned" were omitted for the years covered by the third book.  The editors were John M. Kimmel (1866-1958), William N. Kinsey (1859-1937) and David A. Onkst (1859-1937).

This volume also includes an appendix containing: The Reconsidered Minutes, in Sections, as Read and Accepted by the Yearly Meetings of 1883 and 1884; The Brethren's Reasons for Producing and Adopting the Resolutions of August 24th; and An Abstract from Brethren's Encyclopedia of 1867. The second item, containing the writings of Elders Samuel Murray (1806-1906), George V. Siler (1825-1903) and Samuel Kinsey (1832-1883), is a discussion in regard to the turmoils of the late 1870's and early 1880's out of which the churches now better known as the Old German Baptist Brethren and Church of the Brethren became separate entities. The last section of the appendix is a one page publisher's note by either elder Quinter or Davy, followed by the Introductory Address of Eld. Henry Kurtz in his self-published, The Brethren's Encyclopedia, Containing The United Counsels and Conclusions of the Brethren at their Annual Meetings,. . . (Columbiana, Oh.: 1867).

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