Friday, February 19, 2010

Tracing Our Steps – A Chronology of the Restoration Movement, Volumes 1& 2, John T. Smithson, III

Hester Publications is reprinting some of the most treasured works of the restoration movement including recent research materials from this area of study. While attending the Freed-Hardeman Lectureship in February 2010 I was delighted to obtain an expanded and updated two-volume set of this valuable reference work. When I was preparing for presentations on some key figures of the Restoration Movement such as Thomas Campbell and Benjamin Franklin, I found the first edition of Tracing Our Steps to be of great service in organizing my material chronologically. It provided other key surrounding events to include more of a historical context surrounding these giants advocating what Alexander Campbell often called “The Ancient Order of Things”. As the back cover well states,

“A chronology helps one get a bigger picture of things. When a towering figure dies, for instance, one might be tempted to worry about the future of the church in a certain locale. Examination of historical facts, however, will show us that great leaders are continually being born as great leaders are dying.”
The format is very straightforward. It is organized by dates in bold on the left with important events relating to the timeframe. One of the interesting and challenging facts of restoration history is conflicting dates. Some records are rather sparse and there are times when two dates are assigned to the same important event. Smithson has made it a practice to note significant events in history of churches of Christ and was able to compile this information it these two volumes. 

Some may find it hard to develop an interest in history of any subject, much less Restoration History of the New Testament Church. One way to whet one’s appetite for the subject matter is to tour restoration sites such as the home of Thomas & Alexander Campbell in Bethany, WV, Cane Ridge Meeting House near Lexington, KY, and several other significant sites. There are several exciting opportunities to attend guided tours by informed brethren. I would like to highlight two such opportunities. Each first Sunday in August, the North Lexington Church of Christ hosts its Restoration Workshop which includes tours of significant restoration sites in and around Lexington, KY where opportunities to learn about important figures such as Barton W. Stone, J. W. McGarvey, Raccoon John Smith and others are readily available. To learn more about this great opportunity, visit the North Lexington church of Christ website at Another tour is being conducted by a recently formed group of restoration historians known as “The Friends of the Restoration”. This group is comprised of several excellent historians including the author of this two volume set, Scott Harp, who operates a restoration history web site at, Tom Childers who has made available several excellent materials on DVD, Sam Hester who owns Hester Publications and is a professor at Freed-Hardeman University, Ancil Jenkins, William Kilpatrick and others committed to learning and preserving Restoration History. The group is planning on a tour from Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN and will visit places such as the Disciples of Christ Historical Society and the Gospel Advocate in Nashville, TN, the Mulkey Meetinghouse in Thompkinsville, KY, Lexington Cemetery in KY, Broadway Christian Church, Transylvania College, Cane Ridge Meetinghouse, Bethany in West Virginia, Hiram College and James Garfield’s home and monument in northeast Ohio. The trip is scheduled from June 14-20, 2010. If interested, be sure to visit their website for additional information at For me, I could not think of a better vacation than this trip! While I cannot attend this trip, if the Lord is willing, I plan on joining and assisting with their visit to sites relating to James Garfield. 

Churches of Christ have a rich historical legacy in the United States. Certainly, mistakes have occurred in the past but that is all the more reason to study the past to avoid the tendency of repeating mistakes. The restoration movement did not begin in America nor does it end here. We need to always keep in mind the ground that has been fought and won for the preservation of New Testament Christianity lest at any time we should let them slip.


JRandal said...

David, what year was the original published? I missed that.

Will mention this on TFR as well at . Thanks!

drkenney said...

The first edition was printed in 1998. It was a single volume of 167 pages.

This second edition was printed in 2008 as a two-volume set around 850 pages in total.

Thanks for writing!