By Benjamin M. Shropshire
Charles Benjamin Shropshire, long-time gospel preacher in the Pacific Northwest, passed away on Friday, July 17, 1998 in Sherwood, Oregon. The funeral was conducted at Finley’s Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Portland, Oregon on Thursday, July 23, 1998 with Mark Dunagan of Beaver- ton, Oregon, Jerry Earnhart of Canby, Oregon, and others speaking to a gathering of family, friends, and brethren. He was buried the following day at the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Baker City, Oregon.
Ben was born to Benjamin W. and Annie D. Shropshire on November 14, 1908 in their ranch home in the com- munity of Paint Creek, near Robert Lee, Texas. He was baptized into Christ at the age of twelve, and preached his first sermon at fourteen. He grew up as a “cowboy,” working on the family ranch and for other nearby ranchers. At the age of fifteen he began working in a cotton gin in Robert Lee, and continued in this trade for the next four years, moving from the Rio Grande Valley to southern Oklahoma. In 1925 he was enrolled for one term at Abilene Christian College, during which time he preached by appointment for nearby congregations.
By 1927 he had advanced to “chief ginner,” earning enough money to pay cash for a new Chevrolet convertible. On a blind date he met Dainey Laird, whom he married on November 27, 1927. He went into business with his father, raising cotton, but lost money when prices fell, and had to seek employment elsewhere. He began to work as a “farm-to-farm” salesman for a general merchandise store during the early depression years. Later, he found work with a new grocery store in Eldorado, where he managed the meat department. In the spring of 1931 he was invited by the congregation in Crane, Texas to move there and work with them, which was the beginning of a long relationship with that congregation from which he received support on an “on again, off again” basis that lasted until he retired from full-time preaching in 1992.
After two years Ben and Dainey left Crane and moved to work with a congregation in Wink, Texas, and, after that he preached for congregations in Monahans, Odessa, Meadow, and Farmersville. During these years he also traveled some for Boles Orphan Home, raising money from churches to support the home. After a conversation with Roy Cogdill and much further study, however, he determined that it was not scriptural to support such institutions from congregational treasuries.
Early in 1941, while working with the congregation in Farmersville, Ben received a letter from Jimmy Lovell, asking him to consider moving to Portland, Oregon to work with the 43rd and Division Streets congregation. The move was made that spring. During the next few years thousands of people would move from the south to the Northwest to work in the defense industries (primarily ship yards), and this would greatly contribute to unprecedented growth of the church during the war years. He held meetings all over Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and in Alaska (at the end of the war), and helped to establish many new congregations. After the war he moved his family to Goldendale, Washington to work with the congregation there, and subsequently worked with congregations in Vancouver, Washington, and at Dalles and Hillsboro, both in Oregon. In 1960 he began working with the congregation in Reno, Nevada, but moved back to Oregon in 1964 to work with the church in Beaverton, and, later, in Hermiston. He then moved to California to work with congregations in Napa and San Pablo for two or three years, but returned to Oregon, where he worked with congregations at Pendleton, Baker City, John Day, and Tualatin, until his retirement at the age of 84 in 1992.
Though he had many opportunities to work with large congregations that could have supported him comfortably while he preached the gospel, for the most part, he chose to work with newly established, weak, or small congregations that could not support him adequately. To support his family he received wages from other congregations and individuals, and sometimes found secular employment either to supplement the support he was receiving from churches or, sometimes, to provide his total income. He lived to preach the gospel wherever he could, and without regard to whether he would receive sufficient support while doing so.
His first wife, Dainey, passed away in the summer of 1982, after several years of severe heart problems. Ben had suffered a severe heart attack himself in 1980 and another one in 1982. In January 1983 he and Carrie Patton Gatson were married, and they continued to live for awhile in Baker City, Oregon. After his retirement in 1992, Ben and Carrie became members of the Beaverton, Oregon congregation, where Carrie remains a member.
Ben is survived by his wife, Carrie Shropshire of Sherwood, Oregon; by his four children, Peggy Meyer of
Moraga, CA, Benj. M. Shropshire of St. Louis, MO, James H. Shropshire of Hermiston, OR, and Janice Rich of San Marcos, CA; and by other step-children, two sisters-in-law, sixteen grandchildren and twenty-three great- grandchildren.
Ben’s life and work made a significant impact on the cause of Christ in the Pacific Northwest, though he would be the first to give God the glory and praise. He will be long remembered by the host of brethren and friends in that part of the country who were blessed by the life he lived and in which they were privileged to share.