Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 13, 1969

Those Troublesome "Cambellites"

Earl Kimbrough

Many were the problems that beset the Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church of Southwestern Ohio in the early 1800's. Members had to be dealt with for such offenses as "falsehood and slander," "abuse and scandal," -attending balls and dancing parties," "the practice of intoxication," "the crime of fornication," and "living in the neglect of the means of grace." Another source of trouble was the loss of members to "other Christian denominations." Among the frontier religious societies Pleasant Ridge lost members to the Methodists, Baptists, Shakers, Reformed Dissenting Presbyterians, and "Campbellites."

It was the decade of the 1830's that the "Campbellites" were the most troublesome to Pleasant Ridge. Session Records for that period show that several members left to become united with congregations seeking to follow the New Testament order. It was about this time that the Restoration movement was making rapid progress in Ohio, particularly along the Ohio River and on the Western Reserve. Cincinnati, near which Pleasant Ridge was located, saw a New Testament church established in 1828, and the region soon became a focal point of Restoration activity. D. S. Burnet, Walter Scott, and James Challen were among the pioneer gospel preachers who labored in that area.

'the Session Records of Pleasant Ridge Church provide an interesting view of the "Campbellite" defections as seen through the eyes of the Presbyterian elders who wrestled with the problem. The excerpts below are from these old records. Spelling and punctuation are as originally written by the Presbyterian scribes.

"Friday August 10, 1832 ... Satisfactory information was received by Session that Martha Alcorn, a member of this church, had joined a Church known to us by the name of Campbellites therefore it was resolved that her name should be stricken off these records which was accordingly done.

"Sabbath Sept. 2nd, 1832 ... Session being acquainted with the circumstances of Eunis Swift joining the Campbellite Baptist, ordered that her name should be stricken off these records.

"Pleasant Ridge, August 16th, 1833...The Session was informed by John Wilson, one of its members that Mary Dill, a member of this Church, had joined the Campbellite Society in Carthage and after a deliberate consideration of the case, the Session were unanimously of the opinion that her name should be stricken off these records.

"Pleasant Ridge, Nov. 24, 1837...At a previous meeting Session was informed that a report was in circulation stating that Hannah Buxton, a member of this church, had joined the Campbellites. James Clark, elder, was appointed to visit Mrs. Buxton and ascertain the truth of the report. Mr. Clark was called on to report, which report was accepted, and is as follows, viz., 'I waited on Mrs. Buxton agreeable to the request of session. She acknowledged that she had left our church and had joined the Campbellites, that in so doing she had acted conscientiously, that she believed in immersion, that she did not leave our church through any disrespect, as she believe there were many good Christians in it, and that she was sorry that she had put the Session to any trouble that she did not know that it was her duty to apply for admission or certainly she would have done so.' Whereupon it is the opinion of this Session that there is no probability of reclaiming her at present, the greatest amount of good will be done to the church in the case by disowning her as a member. Therefore, resolved that Mrs. Hannah Buxton be declared no longer a member of this church." (Quotations from W. W. Sweet, Religion on the American Frontier, 1783-1840, Vol. 2, pp. 418,419,426,427.)

Similar discussions in denominational circles no doubt occurred many times in the wake of the pioneer preachers' simple but stirring message of New Testament Christianity. The Martha Alcorns and Eunice Swifts soon became a sizeable army of New Testament Christians. By 1852 Southwestern Ohio had sixty New Testament churches with more than five thousand members. The troublesome "Campbellites". thinned the ranks of many churches like Pleasant Ridge. While some doubtless returned to denominationalism, vast numbers of the converts were, as the Session said of Hannah Buxton, beyond the probability of reclaiming. - P.O. Box 83, Tuckerman, Ark. 72473