GEORGE WILTSHIRE, of the Philadelphia Conference, was a naive personality, and was so much beloved as a minister that he became widely known by the affectionate title, "Father Wiltshire."
Much of the evangelistic preaching of that day was colored with vivid and elaborate descriptions of hell and its burning lake, coupled with warnings upon the eternal consequences of sin and exhortations to seek salvation without delay. Many of the preachers in their flights of imagination would vie with Dante in picturing the horrors of the nether world. Perhaps there was more of the love of God than the fear of hell in the sermons of the gentle George Wiltshire. Nevertheless, hell was a sulphuric reality to him, and never more so than on his railroad journey back to Philadelphia from Harrisburg, where the Methodist Conference had been held in the spring of 1853.
His brethren in the car were laughing over some funny reminiscences they were exchanging, while he alone in his seat was making an inventory of the treasures in his carpetbag. Whether his conscience was disturbed by the levity of the conversation he overheard or by the pride he was taking in his possessions, that tender conscience was soon aflame, as the train plunged into a tunnel, and all was blackness, save for the engines sparks that flew by the windows. Groans and shouts of alarm were heard by the brethren and a wild scrambling in the aisle. When the train emerged from the tunnel Father Wiltshire was crouching in the middle of the car, his possessions all over the floor. Slowly he arose, as the expressions of terror gave way to relief, and convulsed with laughter his fellow travelers by exclaiming, "Thank God, I'm not in hell after all!"