J. H. Pennell
Why recount the lives of saints of the past? We can receive inspiration from those who did so much and sacrificed so mightily to build the Church during difficult times. In the words of Earl West, “We are privileged to commune with some of the greatest people who ever walked this earth.” In this brief article let’s walk with one of those great people.
Julius H. Pennell was born near Malta, Ohio on November 10, 1856. He married Margaret J. Derwacter on May 12, 1881 in McConnelsville, Ohio. To this union, two sons and a daughter were born. Pennell and his wife were united with the Church of Christ in McConnelsville in September of 1881.
In 1883, Pennell moved to Zanesville, Ohio where he worked for various firms including J. Galigher and Sons, Hatters and Furriers. Health problems forced Pennell to leave Zanesville and he moved back to his old home in Morgan county Ohio. In the country he regained his health and determined that he would dedicate himself to preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. For over 40 years he engaged in a ministry of the Word which took him to many states and even a year of mission work to the Hawaiian islands. (Obituary notice, 3).
Pennell was long associated with the work in Zanesville, Ohio. In 1909 he conducted a joint gospel meeting with Don Carlos Janes at the corner of Woodlawn and Muskingum Avenues in the city. As a result of their work a congregation was established. In 1911 Pennell moved back to Zanesville and took up residence in the city. He and his family lived at 1106 Pine Street. After the flood of 1913, Pennell helped the congregation buy an old school building on Woodlawn Avenue opposite the Helen Purcell home for their meeting house.
Pennell’s name was often found in the pages of the Christian Leader. Though he did not consider himself much of a writer and thought it best to leave articles to others, he reported frequently on his preaching. His report of September 5, 1922 gives insight into his work.
Our first year’s work with the four congregations, Wheeling, Moundsville,
Shadyside, and St. Joe, closes with this month. Our labors with these
brethren has been very pleasant indeed. They are a noble band of workers
in the Lord and have real push in them. They are continually reaching out
a helping hand to weak brethren and to lost souls out of Christ. I have been
with each of these congregations in one protracted meeting during the year
and the other eight months has been spent in mission work with weak
congregations and where no congregation existed. Two new congregations
have been started and weak ones strengthened, and 140 in all have been
added to the fellowship during the year. To the Lord first, and then to
these brethren, we give the praise. (Field report - 1922: 12).
Pennell received little support as a preacher. He once wrote, “I have spent much of this year in real mission work and among the poor, where remuneration was necessarily light. Wife and I were unable to lay by anything for the winter, as we had much sickness in the family during the year.” (Support, 2). During the influenza epidemic of 1918, Pennell reported he was on a 7 weeks “vacation.” That is, he and his family were quarantined and since he was not preaching, he received no income. But he trusted in God’s providence. He wrote, “But the Lord will provide. No prospects for getting out soon.” (Field report - 1918:12).
Pennell passed away in Zanesville on July 30, 1936. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Woodlawn cemetery in Zanesville. Perhaps his best memorial is a tribute paid to him in the Leader.
We have just been encouraged and strengthened by a short meeting conducted
by dear old Bro. J. H. Pennell of Zanesville, O., who was with us from Wed-
nesday to over Lord’s day, April 1st to 5th inclusive. Bro. Pennell surely can
preach, even more forcibly than ever. His lessons are deep yet plain and easy
to be understood: just drawing such plain Gospel pictures that even children
should easily understand. Brethren, the church needs more of just such men,
who do not shun to declare all the counsel of God; brave men; men who speak
as the oracles of God; faithful old soldiers of the Cross and of a risen Redeemer.
Fred D. Gatten, “Field Report - Washington, Pa.,” Christian Leader 4-14-1931: 12.
J. H. Pennell, “Supporting the Preacher,” Christian Leader 10-31-1916: 2.
__________, “Field Report - Zanesville, Oh.,” Christian Leader 12-10-1918: 12.
__________, “Field Report - Zanesville, Oh.,” Christian Leader 9-5-1922: 12.
“J. H. Pennell - Obituary notice,” Christian Leader 8-18-1936: 3.