1944 - "Friends Are My Story," the autobiography of George Alexander Campbell [1869-1943], is edited by his second daughter Georgia May Campbell Lollis [1901-1991] and published posthumously by the Bethany Press, St. Louis, Missouri (253 pages). Here is the full text of the last chapter about Pentwater, Michigan. See the very end of this web page for a eulogy by Edward Scribner Ames.


THE first time I went to Pentwater was in 1903. At the Disciples convention in Detroit that year, a number of us planned to try to find a tract bordering on a lake on which we could build cottages where we could spend our summer vacations.

Dr. J. H. Garrison was leaving Macatawa to pioneer at a less congested beach. His decision to locate at Pentwater, south of the pier, led our group of young men, mostly of Chicago, to appoint a committee to see whether a suitable location could be found in or near Pentwater and on Lake Michigan. We were rearing families and we thought that it would be more wholesome for our children to spend their summers in the open spaces than in the city. It was for this reason that I made my first trip to Pentwater.

However, there was another factor that led me to go when I did. Z. T. Sweeney, of Columbus, Indiana, at the time of the Detroit convention, was talking of establishing some suitable memorial for his son, Joseph Irwin Sweeney, who had been tragically drowned in 1900. He had heard about a hotel, costing $100,000 or thereabouts at Pentwater, which might afford comfortable rooms for a large number of Disciples and furnish an assembly hall for religious gatherings. This hotel was not wholly completed and could be had for a small fraction of its cost.

Mr. Sweeney asked me to join him in a trip to Pentwater. I agreed to do so, and later in the fall I made my first trip to this section. Mr. Sweeney had just been elected president of the American Christian Missionary Society and, accordingly, held as prominent an office as anyone in our communion.

He and I visited the city council and discussed the terms on which the hotel could be purchased. The younger group, which I represented, would have been pleased to see Mr. Sweeney acquire such fine accommodations for Disciples and would have been most happy to have had a meeting place where the brethren might congregate, but this dream of dedicating the hotel to summer religious assemblies fell through. In later years the big empty white brick building came to be known as "the White Elephant." It was in those days a local landmark, but some years ago it was destroyed by fire. Today only parts of each end remain, the one housing the motion picture theater, and the other the newspaper office.

While in Pentwater with the companionable Mr. Sweeney, I walked around Pentwater Lake, which is connected with Lake Michigan by a channel. He used the term "landbound" with reference to the location of this little lake, a term I had not heard before. He did not like the situation, he said, because it was "landbound." When I asked him the meaning of the term, he replied that large sand dunes were between it and Lake Michigan and that they would shut off the breezes.

Earlier, on a visit to Pentwater, E. S. Ames had discovered a thirty-three-acre tract of woods north of the pier, which had a frontage of 1,300 feet on Lake Michigan. Mr. Sweeney and I saw this land that Dr. Ames had first discovered and we were well pleased with it.

Later Dr. Ames and I recommended the purchase of the tract which we now occupy. The other nine men of our group accepted the recommendation, and small cottages were soon erected. Most of our group were Chicago men. During the years, some have dropped out because of removal from Chicago and for other reasons. Now, only five of the original members are left. There are ten cottages in the group.

Our children have known many summer vacations in this place and have come to love it dearly. We are all here because of the pioneer, J. H. Garrison. His cottage, The Pioneer, now owned by strangers, still stands. Dr. W.T. Moore's cottage was to the south of his. W. F. Richardson and others belonged to this noble group of Garrison Park.

Under the heading, "Pentwater Musings," J. H. Garrison wrote a weekly vacation article in the Christian-Evangelist for a number of years. Pentwater never had another such interpreter of its lakes, its trees, its hills, its mists, its·air, and its atmosphere: People still come to Pentwater inspired by the memory of his eulogies. Only today I saw several children under teen age playing on the beach, children who probably never heard of Dr. Garrison. Yet they are all here because of his pioneering.

Garrison Park is south of the channel while we are north. Ours is called "Campbell Park" after our theological forebear, Alexander Campbell. He would not be displeased at having our ground named after him because he was a man of the open spaces and of the free winds. We were strong tor the names of the fathers, for whom all our streets and paths are named. These names appear only on the plat, and their location is growing dimmer in our minds. I believe that the path that passes by our cottage is called Errett Avenue.


Five of the first settlers are still with us, and ours is a rich fellowship. In one of the recent conversations I had with Herbert L. Willett, he said that he would rather have A. McLean than any other man return and give his opinion of men and movements of this time. By the way, I believe A. McLean was never here. Although I knew him well, I do not recall that he had any great fondness for the recreation that rature gives. Children are our teachers in this.

