The Importance of Benefactors

The Importance of Benefactors

By Ken B.
© 2012 Anonymous. All rights reserved

Over the years, benefactors have played a significant role in making possible travel, research, writing, and book distribution by my dad, Dick B. And, it turns out, a benefactor played a key role in a series of meetings that very likely had a profound impact on the family of A.A. cofounder Robert Holbrook Smith (“Dr. Bob”), his boyhood church, his town, and his Christian upbringing. These meetings became known as “the Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

During our first research trip to St. Johnsbury in October 2007, my dad and I learned of the “Great Awakening” of 1875 in St. Johnsbury in a book I found in the small reading room library of North Congregational Church, St. Johnsbury. This amazing series of meetings, spread over a number of months beginning on February 6, 1875, was launched when laymen from the Young Men’s Christian Association—led by H. M. Moore of Boston and R. K. Remington of Fall River—began the first of a series of “Gospel meetings” in St. Johnsbury. These meetings resulted in the conversion of somewhere between 500 and 1,500 people in that town of about 5,000 people. The town historian, Edward T. Fairbanks, said: “. . . [T]he influence of the religious uplift here was extended for a hundred miles around, and left its permanent mark on this community.”

In fact, what eventually led to this “Great Awakening” began in a meeting at Detroit in 1868 between Henry Martyn (H.M.) Moore and his friend, the evangelist K. A. Burnell, where they decided that “by the help of God the old Bay State [of Massachusetts] should be conquered for Christ.” Then Moore made an “extended visit” to the home of his friend Burnell, who lived near Aurora, Illinois, in the summer of 1871. That meeting “produced the ‘regular canvass of Gospel meetings’ that started in the State of Massachusetts (in January 1872), was expanded into the State of New Hampshire (in November 1873), and was further expanded into the State of Vermont” on the basis of decisions made at the State YMCA Convention in Norwich, Vermont, on November 19-20, 1874. H. M. Moore and R. K. Remington of Massachusetts both attended that Vermont YMCA Convention.

K. A. Burnell was selected by the State of Massachusetts YMCA Committee to lead the first and following “regular canvass of Gospel meetings” in Massachusetts. And he was involved, at least to some degree, in the canvasses in New Hampshire and Vermont that followed. Burnell did a great deal of traveling in sharing the gospel—not only in going from his home in Illinois to Massachusetts to lead the “canvasses,” but also in traveling to many other parts of the United States. How he was able to pay for the expenses involved in his evangelistic work is the subject of the following three short articles.

What a Christian Banker May Do

Mr. K. A. Burnell, the Evangelist, has been supported by Mr. C. D. Wood, a banker in New York, who was one of his playmates in their boyhood. Zion’s Herald tells how this partnership was brought about. The banker invited the western itinerant to his house in the country, in the vicinity of New York. After tea they had a ride, and after the ride a long walk, and many questions were asked about his mission work. The next morning Mr. Burnell was asked, “How would you like a salary and go forth as the banker’s representative to do the Master’s work as it shall open before you?” “Nothing could be more gratifying.” Thus the firm was organized and began business. The older partner just enters upon his twenty-seventh year of continuous service, for seventeen of which C. D. Wood has supplied the sinews of war. Certainly firms like this should multiply. Boston has several of them. There are men who could furnish the capital for such a firm and reap the richest interest on their investment. The junior partner has many other investments of this character. Colleges and seminaries have received many thousands at his hand, and he has often had as many as a half dozen young men and women in college and seminary training for future usefulness. These two partners are still comparatively young, and look forward to many years of labor in the Lord’s vineyard.—Honolulu, (H. I.), Friend.

Personal. Trustees.

“A noble instance of long-continued and unostentatious giving to a single cause is that of Mr. C. D. Wood, a Wall street banker. For seventeen years he has paid a salary of $1,000 per annum to Mr. K. A. Burnell, the well-known evangelist, and the whole sum given him that time now exceeds $22,000, Mr. Burnell devoted himself most assiduously to gospel work, helping many a soul to a better spiritual life. Would that there were hundreds of such copartnerships as this between Mr. Wood and Mr. Burnell.” Mr. Wood is one of the largest yearly donors to the college.

. . . K. A. Burnell

In 1868, Mr. C. D. Wood of Brooklyn suggested that Mr. Burnell devote his life to evangelistic work from wherever the call should come and he would furnish the salary. For 37 years he led a life of intense activity along many lines. In 1869 he settled in Aurora, Ills., and from that center he traveled at the rate of 1,000 miles per month. He was intimately associated with that wonderful circle of workers, Mr. McGranahan, Major Whittle, P. P. Bliss, D. L. Moody, B. F. Jacobs, and Ira D. Sankey. . . . Mr. Sankey was singing in meetings Mr. Burnell was holding in Ohio when Mr. Moody first heard him, and soon secured his services. In 1875 Mr. Burnell made a trip around the world, spending three of the fourteen months with his brother Thomas, for forty years a missionary in India.

Perhaps you may be such a benefactor!


About mauihistorian

Uses pen name Dick B.: Writer, Historian, Retired attorney, Bible student, CDAAC, and active and recovered A.A. member with over 25 years of continuous sobriety. Published 42 titles and over 650 articles on the history of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Christian Recovery Movement.
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