Pentecostal Pioneers: Stanley Warner McConaghy
By Joyce Macbeth Morehouse
On May 20, 1894, Stanley Warner, the eighth of nine children (five boys and four girls), was born to Andrew and Jane McConaghy. The McConaghys were Anglican but did not attend church regularly. Jane, an honest and upright lady, greatly influenced Stanley’s later years.
Stanley disliked school and failed to get the type of education he needed. In his early twenties he got a job working in the coal mines of Minto, New Brunswick, Canada, living nearby at Rothwell. He got involved with drinking and other worldly activities, singing and playing the violin, and entertaining at dances.
Miss Murphy, a missions worker, visited the community to organize a Sunday school. Needing teachers, she asked Stanley if he would take a class. Never having been involved with a church, he refused at first, but later answered, “Well, if you can get my friend Henry Brown to help me, then I’ll give it a try.” Henry consented and for a while, with the assistance of the quarterly, they managed to get by. Before long, however, they ran into problems. “One Sunday our lesson was about Paul sitting at the feet of Gamaliel. I didn’t know just what that was so I turned to my helper and said, ‘Henry, what does Gamaliel mean? Is that a mountain?’ Henry agreed that it must be.”
Stanley played for the dances all week, then after teaching Sunday school in the morning, he played poker all afternoon. But he began to get concerned about his friends, and when he asked one young man, Mel Parker, to go to church with him the man called him a hypocrite. Not fully comprehending the word hypocrite, Stanley decided that Mel had “simply crossed the deadline and was beyond hope.” Regardless of how drunk he was or what hour he came from the dance, however, Stanley knelt and said the Lord’s Prayer.
When work at the mines slowed down, Stanley returned to Fredericton. Meantime, his father died, and before Christmas Stanley took typhoid fever. For three months he hovered between life and death in the hospital. His roommate, another young man with typhoid, died, as did also a nurse who had cared for them. As he confronted eternity, darkness and fear gripped his soul. A visiting minister asked, “How is it with your soul? Young man, you need to know!” But he failed to tell him what to do.
Faced with possible death, Stanley thought of the times he and a friend had made fun of Salvation Army street meetings. He had gotten a washtub, turned it upside down, beat on it, and then call his godless friends to testify. He had laughed and poked fun at the people’s testimonies. As he recalled this, he prayed desperately, “Lord, if you’ll forgive me and heal me, I’ll serve You, but if You do not, I’ll die trusting in Your mercy.” He knew by the peace he felt that God had heard his cry. From that time he began to recover.
A few months later, Stanley married a lovely Minto girl, Lula Woods, but he forgot his promise to God and returned to his old lifestyle. The McConaghys had two sons, Tom and John, and a daughter, Muriel.
While Stanley worked as a shoe cutter at the Palmer shoe factory in Fredericton, the Reformed Baptist Church on King Street had special services with Lee Good from Maine. Lula went to the altar. One night Stanley decided to go along, and convicted of his ways, he remembered his promise to God. He could not sleep that night, so he knelt beside his bed, praying, “Lord, let me get to that altar tomorrow night and I’ll serve You.”
The next night he sat with Mel Parker. When the altar call was given, he rose with great difficulty and went forward. Beside him knelt a fifteen-year-old boy who was also to become a great pioneer of those early days– Clement Hyde. Stanley repented that night in 1924 and went home happy. He and Mel Parker poured forty bottles of home-brew down the sink. “Mind you, two old rum soaks with forty bottles of brew and throwing it all out,” he recalled.
After throwing out his brew, he went to Uncle Sam’s Secondhand Store and bought a Bible for a dollar so he could set up family altar. Together with other young converts-George Delong, Clem Hyde, and Thomas Hoff �he began to seek the Holy Ghost, which had not yet been poured out in Fredericton. They witnessed in churches in Ripples, Hardwood Ridge, Minto, Midlands, and Fredericton, New Brunswick, as well as the state of Maine. Albert Thompson furnished a Model T Ford for their travels.
During the Depression years they hadn’t much to travel on but prayer. Brother McConaghy recalled, “You’d think it was Pentecost! We had a hard time convincing people we were not ‘Holy Rollers’ but Reformed Baptists.”
