My first meeting with Brother McClure was in June, 1890, during a visit he and Brother Telfer made to New Bedford, Mass., on their way back to Peterboro, Ontario, to continue tent work in that neighborhood, where they had seen blessing the year before. I accompanied them to Ontario, having been three months along with brethren James Campbell and William Matthews in tent work in Providence, R. I. and being much exercised as to the Lord’s work I was invited by Thomas Black and Cyril Bird to join them in tent work in Springbrook, Ontario, a country place where a few gathered to His Name alone and where God was pleased to save a number at our meetings and add them to the assembly. Brethren McClure and Telfer pitched their tent at Keen about thirty miles from Springbrook and thus we were able occasionally to exchange pulpits.
In those days we had many lessons in the art of cookery and housekeeping. Our beds consisted of four forked branches with cross limbs and good strong burlap bags full of straw. The Lord’s dear people often brought a variety of food and so replenished our larder.
In June, 1891, I joined Brother McClure in tent work in Belleville where we had the joy of seeing souls saved, some of them still living. After a time in Belleville we were much exercised as to Campbellford, thirty miles north of Belleville, ten miles from Springbrook. The only Christians we knew there were two sisters. We pitched the tent that brethren McClure and Telfer had used in Lang and Keen, a large, round single-masted tent. Our initial experience in Campbellford was unique. The river Trent flowed nearby. The day was extremely hot so we had occasionally to sit down and rest under the inviting shade of a nearby tree. At last we got the tent up and were engaged rearing a smaller tent inside the large one, our prospective sleeping room, when a rain storm that had been brewing broke upon us with terrific fury, tearing up the stakes and bringing down the tent. Fortunately part of the canvas rested on the small one that we were rearing so we were able to crawl under that meager hiding place. Being much younger than Mr. McClure I felt rather upset and discouraged. However he suggested a word of prayer, especially for strength to finish the job, and crawling out when the rain ceased we went at it again, but when we got the work done it looked a sorry affair and the news spread round the town that the tent the strange preachers pitched near the river, had been blown down. This was not a very encouraging report or advertisement, nevertheless we began meetings next day (Lord’s Day) at 8:00 P.M. At that hour none of the townsfolk ventured inside, though we knew there were many outside, but soon one or two came in followed by others until about a hundred were listening to the gospel. We assured them that the tent was safe, explaining that when the storm came we had not driven the stakes deep enough owing to the heat but that now everything was secure. This was the beginning of many months’ labors, first under canvas and then in a disused brick building that had been a tannery by the riverside. This old building became our lodging place and preaching place and the birthplace of many souls. No one seemed to own it and the authorities gave us the use of it. We fixed it up and made it as presentable as possible. We found three rooms upstairs and these we made our parsonage for many months. The preaching room we fixed up with straw matting laid from the platform to the door, arranging our tent seats on either side, and on the walls we placed four large, beautiful texts painted by a brother in Belleville. Every Saturday evening we had good audiences in the open air. Thus we continued the meetings and God was pleased to save precious souls and an assembly was formed which continues to this day. A good number of the saved ones have gone home to heaven, but the testimony goes on in a nice commodious hall built by the Christians. The following year we pitched another tent in the same town and continued there until 1893 when Mr. McClure went to California, and after visiting San Francisco and other places he then went on to Portland, Oregon. Brother McClure began meetings there in a small hall with little encouragement at first. He often said that three seats would have held all who came in. Then he made another trial with a chart and had the meetings well advertised but with little success. One evening a man came in who belonged to a non-descript meeting and reported to the members of his cult that the meetings held by Mr. McClure were just like theirs and the people from that gathering came and others associated with them so that Mr. McClure had to take down two partitions to accommodate the crowd. They asked if Mr. McClure would come to their hall and preach. He replied that he would if they would let him control the meetings absolutely. They consented, so he put his chart up and began a series which was blessed of God. One rich lady, the wife of a millionaire in that city was saved and among others her two step-daughters. Mr. McClure then wrote for me to join him in tent work in Portland. I went and together we went at it all summer until the weather was too cool for meetings in a tent. We then secured a store, continuing the meeting until it was needful to procure a more commodious building where the assembly met until they built a nice hall on East Stark Street. When we left Portland there were about seventy in fellowship, whereas when McClure came to Portland there were ten or twelve. During our stay there we hired a room near the meeting places and kept house and received our guests. So we had much cause, to praise God for His help, care and blessing.
From Portland we went on to Victoria, B. C. and began a series of meetings in what was known as the Omineka Hall which formerly had been a dance hall. It had two adjacent rooms where we took up our abode. A few Christians provided a bed in one of them, the other was our living room. We began by making it as comfortable as possible. Having procured soap and a scrubbing brush I had the honor of changing the color of the floor and the windows. It was also my duty to purchase the food, while Mr. McClure proved a splendid cook, especially of the “wholesome porridge chief of Scotia’s food,” as Robert Burns styled it. However, for many weeks we had the joy of preaching the gospel nightly in the open air and inside, and the Lord blessed the Word. The assembly was small and the only one at that time on the island. From there we went over to Vancouver where were three brethren and their wives gathered to remember the Lord’s death according to the Word, the only such gathering at that time in Vancouver. From there we returned to Portland, and thence to California where he spent years along with our brother John Monypenny, God setting His seal upon their labors. I had the privilege of laboring with Mr. McClure on various occasions, residing together in one of the many homes opened to him, but he always gravitated to his dear friends, the Mclntyres of Oakland, whose home he considered his best and most beloved resting place. Now he and his dear friend, Mr. McIntyre, are at Home and at rest with the Lord.
Apart from the brethren with whom Mr. McClure was linked in happy service for the Lord, there were others that he esteemed very highly in love for their works’ sake. Mr. Donald Munro held a very special place in his heart and he looked up to Mr. Munro as a father during his years of service in Ontario. A strong bond of fellowship was formed between these two brethren which continued until Mr. Munro was called home in 1908.
Mr. Munro first visited the province of Ontario in 1871. He had labored for some years with Mr. Donald Ross in the East Coast Mission in Scotland and was mightily used of God in the salvation of souls, but seeing more light from the Word of God, he had just come out to the Name of the Lord before his visit to Canada.
This visit was partly for his health and also to visit his brothers who were in business in Parkhill, Ontario, but seeing the need of the plain gospel being preached in the towns and villages of Canada he returned in 1872. The Lord blessed the labors of Mr. Munro and his yoke-fellow, Mr. John Smith, formerly of the same mission in Scotland.
In Toronto, Hamilton, and other centers assemblies were planted through their ministry. There was much opposition but God was with His servants and used them mightily. Mr. Munro took a deep interest in the work begun by these laborers in Orillia and Northern Ontario. He attended some of the early conferences in Orillia and gave ministry that established young Christians in the ways of the Lord. His was a very searching ministry especially in connection with assembly truths, and it is said he often spoke for two hours opening up some precious subject and yet he held the interest and attention of the Christians until the finish.
Mr. Munro, seeing very definite gift in his younger brother, W. J. McClure, gave him much encouragement to apply himself to study and to the opening up of the Scriptures. Mr. McClure often referred to him as one of the most godly men he ever knew, and spoke of the help and encouragement he had received through his life and ministry in those early days in Ontario.
A very helpful meeting was held in Orillia in 1886 to commend Mr. W. L. Faulkner, one of the early laborers in Northern Ontario, who was going forth as a missionary to Central Africa in connection with Mr. F. S. Arnot. Mr. Munro gave heart-searching ministry. Our brother was then commended to the Lord and to His work.