From: Muriel Whipple Haddon, Homespun Lore, 1998. Chapter 1.
Alfred Whipple was living at the Hammond farm with his parents and his brothers, John and Emerson, and his baby sister Evelyn Eugenie who was called Genie when she was a little child.
A redheaded, musical girl lived out on the main road in the first house on the right going toward Quakertown. She was Phoebe Crouch, and her father was renting the farm where they lived. She “worked out” a few days, here and there, doing housework for which she was paid fifty cents a week. She helped Mrs. Montgomery who had a large family and a big house and who told Phoebe, “I may not be able to keep everything in the house as I would like it, but I do have clean cooking and clean beds.” At Sam and Mary Whipples’ farm, where Phoebe helped with the cooking, Sam teased her and said he was going to hang one of her baking powder biscuits on a bush by the side of the road for that young Alfred Whipple to see when he drove by.
Alfred had acquired a nice horse and a red-wheeled buggy and rode about in style. His rig was often seen at Fred Crouch’s house when he began courting Phoebe. When he was twenty-one and she nineteen they decided to get married. Phoebe liked people, was very sociable, and wanted a nice wedding. She and her mother and Jessie were all good seamstresses. They began to sew. They made sheets, pillow slips, quilts, hemmed towels. Then came the wedding clothes all made by hand. The white wedding dress was a real creation -- leg o’ muffin sleeves, a yoke with eyelets, lace, and white ribbon. A very full skirt with two scalloped sections edged with lace was beautifully sewn with the tiniest of stitches.
Finally, the big day came. It was the eighteenth of October and an evening wedding. It had rained nearly all day, but by late afternoon the sun came out and it cleared off to be a lovely evening. The house was decorated with fall flowers and bright Autumn leaves. The invitations had been given out. People arrived in carriages, wagons, and on foot from far and near. The minister from the Congregational church in Ledyard had been engaged to officiate. All went well. Everyone declared it a beautiful ceremony. After refreshments and the wedding cake were served, many useful and pretty gifts were opened. Friends and relatives wished the young couple a long and happy life. The honeymoon trip was a very short one in the red-wheeled buggy just up the road less than half a mile to the Park Avery place. Alfred had worked hard in order to buy the 40 acre farm on Colonel Ledyard Highway. The house and buildings were quite new. Phoebe had painted and papered all the rooms in the house, and it was all furnished and spic and span. The pantry was stocked with a barrel of flour, with sugar, cornmeal, salt pork, canned goods, and all the necessities required for house keeping. The plus in the kitchen department was that the new wife was an excellent cook. Phoebe Esther had grown up cooking. She knew how to bake and prepare meals, and she loved to cook.
Winter came when there was no farm work to do, and Alfred took a job in Westerly. His pay was a dollar a day. It took a long time to drive fifteen miles with a horse and wagon. Often he would come home to a dark, cold house. His bride was not accustomed to being alone all day, and since it was not far to her mother’s house, that was where she could generally be found. From a little child she had gotten homesick, and no doubt this ailment overtook her as she passed the days waiting for Alfred. She was told kindly but firmly by her new husband that he expected to find her home and a dinner prepared upon his arrival from work. Those were the days when wives who had promised at the altar to obey their husbands took their vows seriously. Phoebe obeyed, and all went well.
After a year and two months, a baby boy, Ralph Nelson, was born. His birthday was December 15, 1900. He was Grandpa and Grandma Whipple’s first grandchild. Grandma especially was so proud of Ralph. There seemed always to be a special place in her heart for him. One day the baby got very sick, and since Phoebe did not know what to do, she took him in her arms and rushed through the woods a short distance to Grandma’s. Grandma knew what to do for him. She plunged him into a bath of hot water, and he was soon all right. They learned that he had had a convulsion, an occurrence quite common to young children.
Little Ralph was playing on the floor one day when he was a year old, and Phoebe was sewing and dropped her spool of thread. She asked the little boy to pick it up. He knew what she wanted him to do, but he ignored the request even though she asked him several times. About that time Alfred appeared on the scene. He told Ralph to pick up the spool. No response. Ralph got slapped a bit and began to cry but still didn’t do as he was told. Phoebe cried with him. Alfred said kindly to his wife, “You go into the other room.” After she was gone, Alfred worked with the child and insisted on him picking up the spool. Ralph soon realized there was authority behind the asking. He picked up the spool. His mother was called back, and he handed it to her with a smile. Phoebe said that after that she did not question her husband’s insistence on obedience from the children even at a young age. She also learned to require it.
