Project Canterbury


Mary Amanda Bechtler

Deaconess of

St. Mary's Chapel
St. John's Parish
Washington, D. C.


MAY 15th, 1901
JULY 10th, 1918


"A young woman of sincere devotion, earnest zeal,
and marked intelligence."--W. R. H.


Oscar Lieber Mitchell


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007



To the Children and Young People of St. Mary's Chapel--
especially to those who knew and loved The Deaconess--
this little book is affectionately dedicated.


In the effort to stress racial claims we frequently overlook the value of extending the right-hand of fellowship. Social contact makes for Christian betterment, but it is not readily practiced. It is an asset of the greatest religious value, but men are not anxious to so regard it. The practical application of one's religion is seen in the word spoken here and there, in the acts done at moments when they are most appreciated; in the example of the timely and courteous conduct; but this is exactly the kind of tests from which men shrink. The authorized word is spoken; or the official act is done quite willingly, but if conditions call for the friendly touch; for the walking together in the house of God as friends, for the courtesies of the social meeting, the situation is evaded or is met with grave irritation. We find a way of doing things but may not find it easy to harmonize that with the way of the Master.

If an apology be required for printing the following sketch, it is: that this is the story of one who has not made that mistake. It is the record of the life of one whose religion was not limited by social conditions. Her social sphere embraced [3/4] God and man. No more, no less. She worshipped God and served mankind to the best of her ability. She gave her strength and her life to both without measure or stint. Hers was the example of the "Pure religion and undefiled before God." The marked consecration and fearlessly Christian tenure of this life is the excuse for printing the sketch.


In New York
St. George's
St. Faith's
"Deaconess" or Service
Her Character
Death and Burial


The first information concerning Miss Bechtler came to us from the Reverend William Reed Huntington, D.D., Rector of Grace Church, New York City. Miss Bechtler was at that time in the Training School for Deaconesses. Dr. Huntington was Warden of this school as well as Rector of Grace Church. Of necessity the pupils of the school came under his personal supervision. He could therefore speak of them from personal knowledge. He writes concerning Miss Bechtler that she was of "Southern birth" and "a young woman of sincere devotion, earnest zeal and marked intelligence." We shall see that this tribute to her character was deserved, and that she did not depart from the description given even to the day of her death.

She was born in Morganton, North Carolina, some forty-four years ago. The town is located in the extreme southwestern portion of the State, and was not particularly blessed with educational advantages or cultural surroundings. Intelligent church children would speak of the place as being located in the Missionary District of Asheville. Although the town was small and suffered all the inconveniences of [7/8] country surroundings, yet we are glad to note that one of our churches was there. It is easy to remember the name. It is called Grace Church. The girl was brought to the minister of Grace Church for baptism. At the font they called her Mary Amanda. That was her Christian name, given to her at the time of her baptism. Doubtless you have seen a like service. It may be that you will remember your own baptism. Certainly you will remember the baptism of some of the little boys and girls of dear St. Mary's. You have in mind a picture of a group of little children standing about the font. Sometimes it is an infant in the arms of the clergyman. Sometimes it is a little boy or girl standing with bowed head, waiting for the consecrated water to be poured on the brow. Sometimes it is a bigger boy or girl kneeling with hands folded, and waiting at the font to be signed with the sign of the Cross. How often we have seen the Deaconess standing in such a group! And how often we have heard her solemnly call the name of the child to be baptized! You will not forget that scene! Well, some years ago, the little girl, Mary Amanda, was brought to the font, and was given a name, just as many of the little boys and girls whom you may know.

[9] Mary Amanda Bechtler was the only girl in the family. There were two brothers, and the little girl made these her playmates. Her parents were gentle and cultured people, but I do not think they had much money. They lived in comfortable circumstances, but neither circumstances nor surroundings afforded many educational advantages for the children. The father died while they were very young. The rearing and education of the little ones therefore fell upon the widowed mother.