George W. Muckley, who died the same year as did Z. T. Sweeney (1926), was a frequent visitor at the home of Dr. Willett, They were roommates at Bethany College.

One year at a farewell luncheon in Pentwater in his honor, Dr. Willett told about the time he preached his first sermon, fourteen miles from Bethany College, which he was attending. A friend went along to conduct the devotions. The two hired one horse. One would ride a couple of miles, tie the horse, and then walk on until the other caught up with him with the same horse. When he finally reached his destination he preached for what he thought was an hour, but he was told that the sermon lasted just eleven minutes.

Pierce Atkins, who has an excellent opportunity to judge the effect that the war is having upon the churches, thinks that there is a new soberness and fidelity affecting all the communions.

E. S. Ames, who is always rich in philosophy and humor, thinks that every Christian ought to be disciplined so as not to be upset when things do not go altogether to his liking.

Dr. and Mrs. C. C. Morrison have visited almost every summer in Pentwater with their brother, Hugh T., who is becoming one of the best visitors in the brotherhood. His parish includes Illinois, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and California. His pastoral instinct is still keen.

Of our laymen, George B. Fawley has been the most loyal and continuing in his interest.

John W. MacIvor, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, is a frequent caller. He has his cottage at Whitehall.

Edgar DeWitt Jones, of Detroit, usually spends his vacation in Pentwater. He was not in the original group, but he is always we1come. He is always at his best as he interprets prominent sinners and saints to us.


I like to get back to Pentwater to hear the village gossip, the gossip stretching over a whole year, and to hear the clamor of the lake. I like to get back to see how the pines we set out years ago have grown. They grow slowly, very slowly the first few years, but later much faster. The Norway jack and the white pine are the varieties here. The Norway is the rarer.

Except for the lake, which is constantly murmuring when it is not roaring, it is quiet in Pentwater, oppressively quiet to some of our city callers. "Why doesn't someone shout?" asked a little girl from Chicago. But still we are a part of the world and through letters, newspapers, and the radio we learn of world events. I should think that the newspapers would be worried about the radio. A day before the Chicago papers arrive, we know of the deaths of prominent people, of the scores in the National and American Leagues, of the victories of the armies.

If one were at the North Pole, a radio would keep him informed as to all important events south. Nevertheless, our radio is silent a large part of the time. One tires of endless world gossip and of toothpaste and cigarette talk. If the radio had ex- isted in the age of the ascetics, do you think Simeon Stylites would have been tempted to have one on the top of his pillar?

Nothing takes the place of people. I should make a poor ascetic. Solitude prolonged makes no appeal to me. Our cottage is not easily to be found, but Mrs. Campbell once said that just short of one hundred callers rang our cowbell, which hangs outside our door, during one summer. My theory is that every congenial caller builds up love and hope and makes for better digestion.

Besides the people there are several things I enjoy in Pentwater:

The wood fire in the fireplace. It is mystical, comforting, and inspiring.

The woods. The individual trees and bushes, as we have known them through the years, come to have a language of their own, and that language is medicine to body and soul. Every summer I plant some trees. I like to get back to see how they have grown. I should like to have written Joyce Kilmer's poem on the tree: "Only God can make a tree." Of the evergreens, my favorite is the Norway pine. Of course, the Colorado blue is very beautiful, but it is a ladylike tree. The Norway pine is majestic, imperial. The hard maple is my favorite among the other trees. We have a fine one growing up through our front porch. I wish I could get away in the spring and have fellowship with the hard maple in making syrup and sugar.

It is the exceptional tree that can withstand the trials of the shore line. Most of them have the shelter of the inland country. How much like trees people are; many of us could be symbolized by hot-house plants. But should we not emulate the brave, erect maple whose branches, as they wave to us, whisper courage?

But the bravest of our trees is an oak much older than the maple, perhaps a century older. I first saw this friend, now an old friend, over forty years ago. When we left in the fall, I bade him good-by, for I did not think it possible for him to outlive the winter. The wind had blown away all support for his roots to the west, and they were long dead and gone. His limbs were scarred and battered by the snows and the storms, but the old stalwart still stands as kingly as ever. He has one root which he must have sent far into the bank on the east. Although maimed, he does not succumb. As the winds blow through his branches, methinks I hear them whisper of life and love, although I am sure that they do not lessen their might. The old king of our lot would be offended at any special favor.

