Rev. R W Dunn

THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF ALLEGHENY WESLEYAN COLLEGE

As documented through written accounts and interviews with Wayne Dunn, Paul Treese, S. C. Rainey, Allegheny Conference Publications, North Carolina History Center and other sources.

By: Roger Gordon

In the years leading up to these events I do not have all the details; however, the paths of different people began at different points and met to make an incalculable difference in lives and in the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection history.

A Fresh Start

Meat counter in Dunn’s Grocery, R W Dunn with his parents and siblings (back), delivery boy (front)

During one of the most difficult times in American history (known to us now as the Great Depression), a young man from Mebane, North Carolina by the name of Rudy Dunn lost all his financial investments in the stock market crash of 1929. In an effort to get back on his feet financially he began working as a meat cutter in his father’s corner grocery store at the end of Clay Street. In 1935, as he began to recover from his financial losses, he and his young wife Ruby opened a high-end women’s fashion store. They called it Ruby Mae’s Dress Shop, and it was located at the opposite end of the the street from his father’s grocery store.

Ruby ran the dress shop while Rudy continued his meat cutting job at the grocery store. The dress shop became rather profitable; and by the time 1940 rolled around, Rudy and Ruby were making annual trips to the New York City Fashion Show to find the latest and greatest trends in women’s fashion that they could offer to the society ladies of Mebane. Life was good for the young couple and to their home was born a son, Willard Wayne, on February 18, 1937. Such was the success of their dress shop; it would continue making a healthy income for the Dunns for 29 years.

 

A Journey into Canaan

In 1940, for the people of Hastings, Michigan; the drag on the economy didn’t seem to lift as rapidly as it did in North Carolina. The furniture industry of Western Michigan was struggling and several factories downsized or closed. At one of those furniture manufacturers, a middle-aged man by the name of John Mulliken was informed that his job was being terminated without any foreseeable chance of returning.

For 10 years, prior to working in the furniture plant, John, and his wife, Elsie were Free Methodist Home Missionaries to the slums and the streets of Chicago. Their little mission served the down and outer, the homeless, and the drunkards in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.

John faithfully labored at his furniture factory job; while Elsie, who was an ordained minister, held
special meetings and revivals throughout southern Michigan. Now that John was unemployed they faced a new challenge. They felt led to sell out and relocate to Mebane, NC. They were unsure of
exactly why God was leading them there, but they felt confident that they were getting clear direction from God.

John Mulliken

Elsie Mullikan

The Open Bible Service Station

Elsie Mulliken in Open Bible Service Station.

Elsie Mulliken pumping gas.

After arriving in Mebane, John got a job at the White Furniture plant and they used the proceeds from the sale of their Michigan home to purchase a little service station along busy route 70 on the edge of town. They named their fledgling business the “Open Bible Service Station” and hung up their Shell Gas sign. Elsie ran the business side of the station, selling staple grocery items and pumping gas; while John used his skills in providing minor mechanical
services.

When shopping in town for their necessities, true to her missionary heart, Elsie would introduce herself to newfound acquaintances and ask them if they knew Jesus. From store to store she would go, introducing herself to the local shopkeepers and always putting in a word for her Lord.

Among her stops were Ruby Mae’s Dress Shop and Dunn’s corner grocery store. She felt a particular burden for the young man behind the meat counter in the grocery store, making frequent visits to ask him if he was ready to meet God. She was never pushy, but sweetly consistent in her concern for his soul.

After some time of Elsie’s consistent visits, Rudy found excuses to be busy when he saw her coming in the front door. When she would ask Rudy’s mother if Rudy was available, she would politely say, “Rudy is busy right now and won’t be available for a while.” To which Elsie would respond, “That’s okay, I’ll just shop around a little while until he is free.” When Rudy could see that she wasn’t going to leave anytime soon, he would wash his hands, come out from behind the meat counter and ask Mrs. Mulliken how he could help her today. She would place her small order for a cut roast or side of ham, thank him and then tell him that she was praying for him.

These were the days before earbuds, cell phones, talk shows or even radio music; so while Rudy stood behind the meat counter doing his job, he had plenty of quiet time to think about Mrs. Mulliken’s words. Rudy was a good Methodist, but he never learned that Jesus loved him and wanted to live in his heart and make him a new creation.

Meanwhile, in Ruby’s Dress Shop, Mrs. Mulliken had been talking to Ruby about her soul, reminding her that Jesus loved her and that she was praying for her. Ruby was raised in the Presbyterian Church and as a high society lady in her hometown, she had married the local Methodist deacon’s son. They were doing well, and were honest business people. They were active in the community doing good deeds and serving their place in the local Methodist Church.

