committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs









        The Great Trouble of 1877--The Cause--Its Fierceness--The Split--The Call of Rev. Gibbons and the Death of Rev. W. J. Campbell, and the Final Settlement.


        In 1877, while Rev. W. J. Campbell was away on his vacation, the great trouble began. The cause of this trouble was the report that Deacon Robert P. Young had stolen money from the church. There is doubt about the correctness of this charge when all things are calmly considered. Mr. Willis Harris saw Deacon Young put the money in front of the organ, and after his back was turned took it away. Deacon Young, after the communion was over, reported to Deacon F. M. Williams what had occurred. Deacon Williams told him to say nothing about it; perhaps some one had taken it to tease him; but if he did not get it to make it known to the brethren on finance night, which was Tuesday night following. Deacon Young took the advice of Deacon Williams, but on Monday the news of this occurrence was all over the streets. Mr. Willis Harris brought the money to the church the next following Thursday night and attempted to give it to the church, but was prevented by Deacon Richard Baker, who opposed it, and to avoid trouble on that night the money was kept and presented to the church in a special conference on the following Sunday. There were $22.32 in the basket. Mr. Harris reported that he caught Deacon Young stealing money. This very naturally created quite a sensation, and intense excitement prevailed.

        While it is not clear that Deacon Young meant to steal the money it must be acknowledged that his conduct was very suspicious and justly aroused the displeasure of the church. He should have made the matter known to all of the brethren while they were counting the money, and a search for the missing basket should have been inaugurated; and should that have failed, announcements from the pulpit would have been in order. From the fact that this was not done rather weakened Deacon Young's case. While Deacon Young was decidedly wrong, Mr. Willis Harris was decidedly wrong also, and his action was totally at variance with the precepts of the gospel. It was his duty to have gone to Deacon Young and labored with him as the gospel enjoins before it was in order to tell the church. Twenty-two dollars and thirty-two cents were but a trifling affair as compared with the harm which came out of this case. Then, besides, Mr. Willis Harris himself was a most notorious thief.

        The truth of the matter seems to be this: Mr. Willis Harris had not been long deposed from the office of deacon, and supposing that Mr. Young wielded a deal of influence in bringing about his deposition, he watched for and coveted every opportunity to get even with him. It is more than likely that he craved an opportunity to vent the prejudice of a malignant heart upon Deacon Young. Since he was actuated from improper motives his testimony in this case should be viewed in that light. It is not strange that this report should have excited the members. The deacons should have acted wiser.

        Deacon Robert P. Young was tried before the church and made an humble Christian apology, and his carelessness in handling the church's money was pardoned. He explained rather than confessed. It was not required for him to confess stealing the money. Deacon Richard Baker contended that Deacon Young ought not to make the apology. Whereas he had been requested by the church to resign, and had promised to do so, Deacon Baker contended that he should continue to discharge the duties of a deacon. Deacon Young attempted to carry out the instructions of Deacon Baker. This started the war in right earnest. The lay brethren then determined that Deacon Young should not pass the sacrament. This was well caucussed.

        In the Conference of October 22, 1877, Mr. J. C. Williams moved to reconsider the motion passed in the August Conference pardoning Deacon R. P. Young. This was ruled out upon the ground that he made the motion to expel in August and voted in the negative.

        Mr. J. C. Habersham then made the motion that Mr. Williams' motion be sustained, and it was carried. This brought Deacon Young back under the discipline of the church. This was wrong, of course, as no member should be pardoned by a church at one meeting and tried at another meeting for the same offense, except some new developments had come to the knowledge of the church. However, the motion of Mr. Habersham was a virtual appeal from the decision of the chair. This is generally admissible, but on this occasion it was at variance with every principle of justice and decidedly wrong.

        The Conference adjourned at this stage leaving Deacon Young under the charge from which the church had once freed him. The first Sunday in November being the communion, many of the brethren had decided that Deacon Young, being under a charge, should not carry around the communion. Several of the lay brethren waited on the officers that morning at prayer meeting, informing them that they had learned that it was the intention of some to have Deacon Young carry around the sacrament in the afternoon, and urged the officers to wait on Rev. Campbell and beg him not to allow Deacon Young to officiate in the communion. At 3 P. M. of the same day, when Mr. Campbell called the officers to pass to them the bread, Mr. James B. Lewis and Mr. Joshua Hicks arose and in open church said: "Mr. Campbell, you cannot give the communion to Young to pass around because he is under the dealing of the church." Mr. Campbell said to Deacon Young: "Go on, if they want to stop you, let them do it." Deacon Young took the communion and went to the choir, where he was accustomed to carry the communion. Mr. Alexander Rannair, according to a previous understanding of his followers, shut the door of the choir and said to Deacon Young: "Young, you know you are under a charge, and we don't want any bread from you up here." This created quite a sensation and not a little confusion in the church. Mr. Rannair had no earthly right to take this step in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. If he did not want to accept the wine at the hand of Deacon Young he had the privilege that never has been denied a man to refuse it. Nothing can justify this rash and inconsiderate course. Neither had Mr. James B. Lewis nor Mr. Joshua Hicks the right to take any such steps as they did, calling their pastor in open church and affirming that Deacon Young should not carry around the communion. It showed that the excitement had been worked up to a very high pitch. It is true that Mr. Campbell was wrong in giving the communion to Deacon Young under the then existing circumstances. If there was a charge against him he had no right to call him to pass the holy communion to those who held him charged. No wise apology can be given for this indiscretion. The proper way for them to have done was to have refused accepting it, and brought the matter up in the next conference. Deacon Young, if he had the proper Christian spirit, would not have attempted to pass around the holy Eucharist, knowing that a large number of the membership opposed it and entertained doubts as to his innocence of the charge of stealing money. This course of procedure upon the part of some of the members showed that the heretofore powerful pastor was rapidly losing power over his people. If the pastor had taken a second sober thought he might have acted a little more cautiously, and thereby have averted this dreadful storm. It should have been evident to him that he would not have the strength to pull through it.

