Pentecostal Pioneers: Milford Stairs

Pentecostal Pioneers: Milford Stairs
By Joyce Morehouse

A hard-working man, Judson Stairs bought and cleared land in the little community of West Waterville, New Brunswick. He was still working on it in 1895 when, on September 30, a fourth baby was born into the family. The family had three boys: Ernest, Burns, and Hughie; and four girls: Ida, Ruby, Rose, and Alma. They named this fourth son Milford.

As a youth Milford volunteered for service in World War I. He boarded the ship Missinabbi. As they pulled away from their native soil, Milford went up on the top deck to watch the waves break over the side. A great wave of seasickness overtook him. It was not enough, however, to thwart the young man’s enthusiasm for total involvement They sailed to England and on October 13 went to Shorn Cliffe for training drill until January 1.

From there, Milford was sent across the English Channel to Morel, just behind Vimy Ridge. He was with the Third Ammunition Column and for a horses. While he waited for a transfer to while he shoed the Third Division, he was sent to the First Ammunition Column. There he delivered ammunition to those in the front lines of battle. Finally, he got a transfer to the Thirty-First Battery.

With the Thirty-First Battery Milford found himself in the midst of the fray, fighting in such battles as Passiondale, Amiens Drive, and Vimy Ridge. On August 8, as a volunteer, he made a trip over the top with the Princess Pat Battalion.

On November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed, but the outstanding event in Milford’s mind was that on November 10, he was in no man’s land under German fire. After the signing of the armistice, he went to Scotland on leave and sailed from there back home to Saint John, first landing in Quebec after a thirteen-day sea passage.

While serving his country, Milford won a number of medals as well as a letter of commendation from King George V. He was discharged from service on May 14, 1919.

After returning from overseas, Milford came to the Lord when Brother John Dearing brought the message of Jesus Name baptism to New Brunswick. He baptized several people including Edgar Grant, Leonard Parent, and Milford, Wynn, and Quincy Stairs. In 1922, Milford was ordained into the ministry.

In 1924 Milford assisted in tent meetings, along with several other young ministers. They pitched a tent on Woodstock Road and first introduced Pentecost to Fredericton. One of the brethren later recalled that “Milford would get excited and start quoting Scripture as loudly as he could, and the more excited he became, the louder he yelled.”

In July 1929 Milford had a flat tire as he drove through Clarendon, New Brunswick. He went into a nearby store and asked, “Can someone take me to the next village to get a tire?” The proprietor of the store, Noble Johnston, consented to do so, then invited his daughter, Marguerite, to go along with them. She declined, but later her mother invited Milford in and introduced him to Marguerite. They learned that he was holding special meetings nearby, so Marguerite went to hear him preach. The following year on June 29, 1930, Maggie Johnston became Milford Stairs’s bride.

At this time Milford pastored at Millville, so Maggie joined him there. The people loved their pastor and his new wife. A great worker, Brother Stairs soon managed to move from the hall where they held services and build a new church. They also had their own home in Millville, but just as they were getting established, their new home burned. Their first child, Carol, was born here. (Today Carol lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.)

Brother Stairs had a most unusual and peculiar characteristic. When he would pray for someone’s healing, people could be sure his faith had touched God and the work was done when he started whistling in the Spirit.

When the Stairs family left Millville, they went to a relatively new work in Ripples, a small community where God had reached out to save several people. While the Stairses were in Ripples, their baby boy was born, but he only lived a few days. Because Brother Stairs had longed for a son, he was almost beside himself with grief. He went into the little church in Ripples, and God miraculously visited him in his sorrow and restored his spirit.

He spent many hours working on the parsonage and building the church in the community and won the respect of all who knew him. A tremendous student of the Word, he was my first pastor, as my parents had only recently been saved and were totally reliant on the teaching of this man of God.

Brother Stairs started the work at Houlton, Maine, and at Montecello he baptized twenty-four from a trinitarian assembly, along with their two leaders, in Jesus’ name. Milford evangelized frequently, while his wife took care of the church. He preached in such places as Stickney, Millville, Sussex, Ripples, and Doaktown. They pastored in Chipman, Prince Edward Island, and on the Miramichi. Their youngest daughter, Sharon, was born in Doaktown.

For a number of years Milford worked beside his wife at the United Pentecostal Bible Institute in Marysville, where she held numerous positions. They first went there following the opening in 1955 and also started and pastored the Marysville church. They liked the place so well that Milford finally built a home on the banks of the Nashwaak River, with a big picture window overlooking the stream. Brother Stairs continued to attend service at times, although he was hospitalized off and on. He maintained a reasonable state of health for his age, and he turned ninety on September 30, 1985.

God surely blessed this faithful pioneer of the gospel and has doubly blessed those who have come to know the spirit of this fine man of God. He was a true soldier–a soldier of the cross for his God.

Editor’s note: Milford Stairs laid down his cross and the sword of the Lord on January 1, 1990.