March 12, 1811 - January 1896
|Philip H. Dieffenwierth was born in Zinsvieller, Alsace, Department of the Lower Rhine, France, on March 12, 1811,and died near Largo, Florida, December 1896, in his eighty-sixth year. His parents were Germans, and both members of the Lutheran Church, in which church he was baptized in infancy. When in his eighth year, his parents immigrated to America, landing in New Orleans. Afterward they removed to Baton Rouge, where he grew to manhood.
Early in the year 1835 be was converted under the ministry of Reverend C. K. Marshall, and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. Be describes his conversion as being “more like the dawn of the morning than the sudden noon day brilliancy.” and says that his call to the ministry came in the sense of obligation. “Woe is me if I decline, rather than the love of Christ constraineth me. It was more duty than privilege, but in process of time, the sense of duty was lightened and enlivened by the constraint of love.”
In 1836 he was licensed to preach by the Baton Rouge Quarterly Conference, and recommended as a candidate for admission into the Mississippi Conference, which met that year in Vicksburg. He was admitted and in 1837 was sent as Junior Preacher to Amite Circuit, Reverend Jas. Watson, P. C., and Reverend B. M. Drake, P. E. This was a four weeks circuit, with nineteen appointments. Here he met the same trials which many young preachers experience. His first efforts to preach were in the judgments of many, complete failures. Hearing these judgments, there came doubts as to the validity of his call to preach the gospel. He attributed his victory over the insinuations of the adversary to the timely help and godly counsels of his senior, Brother Watson. Ever afterward, he held the opinion that every young preacher should serve his first years under an experienced senior. The result of his first year’s work is recorded in these words: “Labors abundant, success small, compensation smaller.”
In 1838 he was sent to Vidalia Circuit in Louisiana. This work then had twelve ap-pointments and reached from Dead Man’s Bend on the Mississippi River to Lake St. Joseph. At the close of this year he was ordained Deacon.
In 1839, be was located, but was readmitted at the next Conference, and in 1840 was sent to Port Gibson and Grand Gulf and did a successful year’s work. In 1841,he was appointed to St. Mary’s Street Chapel, Lafayette, which was at that time a suburb of New Orleans. This Chapel was afterwards merged into Felicity Street Church. During this year, Elijah Steele was Pastor of Poydras Church (now Carondelet) and W. H. Watkins was Pastor of Moreau Church. He passed safely through an epidemic of yellow fever, which carried off the lamented Steele. While serving this Chapel he inaugurated class meetings among the Germans conducted in their own language and thus opened the way for successful missions and churches among that class of the population of New Orleans.
At the close of this year, he was ordained Elder. In 1842, be was sent to Franklin and New Town. It amazes us of the present day to read of the wonderful circuits which our fathers traveled. Besides Franklin and New Town, this Circuit embraced Patterson and Bayou Sale, Paririe-au-Large, Cote Gile Prairie and Perry’s Bridge on the Vermillion River. Besides preaching to his English congregations, he read the Scriptures and preached to the French people in their own tongue, thus opening the way to Missions among them. In 1843-44 he served the Plaquemine and Grosse Tete Circuit. Of his work on this charge he says: “My labors those two years were more appreciated and the Lord gave me larger success than ever before.”
In 1845 he was appointed to Baton Rouge. Of this appointment he makes this record: “This was the place of my boyhood, the scene of my early manhood, the place where I was received into the Church, where I had taught in the Sunday School, where I had been class leader, and where I had been licensed to preach and the burden was too heavy for me. I was a prophet in my own country and in my own house.”
In 1846, he was appointed to Lafourche Circuit. He calls this “the wonderful circuit.” It extended from Donaldsonville, on the Mississippi River to Berwick’s Bay, and embraced Donaldsonville, Napoleonville, Thibodeauville, Houma, Bayou Black, Bayou Beouff and Berwick’s Bay, besides several large sugar plantations. During this year he was married to Miss Sarah A. Miller of Waterproof, Louisiana.
In 1847, he served the Waterproof Circuit. In 1848 and 49, he was local. His wife dying in 1849, he was readmitted, and in 1850 was sent to the Beouff Prairie Circuit. In 1851-52, he was on the Alexandria Circuit. The first of these years his work consisted of Alexandria and two country appointments, one sixteen miles away and the other forty miles away across the Vermillion River. The second of these years his work, owing to the sickness of the preacher adjoining him, was enlarged so as to embrace Point Maigre, Holloway’s Prairie, Haw Creek and Hudson’s Creek. He had good success these two years.
In 1813, he was returned to Waterproof’ Circuit, but the travels and labors necessary to serve the Alexandria work had undermined his health, and at the close of the year he was granted a supernumerary relation. This relation he sustained until 1868.when he was placed on the effective list and appointed to Floyd and Delhi, and returned to that circuit in 1869.
In 1870 and 71, he was again appointed to Waterproof Circuit. These two years resulted in gathering together the scattered congregations and in building a church and gathering the materials and means for building a parsonage in Waterproof.
In 1872-73-74-75, he held a supernumerary relation. In 1876, he was superannuated and held that relation until his death. However, in the years 1877-78-79, he served Elizabeth Chapel in Tensas parish with great acceptability. Looking back over a ministry of sixty years he wrote these words: “I have the satisfaction that my labor has not been in vain in the Lord.”
As a preacher, Bro. Dieffenwierth was a sound and safe expositor of the Divine Word, possessing and using with skill a critical acumen, which few excelled. Added to this there was in his preaching a richness of illustration and a copiousness of biographical and historical allusion, which delighted and edified his hearers. Like all men who are conversant with several languages, his diction was as free as his vocabulary was extensive, never being at a loss for the word or phrase to express the thought in his mind. To thoughtful people he was always an interesting preacher. For several years during his supernumerary relation, he had a monthly appointment at the church of which I was a member, and “his day” was sure to bring out the whole community, and he fed us with nourishing food.
Those people often showed their appreciation of his services by presenting him with substantial tokens of their esteem and honor. He was twice married, the second time to Miss Mary MeGaughey, daughter of Rev. W. G. McGaughey of this Conference. The hospitality of his home was modeled after the New Testament type, being open, free and generous to all corners. I have seen it tested upon unexpected and remarkable occasions, and there was no flaw to mar its beauty.
The last years of his life were spent near Clear Water Harbor, Florida. During these last years we had occasional correspondence together. In no letter did he ever fail to celebrate the goodness of God, manifested in many ways during his long pilgrimage, and to look forward with the calm trust of a confident hope to the developments of the future. His last letter revealed the picture of a worn and weary pilgrim standing in the vestibule of the House of many Mansions, his back turned to all the past, his front facing the shining portals and his countenance aglow with the joyous expectation of an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of the Lord. And I heard a voice which softly said, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” And I heard one saying in the musical tones of the upper world, “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the City” And I heard the Heavenly Choir sounding forth the glorious doxology “Alleluia, salvation and glory, and honor, and power unto the Lord our God,” and I knew a new voice had joined that choir.
|Source: Journal, Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, January 1898, Pages 34-36…….By C. W. Carter|