Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet is available here:
Even if the 1860's are mostly undocumented, leaving us with details of his scientific pursuits but not of his evangelism, he tells us that he was actively promoting his millennial views. His message reached a William Valentine of Albany, New York, about 1865 or 1866. One can safely presume that he continued to write letters and engage in personal evangelism, and he probably attended conferences and camp meetings though the earliest reference to Barbour addressing a conference thus far located is a report on The New York Advent Christian Conference held in March 1871.
He wrote something in 1868, apparently an article for one of the Adventist publications because he differentiates it from a later pamphlet. What ever it was he wrote, his reasoning drew muted criticism from William Sheldon. Sheldon, writing the same year, felt that “1873 has less evidence in its favor than 1868.”1
Barbour seems to have also evangelized his professional contacts. Among his followers and associates were at least three inventors, Edwin Lampkin, George B. Stacy, and S. White Paine, and there was apparently more than one physician. Benjamin W. Keith also had some connection to engineering and invention. He witnessed a patent issued to Charles F. Davis of Auburn, New York for improvements in grain-drills in 1868.2 Interestingly, Paine was also a composer and poet.
The Rochester Union and Advertiser biography says Barbour preached in England, and it may have been while back in London in 1864-1865 regarding his invention that he preached there.
One of his British supporters, Elias Helton Tuckett, Baptist pastor of the Priory Church, Exeter, wrote an article entitled “Behold the Bridegroom Cometh” which was published in the April 1, 1865, issue of The Rainbow. The article doesn’t mention Barbour by name, nor does it mention the 1873 date, but later articles connect both Tuckett’s 1865 article and himself to Barbour.3
Tuckett wrote: “The cry is now being uttered throughout all Christendom, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh,’ and in this fact we read one of the especial signs that He will not much longer tarry. ... We believe these last years are imminently impending. There is a growing impression that great changes are at hand; every one feels that the times are critical; society everywhere is disturbed; symptoms of mysterious events meet us on every hand.” He concluded that Christians should entreat the unconverted “to consider these things ere it is too late.”
Other, less defined testimonies came from Barbour and his supporters. “There are other documents, and living witnesses,” he wrote, “that this ‘cry’ has been persistently maintained until the present time.”4
During this period he communicated with B. W. Keith,5 Daniel Cogswell,6 and Millerites he had known as a young man. Barbour contacted Keith in 1867, and Keith was immediately interested. He would write that he had “been studying the time question since 1867, and ... associated with the movement ... since the above date; and still accepts all the legitimate conclusions to be drawn from them.”7 Barbour lectured at North Adams, Massachusetts in 1871 explaining his conviction that the 6000 years of man’s creation and the 1335 Days of Daniel’s prophecy both ended in 1873. John H. Paton, newly switched from being a Baptist clergyman to being an Advent Christian pastor, also supported Barbour, joining the Barbourite movement sometime in late 1873 or early 1874.8
Barbour had two significant problems: There was a growing resistance to “definite time” speculations,9 and there were competing prophetic schemes that had already captured the fancy of Advent Christians and other Second Adventists. Michael Paget Baxter says in his small booklet The Great Crisis at the Period of 1867 to 187510 that there were more than a hundred expositors pointing to Christ’s return between those dates. Illustrative of this dichotomy is an article on the Alton Bay Camp Meeting held in September 1871. A reporter for The New York Times wrote:
The repeated failures of Miller and his followers, in having the earth destroyed on a stated day and hour, has, I infer, made the faithful much more cautious in their predictions of late years. There is still a faction in the fold of those who are called “Time-ists,” some of whom scorn the daily affairs of life, and literally or metaphorically busy themselves only with the preparation of their ascension robes. I must not forget to mention in this connection that, in what appeared to be a large reception tent near the depot, I saw suspended a most curious, cabalistic looking chart, having painted on it in strongly contrasted colors, winged lions and horned lions, rams and goats, stars and crosses, and a seven headed dragon in bright red, all interspersed with words, Babylon, Grecia, Medo-Persia and other names of ancient history, together with many numbers, scripture quotations and chronological fragments -- the whole having evidently been the pet work of some zealous “time-ist.” From all I could learn, however, the great majority of “Adventists” content themselves with the general assertion that the time for the second appearance of Christ is at hand, without attempting to specify its exact date.11
Though the tendency was growing, the Times reporter overstates “Second Adventist” rejection of time speculations. Many of the ‘Time-ists’ drew Second Adventist interest, but Barbour’s principal rival was William C. Thurman.