One Sunday, Charlie McQuarrie (Bliss McQuarrie’s brother) said, “Stanley, there are some Pentecostal people having services in a tent on Woodstock Road.”
“What do you mean by Pentecost?”
“Well, they believe in speaking in tongues.”
“Speaking in tongues? Where do you get that?”
“It’s in the Bible. Come on up and hear them.”
Brothers Harvey, Charlie Flewelling, Earl Jacques, Wynn Stairs, and Clifford Crabtree, and the Davis Sisters, Susie and Caro, all sat on the platform. Stanley watched in amazement as Susie Davis shook under the power of God. They are certainly peculiar, he thought, but he was hungry for that power.
He and his friends sought it in the Reformed Baptist church. The zealous Reformed Baptists held services on Sundays. After McConaghy had preached one Sunday night, he spoke to a young man about coming to the altar. The young man just groaned. Not knowing too much about Holy Ghost conviction, Stanley left the young man groaning more than ever. A few years later, he met the man, Ellery Cady, again but this time he was baptized in Jesus’ name, filled with the Holy Ghost, and preaching the gospel.
On another occasion Stanley McConaghy and his friends gathered in a pasture at Hardwood Ridge to pray for their night service when another young man, Bill Drost, happened by. He stopped, listened to their prayers, and was hounded by them until he later gave his heart to God.
Tribulation did not pass Stanley by. He continued to hunger for Holy Ghost, but Satan never gave up. First their eighteen-month-old baby, Douglas, took spinal meningitis and died within a few days. A little later Lula became ill with a lump on her neck, was told she had tuberculosis and spent over a year in the sanitorium at Riverglade.
Stanley still traveled around for meetings, even attending some Pentecostal services. One night in the service at Neil’s Lane in Fredericton, he was asked to lead song service, and the blessing of the Lord came down. The saints danced, talked in tongues and praised the Lord. Later Stanley commented to Abby Staples (Verner Larsen’s first wife), “It was like being in a beehive.”
“Why didn’t you raise your hands and praise God too?” she responded.
Stanley’s wife came home from the hospital the next spring much improved. The lump in her neck left and she had gained weight. One evening she watched as Stanley prepared to go out, then asked, “Where are you going?”
“Over the river to be baptized in Jesus’ name,” he replied.
As he searched the Scriptures, the Lord dealt with him and convinced him of the truth of Jesus Name baptism. On the way, he met his Reformed Baptist friends, who asked, “Where are you headed?” They failed to understand his reasoning. “I thought you were already baptized,” they argued, but he went on to Brother Jacques’s house, where Brother Moody Wright was filling in for Brother Jacques, who was away for the summer. Brother
Wright gladly buried him in Jesus’ name, and Stanley commented, “I went on my way rejoicing.”
The Lord dealt with Stanley about preaching Jesus Name baptism at the Reformed Baptist services in Hardwood Ridge. First he resisted, thinking his friends would reject him, but then he stopped struggling and preached the message. “What a great message!” his friends said.
During this time, the McConaghys had a baby girl, Muriel. One morning when Stanley was preparing for work, he heard Lula call, “Stanley, you’d better not go to work today.”
“Are you not feeling well, Lula?” he asked.
“No. Jesus is coming to take me away.”
“Lula, don’t you want to live?”
“Goodbye, Stanley. I’ll meet you in heaven. Be good to the children. Jesus has come for me.” Without a struggle Lula closed her eyes and was gone.
In his sorrow, Stanley’s hunger for God intensified. He still went to the Baptist church, then one day God spoke to him. “If you want the Holy Ghost, you’ll have to go where they believe it.”
This was difficult for him to do, but several of his friends had already gone that way. Clem Hyde was seeking the Holy Ghost, and Stanley’s alcoholic brother had been filled with the Spirit, so in 1928 he decided to make the Pentecostal church in Devon (Fredericton) his home church.
