Roots by the River -- By: Marcus Miller

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 08:0 (NA 1975)
Article: Roots by the River
Author: Marcus Miller


Roots by the River

Marcus Miller

A study of history, whether religious or secular, can be divided into three phases. The first is the gathering and classification of source material. The second is the interpretation of events as they occurred or as they seem to us to have occurred. The third is the application to everyday life or to the course of present day events, the lessons learned from our source material and our interpretation of past events.

The accumulation of historical data is at best incomplete because the events as they occurred were not recorded in their entirety and those which were recorded were recorded by a select and biased recorder. A further weakness is our interpretation of the more-or-less inadequate source material. Each of us here today views history by definition, retrospectively. Each of us has his own “retrospectoscope.” Each of us is viewing the past through a retrospectoscope peculiar to itself—with its own parallax and refractive error. I, therefore, make no apology for my interpretation of historical events as I see them. Astigmatism, that is the structural imperfection of the eye which causes us to perceive an indistinct image, is almost universal and there is probably not one of us here less astigmatic than the rest. If there is anything to be gained, therefore, from a “sharing—working” seminar such as this it will be to the extent that we as individuals are able to complement for one another the imperfect image of Church history which each of us now holds.

For my own part I have turned my own retrospectoscope on the Miami Valley of Ohio since that is where my greatest interest lies at the present time. While this Valley is quite small geographically, the importance that it assumes historically is by no means insignificant. The Church in the Valley before 1800 was non-existent. The seeds were sown by pioneer Brethren from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina and the tree which resulted in the intervening one hundred-seventy-five years has suffered a few storms. Let us investigate the roots nurtured by this river from 1800 to 1860.

Until August 3, 1795—the date of the Treaty of Greene Ville—the Miami Valley of Ohio was not open to settlement by the white man. The Ohio country was wild and forbidding territory inhabited by Indians and overgrown by dense forests. It was, however, very alluring to many people including the Brethren. Land in this territory after it was open to settlement was inexpensive. There was an extensive system of rivers and tributaries which facilitated water transportation. The soil was fertile and excellent for agriculture requiring only the clearing of trees. To the Brethren it offered a haven ideal for their wants following the Revolut...

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