Unlike Barbour’s speculations, those of Thurman gained almost immediate acceptance. When forced to mention a competing date-system it is Thurman’s that Barbour must refute, though he doesn’t always mention it by name. Sometimes he merely mentions Thurman’s calculations.12
William C. Thurman wrote that he was rescued from “an infidel’s death” by the teaching of William Miller.13 If Thurman meant he participated in or was convinced by the 1843 movement, he was quite young, only thirteen or fourteen.
1. Letter from Wm. Valentine to Nelson Barbour, Herald of the Morning, August 1875, page 47. “Having embraced the substance of your views some ten years since, it is doubly gratifying to me to find one so willing to impart them to others.” Barbour wrote: “I began to publish on these precious themes as early as 1868.” (Barbour, N. H.: Questions and Answers, The Herald of the Morning, August 1879, page 27-28.) He differentiates this from the later publication of Evidence for the Coming of the Lord. -- Barbour, N. H.: “Our Lamps Are Gone Out,” The Herald of the Morning, September 1879, page 34.
Sheldon, William: Adventism: What is it? Its Relationship to Theology and Prophecy, Western Advent Christian Publishing Association, Buchanan, Michigan, 1868, page 233.
2. Edwin Lambkin’s letter to Barbour appears in the August 1875 issue of The Herald of the Morning, page 46. Lambkin held two patents (No. 172456 dated 1875 and No. 223928 dated 1880) for mechanical devices. Lambkin, listed as a farmer in the 1880 Census, lived in Can, Michigan, at the time he wrote Barbour. He was born October 4, 1832, in Vermont and died May 23, 1905, in Michigan. He is listed in Transactions of The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan, 1883, page 144.
George B. Stacy, a Virginia farmer, held two patents (No. 88092 dates 1869 and No.108532 dated 1870) for agricultural equipment improvements. More on Stacy appears later.
A letter from Seth White Paine of Rochester appears in the August 1878 issue of The Herald of the Morning on pages 28-30. He wrote at least one article for The Herald of the Morning. Pain held many patents on items as diverse as shot cartridges, agricultural implements, industrial equipment, and a shoe lasting machine. Pain had been a Millerite; he died August 9, 1895. (Timothy Hopkins: The Kelloggs in the Old World and the New, Sunset Press, San Francisco, 1903, page 430.)
The patent witnessed by B. W. Keith is Improvement in Grain-Drills, Patent No. 74,515, dated February 18, 1868. There is another patent witnesses by a B. W. Keith: United States Patent Office: Stephen A. Morse, of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Improved Collet. Letters Patent No. 42,592 dated May 3, 1864. The B. W. Keith of Massachusetts was a different individual.
Edward H. King’s letter to Barbour also appears in the August 1875 issue. King was a Homeopathic physician who began his practice in Iowa in 1867, and associated with Dr. C. H. Cogswell. He served as a Lieutenant in Iowa Brigade during the Civil War. (William Harvey King: History of Homeopathy and its Institutions in America, as transcribed at: http://homeoint.org/history/king/1‑32.htm; Jonathan Pipes - Company “C” 15th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Last Updated on April 15, 2001; retrieved from: http://www.pipesfamily. om/jonathan.htm)
3. Tuckett, E. H.: “The Bridegroom Cometh,” The Rainbow: A Magazine of Christian Literature, April 1, 1865, pages 157-163; The End of the Dispensation, October 1, 1874, pages 457-461. Probable Time of the Second Advent (Part II), September 1877, page 422. Tuckett’s full name appears in the 1881 British Census where he is described as retired Baptist minister. His age is given as sixty-six. He is also listed a one-time pastor of the Baptist Church at Kingsbridge in Sarah Prideaux Fox’s Kingsbridge and its Surroundings, the author, Plymouth, 1874, page 81.