He went to a prayer meeting to seek the Holy Ghost. As he prayed, several prayed with him: Brother and Sister Biles, Sister Draper, and Brother Albert Stickles. Brother Stickles, who had just received the Holy Ghost, said, “Let the Lord have your tongue, brother.” After he said this several times, Brother McConghy related, “I got very annoyed and went over by the organ to pray, but the Spirit had left me. As I tried to pray, the Lord spoke, ‘Go over and put your arm around that brother and tell him you are sorry for what you said.’ ” Although it was hard, he walked over to Brother Stickles, and the minute he said it, the Holy Ghost hit him like a bolt of lightning. Later he joked, “No one had to say, ‘Brother, let the Lord have your tongue.’ What a time I had!”
Brother McConaghy’s mother was too old to care for his children so he boarded them in Saint John. Almost overcome by loneliness, he found comfort in the Holy Ghost.
One day Clem Hyde approached him saying, “Let’s go down and hold some services in Geary.” “All right, Clem,” Stanley agreed, then bought new shoes. He later told about the eventful trip down the river. “We went on the train to the road to Geary. Rain poured down on the open ferry, soaking us. The water ran down my clothes into my new shoes and we had to walk seven miles to the services. I sure had sore feet!”
About this time, they decided to have a convention at Fredericton, so they went to Saint John, bought some old sails, and had the ladies to make a tent. They pitched the tent on the other side of the river, and the Howard A. Gosses came for special services. He taught and she preached.
The Lord reminded Brother McConaghy about the miners he had worked with in the Minto area. “They need to be reached.” He rented a hall at Newcastle Creek, but the women in the area protested. “We don’t want this crazy miner talking to our men.” Finally they forced him out of the hall. Meanwhile Clem Hyde joined him saying, “Let’s rent a hall in Minto.” Although they met opposition, they finally secured the community hall, but the night before services started, someone burned the hall. They went across town to Newcastle Bridge and met a disgruntled Baptist, Dan Langin, who no longer went anywhere. He let them have his store, despite his wife’s objections. They remodeled it and started services. The miners came and revival broke out.
Brother McConaghy returned to Fredericton, but Brother Hyde stayed on as pastor. Later he turned the work over to Brother Samuel Steeves, who founded a Bible school and prepared many preachers for gospel work. Brother McConaghy continued to travel, going from Sussex, where he worked with Brother Hatt, to Tracy with Brother Jacques.
While he pastored in Geary in 1932 he decided to remarry. He had known Marie Betts, a fine Christian girl, for a number of years. Later he related the story. “One day in Fredericton I asked her if she would marry me and look after my children. I did not paint a very rosy picture of the future to her. I told her plainly what to expect. I was a poor Pentecostal preacher without a home, no furnishings, and no car to drive, but I would try to care for her and together we would trust the Lord to care for us. Well, she consented and I said, ‘I’ll be up to Fredericton on March 9 (Thursday), and we’ll get Brother Jacques to marry us. It would be a quiet wedding. Say nothing to anyone and you can come back to Geary with me on Friday.’
“Well, the day in March rolled around. It rained, snowed, and blew. I thought, Only Marie knows, so maybe we can just put it off awhile, but I started to walk the seven miles through rain and sleet. I caught the train and landed at Fredericton, and what do you suppose? Marie had told a lot of folks, and they were waiting to have a church wedding for us.”
Stanley spent the remainder of 1933 in Geary and then moved to a place called Jerusalem, where he pitched a tent. He spent the winter and started to build a tabernacle, but his plans fell through. In 1935 he moved to New Horton where several received the Holy Ghost. This began the work in Albert County.
The biggest event of the year for old-time preachers was the Newcastle Bridge convention. Everyone tried to be there for fellowship. Brother McConaghy wanted to go but had no car. On one of Brother Hyde’s visits he wrote a letter to the Davis sisters in Saint John, asking for money for a car for Brother McConagby. They sent forty dollars, and with another forty, which young John earned cutting pulp, they bought a used car.
Gas was the next problem. The gas gauge wasn’t working, so using a stick to measure, they headed for Sussex. “If I can get to Sussex, Brother Burns will have me preach and give me a dollar or so.” Although Brother Burns already had a speaker, he did give Brother McConaghy fifty cents. Rolly Thorne’s dad invited them to dinner and gave them fifty cents, so they went on, stopping in Chipman for the night with Abby and Verner Larsen, who pastored there.
