Benjamin Franklin England
The Life of Benjamin F. England
Benjamin Franklin England, a very fine gospel preacher and the father of two equally good preachers, was born between Gainesville and Whitesboro, Texas on April 8, 1899. His parents were Joe and Ann (Gregory) England, who reared their eight children in the "nurture and admonition of The Lord." They farmed and raised cattle. When B.F. was four years old, which would have been in 1903, the family moved by covered wagon to Georgia Ridge near Alma in Crawford County, Arkansas. Twenty years later, in this same community, he was baptized into Christ by Burt Hamm. He attended the public schools as a child and at Georgia Ridge completed the eighth grade, applied for and received a teacher's certificate, which he never used. He completed the High School work at Dean Springs.
Like many others, through diligent personal study and devotion to The Book he became well acquainted with it, and developed the ability to teach it well. His son, Haskell, writes: "I have seen him sit up until late hours reading The Book by the light of a kerosene lamp until he would literally fall asleep." Many friends, including Burt Hamm, Aubrey Mullins, J.B. Jordan, and W.L. Oliphant encouraged him to preach. From the first of his preaching to the end, fifty nine years later, apparently he "never looked back", even though it involved him in many great personal sacrifices, which were willingly shared by his wife and two sons. Poor health slowed him some in the last years, but he literally preached as long as he could.
On May 10, 1919 he was married to Miss Polly Ann Edwards, daughter of Silas and Delia Edwards. She had been born at Maple, Oklahoma (near Muldrow) but the family had moved to Graphic, Northeast of Alma, and it was here that she and B.F. met. In early life she and her parents were Baptists, but later they all obeyed the gospel. Two sons were born to them, and both are faithful and competent gospel preachers, Haskell T. and Idus F. Brother England with his young sons came into Southern Oklahoma while I was preaching in Lawton in the '40s and '50s. Brethren in the area received them warmly, and I remember hearing many of the brethren speak very favorably of this fine gospel preacher and his two talented sons, who were also preaching. Soon all three of them were at work, and in the many years since then the name "England" in Southern Oklahoma and Northern Texas has stood for the very best in gospel preaching and Christian living.
In the first years of his marriage, Brother England farmed and worked in the public sector. He continued such work for many years after he began to preach. The boys recall seeing him stand in the pulpit after cutting wood or walking behind a plow all day, when they knew he was so tired he could hardly stand. Both the boys and their mother worked to pay for the gasoline and other expenses of the Model T Ford car he used to get to his preaching appointments. Both of them recalled seeing him called from the cotton patch to preach a funeral, and pay all the expenses himself. Idus is charitable and suggests that perhaps the bereaved family did not have anything with which to pay the expenses. Anyway, often they did not even thank him, and he paid the cost of getting there and back and lost a day's work. But such is often the lot of a preacherl It is much better now, usually.