The Quakertown meetings were on the wane. Many of the old people had died, many could no longer attend because of age or illness, and the young people showed little or no interest in the church. Then a young minister from California came to Mystic and started prayer meetings in several homes and held a Sunday afternoon service in his own home. He was a fine preacher. He had a godly wife and good children. Some of the Quaker people began attending the services. Two girls from Quakertown were living in Mystic, Laura Watrous and Jessie Crouch. Laura wrote letters to her Grandmother, Abiah Phillips, telling her about their interesting experiences in town. Sunday morning they attended the Congregational church and found it so different from the services in the Quaker church that they attended at home. Alfred and Phoebe heard about Mr. Erickson’s meetings and soon began driving to Mystic to attend the Sunday afternoon service along with Jessie, Phoebe’s sister, and Laura Watrous.
Mr. Erickson preached the simple gospel, explaining the way of salvation. This appealed to many of the people who had only known a nominal Christian life. To receive Christ as Lord and Savior, to know your sins were forgiven, and have peace and joy was wonderful. A church in Quakertown opened its doors to the young preacher, and real revival took place. The converts were encouraged to make wrongs right. They paid debts they owed and asked forgiveness for grudges held. The word spread far and near that something new and different was taking place in the area. Many young people were converted. From this series of services, a good number of people became ministers, evangelists, missionaries, and Christian workers.
Previous to this time Phoebe had attended the Quaker meetings. But consecrating her life to Christ brought a peace into her heart that she had not experienced before. Alfred said of his religious life, “I had attended Christian Endeavor in the Congregational church in Ledyard with Carlton Gallup, a boyhood friend, a few times. I took a bicycle trip to Rhode Island with my friend Walter Crouch (a spiritual young man) to Portsmouth and another town in that state. We attended camp meetings.” These camp meetings were among the first in this country to proclaim the doctrine of holiness.
Alfred had his mind set on becoming a rich man. His interests did not lie in the realm of religion. He did not attend the services at Quakertown regularly as did many of the other young folks. But when he did go, he felt there must be other and better things in life than making a living and acquiring wealth. The few times he condescended to go with Phoebe to church the gospel message reached his heart.
One evening a prayer group of young people came to his home. Speaking of his conversion he said, “I knew I wanted Christ to come into my life. The only prayer I knew was the Lord’s Prayer. As we knelt in prayer I began repeating the words of that prayer. I had only spoken a few words when a peace came to my heart. I knew I was accepted into the family of God.” No longer concerned with becoming affluent, his desire now was to do the will of God.
One day a family who had been attending Mr. Erickson’s services brought him a portion of a church paper that was wrapped around some meat they had bought in a store in Mystic. They thought it sounded just like his preaching. He found the address of the people who published the weekly magazine, wrote to them, and they invited him to visit. So after his series of services were over in Ledyard, he went to Chicago. He liked what he saw of the work being done there. He concurred heartily with their old-fashioned Methodist doctrines. He preached the same gospel as did they. In due time he was taken into full fellowship and was an evangelist with them for many years.
From the Ericksons in Chicago, word came to Quakertown of the Bible Training School. Young people were going to foreign lands as missionaries. Ministers were sent many places, holding revivals with gratifying results. No doubt some of the young people in Connecticut were encouraged to attend the school and become Christian workers.
Another little son was born at the Park Avery place in 1902. Aunt Maria Chapman, the Quaker midwife, was the attendant. She stayed two weeks and helped with everything, cooking, cleaning, doing whatever was required at the home. In those days a new mother stayed in bed two weeks whether she needed to or not.
The Hammond farm, owned by Dr. Clara McGuigan, adjoined Alfred’s. Grandpa and Grandma Whipple were living there at the time of Alfred’s marriage. Grandpa had a poem for all occasions, and on hearing the name of his new grandson, Floyd Eldon (the second name was for him, James Eldon), he was heard quoting, “Old Floyd ‘Arrison, with his hard heart/ Tarred and feathered and riding in a cart/ By the women of Marblehead.” The baby may have had old Floyd’s name, but he certainly did not have a hard heart. He was exceptionally tenderhearted always.
After living a few years on a small farm, Alfred wanted a bigger place and better land. He began looking for a new place and found a beautiful farm in Lebanon. From boyhood he and Arthur Watrous had been the best of friends, and Alfred persuaded Arthur to go into company with him in buying the farm. The buildings were big. There was a large white framed house with plenty of room for two small families to have their separate living quarters. From Ledyard to Lebanon was a major move in those days. Grandma Whipple felt bad to have the family go so far away. But though they did not realize it, God was no doubt preparing them for what lay ahead.
The two young farmers prospered and for two years worked together in harmony and love. But both felt there were more important things than making money, and at last both young couples decided to sell out and go to Chicago to the Bible Training School. This was a move of one thousand miles, instead of just thirty as the move from Ledyard to Lebanon had been. Grandma Whipple cried when the decision to go was made.
Phoebe told Grandma she could go to the Lebanon house and get some of the treasured things that had been given them for their wedding that they could not take with them. Both women were sad when news came that the house had burned to the ground the day after the Whipples and the Watrouses left it.