        On Tuesday, of the same week, Deacons Richard Baker, P. H. Butler and R. P. Young swore out warrants against the following brethren: March Haynes, John E. Grant, John C. Habersham, Alexander Rannair and Samuel Roberts. These were tried; but Messrs. Alexander Rannair, Joshua Hicks and James B. Lewis were found guilty and fined $10 each; the others were acquitted. This did not settle the trouble. These brethren were only more determined in their fight. This was wrong in the deacons, and only served to make bad matters worse.

        At the conference of November 19th, 1877, these deacons, having been notified to be present, and failing, were expelled. This was rather hasty. It was now evident that the war had begun. The brethren gave bond and employed counsel and went to law. This case created almost universal excitement. The courts were baffled for five or six years, and finally recommended a compromise upon the introduction of a bill of equity by the followers of Rev. W. J. Campbell.

        The day he left the church can never be forgotten. When many who were in the church ceased to hear him and honor his gray locks, he arose and said: "My children, all who are with me follow me." He left the church, and as might be expected some of the best members of the church followed their aged chieftain. Old age and paralysis had done their work on him, and he was rapidly fading away. The party that had possession of the church met in rapid succession to make sure their position. The followers of Mr. Campbell were none the less assiduous and determined. They had caucuses in rapid succession. The leader on Mr. Campbell's side was R. P. Young. He furnished the brains for the party, as the pastor was now almost an invalid. This was a feast for the lawyers, and they harvested richly from the disaffection of the First African Baptist Church. As men do not generally care how long a good paying position lasts, it is quite natural that the lawyers had no special objection to the continuation of the case in court.

        On the 17th of December, 1877, Rev. W. J. Campbell left the church. He had been requested to take the chair and preside over the conference, but declined, whereupon Deacon F. M. Williams was called to the chair. After the minutes of November 19th, 1877, were read, he (Mr. Campbell) arose and said: "That is all I come for, to hear that minute." Deacon F. M. Williams begged him not to leave, but this was useless. When he had made up his mind to do a thing remonstrance's were useless. He simply commanded his followers to follow him, and many of them did so. When he was going out, Mr. Peter Houston, who had some difference with Mr. Campbell because he had been expelled some years prior for issuing a warrant against one of the sisters, met him at the door and said: "Mr. Campbell, what did I tell you; when I would be coming in you would be going out." Mr. Campbell replied: "Do, Houston, for God's sake let me alone." Mr. Houston told him this years ago when he was turned out of the church, and did actually live to see it. But his (Houston's) end was not at all glorious. He was one of Mr. Campbell's shrewdest and ablest opposers. But he came to his death in a mysterious, inglorious way. It is not positively known whether he was murdered or committed suicide. He was, however, heartbroken by domestic troubles and disaffection. Mr. Houston's prophesy of Mr. Campbell came true, and so did Mr. Campbell's prophesy of Mr. Houston come true. Mr. Campbell said no good would follow Mr. Houston. For several years Mr. Houston had terrible family troubles. Many of the members of the church meant to have their way, but very few of them wanted Mr. Campbell to leave the church. Mr. Campbell went out into the square and addressed his followers. Mr. L. J. Pettigrew, a prominent character on the side of the majority, went out and begged Mr. Campbell to return to the church, but to no avail.

        On Thursday night following this Conference Mr. Campbell, however, returned to the church, accompanied by Rev. James M. Simms and Rev. U. L. Houston. The brethren not knowing that he would return, had requested Licentiate John Nesbit to preach. Mr. Campbell not knowing this had invited Rev. U. L. Houston to preach. This Mr. Campbell stated to the church, whereupon Brethren Joseph C. Williams and Lewis J. Pettigrew objected, stating that Brother Nesbit had been invited to preach, and that they preferred to hear him to Rev. Houston, and Rev. Houston said that he would rather hear Brother Nesbit himself. This Mr. Campbell agreed to, and Brother Nesbit preached. When the services were over, Rev. James M. Simms stated to the church that he was invited by Mr. Campbell, his cousin, to be with him to-night, and expressing great sorrow for the trouble then existing in the church. Deacon R. P. Young, who was the clerk of the church, came forward to read out the letters for persons that had been sent in the care of the church, which was the custom, when Mr. March Haines and Mr. John E. Grant objected to his reading them as he was under a charge. This, of course, was wrong. There could have been no earthly objection to his reading the letters, since he was still a member of the church, and as reading out the letters was not performing any of his Christian privileges. After this Mr. Campbell entered the church only once more. On that occasion Rev. U. L. Houston preached, and they did what they called "burying the devil," but as he was not quite dead his resurrection followed very soon thereafter.