He began working in construction work and for several years worked on the building of bridges on Highway 62 from Mulberry, Arkansas to Sallisaw, Oklahoma. He moved to Okmulgee, Oklahoma where he got a job in a refinery, and was working there when "the crash" came in 1929. While in Okmulgee he had begun preaching. He did not do "local work" with The Church there, but did do some of their preaching and worked in nearby places by appointment. While living there, the Adventists got a "big" meeting going, and their preacher challenged everyone, far and near, to debate him. Brother England felt he was not advanced enough to take that on, so he got W.L. Oliphant, from nearby Muskogee. Brother Oliphant was more than equal to the occasion! With the depression on, he lost the job in the refinery, and encouraged by Brother Oliphant, and others, moved to nearby Beggs, Oklahoma to work for The Church there. The church was small, but they promised a house to live in, (for which they paid $5.00 per month rent) to share their produce and groceries, and "give him what cash they could." They were unable to "make it" on this arrangement, and moved back to Dyer, Arkansas, where he worked at what ever he could get to do and preached every Sunday at Dyer, or in nearby communities, such as Gregory Chapel, Pleasant Valley, Charleston, Bloomer, Bells Chapel, Lamar, and other small places, often getting the days contribution for his efforts. He spent the summers holding meetings, and often the whole family went with him for this work. These often produced many baptisms, but the monetary support was very low, often not enough to pay expenses. (Remember that these were "depression days") They often gave them produce, chickens, canned food, and once he was given a heifer calf that became the family milk cow. In the mid thirties he preached for The Church in Spearman, Texas. They agreed to pay him ninety dollars per month, but times were so hard he reduced that to seventy five, but still the brethren could not raise that. They moved back to Dyer, Arkansas. He continued to preach, but did not have any more "full time" work until he went to Ft. Smith to work with the Midland Boulevard church in 1942, being the first preacher for this new church which had been started by the Park Hill church. He worked in Henrietta and Davis in Oklahoma, then back to Ft. Smith for a second period of work there. Comanche and Grandfield in Oklahoma followed, then Henrietta and Sanger in Texas. At each of these places he served twice. Ft. Gibson and Spiro in Oklahoma were also places where he served.
As the years advanced his health began to decline some and he moved to Gainesville, Texas, because that had always seemed "like home" to him, since he had been born near there and had relatives and many friends there. He continued to preach as he was able. When he was seventy nine both hip sockets had to be replaced, but he continued to preach by appointments as he could. In 1976, after fifty seven years of marriage his wife Pollie was called to the better land. She had loyally stood by his side, helping him in much personal teaching, all through the years. Two years later he was married to Maxine Hord, of Gainesville.
Idus says: "His life was far from glamorous, but he held hundreds of meetings, funerals, weddings and baptized hundreds of people over the span of his years. He recovered from the hip surgery, but then developed cancer of the pancreas, which finally took him on October 5, 1983 at the age of eighty four years, five months, and twenty seven days. His Polly had been laid to rest in the Gainesville cemetery, just South of the Hillcrest meeting house. He now sleeps peaceably by her side, the last services having been conducted by Glenn Bishop in the Broadway meeting house in Gainesville. In addition to his wife, Maxine and the two sons, he is also survived seven grand children and ten great grandchildren.
Idus' statement: "His life was far from glamorous ... " is only a part of the story. That's not the reason a preacher lives. He lives to serve, and usually there is not much glamour to that. But there is a crown of life. He was a good man. Without such men The Church could not be. He contributed mightily to it's welfare, and left much, including his two sons, to make this old world a better place. We'll meet him again.
-From Gospel Preachers of Yesteryear, by Loyd L. Smith, pages 145-148
Location of The Grave of B.F. England
B.F. England is buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Gainesville, Texas. Gainesville lies north of Fort Worth off I-35W, heading toward the Oklahoma state line. Take exit 496B and head east through town (This will be West California St.). When the road becomes E. California Street, turn left on Fair Avenue. Pass Edison Park and you will come to cemetery on right. Enter the main entrance and head to the office. There is a map of the cemetery on the east side of the office. Look for Section G. It is located at the north end of the cemetery. The England plot will be found in the NE corner of Section G, about two rows in looking west. Look for the brown marble upright marker "ALLEN," and the England graves will be just behind.
While in the cemetery, be sure to also visit the grave of another preacher from yesteryear by the name of J.B. Sweeney. His plot is located in Section 13. GPS Location of the Grave: 33°38'06.2"N 97°07'31.2"W / or D.d. 33.635060,-97.125320
Rich Berdan Standing At The England Grave
In January, 2010, my Jenny and I were involved in the Fort Worth Lectures at Brown Trail Church of Christ. While on this visit it was our great pleasure to stay with dear friends Rich and Barb Berdan. One day Rich endured traveling with me to locate some graves of gospel preachers of yesteryear. He assisted me in locating the graves on this site. Special thanks to him for his assistance.