Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
First Missions - Africa
Wilson Reid
Revised October 6, 2018


When did the workers first arrive?  In 1905, the FIRST eight Workers went to pioneer the work in South Africa on the SS Geelong, departing from London on August 25, 1905 for Cape Town, South Africa..

Who were the first brother workers? 1905: Joseph Kerr age 24, Wilson Reid age 24, J. Cavanagh (John) age 27, A. Pearce (Alex) age 29.
Who were the first sister workers?
1905: Mary Moodie age 38, Barbara Baxter age 24, L. Reid (Lilly) age 26, and M. Skerritt (Martha) age 22.
Departing England for Australia via Cape Town on SS Wakool August 14, 1906: Hugh McKay age 27, Jim Dunlop age 24, Jack Godding age 18, Fred Alder age 19, Jean Allen age 22, Nellie Taylor age 23, Beatrice (Cissie) Maughan age 19 and Edith Easey age 20.

Who were the first converts (first fruits), what year and where? George Absalom.

Who were the first native workers to go in the work and When?
First Native Brother Worker:
George Absalom, starting in 1908-09; Arthur Arnold started in 1910
First Native Sister Worker: Possibly Gertie Barendilla and Cissie Tregurtha in 1913

When & Where was the first Gospel Meeting?
When & Where was the first Sunday fellowship meeting?
When & Where was the first baptism?

When & Where was the first convention? 
Where have subsequent conventions been held? Conventions held in South Africa are: Cape Town, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Bloemfontein and Ixopo. Emblems are served at Conventions.
Where is the convention now held? 

Who have the Overseers been?
Currently: Johan.Kotze

Louis Van Dyk
Fred Alder...##
Jim Johnston from South Africa 1970-1993
Willie Clarke, a Scotsman after Wilson Reid died in 1968 (died in 1970)
Wilson Reid, Irishman, until 1968
Alex Pearce until he died in 1946 ??

Native Language? Mostly English and Afrikaans

Wilson was one of the first workers to go to Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe)
In 1931, Wilson Reid and Paul Scholtz visited Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania) and Kenya, opening the way for the Work to start in these countries.
In 1946, Wilson was the first elder Worker to visit West Africa, where the Work had begun in 1931 in Sierra Leone.

Pioneer of Africa
By and About Wilson Reid

A Few Biographical Notes

Pastoral Letter by Reid re:  Ed Cooney

View Photo of Wilson Reid

A Few Biographical Notes .

Introduction:   As years pass and the number of those who knew Wilson well becomes steadily smaller, I feel the desire to put on record some little account of the life of this great pioneer:  For this purpose I am drawing chiefly on what he related during the three times when I was his companion for some months in West Africa. I have included a few typical anecdotes, while seeking to avoid anything controversial or strictly personal.

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****

Wilson Reid was born in 1881 and grew up at Carnteel (County Tyrone, Ireland) He often spoke well of the schoolmaster, who gave him a good grounding in the 3 R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic.  This no doubt contributed to his interest in languages, especially in grammar.  He attended the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and was duly confirmed, but did not feel any the better for this.  He became a regular pipe smoker.  In the autumn of 1903, Adam Hutchison had a mission in the school.  Wilson and others of his family attended.  Wilson often repeated how Adam gave his testimony, telling of when he decided to serve God 10 years previously. (TTT Editor's Note:  This would have been in 1893, before Adam could have professed through Wm. Irvine or one of his  workers).  He was on his way home from work one day when his sister met him and told him to hurry home if he wanted to see his other sister alive.  He arrived shortly before she passed away.  Afterwards he went away down the garden and knelt among the trees and yielded his life to God.  Wilson felt what a happy man he must be to be already serving God for 10 years.

After a number of meetings, Adam asked any to stand up who wished to yield their life to God, and Wilson’s sister, Bella, was one who then stood up.  Some nights later another opportunity was given and this time Wilson himself stood up.  Shortly afterwards, Adam had to go away for a while, but said there would be a meeting each Sunday evening.  When Wilson asked him who would lead the meeting, he said, “You can do so!”  The first meeting after Adam left, a number were present and Wilson guided the meeting.  Afterwards, someone asked him how he did it.  Wilson replied, “I don’t know, except that I’ve been praying all the week.” 

Wilson continued to go to church on Sunday mornings until Easter, when he felt he had had enough of it.  Afterwards, a Sunday morning meeting was started and then they were also invited to convention.  Wilson spoke of the earnest spirit prevailing there, and how, on taking a walk in the countryside one would see a person here and there praying behind a tree.  Subsequently, Wilson went in the Work and had a year or two in England in Hants, and Wilts. (abbreviations for the counties of Hampshire and Wiltshire in the south part of England.)