        On that memorable night Mr. Campbell sang this very appropriate hymn. He could line out a hymn as few men could, and it had a magic effect, but, alas! how soon forgotten:

                         "Let party names no more
                         The Christian world o'erspread;
                         Gentiles and Jews and bond and free
                         Are one in Christ, their head.
                         Among the saints on earth
                         Let mutual love be found--
                         Heirs of the same inheritance,
                         With mutual blessings crowned.
                         Thus will the church below
                         Resemble that above,
                         Where streams of endless pleasure flow,
                         And every heart is love."

        The singing of this hymn had such a wonderful effect that everything seemed all right, and that this grand old body was once more united, but not so. Satan had done his work too well. He was not so easily removed. The party that had left the church were holding divine services at Mr. W. G. Clark's house, on Margaret street in Yamacraw. They worshipped there for two months. There they held a conference and prepared all their minutes and wrote them up, dating them as if adopted at the First African Baptist Church on the following Sunday. They came to the church and after the close of the services one of their number moved to resolve into a conference. This, of course, was carried. While one of their number was down on his knees praying, Sexton Salbury Morse removed the table and their prepared minutes were grabbed by Alexander Miller, who fled with them. Deacon Young and others were arrested. This was a final opening of the great war. On both sides arrests were made. The whole city was most intensely excited. Rev. George Gibbons was the adviser of the party that held the possession of the church. Of course they were in the majority or they could scarcely have kept the church. There were many who had been turned out during the administration of the Rev. W. J. Campbell who rushed into the church at this terrible crisis. Of course they were not prepared to sympathize with Rev. W. J. Campbell, nor did they come in to help him. Mr. Campbell was losing more and more. From the house of Mr. W. G. Clark they removed to the "Grits Mills" and for one year they worshipped there. Their increase was not very great, nor was the increase of the majority very great. From the "Grits Mill" they removed to the "Beach Institute." The Rev. W. J. Campbell was too feeble to give them much service in the way of preaching and scarcely any pastoral visits. Several efforts were made to get him back to the church, and one time it was thought that they had accomplished that end. The majority assembled in the church to welcome home their venerable father, their love for whom these years of bitter feelings, disaffections and many wrong doings had not effaced. But Deacon Richard Baker, R. P. Young and others would not allow him to return to his people, bringing his people with him. This would have put an end to the trouble. It appears that he did again enter the church. We insert the following report of the deacons of the majority, which speaks for itself:



        We, your servants, in whose hands you have placed the affairs of your church to take care of and look after them, seeing the condition of your church at present, feel it our duty to present matters to you in their true light; the remedy is then with you as a sovereign church, and if you, as a church, fail to do your duty in the matter, then the fault lies at your own door. It is our duty to present the matter to you in its true nature, and your duty to act. In November last Rev. William J. Campbell, as pastor of this church, allowed himself to be accessory to the prosecution before the courts of the land of fifteen (15) members of this church in good standing, and did go into open court and swear to the fact that the members were guilty of crimes that we all knew them to be innocent of, placing them, according to his own testimony, virtually in the State's prison, depriving them of the comforts of their homes and the freedom of their religion. Responding to the call of men whom the church had rebuked for their misdeeds he again appeared before the magistrates in December last and openly disregarded the actions of this church by swearing that certain men were clerk and deacons of this church whom this church had expelled and whose expulsion was confirmed in his presence. He then appeared at our regular conference, held on the 19th day of December, and on being asked to take the chair refused, and after making some remarks in regard to taking names, picked up his hat and stick, and after saying that he would not give the snap of his finger for what the church was doing walked out. For each and all of these acts, which were extremely offensive to the church and unbecoming to the pastor of a church, the church demanded satisfaction.

        "A committee was appointed to wait upon him, demanding satisfaction for the church. This satisfaction he failed to give. After the report of the committee was rendered it was decided by the church that his case be taken up at the regular conference in January, and he was so notified, and was also notified that he was to abstain from exercising the duties of pastor of this church until that time. On the first Sunday in January, after all arrangements had been made for the administration of the Lord's Supper, he sent a message to us by Brethren Jas. M. Simms and Robert Miflin, stating that in thinking over the case of Rev. Abram Burke he was led to feel that he was getting old and feeble, and as he did not know how long he had to live he wanted to come to peace with his church and commune with them on the first Sunday in the new year. The matter was taken before the church and it was decided to hear from the pastor. He then arose, and after stating his inability to do much talking, referred the matter to Mr. Simms, whom, he said, would speak for him. Mr. Simms then arose, and after stating what Mr. Campbell had said to him in regard to Rev. Burke, said that our pastor requested him to say to the church that he was sorry that anything had occurred to cause the church and himself to be at variance, but that he was here with the intention of coming to peace with his church, and that he desired that by-gones should be by-gones and that all old things should be buried forever.

        "A resolution was accordingly offered and carried by unanimous vote that everything from to-day be dropped.

