Smith, Samuel Roger (1853-1916)

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Samuel Roger Smith was a businessman, educator, and a noted leader in the Brethren in Christ Church. For several years he taught in a local school near Hershey, PA. Later he operated a feed mill and dealt in stocks. Following the failure of his business, he moved to Harrisburg and began to manufacture noodles. In 1909 he moved the operation to Grantham, PA, where he constructed the largest factory of its kind east of the Mississippi River.

In 1896 he and his wife became members of the Brethren in Christ Church. Ten years later he was elected to the ministry. In 1896 he helped to found Messiah Rescue Home and Orphanage in Harrisburg (later Messiah Village near Mechanicsburg, PA). In 1916 he brought the orphanage to Grantham where it was known as Messiah Orphanage. He was elected secretary of General Conference in 1899 and retained that office until his death in 1916. As General Conference secretary he had the major part in drafting the constitution and bylaws of his denomination when it was incorporated in 1904. With John R. Zook he produced the first Brethren in Christ hymnal that utilized musical notation. From 1905 to 1916 he was a member of the denomination's General Executive Committee, in which position he traveled widely in the United States and Canada to deal with major denominational problems. In 1913, when the Brethren in Christ in the Grantham area organized into a district, Smith was elected its first bishop.

Smith is best remembered as the leader in the founding of Messiah Bible School and Missionary Training Home (later Messiah College). Against much opposition and largely from his own financial resources, he obtained a charter for the school in 1909. During the first academic year, classes were held in his house in Harrisburg. When the campus followed Smith and his noodle company to Grantham in 1911, it was to a large building on land donated by Smith behind his newly constructed house. He taught Bible in the school and served as its first president until his death.

Smith was an avid amateur scientist and astronomer. Through the years he collected an excellent laboratory which he eventually gave to the science department of the college he had helped to found.


Evangelical Visitor (18 September 1916): 20.

Sider, E. Morris. Messiah College: A History. Nappanee, IN, 1984.

Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: The Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978: 289-299 passim.

Author(s) E. Morris Sider
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Sider, E. Morris. "Smith, Samuel Roger (1853-1916)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 1 Dec 2023.,_Samuel_Roger_(1853-1916)&oldid=77790.

APA style

Sider, E. Morris. (1989). Smith, Samuel Roger (1853-1916). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 December 2023, from,_Samuel_Roger_(1853-1916)&oldid=77790.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 829-830. All rights reserved.

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