1951 Report of the Central Pennsylvania Conference Historical Society

Following is the report of Conference Historical Society from Chairman Norman R. Wagner and Secretary-Treasurer David M. Kerr to the Annual Conference published in the 1951 Journal. It is interesting for its historical perspective on the Society itself. Thanks to Chairman of Conference Commission on Archives and History, John Piper, who recovered the report in the course of recent research.

Seventy-five years ago, at the Conference Session of 1876, the first action looking to the organization of a Historical Society was taken, and a committee of five ministers, S. M. Frost, D. S. Monroe, J. B. Young, J. H. McGarrah, and J. S. McMurray, was appointed to prepare a Constitution. Their report, and the Constitution was printed. Not until 1884 did the General Conference show any interest, but that year it did recommend that each Conference should for such a Society.

At the Conference Session of 1889 a new Constitution was prepared, adopted, and printed in the Minutes. The first headquarters and depository was located in Grace Church, Harrisburg. Soon space was secured in the Methodist Book Room in that city, and the Society operated from that location until the close of the Book Room in 1905. All its materials were then sent to Williamsport, and placed in a room proved by Dickinson Seminary. The Rev. James Hunter was the first elected Librarian for the Society. He was succeeded by A. S. Bowman, who did a great deal to enlarge the collection of books, manuscripts, and articles of historical interest.

In more recent years the Rev. George A. Duvall was quite active. Under his leadership Miss Mary Foster and Miss Elizabeth Wilcox did an excellent job of indexing and cataloging the contents of the room. That room, in the west end of Old Main, at Lycoming College, is now very much crowded. The Directors of the College plan to make available space in the new Library Building, where the best, and the most frequently desired material, such as histories and files of General and Annual Conference Journals, will be more readily accessible.

At one time the work of the Historical Society was financed by an annual collection of Dues, 25 cents per year, from ministers and laymen, supplemented by special donations by interested persons. In recent years a small appropriation has been made to the Society from the Conference Administration Fund. This has only taken care of some incidental expenses, and the periodic cleaning of the Historical Society Room. Arrangements should now be made to have the files of Journals of recent years bound in Quadrennial Volumes, and there will also be some expense involved in transferring material to the new location.

Our Conference is in territory where many significant events in the earliest years of American Methodism happened. On the maps of the Historical Number of the Christian Advocate last June more places were “spotted” than in any other section of the state. We do need a greater interest among both pastors and laymen in gathering and preserving places of historical interest and value. And we would like all our ministers to collect all possible information, and place all information in the care of the Historical Society for preservation.

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