The Campbellites

Entry Into America

John Thomas

The Gospel Banner

General History of the CGAF

This is taken from THE RESTITUTION, November 28, 1906.
Written by
Brother W. H. Wilson, Chicago, IL.



        As the early pioneers who in those early days so earnestly contended for the faith which was once delivered to the saints, are now asleep in Jesus, waiting for the coming of the King.

        I thought it might be of interest to many of like precious faith to learn something of the history of its introduction into the Western STATES, so long ago.

        First, I will go back and show how the truth first began to illuminate the minds of those who afterwards introduced it.

        Now let your minds follow me across the mighty ocean, to Halifax, England. At that place, about the year 1839 or 40, Certain ones were enduring a great struggle, in order that they emerge out of the gross darkness of old Babylon, and bask in the full sunlight of God's saving Message of Life. Among that number, was my father, Joseph Wilson, and his brothers, Benjamin, John and James, also Benjamin Boyes, Richard and William Appleyard. At that time they were all members of the same Baptist Church at Halifax.

The Campbellites and Disciples of Christ

        About this time Alexander Campbell began preaching what he called the “Reformation,” Urging the people to get back to the Primitive Faith and Practice. He started well, but stopped short of ascertaining the primitive faith.

        He introduced baptism for the remission of sins, ignored all human creeds, and established weekly communion.

        A congregation was organized on this partial reformation called “The Disciples of Christ”, at Halifax, England.

        The parties named above left the Baptist church, and united with this organization. The little light which they had received, made them more anxious for light. The congregation then formed itself into an investigating class, with a firm determination to search carefully the Holy Scriptures. They resolved to begin with the first chapter of Genesis, and go through the entire Word of God. They had not progressed very far in the study of Genesis, before they came across the Covenants of Promise, made unto Abraham, and repeated unto Isaac and to Jacob, An enquiry was made as to whether those promises had been fulfilled or not? You can imagine how like a golden cord they discover that those promises permeated and ran through both the Old and the New Testament Scriptures, and constituted the base of the gospel of the kingdom. It was at this point, that the true light began to shine, and as the investigation progressed, the light shone brighter and brighter, until they were led unto the obedience of the one true faith and hope of the gospel.

Entry into America

        While the investigation was in progress, my Uncle James and Benjamin Wilson and Benjamin Boyes emigrated to America in 1844, bringing with them what light they possessed. Later on, in 1849, my father, Joseph Wilson, his brother John Wilson, William and Richard Appleyard, also sailed for Geneva, Illinois, where my Uncle Benjamin had previously located, and engaged in the printing business. Uncle James had bought a farm a few miles west of Geneva. Later still came Joseph Crockroft, and he became a partner with Uncle Benjamin in the printing business.

        Later still George Westgarth and family located in Geneva. Meetings for Bible study were still continued in their homes, at Geneva.

        About this time came Dr. John Thomas, who had been in the Reformation work along with Mr Campbell. He soon passed Mr. Campbell in his Bible study, and obeyed the gospel of the kingdom, and then Campbell and Thomas became antagonists. John Thomas became a noted proclaimer of the gospel of the kingdom and life eternal only through Christ. If I mistake not, he baptized my father and Uncle Benjamin. Both Campbell and Thomas then transferred their labors into the State of Virginia. For a time Virginia became a fierce battleground, where Thomas and Campbell waged many a conflict.

        Finally, John Thomas located in Hoboken, New Jersey. He planted a church at Brooklyn, NY. From Hoboken he published a magazine, called “The Herald of the Kingdom.” Hoboken was the center point from which the gospel of the Kingdom radiated in the Eastern States, and Geneva, Illinois, for the Western States. I remember as a boy witnessing baptisms at Geneva, as first one and another, learned the true gospel message. A church of believers was then formed at that place.

        At St. Charles, Illinois, two miles north of Geneva, lived Mr. and Mrs. Underwood (the father and mother of the present publisher of the Restitution) and also John Christian and his wife. They united with the Church at Geneva.

        Bro. Underwood engaged in a flour mill, at St. Charles, and became quite an accomplished student of the prophecies. My Uncle Benjamin, owning a printing office, commenced the publication of a magazine called THE GOSPEL BANNER,” Which became an uncompromising exponent of the gospel of the Kingdom, and eternal life only through Christ. Books, tracts, and hymn books were then published, and the light began to spread in every direction, Geneva, being the center point.

        The congregation began to grow, and a church building became a necessity. Plans were then made and a plain stone church building was erected. I well remember one moonlight night, how the men, with their sons, met to dig the foundation, bringing with them lanterns and spades. I as a boy, was with them, and helped to dig the foundation. Bro. Westgarth, being a stone mason, built the walls, and plastered the house.

        At Aurora, IL, ten miles south of Geneva, quite a number of the Campbell reformation settled at that place. The true gospel light from Geneva soon reached them, and a congregation of believers was established there. The work began to spread to the different points of the compass. Others who had the natural ability as public speakers, believed and obeyed the gospel of the kingdom. These were then scattered abroad everywhere, spreading the glorious light, Geneva was the point from which the literature was printed. As the gospel spread, and churches were established, Semi-annual Conference, gatherings were held at Geneva in their church house in July and December.

