Humanity knows no language with which to measure the influence of a good man. Bretheren beloved and honored have gone from us during the year. They were choice spirits. As a Conference we are sorely bereaved, for while Heaven has been enriched, by their going, our ranks have been weakened.
George W. Stevens, Presiding Elder of the Harrisburg District, Central Pennsylvania Conference, died at his residence, in Harrisburg, Pa., June 30, 1906. He was born in Fulton county, Pa., March 5, 1857. February 22, 1882, he was married to Miss Clara F. Ramsey, of Orbisonia, Pa., who survives him with four children, Nellie, Bessie, Ray and Clarkson.
One year ago, standing here where I now stand, reading his report of the Danville District, in a few fitting and gracious words, Brother Stevens made reference to the death of Brother Baldwin and said: "So we all come to where we write our last report, preach our last sermon, receive our last appointment. It becometh us as brethren not to lose sight of this fact. Some of us, doubtless, at this very Conference are answering the roll call for the last time. Whose photograph shall next appear in the Conference minutes? Nobody ventures to answer. God knows. If mine, I want the record to be, he fought a good fight, finished the course, kept the faith."
While he was reading that report, those of us who knew how sick he was, could not resist the conviction that before another Conference roll call he would have answered the summons from on high.
To me the death of Brother Stevens is a personal bereavement. At the Clearfield Conference we were entertained in the same home. During the ever memorable journey to Los Angeles we were often together. As members of the Cabinet we had much in common. At our last session, at the hotel, where we were stopping, our rooms were adjoining. I saw him frequently and as I looked upon him I could not but feel that he was fast ripening for the skies and that "TO BE NEAR HIM WAS TO BE NEIGHBORLY WITH HEAVEN."
He was educated at Dickinson Seminary, Williamsport, Pa., graduating in the class of 1881. Soon afterward he joined the Central Pennsylvania Conference, and while his ministry covers only twenty-five years, no one accomplished more, in that time, for his Conference and the building up of the kingdom of Christ than he.
He served the following charges: Princess Street, York; Buckhorn; Selinsgrove; Trinity Church, Danville; Fifth Street, Harrisburg; Mulberry, Williamsport; Lewistown. His achievements in church building, both at Harrisburg and Lewistown, are conspicuous. During his five years' pastorate at Lewistown, the present elegant stone structure was built and every dollar of indebtedness paid. This is regarded as an instance of the most skillful financiering in the history of the Conference. At the end of his pastorate here he was appointed by Bishop Cranston, Presiding Elder of the Harrisburg District. He was serving his fourth year in this capacity when called to his reward. As Presiding Elder his ability was still more marked. He was brotherly and manifestly fair in his official relations. While he zealously sought to advance the welfare of the church, at the same time, he carefully guarded the comfort of the brethren whose interests were intrusted to his care. During the last session of the Conference held at Tyrone, it was apparent to all that Brother Stevens was not in good health, yet but few knew of the excruciating suffering he was enduring. With the grip of his characteristic will power, he held himself to his work, giving not only faithful and efficient supervision to his own District, but also to the Danville District, of which owing to the death of the Rev. A. S. Baldwin, his colleague, during the year, he was in temporary charge. He returned from Conference greatly reduced in strength and was not able to preach thereafter. However, he gave direction to the work of the District until within a few days of his death. His sufferings were intense, but he never murmured, and his death was peaceful and triumphant. "He endured as seeing Him who is invisible," and uncomplainingly bore his physical disabilities in the spirit of true Christian fortitude and resignation. "God's finger touched him and he slept."
Brother Stevens was a man of sterling qualities. He had the courage of his convictions and was quick to defend what he believed to be the right. He fought his battles in the open and was foursquare to every man, whether he was friend or foe. He possessed a cheerful disposition, as well as a strong and striking personality. He was sanguine and optimistic in temperament. He carefully laid his plans but never counted on failure. He had a genius for work. He was a delegate to the last General Conference, and was a member of the Board of Managers of the Church Extension Society at the time of his death. Brother Stevens was a good preacher, and revivals attended his ministry, in which many souls were saved and saints edified. The funeral services were held in the Fifth Street Methodist Episcopal Church, Harrisburg, of which his family are members. The pastor, the Rev. B. H. Hart, was in charge, and the Presiding Elders, Revs. T. S. Wilcox, R. H. Gilbert and B. C. Conner, delivered the addresses. The more private services, at the house, were presided over by the Rev. W. W. Evans, Presiding Elder of the Juniata District, who made the chief address; the Rev. Isaac L. Wood and Mr. J. P. Luce, also spoke. Bishop Joseph F. Berry made the closing address. He spoke feelingly and expressed his high appreciation of Brother Stevens's work as a member of the recent cabinet. Nearly one hundred of his ministerial brethren were present to show their love and appreciation of his memory. He sleeps in the beautiful Paxtang Cemetery, on the banks of the Susquehanna, awaiting the morning of the resurrection, when we hope to strike glad hands and renew the delightful fellowships of the years past never again to be broken.
J. Ellis Bell
[From the 39th Session Minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Church Central Pennsylvania Conference (1907), Pages 113-115]