Towards the end of 1905, a number of workers set sail from these shores for South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  Wilson was among the group of 4 brothers and 4 sisters who were to work in South Africa.  He landed at Cape Town and stayed at first in a Salvation Army Hostel.  His companion soon moved on and Wilson was left alone.  His resources being limited, his diet consisted mainly of porridge, and to economize, he went without sugar on it, and later without salt.

Wilson was having open-air meeting in a suburb of Cape Town called Claremont, a Mr. Muller, on his way home from work, passed by and heard Wilson preaching.  He did not stay to listen then, but on reaching home, Mr. Muller said to his wife, “The Truth is on the street to-night.”  Next day, Wilson was visiting and the last house he came to was the Mullers’.  Mr. Muller recognized him and invited him in.  Within about 3 weeks, Mrs. Muller yielded to God and her husband a little while later.  A young man, Jonny Abrahams, stood with Wilson.  His daughter, Mary, is in the Work.  An old lady used to stand at her gate listening.  When Wilson moved on, he asked the sister workers to continue the mission and the old lady decided.  (I obtained this information when in South Africa and visiting Mrs. Muller’s daughter, Nunnie, and her husband).

In 1906, another batch of workers arrived among whom was Fred Alder,
who then joined Wilson.  They moved up to Kimberley to the area of the diamond fields and found lodgings with one of the diggers.  To pay their board and lodgings, they used to dig each morning until midday.  In the afternoons they would go visiting and have meetings in the evenings.  One of the FIRST to become interested was George Absalom.  For a while he resisted the Gospel.  He was also digging for diamonds and Wilson would talk with him while at work, but Wilson would take care to keep above him on the slope, lest George, irritated by the Truth, would push him down the hill.  George eventually surrendered and vowed to serve God, becoming one of the FIRST South Africans to go into the Work. In those days Wilson only had one pair of trousers, which he used to wash out at 4 a.m. on Sunday mornings and hang up with his pickhead tied in them.  Within a couple of hours they were dry and pressed, and some wondered where he got his new trousers from!

Later, Wilson was one of the first workers to go to Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe).  The evening before he left, he gave Martha Skerritt and her companion his last shilling, but the next day he received a letter from Willie Hughes from New Zealand enclosing 100 pounds.

There was a period in Wilson’s experience when he was not so well, being unable to sleep.  One evening as he went to bed, he heard it begin to rain on the iron roof of the house and he thought he would never sleep with that noise, but the steady patter of the rain actually lulled him into a sound sleep, which helped his recovery. When he left for South Africa, he never expected to see Ireland again, but in fact, he was invited home for a visit after some years, and thus saw his parents again, who had meanwhile decided to serve God.

When Ben Boles lost his leg in an accident in 1916,
Wilson was asked to take the oversight in Scotland, but he was not too happy to be away from his beloved Africa.  In the early 1920’s, he went to Holland and studied Dutch, but did not stay long, as he could leave things in the hands of Frank van de Merwe and Willie Smeenk.

While in South Africa, Wilson said he felt as though he was staying in one room of a large house, without exploring the other rooms. So in 1931, he and Paul Scholtz visited Tanganyika (present-day Tanzania) and Kenya, thus opening the way for the Work to start in these countries. He then proceeded to Egypt, where, with Willie Brown and Eddie Lowe, he began studying French, which was widely known there at that time.  Subsequently, Fred Quick came to Egypt and started the Work among the Greeks there.  Wilson moved on to Lebanon, where he left Willie and Eddie.

Sometime later Wilson was asked to take the oversight of the Work in Ireland, but agreed to this only on the condition that he share it with some other.  In fact, Wilson was not in favour of the principle of one worker alone being responsible for a country.  He said he would like to live in such a way that when he came to die, he would not be missed.  I believe he meant that he would delegate sufficient authority that there would be someone fitted and experienced enough to take his place.

In 1946, Wilson was the first elder worker to visit West Africa, where the Work had begun in 1931 in Sierra Leone, and he found the situation there unsatisfactory.  From that time Wilson took an interest in West Africa, and began to get other workers out there.  I heard Wilson in 1938, but it was in 1951 that I first met him, as it had been arranged for me to go to Nigeria.  I asked Wilson whether I would need to take anything particularly with me, and he replied, “Just a shirt and a pair of trousers!”  Subsequently, the Work was extended to Gold Coast(now Ghana) in 1953; East Nigeria in 1954 and later to British Cameroons (now parts of Cameroon and Nigeria) in 1958, where Wilson was one of the first to make a start.

