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 played the part. But at the dawn of the Second Great Awakening, a "New Light" Presbyterian 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. So 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 the Cane Ridge Meeting House, phone conversation with the author, January 9, 2019. Sandhya Rani Jha, Room at the Table: Struggle for Unity and Equality in Disciples History (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2009), 11, reports that Stone "wrote several sermons in Cherokee." Jha cites an unpublished paper written by Garry Sparks at the University of Chicago in 2002 titled "The Relationship of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to Native Americans."

[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.

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