In case of the girl the results of the education received must have impressed all whose privilege it was to know her. It is easy for us to understand that some useful lessons must have been taught her while she was very young. For example, she must have been taught economy. We will explain this word by saying that it means the ability to make the best use of such things as one has; or the habit of making the best use of such means as may be at your disposal. We can imagine the little girl making her dresses last as long as they can, and sometimes remaking them in order to make a tidy and neat appearance. We can see her re-trimming her last year's hat so as not to look inferior to her wealthy neighbors. We can see her adding taste and finish to inexpensive material [9/10] so as to suffer nothing by comparison with the more expensively dressed. We can see her neat and tidy, happy and content because she knew how to make the best of such things as she had. At this time, too, she learned habits of industry. She learned to sew, to knit, and to do such things as would make her capable and efficient in the lines of self-help. We see her joyously trying to make light the task of her widowed mother. We see her learning to do things, and taking pleasure in doing such things as she could. She liked to play, like most children, but she could cheerfully work as well as play. She would join her brothers in the ramble about hills and valleys; and would match them in climbing fences or in wading streams; but she would cheerfully return to aid her mother in the routine work of the household.

I do not think the schools of her native town were very good. Certainly they were not such excellent schools as the girls of St. Mary's may have the privilege to attend. But this little girl knew how to appreciate such as she had. She wanted to learn and threw her heart into her studies. Poor schools made her all the more ambitious to do good work. She wanted to excel. She could not bear to know that any one stood ahead of her. She studied her books, and [10/11] she conversed with her teacher, and of course made wonderful progress in spite of the defects in her school. After all it is industry that counts. Privileges may count for much; opportunity and excellent schools may be very useful; but the great thing is the girl that works, or the girl that makes use of the privileges and opportunities.

Mary's education was, perhaps, influenced by attendance at Sunday School and by her teacher in this school. Of course she attended Sunday School regularly, and learned her catechism thoroughly, like good girls should do. But she was never quite satisfied with that which she studied in the Sunday School class or that which she heard in a church service. She wanted to talk the lesson over with her teacher; or in case she heard a sermon she sought the clergyman for further information. Frequently I have heard her speak of a lady who greatly aided her in the study of religious subjects. Then, too, I have heard her speak of a clergyman whose life and teachings greatly impressed her. She sought to know her lessons thoroughly, and she wanted a clear explanation of such subjects as were brought to her attention. It was her childish habit to ask many pertinent questions, and so she became very well informed religiously. [11/12] While quite a little girl she was brought to the Bishop to be confirmed. Is it pleasing to think that some one did for her exactly as she has done for so many of the little girls of St. Mary's? Some one taught her the lessons; some one examined her; and then some one made her ready to march up to the altar rail. While she was doing these things for little girls she was repeating that which was done for her. And how much pleasure it gave her to do that for little girls! How she did delight in teaching girls and in making them look pretty when the time came for them to be presented to the Bishop! I hope the girl who reads this story will think of the occasion of her Confirmation, and will want to help some other little girl to come to that event. We pass on the light of knowledge and love, and our own lives become brighter by so doing.


In 1895 Miss Bechtler, now a grown-up young lady, went to New York. I think she went there to join her brothers, and like them to find a sphere of usefulness and to make her way in life. Soon after her arrival there she is joined by her mother, and the family from Morganton is now living in this great city, and facing new conditions in life. Going to New York directly from a country town a young girl could hardly help seeing many things that would prove attractive. She would also meet with many attractions that might prove tempting. There are dance halls, there are music rooms, there are theaters that are always ready to serve as a snare for the unsuspecting girl. There are gay social sets and throngs of pleasure seekers that are never backward in the effort to add one more to their numbers. It is so much easier to find the place of amusement than it is to find the place of instruction! There are so many more people ready and anxious to tell you about fun and pleasure than there are to tell you about God and duty! So in the big and strange city it is very easy to drift away from early habits of church life and Christian teaching. It is very [13/14] easy to follow the crowd, and in so doing, think that you have outgrown teachings received in childhood. We soon lose the sweetness of innocence and youth when we allow ourselves to become familiar with things that are vulgar and common. Frequently we think that we are growing wise, when in point of fact we are growing flippant and gay, thoughtless and silly. In youth especially we must seek the association of the good, if we would retain or cultivate in our characters that which is good and seemly.

