It has been my pleasure to lead a few tours to Ireland. I always felt a connection to the country because one fourth of my family history (maternal grandmother) is easily traced back to Ireland. And I sense a slight connection through the religious leaders Thomas and Alexander Campbell.
Thomas Campbell was born in County Down, Ireland, February 1, 1763, but he was educated at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He became a Presbyterian minister but gradually came to question allegiance to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Whether he said it in these exact words his writings agree with the phrase, “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” As a result of bad health Thomas came to American in 1807 ahead of the planned trip for his family. He settled and eventually died in Bethany, [West] Virginia in 1854.
At one point in his life Thomas Campbell settled at Rich Hill in [northern] Ireland and preached for a nearby Presbyterian church. In order to make ends meet he began an academy with the help of his son Alexander. Eva Jean Wrather, Alexander Campbell : adventurer in freedom : a literary biography, says,
Thomas decided to take up his old occupation of schoolmaster. This time, he would open his own academy. The prospect was especially inviting since Alexander, now age sixteen, was proficient enough in the ordinary branches of learning to act as his assistant.
Campbell lived in this multi-story house with fourteen windows on the square of Rich Hill that provided enough space for the family and the school.
This house faced a much larger house on the opposite side of the square that was occupied by the family of William Richardson the Lord of Rich Hill Castle and high sheriff. Eventually Alexander was hired to serve as tutor to the Richardson daughters. The house now seems to be unoccupied and in need of repair.
Alexander was born in County Antrim, Ireland, about a mile from Shane’s Castle, September 12, 1788. He died at Bethany, West Virginia in 1866.
Thomas sent word for the family to join him in America. They sailed on the Hibernia through Lough Foyle from Londonderry, passing McGilligan’s Point, October 1, 1808. The ship encountered a storm and was shipwrecked on the island of Islay. From there they went into Glasgow, Scotland, and lived for nearly a year. Alexander used the opportunity to attend the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He was greatly influenced by James and Robert Haldane, of the Church of Scotland. They set up independent churches with elders over each church, and observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday. Alexander soon cut his ties with the Presbyterians.
The Campbell family sailed from Scotland on August 3, 1809 and came to America after 57days of sailing. Alexander and Thomas had independently come to similar religious views. The Campbells organized the Brush Run church, near Washington, Pennsylvania., in 1811. After a year-long study Alexander Campbell was convinced that baptism was immersion. In 1812 he had a Baptist preacher to immerse him in Buffalo Creek. Soon other members of the family and of the Brush Run church were immersed.
Along with other leaders such as Barton W. Stone, Thomas and Alexander became leaders in a movement commonly called the Stone-Campbell Movement.
Some additional information about the Campbell stay in Rich Hill and their efforts to teach the Gospel is available at the Restoration Movement website here.
N.B. I have not forgotten the promised series on the Seven Churches of Revelation. Health concerns in my family have prevented me from completing these post.