Dallas minister Morrison Meade Davis wrote to his wife and daughter in Sedalia, Missouri on 28 August 1891. In it he writes of the weather, of making pastoral visits, of his loneliness and of the family’s plans for further travel. He mentions attending a prayer meeting at the Pearl and Bryan Church of Christ, which he describes as “for the head, not for the heart.”
The letter is one of several (along with many cabinet-card photographs belonging to Davis of Christian Church ministers) acquired by Joe Johnson in the 1990s. The Davis photo and letter collection is one sub-set of Joe’s remarkable assemblage of Stone-Campbell books, periodicals, ephemera now housed in ACU’s Center for Restoration Studies. Right-click the images to open in a new tab or window; click here for an annotated transcription of this letter.
From the Joe Johnson Collection in American Christianity, these covers represent the variety of artistic decoration of periodical covers in the nineteenth century. The Herald of the Truth and Ladies’ Home magazine illustrates the heights of the craft with elaborate typeface and illustrations. The Christian Preacher, on the other hand, is more restrained. It accomplishes its purpose in a simple and straightforward manner.
Covers such as these tell us something of aesthetics, of the printer’s art and provide in many cases valuable data. While subscribers often bound their issues at year’s end, it is not common to find a bound volume containing the covers. Usually they were discarded, and with them went their testimony to aesthetics, or the printer’s art…you get the picture. One type of very useful information found inside these covers can be illustrated, no pun intended, from this early (7 June 1824) issue of Alexander Campbell’s Christian Baptist.
While Campbell often used the covers to advertise books or periodicals, he called readers’ attention to the agents acting on his behalf to secure subscriptions and collect monies owed. Let’s assume you are charting the course of Stone-Campbell Movement into your geographical area. What a boon it would be if we could know whether any in that area read literature such as Campbell’s works. If we can locate an agent for a periodical such as Christian Baptist in the area, then we can have a certain degree of confidence that someone in that city or town or county was not only aware of Campbell but read and disseminated his ideas. The same holds true for any periodical where something more than the volume and issue number were printed on the covers. It is a small point, but potentially a significant point. Those covers really are treasures. We’ll post more…please check back often.
Among the remarkable items in the Joe Johnson Collection of American Christianity is this post-card sized handbill advertising…in its “twenty-second week”…what is likely the longest sustained evangelistic effort in Stone-Campbell history. Theophilus Brown Larimore by 1894 engaged in such meetings on a full-time basis. He was in demand for them because of his ability to communicate clearly, forcibly and persuasively. While weeks-long meetings were not unheard of (and commonplace among some evangelists) this effort by Larimore is an outstanding example of the stamina on the part of all concerned. In 2014 we marvel that audiences sustained his effort, and that he was able to maintain such a rigorous schedule (twice daily and three times each Sunday). I’ve heard it said Larimore remarked that he did not repeat a sermon during these six months. In the larger story of Churches of Christ, this meeting held far-reaching effects, for during it Larimore persuaded a young man to become a Christian. Batsell Baxter, a boy of seven years, was baptized during this meeting.
Batsell’s imprint on higher education among Churches of Christ, and through it the impact he had nationwide, is likely inestimable. After training at Nashville Bible School and Texas Christian University he taught at Thorp Spring Christian College, Cordell Christian College, Abilene Christian College, Harding College and David Lipscomb College. He served as President of Abilene Christian College, David Lipscomb College, and George Pepperdine College. Baxter’s only child, his son Batsell Barrett Baxter, trained generations of preachers at George Pepperdine College and David Lipscomb College and served for years as radio and television speaker for Herald of Truth ministry based out of Abilene. That’s quite a story from a single handbill.
UPDATE: there’s more…click here for part 2!