Alice Belle Garrigus and Pentecostalism in Newfoundland

Garrigus_1400bThis Week in AG History — June 24, 1950

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 25 June 2020

Alice Belle Garrigus (1858-1949) was only five feet tall, unmarried, and 52 years of age when she sensed God call her in 1910 to help pioneer the Pentecostal movement in Newfoundland.

Born into an Episcopalian family in Rockville, Connecticut, Garrigus spent the first half of her life in various locations in New England.

At 15 she began teaching in rural schools. Desiring further schooling she returned to Normal School and then spent three years (1878-1881) at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). Leaving the seminary a year before graduation, she resumed teaching. Through the influence of a colleague, Gertrude Wheeler, Garrigus accepted Christ as her Savior in 1888. Both women left on a 10-month excursion to Europe.

Returning to the United State, Garrigus again taught school, but she was spiritually restless. She wanted a deeper walk with God and began reading Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. “This I read,” Alice wrote, “often on my knees — praying fervently: ‘Oh God, if there be such an experience, won’t you bring me into it?’”

Garrigus and Wheeler then joined the Congregational Church. Her friend Gertrude later went to Africa as a missionary and died there. About 1891, Garrigus gave up her teaching profession to work in a home for destitute children and women. Next she moved to Rumney, New Hampshire, where she came in contact with the First Fruit Harvesters Association, a small evangelical denomination focused on the evangelization of New England. Garrigus served as an itinerant preacher with the First Fruit Harvesters between 1897 and 1903.

During 1906, Garrigus reread the Bible and earnestly sought to understand what made Jesus’ disciples different following the Day of Pentecost. Around this same time, she heard about the revival taking place at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles.

In 1907, at a Christian and Missionary Alliance camp meeting at Old Orchard, Maine, she met Frank Bartleman, a veteran of the Azusa Street revival and an unofficial chronicler of the Pentecostal movement. Bartleman “stood for hours,” wrote Garrigus, “telling us of the deeper things of God.” After he left the camp meeting, Garrigus, Minnie Draper, and others met in an old barn to pray, and there Alice Belle Garrigus received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. She continued preaching at Rumney and Grafton, Massachusetts, and other places, but began feeling impressed to found a mission in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

One of her protégés at Bridgeport, Connecticut, was Charles Personeus, superintendent of the John Street Mission. Personeus wrote, “When Miss Garrigus was with me in the John Street Mission, I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that changed the mission to First Pentecostal Mission.” In 1917, Charles Personeus and his wife, Florence, went to Juneau, Alaska, as missionaries for the Assemblies of God.

Together with the W. D. Fowlers, a missionary couple she had known since 1889, Alice Belle Garrigus traveled to Newfoundland, arriving in the capital city of St. John’s in December 1910. The three established Bethesda Mission in a rented building in the downtown area on New Gower Street, which opened on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1911. Garrigus’ preaching at Bethesda emphasized conversion, adult water baptism, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the imminent return of Christ. Numerous lives were changed because of the ministry at Bethesda. After little more than a year, the building was purchased, and by the next year the building was enlarged to accommodate the increasing number of people attending the services. In 1912, the Fowlers had to leave Newfoundland for health reasons, and that left Garrigus in charge.

The Pentecostal movement in Newfoundland grew slowly during the next decade, since Garrigus’ ministry remained centered in the St. John’s area.

After a crusade in 1919 by evangelist Victoria Booth-Clibborn Demarest, interest in Pentecostalism grew. New converts started new missions, and one of these, Robert C. English, eventually became co-pastor with Garrigus at Bethesda Mission.

Alice Belle Garrigus’ work with Bethesda Mission eventually led to the founding of a Pentecostal organization in Newfoundland. On Dec. 8, 1925, the “Bethesda Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland” was chartered. The word “Bethesda” was dropped in 1930.

The first general superintendent of this organization was Robert C. English, followed by Eugene Vaters, A. Stanley Bursey (all three who worked closely with Garrigus), and others. In 1949 the people of Newfoundland voted to become Canada’s newest province, and this organization and the number of churches has continued to grow. The current name is The Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (PAONL). It is a member of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship and has strong ties with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, the Assemblies of God, and other denominations within the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA).

Alice Garrigus’ nearly 40 years in Newfoundland were very busy. She remained there for the rest of her life and continued to be a principal figure in the Pentecostal church, serving as an evangelist in charge of Bethesda Mission and also holding a number of executive positions in the PAONL. She passed away in August 1949 at Clarke’s Beach, Newfoundland, at the age of 91. Soon after her passing, a Pentecostal campground was established and called Camp Emmanuel. The Garrigus Memorial Tabernacle at the camp was named in her honor and dedicated in 1955.

A. Stanley Bursey, a former PAONL general superintendent, wrote: “We, who have had the opportunity to appraise her work and the result of same, can only conclude that when God calls, He makes no mistakes.”

Alice Belle Garrigus was a prolific writer. In 1950, the Pentecostal Evangel published an article by her, titled “Eating on the Heap,” which discusses Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban, making a covenant that was solidified with a mound of stones called “a heap.” Afterwards they ate together on the heap to show that past wrongs and hurts would be forgotten and that love would prevail.

Read “Eating on the Heap,” on page 3 of the June 24, 1950, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “I Sat Where They Sat,” by J. Narver Gortner

• “The Passing and the Permanent,” by Robert C. Cunningham

• “Missions — New and Old,” by H. C. Ball

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel
archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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