in South Central Illinois
In the winter of 1911, month of December, a family by the name of James Blunt came from Arkansas and settled on a farm four miles south east of Edgewood. This family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Blunt, and part of their children, and those at home were Gertie, Ottie, Alma, Velma and Jimmie. They had received the Holy Ghost in Arkansas. Harry Blunt and his wife came too. Harry was a minister.
In January of 1912, Harry and his sister, Gertie, held a three weeks meeting at Arcadia School, about three miles east of their home. In going to these services they sometimes walked past a school building which was near their home. One cold, snowy night walking home, they saw a big ball of fire in front of the school. It seemed very strange to see such a sight when no one was near. Soon after that they got permission from the school board to have a meeting there. This school house was called Center Grove. The Pentecostal fire began to fall. Bro. Blunt's brother, Fred, and his wife soon joined the party. Fred was also a minister. The meeting continued for many weeks. People came and filled the house each night in spite of rain, snow, mud and cold. This was a real old fashioned Pentecostal meeting. Some 35 or 40 people were baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.
In the early summer the school board closed the doors to the meeting, so Bro. Blunt moved to Keen Chapel Church, a union church about 4 miles north west of Iola. The meeting here was good also, in which several were filled with the Holy Ghost. This place was too far for the Center Grove people to attend, so a family by the name of James Shahan opened their house for meetings. Here I received my first call to preach, so I was in charge of the services. We had some wonderful times. Here I saw my mother and Grandma Pemberton shout the first time in my life.
Later my father, Alonzo Byers, opened his home for a meeting place. Later he donated the lumber and land to build a tabernacle. It was called Byers Grove. Bro. A. F. Varnell from Vandalia came to dedicate this tabernacle. Meetings continued here for several years.
Bro. John Woolridge was helping in meetings when we decided to move to Iola. People here were well acquainted with Pentecost. We rented a garage building for 3 or 4 years, then we bought a store and office building on a nice large lot. This building was made into a good comfortable church. It was dedicated by Rev. Ben Pemberton of St. Louis, Missouri. Soon we added to this building, and as the church grew in membership, we decided to move the building to a place where we could have more room. New seats were added. This building was dedicated by Rev. Nathaniel Urshan of Indianapolis, Indiana. I remained pastor until September 1958, when after some 40 years of labor, I resigned.
A few of the first to receive the Holy Ghost here along with me in 1912 were Rev. Ben Pemberton, Rev. John Woolridge, Andy Lybarger, Ella Shahan, the entire Eskew family, some 35 or 40 in all. Harry Blunt, the founder of Pentecost here is still living at Keysport, Illinois.
I was ordained in Centralia, by Brother Harry Blunt and Brother Earl Hill while the work there was young.
I attended the meeting when Pentecost was first held in a tent south west of Vandalia. Praise God from who all blessing flow!
as written by Hira Byers, 1963
Published in the Calvary Chronicle Special Edition
Volume No. 6, Issue No. 1, Date: 06/03/01