Mr. Harvey’s and Mr. Farson’s Bible Training School in Chicago had begun as Sunday School work with children and young people. Mr. Harvey was especially gifted in loving, encouraging, and helping young folks, and in record time there were a thousand in Sunday School. A large building named Metropolitan was purchased and became the worship center for all those who were living in apartments and various housing throughout the city. Quite a number of young people had gone west from Quakertown to join the group in Chicago, among them Jessie Crouch, Laura and Hannah Watrous, Walter Crouch, and others.
Dr. Day was called to the Whipple apartment in Chicago to attend the birth of a third child. At nine o’clock at night, a three and a half pound baby girl was born. Her mother had chosen Marjorie for her name, but Aunt Jessie said, “No, name her Muriel for my best friend.” Her friend lived in Norwich, Connecticut, where they had gone to school together. Augusta, for my maternal grandmother, was added. I was a full-term baby, well and healthy, only small.
One Sunday morning an alarm sounded in the apartment where we were living. The building was on fire. My mother told how different people reacted in that situation. It was bitter cold with snow on the ground, and everyone was to leave the building. Old Mrs. Parker was ill in bed in a first floor room, and some young men from another area had come in to help. They talked of rushing into her room, each one grabbing a corner of the sheet she was on and taking her to safety. But on second thought they decided that might scare her to death. Finally they worked out a better plan and got her to safety. Mrs. Dunning begged her husband to throw her beloved sewing machine out the upstairs window. One woman put on three or four over coats before she ran out into the snow. Aunt Jessie, barefoot and clad only in her nightgown, was found with one child under each arm that she had taken out of a warm bed on her way to the stairs and outside, but my mother sent her to her room to get dressed while she dressed the boys. Everyone found places to stay after they got sorted out in the frigid weather. The damages to the building were soon repaired so they could all go back.
Mr. Harvey owned several hotels in the city, and the linen from apartments and places where the church people were housed was washed at one of the hotels. One day a man who had smallpox came to one of the hotels, and from his bed linen, washed at the hotel, many people were exposed to the dread disease.
My parents came home from church on a Sunday morning when I was four months old, and after the noon meal, went for a walk. Mother got so sick she could hardly get back to the apartment. In the meantime, the health authorities had heard of a small pox epidemic. A doctor came to see my mother, and she was taken at once to a hospital for people with contagious diseases twenty miles outside the city. Papa, the two little boys, and I were all vaccinated. I was apparently given just as much antitoxin as the others because it affected my eyes.
The old wagon my mother had ridden in on the way to the hospital was driven by a drunken driver over cobblestone roads. By the time she arrived there she was delirious. I think she was there two months. Jessie, Laura, Hannah, Miss Potter, Jacobean Hanson, and perhaps many other people of their group were in the same hospital, but most had light cases and did not stay very long. Before Hannah Watrous left, she went to my mother and said, “Phoebe, don’t worry about your baby. I will take care of her until you come back.” What a burden was lifted from my mother! She said she knew that that kind, young woman would do just what she had said -- and she did.
My mother was not expected to live. She had a very bad case of smallpox. At the crisis of the disease, one of the doctors called the church to inform them that my mother would not live through the night. A doctor and nurse stood by her bed that night, and my mother heard the nurse say, “Doctor, do you think she will live?” His answer was, “You might as well put a woman in a caldron of boiling oil and expect her to live.” Up to this time my mother had been delirious and not aware of what was going on around her. But she heard every word of this conversation, and she remembered later, “I said to myself, ‘Live’! I’ll show them whether I’ll live or not!’“ From then on she began to get better. A volume of prayer from all the church people had been going to the Throne in her behalf all through the night.
A very different looking woman came back to her family than had gone into the hospital. She was thin and white and weak. While she was away, the family had moved to a farm that the church had acquired, and Alfred had been asked to work there to help supply the church with farm produce. Phoebe went up to her bedroom on her hands and knees. For a year she could not speak above a whisper. Before this sickness she had had a beautiful, high soprano voice and had sung solos at churches and sung the lead part in a women’s quartet. She finally was able to sing alto, but her beautiful singing voice was gone. Gone also was her health. Never again was she the red-cheeked, strong young woman who had gone into the “pest house”, as the hospital was sometimes called.
Papa took care of me nights, and Hannah days, while mother was away. Papa told me he had rigged up a kerosene lamp to hold my bottle, and while it would be on heating he would doze off and awake with a start to see milk squirting across the room. They had a difficult time to find a formula that would agree with me, and finally mixed sweetened condensed milk with plain milk. This mixture I thrived on.
