Billy Graham Center

Interview with Jesse Wilbert Hoover - Collection 319

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Jesse Wilbert Hoover

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)


Audio recording and transcript for T1

Audio recording and transcript for T2

Audio recording and transcript for T3

Audio recording and transcript for T4

Brief Description:

Interview with Hoover in which he talks in a rather general way about his Pietistic background and beliefs, his education at Messiah and Wheaton Colleges, his involvement in Mennonite relief work in Europe and the Far East and his evangelistic work in Canada.

Collection 319 [April 11, 2000]
Hoover, Jesse Wilbert; 1908-2002
Interview; 1985

Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Jesse Hoover was born July 7, 1908 in Miami County, Ohio to E.B. and Lydia Hoover. The family were members of the Brethren in Christ denomination, in which Hoover stayed all his life. He graduated from Randolph Township High School in Englewood, Ohio in May 1926 and enrolled in Messiah College, then in Grantham, Pennsylvania, the next year. While there his Christian faith was renewed and he had a call to Christian service. He intended to become a teacher. In 1931 Hoover transferred to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, partly because his favorite professor from Messiah, Charles Eavey, had moved to Wheaton. Hoover graduated in 1932 with a BA in Education. The same year he married fellow graduate Esther Naomi Stump and they eventually had one child.

After graduating he worked for a year for his father-in-law on his farm, but then developed tuberculous and it was several years before he completely recovered. When he did he again worked with his father-in-law in a grain elevator business. He was also becoming more involved in the affairs of the Brethren in Christ. He served as a temporary pastor at some rural churches and also held evangelistic meetings, including a series of meetings in the Northwestern Territory of Canada in 1939. He also spent four years as the volunteer pastor of a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He volunteered to go to Europe in 1941 for the Mennonite Central Committee as a relief food administrator. He spent most of his time in France, helping to feed people who had become refugees because of the war. When he returned to the United States in about ten months, he traveled throughout the country to talk about the relief program. He also became editor-in-chief of the Brethren in Christ's publications. When America entered the war, he became secretary of the peace section of the Mennonite Central Committee and acted as a liaison with government officials in negotiations about the draft status of conscientious objectors among Mennonite youth.

In 1947 he led a tour of young people to Mennonite relief programs in the Philippines, China, Indonesia and India. While there he was also involved in assisting in different ways the work of the relief programs. Upon his return to the United States, he started a hardware business in Indiana. When he retired, he and his wife continued to lived in that state, in the town of Greenfield.

Scope and Content:

Jesse W. Hoover was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on October 7, 1985 in Greenfield, Indiana. The time period covered by the interviews is from 1927-1947.

T1 (63 minutes).
Born in Miami County, Ohio; raised in tradition of Pietism; simplicity of the theology of his faith; revolt against this tradition as a teenager and rethinking his faith as a young man; became "willing to know less than God;" tuberculosis and other physical and financial problems; achieved an understanding of the reality of God and a physical healing; private nature of his struggle; roots of Brethren in Christ; separation of church and state; Church's tradition of pacifism; opposition to his church during his childhood because of its pacifism during World War I; beaten by a bully; the Brethren Church's melding of Wesleyan and Pietism traditions; support for evangelism and missions, as opposed to an emphasis on separatism; other distinctive practices of the church, including opposition to ostentation, literal understanding of the Bible; the seven ordinances of the church as a part of worship; direct approach to all questions of faith and polity; warm relations within the family; early exposure to missions through aunt and uncle who were missionaries to Africa; their experiences in Africa; Hoover's early intent to go in law and politics; his father's wish that he go to Messiah College for one year; transfer to Wheaton College in his senior year; evangelistic meetings at Messiah; a vision from God of hell while avoiding religious services; theological and Bible studies at Messiah College; details of transfer to Wheaton; preparation for the ministry and teaching; influence of Charles Benton Eavey; trying to catch up scholastically at Wheaton; academic difficulties at Wheaton; participation in literary society and debate team; interest in exchange of ideas and arguing; controversy on theological issues generally taboo at Wheaton College; spiritual life at Wheaton; large student prayer meeting; graduation from Wheaton and student teaching in public schools during summer school; teaching method; recollections of J. Oliver Buswell as a teacher; relations between the college and town; being interviewed for the student newspaper, The Record.

