Biographical Profile and Tribute
to M. E. Hawkins

by his daughter, Agnes Hawkins Divine Elliott

Part 1

M. E. Hawkins in his early years as a pastor.

When Harrison Hawkins was 36 and his wife Florence was 25, a baby boy born was born to them (January 3, 1880). He was name Mont El (or perhaps Montell[1]). This boy was to become a great blessing to many and to lead many people to Christ.


He lived in an area where fruit was in abundance, and he ate a great deal. Even though in those times children were not encouraged to brush their teeth frequently as today, he said he believed fruit kept his teeth clean. He still had his own teeth in good condition when he died at 76 years of age.


Mont was born with a very competitive spirit. His family was of strong Republican tradition. Mont encountered a boy who insisted he was a Democrat. This irritated Mont, who was quite a fighter. When the boy refused to change his politics, Mont took him down and bit his ear. He kept demanding if he would be a Republican. The boy wouldn’t consent, so Mont bit a hole right through his ear. (A fellow has to stand up–or fight!–for what he believes in!)


At some time the family moved to Grand Rapids, and eventually his mother and father divorced. His mother remarried to a William Waite, who was a Christian man. He had a son named Fred. Mr. and Mrs. Waite attended a Free Will Baptist church.


At twenty-eight years of age, Mont was living an ungodly life. One night he had a dream that was to change his life completely. He dreamed he was locked inside a burning furnace. He was pounding on the wall and yelling, trying to get out, but to no avail. This dream motivated him to think about What if I were in hell and couldn’t get out? This led him to receive Christ as his Savior on January 18, 1908, and his life was transformed.


He had a great desire to serve the Lord who had saved him. He decided to attend the Moody Bible Institute. This was about the year 1908. He had a dorm room in the 153 Building. One of his employment jobs was to go through the dormitory and inspect the beds for bedbugs. They were to light a match, and if the bedbugs ran out of the bed spring, then the inspectors knew treatment was needed!


When he enrolled in the Institute, he did not believe in “eternal security.” Instead, he believed that even though saved, one could sin and be lost. This was the teaching of the Free Will Baptist Church where he attended. Many ministerial student debates took place on the rails of the 153 Building – about this subject and many others. The more Mont studied the Word of God, the more he became convinced that, according to the Scriptures, once a man was truly born again he could never again be “lost.” He never doubted the doctrine of eternal security after that.


At Moody he studied the doctrines of the Bible: synthesis (the general view of all the books of the Bible), personal evangelism (how to lead a soul to Christ), homiletics (how to organize a sermon and present it), analysis of certain books of the Bible such as Matthew, John, Hebrews, and many other subjects.


North Chester Church, Conklin, Michigan


Soon after he graduated from Moody Bible Institute, he received a call to pastor a country church in Conklin, Michigan. Since he was a bachelor, arrangements were made for him to live in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ferd Porter, who lived within sight of the church, about a mile and a half down the road. The Porter home was always hospitable and open for guests, including preachers and other Christian workers. Many a chicken from the Porter farm had “gone into ministry” at Mrs. Porter’s table.


The Porters lived in a large, twelve-room brick house which had recently been built by Mrs. Porter’s father, Samuel Stauffer. In fact, Mr. Stauffer had died in a well outside the house in an attempt to save the life of a worker who had been overcome, perhaps by fumes, when he descended into the well [see Samuel Stauffer history, letter, and following note].


Wedding photo of M. E. Hawkins and Fern Porter

The Porters had two daughters in their late teens. The younger daughter, whose name was Fern, was eighteen. The other, Effa, was twenty. Mont and Fern suddenly found meal times becoming very interesting. There was a twinkle in his eye as he glanced at her across the table. Sometimes they sat on the steps of the front porch and looked at the sun setting behind the huge maple trees which lined the road across the front of the farm house in those days.


One night he asked her if she would become his wife. She said, “You will have to ask my father before I can give you an answer.” When Mont nervously approached Mr. Porter, he was told, “I don’t know anyone I would rather give my daughter to.” It was clear that he had great respect for Mont.


A church wedding was planned for December 13, 1913, in the little North Chester church. Fern wore a beautiful long dress of blue velveteen and lace. The simple red brick country church with its steeple and bell was packed as Fern Porter became Mrs. M. E. Hawkins.