It is interesting to note that this is exactly what Miss Bechtler did. Although young, healthy and strong; although full of fun, and thoroughly interested in pleasures, such as a young girl would naturally enjoy; although allured and tempted as only the country girl in a great city could be, yet, be it said to her credit, she does not forget the teachings of youth and childhood. She does not throw to the winds those beautiful lessons that were taught her in the days of her youth in the faraway country church. She remembered the promises made, and the vows assumed. She recalled them all, and sought such places as would help her to realize more and more the meaning of her vows and promises. In short, rather than the dance halls she sought the churches. I think I have [14/15] heard her say that in company with an older friend she visited many churches in this great city. She studied by observation the various types of services; and the mode of worship in different parishes. She observed the extremes such as this city could easily present. Finally she turned to St. George's as the church of her choice; as the place where she would worship and work if granted the privilege.


St. George's Church, New York, is one of the most interesting churches in the country. It is interesting because there are so many things that are beautifully Christian connected with it.

For example, many races of people worship at the same service, and commune together at the same altar. Italian, German, Irishman, Englishman and Negro worship here together in peace and harmony. The man in broadcloth suit knelt at the altar by the side of the woman whose gown was a faded calico and whose headdress was the dingy shawl. Here the little ragged boy and my lady in silks knew each other as members of St. George's, and did not pass without exchanging the pleasant smile or the friendly greeting. Here were clubs to amuse or entertain men, women and children. Here were conducted classes to instruct young and old in art or industries. Here the teaching of Christ was practiced among men and women as they came in contact with each other, as well as preached from the pulpit. Here one would feel the force of the true Christian spirit. Some of the older girls of St. Mary's may have visited this church. If not, should they have the privilege of spending [16/17] some time in that city, they will greatly enjoy a visit to this place.

Many of you will grow up to be young ladies, and will find it necessary to attend a church other than that in which you were baptized and confirmed. You will come in contact with people whom you do not know, and people who do not know you. You may have to listen to the voice of a strange minister. You may not be accustomed to the kind of service in which you are called upon to take part. It may all seem so strange to you that you may soon tire of it, and may turn away feeling homesick. Many splendid young people are lost to excellent religious influence for want of a little push on their part, and for lack of a little courtesy on the part of their neighbors. Miss Bechtler overcame that difficulty by going directly to the Rector of the Parish. In a frank and honest way she told him of her desire to attend the service and to be of some practical use in connection with the church. She made him understand that she was sincere and serious. She wanted to work as well as worship, and made the Rector so to understand. She was not satisfied to be an occasional worshipper, or a regular observer of those worshipping. She wanted to do something in order to put in practice things taught from [17/18] the pulpit. It was not long before Dr. Rainsford, the big-hearted and great-souled Rector, became impressed with her seriousness. He very soon had his assistants--the curates, the Deaconesses and regular workers--to know this young woman. He introduced her to workers and work, and it was not long before she found a place in this busy Parish. She is made assistant to the Deaconesses; and was able to study them and their work until a lasting impression was made upon her. She is in charge of a Sunday School class and wins the love and admiration of her pupils, as well as the highest commendation of her fellow workers for the marked success that attended her efforts. She is given special work in connection with first one department of the Parish activities and then another, and is complimented on all that she undertakes. Choirmasters, Girls' Friendly workers, Curates, Dramatic Clubs all called on her, and all valued the efficient way in which she performed the work assigned. She soon became a valued and useful helper even in that large and busy Parish. I think it would be easy for us to see that a sincere purpose and the desire to make oneself useful will soon meet with a ready response. The girl going to the great city need not turn to low company or to the [18/19] frivolous and gay people and think that it is only among these that she finds the hearty welcome. The Christian people, too, are waiting to welcome her. Only they want her to be sincere and serious. They want her to seek the good because she loves it, and not for pretense or show. They want her to seek the church or Christian work; and not merely the company of the people who may be members of the church.

