What Were the Brethren Doing Between 1785 and 1860? -- By: Roger E. Sappington

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 08:0 (NA 1975)
Article: What Were the Brethren Doing Between 1785 and 1860?
Author: Roger E. Sappington


What Were the Brethren Doing Between 1785 and 1860?

Roger E. Sappington

Every generation of historians has several responsibilities, it seems to me. It should seek for new and unutilized evidence about the past. It should interpret that evidence in meaningful ways. And it should seek ways of sharing the evidence and the interpretations with other interested historians. It is my purpose in this paper and in a second which I shall present tomorrow morning to fulfill those three responsibilities. I shall describe some evidence, a part of which has never been published, a part of which has been published in non-Brethren sources, and a part of which comes from Brethren sources but seems necessary to make the other two parts meaningful. My interpretation of this evidence, briefly stated, is that the Brethren between 1785 and 1860 were involved in a number of very important activities which contributed in significant ways to the future development of the church. And finally, I came to this conference with the intention of sharing for the first time some of my material and my ideas. Most of this material, and much more, will appear, hopefully in 1975, in a 500 page volume of source materials which I am now completing.

In this paper, I have chosen to examine four of the important activities in which the Brethren were involved during these years: (1) the western movement; (2) the erection of meetinghouses; (3) the emphasis on evangelism; and (4) the maintenance of communication and the defense of Brethren beliefs. In the second paper tomorrow morning, I shall examine a fifth activity, the influence of the Brethren on the development of three other churches.

A major activity of the Brethren between 1785 and 1860 was emigrating to the western frontier. One of the first western states to receive Brethren was Kentucky. According to the John Clingingsmith account, which was written about 1885 by a Brethren minister whose father had been one of the earliest Brethren settlers in Missouri in the 1790’s, “Old father Casper

Roland was the first Dunker minister in Kentucky, date not given, and old father John Hendricks, of North Carolina, was the next.”1 His information indicated that they had arrived in Kentucky before 1800 and that conclusion is substantiated by other evidence taken from their respective land records in North Carolina. Also, evidence from the Kentucky records studied by David Eller indicates that Roland and Hendricks were arriving in Warren County, Kentucky around 1800.2

Although the earliest Brethren in Kentucky were evidently arriving from the Carolinas, the Brethren we...

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