Sunday, July 15, 2007

1934 Theologue: The Story of John A. Davis Part 7: "Behold, the Place Wherein We Dwell Is Too Strait for Us"

In part 6 of the 10 part series of the Life of John A. Davis from the 1934 Theologue the Practical Bible Training School was started. In part seven the school moves to its present location on Riverside Drive. I hope you have been enjoying this series. If you have missed any of the posts I have the links listed below, also there is a section on the side column for all of the issues as they are posted to the blog. Keep on reading and enjoying the History of Davis College.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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VII.

“Behold, the Place Wherein We Dwell Is Too Strait for Us”

II Kings 6:1

The School was rapidly growing and it was realized that it would be necessary to seek larger quarters with dormitory accommodation and campus facilities. Just outside of the city limits of Binghamton, N. Y., there was a notorious amusement park know as the “White City.” The drunkenness and debauchery of the place was unspeakable. Conditions, in face, were so vile, degrading, and unlawful that a separate jail had to be erected on the property to make possible the immediate incarceration of those guilty of the more serious violations of law. The property of the entire neighborhood decreased in valuation. Residents of the neighborhood feared to ride on the street cars going to and from that section because of the undesirable characters so often crowding

the cars.

At this time Evangelist John A. Davis was residing on West End Avenue, in Binghamton, so that in was necessary for him to ride on this street car line on his way to and from the city. Thus, he was familiar with the conditions existing on the cars and also to a certain extent with the conditions prevailing at the “White City.” This amusement resort included 32 acres of land and a number of buildings.

Mr. Davis, always keenly alive to the needs of the School and realizing the possibilities of this place, if it could be secured, one day paid the admission fee through the gates and visited the grounds. He saw the beautiful oak trees, the elms and other trees, among them evergreens, and visualized the possibilities of the place as a permanent home for the Practical Bible Training School. As he walked about the grounds he happened to glance into the bar-room and saw the men and women lined up three-deep around the bar, some of them in an advanced state of intoxication. As he turned to leave, he vowed to himself, “With the help of God I’ll smash this place, “ and with that resolve in his mind, as he was outside of the gate, he knelt beside the high wire fence and prayed to God to give him this place for His work.

This brewery-backed resort was a separate organization for the purpose of selling liquors. As such, it had the backing of the brewery and liquor interests, and any effort to obtain the grounds for other purposes would naturally meet with the determined resistance of those financially interested. This resistance was felt keenly. There was many a struggle and many a prayer. For two years John A. Davis waited for the manifestation of the hand of God. It appears that some of the stockholders, desiring to obtain an advantage, started a fight within the amusement organization which resulted in finally throwing the “White City” corporation into the hands of a receiver. At this time Evangelist Davis was holding a campaign in one of the larger cities of central Pennsylvania.

A Binghamton business man interested in the School, though not aware of Mr. Davis’ hopes regarding the park, secured a short term option on the property and wired Mr. Davis rushed back, and within three hours had called his board together and exercised their option, which gave them title to the property with all the buildings on it, one of the which was a large and roomy hotel.

The transformation which immediately took place on the grounds of the “White City” has been well named a Twentieth Century Miracle. The old “White City Hotel” became the present Main Building, to which have been added wings on either end. The old Beer Garden became Davis Hall; the old Merry-go-round Shelter formed the basis for what is now Mothers’ Memorial, a dormitory housing about forty students; and the jail was rebuilt into a cottage occupied by members of the faculty.

The moving from the old building at 47 Harrison Street, Johnson City, into the new home was accomplished during the month of June, 1911, by the students under the immediate supervision of Francis L. Holden, who later graduated and has been a successful pastor for years. It has been said by one of the students present at that time that the pieces of furniture moved from the wagon to the new building just about as rapidly as things usually come out from a burning building. Of all the workers none was happier than John A. Davis to see this accomplished.

After the equipment had been moved, the hard work of cleaning up began. Every building on the premises had to be renovated from top to bottom, and all the equipment had to be cleaned before it could be used. The articles used in the servicing of liquors had to be destroyed. The kitchen equipment included the usual supply of cooking utensils, all of which had to be received liberal applications of elbow grease furnished by willing hands. In the midst of all this labor, regular periods of devotion were carried on when the students came together and thanked God for the place an for the opportunity of getting it ready for the great days ahead.

The first instruction on the grounds took place in Davis Hall as that was one of the first buildings that could be made ready for school purposes. The teacher was Rev. O. R. Palmer. While the first class was in session a terrible shower came up accompanied by much wind with lightning and thunder. During this storm about thirty trees on the campus were uprooted and much damage was done.

The United States Post Office today is housed in what was the moving picture hall of the old “White City.” Other buildings on the ground were renovated and made usable. A hospital building has been added to the grounds as was also a central heating plant, both of these being down on the bank of the river.

Another of the important buildings on the campus is known as the Manrow Memorial Building. Walter D. Manrow was born on a farm near Throop, NY, April 11, 1846, was converted at the age of twenty-two, and became a successful business man in Auburn, NY, building up a competence for himself in his later years. In the early twenties he became acquainted with the work of the Practical Bible Training School, and he and Mrs. Manrow visited the School on several occasions.

In the meantime the Students’ League of Many Nations had become a permanent organization in the School. The regular buildings were crowded and as many graduates were among the League Students, another building with dormitory facilities was greatly needed. Mr. and Mrs. Manrow finally decided to rebuild a building on the property as a League dormitory building; this was accomplished in 1924-25. It is a commodious building with two floors of dormitory rooms and underneath the building a basement workshop for the grounds, while at the west end of the building where the ground slopes away from the building there is a summer dining room and kitchen.

Another important building on the campus is Friendship Cottage, the home of President and Mrs. Davis, which was built by friends as a tribute of love to them.

A slope of ground at the extreme west end of the campus overlooking the Susquehanna Rive, was set apart for Vesper Services and named “Sunset Knoll.” Seats were arranged in a semi-circular form, a platform was built, and every pleasant evening during the Summer Bible Conference a short service is held here directly after supper. It is on this knoll that the body of Dr. Davis now rests.

In May, 1912, Evangelist Davis lost his voice. This affliction continued for two or three years until he met Dr. Byron W. King of Pittsburgh. Dr. King was a specialist in voice, and under his training the lost voice was recovered. During the acquaintance as doctor and patient, Dr. King came to know about the Practical Bible Training School with the result that he became a lecturer at the School on Voice and Public Speaking, coming to the School at stated intervals. He became one of the most loved instructors among all those who came to the School occasionally, and when Davis Hall was remodeled it was rechristened King Hall as a memorial to Dr. King.

After he lost his voice, Mr. Davis was confined to the School. Though this seemed misfortune, yet it enabled him to give all his time and energy to it. Much of his time was devoted to teaching of Ideal Helps, which became the outstanding class in the School. Evangelists and pastors who have received their training here often have returned to testify to the fact that they owe their success in a large measure to the benefits received in this particular class. In the accompany cut, taken in 1916, Dr. Davis is shown in one of his characteristic poses before the class (below)

It was not the purpose of the founder of the Practical Bible Training School to build a large institution. Occasionally he was heard to say that what he wanted was an institution large enough to train young people properly, on the other hand not so large but that the students would have the advantage of more personal contact with the teachers and the benefit of individual instruction. The student body has averaged approximately 150 students per year for many years. The present year, the student body is somewhat above that number. Students have come to this School, not only from practically every State in the Union, but from Canada and Mexico and many foreign countries including China and some of the countries in Africa. The graduating class at first had but a few members, but the number has grown until the present class of graduates, numbering forty-five, is the largest number of graduates in the history of the institution.

A work of this character must inevitably become known and acknowledged as praiseworthy in a high degree. Such was the case here. Taylor University of Upland, Indiana on June 14, 1922, conferred upon Rev. John Adelbert Davis the degree of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of his outstanding accomplishments in the field of Christian education.

Students training in “rightly dividing the Word” have gone out as pastors and evangelists. Some of the outstanding men of the present decade in these lines of endeavor received their training in the Practical Bible Training School. Missionaries have gone out into Asia and Africa as well as European countries and into many sections of the Western Hemisphere. A great many of the students after taking a course at Bible School Park have returned to their home churches as trained workers in their own individual communities.

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Coming up: Part 8: "Precious in the Sight of the Lord Is the Death of His Saints"

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