[20] ST. FAITH'S

Of course many girls know how much pleasure it gives them to enter a class or a school of a higher grade. Let us say that they have been so fortunate as to complete the courses of the graded school. If they are to continue their education, the time has come for them to enter the High or the Vocational School. They are thinking much about the new experiences that they may have in the new school. They meet in groups and talk over the prospects. They come to the new school with interest and enthusiasm but yet with feelings of anxiety for fear that they may not be able to meet the requirements. They wish to go on with their education; they wish to do the work of the new school; but it is with a feeling of uneasiness and perhaps with some fear that they go forward for the entrance examinations.

We can imagine that it was with some such feelings that Miss Bechtler sought the interview which was to admit her into a religious school. She had been doing religious work, but she wanted to do it more effectively. She had been giving much of her time to Christian work; now she wanted to give herself to it. But she must [20/21] prepare herself for the task. She must meet the tests imposed upon one by the school. With considerable nervousness and with some fear she sought an interview with the Reverend William Reed Huntington, Doctor of Divinity, Rector of Grace Church, New York, and Warden of St. Faith's, a Training School for Deaconesses. It was rather a trying moment for her when she came face to face with this great man; for she was not sure that she could do the work of the school, and still more uncertain as to whether she was prepared to enter it. Imagine her joy when told by the Warden that her candor and sincerity of purpose were the very best qualifications for admission.

Perhaps you would like to know what was taught in this school and what were some of the subjects that demanded the pupils' attention. Of course there were many things taught that can not be described in a few words; but the principal subjects were Old Testament History and how to read and study the Old Testament; New Testament History and how to read and interpret the New Testament; Church History; the History and Growth of Missions; Social Service; or how to help the people with whom you come in contact; Religious Education, or how to teach Religion; Hygiene, etc.

[22] Such and other necessary subjects were the things which demanded the attention of the young lady who is preparing for her life's work. For three years Miss Bechtler lived in St. Faith's pursuing the above and kindred subjects; winning distinction in some, and high commendation for character and zeal in all that she undertook. She was determined to devote her life to religious work, and conscientiously devoted her energies to the task of preparation. In spring of 1901 she completed the required course of studies, and with the other members of her class was set apart as a Deaconess by the Right Reverend Henry C. Potter, Doctor of Divinity, then Bishop of New York.

[23] CALLS

A Deaconess, like a clergyman, usually waits for an invitation to accept work in a parish. She does not apply for or seek work; but it is customary for those wishing her services to extend her an invitation. Such an invitation is considered a "Call."

Before graduating two such invitations were extended to Miss Bechtler. The first was an invitation to work in a mill town of Massachusetts. It was a promising field and seemed as though it would have proved very congenial work. The Rector was a young progressive clergyman, and the opportunity to reach a large number of young people was very great. On the whole, a young intelligent woman could have expected no better field. While she was considering this invitation she received another call; that was the one to come to St. John's Parish, Washington. There were circumstances about the call to Washington that it would be interesting to note. When the vacancy occurred in St. Mary's Chapel, Dr. Mackay-Smith, the Rector of St. John's Parish, requested the writer to find some one to fill it. He mentioned the possibility of finding a suitable person in the New York Training [23/24] School for Deaconesses. I at once began correspondence with Dr. Huntington, the Warden, with the hope of finding the suitable person. In his letter Dr. Huntington recommended to me Miss Bechtler, stating that she was "a young woman of Southern birth," but would be his choice for work in St. John's Parish. I gave this letter to Dr. Mackay-Smith. He noted it, and requested me to suspend correspondence until he could go to New York, and make some explanations. The explanations which he wanted to make were that St. Mary's Chapel, while in St. John's Parish, was a work among colored people, and was in charge of a colored clergyman. The Deaconess at the chapel would have to work with and according to the direction of the priest in charge. He went to New York, and in the presence of Dr. Huntington explained these circumstances to Miss Bechtler. Of course he expected her to decline the call. He put the question directly to her, and asked her how she felt about working under the direction of a colored man. Her reply was that if the man is a Christian and a gentleman his color made no difference to her. And Dr. Mackay Smith by cross-questioning could not get her to retract that statement. He left her without urging the call and asked her to consider the matter [24/25] further. But her statement was final. She was willing to come to us in spite of the hint that her prejudice would be put to the test. This event is noted to show that in her life and work she was guided by a principle rather than by personal considerations. Here, before she knew St. Mary's or any of those whom she came to love, she states a principle, from which she never swerved. She has not entered upon her life's work, but she has already grasped the truth that "God is no respecter of persons." She does not take a position like this because of her interest in the work, but the truth had found lodgment in her heart, and has been expressed from her lips before she knew anything about her life's work. Later her attitude in this respect was very well understood; but it was not the result of experience or of partiality; it was but the working out of a firmly grasped principle.


