Friday, January 18, 2019

Restorationist Missionaries among the Indians, Pre-1830 (3)

Among those early restorationists who preached to American Indians, one of the more remarkable characters was Samuel Boyd, a man who seemed to attract both danger and providential care. He was born in Virginia, in May 1763, just after the close of the French and Indian War. Sometime later, the Boyd family moved to South Carolina.

When British Americans declared independence in 1776, his family sided with the Patriots and against their Loyalist neighbors. Samuel, though still just a teenager, enlisted in the Continental Army along with his father and two brothers. Tragically, the father and one of his sons died in the war. On two occasions, Tories burned the family's home to the ground.[1]

Samuel himself did not come through the war unscathed. In one skirmish, when many of his company were captured or killed, he was left for dead, "a ball having passed through his temple taking out his right eye."[2] An elderly black woman happened upon the scene and concealed the fallen soldier. When the enemy left, she took him home and cared for him until he recovered. It was not uncommon in that day for people to conceal a disfigured eye by covering it with a patch of black silk. But for whatever reason, for the rest of his life Boyd "never tried to conceal the blemish."[3] More about Samuel Boyd next time.

Notes

[1] Elijah Martindale, Autobiography and Sermons of Elder Elijah Martindale, also Pioneer History of the Boyd Family, by Belle Stanford (Indianapolis: Carlon & Hollenbeck, 1892), 122-23. See also, Andrew W. Young, History of Wayne County, Indiana (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872), 238-39, and R. L. Roberts, "Boyd, Samuel," in The Churches of Christ (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001), 181-82. Maya Jasanoff, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World (New York: Vintage Books, 2012), 21-53, examines the American Revolutionary War as a civil war.

[2] Martindale, Autobiography, 121-22. See also

[3] Ibid., 122-24. The quotation comes from page 124.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Restoration Missionaries among the Indians, Pre-1830 (2)

The previous post gave attention to the reports of Joseph Thomas about early restorationist preachers who tried to communicate the gospel to American Indians. Again, in 1817 Thomas wrote that some people who identified with the "Christian" movement along the western frontier of the Old Southwest "directed their courses through the wild deserts into the Indian nations." Who were these people?

One was Barton W. Stone, foremost leader among the "Christians" in Kentucky. Apparently, he wrote and delivered at least a few sermons in phonetic Cherokee. The museum at the Cane Ridge Meeting House in Kentucky has one such manuscript. When and where Stone delivered his sermons in Cherokee is uncertain.[1] 

Photo by James Trader, Curator, Cane Ridge Meeting House, Kentucky

Another early restorationist who preached to American Indians was Reuben Dooley. Born in Virginia in 1773, he moved with his family to Kentucky when he was still just a boy. There he would eventually join hands with evangelists like Barton W. Stone and David Purviance.[2]

His father, Moses Dooley, was a staunch Presbyterian elder who taught his children the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. For a time, young Reuben believed he was a reprobate, chosen by God for certain damnation. And he played the part. But at the dawn of the Second Great Awakening, a preacher named Samuel Findly persuaded him that he could turn from sin and turn to Christ. He did.[3]

Dooley soon realized that even though he had not received a liberal education, and had never studied the Westminster Confession, his urge to preach the good news about Christ brought results. As Levi Purviance put it, "many through his instrumentality were converted to God."[4] He goes on report Dooley's work among Native Americans:
The missionary fire continued to burn in his heart, until it led him to preach to the Cherokee Indians. He went three successive times among them. He was very successful and has often been heard to say, that he never enjoyed happier meetings in his life than he did among these poor neglected creatures. When parting with them, they always strongly solicited him to return and preach to them again.[5]
Not long after this, Dooley's mission was cut short for a lack of money. On one occasion, he had to trade his hymn book for passage across a river. At that point, he "prevailed on his friend and brother David Haggard," the older brother of Rice Haggard, to visit and preach to the Cherokees.[6]

Notes

[1] James Trader, curator at Cane Ridge, phone conversation with the author, January 9, 2019.

[2] Levi Purviance, The Biography of Elder David Purviance (Dayton, OH: B.F. & G.W. Ells, 1848), especially the "Biographical Sketch of Reuben Dooly," 259-70. For Dooley's connection to Stone and Purviance, see 263. Thomas H. Olbricht notes that Samuel Rogers, who became an evangelist in the movement, was converted "under the preaching of Barton W. Stone and Reuben Dooley." See "Rogers, Samuel (1789-1877)," in Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, eds. Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, and  D. Newell Williams (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), 657.

[3] Purviance, The Biography of Elder David Purviance, 259-61.

