Winchester Friends Involvement in Heifer International

by Pam Ferguson  February 2008

Six months after the end of World War II in Europe American Friends Service Committee sent out an appeal to American Quakers asking for aid to Quakers in Europe, especially those in France, Holland, Denmark and Norway.  Because of starvation conditions, Friends were asked to send food and clothing parcels to European Quakers.  In the October monthly meeting in 1945 Winchester Friends discussed this situation and felt a definite call to help.  A committee was formed to plan how to help.  Esther Bright was chosen as chairperson and representatives from each of the Sunday School Classes and organizations were asked to participate.  By the November 1945 monthly meeting for business, Esther said that several individuals were interested in sending parcels to Friends in Europe and several had handed money to her for the project.   

At this same meeting in October, Aaron Napier, the current pastor, explained a cooperative plan formed in 1944 between the Church of the Brethren and Quakers to send heifers to Europe to reestablish the devastated herds of animals after the war.  Friends at Winchester were interested in helping with this project.  By the December Monthly meeting Marvin Thornburg presented a more formal explanation of the “Heifer Project” and the meeting decided to purchase a heifer to send to Europe. Aaron Napier was named to gather some people together to help with this purchase.

 Winchester Friends for several years during the 1940’s made “White Gift Baskets” to needy people in Winchester.  With increased needs overseas and the depression lessening in the US, Inez Napier suggested that the baskets be set aside in 1945 and financial gifts given to assist in caring for the heifer until shipping time or the money to be used for relief in Europe.

 At the beginning of 1946 Aaron Napier worked on purchasing a heifer.  Friends from Winchester made canned goods to be sent to Europe and raised $20 to be sent to the American Friends Service Committee for help in Europe.  Esther Bright mentioned that Friends had heard from people in Europe who received boxes of canned goods sent from members of the meeting.  Many Friends took names and addresses of people in Europe for whom to write.

 In the first months of 1946 Friends Sunday School classes and organizations raised money for the heifer project.  In June of 1946 Aaron Naiper died in a car accident as he and Inez were traveling to Camp Quaker Haven.  Aaron was 70 years old and had been pastor at Winchester Friends for 12 years and the mover and shaker behind the formation of Quaker Haven.  In the newspaper article, Marvin Thornburg went to North Webster to bring Aaron’s body back to Winchester.  Marvin Thornburg assumed responsibility to purchase the heifer and announced in the July Monthly meeting that one had been purchased for $140 (worth over $1,600 in today’s currency) from Carl Hartman and sent to a designated place to await shipment to Europe.

Sometime between August and November, Charles Cates and Marvin Thornburg made arrangements to travel with the heifer to Poland.  At that time it was the custom for the Heifer Project to send American animals overseas.  Today most Heifer animals are purchased in the country they will be given.  With the shipment of American animals overseas, “cowboys” were asked to volunteer to travel with the animals to their destination to make sure the animals were cared for during the 8-10 day voyage.  It appears that Marvin and Charles volunteered to help with the travel of the heifer to Poland and by the first of November, 1946 they were in route to a harbor* to board a ship to travel to Poland with the heifer. 

 Shortly after leaving the harbor the cattle boat had a collision with a tanker in the fog a few miles out.  As a result, the cattle ship caught fire and was damaged bad enough the boat had to return to the harbor for repairs.  So much time had been wasted in waiting for these repairs that Marvin and Charles decided to return home instead of traveling to Poland with the boat when it eventually left with the heifer.

 Winchester Friends continues to support Heifer International.  Every year the Junior Church offering is collected and an animal is purchased at Christmas.  This past year the William Penn Class and the Fabulous Friends Class purchased animals in honor of their Sunday School Class teachers.  It makes sense that proceeds from the “Old Fashioned Church Dinner” goes to continue our historic relationship with Heifer International.

(Please note that over $100 was sent to Heifer International from this meal.)


*I’ve always assumed this happened in New York, but from the book Cowboy Memories this first hand account from 1944 that suggests Alabama was also a port for departure for heifers to Europe:

Wayne Hostetler, Cowboy, 1944
Almost everyone at Pier C South, Alabama State Docks, Mobile, Ala., was on hand to witness the loading of the 17 relief heifers on the liberty ship William D. Bloxham, the morning of July 13, 1944. These heifers were the first shipment of cattle from this port in 15 years.

While on the voyage the heifers had their home on deck in two shed-shaped barns, one on each side of No. 4 hatch. A 13-day feed supply of alfalfa and Johnson grass hay and grain was carried on the hatch between the two barns. The feed was covered with a tarpaulin at all times to protect it from the sea and rain. The heifers were fed and watered and the stables were cleaned three times a day.

On Sunday, July 16, part of the ship’s crew witnessed the birth of the first calf born during the trip. There were three births on our eight-day sea voyage.”