Alfred Taylor Howard
) was a Bishop
of the Church of the United
Brethren in Christ
, elected in 1913.
Birth and Family
born in the rural community of Pleasant Valley, Prairie Ronde
Township, near the town of Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo County, Michigan.
His is the story of a farm boy who
responded to the call of the far horizon to become a world citizen
and a Christian witness to the uttermost part of the earth.
The Pleasant Valley neighborhood, though a tiny dot on the map, was
in fact singularly cosmopolitan. Early settlers had come from many eastern
States, and some directly from England, Holland and Germany.
diversity may have placed in this boy's mind the idea of the
bigness of the world.
Alfred was the son of Cornelius Howard, who was born in Michigan in
1841. His mother was Harriett Guilford. Alfred's paternal
grandfather was of English lineage,
arriving in Michigan from White Plains, New York.
His paternal grandmother was Margaret
Osterhut of Dutch
Cornelius was deeply involved and powerfully loyal to the Church of
the United Brethren in Christ. He was a frequent lay member to the St. Joseph Annual Conference, twice to the
General Conference, and served for ten years as a Trustee of
Harriett Howard was likewise devoted, if
unobtrusive in her religious expression. As a boy Alfred was
uplifted by the sound of his mother's voice raised in prayer as she
went about her housework.
Boyhood and Early Education
Alfred's favorite reading in boyhood was the Youth's
a weekly magazine for young people, filled with
hair-raising tales of Indian fights on the frontier. As a man
Alfred expressed regret that those exciting stories always assumed
the Indians had no rights on the land where they were reared and on
which their ancestors had lived for generations.
Alfred attended country school, then the Schoolcraft High School
, four miles from his home. His
favorite high school subject was physical geography
. He also enjoyed
, which prompted in him for
many years the desire to study medicine
the age of eighteen he taught school one year in his neighborhood.
year he taught near Davenport, Nebraska.
Young Alfred was often encouraged to attend college. One of his
encouragers was his pastor, the Rev. J.L. Parks. Thus, it was
decided that Alfred should attend Roanoke Classical Seminary in
Indiana. The Principal was Professor D.N. Howe, a graduate of
Otterbein and of the Union
Biblical Seminary in Dayton, Ohio (now United
Alfred enjoyed these college
preparatory studies under Professor Howe. After this one year,
however, because the Roanoke Seminary moved to North
Manchester, Indiana, Alfred decided to attend Otterbein in Westerville,
The autumn of 1889 found Alfred Howard, at the age of twenty-one,
enrolled in the academy of Otterbein College. One year later he
matriculated to the college itself. His days at Otterbein were
happy ones, and he never tired in later years of relating his
college memories. Alfred was an earnest student, with a mind
thirsty for truth, a characteristic he retained the rest of his
life. Nevertheless, bad eyesight severely handicapped him, and he
had great difficulty getting glasses which fit properly.
Heredity and an active farm upbringing gave Alfred a powerful
physique. In college he played varsity
, alternating between
center and guard. Frequently he was pivot man in the famous
Alfred sang first tenor in the Otterbein Quartet, the first of a
series of such organizations in the history of the college. One one
occasion the quartet sang at the church of W.W. Williamson, who had
a son John. The latter was fascinated by the singing collegians and
vowed to also some day go to Otterbein and sing in the quartet. In
due time John Finley
did both, and much more than that. He continued his
musical interests after graduation, organizing a choir and a choir
school: founding the Westminster Choir College in
Dayton, Ohio, (presently in Princeton, New Jersey), which became world famous.
Alfred directed the Presbyterian
Church choir in Marion,
Ohio, traveling from Otterbein each weekend.
pastor was a Rev. Mr. Thomas, whose young son Norman became well
acquainted with Alfred. Later Norman
also became a Presbyterian minister, but is better known
as the frequent candidate for President of the United
on the Socialist
The Young Men's
on the Otterbein campus made a rich
contribution to Alfred Howard's life. S.D. Gordon
secretary of college Y.M.C.A. work in Ohio at that time, and
John R. Mott
, young men just out of
Cornell and Princeton, respectively, were frequent speakers at
In 1890 at one such conference John R. Mott made an address which
engraved three unforgotten sentences on young Howard's mind:
summer Alfred even attended the famous college Y.M.C.A. conference
- Hide the Word of God in your Heart (Bible
- Tie yourself to one man (personal evangelism)
- Keep your eyes fixed on the uttermost part of the earth
Howard met May Day Stevenson at Otterbein. They conducted their
courtship on the campus, but he proposed to her one summer by
Alfred and May were married on their graduation day: 15 June 1894,
in the home of Professor Henry Garst, who performed the ceremony in
the presence of many college friends. Soon thereafter the happy
couple were on the high seas sailing for the mission field in
Call to Missionary Service
Alfred Taylor Howard was deeply religious. He believed profoundly
in the efficacy of prayer. As a boy he had formed the habit of
prayer, and as a college student prayed regularly. In later life,
while taking long walks, he would pray for long lists of persons
and causes, setting aside certain days of the week for various
portions of his long prayer lists.
Toward the end of his college days, Alfred wondered about what his
life-work should be. So he made this a matter for prayer. During
the summer before his senior year, while working on his father's
farm, he chose a certain empty stall in the barn as his "quiet
place" for daily intercession. Later he wrote, "I do not know
when in my life I ever prayed more earnestly for definite
In his handwritten memoirs, found after his death, he tells of the
outcome of his prayer:
- "One day early in August, Dr. William M. Bell, an old friend of father's, was to
speak at a county Sunday-school
convention in Kalamazoo. Doctor Bell had been elected
general secretary of the Home, Frontier and Foreign Missionary
Society of the United Brethren
Church. My brother Roy and I drove to Kalamazoo to
hear him. We saw him for just a few minutes before his
address to the convention. He said he wished to see me
after the meeting. Accordingly at the close of the program
he came through the crowd toward me, and to my surprise,
stated, "Howard, we want you to go to Africa."
- Milhouse, Paul W.,
Nineteen Bishops of the Evangelical United Brethren
Church, Nashville, The Parthenon Press, 1974.
- Koontz, Paul Rodes, and Roush, Walter Edwin, The
Bishops: Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Dayton,
Ohio: The Otterbein Press, 1950.