on these days in the American Restoration Heritage: January 11-17

Among the things that happened this past week in American Restoration Heritage history …

January 11

* 1850 – Daniel Sommer is born to John & Magdalena (Wymanin) Sommer in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Sommer will become a powerful influence among Churches of Christ in the North, no small part of that influence coming through his purchase and editorship of the American Christian Review in 1886. Sommer, in his younger and middle years will be an iconoclast, vigorously urging brethren to sever all ties with brethren who make use of instrumental music in worship or who help financially support missionary societies. A very influential work in which he plays the most prominent part in 1889 will become known as the Sand Creek ‘Address and Declaration’ and that address concludes with these words:

“… we are impelled from a sense of duty to say that all such as are guilty of teaching or allowing and practicing the many innovations and corruptions to which we have referred, after having had sufficient time for meditation and reflection, if they will not turn away from such abominations, that we can not and will not regard them as brethren.”

However, in his latter years of life, and much to the dismay and disgust of many friends and some of his immediate family members, Sommer’s spirit and views will radically change and he will work hard, though largely in vain, to build bridges between differing believers and to promote attempts at reconciliation.

* 1861Thomas Withers (“T.W.”) Caskey leads the opening prayer for the fifth day of meeting by the Mississippi Secession Convention. In his prayer he prays that the state of Mississippi:

“… be permitted peacefully to withdraw. … But should the dark cloud of war hover over us, and dangers gather along our path, give us true hearts to pursue the right.”

Caskey will go on to serve in the Confederate Army and will become known as “The Fighting Parson.”

January 12

* 1892 – Bunyan Augustus (‘Gus’) Nichols is born in Walker County, Alabama to William Calvin & Velma Elizabeth (Wyers) Nichols. He will become one of the first preachers in the Restoration Heritage to make use of “charts” (i.e. – painted bedsheets) to illustrate his sermons.

January 13

* 1837 – Today marks the first day of public debate in Cincinnati, Ohio between Alexander Campbell, Sr. and Roman Catholic Bishop John Purcell.

January 14

* 1773 – John Mulkey is born to Jonathan & Nancy (Howard) Mulkey in South Carolina. He, like his father, will become a Baptist preacher, but John will go on to preach himself out of Baptist fellowship, they deeming him a heretic. Mulkey will embrace some of the views of, and will enjoy fellowship with, the Stone-Campbell Movement and will preach over 10,000 sermons in a ministry spanning over half a century.

January 15

* 1861 – Regarding what appeared to be imminent war with the Confederacy, Restoration Heritage preacher James A. Garfield writes in a letter to a friend:

“Peaceable dissolution is utterly impossible. Indeed, I cannot say as I would wish it possible. To make the concessions demanded by the South would be hypocritical and sinful. … I am inclined to believe that the sin of slavery is one of which it may be said that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no remission.'”

* 1892 – Eighty-four year old J.B. Wilmeth dies the day after his wife, Nancy (Ferguson) Wilmeth, died. Their bodies are interred together, side-by-side, in the same grave in the McLarry Cemetery in McKinney (Collin County), Texas. J.B. and his family, along with a brother and his family (Francis “Frank” Crawford Wilmeth; my ggg-grandfather), first arrived in TX (at then barely existent Dallas) the day after Christmas 1845. However, due to the fear of Indian attacks, the families soon determined to move back east to Tennessee (likely McNairy County, where J.B. & Nancy had met and married in 1826). The trip back had hardly begun when Nancy put her foot down and announced that she would never move back east again, and so, the families decided to stay in north Texas, and settled in what is now known as Collin County.

Consequently, J.B. and Frank plant, and strongly influence, the earliest churches in north central Texas in the Restoration Movement. Two of J.B.’s sons, James Ransom and Collin McKinney, become prominent preachers in Texas in the Restoration Heritage.

* 1898 – J.W. McGarvey writes that he can discern no valid reason for the inclusion of the Song of Solomon in the Biblical canon.

January 16

* 1839 – While Alexander Campbell is away from Bethany and is halfway through a six-month preaching tour throughout the South, his youngest sister, Alicia Ann Clapp, dies at the age of 32. Having suffered through some illness that lasted at least two months, her husband, Matthew Smith Clapp, will write regarding her death:

“I am compelled to exclaim with the Psalmist, ‘I will sing of mercy and of judgement.’ The Lord dealt very mercifully with her.”

Alicia’s body will be interred beside that of her mother, Jane (Corneigle) Campbell, just as her mother had wished, in the Campbell Cemetery in Bethany (Brooke County), West Virginia.

Less than six months after his sister’s death, Alexander will also suffer the loss of a daughter (Eliza Ann), the fifth of his children to die.

An aside: In 1828, Alicia’s husband, Matthew Smith Clapp, had been baptized in Mentor, Ohio by Sidney Rigdon’s brother-in-law, Adamson Bentley, two years prior to Rigdon’s embrace of Mormonism.

January 17

* 1836 – Today, roughly three hundred members of a Restoration Heritage church originally located in the northwestern corner of Alabama (Lauderdale County) arrive in en masse in the northeastern corner of (what will become) Red River County, Texas. They settle in, and around, Clarksville (which had its beginnings just three years earlier). This church has been led to Red River County during the last half of its journey by Dr. Mansil (“M.W.”) Matthews* and Benjamin Lynn D’Spain (since their original guide, Davy Crockett, had grown impatient with their slow progress and broke company with them at Memphis, Tennessee).

Why did they come to Texas? As with many others, the prospect of the availability of cheap land was the driver. This church in Red River County is arguably the first Restoration Heritage church ever to appear in Texas, but even if it is not the first, it is most certainly the largest.

[* The spelling of Dr. Matthews’ first name is open to debate as some sources use the spelling “Mansil” while others make use of “Mansell.”]