All this religious talk was beginning to concern Rudy as the Holy Spirit’s began revealing Rudy’s heart and his spiritual inadequacy. One night after closing up the grocery store, under deep conviction, Rudy headed up the street to help Ruby close up the dress shop. He began expressing to Ruby how God had been talking to him and that he wanted to get right with God. We don’t have the details of exactly how or where they prayed, but God gloriously saved Rudy. Shortly thereafter, Ruby also gave her heart to God. After their conversion, there is no record indicating that the Mullikens and the Dunns maintained any regular communication.

Almost immediately after his conversion, Rudy felt the real sense of conviction concerning a call into full-time ministry. It was with a deep desire to maintain his new found peace, that without hesitation, he began sharing his testimony at the Methodist Church. As a new convert with exuberant zeal, he was sure the members of his church would be thrilled to hear all about what God had done for him; but his message fell on deaf ears. In fact, his deacon father was convinced that Rudy had lost his
mind and forbade him from speaking any further about it at church.

Rudy would not give up sharing his testimony, so he rented a vacant storefront across the street from his father’s grocery store and began holding regular church services in an attempt to evangelize his hometown. This only furthered the wedge between him and his family, and soon he forsook this
approach.

He felt led by the Holy Spirit to pursue a religious education in ministerial studies and enrolled in a small Bible School in Lexington, NC; some 60 miles from home. In those days without modern highways, the trip couldn’t reasonably be made as a daily commute, so Rudy enrolled full-time and rented an apartment nearby to the school. He stayed there during the week while Ruby ran the dress shop at home. They made arrangements each week for Ruby and Wayne to spend the weekend with Rudy and attend church together as a family.

Pumping Shell gas.

Preparation and Pastorate

During special meetings at Bible School, Rudy met Rev. Millard & Naomi Downing, who encouraged him to make a clean break from the trappings of his hometown, and transfer to Cleveland Bible College. After praying about it, Rudy felt that God was behind it all and that the Downing acquaintance was not just by “chance.”

The Downings lived on the first floor of a duplex on East 30th Street between Carnegie and Cedar Avenues, near Cleveland Bible College in Cleveland, OH. The apartment above them was vacant, so arrangements were made for the Dunn family to move in.

The time at Cleveland Bible College proved to be very determinative regarding Rev. R. W. Dunn’s future. A college revival meeting with Rev. H. C. Van Wormer, a Wesleyan Methodist minister, who would later become the President of the Allegheny Conference, was scheduled. It was at this revival that Rev. Van Wormer and Rudy Dunn made acquaintance. Rev. Van Wormer was drawn to the vibrant, young student and sensed his deep desire for God. During this time of revival meetings, Rev. Van Wormer asked Rudy to join the Allegheny Conference as a conference preacher. After graduation, Rev. and Mrs. R. W. Dunn accepted the call of the congregation to pastor the Hillsdale Wesleyan Methodist Church in rural Indiana County, Pennsylvania.

This first pastorate was an especially lonely experience for Sister Dunn. In a relatively short period of time she had been ostracized by her home church in Mebane, cut off by her worldly family, left her place of business and friends, moved to Cleveland, and then become a pastor’s wife in a new town, at a new church, as part of a new denomination where she had no previous connections or friendships. But God had so perfectly performed a work in her heart, that she was sweetly surrendered to whatever His plan was for her. It was during this time that the Dunn family was blessed with a baby girl, Pricilla.

Rev. Millard Downing

Rev. H C Van Wormer

Mrs. Van Wormer

No Man Careth for My Soul

Rev. S.C. Rainey Family

During the years at Hillsdale, Rev. Dunn routinely made cold calls to the miners’ homes dotting the countryside. Many coal mining communities were built by the mining company, including the homes and the “company store.” Employees of the mine would rent their housing from the mine company and buy their goods from the general store which was also owned by the mine company. By the time a family paid their rent and bought basic necessities, there usually wasn’t much left. Thus the plight of the average miner was nearly hopeless.

One day while driving through the coal mining town of Commodore, Rev. Dunn’s attention was drawn to a young couple in the front of their home. Feeling impressed by the Holy Spirit, after passing by this couple, he turned his car around to introduce himself and invite them to church. He learned their names were Sheridan and Jean Rainey. After some conversation, the young miner promised Rev. Dunn that he would come to church if he had a way to get there. Without hesitation, Rev. Dunn offered to pick them up on Sunday morning and so plans were made. In recounting this event to the writer, Rev. S. C. Rainey, as he would be later known, said that in his hopeless state in the mining community, he often would recite the words of scripture, “No man careth for my soul.” It was at this low point in his life that Rev. Dunn stopped by his house.