        "In putting the motion, Rev. George Gibbons asked the pastor if he meant by what he said to recognize all that the church had done to be right, to which the pastor replied, Yes. The motion was then carried as above stated amid much shouting and gladness. The table was then turned over to him by Mr. Gibbons, when the pastor proceeded to administer the sacrament. He also appeared at the church on Thursday evening and confirmed what he said on the Sunday at the sacrament table, and said that he meant all that he said.

        "In the week preceding our last communion he was waited on by two of our number to know what arrangement he had made about the communion. In reply to the question he wanted to know of them how could he give them the communion when they were under bonds. Desiring to indulge him as much as possible, another committee still was appointed to wait upon him. He told that committee that he did not recognize them as deacons, and that they had taken the advantage of him, and told them that he did not recognize what the church had done, and declares that he never did recognize their action, and told them that he would come and give them the communion but would not take it himself, and declares that he will never be satisfied with the church or come to peace until the church undo all that she has done in his absence by taking back all those that have been expelled and turning out all those that have been taken in. Then, he says, he will be satisfied and not before.

        "As we have said at the outset, it is our indispensable duty to lay this matter before you in its true nature. In coming before the communion and saying and doing what he did, and then going right around and denying these very things, declaring that he did not do them, is an offence that should not be tolerated in a Christian church. He has shown himself to be guilty of a willful falsehood. It is with great regret that we are compelled to present this matter to you in this manner, but we have no alternative. For to allow the matter to remain as it has been for the last three or four months would be almost to commit the unpardonable sin. We see our pulpit desecrated by slander and abuse, and even our communion table polluted by wickedness in high places, and all of it is simply because we have allowed our animal affections to get the better of us and cause us to flinch from our plain duty. The fan is in our hands and if we fail to thoroughly purge the floor then the sin lies at our own door. If we put the rod in the hands of another to scourge us, then we must bear the scourging without a murmur. As your servants, we have endeavored to do our duty. We lay the matter before you for your consideration and action, and can only say that unless some action be taken by you in regard to the matter we cannot be responsible for the peace and safety of your church. The points that we would have you more particularly look into are those running from the first Sunday in January down to the present time. Judge of the case and act upon its true merits."

        Several efforts were made to have the matter amicably settled, but it seems that the fire of dissension had gotten too much headway. A council was called at the instance of both sides, consisting of Rev. T. Harley, Deacons Howard, Reid and Fairchild (of the white church), and Rev. Alexander Harris. But this council proved ineffectual, because some of the parties on the side of the majority opposed Mr. Fairchild, led by Deacon Joseph C. Williams, upon the ground that he was partial toward Mr. Campbell, and they feared that he would not do justice to Mr. Campbell's opposers. The day the majority gained possession of the church was a stormy day for this old church, and will long be remembered with interest.

        Deacons Baker, Young and Butler had determined that no conference should be held that day and commanded the sexton not to open the church, and had engaged policemen to prevent the opposition from entering the church, charging that they intended a riot. But as the sexton was a secret disciple of the opposition they had him hid away near the church, and at a given signal he was to appear with the keys. Mr. J. C. Williams asked a policeman what he was doing there, who informed him that he was there to prevent a riot. Mr. Williams then asked him was he sent there to prevent the church from holding its conference? He replied, No. Then Mr. Williams asked him if he would arrest the man whom he saw creating the disturbance? He said, Yes. The sexton was then signalled to appear with the keys. As he came Deacons Young, Baker and Butler demanded the keys, and upon the sexton refusing to surrender them attempted to take them. Mr. Williams then called the policeman's attention, stating that these are the men who are creating the disturbance, and they were arrested, thus falling into their own trap. This gave the majority the possession of the church. They entered and forever afterwards held it.

        Notwithstanding all this bitter feeling and wholesale expulsion so tender was the feeling for Mr. Campbell that he was never expelled. Deacon Joseph C. Williams contended that the pulpit should not be touched. Mr. Campbell could have re-entered the church at any time he wished without disciplinary action upon the part of the church. Mr. Joseph C. Williams deserves great credit for his wisdom and far-seeing sagacity in preventing the expulsion of Mr. Campbell. Had he been expelled perhaps the breach would never have been healed. This act shows the profoundest sympathy for the venerable father. Virtually Mr. Campbell died a member of the First African Baptist Church. He would, however, have been declared expelled but for Deacon Joseph C. Williams, who had a sacred reverence for the pulpit. Deacon Williams regarded Mr. Campbell as God's anointed, which he felt that should not be touched. He was willing to expel everybody else but the pastor. He kept the church from making a great mistake. The thanks of the church are due him. This proved him to be an able leader.

        As harsh as the report from the officers is, no intimation of Mr. Campbell's expulsion is in it:



        "Richard Baker et al., Complainants, and Peter Houston et al., Defendants, to compromise and heal all dissension and division in the First African Baptist Church, which have existed for some time past:

        "It is agreed that the portion of the membership of the church worshipping in the brick church, known as the First African Baptist Church, will invite the portion of the membership of the church worshipping in the "Beach Institute" to reunite with them as one body and congregation without any deprivation of any church privileges as members thereof, and without any disciplinary action whatever. That the officers of the First African Baptist Church worshipping in the "Beach Institute" voluntarily relinquish and resign such offices, and the said portion of the membership worshipping in the "Beach Institute" will accept the pastor, officers and trustees, and organization as it now exists, in the congregation in said First African Baptist Church building, and accept the invitation above extended to them.

