William Burton McCafferty: Pioneer Assemblies of God Minister, Evangelist, and Educator

This Week in AG History — November 4, 1916

By Glenn W. Gohr

Originally published on AG News, 04 November 2021

William Burton McCafferty (1889-1963) overcame privation and persecution to become a pioneer Assemblies of God minister, evangelist, and educator.

At age 21, McCafferty attended an interstate camp meeting at Fort Worth, Texas. There he answered the altar call and was saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit and also healed from a disease which had suffered since birth.

It is no wonder he felt called into full-time ministry in whatever avenue the Lord directed. First he began itinerant preaching. He attended a short-term Bible school in Fort Worth directed by D. C. O. Opperman in February 1912 and was ordained that same year by his pastor, A. P. Collins. Among his travels he felt it was important to join with other Pentecostals who met at Hot Springs, Arkansas, in April 1914. By attending, he became a charter member of the Assemblies of God.

Living as an itinerant pastor, he often had to work odd jobs in order to survive. Life wasn’t easy, and at times he suffered persecution. “I recall those early days vividly,” declared McCafferty. “We had no money…. It took days to make some trips which today can be completed in hours.” He told of living in a boxcar and working hard in a lumber camp to get a meal. At one job he picked cotton for six bits per hundred and dinner. The dinner was the best part of the deal. On another occasion he and a coworker were traveling around looking for an opportunity to preach. McCafferty said, “Walking on the hot sand made my coworker wince, for he had no soles in his shoes. The tin sardine can lids which he used for soles became unbearably hot.” At a tent meeting in Remlig, Texas, some vandals sliced the tent ropes and before they left town, a man threatened McCafferty and his coworker with a knife.

Although he was short in stature (5 feet 4 inches tall), he stood tall for the Kingdom of God. He ministered in quite a number of camp meetings and revivals, pastored churches, and was a long-time instructor at what is now Southwestern Assemblies of God University. In 1915 he married Catherine Flagler at Overton, Texas. She supported him in his ministry. She served many years as a dean and secretary of records, and later as alumni secretary for Southwestern. The McCaffertys’ only child died young, but they became Mother and Dad to hundreds of students at the school.

McCafferty pastored churches in Davis City, Iowa, Greenwood, Arkansas, Wichita Falls and Fort Worth, Texas, among others. He served as a presbyter in three states: New Mexico, Arkansas, and Texas. In 1916, when he was living in Iowa, he was assistant superintendent of the West Central District of the Assemblies of God.

He wrote nearly 200 articles for the Pentecostal Evangel, as well as contributing to a number of other early Pentecostal papers. His writings included reports of revivals and articles on Christian living, Pentecostal beliefs, eschatology, and theology, as well as poetry.

He was connected with Southwestern for thirty-two years, teaching many courses on Bible and doctrine. Subjects he taught there included the Old Testament, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Messianic Prophecy, Bible Doctrine, Dispensational Truths, Systematic Theology, and Homiletics. He also wrote two volumes on the Pauline Epistles and produced two unpublished works on dispensationalism and on Messianic prophecy. In retirement he was honored as Dean Emeritus. General Treasurer James K. Bridges recalled, “He was such a versatile person. There was nothing he couldn’t teach.” Joe Adams, former treasurer of the North Texas District said, “In stature he was small, but in biblical knowledge and teaching he was a giant.”

Read an article by McCafferty published 105 years ago, “And Knowledge Shall Be Increased,” on page 5 of the November 4, 1916, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “The Works of God,” by Bennett F. Lawrence

• “What It Costs to be a Missionary,” by Jessie Hertslet

• “Encouragement from West Africa,” by Harry E. Bowley

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

1 Comment

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One response to “William Burton McCafferty: Pioneer Assemblies of God Minister, Evangelist, and Educator

  1. Shirley Wilkinson Riggs

    When my Dad, Rev. Elbert R. Wilkinson, was maybe as much as 4 years of age, Bro. McCafferty would visit the Wilkinson home, take my Dad on his lap and tell him that some day he would be a great preacher! Bro. McCafferty was a frequent visitor in the home and did this each time he visited. Little wonder that Elbert Wilkinson went into full-time ministry at age 17. In his second pastorate, he pastored for over 42 years and was Presbyter of the North Fort Worth Section for 20 years. During that time he served 9 years on the Board of Directors for Evangel College, later University.
    Without a doubt, Rev. William Burton McCafferty was a great influence in the life and ministry of Rev. Elbert R. Wilkinson.

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