The Bintliff Mite Box

The following relates to an interesting incident concerning John Wesley and the Bintliff family.

In 2002, the recently-formed History & Archives Committee of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, in Minneapolis, USA, were moving a collection of documents from the church vault – where they had been stored for many years – to a new Archives Room.

In one of the boxes was a round wooden container with a hinged lid. The box is about 8 inches high and about 6 inches in diameter.

When the lid was removed there were some folded sheets of paper inside. These were 2 letters written to church officials in 1925 and signed by Charles Addison Bintliff.

The letters explained that the container was a mite box that had been in the Bintliff family for many generations.

The mite box was made from a tree that grew in a churchyard in Halifax, and that it had been given by John Wesley to a Bintliff who was a church official.

It seems that Wesley was a preacher at the church. Around 1770, when an expansion of the church was planned, the tree was in the way and had to be felled. Wesley thought some good should come from the lost tree and had mite boxes made from it which he gave to all the church officers.

Which church was it? One of the few churches to be built in Halifax around 1770 was the South Parade Chapel which replaced the earlier Church Lane Chapel in 1777.

It was Gershom Bintliff, probably the grandson or great-grandson of that mite box recipient, who was the first Bintliff to come to America with his wife and children in 1841/1842, and who brought their mite box with them.

One of Gershom and Maria Bintliff's nine children – also named Gershom – was 10 when the family came over. He moved to Wisconsin where he married. He and his wife moved on and settled in Ashland, MN. When they came to Minneapolis in 1871, they became members of the original Seventh Street Church and later the Centenary Church on Hennepin and 10th Street and the Fowler Church when it merged with the Hennepin Avenue congregation. One of their sons, Charles Joseph I founded the Bintliff Manufacturing Company in Minneapolis in 1885. The company went out of business in the 1930s.

His son, Charles Addison Bintliff II, was an officer when he wrote the mite box letter on company letterhead in 1925. Charles Bintliff II explained in that letter that his 8-year-old son Charles Joseph Bintliff III [1917-1998] was the real donor of the family heirloom to Hennepin United Methodist Church.

The second letter found in the mite box had been sent to Hennepin United Methodist Church a few months earlier to inquire about the church's interest. A paragraph it that letter said that the family was giving the box with the understanding

that it be not buried in the vaults (of the church) ... out of sight of man

but be displayed.

The 2002 committee has not been able to determine whether the box was ever displayed, but committee members resolved that when it had a display case for exhibiting church artefacts, the mite box had to be the first item to go into it. Now on display in the committee's new display case in Carlson Hall is the Wesley/Bintliff mite box, where, as Charles Bintliff requested

it can be seen by all and as a reverend reminder of John Wesley

© Malcolm Bull 2021
Revised 11:09 / 28th May 2021 / 5645

Page Ref: MMB680

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