Pentecostal Pioneers: James H Hassell

Pentecostal Pioneers: James H Hassell
By Betty Jo Farrar

Before my father and mother took their first church in Gasconade, Missouri, we lived in St. Louis and attended Brother Hite’s church.

When the Lord told my folks to go to Gasconade, Dad agreed to go if He would provide. They went to the train station, and as they stood there, someone came up and said, “God told me to give you your train fare.”

When I was three, Dad began to pastor at Gasconade. As Mom and Dad prayed that God would supply their needs, a family in town who owned a grocery store came with groceries.

We lived close to a railroad, and hobos soon learned where to come for food. Mom fixed a table and chairs on the back porch especially for them. One day as she saw a tramp coming through the gate, however, she felt God say, “Don’t let this man in.” She called us children, locked the door, and whispered, “Keep quiet!” Doris and I hid under the bed as Mom kept the baby Edith quiet. The man knocked and called, “Let me in! I know you are in there!” Finally he went away angry, but God kept His protective hand over us.

We moved to Evansville, Indiana, when I was five. Some church folks let us live in a one-room building. With a bed, stove, table and chairs, and baby bed, it looked like a playhouse, but we called it home. We lived there for about a year and a half. During that time, Dad preached at Boonville, Indiana, and other churches nearby. We always went to church no matter where we lived or whether we had proper clothing.
Then Dad pastored the Upper Hills Union Church thirty miles from Evansville near Griffin. My husband, Harold Farrar, now pastors there.

People from denominational churches for miles around, even from Kentucky and Illinois thirty to forty miles away, came to hear the new preacher. The all-day meetings with singing and dinner on the ground are still talked about.

Dad received three to four dollars a week for pastoring the church, but some people donated home-canned fruit, meat, and chickens. Mother often said, “Children, we don’t have much to eat but let’s pray.” Soon someone came bringing food.

Everyone enjoyed the days when the ladies made chowder and chicken and dumplings to be sold by the quart. Members as well as others donated food from their large gardens.

Daddy had an old Model T Ford dedicated to the Lord’s work. By the time we got to Sunday school, both running boards were full, two or three people sat on the hood, and we sat two or three deep inside.

Grandma and Grandpa Hassell lived in St. Louis when we lived at Upper Hills, so we always tried to go there for Christmas. Sometimes the flood waters came. If thecar drowned, we would just sit and sing songs about the Lord, waiting and praying for the car to start. Many times we got stuck in the dirt and gravel leading to the old blacktop highway. When those flood waters came, older ones carried little ones to the car parked on higher ground. When church time came, we went!

Once we had a flat tire on a hill. Basil Fetcher hopped out with the rest of us and started putting the car up on the jack. Mother stood in front of the car when suddenly the jack fell off. She fell but Basil shoved her out of the way of the rolling car.

We liked country living. Dad especially liked the hog butcherings, and we all liked the fresh pork meat. Wheatthreshing time excited us despite all the hard work. The neighbors and friends were like one big happy family. Even the sinners came to Sunday school and church.

Since I was the oldest, Dad took me with him to visit the sick. Mom worked hard and didn’t have much time to go. She washed on a rubboard, which meant hard work during long revivals as she washed for the evangelist also.

Mother didn’t have many dresses, but I complained about not having “clothes like the other kids.” Mama explained, “Honey, look at me. I don’t have nice things either.” “Well,” I said selfishly, “People don’t look at you like they do me. You don’t need but two or three dresses. ” Clothes never kept Mom away from church.

When my baby brother Richard was born, he took whooping cough while Mom was still in bed. We almost lost him, but the Lord came to the rescue.

One night after leaving church, someone said, “Look how the sky is lit up!” “Look’s like a fire,” Dad said, driving fast. A mile from home as we topped the levee, wesaw our house burning. We stood there crying as it burned to the ground. Dad had worked at an assessment job for the county along with other jobs beside preaching, so he had some money. He had bought Mom a new Maytag washing machine, had bought everyone a new coat and had stocked up on canned goods and groceries. We lost everything in that fire.

The John Guller family took us home with them. Later we moved to the Maier farm. With the help of the church and the community, Mom and Dad started over again.Jeannette was born while we lived at the Maier farm. I dressed my blue-eyed baby sister prettily and combed her blond curls. I loved that job!

Seven years later the doctor told Mom, “Twins.” Dad said, “Oh, no!” but it was, “Oh, yes!”

When I was in the sixth grade, Dad gave up the church, taking a job in Evansville. Then we moved to St. Louis, where the twins, Brenda Lou and Carolyn Sue, were born six weeks premature. Dad worked in an upholstering shop, but the twins have been a blessing to my parents, keeping them young.

I married, and seventeen months after the twins were born, I presented Mother and Dad with a grandson. Before long grandchildren were playing with the twins.

My parents moved around some before Dad pastored another church, but he preached wherever he had the opportunity. Sometimes preachers get discouraged when they have a family to support. But my daddy knew the power of God and His calling in his life. It was like fire shut up in his bones. When the twins were in the seventh grade, the folks took the church at Cambria, Illinois, and the twins helped them. They finished high school and married before Mother and Dad left to take the McClure, Illinois, church.

Dad always said, “I’m not giving up preaching, just slowing down.” He didn’t think he would accept another church, but the Buckner church wouldn’t take no for an answer. My parents enjoyed being there very much. The people were wonderful, but Dad had a heart attack and was unable to continue. They bought a small home in Tamaroa, Illinois. After another bad attack, Dad had a pacemaker put in.

While lingering between life and death, Dad had a beautiful vision of heaven. The gate opened partly and he saw angels around it, but they told him he could not go in yet. Like Hezekiah of old, Dad asked God to spare him. That has been over seven years ago. The doctor told him not to exert his body by preaching, but he does what he is called upon to do as God gives him strength.

The folks now make their home church at Duquoin, Illinois, where Brother McKinnies pastors. He takes care of them like family, which means so much to us children.

For their fifty-eighth anniversary, the Duquoin church had a reception for Mom and Dad. They invited all the family and many ministers from other churches. They went all out with a photographer, lots of food, and even a skit. What a precious memory for all of us!

Before long, Mom and Dad will celebrate their sixty sixth anniversary. They have had many hardships and sufferings, but God has blessed abundantly. His grace has been sufficient for them.