Of those associated with Mr. McClure in California were Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Foster. They were both born in his home town in Ireland. Shortly after their marriage, they were brought under the power of the gospel, and not only awakened to see their deep need of Christ, but also received the assurance of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. The peace which they found through the atoning blood of Jesus made a wonderful change in their home and their lives. The Bible became their constant companion; having tasted that the Lord is gracious, they desired the sincere milk of the Word, and thus learned of Him who is meek and lowly in heart.
A few years after their conversion Mr. and Mrs. Foster became exercised about going to California, and early in 1893 the Lord’s people in Banbridge, with whom they had spent many happy days, commended them to the Lord, and, after a journey of six thousand miles over sea and land, in due course they arrived safely in Los Angeles. There they started in the shoe business and their home was then opened for the Lord’s people. Just then beloved Andrew Frazer arrived in Los Angeles, and at first he was entertained by brother Phyfer, but later was heartily received by the Foster’s who had known him in Ireland, and in their hospitable home this honored servant of Christ spent the rest of his days.
Late in the fall of the same year Mr. McClure came to Los Angeles for the first time. After calling upon his kinsfolk, he paid a visit to the Fosters, whom he had known in the past. His coming was a great cheer to them and their heart and home were open to him then and for the years that followed.
A little company of about sixteen was then gathering at 806 Temple Street, Los Angeles, and as there was not much gift among them, these saints rejoiced greatly to see two of the Lord’s servants in their midst, and much prayer went up to heaven that a work of grace might be seen in that big city.
It had hitherto been very difficult to get strangers into the little hall, but the Christians prevailed upon Mr. McClure to stay and try it. For the new venture, a hall was rented on Jefferson Street, and the meetings began. Soon there were tokens of blessing and a number of precious souls were brought to Christ. Mr. Frazer, whose fame as a man of prayer had traveled far, watered the seed sown by supplication and prayer night and day. Christians from different denominations were attracted to the ministry of the Word of God, and as a result some had their eyes opened to the truth of gathering alone in His Name, while others, who had been backsliders, were restored to the Lord.
With this encouragement and blessing, some were exercised about establishing a testimony to the Name of the Lord in that place, and after waiting upon God for guidance, an assembly was planted, which has grown in numbers since then and is now known as West Jefferson Assembly.
Early in March, 1894, brother John Monypenny, who had gone forth two years before in Gospel work in Ontario, Canada, became much exercised about joining Mr. McClure in California, and he wrote brother McClure, telling him about his desire. At that very time Mr. McClure had mentioned to the Christians the advisability of procuring a Gospel tent. Brother Frazer very whole-heartedly offered the first contribution, others followed generously and soon the needed amount was raised. Thus the order for the tent was sent to the firm of Baker and Lockwood, tent makers in Kansas City, Missouri, and a letter was dispatched to brother Monypenny, assuring him that his exercise as to the work in California was evidently of the Lord, and encouraging him to come with all speed.
He arrived on the 8th of June, the necessary arrangements were made, the new tent was pitched, and the meetings were started on the 17th. From the first they had a fairly good attendance, but not what they expected. It is interesting to read Mr. McClure’s own account of the methods used to increase the attendance that summer, and their results:
“We concluded to put up some pictures of the Tabernacle. It was decided that I should speak upon these while brother Monypenny should go on with the Gospel. We made a number of boards, wrote upon them the subject for each night and placed them around. Los Angeles abounded with missions in which there was given out a mixture of holiness teaching and unintelligent Gospel preaching. ‘Gospel Meetings’ announcements on doors and windows greeted your eyes all over, and had ceased to appeal to the people, but soon it was different with notices of ‘Lectures on the Tabernacle’ and the announcement of a particular subject. This method proved quite a success and our tent was filled. But in reality we were just giving out the same truths that we were preaching in the Hall. I remember when I wrote to brother C. W. Ross, that in his reply he recalled God allowing Israel to use a stratagem. They had been beaten by the enemy, so God said, ‘Make an ambush.’ He could have given them the victory in plain open warfare, but He chose to let them use strategy. And God could have given us the ear of the people by our just using the words ‘Gospel Meetings,’ but He blessed our tactics, for from that time on we saw blessing, sinners were saved, believers were led to see the truth of baptism, and were gathered to His Name. Soon we had to look for larger quarters for the gathering.”
