Ministerial History

by Emmert F. Bittinger







PERIOD I–Before 1878, Brethren in and around Bridgewater, were members of Cooks Creek Congregation, with meetinghouse at Garbers. No separate meeting place at Bridgewater is known.

PERIOD II–1878-1907. Bridgewater Church was built, organized and supervised by Cooks Creek Congregation and its Elders.   Any ministers serving or being called to serve at Bridgewater still would have been called under the authority of Cooks Creek Elders. Members belonged to Cooks Creek Congregation.

PERIOD III–1907 and after. Bridgewater requested and obtained independence in 1907 from Cooks Creek Congregation, and thereupon organized and administered itself, calling or electing its own ministers and elders.

Note: Before the period of the Professional Ministry, Congregations were organized by territory. Territorial boundaries were carefully outlined and divided up between congregations. Families living in the territory of a given congregation, had their membership in that congregation and were under its discipline. They were expected to attend at that place. Following the organization of Bridgewater Church in 1907, one of the first tasks was to reorganized the territorial boundaries between Cooks Creek and Beaver Creek congregations to create a Bridgewater Congregational territory. Several revisions were required over several years until all were satisfied. Each revision brought new ministers and members into the congregation.


Following are the principal sources used in identifying our past Elders, ministers, and ministerial callings and advancements. Unfortunately, because of the complexity and difficulty of the task, I cannot guarantee that these lists are complete. No attempt has been made to list all ministers who moved into the congregation to work at the college, retire at the Village, etc. There would be many, many of these.

SOURCE I:   Record of the Faithful, 1881-82, pages 25 and 26.

SOURCE II: Brethren Family Almanac ministerial lists. Ministers are sometimes organized state by state and sometimes only alphabetized for entire nation. Until 1907, Bridgewater ministers were in the Cooks Creek Congregation. Number after name indicates ministerial degree.

SOURCE III: The Brethren Encyclopedia.

SOURCE IV: Sappington, Bridgewater Brethren, 1978. Sappington did not index ministerial callings, advancements or presiding Elders, later called Moderators OUR PRESIDING ELDERS:

SOURCE V: Bridgewater Church Council minutes:1907 to the present. These minutes of 1907 to 1978 were carefully examined by the members of the Ministerial Commission on June 12, 2001 and the findings transferred to Emmert Bittinger for inclusion in this summary of ministerial callings and advancements. The minutes from 1978 to the present were previously examined by Emmert Bittinger.


Bishop Solomon Garber, (1806-1892) Cooks Creek. Elected 1843. In charge of Cooks Creek Congregation from 1855. when he was advanced to Elder in 1855. He preached the Bridgewater church dedicatory sermon in 1878.


Bishop John A. Miller (1839-1905), grandfather of Naomi West. A prominent minister living on Tannery Lane near the River near Bridgewater. Second in seniority, he followed Bishop Garber as Elder in charge.

Joseph M. Kagey (1850-1923) (Zigler p. 189) who succeeded Bishop John A. Miller. Elder Kagey had a Dayton Post Office address, but lived and worked in the Bridgewater Territory during Period II. He also served as Bridgewater’s S. S. Sup‚t., in 1889. He had been advanced to eldership in 1898. He was presiding Elder of Cooks Creek from 1898 until his death. (Bre. Ency. III: 1672).


Emanual Long (1841-1915). He became Bridgewater‚s first presiding Elder, serving from year to year until the December Council of 1907. On that date, he was elected presiding Elder „indefinitely.‰ He was able to serve only a few years because of his age. He had been elected under Cooks Creek in 1898. His home was across the road northward up the hill near the woods where the house and barn still stand. Sapp. P. 79-80).

Hiram G. Miller (1852-1927), transferred with territory to Bridgewater, he became a prominent Bridgewater Minister, serving as Elder in Charge from ca.1912 to 1920). He also served as a Trustee of Bridgewater College. (Sapp. P. 80).