        "It is further agreed that this compromise be made the judgment of the court, if necessary; and that the same shall not be made by other party a precedent of church government, but as a settlement of this particular case."

        This was agreed to and signed by the leaders of both parties. In conformity to this wise conciliatory compromise the majority addressed the minority, as follows:

"SAVANNAH, February 8th, 1884.

"To the First African Baptist Church, Beach Institute, Savannah, Ga.:

        "DEAR BRETHREN--At a special conference of the First African Baptist Church, Franklin Square, held last evening for the purpose of considering the recommendations as presented by the attorneys for both parties, in reference to the matter now pending between ourselves before the Superior Court of this city (of which you have a copy), was at this special conference read and confirmed by an almost unanimous vote.

        "In conformity thereto, we hereby extend your Christian body a cordial invitation, requesting your presence at the next regular conference of the church, to be held on the 17th instant, at 3 o'clock P. M., at which time and place you will again have the opportunity of church privilege.

"Awaiting an early reply, we remain yours in Christ,


"Attest: C. H. EBBS, Church Clerk."



"SAVANNAH, February 10, 1884.

"To the Pastor, Officers and Members of the First African Baptist Church:

        DEAR BRETHREN--At a special conference held by us on the above date, for the purpose of considering the recommendations as presented by the attorneys of both factions in reference to the matter that is pending between you and us in the Superior Court of this county, of which you have a copy of the same. We have adopted the document as agreed to by us in the matter, and also received your invitation requesting us to be present at your next regular conference of the church to be held on 17th instant, at 3 o'clock P. M., at which time we shall obtain privilege as members of one body again. Brethren, we will be present at the hour appointed with the books, deeds and titles of the First African Baptist Church according to our agreement made in the matter.

"Done in conference meeting.

"P. H. BUTLER, Moderator.

"Attest: R. P. Young, Church Clerk."


        This shows that each side had enough of the war. The few that stuck out were obstinate. Mr. Campbell, the leader, died October 11th, 1880. Doubtless his troubles came upon him too severely for his advanced age. It had much to do with hurrying the end. The crowd that followed him stuck to him till the last. Mr. Campbell's desire was to be buried by his people from his church that he had labored so hard to build. When he died his faithful followers made the fact known to the church. The church was willing to have him buried from his old home, but Rev. George Gibbons, who was pastor of the majority, objected to large nails, it is claimed, being driven in the pulpit and in other places in the church. But it does seem that a compromise as to the size of nails could have been easily effected and tacks substituted for the nails, or even strings might have been used. If there was not a deep, bitter feeling underlying this on one side or the other, doubtless this course would have been pursued. Rev. Gibbons being a gospel minister, it would seem, might have advised these heart-broken friends that the nails were too large, and that they ought to get tacks. This could have been done in such a tender way that would have won eternally their affectionate sympathy and cooperation. Then there would not have been any chance for the idea to gain foothold that Rev. Gibbons did not want the church draped for Mr. Campbell as though he was pastor, and as he was yet alive he felt that he was pastor, and no one had the right to be honored as such. It was most natural that a man should feel this way. Human nature is human nature, even in a Christian minister. Those who went to drape the church should have exercised more patience and doubtless they would have accomplished their purpose. In the heat of excitement the body of the venerable dead man was carried to the First Bryan Baptist Church in Yamacraw, having obtained permission from Rev. V. L. Houston, the pastor.

        The parties concerned should have taken more pains to try to unite in doing honor to this grand old man. If there was no objection to this old servant being buried from the church for which he toiled so hard for years, all petty differences might have been waived and becoming honor done to this man of God. It is quite natural, also, that those who wished to drape the church were rather sensitive and most any act of Rev. Gibbon's would have been severely criticized. In fact, they felt sore toward him, and rather looked for unkindness, presuming, of course, that Mr. Gibbons was unfriendly to Mr. Campbell, their father and leader in Christ Jesus. Had Mr. Gibbons suggested the manner of draping the church for the noted dead, it would have tended greatly to unify the people and have generated better feelings. It would not have destroyed one whit of his power or eclipsed in the least his glory, but might have tended more to the glory of God. This act was perhaps inconsiderate. Rev. Frank Quarles, of Atlanta, was wired, who reached Savannah time enough to preach the funeral sermon of Rev. W. J. Campbell. He was followed to his last resting place by a host of heart-broken weepers. Thus ended the life of the most influential man that has ever lived in Savannah.

        After his death frequently members from the Beach Institute returned to the old church. It was evident that the war was over. The minority continued out until February 17th, 1884, when they returned in a body, surrendering all claims of offices and the church waiving all discipline in their cases. That rainy Sunday can never be forgotten. Just before they reached the church they sung in a most solemn manner--

                         "Blest be the tie that binds
                         Our hearts in Christian love;
                         The fellowship of kindred minds
                         Is liked to that above.
                         Before our Father's throne
                         We pour our ardent prayers;
                         Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
                         Our comforts and our cares.
                         We share our mutual woes,
                         Our mutual burdens bear,
                         And often for each other flows
                         The sympathizing tear," &c., &c.

