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John W. Crippen

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Rev. John Wesley Crippen

In the death of this Christian minister the Detroit Conference loses one of its rarest spirits, a man of very fine sensibilites and discriminating intellect, and of marked unobtrusiveness of nature; a man of solid worth of character. We feel impelled to speak strongly of his personal worth, because he was so little concerned himself about impressing it upon others. He had been a superannuate so many years and had been in so retired a life during that time, that many members of the conference did not know how good a man he was.

He was born in the township of Superior, Washtenaw County, not far from Ypsilanti, in 1833, July 3, was converted December 23, 1852, received an exhorter’s license from William Mahon October 23, 1854, and a local preacher’s license May 24, 1856, and joined the Detroit Conference as a probationer at Port Huron in 1857.

His appointments were: Chelsea (junior preacher), Brighton (junior), Fremont and Newburg (Owosso section), Holly, Goodrich, Grand Blanc, Clinton, Morenci, Lee’s Chapel (Detroit), Northville, Utica, St. Charles, Trenton, Belleville, Commerce, West Haven, Ames Church (Saginaw) and Bridgeport. This brought his ministry down to the fall of 1883, when he superannuated after twenty-six years of active work in the pastorate. This period is exactly the first half of his ministry, for it is just twenty-six years since he retired. The whole stretch of conference connection covers fifty-two years, and they were all years of honor and grace.

This fine life was handicapped by physical frailty. From childhood to age his health was infirm and his life insecure. During all his ministry and later years he suffered greatly from bodily affliction and perhaps has borne four-fold of the average of human physical suffering. His temperament was nervous and his physical type the same.

His father was a farmer and a Methodist local preacher, and came to Michigan in 1827. His grandfather was a “Yankee” and a Baptist. His mother’s veins had strains of English, Irish and Dutch blood in them.

As a lad he loved books. By nature he had a passion for study. As health permitted he went to district school up to his thirteenth or fourteenth year, and afterwards had nearly three years in Albion Seminary, and about two terms in Garrett Biblical Institute.

In his early years he was very open to religious influences and impressions, and experienced very many seasons of deep emotion, a sharp sense of sinfulness, a keen relish for devotion and love of goodness, and an impulsive desire to live and labor so as to please God. At times he counted himself at the gate of the kingdom and was uncertain whether he was on the inside or outside of the gate. One may infer, from his own minutes of his condition, that an appreciative and wise guide would have led him into a clear understanding of his spiritual privileges as a child and would have been the means of his being early established in a Christian experience and faith. Unfortunately he was brought under the spell of a skeptical school of thought and read the periodical publications of an infidel press, and’ for five years he was in the realm of mist and unrest. His change for the better came from the beginning on his part of a persistent reading of the Bible. Its light banished his darkness. Under the influence of the Word, which was strengthened by his church attendance, he came to a deliberate surrender of himself to God and the commencement of a calm and clear religious experience.

He was married in 1859 at Pleasant Valley, near Brighton, to Miss Esther E. Withey, a sister of Rev. J.E. Withey, of Flint, and they became the happy parents of Miss Hattie A. Crippen, who survives and mourns her father.

After retiring from the active ministry, Brother Crippen and the family settled in Ann Arbor and largely provided for themselves by caring for students to whom they rented rooms. Because of his feebleness and the form of his malady he rarely preached and was seldom in the gatherings of his brethren where the commotion would unnerve him. His fondness for books and his absorbing concern for the church and his joy in its advance were unabated to the end. His death occurred Saturday night, October 16th, 1909, and the funeral was held from our church in Ann Arbor on Tuesday.

- Detroit Annual Conference minutes of 1910, pp. 236-237