John S. Flory (1866-1961), Elected under Cooks Creek in 1905, he was advanced to 2nd degree at Bridgewater in 1908 and to Eldership in 1917. Hen became presiding Elder succeeding Hiram G. Miller in 1920 and served until 1940. (Sapp. 81, P. 118). He held many important positions at Bridgewater College.

Newton D. Cool (1874-1962). He was called to the ministry by Sangerville in 1905 and advanced to Elder there in 1908. A professor at Bridgewater College, he was elected as presiding Elder in 1940 and served during the war years until 1949. (Sapp. 82, 119).

Minor C. Miller (1889-1968). From the Pleasant Valley Congregation where he was called to the ministry in 1914, he was ordained Elder at Bridgewater Church in 1927. He was a Bridgewater College Professor and Presiding Elder 1949-1953.

Cecil C. Ikenberry (1906-?). He served as presiding Elder from 1953 until 1966. He was Treasurer at Bridgewater College.

back to top of page



(a few not of Bridgewater CoB but included for clarification).

  1. Bishop, Solomon Garber (1806-1892)) Elder in charge at Cooks Creek. 3. Elected in 1843; advanced to elder in 1855.
  1. John A. Miller (1839-1905), and Elder; grandfather of Naomi West. Lived near the river on Tannery Lane.   A prominent Bridgewater minister.
  1. S. F. Sanger (1849-1927) 2 A leading Bridgewater business man, operating a store and pharmacy. Formerly of Beaver Creek where he was a deacon, he moved into Cooks Creek territory. Elected under Cooks Creek in 1876. Sapp. P. 6. A Bridgewater minister. He moved to Manassas but finally went west.
  1. John S. Flory (1866-1961) 2; Elder of Bridgewater Church 1920-1940. Elected under Cooks Creek in 1905. Advanced to 2nd degree in 1908 at Bridgewater and to the Eldership in 1917. A beloved professor and Bridgewater. Sapp. 81, 118.
  1. Peter S. Miller (Brethren’s Almanac, 1884; Sapp. P. 6) 2; A leading Bridgewater business man; a carriage maker. Elected under Cooks Creek April 19, 1878 to serve at Bridgewater. An active Bridgewater minister. Since the new church was incomplete in April and the church was under Cooks Creek, this election probably occurred at Garbers Church.
  1. P. S. Thomas, elected 1892, probably at Cooks Creek Church under their Elders. (Sapp. 12).
  1. Joseph M. Kagey (1850-1923). Dayton Post Office but lived near Bridgewater. An active minister in Bridgewater and Cooks Creek Churches; 2; Bridgewater S. S. Sup‚t. in 1889; Sapp., p. 16-17.
  1. Peter Cline (Beaver Creek Cong., minister, but with a Bridgewater address).
  1. Emanuel Long (1841-1915) He became Bridgewater‚s first presiding Elder in 1907 when the congregation became independent, but was able to serve only a few years. He was elected to the ministry in 1898 under Cooks Creek congregation. His home was across the road northward from the church and up the hill near the present woods. House and barn still located there. Sapp. 79-80.
  1. John Hale (minister in Beaver Creek Cong.), Brethren Family Almanac, 1881. Bridgewater address.
  1. John W. Click (minister in Beaver Creek Cong. 1881).
  1. W. K. Conner (1873-1932) (Bre. Fam. Almanac, 1899 list); Bridgewater S.S. Sup’t. at one time, Sappington, p. 17.
  1. Hiram G. Miller (1852-1927) 3 (Bre. Fam. Almanac, 1899 list); Formerly lived in what was Beaver Creek territory south of Bridgewater, he became a prominent Bridgewater minister, presiding Elder of the Congregation ca. 1912?-1920, and Trustee of Bridgewater College. He had been an Elder in Beaver Creek Congregation before the land south of the river was transferred to Bridgewater territory). Sapp. 35, 80.
  1. John W. Wayland, Jr. (1872-1962). Bre. Fam. Almanac, 1899 list; called to ministry at Flatrock Congregation in 1894, he became a professor at Bridgewater College, he also was a minister at Bridgewater in 1899 and for some years after that. Later moved to Harrisonburg and joined another denomination.
  1. G. C. Spitzer, Bridgewater S. S. Sup‚t. Sapp. pp. 9, 17. Listed in Brethren Almanac as a minister at Bridgewater as early as 1898.
  1. W. B. Yount (1859-1932) President of Bridgewater College 1892-1910; minister at Bridgewater; formerly of Middle River, he was ordained elder in 1908; President of Bridgewater College. Sapp., p. 34.
  1. John Flory (1832-1891); listed in Bre. Almanac, 1884. Cooks Creek minister, installed 1865. Joined the Thurman group, but was restored in 1876 and continued an active ministry until his death.
  1. Sidney L. Bowman (1867-1937); Listed in Bre. Fam. Almanac, 1901, he lived in the Bridgewater congregation for 20 years or more. He was an Elder by 1917. From Greenmount congregation, he was one of the resident ministers at Bridgewater, living above the North River on the farm behind the brick Will house along the Old Mt. Crawford road half a mile west of Mt. Crawford.
  1. I. N. H. Beahm (1859-1950) Bre. Fam. Almanac, 1890. Beahm was a professor at Bridgewater up to 1890 and a minister member of the Bridgewater Church. He left the faculty in 1890 to help organize another school.
  1. J. B. Wrightsman (Bre. Fam. Almanac, 1890), from Pulaski Virginia and a professor for a couple years before 1888, he was a minister member of Bridgewater Church until he went to Ohio in 1888. Sapp. 24-27.
  1. S. N. McCann (1858-1917), elected at his home church at Indian Camp Church in Upshur Co., W. Va., and an alumnus of Juniata College, he became a professor at Bridgewater College, also serving as a missionary ten years in India, after which he returned to Bridgewater as a professor and minister member. He is remembered also for his 1894 evangelistic meeting in which 41 persons were converted and baptized in February in a stream from which four inches of ice was cut away. He was ordained at Bridgewater in 1894.
  1. Newton D. Cool (1874-1962). Called to the ministry at Sangersville church in 1905, also to the eldership there in 1908. He became a professor at Bridgewater College and was elected presiding Elder of the congregation serving 1940-1949. Sapp. 82-119.
  1. Minor C. Miller (1889-1968). He was from the Pleasant Valley congregation where he was called to the ministry in 1914. Ordained elder at Bridgewater in 1927 and was presiding Elder 1949-1953.