Mr. Harvey saw my mother after she had returned from the hospital. He was shocked at her appearance. He asked my father about relatives in Connecticut -- would there be someone she could stay with for a time until she could regain her strength? It was arranged for her to go to Grandpa Whipple’s. She took Ralph, who was about four and a half years old. Of course Grandma was delighted to have her first grandson with her. I believe my mother said that when her Uncle Alden Crouch saw her he cried. He told her, “Phoebe, I have a new ‘milch’ cow. You’re coming to our place and having milk night and morning.” She stayed in Connecticut one year. When she and Ralph went back to Chicago, Alfred’s brother John went with her.
In searching for a location where all of their gospel work could be consolidated, the church leaders found and purchased a place in Waukesha, Wisconsin. So the Whipple family moved to the Fountain Spring House soon after Phoebe had come back. This write-up by Marian Madison (from 1961) describes the headquarters of the Metropolitan Church, as it was then called:
“The Fountain Spring House, built by a Chicago millionaire in Waukesha, Wisconsin, was opened for business July 4, 1874.
“This locale had enjoyed a long and colorful history. French explorers had visited Waukesha in the 1600’s and found it a favorite meeting place of the Indians. Fur traders and missionaries had followed in the wake of the explorers, but not until 1834 did the first white settler come to Waukesha. By the 1870’s its mineral springs (first discovered by the Indians) had made it a favorite health resort, known as ‘the Saratoga of the west.
“The original Fountain House, built to accommodate the influx of tourists, was destroyed by fire; but it was rebuilt, enlarged, and reopened in 1879. Four stories high, it measured 450 feet from north to south, with three long wings running east and west. Its 450 rooms could comfortably accommodate 800 guests; its great dinning room -- which also served as concert hall -- seated 500 people.
“A 150 acre tract of land comprised the beautiful Fountain House grounds. These included a golf course, stable, race track, bath house, artificial lake stocked with trout, and one of Waukesha’s famous springs.
“Wealthy families come from almost every state in the Union to enjoy this paradise. Little boys brave in Fauntleroy suits, and little girls prim in frilly dresses with blue-ribbon sashes, romped and shouted on the huge playgrounds. At the garden parties held on the spacious lawns appeared diamond-studded ladies with powdered hair, arrayed in albatross and China silk with point lace. Among the really famed personages entertained at this great hotel were General Ulysses S. Grant, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase (who never forgave Lincoln for becoming President instead of himself).
“Around the turn of the century, the sounds of revelry began to die away. The Fountain House, now steeped in memories and traditions distinctly its own, was gradually easing into another and different period of its history. How different, nobody guessed!
“About this time a thriving young church -- Methodist-oriented and missionary-minded -- launched its career with a Sunday School of 1,000 children on Chicago’s great west side. Scouting for a place that would serve as church headquarters and missionary training school, representatives of this fellowship visited Waukesha, 100 miles away. The huge, rambling structure known as the Fountain Spring House was now deserted -- and available for new occupants.
“So that is how it came about that the young church -- called the Metropolitan Church by its youthful founders and leaders -- purchased the Fountain House in 1905 and proceeded to move in.
“The great dining room was transformed into a church auditorium, and soon large numbers of tourists as well as Waukesha townspeople were flocking to the services held there. Erstwhile dance halls became classrooms, where eager young men and women drank in Bible truths and received instruction and training for Christian service. But, with all this drastic change, the Fountain House had by no means become a mournful place. Far from it! The long corridors often rang with happy songs of praise to God.
“One phase of the mission work begun in the great city of Chicago had been the founding of an orphanage. This ‘Home’ had, of course, been transferred to Waukesha with the removal of the church. The children now had a roomy section of the Fountain House as their living quarters, and big playgrounds where they could roam at will. Needy children brought in by the local welfare agency joined this happy group; others come from distant states. It is pleasant to recall that there were those who went from this orphanage to take Christ to young people of other lands.
“With the passage of the years a thriving publishing plant sprang up, and a separate building was erected on the premises to house it. Gospel literature rolled off its presses to be scattered far and wide, both in our own country and in foreign lands. Eternity will reveal the number of souls won for Heaven through this sowing of the good seed, as well as through the efforts of young evangelists who fanned out from the home base to start Sunday Schools and tell the Good News wherever they found opportunity.
“There were missionaries who went out from the classrooms of the Fountain House to labor for a lifetime in distant countries. Others were called away to the heavenly Homeland while still in the bloom of youth. Among these were missionaries who served briefly in that fascinating little country now called Ghana, but then known as the Gold Coast, ‘the white man’s grave.’
“After spending fifty years in Waukesha, the Metropolitan Church returned to the area where it had begun. It located at Dundee, Illinois, northwest of Chicago.
“At last, the historic old Fountain House was razed. It had served its time. But many looked back to it as the place where they had first encountered God.”
Text copyright © 1998 by Muriel Whipple Haddon (reprinted with permission)
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