The First 25 Years
By Anna Malin
The first Mennonite family moved to Westover from Michigan in 1909. Word soon got around that there was farm land available at reasonable prices in this area, and other adventurous families moved here from Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia and probably other states. Each family brought with them a love for God and a need to worship and serve Him. They started meeting in homes for worship services; then they used the Adams School House. Bishop John S. Mast from Elverson, PA, and other' ministers, came frequently to preach.
In 1919, there were 8 to 10 families here. John S. Mast was given official charge of this group, and they became an organized congregation.
In September 1919 a special business meeting was held. A decision was made to build a church, and this present site was chosen. The land for the church and cemetery was donated by John Hooks. My grandfather, Milt Zook, was appointed head carpenter for the building project. My uncle, Paul Zook, who was 13 when the church was built, told me this story:
"Everyone thought it was a good idea to. build the church, until someone said, 'Where will we get the money?' Well, nobody had any money. My father lived right across from the where the church house was to be built. I guess everybody thought he was sticking his neck out when he said, 'We will build the church house, just leave it to me,' because everybody knew Milt Zook didn't have any money either. So the next morning Milt hooked the mule to the buggy, and started out. He went to all the neighbors, the southern people that lived there, and the church people. He told them we are going to build a church house, and asked, 'Would you like to help by giving a tree out of your woods to saw for lumbe~? It would be nice if you could take the tree to the mill and have it sawed and return the lumber to the building site.' He got a very good response from everyone without any exceptions that I know of.
One of the best was our closest neighbors, Pete Johnson. He took Milt and went to the woods to look for a tree. He told Milt, 'We are going to find the biggest tree in my woods.' They walked. and measured trees till they came to one super big oak, and Pete said, 'This is your tree.' One of our neighbors, I think it was Pete, said 'If you don't have enough lumber when it is sawed, just go into my woods and cut down trees till you have enough to finish the building. ' .
They got all the lumber they needed, without going back and asking for more. Milt Zook was the builder with the church men and boys. The result of a man sticking out his neck is the original Holly Grove church house!"
In January 1920, the men began cutting timber. All the men and boys worked together to build a 32 foot by 40 foot building, at a cost of $3,000! This was a real sacrifice for the early church group, and more evidence of their love for God and their desire to have a House of Worship. This first building is the foyer of the present church.
The first service in the new church was on July 24, 1920. It was the wedding of Maude Zook and Amos Hooks.
My mother, Ruth Hostetler, wrote an article about the early church. In it she said, "Having our beginning in the depression, we learned to depend on the Lord, and on each other. He has cared for us and helped us. In those early years, we often rode in a two horse wagon or a durban. Many nights we walked to church or prayer meeting through mud, carrying a coal oil lantern to light our way. But we wouldn't have thought of staying home."
The ladies soon started a sewing circle, which met monthly. They sewed garments for relief and missions, and also made comforters and quilts.
I'm not sure when we first had a library. But I've heard how the first library books were stored in a wooden box, and kept under the back bench. That was in the days when the church was still only a one room building.
In 1927, two small rooms were added at the back of the church, towards the woods. These were used for Sunday School, nursery, and counseling.
George Hostetler was instrumental in starting a Literary Society for the young people in the 1930's, and this continued for 30 or more years. It was the big social event of the month for young people.
The first ordination at Holly Grove was on September 16, 1933, and that was the only time Holly Grove had two ordinations in one day. That Sunday morning, the congregation had a communion and foot-washing service. In the afternoon, Minister George Hostetler was ordained Bishop. Then votes were taken for a minister. Five people were chosen as candidates and Gounseled for the ministry. In the evening, by using the lot, Roy Payne was chosen from the five, and was ordained that same evening. Roy served as minister until 1936.
Amos King was ordained in 1936 and served as minister until 1962. In 1937, Amos organized and directed the first Summer Bible School, which had an enrollment of 63. This work has continued annually for 57 years now.
In the early 1940's, with the onset of World War I, our government made special provision for nonresistant Christians to serve in some service other than combatant military. Harold Hostetler was one of the first young men from Holly Grove to be called to serve, and he chose Civilian Public Service (CPS). In October 1942 Harold left for Luray, Virginia.
An interesting note in my mother's history states that Joe Hostetler was chosen to teach Harold's Sunday School class of boys. And David Hostetler took over the janitor's work in Harold's place. These young men, along with many, many other people, have shared in the responsibility of keeping the church work going.
We give God the glory for all those who have planted and watered and cultivated our early church. And we thank God for the growth, not only in numbers, but more importantly, the Spiritual growth that has happened at Holly Grove. Today we can say with the Psalmist: "The lines have fa11en unto me in pleasant places. Yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psalms 16:6).