        The entrance into the Church was hailed by a large, joyous and weeping congregation. Deacon Baker did not return and perhaps never will. Four years have now passed since that day and he has not been even to the church. Deacon Young was soon restored to the choir and made its president. During the six years of trouble several of the societies of the church had been organized into churches. The grand body being once more united a more pleasing future was opened up to the grand old body. God helped her.

        The following is inserted for the information of the reader, which will show some of Mr. Campbell's troubles in his early ministry and the split of 1859:

"Chatham County.

To all whom it may concern.

        "Know all men by these presents that we, the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, and State of Georgia, influenced as we trust by the grace of God, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, did in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-five see, with deep regret and submission to our God, that our father, Andrew C. Marshall, for many years our pastor, laboring with us in the gospel ministry, had become very feeble and needed some help in the gospel ministry, thought it expedient to call to his assistance our Brother Wm. J. Campbell, whom, after being duly examined upon his sound doctrinal faith and belief in the church by the Rev. Henry O. Wyer, Rev. Thomas Rambout and T. J. Thelkeld, and found to be such an one as have been taught by the spirit of God, did farther, on the twenty-fourth day of February, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six, call the assembly of the people together and in their presence and before Almighty God see him ordained to the gospel ministry. Our beloved brethren Rev. Henry O. Wyer, R. W. Winston and J. B. Stiteler officiated in this most solemn ceremony the ordination of our beloved Brother Wm. J. Campbell. He labored with us, assisting our beloved father and shepherd, Andrew C. Marshall, until our God was pleased to call our Father Marshall to Himself in heaven to rest from his labors. In December, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and fifty-six, he died, and on the 18th day of February, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and fifty seven, this church, after prayer to Almighty God for Divine instructions, called our beloved Brother Wm. J. Campbell to the pastoral care of this church, whom we do pray our God to keep in his useful and prosperous ministry for many and fruitful years is the prayer of his brethren always. Amen.

        "This document was ordered to be drawn by the officers of this church now acting in the deaconship, to wit: Brethren R. McNish, John Burney, Samuel Miller, Friday Gibbons, London Small, Murray Monroe, George Gibbons, Caesar Verdeir and James Simms.

"Done in Conference, February 19th, A. D. 1860.

"R. S. HARDWICK, Moderator.

"JAMES M. SIMMS, Clerk."


"TUESDAY NIGHT, April 20, 1858.

        "Certain causes growing out of differences of opinion among the members of the First African Baptist Church of Savannah having resulted in the interference of the civil authorities in so far as to impose certain restrictions embarrassing to the customary religious rights and privileges of said church, His Honor Richard Wayne, Mayor of the city of Savannah, to the end that the differences in said church be reconciled, and that said restrictions be removed, under his seal of office issued the following note, viz.:

" 'CITY OF SAVANNAH, 17th April, 1858.


        " 'If the following named gentlemen will attend the First African Church to-morrow, Sunday, April 18th, 1858, at half-past 12 o'clock P. M., the restrictions now hanging over said church will be removed for the time being. The Object is to have a final settlement of the difficulty in the church. The said gentlemen not to interfere, that is, to take sides with either party.

" 'R. WAYNE, Mayor.

{SEAL} " 'Attest: EDW'D G. WILSON, Clerk of Council.


" 'To the following gentlemen, Executive Committee of the Sunbury Baptist Association, viz.: General Rabun, Rev. Mr. Winston, Rev. Mr. Daniel, Rev. Mr. F. R. Sweat, Lewis C. Tebeau, J. H. H. --.' "

        "In accordance with the said note (his Honor the Mayor having subsequently issued an order changing the time of holding the meeting from Sunday noon to Tuesday night) a special conference was held in the church on Tuesday night, April 20th, 1858. The Rev. L. G. Daniels and Mr. James G. Hogg, members of the Executive Committee of the Sunbury Baptist Association, were present, the other members of said committee, as named in the foregoing note of his Honor the Mayor, were, absent, they having in a note to the Mayor declined attending the meeting.

        "A motion being made and seconded, it was unanimously voted that Mr. R. L. Hardwick take the chair, and that Mr. L. J. B. Fairchild act as secretary of the meeting. Mr. Hardwick in the chair, the meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. L. G. Daniel. The minutes of the regular conference, held March 21st, 1858, were read and confirmed by a unanimous vote. The following resolutions were regularly proposed and adopted by a unanimous vote of the church, viz.:

        " 'Resolved, That this church respectfully, but positively, declines accepting or adopting the constitution, covenant, confession of faith and by-laws referred to in the minutes of the conference held in this church on March 21st, 1858.

        " 'Resolved, That our brethren, Robert McNish, Robert Verdier and John Burney be a committee to prepare a constitution, covenant, confession of faith and by-laws for the future government of this church, and that said committee report the same to our next meeting.'

        "John Burney, a member of the church, in a few appropriate remarks touching the want of harmony between the pastor and deacons, suggested the propriety of the resignation of both pastor and deacons. Whereupon the pastor, Wm. J. Campbell, responded in terms expressing a desire to do anything in his power to assist the church in her efforts to be released from embarrassment and to promote the religion of Christ, and yielding to the suggestion made, resigned his pastorate of the church. Robert Verdier, the only deacon of the church present, also replied to the suggestion in like terms and resigned his office as acting deacon. A motion was made and seconded not to accept the resignation of William J. Campbell as pastor of the church, and the vote being taken the motion unanimously obtained. It was also moved and seconded that the resignation of Robert Verdier as an acting deacon of this church be accepted, which vote unanimously prevailed.

