The 57 Pennies


“SOME years ago in the great city of Philadelphia, a little girl came to a small Sunday school and asked to be taken into one of the classes. The classes were all so full and the church was so small, that there seemed to be no room for her. She was very much disappointed, and although she was very poor she began to save her pennies so that the church might be built bigger, and that she and other poor little children might have a place to go to Sunday-school.

She didn’t tell any one what she was doing, and nobody knew she was saving the few pennies that were given to her until the pastor of that little church called at her bedside. She was very sick, oh, so sick, and after a little while God took her out of her sufferings, and after she had passed away they found under her pillow a little old red pocketbook and in it they found fifty-seven pennies that she had saved, and a little scrap of paper on which was written the reason why she had saved her pennies, and her great wish that she might help to build a Fifty-Seven Pennies church where all little children might have a place.

The pastor who conducted the funeral was a great, good man, and the story of that little pocketbook and those fifty-seven pennies got into the papers and the people read about it with tears in their eyes. It appealed to everybody.

She was only a little girl, six and a half years old, and what could her fifty-seven pennies do?

But people began to give the pastor of the little church money, and then more money and more money, and in six years those fifty-seven pennies had become $250,000. To-day if you go to Philadelphia, you will see this little girl’s picture hanging in the hall of Temple College, where over fourteen hundred students attend, and that college is connected with a great church called the Baptist Temple, which seats eight thousand people, and connected with that church is a hospital for children, called the Samaritan Hospital. There is also a Sunday-school building there which is so large that all the children who want to attend can come and are gladly welcomed.

This is the story of little Hattie May Wiatt and her fifty-seven pennies.”—Children’s Story-Sermons; By Hugh Thomson Kerr; 1911

Another story about Hattie May

One day in 1883 a little girl by the name of Hattie May Wiatt came to the meeting-house, corner of Berks and Mervine streets, to attend the Sunday school of Grace Baptist Church. There was no room for her; every department of the school was overcrowded; there was not even standing room for a little girl; the pastor himself was obliged to explain to the little applicant why she could not be admitted.

Hattie Wiatt turned away from the door of the Sunday-school with a heavy heart, and yet a heart not quite so heavy as the one which beat in the pastor’s breast. The child’s tears moved him to the very depths of his nature. Burdette has beautifully said: “God makes men’s hearts so much bigger than men can build churches or hospitals; that is the way the world grows—men keep trying to build up to God’s plans; trying to make a ten-page sermon as big as a three-line text; to make a creed as long and broad and deep and high as the eleventh commandment; to develop a charity as beautiful and immortal as the nameless ‘ certain Samaritan’; trying to write the life of Him the books of whose deeds ‘”the world itself could not contain“; that’s the way the world grows better and broader and sweeter.

“The little disappointed visitor thought of others as well as herself, and remarked as she turned painfully from the door: “I will save my money and build a bigger Sunday-school, and then we can all go.” The sweet spirit of him who once took little children in His arms and blessed them, and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven,” inspired the little girl’s heart to a noble sacrifice.

1883-indian-penny1She saved her pennies and denied herself candy and sweetmeats; her heart was on fire with an idea; she believed a larger church could be built; she was determined it should be done at whatever cost. What struggles she had, what battles she fought, what victories she won have not yet been revealed to mortal eye. Let it suffice us to know that in a few short weeks her character was ripe for that celestial city into which the eyes of the beloved apostle once looked and “saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” Crowded out of the house of God on earth, her spirit tarried but a short time in this cold world, which once had no room in home or inn for the infant Savior, and took its flight to “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

She left as the sum total of her earthly possessions a little red pocketbook and fifty-seven cents with which to build a larger Sunday-school to which all might go.

The pastor took charge of the legacy, and with misty eyes related the incident to his congregation, calling their attention to the hand of Providence pointing to that not distant day when a ‘new’ house must be built.”—Condensed from; The Life of Russell H. Conwell; By Albert Hatcher Smith; 1899