Story : How Temple Baptist Church, Philadelphia Came Into Being

Temple Baptist Church, Philadelphia

A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it ‘was too crowded’. “I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby,unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribble in childish handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.”

For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do.

Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there!

A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered it for a 57 cent payment.

Church members made large subscriptions. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00 – a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.

When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300, and Temple University, where hundreds of students are trained. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday scholars, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside at Sunday school time.

In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russel H. Conwell, author of the book, “Acres of Diamonds.” – a true story.


15 thoughts on “Story : How Temple Baptist Church, Philadelphia Came Into Being”

  1. If you read the story from his book Acres of Diamonds you will find the true story as told by Dr. Russel H. Conwell. This story is an embellished version of what actually happened.

  2. Could you maybe send me a picture of the little girl who donated the 57c? Do you have pictures available as well of the university, sunday school building and the good samaritan hospital? i want to show it to my congregation.



  3. It is so touching. Even today there are thousands who don’t have church building and a sunday school room, especially in the misison fields. We are also using Rented Hall and school class rooms for worship purposes.

  4. We know the Pastor’s name, what is the little girl’s name? The story is truly about the loving gift offering she made, but her name is never mentioned. Her name would make the story truly real. We know by faith that Jesus is our Savior, but our Savior has a name. We know He lives and we call Him by His name Jesus.

  5. It is a very touching story but why are this little hero’s name and picture not displayed. After all the story is to honour God, the little girl and Dr Rusell Conwall. The story also says “you MAY find the little girl’s picture along with that of the Rev Father. Why “may”. If the picture is there then it should be definite “you will”

  6. Thank you for sharing this story. It really touched me. It made me realize just how selfish we really are. Thanks again

  7. To see pictures of the church and the little girl just GOGLE…Temple Baptist church Philadelphia, It’s all there.

  8. This is a great story but why all the mystery — just Google the little gir’s name — Hattie May Wiatt — to see her picture.

  9. I am deeply impressed, and plan to visit Philedelphia maybe sometime in June. Lets hope it goes well

  10. A friend of mine just sent me the story about this little girl and after reading it I had tears in my eyes. I could picture this little girl in her shabby and unkempt appearance as described in the story and it made me think about how many people, young and old, who don’t go to church because of their inability to be as well dressed as the others attending the their church. Sad

  11. Ms. Bowen, Maybe the mystery you spoke of was due to others not being as well informed as you. Certainly not their fault!

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