Have we not known many wounded people who never whine or complain, but who, upstanding in their courage, bring encouragement to all others? They must have their roots deep down in the soul of God. We need only one for rich sustenance. Let us not allow the winds to destroy us. Remember the maple and the oak.

The stars. The stars come into view here as they do not in the cities. They bring to you mystery, health, and wonder.

The lake. The waves are ever restless and sometimes terribly powerful. They carry with them something of danger, but more of challenge and accomplishment, I like the lake when it is angry, with its mighty waves carrying all before it. Every day boats go north and south across our horizon with their freight of peace and war. Those who have lived on the big lake would not think of settling on an inland one, for old Lake Michigan has a different mood for every day.

The sunset. Facing west on the east banks of Lake Michigan, we see sunsets of beauty, variety, and splendor every night. They are divine. Every sunset is different. Some are quiet and subdued; others are riotously gorgeous in their many hues and colors. It takes clouds to make a brilliant sunset: it takes clouds, too, to make a worth-while life.

Then there are the ships, the storms, and occasionally, brilliant northern lights. All this for the eye, and the constant music of the waves for the ear.

Church services. I like to see the country churches carrying on. The spirit of loyalty to the church should defeat the temptation of the concrete highway. Protestants are too prone to make their church attendance depend upon an attractive preacher. The Churches of Christ in Michigan and the Roman Catholics have not succumbed to this sin. Preaching is a part of worship and only a part. If there should be a moratorium on preaching, I fear that many of the Disciple saints would absent themselves from the church during the silence of the pulpit orator. The first thought of the true worshiper is that he goes to give, not primarily to receive.

The Sunday evening house gatherings. The singing of hymns is the main feature of our Sunday evening house gatherings. How many great hymns there are that we do not have an opportunity to hear.

Letters. I must add letters to the things I enjoy at Pentwater, though they are more personal than the other things. Letters and greetings are most acceptable when on a vacation. This summer I had a letter from Archibald Sinclair of Scotland [a distant cousin mentioned on page 36]. He concluded with this injunction: "Read at your leisure the thirty-seventh Psalm, also Habakkuk 2:6-12.

I have in my acquaintance some very intelligent and alert people who say that they scarcely ever write a letter. I should like to be numbered among those who do write letters, and I could have no higher ambition than to be a good letter writer. I do not know of a finer form of literature.


No matter where we are, facts confront us. We cannot get away from them for a moment. We are all mathematicians, all bookkeepers, in a world of facts. I would not demean the factual. By it we earn our daily bread. But there is another world. that of fancy, of imagination. It, too, is one of the words that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Fancy is more elusive than fact. The latter is thrust upon us; but the former, in order to be won, must be wooed. Both fact and fancy are pillars of faith. It is only when facts are pressed through the emotion of fancy that they come to have value to the soul.

What better place could one have to combine happily this trinity of God -- fact, fancy, faith -- than a porch facing the sea? Of course, you must not be hurried. Fact thrives on the workaday bustle, but fancy needs leisure for its growth and release. Sitting in Pentwater, facing the "unsalted sea" of Lake Michigan, to all appearances as large as the mightiest ocean and often as rough and angry, I find my mind taking note of material things as they are, or as they seem to be, and then slipping into a mood of fancy or into the analogy of faith.

There is the shifting sand. Our cottage is built upon a dune blown high by the winds. Have you ever seen a real sandstorm? If caught in one, you rush for shelter in order that you may not bleed from the fierce driving grains of sand. The winds blowing summer and winter and from millennium to millennium pile layer upon layer. You must not build your house upon the shifting sands or great will be the fall of it when the fiercest gales blow.

But the dunes may be controlled. Barricade them; keep the sands away; or, better still, get spruces, pines, locusts, and other trees started, and their roots will hold the sand together.

Is is not so with people? How often have we seen the young drifting, drifting, until we thought their lives were thrown away. Then all at once, they came to control their aimless vices. They struck roots down. They came to have purpose and direction. They discovered their oneness with the Divine.

The sunsets here inspire every beholder. The children, cry to each other, "Look, look at the beautiful sunset!"

God is a master painter. I have seen the pictures of several artists now painting on these shores. Their sunsets are gorgeous but not so gorgeous as the Creator's paintings. His have life, reality, original colors, spirit, expanse, everything.

