Chapter 14 Pacific Coast (1893)

After about nine years of happy and fruitful service spent in Ontario, where a number of assemblies were planted through his activities, Mr. McClure became exercised about the Far West, his brother Simpson, and sister Elizabeth, the only surviving members of his immediate family, having gone to California. This was one reason why he felt constrained to go there, to meet them again, but stronger still was the desire to carry the gospel to those parts.

Starting West, he visited Chicago, from whence he had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which he fulfilled. He was heartily received by the saints in the assembly at May and Fulton Streets. Just as Paul and Barnabas, on a similar occasion, rehearsed all that God had done with them, so our Evangelist made the hearts of the Christians glad in Chicago, by telling them of what God had wrought in Ontario. He also visited Kansas City, where his old friend C. W. Baker lived, serving the Lord although making tents for necessary uses.

Mr. A. Fraser had arrived in Chicago and Kansas City and the brethren were helping him from place to place because of his frailty, and the saints were enriched as in the East, by his helpful ministry. The Lord seemed to guide in bringing Mr. McClure along; just then, and these two brethren, Mr. Fraser, weak and frail in body, and Mr. McClure, strong and robust, decided to travel together. Mr. McClure was pleased to serve the Lord in caring for Mr. Fraser on that long train journey; speaking of it long after, he said, “To me fell the honor of being a help to Mr. Fraser, crossing the continent.”

Traveling facilities in those days lacked much of the comforts afforded now in modern travel. The journey was long—about five days. They traveled second-class, or tourist sleeping car, and for a man like Mr. Fraser, who spent hours at a time on his knees before the Lord in prayer and in prayerful reading of the Scriptures, to be deprived of this opportunity was a most painful experience. Often during the day he would go out to pray, standing on the platform between the cars, a place at that time neither comfortable nor safe. As Mr. McClure put it, “Even a strong man was in danger of being jerked off at the curves,” and often he had to go out and persuade him to come inside.

As the train reached the suburbs of Oakland, Mr. John McIntyre, who with his wife had lately come from Dumbarton, Scotland, got aboard the train to meet them. This was the first meeting of Mr. McClure and Mr. McIntyre and little did either one of them think that the close bond of love and fellowship begun on the train that day, was to continue and grow for almost fifty years. Mr. McIntyre had heard of their coming and so he boarded the train before its final arrival to meet them. They were made welcome to his home, and this kindness was a great cheer to the two laborers who had traveled so far.

Hitherto, the West had proven rather a hard field. Mr. Ross and Mr. Munro and others had faithfully preached the Word. In Oakland, there was a little assembly of about twenty-four, and across the river, in San Francisco, about half that number were gathering in His Name, and both needed help.

Years after the first arrival, Mr. McClure, in his own graphic style, was speaking of Mr. Fraser and his coming to California, and put it this way: “Had some of the religious leaders been told that they were going to meet two preachers, no doubt they would have thought that those are two distinguished men high up in the profession seeing they are coming to preach to such up-to-date folks as the Californians. If these were their thoughts, surprises awaited them when they saw us. Several years of the gypsy-like life, preaching and living in tents and vacant stores does not tend to give one a professional air, and we did not wear a clerical habit. As for dear Andrew Fraser, any one looking at him would be sure no so-called church in the country would consider extending him a call to fill their pulpit. He was in his late thirties, but would have passed for sixty, shrunken up, hollow-chested, round shouldered, quiet and retiring. In a word most would say he was odd looking. That this description of him is correct, will appear from the following incident:

“It was at the Easter Monday conference in Belfast. Two very close friends of mine were sitting together. A little insignificant looking man passed them on the way to the platform. He seemed to wish to get there without being seen as he slipped along with his head down. One brother said to another, ‘Who is that craytur? He will spoil the meeting.’ Dear brother Fraser had not spoken long until the brother was sorry he had made that remark. His message was so sweet and fresh and given in such power that the brother’s heart was stirred as well as the hearts of the audience. Never again did he refer to dear Andrew Fraser as ‘that craytur.’ No, to him he was an honored servant of Christ.”

But Mr. McClure looked upon Mr. Fraser as a mighty factor in bringing about such a change in California and expressed it thus: “Our desire in speaking of Andrew Fraser, and his part in bringing about the change, is that we may be led more to admire the grace of God, who links His might with human weakness, and fashions vessels for His blessed work out of very unpromising material.”

After a few weeks, Mr. Fraser left for Los Angeles, about 500 miles south of Oakland, this having been his objective before leaving Ireland. Mr. McClure remained, having meetings in Oakland and San Francisco, and then went up north to Portland, Oregon, where there was a small assembly, about twelve in all, meeting in a small hall. Very few came in at first, but after several rather trying experiences, there was a moving of God and preaching from his chart, a good interest was created. He sent for W. H. Hunter to join him in a tent during the summer. They labored into the fall. When the tent was taken down, they secured a store and continued the meetings.

At the end of Mr. McClure’s first tent season in the West, about seventy were in fellowship in Portland and he was encouraged by this token of blessing. After their visit to British Columbia, brethren McClure and Hunter journeyed south to California and Mr. Hunter left from there for the East.

Mr. McClure had the joy of meeting his brother and sister whom he had not seen for many years and they had a happy re-union.