At the convention, John Tranquilla told Stanley that God had shown him that Stanley would be the next pastor at Millville. “But, brother, God hasn’t spoken to me, so I’ll have to pray about it,” he replied. In spite of this response, Brother McConaghy went to Millville in 1935, and a breach was healed as the people drew together in unity.
In September of 1936, Pa and Ma Sweeny came to Millville for revival. Although they were Trinitarians, while they were there, they saw the light on Jesus Name baptism and a great revival swept the area.
In spite of the great revival, the McConaghys’ stay was not all sunshine. They rented Milford Stairs’s home and were using a stove they had borrowed from him. One day he came by and said, “I’m going to Jim Hall’s for dinner. When I return, have the stove ready to go.” “But, Brother, we can’t do that! We’re already cooking dinner. The stove will never be cool in time to move it.” In spite of this and Sister McConaghy’s tears, they had the stove ready when Milford returned. They had even more difficulty replacing it. Before they found one that would work, they tried a total of nine stoves!
At Millville they had a great revival with Sister Jackson, who had worked with Brother Dearing in Bangor. Later she was the camp speaker at the Newcastle Bridge convention.
Then Wynn Stairs asked Stanley to go with him to Prince Edward Island. As they started home Brother Stairs said, “I hear Clem Hyde is having meetings in a church at Grey Rapids. Let’s go the back way and come out at the church.” When they arrived Brother Hyde spotted them and invited Brother Stairs to preach and Stanley to give an altar call, with the admonition, “Don’t put too much pressure on.” “When I took over I had one thought in mind–to get people to the Lord. I sang and told some of my stories and soon we had the whole congregation at the altar, except two ladies.”
While at Millville Brother McConaghy also held services at Waterville. When he returned from Prince Edward Island, he resigned his eight-year pastorale at Millville. Because he had eye trouble and had lost his sight in one eye, his family doctor, Dr. Jewett, advised him, “Go to the specialist in Fredericton.” Dr. Ross Wright advised surgery but Dr. Jewett said, “Go to Montreal for a second opinion.” They decided to operate. Dr. Jewett told the surgeon, Dr. Took, about Brother McConaghy’s circumstances and the surgeon did not bill him.
Although Brother McConaghy still lived in Millville, he now pastored in Waterville. The owner of his house wrote that on a particular day he wanted him out of the house. During this wartime, houses were hard to rent. When Brother McConaghy mentioned that he needed a house, someone spoke up, “I know where you can get a house cheap.” It turned out that two houses were built back to back. The owner had sold one but the other had to be moved, so Brother McConaghy bought it and also some land. He put a cement basement under it and finally got moved in before winter.
While pastoring here, he held meetings for Brother Stanley in Bristol, Connecticut, and visited Andrew Urshan’s church in New York. New York delighted him. “I was like Alice in Wonderland after coming
out of the woods of New Brunswick to this city of lights, tall buildings, and underground streets.”
When he returned home, he went to help Brother Jacques on King Street in Fredericton. While there, he got word that his wife had received a call from Leonard Parent in Michigan inviting him there. So he went for twenty-nine days (the maximum for a Canadian visitor at that time). A great revival broke out. When he got home he received a call from George Cook of Foxboro, Massachusetts, wanting him to come there. He went, with similar results, but before he got home, his brother Douglas had died in Fredericton.
In 1945 he became pastor in Woodstock, then in 1961 he moved to Doaktown to pastor. He retired in 1966 but continued to work on the district paper, The Family Circle, which he had started in 1957. He had his own column, “Down Memory Lane,” from which many of these excerpts are taken.
On August 15, 1971, while his wife Marie held his hand, Brother McConaghy slipped peacefully away. Marie was at his side through most of his illness from the fall of 1970. In like manner she had stood by him through many hardships and trials in those early days of Pentecost. In addition to the two sons and one daughter of his first marriage, she had borne him three sons, Donald, Gerald, and Stanley, and two daughters, Shirley and Ruth.
Wynn Stairs preached Stanley McConaghy’s funeral on August 18 at the Pentecostal church in Fredericton, a fitting location, for he had first repented in the Baptist church in this area and spent most of his time winning friends and ministering here.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS COMPILED BY MARY H. WALLACE, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1992, PAGES 163-174. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.