Harry Irwin Briggs, newspaper article

My mom sent me this newspaper article about her dad, and my grandfather, H I Briggs.

A Broad Pastor at Broadway
Rev. Briggs a “Westerner”
Wife is “Right Hand Man”
Now Drew Student
The little Methodist church at Broadway is one of the most successful churches in this section despite the fact that larger and more attractive churches are found nearby. There is a spirit of friendliness and cordiality found here where neighbors belonging to several different denominations meet for fellowship and worship and make the stranger want to come again.

A large contributing factor to this success is the personality and methods of the present pastor, the Rev. H. Irwin Briggs, who has been at Broadway since last April. Mr. Briggs is a “breezy Westerner,” a six-footer, and a man of action. He was brought up on a ranch; educated himself for a school teacher, became a “cowboy preacher” and later, a Home Missionary in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Mrs. Briggs, a former school teacher of Nebraska, has been his “right hand man” and proficient pardner in the work, since 1919. Mr. Briggs is in the East studying at Drew theological Seminary from which he will get his degree and his ordination soon.

The Briggs’ came east in a “rattlety bang” Ford, camping across the continent with two older children and a two month old baby. They were caught in a terrific rainstorm and the only thing they were able to keep dry was the baby, Mary Rosamond. John Clinton Briggs joined them since they came to New Jersey and though an “easterner” he is one of the liveliest members of the family and can hold his own with his “western sisters.”

Many a tale of the West Mr. Briggs draws from his hundreds of experiences and uses to interest his Eastern audiences. He is most interesting when he tells of risking his life working in a silver mine, when a premature explosion almost ended him, or when he met a catamount whose tracks were later found to be bigger than a bear’s or when he assisted in rounding up a gang of church-distrubing cattle-rustlers, desperadoes and roustabouts.

But one of Mr. Briggs’ best is the story of his first charge. It happened that in the country where he was sent to preach, the “sky pilot” was not appreciated. A tenderfoot parson from the East had been there a year before him, and the Easterner had made some mistakes in Western etiquette. So when Mr. Briggs arrived on the scene he had a reputation to live down. But also, unknown to his reception committee, he had lived on a ranch himself and he knew the life.

The first thing which his gentle host did was to set him on an insane vicious “locoed” horse. Mr. Briggs thought he was just bad and did not know the horse had partaken of that loco weed, but he rode him and he rode him well enough to satisfy his host. Not so the host’s son, who pretended to sympathize and said he should have a better horse the next day. (So he did). After that, and Mr. Briggs was still alive, six cowboys hitched a couple of wild broncos to a mowing machine and told him to mow the lawn. It was a somewhat hazardous task, but after a wild ride of a mile or so the broncos were finally subdued and driven back to the corral By this time the parson had gained the admiration of his cowboys, and ever after that they would do anything he asked them to do. They were ready to fight for him.

Within six months Mr. Briggs was one of the best known public characters in the region. He had organized clubs and societies such as never before had been seen there and life-long enemies came together and shook hands. One of his ideas was a mounted cowboy brass band and this would have been a reality if he had stayed. But his superiors decreed that he leave for other parts unorganized, and a new man was sent into the territory.

From experiences like this Mr. Briggs draws one of the main tenets of his philosophy, which is that Christianity can be talked about, but much better, it can be lived. It works. Through it people can be friends and children of God together, as in no other way. And living it is far superior to talking about it.

In addition to this Mr. Briggs was 25 months in the american Army during the war, serving in the St. Mihiel offensive and nursing many a wounded and dying buddy over there, was gassed himself and nearly passed out with the “flu.”

He has served the church and the cause of Christ in the famous Badlands of South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska; he participated in a logging drive when the old North woods was being hewn down; and he has preached to men of many states and stations in life. He has had many opportunities to try his personal bravery.

But says, Mr. Briggs, proudest of all am I of my family, and of the greatness of Jesus Christ. He says this with a slow Western drawl, as he works or the church at Broadway, and studies at drew.

Previous to accepting the Broadway charge, Mr. Briggs had served two other rural churches in Jersey. The first in the southern part of the state, where in a “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” way he loved most of his congregation whose principal means of livelihood was the raising and marketing of cranberries. So into the bogs he went, and after a short period of joshing by the pickers was able to keep his head up in milking the bushes of the luscious berries.

At Sparta in North Jersey he managed two village congregations (Sparta and Ogdensberg) and also busied himself in assembling the scattered flock in the hills of Mount Hopewell. The Mt. Hopewell Community church had burned to the ground a few years prior to that, and so they came together and worshipped under the trees, sitting on benches made from the slabs from sawed trees.

And his third stop in Jersey, of course, is Broadway, where he and also his congregation are enjoying his work.

However, Mr. Briggs is not to be taken for anything but a burly Westerner. In an Eastern parlor he is a distinct addition to a party, and the secrets here published about him would not be guessed if he were not asked where he came from, what he has done, etc. His manners and his soft way of speaking fit him for the drawing room.

Last conference, Mr. Briggs transferred to Broadway so that he would be nearer and could complete his course at the Theological Seminary at Madison, while at the same time he could carry on the work of the local church.

He is taking a course under the auspices of the Home Missions Board of the Methodist church and specializing in the Rural and Country church.

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