Church History

What follows is a fascinating tale, about one of the least known ministers in Epworth’s history (up until now).

It starts at the same time as Arthur Rubinstein started his career in 1900.
Arthur Rubenstein was one of the greatest concert pianists that ever lived. His career started in Berlin in 1900 with his debut concert. He turned 13 while in Berlin. His long and illustrious career lasted until he died at the age of 95.

Studying music and German in Berlin was Miss Bertha Drew. In 1898 Miss Drew graduated Magna Cum Laude from Radcliffe College where she was the Class President. Apparently she met the Rubenstein family as part of her music studies.

For his 13th birthday, Miss Drew gave Arthur a kiss. Although she was 24 years old, the effect on the young Arthur was to give him a significant case of puppy love which lasted for some time. Unfortunately, for Arthur at least, Miss Drew was dating Mort, who was a young American Minister studying in Berlin. She and Mort would go to the various German sites, attend concerts, and appeared to be falling in love. I cannot confirm, but I expect they even attended Arthur’s debut concert.

Mort’s full name was Morton Culver Hartzell. He was converted to Christianity at age 7. After attending Drew seminary, he was ordained as a Methodist minister. He then attended the University of Berlin in 1899-1900 He was a member of the Rock River Conference, of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Northern Illinois. In 1901 he received an appointment at Epworth Methodist Episcopal church in Elgin Illinois, where he served for 2 years. During that time, no one at Epworth ever took a picture of Rev. Hartzell.

In 1904, after leaving Epworth, he married Miss Bertha Drew, whom he had met in Berlin.

Rev Hartzell eventually ended up as the minister at South Park Avenue Methodist church in the Douglas Neighborhood, and was there at least in the year 1909. During that year he was also the President of the Douglas Neighborhood Club, an interdenominational group fighting the “cess-pool” and “white slavery” of the Douglas Neighborhood, referring to the increase in prostitution in the area. Mayor Busse of Chicago and Alderman Milton Foreman, tried to have Rev. Hartzell removed from his pulpit, apparently due to his efforts to rid the neighborhood of vice and corruption. A “near riot” broke out at the church (according to the Elgin Daily Courier). This “riot” occurred because members of the Neighborhood Club had entered the church to support Rev. Hartzell during a congregational meeting called to determine his status at the church. The presiding elder, Rev. McAfee had the members of the club thrown out. (I have yet to find out the results of what happened).

Morton died in 1916 at the age of 40. Bertha died in 1950, remaining active in education and Church music.

There is one more interesting twist to the story. Rev. Hartzell’s father was Rev. Joseph Hartzell a Methodist missionary. The 1941 movie “One Foot in Heaven” received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. The movie takes inspiration from the life of Rev. Joseph Hartzell and family.

Finally, up until now, we did not have a picture of Rev. Hartzell. That HAS CHANGED. Arthur Rubinstein lived in Spain for a few years. There is a Spanish website with a great deal of information regarding Mr. Rubinstein. They also have two very nice pictures of Morton Culver Hartzell.

Ted Whittington, 2/16/2008 Epworth Church Historian.