She was known amongst us as "Deaconess." The children called her by that name, and many of them never knew that she had another name. Sometimes a child not wishing to be considered impolite, and thinking that it was too familiar to use the name without a prefix, would say. "Miss Deaconess." Many of the older people were at first uncertain as to how to call her, but gradually they, too, learned to understand that the name implied the character of her work. Perhaps they have never fully understood all that the name implied, but none of us could fail to understand that she wished to serve. We knew full well that she possessed the spirit of service, and willingly gave energy and strength in the interest of those whom she would reach. She met and served the children in sewing classes, in basket-making, in embroidery classes, in various groups for religious instruction; sometimes it was a group; sometimes it was an individual; but in each case there was the effort to be of practical help. The little tot would be taught how to hold the needle, while the older child would find the Deaconess ready and willing to help in the mastery of the intricate and [26/27] fancy stitches. If Indian basketry was the fad, the older girls knew where they could find the ready and willing teacher. If the young lady is troubled to untangle some puzzle in embroidery or fancy needle work, a date with the Deaconess would be the solution of the problem. If the artist taste was required in arranging the stage for the play or the costume for the actors, everybody knew at once where that talent could be found, and knew, too, that it was theirs for the asking. If the Christmas entertainment was novel and ended with a joyous treat for old as well as young, the hand used in bringing this about was not far to seek. When the little folks answered readily questions in the church catechism, or questions on the Church year and the faces of parents beamed with pleasure on hearing the answers, there was no question in the minds of those concerned as to who was the teacher. The children of the Sunday School sing eagerly hymns and carols; many of them sing with marked accuracy the canticles of Evening and Morning Prayer. "Deaconess taught us that," would be the way in which they account for the knowledge of these things and that settled the matter with the children. It was all right if Deaconess taught them that way. While the child played in the courtway or in the [27/28] streets about the church, the safe depository for its valuables or pennies was the hand-bag of Deaconess. When the child would save the little earnings to buy the suit or shoes or to get something about Christmas time, the stamp book furnished at the office of Deaconess would be the method used. We have said "at the office," but indeed wherever she was found that was her office for children. Pennies would be given to her in the Sunday School, in the class room, in church, in the street, at her home, wherever the child happened to find her, and she was expected to convert them into the stamps and make the proper payment when it suited the convenience of the child. She was banker, bookkeeper and book, but that arrangement was perfectly agreeable to the child.

If ecclesiastical vestments were needed, all concerned knew where to find some one who would do the making or the altering. If flowers are to be secured, or floral decoration must be arranged for Christmas, Easter, or on special occasions, and the task was too great or inconvenient for members of the altar society, it was easy to find one who would cheerfully do the work. If curtains are secured and made for the windows in the Parish House, every one about the place knew whose hands made and fashioned [28/29] them. Mothers' Clubs and neighborhood meetings looked anxiously for her presence in their gatherings and felt the force of her ready wit and genuine sympathy. She would take any assigned part in these gatherings; sometimes it was to arrange the furniture in the meeting room; sometimes it was to superintend the distribution of refreshments; sometimes it was to appear on the program. It made no difference to her; she was ready and willing to serve whenever and wherever her services were desired.