Of the above list, it appears that Peter S. Miller, P. S. Thomas, Joseph Kagy, Emanuel Long and John S. Flory were licensed for service at Bridgewater Church while it was still a part of Cooks Creek Congregation. Joseph Kagy and Emanual Long both served as Cooks Creek Elders. The Cooks Creek Elder would have presided over the congregational election. There may have been others also.


Review of old Bridgewater membership lists.

Review of old District Minute books for minister lists and church identification.

Review of Church minute books for ministerial calling action

Review of Sappington’s book: Bridgewater Brethren.

Review ministerial biographies in Brethren Encyclopedia.

Quarterly Church reports in Gospel Messenger.

Following 1966, the head of the church was called Moderator, and after 1971 they were elected for three year terms, sometimes being reelected.



Emmert F. Bittinger     1967-1969             Elected 4-17-66 – one year terms

David Metzler             1970-1972             Elected 4-13-69 one year term and change over to 3 yr terms

Nelson Gardner          1973-1975             Elected 7-16-72

Dean Neher                1976-1981             Elected second term 7-23-78

Ben Wade                  1982-1985             Elected 7-26-81 and 7-29-84, serving through April 1985

Claire Ulrich               1985-1993             Elected 4-28-85, 7-97 and on 7-29-90

Nancy Trout               1994-1996             Elected 10-31-93

Steve Watson           1997 – 2002            Elected Fall 1996, Fall 2000

Marion Mason          2003 – 2008            Elected Fall 2002, Fall 2005

Steve Watson           2009 – 2011            Elected Fall 2008

Earle Fike                 2012 – 2013            Elected Fall 2011

Fred Swartz             2013 – 2018          Elected to fill remaining term of Earle Fike, then re-elected

Steve Longenecker 2019 – present