The other night -- oh, there are so many such -- He painted the head of an angel, immense in proportions, but withal delicate and refined. The angel's face was haloed with brilliant light of gold. The face to the south was that of peace and victory. The wings and the train of his flight stretched far to the north. His glory filled the heavens. What colorings! What high contrasts! But what unity and harmony! Such beauteous grandeur lifts me to God, who conceived it and who made man for it and it for man. As the sun sank below the waters and left its glow for long upon the sky and lake -- and for much longer in my soul -- I uttered the Psalmist's prayer: "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us."


Everything has its own beauty. My first impression of the sand dunes was not favorable. I thought them ugly. I missed the snug green lawns. But through the years of association, the dunes have spoken the message of their own individual charm. I like the nighttime on the lake. If a storm is over the lake, how grand and awesome! If the myriad of mystic stars are shining, what feeling of admiration is called forth! In cities we are largely forgetful of the abysmal heavens. The buildings shut out the pull of the stars. Everyone has noted the path of light on the lake made by the moonbeams. If, at various points on the lake shore, a million people should be looking out upon the lake on a moonlight night, a path of light would seem to stretch in front of each one as though it were created just for him alone. I like to think that it is so with the love of God. How can God give attention to everyone of us? How can he hear each one's prayers and answer them? Such questions amid the immensities of the universe baffle us. But surely God is not more limited than the moon. Its path of light comes to each individual; and so, I believe, God's love reaches every soul, cares for everyone, "even me, even me."

Why do people like to take their vacations on the lake and ocean beaches? Doubtless the appeal to the physical is strong. There is the sunlight, the sand, the water, and withal the reversion to nature in the scant attire. Many have found health in such surroundings. But is there not a deeper appeal? The Psalmist writes of deep calling to deep. Surely the deep of the restless waters speaks to the deep of men's souls. We are all creatures of moods, of many and ever changing moods. Every soul has capacity for ecstasy and sadness. Is there not something in the ever changing and restless sea that appeals to us and that ministers to us? Well for us if we realize that the terrible and angry waves will soon be followed by perfect calm and placid waters. He who wrote, "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me," was finally led into the serenity of trust.

On a clear day or night we can see boats on the horizon -- sailing vessels, yachts, freighters, passenger ships, railroad ferries. Every one is fascinating. And everyone is guided by star or compass.

The story is told of a captain who, becoming weary and sleepy in a prolonged calm at sea, called a Negro sailor to him, telling him that he wanted him to take the wheel while he got some sleep. "Now, Sambo, you just guide the ship by yonder star."

The new pilot, sailing in a monotonous sea, became sleepy himself, and so took a nap. In the meantime, both the wind and the sea changed. The ship's course was reversed. Sambo woke up shortly before the captain did and was at the wheel greatly perturbed when his superior returned: "Captain," he exclaimed, "we passed that star you told me to guide the ship by 'way back, and 'I'm wondering what star to use now."

How is it with the spiritual voyage? There are those who think we have gone beyond the Star of Bethlehem. But these never answer the question, "What star shall we now use?" They can name no substitute star and they soon doubt that there is any spiritual voyage for anyone. No voyage; no harbor. The need of our age -- the need of every one of us -- is to look sharp to the Star of Bethlehem. He is the Morning Star, the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley. Seen through Him, all beauty of nature takes on a new meaning and a new grandeur. Allied to Him, the soul assumes new and truer appreciations. Inspired by Him, life's voyage is earnest and its goal certain.

Pentwater, Michigan, August 17, 1943.

Dr. George A. Campbell passed away this evening just as the sun set in a glorious glowing sky. The end came peacefully and quietly after days of increasing weakness and years of suffering in comparative helplessness. We talked together this afternoon in the old comradery of spirit which we had enjoyed through more than fifty years since student days at Drake. While he could speak but very little, and then only in whispers, he had part in the conversation through his expressive eyes and the swift changes of his features.

From his bed he could see the lake and the encircling pines which he loved so much. For thirty-five years he sought this shore with every cycle of the seasons. With his wife and their growing children he came every summer to work as only the vacation time enables a professional man to do, and to enjoy the loveliness of nature and his genius for friendship.

Through a long, rich life of deep and passionate devotion to the churches and the brotherhood he served so well, he came here year after year to renew his strength. He knew well that this would be his last summer. By what would have seemed to others an impossible journey he came again and lived in vivid consciousness through every day and every quiet, wistful evening. And tonight he saw his last sunset over the beautiful water and the gorgeous sky. And there was a lovely afterglow to this day as there is to his life itself.

-- E. S. Ames, in "The Scroll."