Her works of mercy and deeds of charity were not for publication and can not here be told; but it is not out of place to state that many women found in her a ready listener to the "tale of woe"; and many also received at her hands sums of money as well as sympathy to meet their dire needs. Her labor, her money, her most cheering words were at the disposal of those who sought counsel of her. She would vouch for the woman whose character was worth while and would stand before the judge in defense of the boy who had committed his first offense. She would write the letter of recommendation for the girl seeking employment, and would readily name and point out the boy who could be respected and trusted. She would say the word of encouragement to the man halting [29/30] between two opinions in the religious struggle; and readily make the apology for the woman who did not know her own mind. She would stay at the bedside of the sick girl until the crisis was past or until the final summons came. This happened in the case of Carrie Price; and in the case of little Thomasia Payne; and in several other instances that need not here be named. If physicians were scarce and hard to get, she knew where to find one or how to get one to the bedside on shortest notice. In case of sickness she would be nurse or maid without stopping to consider what havoc might be wrought to her own health. In short, she was filled with the spirit of helpfulness and with the joy of Christian service.


Vocation and avocation are words with which we are familiar. By the former we would describe one's daily task. By the latter we would note the diversions from one's profession. A man's business, or his profession, or his trade, or his daily occupation we would designate as his vocation. The side duties that take his attention away from his daily calling, that sometimes entertain or amuse or divert him we are wont to call his avocation. Religious work is frequently made the avocation of some very good people. Perhaps it is not their intention to so consider it, but the attitude towards it causes one to take that view.

One works with the thought of experimenting in human interest and activities and not infrequently calls it religious work. Or one works with the view of finding some novel form of entertainment, and sometimes calls that religious interest. Or the work is done with the view of supplementing one's means of living, and credit is sought for interest and activities in religious matters. The heroism of doing Christian work--especially among the poor and lowly--appeals to some; and the work is undertaken because of [ 31/32] this appeal. But in each of these instances there is something wanting to satisfy the demands in activities that are genuinely Christian. The worker seems to give time and interest; but the "manner of life"--to use St. Paul's words--has not been given. The life is lived in other and more congenial surroundings. One does not doubt but that much good may be done in the ways indicated; but there is yet to follow a greater degree of helpfulness. The richness which comes from vital contact is without doubt the greatest uplift in the economy of Christian activities.

With Deaconess Bechtler there was no thought of work as a vocation or as an avocation. In her case there was no search for the heroic or the novel; there was no thought of the compensation or even of the appreciation. The word that best describes her attitude towards her work would be consecration. Hers was the example of a life consecrated to service and duty. It was as though she had been "set apart" to do this particular work; and that she could think of nothing more enjoyable than that she be allowed to do that. Attention to kindred and relations, as well as she loved them, was not allowed to interfere with a single engagement at her post of duty. Her dearest friends, even [32/33] though they may have come from far, would have to wait until her appointment with the poorest Negro child had been kept. An appointment to her, even though it be with a poor waif, was a sacred duty; and would be kept as conscientiously as if it had been with a prince or a State official. She was once asked, in a somewhat snaring way, "Do you worship where you work?" Her answer was, "I never worship anywhere else!" And the fact is that, unless out of town, she was never known to attend a service elsewhere at an hour when there was one at St. Mary's. She made her communion regularly at the altar where she worked, kneeling side by side with those among whom she labored. She neither sought nor cared for things new or novel in the way of church services. She was happy to join in the act of prayer, praise and thanksgiving with those whom she dearly loved; and by whom she will be remembered with lasting and tender affection.


Deaconess Bechtler's success in her life's work was won by the common sense way in which she went about things. She came to the work with no cut and dried theories about it. She had received excellent training and was eminently qualified for the position which she filled; but she did not seem to think of the qualifications. Indeed she seldom ever referred to any theories taught in the school. Her mind was open to receive any new impression; and she entered upon each task as though it was something new; as though it stood out by itself; as though it was something to be worked out on its own merits. In dealing with people she first sought to know the individual with whom she came in contact. She would enter into conversation with a child, and prolong the talk, not because of the things said, but with the idea of getting the viewpoint of the child. She would talk about school, about lessons, or about playthings, thoroughly enjoying the child's prattle, but upmost was the thought of learning something of the child. She made fast friend with the child before she endeavored to teach anything or to give one word of advice. Should she fail in getting on friendly [34/35] terms with the child, it was not likely that she would make an attempt to teach it.