In the early 1950’s Wilson became interested in Madagascar and tried to get workers in there, but visas were refused.  The Workers he had destined for there were then diverted to West Africa.  Wilson also visited The Gambia, but the way did not open there.  Wilson was the first worker to go to Ethiopia, where he stayed with a Canadian family and held some meetings in their home. This start was short-lived, as the authorities later cancelled the Canadian’s contract.  Nevertheless, one man professed there, and later emigrated to America.  Wilson was not a fluent linguist, but studied languages in order to encourage younger workers to do so, as they would be able to put them to good use.  He sometimes said that everyone had the right to hear the Gospel in his own language, but, faced with the multiplicity of languages in Africa, he seemed to come to the conclusion that this would only be possible in the Millennium.

I last saw Wilson at a convention in Kenya in 1966.  He was very fond of that country and even said it was where he would like to die. In 1968, Wilson attended convention at Lusaka (Zambia) and Salisbury (S. Rhodesia) (now Harare, capital of Zimbabwe) but was not feeling so well.  He went on to attend convention at Cape Town (2), Pretoria and Umtwalumi,* but was taken ill and stayed at Chris Aller’s home, tended by an old friend of his, Mrs. Hope Middleton.  As he got worse, he was taken to hospital in Durban.  He had an operation, which was not successful and he passed away soon afterwards** in December.  The inscription on his grave reads, “A Pioneer of God.”

Author unknown

P.S.  *where he spoke on the 65th anniversary of the night he decided
**during the last afternoon of Durban convention

Letter 5 - History of South Africa
A brief account by Peter Rousseau concerning our two brothers:

Stephanus (Stephen) Koekemoer and Cornelius Appelgryn, who ended their days in Westfort Leper Asylum, near Pretoria , South Africa .

It was in the early 1930s that a brother worker first observed unmistakable signs of the disease in Stephanus. This worker, who had gained considerable knowledge of leprosy during his ministry in the Far East, where the malady is perhaps more prevalent than in other parts of the world, called Fanie (the name which this brother was more commonly known amongst the friends) aside, and suggested that in fairness to the rest of his own family he subjected himself to a medical examination. The result proved positive and Fanie became the first brother to be admitted to the Asylum. Willie Brown and a good many friends paid frequent visits to Westfort and had regular meetings with Fanie. On more than one occasion, Willie remarked, "I went there in an endeavour to encourage our brother, but it was rather he who encouraged me," and that was true indeed. Never once was there one word of complaining.

A whole year went by. One Sunday morning another inmate, Cornelius Appelgryn, on his way back from his church, stopped at the shelter where the few friends were having a meeting with Fanie. This man confessed having more than once taken note of what he saw in Fanie, Willie, and others, and wanted to knew more. The outcome was a brother added and sweet fellowship for Fanie. Almost incredibly, the two of them suffered reproach and untold contempt, for Christ's sake, at the hands of their fellow-lepers.

During the years that followed, through the faithful example of Fanie and Cornelius, no fewer than seven were added. These all died in the Faith. Meanwhile, the disease had begun to take its toll. First of all, total blindness, then loss of limbs; hands, feet and legs were being eaten away.

It is worth mentioning here that approximately the year 1948 a potent tablet was imported from America which had, in a number of cases, proved effective. The medical authorities were warned that it was a matter of "kill or cure," and it was decided to put it to the test at Westfort.

Cornelius being one of five, chosen for the purpose. The other four died, but it seemed as though our brother was improving. When the prospect of at least a temporary discharge was placed before him, he refused. He said he would rather remain a physical leper, and retain the peace of God in his heart, than risk losing everything.

I should like to mention that letters were regularly exchanged between us, and our brother often used rather strong language for the benefit (as I thought) of the person who did the writing for him. On one memorable occasion, I ventured to suggest, "You certainly rubbed it into your scribe the other day." The answer I got was, "That wasn't intended for him at all - I meant it for you."

On my first visit to Westfort, in January, 1943, Cornelius' parting words were, "Hold fast," and these were the same words he used when I visited for the last time, one Saturday in April 1950. That day he felt his end was near, and I myself realized he couldn't last much longer. As we were saying, "Good-bye," he added, "We won't be seeing each other again in this life, but if we keep true we will be together on the other side. Hold fast!" He went to his reward early the following Thursday morning.

Cornelius, in giving his testimony, used to tell of the beautiful white horse he rode - "and if I saw a poor man walking on the left hand side of the road, I would turn my head to the right. Then he would exclaim, "God had to break me down to build me up." One day, when he was riding along a country road, he heard a man singing hymns and when he saw this man, walking behind a pair of oxen holding a plow, he stopped his horse and waited for him and said, "Friend, what makes you so happy when you have to work so hard?" The man told him he had found God's Way on the earth and was walking in it, but he was too proud at that time to show more interest.

