Rachel’s Journey to Messiah.

Been gone for a minute. I will post soon about an update on the graduate program and life, but for now we will start where I left off–my research on Rachel H. Flowers. Over the next few weeks, I am slowly updating older post and changing the look of the blog. So stay tune for some exciting changes. -Christina

Messiah College Archives, Photo Captions–“Photo prior to 1922 (when Anna Hostetter–far right-graduated” | “Rachel Flowers (incorrectly identified as Martha Bosley) | “Women (at right) Anna Hostetter, Martha Bosley, Elizabeth Kraybill”

As I prepared for the Rachel Helen Flowers Centennial Celebration, I re-examined Rachel’s biography, particularly my initial research question, what brought her to Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home? Two days before my keynote lecture (YES TWO DAYS BEFORE), I found a possible answer. Let’s turn to the image above. Rachel sits between Anna (Lane) Hostetter and Elizabeth Kraybill in either a study period or class.

Now, take a look at the 1917-1918 General Catalog for Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home. Under the commercial course, you will notice Rachel H. Flowers. A few names below Rachel’s, you’ll see Elizabeth Kraybill.

My Post (44)

Source: Eighth Annual Catalogue of the Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home. Chartered 1909. Grantham, Cumberland County, Penna. Calendar for 1917-1918. Messiah College Archives

Last, the 1920 Federal Census Record for the Household of Harry F. Flowers (Rachel’s father) in Brandtsville, Monroe Township, Pennsylvania.


Interested in searching for your family’s history, check out my previous post. Source: 1920 U.S. census, Monroe Township, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Cumberland County, p. 3 (stamped), dwelling 30, family 33, Harry Flowers; digital image, Ancestry.com, accessed January 1, 2016, http://ancestry.com.

Hard to see, but if two households below the Flowers resided the Kraybill family.  So we have a picture of Rachel beside Elizabeth Kraybill, Rachel and Elizabeth both studying within the Commercial Track, and at some point the two young women were neighbors. Could it be that answer to why Rachel attended Messiah is quite simple? Her friend attended the school. Elizabeth held strong ties to the college for she was the grand-daughter of the college’s first president, Bishop S.R. Smith.

Born on October 12, 1899, Elizabeth shared the name of her grandmother, Elizabeth Light Smith. She was only one year old than Rachel. Raised in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, her parents, Martin Engle Kraybill and Cora Jennie Smith Kraybill, raised their daughter in the Anabaptist faith and tradition. Martin owned and operated many farms and hydroelectric dams. Like many of her family members and Anabaptists in the area, Elizabeth attended Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training soon after the institution’s opening. Two years following her grandfather’s death in 1916, a young Elizabeth lost her mother to the influence epidemic of 1918. Her father remarried to Virgie Felker Lehman German (1896-1992). The couple later separated with Martin migrating to Colorado to move in with his brother. Despite Martin’s separation from Virgie, Elizabeth financially assisted her step-mother and siblings through her employment as a nurse. In the late 1940s, she married Cyrus Avery Brechbiel and through their union she became a mother to his three children. She, like Rachel, had no children of her own.

Elizabeth, the oldest Kraybill child and a licensed nurse, visited her family on weekends. During her visits, she often loaded some of the children into her car, drove to the grocery store, and purchased bags of groceries for the coming week.

—Dorcas I. Steckbeck, “Overcoming Obstacles, Fulfilling Needs: Virgie Felker Lehman German Kraybill,” 193-197.

I will continue to answer the question that initial drove my research—why did Rachel come to Messiah—by studying this friendship between Rachel Flowers and Elizabeth Kraybill.


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