Sheridan and Jean started attending the Hillsdale Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School and found their way to Salvation. Sheridan, encouraged by Rev. Dunn, felt a call to full-time ministry and enrolled at Allentown Bible College in Allentown, PA. Upon graduation, Rev. & Mrs. S. C. Rainey answered the call and pastored both the Barberton Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Titusville Wesleyan Methodist Church; subsequently filling the offices of Missions Director, Vice-President, and President of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection.

A Holiness Vision for Biblical Education

After serving several years as pastor in Hillsdale, Rev. & Mrs. Dunn accepted a new call to the Canton First Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canton, OH. During the years at Canton, he became concerned about his daughter Priscilla attending public school and the requirements that would run contrary to Christian morals and beliefs. When telling Rev. H. C. Van Wormer about his concerns, Bro. Van Wormer told Rev. Dunn about a Christian Day School in Salem that needed some assistance and just might be the answer to the public school dilemma. Without fanfare and without telling his wife,
Rev. Dunn set out to explore what the Salem Bible Institute was all about. One morning he took a day trip from Canton to Salem, met the administrators and learned about the purpose, doctrine, and standards of the school. He liked what he saw and learned. As a result, Rev. Dunn volunteered, without remuneration, to run the school and had his daughter attend.

The school operated through a cooperative effort of the Emmanuals, Wesleyan Methodists, and some other Holiness churches. It always struggled to keep afloat financially; but for Rev. R. W. Dunn, this was a mission field for the youth of the day, and no sacrifice was too great for the mission! Seventeen years had passed since Rudy and Ruby left Mebane for Cleveland. When they left Mebane, they hired Mrs. Patty Sykes and a couple of other ladies to run the dress shop. Once a year they would make a trek back to North Carolina to run inventory, prepare end-of-year books and taxes, and then return to their calling. Through all those years, the shop continued to be a success even though the styles were radically changed to reflect the wholesome, modest values of a Christian woman. The income from the store allowed the Dunns to donate their years of service to the school without any cost to the school.

As Priscilla approached the end of high school, Rev. Dunn was burdened for a college level Bible School. Through his dedication and leadership, several couples came to Salem as the first professors and teachers. Several students transferred from other existing Wesleyan Methodist Colleges. Among those were James Blackwelder, Clarence Mayhle, Paul Treese, and Tom Ellis. Beside the financial hurdles, it was a challenge to house students at a school that wasn’t designed to be a college. Once again, Rev. Dunn had to make a choice. In 1964, after earnestly seeking God’s will, the Dunns sold their dress shop and purchased a home on Woodsdale Road across the street from the college. Their son Wayne recalls that his parents drove to Allentown Bible College to bring him home for the summer in their 1956 two-tone white/blue Chevrolet Corsair with wings. On the way home, they drove to the college campus where his dad announced, “This is your new home.” While it was intended to be the home of the new college administrator, Rev. and Mrs. Dunn moved into a travel trailer next door, so that the new home could serve as the boy’s dorm until a more suitable arrangement could be made. This home is currently the Stan & Jeanne Zvaritch home.

During this same year of 1964, a young Allegheny Conference boy, John Durfee, had made plans to enter Edinboro Teacher’s College in Edinboro, PA. Upon learning of these plans, Rev. Dunn encouraged John to take at least one of the Bible College courses before going to Edinboro. John, who was tender to spiritual things, took his advice and went to Bible College. It was here that John met his wife, Margaret McPherson. They became Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist missionaries to Haiti and Ukraine and served as President of the Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Connection.

Rev. and Mrs. James Blackwelder

Dunn’s Chevrolet Corsair

A Generational Challenge

I Corinthians 3:6-11

6. I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
7. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
8. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own
reward according to his own labour.
9. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
10. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
11. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

3 Comments

  1. William Caldwell

    My siblings and I were reared in West Middlesex, PA and attended the local Wesleyan Methodist Church. Our older sister, Christine, attended Salem Bible College and Academy while R.W. Dunn was the School Administrator; I believe it was 1963. Being as we raised a few chickens, rabbits, and pigs, and our sow, Jenny, had.just had a litter, our mother asked R.W. Dunn whether he would accept the litter as payment toward our sister’s school bill; and, he was agreeable to the transaction! At that time, as well as during the period of 1965-1968, while my other siblings and I attended the school, the institution butchered their own meat for the students and staff.

    Reply
  2. Carol J Clark

    I enjoyed reading this and look forward to more. I knew some of these people and they were a blessing to me.

    Reply
  3. Andrew Zvaritch

    I think it is so beautiful to see how God has used the giants of the past like Rev. R. W. Dunn to touch lives clear into the present. Hearing a story like this gives me a sense of pride about who I am and the community that I belong to.

    Reply

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