By Geoff and Merve Schmidt, November 20, 1998
I will try to jot down a few of the thoughts I have on the events that took place in Victoria, Australia, as I see it. This will be as I see it and of course, others may have a different view. Merv Schmidt will—because it affected him in a different way than it did me because of our parents. Merv has a real story to tell and I will leave it to him. At the time we were going to the Sunday A.M. mtg at Dad’s Aunt’s place, Martha Matz, and the Elder was Cliff Berret. [Mr. Berret wrote a number of Hymns some of which are still in the book today.] My first recollection is an evening we had at Matz’s place and an Australian worker was there that had spent a lot of time in USA.
I never took much notice at the time but not long after quite a few people were ‘put’ out.’ We were changed to a different mtg, I didn’t at first know why but I just know we no longer went to that meeting. At that time any who for some reason or other Bill Carroll thought that they did, or said, or Knew something he didn’t want them to do, say or know, he EXED them.
Some that went at that time were Merv’s parents, Otto and Jenny Schmidt, Mrs. Matz and Wils and Leleen Matz, Mr. and Mrs. Berret, John and Gwen Berret, Jack Schmidt [where the Mildura convention ground was] the Cottrols, and the Beverley’s. These formed a meeting at Otto Schmidt’s place and they continued having meetings WITHOUT PERMISSION. This caused a lot of grief to others in the district and no doubt elsewhere in Victoria and a cry went up to workers all over the world: “COME OVER TO VICTORIA AND HELP US!” This was taken from the Scripture that says ‘come over to Macedonia and help us.’
Next, I know is that some strange workers we had never heard of were having a special meeting in Mildura. I don’t know where. My parents kept following the Victorian workers, and we just continued to go to the mission run by the Victorian workers, but at Shoal I heard a lot of things that made me think, and also affected how I thought of workers after that. I started to think that they were not always right.
I was about 14 or 15 and had professed at Mildura Convention when I was 11 and that was 2 years before the convention was closed down because I was baptised at Mildura in the Murray River the last time there was a convention there, so I remember a lot of the effects it had on me.
Looking back now, it was good because it caused me to question a lot of things, but that doesn’t account for why it took me 40 years to make a move away. As we talked about it at school, the fact that there were two different workers around, I remember it being told to me what old Jim Morriss when he was speaking to some of the workers at the time, “You may be right and you may be wrong but one thing is sure you can’t both be right but you might both be wrong.”
I often thought of that over the years and often thought a worker could well be wrong. I told our old overseer [E.J.] that on odd occasions, and he always let it go. The people that followed the ‘foreign’ workers had their meetings and those that followed the Victorian workers had their meetings, so there was a bit of a shuffle.
The kids at school still got around together and had our own play time during Religious Instruction and that was a very interesting time!!! That split up the meetings as we did not have fellowship one with the others. The ones that stayed with the Victorian workers, some of which were my parents, and my older sister and I, Morrisons, Alma Schmidt, [Bevan and Sedley’s mum] Bonds, Hanstocks, Brastrups, Hutchinsons, Tilleys, Helms.
Some that went with the other workers were the Cox’s, Schillings, Brebners, Mcdonalds, Morriss’, and so we had THREE groups here. (1) Those that were put out and went to Otto’s Church, (2) those that followed the foreign workers, and(3) those that followed the Victoria workers. BUT THERE’S MORE!!!!!!!!
This went on for a couple of years I think and during this time Ritchie and Emily Greenaway came over from Ireland and settled in Mildura. They were put out in 1928 with Eddie Cooney because they were sympathetic with him. So then we also had genuine COONEYITES here. They started building a home in Mildura and as Old Jack Schmidt lived alone in his big house he took them in. Then Eddie Cooney arrived at Jack Schmidt’s so now we had 4 groups of 2×2 followers all on different paths. Sometime later [I will put how I view it, Merv may have a bit different recall of the events however it is quite some time ago and I’m not doing this with any notes it’s just off the top of my head.]
Jack Forbes, head worker from UK, was in Mildura with others and the called a reunion mtg. I’m Fuzzy on this but it was to bring the people that were put out and those that followed the ‘foreign’ workers to come together. Eddie went but was refused entry so Jack Schmidt, Cottrols and maybe Beverlys went away with Eddie stating if reconciliation was to be made that Eddie had as much right as anyone else and they walked away and to this day one of the Cottrell girls still fellowship with the Greenaways and continue to this day with their Sunday AM meetings. Mrs. Elliott was at that meeting. She was here from Ireland. One of the very early workers there was put out with Eddie and they missed her as she went in!!!
After that, there were big reunion meetings all around the state and all were brought together again. At this time the workers had a lot of discussions and at Guildford. An agreement was made up and signed by the various workers known as the Guildford report. I have a copy of a summary put out from Dandenong [the then Victoria head office and convention ground].
Eddie Cooney stayed with Ritchie and Emily Greenaway in Mildura till he died in their home. Interestingly we had Ritchie and Emily drop in on us last Saturday week for a brief visit. They are a lovely old couple with a very broad accent. They still faithfully follow Eddie Cooney.
I hope this is of interest to some of you folk. I think that it is a bit like Canada at the moment. The issues are probably not the point, it’s the autocratic way the workers do things.
By Mervyn Schmidt, born 23 July 1938, in Mildura, Victoria, Australia:
My father, Otto Schmidt, was 50 years old when I was born, having been in the work for a number of years in Australia, England and Germany, and finally Wisconsin, U.S.A. My mother, Sara Heath, professed at 15 when my father was preaching at Staffordshire. At that time, the convention began on the Heath family property at Stock’s Farm.
I professed at 12 yrs of age. At 13 I was excommunicated along with my parents and many others in the state of Victoria and South Australia in the 1950s, as a result of a purge by William (Bill) Carroll. For approximately 4 years, about 16 of us met in our home unofficially, with others who had also been put out of fellowship.
We were reinstated again after this, with the help of George Walker, USA and Jack Forbes, England. About this time I met Eddie Cooney, who had come to Australia to investigate the excommunications. He had followers in Mildura, who were friends of ours. I appreciated getting to know him a little. I attended his funeral, in Mildura.
In 1961, when I was 23, I went on a world trip to try to get to the beginnings of the testimony /fellowship. I visited the areas in Germany where my father had been in the work with Jim Jardine in 1913. They were the first two workers in Germany. Later I visited my mother’s home on Staffs convention ground and stayed for a convention.
With the help of an old friend of my mothers, Suzy Barton, who was in the work, I visited Enniskillen, the West’s home at Crocknacrieve, where many early conventions were held. Lastly, I went to the U.S.A. spending some time in Wisconsin, visiting many friends who had professed between 1915 and 1920 when my father was in the work there.