        "The following preamble and resolutions were read and adopted. On taking the vote it appeared there was one dissenting vote:

        " 'WHEREAS, There is an evident want of a happy cooperation between the deacons and pastor of this church touching the management of the affairs of the church generally, and whereas a hearty co-operation between a pastor and his deacons is essential to the peace and prosperity of the church, and whereas a suggestion has been made that both pastor and deacons resign in their office, in the view that the church might have freedom to select by her vote a pastor and deacons that would be more likely to consummate the desires and interests of the body at large, and whereas only our pastor and one of our deacons have responded to the suggestion of resignation, the rest of the deacons being absent from this meeting, when, in the judgment of this meeting, it was their manifest duty to be here, thus showing no disposition to be reconciled and to fraternize with pastor or people,

        " 'Be it therefore resolved, That our brethren Patrick Williams, Jerry Burke, -- Butler, Benjamin King and Robert McNish be considered as no longer occupying the place and office of acting deacons of the church, or at least until such time as it may be the pleasure of the church to reelect them to the same. It being at the same time fully understood that nothing in this preamble and resolutions is intended to discredit or impair their standing as members in common.

        " 'Be it further resolved, That when this conference adjourns that it be adjourned to meet next Sabbath afternoon, for the purpose of filling the vacancies in the office of deacons occasioned by the action of this meeting.

        " 'Resolved, That as a church we will devote the hour allotted for worship on next Sabbath morning to humble prayer to God that he will direct us in our choice of brethren for the office of deacons, desiring as we do to have humble, God-fearing men, those who will be vigilant in the duties of the office, and seek the promotion of true and vital piety in the church, and thereby promote the glory of our Lord.'

        "The following resolution was regularly adopted, there being only one dissenting vote:

        " 'Resolved, That as a church we place ourselves under the watch, care, guidance and direction of the Savannah Baptist Church, and that said church be requested to appoint a committee of three of her members to attend our conference and other business meetings, to the end that these meetings in future be conducted in an orderly and like-like manner, and that we may have aid and witnesses to the same.'

        "The preamble and resolution following was offered and unanimously adopted:

        " 'WHEREAS, This church has been informed that the book containing the records of the church could not be readily obtained when called for the purposes of this meeting; be it therefore

        " 'Resolved, That the moderator of this meeting be requested to take the custody of the same.'

        "It was also

        " 'Resolved, That the members of the Executive Committee present, viz., the Rev. L. G. Daniel and Mr. James E. Hogg, together with Mr. A. Champion, a visitor, be requested to add to the Secretary's report of the proceedings of this meeting their written testimonial as to the manner in which the business of this conference has been conducted, and of the aspect of the meeting generally.'

        "It was also

        " 'Resolved, That the moderator and secretary of this meeting be requested to furnish his honor, the Mayor, and also the trustees of this church, a correct copy of the proceedings of this conference.'

        "The business of the meeting closed with the following resolution:

        " 'Resolved, That as a church we tender our sincere thanks to our white brethren for their kindness in aiding us in the transaction of our business.'

        "After singing, the meeting adjourned, to meet on Sabbath afternoon, April 25th, 1858.


"L. J. B. FAIRCHILD, Secretary.

"Tuesday Night, April 20, 1858."


        "WHEREAS, Certain differences of opinion have existed among us, which prevented the affiliation of pastor, deacons and members, and whereas these differences, while they existed, were reasons why the ministers of the gospel of the Sunbury Association refused to sign such a paper as was necessary to secure our pastor his license in terms of the law, and whereas at our adjourned conference, held on the 25th of April, all of our difficulties were happily adjusted, as can be shown from our minutes of that day; be it

        "Resolved, That we, as a church, earnestly and respectfully request three or more ministers of the gospel of said association to sign such a paper as will be necessary to enable our pastor, William J. Campbell, to obtain his license from the proper authorities, that we may have the gospel preached to us and the sacrament administered in the church.

        "Resolved, further, That the secretary of this meeting, Mr. Fairchild, make out a certified copy of this preamble and resolutions, and the moderator, Mr. N. J. Hardwick, and Mr. G. W. Wylly present it to three or more of the ministers of the gospel, as aforesaid, and procure their written recommendation to the Superior Court, and then with this written recommendation to the Court procure said license.

        "There being no further business, after singing and prayer the meeting adjourned.

"L. J. B. FAIRCHILD, Secretary pro tem.

"Confirmed June 20th, 1858."


        "The Rev. Mr. Willis, a gentleman engaged in the missionary labors of the Sunbury Baptist Association, feeling a deep interest in this church as a constituent of said body, but more especially as a church of Christ, and sympathizing with her in her late embarrassments, expressed a desire to ascertain the degree of harmony existing between the church and her pastor, William J. Campbell, and to this end requested all of the members present, deacons and others, to give evidence, by their vote, as to their Christian confidence in him as their brother and under-shepherd, and called upon the church, each and every member, without reserve, to stand forth and testify in presence of all if they had aught or knew aught against his moral or religious character that would tend to disqualify him as a member or as a preacher of the gospel. Many of the members responded to this call in terms of the utmost confidence and brotherly affection toward their pastor, but none against him, whereupon the moderator, at the request of Mr. Willis, by a vote, took the sense of the church as to their desire to have their pastor's license renewed. The vote was taken, and it appeared that of all the very large number present there were but three dissenting votes.

