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C. N. Hostetter Sr.

(President, 1917-1923)


C. N. Hostetter Sr.

Messiah’s second president was a farmer and bishop from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Christian N. Hostetter Sr. was a generous and service-oriented man. Known for his strong convictions and leadership abilities, he became a prime candidate to take the reins of Messiah’s management and propel it into a period of great growth and economic stability.


Prior to his days as president, Hostetter made his living by working on the farm. His personal financial stability is owed to the success of his mixed farming method and tobacco crops.  However, after becoming president, he discontinued selling tobacco, because many church leaders frowned upon its use.


In addition to farming, Hostetter was also the bishop of the Manor-Pequea district of Lancaster.  Under his administration, the district was known to be moderate, relaxed, and somewhat progressive. Hostetter even acted as a non-resident bishop for other districts that were struggling or were without a bishop of their own. 


Obviously dedicated to service, it should be no surprise that Hostetter had a strong passion for international missions. Serving in Africa, his fervor for ministry was contagious. In fact, many missionaries of the Brethren in Christ Church came from his district.


For the church, he served on the Foreign Mission Board, first as secretary and later as chairman, until 1944. He was also elected as the moderator of the General Conference. He served in that position for five years and for six as assistant moderator. After S. R. Smith’s death he took over as secretary of the General Conference.


Being so involved in the church, Hostetter was one of the best supporters in launching Messiah.  Not only did he aid the school financially, but he also spoke at Bible conferences and assisted with other school functions and events.


After Smith’s sudden and untimely death in 1916, Hostetter seemed like a logical replacement. He officially became Messiah’s president in 1917.


During his presidency, Hostetter donated his services free of charge. While he was supposed to receive $100 each month in addition to traveling expenses (to cover the train fees that took him over 35 miles from his home to Grantham), he turned down the offer. 


He served as an example to other faculty and staff members at the school, who were also dedicated to seeing Messiah succeed. To alleviate financial stress, teachers followed suit and donated their services for an entire month.


In a period of economic turmoil, he was able to raise additional funds to bring Messiah out of a pit of debt and lagging student enrollment. 


In addition to his personal initiatives and those of his employees, Hostetter developed another means of bringing in funds. His method to achieve stability was an interesting but successful tactic. 


He sent out Asa Climenhaga, another man dedicated to Messiah and its cause, across the U.S. and Canada to coax other Brethren in Christ churches to support the College. This approach brought Messiah out of debt and allowed the College to begin an endowment fund.


Other key projects were underway throughout Hostetter’s time as president: 

  • The once Bible school and missionary training home became a junior college, only the second in the state. 
  • The school began offering its first college-level courses. 
  • Because of its new status, the school’s name was changed to Messiah Bible College.


Hostetter clearly had a lot on his plate in tackling the overwhelming task of bringing Messiah to a state of perseverance and growth. Regardless, he took on many roles in the church which demanded a lot of his valuable time.


As a result, he sent in a request to resign from his position as president to the Board of Managers.  Because of his excellence in serving the College and the fear of what might happen without his leadership, they turned down his proposal.


A year later, he made another attempt to hand over his responsibilities so that he may go abroad to work in the foreign mission field. This time, they granted him a leave of absence.

In 1922, upon his return from abroad, Hostetter was finally authorized to officially resign from his presidential role.


What was happening in the world during C. N. Hostter Sr.'s presidency?

  • The U.S. entered World War I.
  • World War I ended on November 11, 1918.
  • Senate passed the 18th Amendment declaring Prohibition, also known as The Noble Experiment, in 1919.
  • Saddle shoes were the most popular footwear.
  • Warren Harding was elected as the president of the U.S. in 1920.
  • The National Woman’s Party leads a nonviolent campaign resulting in the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women the constitutional right to vote.
  • Reader’s Digest distributed its first issue.
  • Calvin Coolidge becomes president of the U.S. following Harding’s death.



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