Mr. James W. Smith, whose ministry had been owned of God in the North of Ireland, was called home to Heaven in 1878 at the early age of thirty-one. In the nine short- years following his conversion he had woven much for God into his life. After his death, Mr. William Matthews of Belfast, in the spring of 1879, joined up in the gospel work with brother Smith’s coworker, Mr. James Campbell, and was a true yokefellow. They labored together for eleven years and were much used of God both in Ireland and in America.
In 1879 these two brethren arrived in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. One of the ministers of that town had been preaching on the different religions for a number of Lord’s Days. One Sunday it was the Episcopalians, another the Presbyterians, and so on, and one morning it was the “Plymouth Brethren.” He spoke of them as a dangerous people, and added, “We may be very thankful that there are none of these people anywhere near us.” That very week the preachers arrived and obtained permission from one of the elders of that church to erect their tent. A great work began— the tent was packed and hundreds of people listened outside. The towns-people attended well and the farmers came from all over as well. Soon the power of God was manifest in a wonderful way; sinners were broken down, and every night souls were getting saved. The news spread quickly about these meetings and “these men” as they were called. On market days (Saturdays) they had the side walk to themselves for the people left it as the preachers appeared each with a bundle of tracts, asking everyone they met, “Is your soul saved?” One young man who saw them coming took refuge in the post office, but to his surprise, soon a hand was laid on his shoulder and the plain question put to him: “Young man, is your soul saved for eternity?” As he looked around and saw Mr. Campbell standing there awaiting his reply, conviction laid hold of his heart and soon he was rejoicing in Christ.
Coming into the tent one day, a very religious man asked Mr. Matthews, “What do you think of Mr. —?” “What do you think about yourself, Frank?” was the answer. The arrow went home and Frank took his place as a guilty sinner, trusted Christ for salvation, and became an earnest follower of the Lord Jesus. A large assembly of believers was formed and taught the ways of the Lord, so that from the very week the preacher spoke against the brethren until this day, Cookstown has had “these people” in their midst.
About seven miles from Cookstown a schoolmaster named Andrew Fraser was teaching in a National School. He had been saved a number of years before this, when Moody and Sankey were preaching in Dublin, while he was in college preparing to become a teacher. The life and testimony of Andrew Fraser had a telling effect on the community. He always kept Saturday free so that he might fast, pray, and read his Bible, and saw no visitors on that day. One Saturday brethren Campbell and Matthews went to see him and he broke his rule and gave them an interview with the result that he took his place with them in the assembly, and became a real Apollos to the saints in that community. He was later led out into the work of the Lord in which he was greatly used of God. After spending one Saturday all day in fasting and prayer, he began an assembly the following morning in Killycurragh which continues to this day. For many years after Mr. Fraser was called home the saints around Cookstown and other parts of the North of Ireland where he labored, would speak of him with bated breath as they related how he prayed, and how fresh and helpful was his ministry. Mr. Fraser finally became very frail in body, and lung trouble having developed it was thought advisable for him to go to a drier climate, and in 1892 he and Mr. D. H. Oliver left Ireland for America. His rich ministry among the assemblies in the East was very helpful and much appreciated, but his objective was Los Angeles, California, and as Mr. McClure was at that time exercised about going to California, these two brethren left together for the West Coast.