T2 (60 minutes).
Effects of the economic depression on Hoover's education; aid from his brother; efforts of students at Wheaton to find work; impact of evangelistic meetings led by J. C. Massee on Wheaton students; recollections of faculty: George H. Smith, Elsie S. Dow; combination of sccholarship and faith by the faculty; Russell Mixter; farms with father-in-law for a year after graduating; tuberculosis and healing; Aiding father-in-law in beginning business for five years; confirmation of call to ministry by President Enos H. Hess of Messiah College; taking up the mantle of his missionary uncle John; unable to teach because of previous bout with tuberculosis; volunteering to go Europe in 1941 to supervise Mennonite refugee relief efforts; serving four years in Philadelphia in a home missions church; background of his service abroad; traveling through Europe in 1941; pressure from the United States government; on the American Mennonites to leave France; danger of theft and murder from refugees in Marseilles; justification of the Mennonite's relief work as a means of evangelism; visit to Java after World War II and viewing the devastation of the civil war there between Muslims and Christians; doors opened to Christians because of relief efforts; cooperation with the Society of Friends and other groups during relief work in prewar Europe; work with refugee children; Roman Catholic influence in France; examples of the methods used to combine relief work and evangelism; Mennonite desire to avoid creating "rice" Christians who only gave lip service to Christianity in order to get food; comparison of private Christian relief and government relief.

T3 (56 minutes).
Effect of Mennonite relief efforts on missions; desire to avoid refugees from becoming dependent on the mission; work in the Uniting States promoting Mennonite relief efforts; helping to develop the conscientious objector program after Pearl Harbor; general acceptance of conscientious objector program among the larger Evangelical community; lead group of Brethren young people to China, the Philippines, Indonesia and India in 1947; memories of the Philippines and China; situation of relief agencies in China; contacts with Communist official about relief work; brief description of some of the different agencies doing relief work in China in 1947; description of visits to Philippines, Indonesia and India, and then returned through Europe; the advantage of having mission work inspected by visitors with fresh eyes; exhaustion after returning to United States from tour; interdenominational activities; went into retailing business in Indiana; retirement; description of a series of evangelistic meetings he led in 1939 in the Northwestern Territory of Canada; demoralization of people because of drought and financial hardship; word-of-mouth advertising; description of evangelistic services; the place of women in Mennonite relief effort; difficulty in establishing permanent mission work in Asia for the Brethren in Christ; difficulty in cooperation between mission boards; interaction between missions and relief programs; the adaption of Western Pietist traditions to foreign cultures; tradition of women wearing veils during worship; bringing music of indigenous cultures into the national church; Mennonite attitudes toward government facilitated their acceptance as missionaries in other countries; tragedy of Western Christians' colonial attitude in missions efforts; new relation ship of foreign missionaries to the national church.

T4 (13 minutes).
Beneficial effects for the Chinese church of foreign missionaries evacuating the country in 1949-50; Communist accusations that Chinese Christians were pawns of Western missionaries; morality of Western contact with primitive people in general and missions in particular; discussion in a chapel at Wheaton of the evidence of human depravity among primitive people; the speed which primitive people pick up the Western cigarette habit.



The materials for this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Jesse Hoover in October 1985.

Acc: 85-135
March 5, 1993
Robert Shuster
K. Cox

Accession : 85-135
Type of material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 63 minutes. One side only. Interview with Jesse W. Hoover by Paul Ericksen recorded on October 7, 1985. Topics discussed include his description of the Pietist tradition in which he was raised; his conversion; the Brethren in Christ's doctrines, including pacifism; description of his years as a student at Messiah College.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 60 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview with Jesse Hoover by Paul Ericksen recorded on October 7, 1985. Topics discussed include description of his year as a student at Wheaton College; his illness from tuberculous and his healing; his activities in Europe in 1941 as a relief food administrator for the Mennonite Central Committee.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 56 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview with Jesse Hoover by Paul Ericksen recorded on October 7, 1985. Topics discussed include his activities in Europe in 1941 as a relief food administrator for the Mennonite Central Committee; his visit to Mennonite relief programs in the Far East in 1947; the evangelistic meeting he held in Canada; general comments on missions and relief programs.

T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, approximately 13 minutes. One side only. Continuation of interview with Jesse Hoover by Paul Ericksen recorded on October 7, 1985. Topics discussed include the benefits to the Chinese church from the withdrawal of Western missionaries; the effect of contacts with Westerns on primitive peoples.

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