The day Fanie was buried, after the service, Pieter and I saw Cornelius separate himself and slowly make his own way back to his room. We followed him. He was sitting alone, tears streaming from his blinded eyes, and he said, "The love Fanie and I had for one another was greater than that of a man for a woman." I believe Cornelius' wife, Bettie, often gave out the hymn, "How, strange it seem and wondrous what Thou hast done for me. And in¬deed, it was strange and wondrousl

If anyone reading this account can add to it or make corrections, I should be glad to receive same. One feels this is part of South Africa 's heritage and We should tell these things to our children and children's children, to the third and fourth generation.

Mr. and Mrs. Pieter van Vuuren, 360 Highland Road , KENSINGTON, Johannesburg. 2094. Rep. of South Africa .
(Both have passed on now.)
*Translated from Afrikaans

Letter 6 - History of South Africa
Burgersdorp , Cape Province , South Africa - November 7, 1977

Dear Pieter and Ivy,

Just a little letter from me, seeing Joey asked me to write to you of what I can still remember of the mission at Koppies, 43 years ago.

Arie Blomerus and myself started the mission in 1934. From the beginning of the mission, the Appelgryn family were very friendly and attended the meetings regularly. Mrs. Appelgryn and her daughter made a start, also the son, but he didn't go on. Mrs. Appelgryn's brother, Jan Badenhorst and his wife also professed and went on faithfully. She passed away a few years ago and he went to his eternal home this year. Their youngest daughter, Margrietha, married to John du Toit, also serve God.

Amongst those who attended the meetings, was a certain Mr. Swanepoel, an old elder in the Dutch Reform Church , whom the minister requested to attend the meetings to find out where we were wrong. He professed and said in his testimony that he did not attend many meetings before he discovered where he was wrong and that he was glad that he could now see what is right. His wife was a very hard woman and sometimes tore his clothes from his body, so he could not go to meetings. Through it all, he remained faithful to the end. Also, a Mrs. Els made her choice and when the minister visited her, she gave him her testimony. He then said to her, "Sister, you are the type of person we need in the church, to be an example and to let your light shine." She then replied, "Sir, a lamp cannot give light very long unless it is regularly filled with oil. I'm convinced that where God showed me the light, there He will also supply the oil." She went on faithfully and died two years later in His Way.

There was also a Mrs. Lewis who gave her life to God. She suffered from her heart, and died just three months later. Her husband had been transferred to another village. She wrote us a letter in which she mentioned how glad and thankful she was that God had opened her eyes and set her free, and the joy she now experienced. Little did we know that as we read her letter, she had already passed away. I posted her letter back to her husband but he was not very interested in the living message.

Mr. and Mrs. Kleinhans made a start and went on for many years.

In May 1934, Arie went to Java and Japie Danielson came to join me. He remained with me until the end of that year. We had up to five meetings a week and every night a full house. Mr. and Mrs. van Sul also made a start.

Later, we held meetings at Peter and Alice Smith's place, seven miles out of Koppies. They also professed and went on faithfully.

There are three settlements around Koppies and we were privileged to invite most of the people to the meetings. Some attended and then turned away from the threshold of His Kingdom.

The fellowship and brotherly love of my two companions during that mission at Koppies as we laboured together was lovely - something supernatural. I shall surely remember it through all eternity.

We had problems with the "long bearded" apostolics and the "holy rollers" who also held meetings there at that time. The people called us the "bicycle sect" (because we used bicycles).

The Dutch Reform minister was a rugby player. One day when he ran after the ball at the edge of the field, one of his elders said to him, "You run after the ball here, while the bicycle sect goes off with your congregation."

Mr. Appelgryn became a leper as a result of standing for long periods in icy water. He was employed cleaning out irrigation canals, by shoveling out the excessive mud. They paid by the square yard and he overdid it, working such long hours. The doctors believed that the blood congealed in his veins, causing him to become a leper. So, some people have to pay a very high price to bring salvation to others.

Well, Ivy and Pieter, if I had to write about everything that happened, it would perhaps fill a book. I've just written a little and I hope it will help you. Remember, 43 years is a long time and a person forgets. I am now 74 years old, so life is also drawing to an end.

Greetings to you both,

Your brother in His Way,

Johannes Hoffman


**A letter from the worker who had the mission at Koppies, Orange Free State when Cornelius Appelgryns' wife and children professed.