The Second 25 Years - 1944-1969
By Marolyn Minnich
There are a number of accounts in Ruth Hostetler's records from 1944-46 of the interaction of Holly Grove with the young men from Powellville CPS Camp, which was located about 30 miles from here. CPS (Civilian Public Service) was an alternative service program provided by the government during World War II for young men opposed to war "by reason of conscience. "
Groups from the camp came to Holly Grove to give Sunday evening programs which included quartets and choruses, and often several of the men gave what were called "talks" on matters of spiritual growth. One of the men who work at Powellville was Robert Martin, brother of John Martin who years later was to become Holly Grove's overseer.
During these 25 years many missionaries came to tell us of their work. Here are a few: Nelson and Ada Litwiller (Argentina), Elizabeth Erb (India), Mr. and Mrs. Robert Garber (Ethiopia), Ralph and Genevieve Buckwalter (Japan), Herb and. Shirley Minnich
(Brazil), the Paul Miller family (India), Elam Stau.ffer (Tanzania), the Robert Stetter family (Algeria), and twin sisters Ida and Ada Stoltzfus (who had just returned from relief work in India).
Then there were those who came to hold weeklong or weekend meetings. These were Bible Conferences and Revival Meetings. Again, a few of these guests were: Milo Kauffman (President of Hesston College), Ivan Magal (speaker for the Russian Mennonite Hour), Mr and Mrs Joseph Hershkowitz (Christian Jews from Europe who had survived Nazi persecution), G. Irvin Lehman and Daniel Lehman (professors from EMC), Fred Augsberger (for a week of meetings), and Milton Brackbill.
The names of Ralph Malin, Clarence Overholt and Kenneth Good cropped up frequently as guest preachers.
In June of 1947, we have the first account of a group from EMS (as it was then called). "The Gospel Team from Eastern Mennonite School, consisting of twelve young people, gave a very impressive program of songs and testimonies at the Holly Grove church. The next day they gave a half hour program over a loud speaker in Pocomoke." This church always counted it a privilege to have choruses form EMS, later Eastern Mennonite College. These programs, under the direction of J. Mark Stauffer, were well attended by the community as well as by the church.
During these years a number of Sunday afternoon or evening program exchanges took place between the Greenwood and Tressler congregations in Delaware, and . Holly Grove. The host church would provide the evening meal, and the guest church would present the program.
Ruth's entry for June 17, 1951, included the comment, "Brother George Hostetler suffered a heart attack in church this morning."
Later that year she wrote "September 2, 1951, was a day long to be remembered at this place when the new part of our building was dedicated and we had a Homecoming. The services lasted all day. In the morning, Bro. George Hostetler taught all the youth and adult classes after which Bro. Amos Ogburn, a former deacon here, had charge of devotions, and Bro. Aaron Mast, our first pastor, preached the sermon. Around 300 were fed in the grove at noon."
George Hostetler died just before Christmas, and his funeral was held on December 26, 1951.
In an entry made in July 1953, Ruth recorded the regular activities of the church:
· Jail Service, the second Sunday of each month;
· Prayer Meeting, every Wednesday evening;
· Singing at Crisfield Hospital, the third Sunday afternoon of the month;
· Literary two Thursday nights a month;
· Singing two Tuesday nights a month;
· Sewing Circle the first Thursday of each month;
· Cottage Meetings the last Sunday of each month.
Ira Kurtz became our bishop in 1952. He served unti11963, and during that time Ruth recorded 33 visits to Holly Grove from his home near Morgantown, P A. He and Irene would come for a Saturday evening meeting, called a "council meeting," and then he would lead in the communion service the next morning.
The first church council was organized in 1955.
In May 1956 The Mennonite Hour speaker, B. Charles Hostetter and The Mennonite Hour quartet were here for an evening service.
In July 1957 the Greenwood Mennonite Church and Holly Grove formed a joint chorus and sang at Holly Grove. In August, they gave a program at Greenwood. There were about 50 member in the chorus.
Abram Minnich was ordained to the ministry on September 8, 1957. The service was in the charge of O. N. Johns from Ohio and Ira Kurtz.
In October 1959 the first financial budget for giving was introduced. Previously, each Sunday's offering was designated for a specific work, such as missions or MCC.
In November 1963, Amos King resigned as minister, and in December, Harold Hostetler resigned as deacon.
The Third 25 Years - 1969-199
By Mildred Good
In 1973 we added the Fellowship Hall,with a kitchen, classrooms and office, as the east wing of the church building. A fifteen year mortgage was taken out, and was paid for in five years. The ashes from the burning of the mortgage papers were collected and I still have them.