The tent meetings continued for three months, and God wrought wonderfully as night after night the Gospel was proclaimed in simplicity and power. A goodly number were added to the assembly, rejoicing the hearts of the few who had first gathered in His precious Name.
One outstanding case of conversion was that of an old Irish lady, Mrs. Barr, eighty-one years of age, who was awakened and saved at that season of blessing. She bore a clear testimony to the end of her days at the ripe old age of one hundred and three years. Her daughter also was gathered out and continued in fellowship until the age of eighty-nine, when she was called home in 1941.
Pomona and Los Angeles
The beautiful little town of Pomona, situated in the midst of orange groves forty miles from Los Angeles, was also a place of fruitful labor in that same year, 1894. When the tent was taken down in Los Angeles on September 12, it was shipped directly to Pomona, and a campaign was opened on September 16, the meetings continuing nightly until December of the same year. When the tent was first pitched in Pomona there were three who met in a home to break bread in remembrance of the Lord, but as in Los Angeles, blessing followed, and fruit was gathered, so that when the tent was taken down there were eighteen gathering in the little Assembly. The McComa’s Hall was rented and a testimony for the Lord was established there.
In December when the tent was stored away, Mr. McClure took a trip to Oakland and San Francisco giving valuable help to the small assemblies in these places.
Early in January Mr. McClure and Mr. Monypenny learned that Mr. Frazer was growing weaker in body and they went to see him and helped in caring for him until the end came. Ere the first month of the new year had come to a close, beloved Andrew Frazer was absent from the body and at home with the Lord, leaving a sweet savor of Christ behind. His fellow-laborers on the Pacific coast as well as his many friends all over who knew and loved him for his works’ sake, mourned his loss. At the time Mr. McClure paid the following tribute to his memory:
“His life was most unique. What a power godliness is! Here was a poor weak man that the smart worldling would despise, and whose appearance was not prepossessing, and who made no attempt at being pleasant either in his preaching or conversation. He never made an attempt at entertaining, but really seemed so in God’s presence as to be oblivious to his surroundings. The unsaved now speak of him with marked respect, and the Christians feel bereaved.”
After the death of Mr. Frazer Mr. McClure made another visit to San Francisco and Oakland, and then in May the tent was pitched again in Pomona and meetings continued with blessing for a number of weeks. In August the tent was moved back to Los Angeles and pitched at Washington Street. There the meetings continued until October. Once more the hand of God was seen in power, and a harvest was gathered in.
About this time the old Assembly in Temple Street, Los Angeles, had to move and thus the two companies came together as one Assembly with about sixty in fellowship. This precious fruit had been gathered as the result of two years of labor, apart from the ingathering at the same time in Pomona.
In 1896 Mr. McClure accompanied Mr. Ross on a trip East, but he was back in time for the summer’s work; and he and Mr. Monypenny were again busy in the tent which they pitched on Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. Mr. McClure spoke from his dispensational chart. This line of teaching was quite new, and it became a great attraction, many flocking to hear him speak upon the special subjects. The power of the Holy Spirit was greatly manifested in these meetings, sinners were broken down under conviction of sin, and were saved, and saints were greatly blessed.
The tent season ended with much fruit gathered, and the coming day will declare what was accomplished for eternity in those meetings.
Mr. Monypenny who had spent two and one-half years laboring with Mr. McClure now left to visit his relatives in the East, and soon after sailed for Ireland where also he was used of the Lord.
Mr. McClure was now in his fortieth year, strong in body, and for thirteen years he was fully engaged in gospel work. Yet he felt “There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.” He missed his fellow-laborer, but the Lord raised up another. A young man, John McFadyen, who had been laboring for the Lord a number of years, now linked up with brother McClure and they pitched the tent in the Boyle Heights district of Los Angeles.