        Benjamin Boyes, William and Richard Appleyard finally settled at South Northfield, about eighteen miles northwest of Chicago. After getting settled, they let the gospel light shine. The result was a congregation formed at that place, and a church building erected. The gospel light then spread from this point. As the light spread, other able speakers embraced it, and became heralds of the glad tidings which was brought to the west by the few who emigrated from Halifax, England.

The Emphatic Diaglott

        While I was a boy, my father put me into the “Gospel Banner” Office to learn the printing business. It was during this time, that the “EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT”, was translated and printed. I can now in my mind's eye see my Uncle Benjamin, sitting at his desk, making a literal word for word translation of the New Testament. I remember seeing the Greek type arrive from England. Many readers of the Diaglott, may not be aware that my Uncle not only translated the Diaglott, but took charge of the mechanical work as well. He electro-typed the entire book himself. The following was the process he followed.

        As each page of the Diaglott was put into type, he took an impression of the page of type in wax. This wax mold was then black-leaded with very fine blacklead dust. He had a vat containing acid. In this acid, he hung a copper plate, and also the wax mold, before he went home at night. In the morning he would find the wax mold would be covered with a thin sheet of copper. This acid dissolved the copper, and the black lead attracted it to the wax mold. He then made metal plates out of melted metal and fastened the copper sheet upon it. He then printed the first edition of the book, from these plates, on a hand press. I used to ink the plates, by a soft roller, while he worked the press.

        Thus, from Geneva as the early gospel center, issued one of the most useful aids for Bible study, that ever issued from the press, in any section of this country.

        Along about this time, Joseph Marsh issued a magazine, from Rochester, NY, called the “Prophetic Expositor.” This magazine published much truth, but as he held the gospel of the kingdom in a rather loose manner, it provoked somewhat the hostility of Dr. John Thomas, of Hoboken, NJ, who would not tolerate the least infringement of the glorious gospel of the kingdom. We also need men of back bone today, as its defenders.

        The “Prophetic Expositor,” finally came into the hands of Thomas G. Newman, then it was finally merged with the “Gospel Banner.” The “Gospel Banner” was in turn merged with “The Herald of the Kingdom”, published by my oldest brother Thomas Wilson, at Chicago, IL. While in his hands, he changed the name to The Restitution, and was issued in the form in which it is now printed.

Contending for the true faith

        As time went on the contest for the gospel waxed hot. The worst foes we had to meet with were the followers of Alexander Campbell, and William Miller.

        Indiana had a hard struggle with the Adventists, under the leadership of Joshua V. Himes, Dr. Field, and E.C. Andrus. These Advent leaders put up a strong and bitter fight to capture the present Conference of the Church of God in Indiana, but they failed. Brethren Corbaley, Wince, Wagoner, Hatch, Halstead and others, are old veterans in the struggle.

        A great deal of interesting history might be given with regard to the great battle of the age of the supremacy of the gospel of the kingdom, as against spurious gospels. I have been conversant with the contest from its early start, in Geneva, and I felt that it might be of interest to many believers who know nothing about this memorable struggle.

        I was a member of the Geneva church, and was baptized into the sacred name by Bro. Edwin Smith in the waters of the beautiful Fox River, in 1857. Bro. Smith now rests in the Geneva grave yard, where many old veterans lie buried.

        A few weeks ago, while I was away filling an appointment, our much esteemed Bro. James Whitehead fell asleep. He was one of those who had learned the glad tidings at Geneva, and was a member of that church, Sister Whitehead was also.

        In the East, at Elizabeth, NJ, still lives one of the old veterans, John O. Woodruff. This old veteran in his life time has spent over thirty thousand dollars in printing literature, in defense of the ancient faith of the gospel. Faithful believers have straggled hard to hand down to their descendants the pure gospel of the kingdom, unmixed with the traditions of men. Will you preserve it; or will you suffer hobbies and literalists to creep in and compromise it?

        Personally I have long been in the fight, and am still in it, and expect to be in it, as long as God gives me the strength to use both voice and pen.

        As you well know I have no use for anything else than the straight genuine article, unmixed with human perversions, and doctrines which tend to undermine the fundamental principles, which we have struggled so long to protect from error. I have placed these things in book form, THE PINE WOODS BIBLE CLASS, that it may find a place in your libraries, and through it I shall still speak to you, when I shall be unable to use either voice or pen.

        Another old veteran, who now nears the close of his work, is Bro. Maurice Joblin, who has long fought for the purity of the gospel of the kingdom. Also Bro. Elton, who writes for “The Restution”. There is also Bro. Wagoner who wrote, “Hew to the Line,” Bro. Wince and others, who are now near the end of the contest.

        We need Bible Schools in every State to instruct the young, and faithful teachers who will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, unmixed with hobbies, traditions, and seductive doctrines. If it was other wise the Bible school would become a curse.

Look well to your teachers,

Yours in the Blessed Hope.

W. H. Wilson.

Back to the History Page

Back to the CGAF Home Page

Page maintained by B. Keith Yocum, Copyright(c) 1996. Created: Thursday, October 17, 1996 Updated: Monday, August 16, 1999