Abner Miller retired as our pastor in 1974. He and Betty moved from Pocomoke to Pennsylvania, into semi-retirement in their home area.
Kenneth Good became our interim pastor in 1975 and served for about a year and a half. He and Katherine thus had the chance to live full time in their house just down the road for the first time! In 1976 Kenneth left Holly Grove to accept the first of what became a series of short term interim pastorships until he retired.
The Holly Grove Christian School was founded in 1976 as an auxiliary to the church, with 19 students that first year meeting in the old Adams School House. Over the years the school has grown to an enrollment over 200, and is now housed in its own building of nine classrooms on 15 acres behind the church. Another expansion is now planned, and is in the fund -raising stage.
Nelson Lehman became the pastor in 1978, and moved here with his wife Helen and five children.
In 1979, we celebrated our 60th anniversary.
Herman Glick, our overseer, was with us. He was our overseer most of the seventies into the late eighties, when David Stoltzfus was appointed as his replacement.
Nelson Lehman served the congregation as pastor until 1982, when he and his family moved back to Pennsylvania.
Later in 1982, Linford King became our pastor, and he and his wife Etta and two sons came to live in Princess Anne. They left in 1987 when Linford became the pastor at the Neffsville church in Pennsylvania.
In 1984.our WMSC was invited to and participated in the "Folk Life Week" at the Smithsonian Institutions in Washington, DC. They were also filmed for a TV program on the Public Broadcasting System.
Over the years, other news features were done by local TV programs. Some of these were Walter Hoppes' cane making, Sharon Stoltzfus about teaching, Lowell Stoltzfus on serving in the Maryland General Assembly as Delegate and now State Senator, and Bill King on hog farming. .
Jack Scandrett became pastor in 1988, and moved here from Colorado with his wife and three sons, first into Eugene Kurtz's "milkman's house," then to a house in Pocomoke. While serving here, they adopted two more children.
In 1988-89, a new sanctuary was built as the west wing of the original building. In both building projects in the 70's and the 80's, as I would suppose for all our church building projects, most of the work was donated by members of Holly Grove and friends. .
Two projects we hope to complete in the near future are remodeling of the Sunday School rooms and the rest rooms by the front entrance, and replacement of the carpet in the Fellowship Hall. A church sign is planned for the front lawn. More of the parking area is to be chipped and tarred, and landscaping is continuing.
Carol and Paul Yoder donated four trees in 1994, planted between the church and the Adams School House. These are in memory of Carol's aunts and uncles, Amelia and Fred Detwiler, Vernon Detwiler and Genevieve King.
Over the years, we have had numerous fund raising projects. For the piano fund, Nolan Good made a poster looking like piano keys. The piano keys were then sold in honor or memory of someone. Perhaps I can come up with one of those keys by the 100th anniversary!
By then, if I'm still around, I will probably be using one of those canes made by Walter Hoppes. Walter and Anna have been a part of our congregation for many years, and cannot be here today because of Walter's poor health. But Walter made a number of canes from local pieces of wood, and anyone who donated $100.00 or more could have a cane if they wished. Most of us residing here are well prepared for the day that a cane becomes necessary to our mobility!
There have also been breakfasts, western nights, strawberry festivals, pie auctions, and many other interesting projects.
In the past we have taken pledges to sponsor "The Mennonite Hour," "Heart to Heart," and "In Touch" on local radio stations.
WMSC sponsored Golden Age banquets, and they included many friends from neighboring churches. They held Youth, Mother and Daughter, and Father and Son banquets. The WMSC also made and sold many quilts.
Holly Grove has been part of community programs such as Thanksgiving, and the World Day of Prayer, with the Green Hill Church of the Brethren and the Rehoboth Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist Churches. The Princess Anne Episcopal Church hosts the annual Somerset County Christmas Program, in which we participate.
We have had music programs, spiritual life and renewal meetings. Holly Grove is a laving, caring church continuing to grow in the Spirit. We've been banded together many times through anxiety, sorrow and joys.
Even though we are a caring congregation, we feel we can improve, so we are participating in the church-wide program, Living in Faithful Evangelism, or "LIFE" far, short.
Holly Grove has sponsored a softball team in the Pocomoke Church League far the past several summers, coached first by Marvin Detwiler and now by Kenny Good. They wan two trophies last weekend far first and second place in tournaments. This activity has been rewarding far the social contacts with our Christian neighbors of other denominations. The Friday night games are well attended by loyal Holly Grove members, supporters and their children (the children immediately abandon their ball-playing and spectator parents, and head far the playground).
Jack Scandrett resigned as our pastor in 1994, and moved to Pennsylvania to take up specialized training as a hospital chaplain. He and his family moved to Akron, PA, in August, and a search is on for a new pas tar far Holly Grove.