        "Mr. George W. Wylly, one of the committee appointed at the last conference in connection with Mr. Hardwick to procure our pastor's license, reported verbally to the church that said committee were stopped in the prosecution of their duty by the Rev. Mr. Winston's refusing to sign our pastor's (William J. Campbell's) license papers, and giving as his reason that he believed Campbell a bad man, who had told a lie.

        "Gen. Rabun also made the latter assertion; whereupon the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted, viz.:

        " 'WHEREAS, It becomes the duty of this church to investigate the charges made against our pastor, William J. Campbell, to the end that we may know whether he is guilty or not; be it

        " 'Resolved, That this church invite a presbytery of all the ministers of the gospel of the Sunbury Association who have not been connected in any way with the late difficulties and troubles of this church, and any others whose services can be obtained, to sit as a presbytery in the case of William J. Campbell, and determine on his guilt or innocence.

        " 'Resolved, That 3 o'clock on the third Sabbath in June, in this church, and in the presence of the members thereof, be the time and place of meeting, and that a copy of these proceedings be served on the Rev. Mr. Winston and General Rabun, that they may have notice of the time and place of meeting, and this church respectfully invites them to be present and establish the allegations they have made.

        " 'Resolved, That his honor the Mayor of the city, the trustees of this church, and such other gentlemen of the city as the committee of white brethren appointed to aid us in our business may think proper, be, and they are hereby, respectfully invited to be present at such said meeting and investigation.

        " 'Resolved, That Mr. Fairchild, secretary pro tem., make out a certified copy of these proceedings and furnish one to each minister invited, the trustees of this church, and the accusers of Wm. J. Campbell.'

        "The moderator mentioned that a correspondence had been held between the committee and the Rev. Mr. Winston, referring to the charges against the pastor, which would be read at some subsequent meeting.

        "The committee appointed April 20, 1858, to prepare a constitution, covenant, etc., for the future government of this church, submitted their report, which, by a vote, was laid over for further consideration.

        "There being no further business, after singing and prayer the conference adjourned.

"L. J. B. FAIRCHILD, Secretary pro tem.

"Confirmed June 20, 1858."


        Following is the correspondence with Mr. Winston, the enemy of Mr. Campbell:

"SAVANNAH, May 22, 1858.

"Dear Brother Winston:

        "You gave as the reason why you would not sign William J. Campbell's license papers that you believed he was a bad man, that he told a lie, or you believed he had, we are not certain which expression you used. The high and important position you occupy as a minister of the gospel is a guarantee to us that you would not have given such a reason without sufficient grounds for so doing, and if your allegations can be sustained he, Campbell, should not be licensed, and we would be as unwilling as yourself to aid in getting it done. But men should not be condemned without a hearing, although their skins may be black. We, therefore, respectfully request that you give us in writing the reason you have for believing Campbell a bad man, and in what particular he told a lie, and when and where. Justice to the position you take to Campbell and to ourselves, as well as the good of the church, demands this course. Campbell's license has been repeatedly renewed and no charge has been preferred against him, and we supposed that his Christian character was good until you made the allegations herein referred to. We purpose instituting a rigid examination into the case, and if we find that your opinions are well founded, we will turn his case over to the proper tribunal for adjudication and abandon the prosecution of his license. Campbell is a man of color and incapable of defending himself against charges as a white man would be under the laws of the State as well as those of the church, but he is nevertheless entitled to justice, and which we are bound to believe you are willing to award to him. Give us your answer through the post office by 10 o'clock Tuesday morning.

"Yours respectfully,





"SAVANNAH, May 24th, 1858.


        "Your letter, in which you call upon me to give my reasons for some opinions I lately expressed in an interview with yourselves respecting Wm. J. Campbell, I have just received.

        "I regret the necessity you have laid me under, by thus catechising me, of speaking to you with that plainness which I think the nature of the case demands. I must say, then, that I do not recognize your authority in behalf of the First African Church, or any other church or body you may represent, to interrogate me in regard to any opinion I may have expressed or may hold concerning the individual referred to by you. Looking upon you, as I do, as having assumed and exercised powers that do not belong to you, in your late interference with the officers of the First African Baptist Church, I utterly repudiate and reject the idea that you have any right to address me, in behalf of that church, upon any subject whatever.

        "And, if I must speak as I think and feel, I will say to you that for you to affect to hold me to account for my opinions in regard to Campbell, I regard as a piece of unmatched impudence.

"Yours, &c.,



        How signally has God blessed this church against the mightiest foes. Because Mr. Campbell was a negro, this Mr. Winston presumed that his mere opinion and assertion was sufficient to dethrone a pastor of more than a thousand souls, and felt highly insulted because his word was not taken as absolute proof against this man of God. Mr. Campbell conquered through Christ, and the church marched on.

The Reformed Reader Home Page 

Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved