Passes to Reward
October 14, 1931
The Rev. John David Hamaker, grand patriarch of the Disciples of Christ in the Shenandoah Valley, and one of the best known and most beloved minister of that brotherhood in the State of Virginia and the United States, died at Winchester Memorial Hospital Saturday evening, October 10, (1931) at 6:10 o'clock. He entered the hospital Friday morning, October 2, where he underwent an emergency operation for strangulated hernia. The operation was a success, and while his condition was critical for several days, he made some headway and his condition seemed more satisfactory. However, he contracted serious bronchial trouble, presumably from the effect of the anesthetic, which finally developed into pneumonia which his frail body could not combat. He was 84 years, 9 months and 10 days old.
Was Born in Pulaski County
Mr. Hamaker was born at Snowville, Pulaski County, on January 1, 1847, the son of Dr. Michael and Mary Yost Douthat Hamaker, in that great Southwestern section of Virginia, which has produced many noted ministers of the brotherhood of Disciples of Christ. As a boy he attended the Fields Schools in Pulaski County. Then came the War Between the States. A mere boy of 16, he espoused the cause of the Confederacy, and jumping astride his horse he joined the Confederate forces as a member of the Thirty-sixth Battalion Virginia Cavalry, in which organization he rendered valiant service until the tattered forces of the Confederacy laid down their arms at Appotattox.
Enters Ministry After War
After the war he returned to his home to find the countryside laid waste, the economic condition acute and his countrymen greatly discouraged, and in need of competent leadership. It was under these depressing conditions that he was called to preach the gospel, for truly he was "called." While preparing for the ministry he also engaged in farming and shoe manufacturing. At that time few of the churches in Southwest Virginia had full-time ministers and he was called regularly in that section to conduct meetings. He once remarked, "I taught myself into the ministry." After a short while he gained recognition for his work, and his first appointment was evangelist of the New River District. Success crowned his efforts in this field and the churches of the district grew in numbers and influence.
In 1872 he was called to the pastorate of the church at Bristol, Tenn. Realizing the need for fuller preparation for a successful ministry, and that he would in accepting this call have the opportunity of collegiate training, he accepted. During his ministry at Bristol, he studied at King College, a Presbyterian institution, for three years. It was during his pastorate at Bristol that he was ordained a minister.
In 1875 he accepted a call to Wytheville, where he labored two years, after which he returned to his home at Snowville, where he engaged in evangelistic work for four years. His work in that section of the state was a notable success. Churches had been established, weak churches made strong, and strong churches made stronger. The influence of his godly life and his untiring efforts during the years he labored in his homeland are still evident today. In the later years of his life he made it a practice to visit Snowville about once a year.
Called to Valley as Evangelist
In recognition of his splendid service in the Southwest
Virginia District, he was recommended for evangelistic service in the Valley
District of Virginia. He entered into his new field with great zeal,
and locating in Strasburg, he preached at various points in the Valley.
Forty-one years ago he was called to the pastorate of the Strasburg and
Woodstock Christian churches. For many years he held the pastorates
of both churches, the services alternating. Some years ago the growth
of the Strasburg church necessitated full-time ministerial work, as well
as the Woodstock church. He resigned his pastorate at Woodstock and
became full-time pastor of the Strasburg church. With the beginning
of his work in the Valley both his congregation showed continued growth,
numerically and spiritually, and became great moral forces in their respective
He served the Strasburg Christian Church continuously and faithful as pastor for thirty-five years, during which time the membership increased almost five-fold. Six years ago the Rev. Arthur Wake was called as the active pastor of the congregation, and the Rev. Mr. Hamaker was retained as pastor emeritus. However, his interest in his church did not cease. He was faithful in attendance at all the services up to the time of his last illness. He never gave up his pastoral work, and he received many calls to preach at other churches in the Valley.
J. D. Hamaker Memorial Annex
In 1926 the need for additional seating capacity and an up-to-date educational plant became apparent in the Strasburg Church. The interior of the old structure was remodeled, increasing the size of the auditorium, a splendid and imposing annex added for religious educational work and a pipe organ installed. As a memorial and to honor this great man of God, the edifice was dedicated as the "J. D. Hamaker Memorial Annex." During the present year, the Woodstock congregation has completed and dedicated an imposing and beautiful new church, which also in a large measure is a fruition of the faithful work done during the years he served as their pastor. To Mr. Hamaker also fell the honor of preaching the last sermon in the old church, and performing the first marriage ceremony in the new. Both of these churches are in great measure the result of his untiring efforts, faithful service and capable leadership, and stand as memorials to that great man which a century of time cannot erase.
Active in All Church Work
In the 59 years J. D. Hamaker served in the ministry of
the Disciples of Christ he reached a commanding place in that Brotherhood.
He was one of the founders and held a life membership in the Virginia Christian
Missionary Society; he was a charter member of the American Home Missionary
Society; with Dr. Josephus Hopwood he was co-founder of Virginia Christian
College (now Lynchburg College), and served a number of terms as a member
of the Board of Trustees of that institution. At the time of his
death he was Director of the Pension Campaign of the Disciples of Christ
for the State of Virginia. Throughout his life he had been a strong
advocate of prohibition, and was a co-founder of the Anti-Saloon League
For several yeas and at the time of his death he was commander of Stover Camp, United Confederate Veterans, and he loved to go to each annual encampment to mingle with the "Boys in Gray." He was an active member of Spurmont Lodge Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons and for a number of years served as Chaplain of the lodge. He was a member of the Board of directors of the Massanutten National Bank, and his associates recognized his splendid judgment and keen business acumen.
John David Hamaker -- The Man
Rev. J. D. Hamaker was probably the best known and most beloved citizen of Strasburg. He know you when he met you -- he liked to grasp you hand -- and his hand-clasp seemed to electrify you with the spirit of brotherly love. One could not come in close contact with him without feeling that he or she was in the presence of a great personality. He readily made friendships -- and it is not recorded that he even lost a friend. He took a keen interest in civic affairs, and he could be found aligned on the right side of every movement which he believed was for the common good. He was a man of regular habits in his daily life and frugal to the nth degree. Twice the Official Board of the church voted him an increase in salary. He accepted the increase in both instances with the understanding that he be allowed to contribute it to the benevolent enterprises of the church. He did. He was never satisfied to tithe. He many times seemingly gave beyond his means. His giving was sacrificial. He was a happy man -- even in his discouragements. He possessed an unusual sense of humor, and with a retentive memory remarkable for one of his years, his mirth has enlivened many a social hour.
J. D. Hamaker -- The Minister
Rev. J. D. Hamaker was a strong and able preacher.
He was a constant student of the Word, and he preached it fearlessly and
convincingly. But the greatest tribute we can pay him is that "his
life was his greatest sermon." In his ministry, he drew no denominational
lines. He was particularly solicitous for the comfort of the poor,
for did not Christ say "the poor ye have with you always?" Possessor
of all the Christian graces, he could be found ready to help bear the burdens
of the sick, the bereaved, the distressed, the weary, the unfortunate.
Truly "he went about doing good."
He had a profound sympathy for the scoffer, the infidel, the skeptic, the agnostic, and it was his constant prayer that they may see the light that would lead them into the life everlasting.
J. D. Hamaker never kept a written record of his thousands of official ministerial acts performed during his long ministry of nearly three score years. Just a short while ago we asked him whether he could even approximate the number of sermons he had delivered, the number of funerals he ahd conducted, the number of persons he had baptized, and the number of marriage ceremonies he had performed. He could only answer "thousands." Many times during the later years of his life he has been called back to Pulaski County to marry young couples, grandparents and parents of whom he had baptized into the church, performed their wedding ceremony, and in many instance officiated at their funerals. Unique to his experiences is the fact that he officiated at the marriage of his three children and two grandchildren.
He was a great lover of the young people and children of the church. The Christian Endeavor Societies of the church were honored with his presence at each meeting, and looked to him for his wise counsel. He loved the small children of the Sunday School and it was his practice to greet them with a hand-clasp on their arrival. He once said, "Touch a babe's head and you've touched a mother's heart."
The words of Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy seem peculiarly applicable in setting forth this sketch of Rev. Mr. Hamaker's life: "Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine .. but watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.. For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing."
Three Children Survive
John David Hamaker and Florence Jane Meredith, of Pulaski County, were united in marriage October 22, 1858. Mrs. Hamaker died January 19, 1925, thus serving a happy union of 56 years. To them were born three children, who survive; Arthur H. Hamaker, joint freight agent of the B. & O. and Southern Railways at Harrisonburg; Mrs. L. O. Stickley, of Vineland, N. J.; Mrs. B. W. Grubbs, of Strasburg; and two granddaughters, Mrs. Mary J. Dillon, of Washington, D. C., and Mrs. Florence V. Thompson, of Vineland, N. J.. He is also survived by one brother, James P. Hamaker, of Alito, Texas, and one niece, Mrs. Sumpter Bennington, of Lynchburg.
Body Lay in State in Church
On Monday morning at 10 o'clock, the mortal remains of the beloved "Bishop of the Valley" were moved to the church where they lay in state until 2 o'clock. More than a thousand people passed by the flower - bedecked casket to look for the last time upon the great, good man who sleepeth there. Out of respect and love for the beautiful character whom they all knew, Professor Garner dismissed the public schools and the 700 school children were permitted to pass by and view the remains, may of them being so small they had to be lifted up to see inside the casket. Many of the business houses of the town closed for several hours during the funeral as a tribute of respect to their fellowman and citizen. Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Greek, all passed the flower - laden bier to look upon the man they had known as their friend.
Funeral Services Monday
The funeral services were conducted Monday afternoon at
the Strasburg Christian Church at 2:30 o'clock, and they were beautiful
in their simplicity. Rev. Arthur Wake, his pastor, conducted the
services, assisted by the Rev. D. H. Rhodes, of Toms Brook, a co-worker
with Mr. Hamaker for almost half a century. Mr. Wake chose only to
read a beautiful eulogy over the body of his predecessor, his beloved friend
and advisor, which lay in front of the pulpit from which the deceased had
preached thousands of sermons. The casket was draped with a huge
Confederate flag, the flag which in his boyhood he fought to defend, and
just beyond were banked in great profusion, beautiful floral tributes to
the great man of God who loved and served the community for more than forty
years. Mr. Wake's eulogy will be found elsewhere in this paper.
At the funeral hour Rev. Mr. Wake read a very beautiful telegram from Dr. B. A. Abbott, editor of the Christian Evangelist, of St. Louis, Mo., a lifelong friend and native of Southwestern Virginia. The telegram, sent from the floor of the International Convention of the Disciples of Christ in session at Wichita, Kansas, read: "The death of Brother Hamaker closed a long and fruitful day on this earth. Thousands have drawn encouragement from his great soul and guidance from his lovely life. None knew him but to become better; none named him but to praise his Christ - like conduct. May God send more men like him." Rev. John A. Tate, president of the Virginia Christian Missionary Society, wired: "Virginia's most loved preacher has passed."
Burial in Riverview
Following the funeral service at the church, the cortege passed on to beautiful Riverview Cemetery where after a short service, Strasburg's grand old man and citizen was tenderly laid to rest beside his beloved wife. With the silvery Shenandoah rolling leisurely by on her endless course, towering, rugged old Signal Knob looks down upon that mound of beautiful flowers which well bespeak the purity of the life of the man who lies there in dreamless sleep, and whom we all rise up to call "blessed."
Visiting Ministers Present
The following minister attended the funeral services; The Revs. F. B. Lingle, H. M. Crim, Henry Wilson and Asa B. Stickley, of Strasburg; Revs, Manley and P. A. Cave, of Martinsburg, W. Va.; Rev. Mr. Hansbrought, Ballston, Va.; Rev. J. Mitchell Hoye, Woodstock; Rev. F. B. Sapp, Walnut Springs; Rev. Warren Baldwin, Saumsville; Rev. W. S. Tandy, Harrisonburg.
Pallbearers and Flower Bearers
The active pallbearers were A. C. Stickley, Fred D. Maphis,
George W. Beeler, R. S. Wright, C. E. Crabill and A. J. Stickley.
The honorary pallbearers were H. A. Funkhouser, W. P. Stover, M. M. Orndorff, O. F. Pirkey, E. Frank Ramey, Albert M. Funk, O. P. Stickley, C. B. Maphis, H. F. Boyer and C. C. Boyer, of Woodstock; E. E. Artz, Dr. B. R. White, W. W. Allen, F. M. Zea, G. P. Funk, James S. Beeler, George W. Neal, C. F. Funk, H. C. Kline, A. E. Strosnider, W. H. Grove, R. K. Hinkins, H. S. Funk, E. E. Crabill and Abe Stickley.
The flower bearers were Betty Maphis, Vizannah Carrier, Frances Spiggle, Juke Brown, Willet M. Rohr, Mary Maphis, Katherine Jackson, Nina Womack, Etta Wolf, Marguerite Snare, Lucy Helen Spikier, Louise Artz, Dale Kline, Beulah Forrest, Maymie Sonner, Roberta Higgs, Maude Kline, Mary Vann, Mary Hinson, Mae C. Strosinider and Mrs. George Burke.
John David Hamaker, pastor of the Strasburg and Woodstock
Christian Churches, of Shenandoah County Virginia, for thirty-five years,
and pastor emeritus of these churches for the past six years, ceased from
his labors and entered into rest, October 10th, 1931, at the advanced age
of 84 years, 9 months and 10 days. He was born in Pulaski County,
Virginia, January 1st, 1847. John David Hamaker and Florence Jane
Merdith; also of Pulaski County, were united in marriage October 22, 1848.
This union was not broken until January 19th, 1925 when Florence Jane died.
Three children were born of this union, Arthur, Florence, and Bessie, all
of whom survive, with two grandchildren.
While countless members mourn the death of this man of God, a heart felt tribute of praise rises from their lips as they call his name "blessed."
John David Hamaker, as a man, was simple and frugal in his habits, befitting one whose conviction was that "a man's life consisthet not in the things which he possesseth." He was a man who walked the road of life uprightly, with firm tread, as one who had a certain goal in view. He has now attained that goal -- the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. Genial, possessed of a keen and refreshing sense of humor, sociable to a marked degree, he gained the friendship and esteem of all who were privileged to know him.
John David Hamaker as a citizen always too a lively interest in civic affairs. His was a high ideal of civic righteousness. He firmly believed that "righteousness exalteth a nation," and gave his unqualified support to every movement which he believed was for the common good. As a Virginia, he was a true son of the old South. In the War Between the States he served in the Army of the confederacy. He was a Democrat, in the truest and best sense of the term. As a member of Spurmont Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons he most worthily exemplified the tenets of his order.
John David Hamaker, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, was an earnest student and able preacher of the Word. Endowed with a fine intellect, an unusually retentive memory, and possessed of an appreciation of the best in literature, his preaching was replete with scriptural literary allusions. He preached on great conviction that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believed it. His life and message were one. His spirit was always irenic. His greatest joy was to see his preaching efforts culminate in the obedience of souls to his Master. During his long ministry of preaching, thousands of souls were brought into the fellowship of Christ and the Church by his earnest messages. He kept no written record of his achievements as a minister. He was satisfied to have his record written in the hearts and lives of those to whom he brought daily heavenly guidance, cheer, and consolation. He lived to serve. He was glad to spend and spent in Christian service. A man of seemingly boundless energy, while never of robust physique, he was active in the service of the church until his last illness.
His broad sympathies, his capacity for friendship, and his spiritual understanding served his well as a shepherd of souls. Above and beyond all of his other abilities, he was a pastor. Whenever there was sickness or distress of body, mind or soul, he was always present and ready to render his beneficent ministry. On his soul, he bore the burdens of the people; and his prayers continually went up to God in their behalf.
As an administrator of the affairs of the churches he served, he was wise and efficient; and under his inspiring leadership the work prospered both spiritually and materially. His vision was far flung, work embracing in its scope. The missionary and educational enterprises of the church were always to the fore in his thinking and planning. He was one of the founders of Lynchburg College; and was one of the first evangelist sent out by the Virginia Christian Missionary Society, serving sacrificially on a meager salary of $300 a year. He saw the disciples of Christ grow, in his beloved State into a numerous and influential brotherhood. His faithful service contributed to this growth. A well known figure at the State and National conventions of the church, he sought no honors for himself. He served humbly, desiring only that his Master be given the glory and the praise.
John David Hamaker, servant of Jesus Christ, has lift to us a spiritual heritage that we shall always cherish. His is a glorious immortality in the Land of Never ending Day and in the hearts and lives of all those who have known him. We shall miss his physical presence; but the beneficent influences of his life and ministry abide with us.
Arthur Wake, Pastor.
Copied from the Strasburg News by Calvin Sonner.