She would gossip with women, not for the sake of gossip, not because she approved of the things said or of the method of saying them, but in order that she could know the women. She would lead a woman on in her talk and would seem to be taking a share in it, but all thee while she would be studying the woman. Sometimes this attitude of hers would be misunderstood, and one would be inclined to think that she too was indulging in gossip. But nothing was further from her thoughts. It was her way of getting information. It was her method of trying to keep on ground that was familiar to the person with whom she was conversing. It was an effort on her part to gain first the friendly footing, so that a greater intimacy for good might follow. With the same end in view she would frequently swap jokes with men. She would make them feel at ease; and not as though they were talking to a representative of religion. She wanted to be friendly to all with whom she came in contact. She seemed to have realized that more could be gained by genuine friendship than by talking religion. If the talk should drift towards religious subjects she was not the one so to direct it. Of course [35/36] she would sustain her viewpoint and that of the Church that she represented if the occasion should demand it; but she was not the one to force the subject to the attention of those whom she sought to influence. She depended on manners and personality more than on religious talk or on pious action. She was friendly, courteous and pleasing in her manner of dealing with people. She appreciated immensely the good-will and kindly feelings of others, but would not for a moment shirk a task even though it would bring her into unpleasant situations.

She was genial, witty and entertaining. She would have the eye and ear for the humorous and the ludicrous in the midst of the most solemn service. She had a peculiar genius for imbibing sermons and addresses. Every point in a discourse was noted by her, and could be easily repeated. She was always full of sympathy for the preacher, and could frequently interpret him better than he dared to hope. In the matter of reproducing sermons or addresses she was more than a reporter. Without written notes she could repeat almost verbatim the words of the speaker; but she also gave much of the unexpressed thoughts. Intuitively she seemed to read the thoughts that were back of [36/37] the words. There was never the slightest doubt of the accuracy of the report of an address or sermon if she were present, and given the privilege to tell of it.

Sometimes her manner was misunderstood because she was so natural. She was a woman and did not try to pose as anything else. She laughed and talked and joked and enjoyed fun without for a moment thinking that by so doing she might compromise her dignity. She thought nothing of ecclesiastical dignity. She struggled to make her work effective; and knew that to this end she must be easily approached. She cared nothing about the religious habit or the religious air. She seemed to have considered that standing before people in her true character, with her characteristic smile and her own sunny disposition would in the end accomplish far more satisfactory results than the patented air of the labeled religious. Hypocrisy was absolutely foreign to her make-up. If there were traits in her character that were not satisfactory to friend or foe, I believe she would rather have them known than that she herself should try to hide them. She sought to hold a place in the world just as she was, willing to take praise or blame as circumstances would offer, but determined to stand before all in her true colors. She [37/38] was herself, and had no apologies to make for her limitations or inconsistencies.

She loved her work and those connected with it. She was a kind of personal champion for every child over whom she had any sort of supervision. Ill treatment, or the lack of courteous treatment accorded one of these children would be resented as directed directly against herself. One would suppose that they were her own children. She took their part and mothered them as only the mother can do. Her attitude toward them was not that of the formal teacher or of some kind religious instructor. She was the mother, loving and caring, for the children with all the mother's fondness, but with more than a mother's discretion. For she sought the well-being and good of the child without being blinded by love. She was patient and sympathetic with children as one filled with love for them could be. When among them she seemed a very child, laughing with them, talking with them, playing with them, as though she were companion and playmate; and not as though she was the dignified teacher. She knew by name every child that ever came under her observation, and something of the disposition of each. She won and held the love of children because intuitively they knew she loved them.