[4] Ibid., 262.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 262-63. On David Haggard, see Colby D. Hall, Rice Haggard: The American Frontier Evangelist Who Revived the Name Christian (Fort Worth, TX: University Christian Church, 1957), 22, 30, 32-35, and Jennie Haggard Ray, History of the Haggard Family in England and America, 1433 to 1899 to 1938 (Dallas, TX: Regional Press, 1938), 46-47.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Restoration Missionaries among the Indians, Pre-1830 (1)

Prior to the Indian Removal Act of 1830, missionaries from various traditions made efforts to evangelize Native Americans. The Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics were among the most prominent.[1]

At least a few early restorationists made similar attempts. As one might expect, almost all of them were close neighbors to the Indians. They lived along the frontier of the Old Southwest, and thus identified with the "Christian" movement centered in Kentucky. On this topic, Joseph Thomas, commonly known as "the White Pilgrim," is an important source. In his 1817 memoir titled The Life of the Pilgrim, he implies that there were times when he preached "to some of the friendly tribes."[2]

Thomas was acquainted with a man he identifies simply as J. Smith. He had been "a great politician, a great commander in the revolutionary and Indian wars, and one of the first explorers of the Tennessee and Duck river countries." In his youth, Smith had spent many years as a prisoner of a certain unnamed tribe. Knowing their language, and having since become a preacher of the gospel, he had tried several times to convert them, with mixed results.[3]

More generally, Thomas relates that during the earliest years of the nineteenth century, at least some Christians along the western frontier, because "their hearts swelled with such love and desire for sinners," refused to stop at "the borders of the white people."[4]
Some of them, not counting their lives dear unto them, directed their courses through the wild deserts into the Indian nations. They there laboured [sic] with that success which gave them to know that their labour was not in vain in the Lord, though they had to encounter unavoidable difficulty and distress. One of those men was among the Indians for months, and I believe years, teaching them to read the holy scriptures. In which time he had the pleasure of seeing not only a reformation from their heathen traditions to pure and undefiled religion, but an unexpected improvement in English reading among his pupils.[5]
 Notes

[1] The literature about contact and interaction between American Indians and various types of Euro-American Christians is vast. For example, Allan Greer, Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) tells about the mission of French Jesuits in present-day New York state and the St. Lawrence River Valley during the late seventeenth century. He focuses on the life of a single, striking character who was canonized in 2012. Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) recounts a variety of stories about the Native American encounter with Puritanism in southeastern New England from 1700 to 1820. In a later era, missionaries also attempted to convert those Indians of the southeast who in the nineteenth came to be known as the "Five Civilized Tribes." Among histories that relate something about these missions, see, for example, Arrell M. Gibson, The Chickasaws (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971) and Clara Sue Kidwell, Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818-1918 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995).

[2] Joseph Thomas, The Life of the Pilgrim, Joseph Thomas (Winchester, VA: J. Foster, 1817), 115.

[3] Ibid., 157-58.

[4] Ibid., 185.

[5] Ibid., 185-86.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Why Should a Christian Learn Church History?

What follows here is a bit of material I might use in introducing the study of Christian history. . . .

What are some reasons for a Christian studying the history of the church? Why are we doing this? In response to that sort of question, I want to offer two ideas. My hope is that these two concepts can frame and set the tone for everything that follows.

1. The first point is general: We study Christian history because in the same way that memory is vital to personal identity, knowing a shared history is vital to group identity. If a movement is going to remain vibrant, then the people within that movement must know the basics of their history. Along this line, British historian John Tosh writes that no society or movement "can sustain an identity or a common sense of purpose without 'social memory' -- that is, an agreed picture of a shared past, which in most cases will be positive, if not inspiring."[1] Knowledge of a shared past is basic to identity, and so the church should know its history. A good bit of literature stands behind this view. If someone is looking for scriptural support for this idea, consider the fact that many of the momentous sermons in the Bible include an historical prologue. So, whether it's Moses or Joshua or Samuel speaking to the ancient Israelites, or it's the Apostles preaching in the Book of Acts, many of these sermons begin with the history of the people of God.

2. The second point is directly and distinctively Christian: We study Christian history because many of the episodes teach us lessons and offer examples of people who exhibited true faith. People who are living the Christian life need examples of people who have been "joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12). We often see and hear that very thing whenever we delve into the history of the church. Which is to say that the study of Christian history can have a devotional quality to it, and be spiritually rewarding.

Note

[1] John Tosh, Historians on History, 2nd ed. (Harlow, England: Pearson Educational Limited, 2009), 6.