First Baptist Church of Hastings

The small church grew under his ministry. He had a big men’s class. His preaching was blessed and well received. Shortly after their marriage, Mont received a call to pastor a Baptist church in Manistee, Michigan, and a year or so later 

he was called to the First Baptist Church of Hastings.[2]


After moving to Hastings, a sweet baby girl was born in the Hawkins home. They named her Esther (for Fern’s mother) Evelyn. Two years later another little girl graced their home and was named Agnes Arabelle. When Agnes was three, Mont received a call the First Baptist Church of Mishawaka, Indiana, where he would labor for the next 16 years.


First Baptist Church of Mishawaka

There he accomplished his greatest work. Many people received Christ, an addition was built on the church, and fourteen young people became missionaries. They were sent by the church to various parts of the world, many to Africa.


In 1921 after one year in Mishawaka, a baby son was born, Paul Dean. The pastor was very proud of him, and the boy became the apple of his eye. As Paul grew older, his dad loved to play ball with him and spent as much time as possible with him.


My first recollection of church was as a “PK,” or “preacher’s kid.” If no one else in the family was able to go to church, I went along holding my dad’s hand—even though many times I went to sleep on the front pew. This was when I was about three (I don’t remember, but I’ve seen the picture of it many times).

THE PASTOR’S WIFE - (Fern Porter Hawkins)

Fern Porter Hawkins, pastor's wife.

With a background like hers, my mother could be nothing but a good wife and mother—a constant companion and helpmeet to her husband. She was always loving and kind and very understanding. The only time things got a little stressed would be on Saturday morning when the house needed to be cleaned up and everyone had to do their duties. I remember her chasing me upstairs with a broom once when we didn’t get our duties done!


Dad was not one to dig in and do much abound the house. It was always left to Mother to fix the electric plugs, paint the walls, hang wallpaper, do the cooking (sometimes he would help a little with that). I remember that if things were running a little bit late, she would get the plates and silverware out to set the table. She’d say, “Then he’ll think dinner is almost ready.”


She did all the spring house cleaning. In those days [with coal furnaces all winter], she set aside one full week each spring for that task. Walls were washed as well as curtains, cupboards were cleaned—everything. The whole house would be topsy turvy for the week, but by the end of it, she would have everything spotless and put back together in good order. Usually a little furniture had been rearranged, which Dad never appreciated. He always wanted everything left in the exact same place so “he would know where to find it.”


Mother was always most hospitable, especially to missionaries. We had many missionary conferences in our church relative to Baptist Mid-Missions. She always entertained some of the missionaries in our home. Also, the General Counselor, Mr. Edwin Carmen, always stayed in our home. As I look back, I wonder how she did it all!



Fern Hawkins in their back yard on Charlotte

As we grew older, my sister and I became very interested in being missionaries ourselves. My sister wanted to go to French Equatorial Africa (now Central African Republic and Chad). At that time, life over there included homemade bridges, huge snakes in the roofs of houses, lions, little mud houses, leopards, etc. Yet I remember so often my mother saying, “My daughter would be safer in Africa in the will of God than in America out of the will of God.”


My husband and I were serving as missionaries in Barbados when we received word that Mother had to have surgery for a lump in her breast. Surgery was followed by radical radiation treatments. Six months later, the cancer was in her lymph glands. Another surgery followed. Six months later, cancer was found in her other breast, which was also removed. The last surgery included radical surgery of the lymph glands on the second side.


Despite all this, cancer reached her lungs. We took turns in shifts caring for her on a hospital bed in the dining room. She died at 57 years of age in her own home. My sister and her husband, my husband and I, Dad and their pastor were standing beside her bed when she slipped away to heaven.


Continue to Part 2

Take me home

[1] All who knew Mr. Hawkins in later years knew him as “Mont E. Hawkins.” His children believed the “E” stood for “El.” One of the pension papers obtained from the National Archives in 1992 was written in Mont’s father’s own handwriting. When asked to name his living children, he listed his second son as "Montell." Could it be that after his salvation experience at age 28, Mont made a slight change in his name as a symbol of his new life?

[2] The time span between North Chester and Hastings could not have been very long because daughter Esther was born Jan. 11, 1915, thirteen months after the Dec. 13, 1913, wedding of Mont and Fern.