The work took hold in that new part of the city, and the Lord wrought wonderfully through His servants that season. One who attended the meetings at that time and was a helper in the work thus wrote of those heart stirring days, “Some real souls were taken out of the quarry of nature and put in the new creation, and were added to the Assembly. To God be the glory.”
At the close of this fruitful season the tent was removed to Grand Avenue where brethren McClure and Monypenny had seen many souls saved the year before. Again the Lord granted blessing through the Word preached. Brother McFadyen proved also to be a true yokefellow and they continued together. In 1899 they saw the hand of God with them in tent meetings in Oakland.
In 1900 Mr. McClure paid a short visit to his native land, the first in fifteen years. He visited his relatives in Belfast, and his ministry was much enjoyed by the Lord’s people. Some of his old friends were there to welcome him back among them, but many had been called home.
He was guest at the wedding of his fellow laborer, brother John Monypenny, to Miss Wright of Temore, Ireland, and then returned to California exercised in heart about the tent season for 1901, when his attention was directed to Monrovia as a needy field. In this small foothill community, only one or two Christian families resided, with no assembly.
Mr. William Faulkner had returned from Africa, and was persuaded to join Mr. McClure in the Gospel effort in Monrovia. Thus, in the latter part of June, 1901, they pitched the first tent on a vacant lot on the main street, Myrtle Ave., of that city, “digging in for a siege” by fitting up living and sleeping quarters behind a partitioned part at the back of the tent.
The lie of the land in Monrovia, truly called forth “labor” both physical and spiritual, as they plodded on through the days and weeks; but they found encouragement from good attendance and awakened listeners in the meetings. Souls were saved there also; among them, a father and two daughters from a town about three miles away, who attended regularly, covering the distance with horse and buggy.
An incident connected with this family will serve to show the humble sterling qualities of this servant of Christ. The father, a man in his forties (about the same age as Mr. McClure), had been offered three good sized palm trees, which grew on an estate near the main road between Monrovia and Sierra Madre. He was busily digging them out one day, intending to carry them to his home for transplanting, when Mr. McClure happened along on his bicycle. Seeing that it was a very tough hot job for one man alone, Mr. McClure promptly stopped, and got off to lend a helping hand. Between the two of them the trees were soon dug out and on to the buckboard wagon. These palms then planted are still standing in front of the home after forty years; silent monuments to the gracious man who in spite of his “high calling,” was ever ready to help in countless little courtesies, thus leaving an example which might well be followed by the Lord’s servants, as they travel from place to place. Nor is it any wonder, when the tent came down, that this family which had never heard before the truth of gathering to His Name alone, were among the first to take their place in the newly formed assembly. This little assembly had the joy of having their first conference at New Year of 1902, about three months after their coming together. To some of these newly saved ones such a gathering of Christians was a wonderful experience; especially when a goodly number arrived from Los Angeles, conveyed in state by a tally-ho, hired for the occasion and drawn by four gallant steeds which had covered the distance of over twenty-three miles in record time. Some still in the assembly today remember this notable event of years past. And more than one can testify of the fatherly attitude of this dear man of God as he stood at the door of the tent or hall, at the close of a meeting. While giving a warm handshake, some word of advice was added to carry home, given in the kindest tone; such as “Good night, George; remember to make straight paths for your feet”; or “Well, dear sister, hold fast that which thou hast”; or after a question to the unsaved, “Ah, my friend; it is not TRYING but trusting.” These kindly words were given in such a way as never to be forgotten.
In the fall of 1901, Mr. McClure went up to Oakland. The conference that year was reported to be a season of special blessing, after which Mr. John Blair joined Mr. McClure in a series of meetings and they continued for several weeks. The hand of the Lord was seen and a number were saved, and later thirteen were baptized and added to the assembly bringing great joy and encouragement to the Lord’s people.