Across Pacific Magazine

57 cents

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. Hattie May Wiatt

The child was ! so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus.

Some time 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 assist with the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled purse was found. Inside was found 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting which read, "This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school." She had worked and saved for this offering of love to build a larger church facility.  (Picture: Hattie May Wiatt - courtesy of the Baptist Temple Church in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.)

Dr. Conwell challenged his deacons - and some of the deacons challenged him - 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. Church members made large donations. Checks came from various sources. Within five years the little girl's gift had increased to $250.00 --a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century).  From this money a house was purchased and used by the church. It was eventually sold and through the inspiration of the sacrifice of Hattie May Wiatt, more funds were raised which eventually purchased the property of Temple Baptist Church and Temple University.

Russel ConwellHer unselfish love has 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 Temple University Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of Sunday Schoolers, so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during 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, which goes to show WHAT GOD, CAN DO WITH 57 cents.

(Picture: Russel Conwell, circa 1890)

The full text of Rev. Conwell's Message at the Temple University Web Site

Sunday Morning, December 1, 1912

More info on Russel Conwell

The Little Girl Who Died and Left 57 Cents To Build A Bigger Church-
Truth! & Fiction!  

The Truth: 

The story of a little girl who left 57-cents for a new church is true, but the version of the eRumor that is circulating has some details thrown in that are not.  The little girl's 57-cents did inspire the efforts that resulted in the purchase of property and construction of buildings, but did not actually purchase the property outright.

A first-hand account of it is in a sermon delivered December 1, 1912 by Russell H. Conwell, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia.  Rev. Conwell said the little girl's name was Hattie May Wiatt.  She lived near a church where the Sunday School was very crowded and he told her that one day they would have buildings big enough to allow every one to attend who wanted to.  Later, Hattie May Wiatt became sick and died.  Rev. Conwell was asked to do the funeral and the girl's mother told him that Hattie May had been saving money to help build a bigger church and gave him the little purse in which she had saved 57 cents.  Rev. Conwell had the 57 cents turned into 57 pennies, told the congregation the story of little Hattie May and sold the pennies for a return of about $250.  In addition, 54 of the original 57 pennies were returned to Rev. Conwell and he later put them up on display.  This was in 1886 when 57 cents was no small savings account for a little girl from a poor family.  Some of the members of the church formed what they called the Wiatt Mite Society which was dedicated to making Hattie May's 57 cents grow as much as possible and to buy the property for the Primary Department of the Sunday school.  A house nearby was purchased with the $250 that Hattie May's 57 cents had produced and the rest is history.  The first classes of Temple College, later Temple University, were held in that house.  It was later sold to allow Temple College to move and the growth of Temple, along with the founding of the Good Samaritan Hospital (Now the Temple University Hospital) have been powerful testimonies to Hattie May Wiatt's dream.   -

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