[39] Zeal characterized all her actions. She was not the one to undertake anything in a halfhearted kind of way. If a thing was worth the doing, it was worth putting her whole heart into; and she did not hesitate to do this. If work was required she would work until it was impossible for her to do anything more. If enthusiasm would help matters and push things forward, it was never wanting on her part. She would talk, she would work morning, noon and night in order to get things accomplished. She would prepare children for baptism, and at the very last moment visit the parents to see that the event was not forgotten and that the child or children would be on hand at the right moment. She would make the dress for the girl about to be confirmed, rather than that the child should be disappointed or drop out of the class.

Her classes in sewing must excel if infinite patience and zeal on her part could bring that about. Opposition never dampened her ardor or chilled her enthusiasm. She would overcome, or struggle until both strength and nerve deserted her. She never gave up and never felt that she could fail. Bright and cheerful, enthusiastic and zealous, happy and joyous, she lived and worked until the hour of her translation came.


On June 27, 1918, Deaconess Bechtler, in company with her aunt and cousin, left Washington for Statesville, N. C., intending to go from there to Cragmont, Black Mountain, North Carolina, as soon as it could be found convenient for some one to accompany her. It was not without some misgivings that she was persuaded to leave the scenes of her labors and her own dear mother to see what could be done towards the building up of her strength. For several years she had been failing in health. But for the last year she had so perceptibly failed that it was felt that a change of climate was necessary. Her physicians advised the change, and her aunts and cousins stood by ready to aid her in making the necessary preparation, and willing to accompany her to her place of destination. She was not entirely willing to go; but she felt that it was her duty to take the advice of her physician and relatives, whom she knew loved her. Left to herself she would have preferred to remain here and fight the disease until she conquered it, or until it conquered her. However, she consented to take the trip with the understanding that she be allowed to return at the first unfavorable [40/41] sign in her condition. I believe she wanted to die at home. She wished to be surrounded at that hour by those with whom she had worked. She arrived in Statesville, N. C., on the morning of June 28th and remained there the guest of her cousin until July 4th, when in the company of Mr. Wilson, her cousin's husband, she went to "Cragmont," a sanitarium in Black Mountain, N. C. On reaching this place she seems to have grown worse immediately; although she writes to the effect that she likes the place, and thinks that she will soon improve some. The physician in Cragmont advised her removal, because of the high altitude; and on July 10th she made the trip back to Statesville, N. C., even then in a dying condition. She lived but a few hours after reaching Statesville, and passed away peacefully at eleven p.m., Wednesday, July 10, 1918, at the home of her cousin, Mrs. Ivy Hayes Wilson, to whom I am indebted for the account of her last illness, death and burial.

On Friday, July 12th, the body was taken to Morganton, N. C., the place of her birth. Before its removal, the Rev. Mr. Basil Walton, a cousin, said appropriate prayers, and then along with the family and friends accompanied the remains to Morganton. Old friends met the [41/42] funeral procession at the station, and the casket was gently handled by friends and playmates of her childhood. The Rev. Mr. Hilton, Rector of Grace Church, Morganton, conducted the burial service and was assisted by Rev. Mr. Walton. The casket was carried into the church where she had been baptized, and rested before the altar, appropriately decorated with flowers. While there the Burial Office was said. The hymns sung in church were:

176. "For all the saints, who from their labors rest"
642. "Tarry with me O my Saviour."

The body was then laid at rest in the family burying ground in the same churchyard, the interment scene closing with the recitation of the following words:

"Now the laborer's task is o'er;
Now the battle day is past;
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last.

"There the tears of earth are dried;
There its hidden things are clear;
[43] There the work of life is tried
By a juster Judge than here.

"There the penitents, that turn
To the cross their dying eyes,
All the love of Jesus learn
At His feet in Paradise.

"There no more the powers of hell
Can prevail to mar their peace;
Christ the Lord shall guard them well,
He Who died for their release.

Earth to earth, and dust to dust,
Calmly now the words we say,
Left behind, we wait in trust
For the resurrection-day.
Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping."

Project Canterbury