4. Barbour, N. H.: Evidence for the Coming of the Lord in 1873, page 34.
5. Keith saw Civil War service with the 19th New York Cavalry. He enrolled as a sergeant in Company B and ended his service as a command sergeant. (National Archives Microfilm Number M551 roll 74.) He was born in Ossian, New York, August 24, 1835, and married Fanny Foster, August 28, 1867, in Dansville, New York. He is listed as a minister in the 1880 Census. In later life he moved to Harvey, Illinois, where his son was associate editor and business manager of The Tribune-Citizen. (Frederick Clifton Price: Foster Genealogy: Being the Posterity of Reginald Foster, W. B. Coney Co., Chicago, 1889, Part 2, page 629-630.) He spent his last years, at least from 1905, in The Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Quincy, Illinois. (Note in Keith’s hand on title page of his personal copy of Emphatic Diaglott, author’s collection.) He died in 1916 or 1917. (Dragoons Together in Annual Reunion, The Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, September 7, 1917, page 15.) Keith was active in the GAR and held office in the local Grand Army lodge. (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, December 15, 1890.) He was a delegate to a prohibition convention held at Geneseo, New York in 1890 (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 29, 1891, page 5)
6. Cogswell was born September 5, 1817, in Oneida County, New York, and died on a trip with Barbour June 22, 1876. Barbour preached at his funeral.
7. Keith, B. W.: Suntelia, Therismos, Parousia, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, May 1881, reprints pages 222-223.
8. The lecture in North Adams, Massachusetts is mentioned in a letter from H. W. Brown to Nelson Barbour found in the December 1878 issue of Herald of the Morning, page 96.
In an untitled note appended to J. H. Paton’ article “Who Will Raise the Dead,” The Herald of the Morning, March 1879, page 53. Barbour addresses Paton, writing: “You have made great progress in the shining pathway the last four or five years.” Barbour quotes a letter from Paton that appeared in Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning in fall of 1874 which said he found Barbour’s arguments “at least viable.” This was the first appearance of Paton’s name in The Herald. (Barbour, N. H.: The Elijah Type: Part Second, The Herald of the Morning, April 1881, page 55.) In the March 1898 issue of The Herald, Barbour says, “Eld. J. H. Paton became interested in 1873-4 mainly by reading the papers I sent to him.” (Barbour, N. H.: Parable of the Ten Virgins, The Herald of the Morning, March 1898, page 368.) Paton started preaching as an Advent Christian Elder in 1872 and became a Barbourite lecturer in 1875. – J. H. Paton: Autobiography of John H. Paton, Typescript Manuscript, 1915; The Editor’s Experience as publisher, The World’s Hope Supplement, February 1, 1890.
9. e.g.: “The majority of the Second Adventists, at their late General Convention in Springfield, Mass., agreed on the general doctrine of the second coming of Christ soon, but concluded to give up trying to fix the time.” -- Untitled Article, The Utica, New York, Daily Observer, April 7, 1869.
10. London, 1866, page 1.
11. J. G. N.: Millerite Camp Meeting, The New York Times, September 23, 1871.
12. See these Crisis articles: Barbour, N. H: “Evidences For the Coming of the Lord in 1873,” October 16, 1872; “Bible Chronology - Part II,” November 20, 1872; “Evidences For the Coming of the Lord in 1873,” January 8, 1873. See also Barbour, N. H.: The Jubilee, The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning, Volume 1, Number 4, March 1874, page 54, where Barbour outlines some of his specific criticisms of Thurman’s chronological speculations.
13. Thurman, W. C.: To the Christian World, Published by the Author, Virginia, 1877, page 1 as cited by Donald F. Durnbaugh: “How Long the Vision?” -- William C. Thurman and his Adventist Following, Brethren Life and Thought, Volume 46, Numbers 1 and 2, Winter/Spring Issue, 2001, pages 51-79. Much of the material here presented is derived from Durnbaugh’s excellent article. Assume all material on Thurman to come from this source unless otherwise noted.