Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 31, 1962
NUMBER 5, PAGE 1,11b-13a

Voices In The Wilderness --- (No. 3)

James R. Cope

David Lipscomb's Appraisal Of A. Campbell's Competency

Interestingly enough, David Lipscomb, worthy predecessor of the current Advocate editor, spoke and wrote longer against missionary societies than any other man living at the time the American Christian Missionary Society was formed: in 1849. Lipscomb was greatly grieved because the influence which Campbell had once wielded against missionary societies was turned to favor them in Campbell's declining years. In the Advocate of April 23, 1884, p. 262, Lipscomb wrote:

"That he afterward worked in Societies we have no disposition to conceal; that in doing it, he violated his own principles, built again the society he destroyed and destroyed that supreme and undivided respect for the word of God, and his appointments which he had vindicated is beyond doubt, true. It represents another case, so pregnant in the history of the church, opposing others, substituting the appointments of the institution of God, yet doing them himself."

Lipscomb did not defend Campbell in his charge, but he sought to explain it. He insisted that Alexander Campbell was never in complete possession of his mental powers as a careful analyst and critical thinker following a trip to Europe in 1847 during which Mr. Campbell's views oil slavery had been grossly misrepresented, which event led to his imprisonment and litigation in Scotland only to learn upon setting foot back on American soil that, the son of his old age, Wycliffe, described as "the child of his prayers and hopes," had drowned at his father's mill! In his introduction to Campbell's Familiar Lectures on the Pentateuch, p. 38, Charles V. Segar, a biographer of Campbell, makes this observation:

"It is said by those who were near him, that Alexander Campbell never was equal to himself after this stroke; but it was long before the admiring world perceived any change."

In the years following 1849 Tolbert Fanning, a former student and ardent admirer of Campbell, became increasingly concerned about the trend of Campbell's thinking on the missionary society question and made a trip to Bethany, Virginia, to discuss the matter with his old teacher. David Lipscomb had studied under Fanning at Franklin College from 1846 to 1849. In the Advocate of June 4, 1884, p. 358, Lipscomb wrote of Fanning's report of his trip to see Campbell as follows:

"I remember well, on his return he stated that he was shocked to find his (Campbell's) mind was so shaken that he could, with difficulty, keep it on one subject; that he could converse in general terms on things he had studied in the past, but that all power of close, connected reasoning was gone; that he had to be continually prompted to keep up an ordinary conversation."

It would appear that the current Advocate editor is faced with a dilemma in regard to Alexander Campbell as a witness. (1) If he seeks to make capital of Campbell's commendation of L. L. Pinkerton's project on the basis of its being "that home for female orphans" supported by church contributions and therefore the same in nature as the present-day "homes" he is, at the same time, faced with the fact that both Tolbert Fanning and David Lipscomb, whose editorial chair he now occupies, felt that at the very time Campbell gave his endorsement to the "home" thus operated "all" of Mr. Campbell's "power of close, connected reasoning was gone; that he had to be continually prompted to keep up an ordinary conversation." If he dotes on Campbell as a witness, the editor's predecessors, Tolbert Fanning and David Lipscomb, indict his witness. If Campbell was incompetent, the editor loses his case for the Kentucky Female Orphan School being a "home for female orphans" based on A. Campbell's testimony! (2) If Mr. Campbell could not reason correctly on the Missionary Society because of his mental condition, why should any person think he could reason correctly that a "school" is a "home"? If Campbell shall be accepted as good authority on church support of orphan homes because he called a "school" a "home," why not accept his testimony in precept and example regarding church support of the Missionary Society? The truth is that Campbell preached and practiced error in calling upon and taking money from churches for schools and missionary societies just as the Advocate editor preaches and practices error when he defends churches which support benevolence homes from their treasuries. There is no scriptural authority for either. D. Lipscomb excused A. Campbell on the basis of mental declivity.

Fanning Orphan School: 1884

Another institution prominent in the memory of many yet living was Fanning Orphan School whose existence was due to the generosity of Tolbert Fanning and his wife Charlotte Fanning. It was located on land five miles south of Nashville, Tennessee, purchased by Tolbert Fanning in 1840 and upon which he built and conducted the affairs of Franklin College from 1845 forward till its suspension in October, 1865, due to a fire which destroyed its main building. It had been temporarily suspended during the Civil War. In an address delivered by H. R. Moore at a reunion of President Fanning's old students on May 25, 1904, and recorded in James E. Scobey's Franklin College and Its Influences, p. 128, the following occurs:

"Their long, useful, and eventful lives were subsequently spent at Elm Crag, the name first applied to their farm and school, next Franklin College and Minerva College, then Hope Institute, now Fanning Orphan School, Pardon me for suggesting that the term 'Orphan' should be dropped. 'Fanning School' is better and more appropriate."

In the book referred to above, pp. 381-384, Miss Emma Page makes the following observations on the "History of the Fanning Orphan School":

"... Just before his death, in 1874, Mr. Fanning made a will, giving to his wife all his property and expressing confidence that she would carry out his wishes in regard to it.

"A few years after his death, Mrs. Fanning, acting upon the advice of friends, resolved to set the school in operation before she passed away, that she might witness a portion of the good she believed it was destined to accomplish. She selected, as trustees to carry out her wishes in regard to the school, thirteen brethren of the church of Christ....

"In her deed of gift to the trustees, Mrs. Fanning thus states the purpose of the school she wished to establish:

"'The purpose of this conveyance is to establish a school under the patronage and management of said corporation, Wherein white orphan girls may be instructed in books and trained in habits of industry. I am a communicant of the church of Christ, and I wish every person officially connected with the management of this institution to be a member in., good standing in said church. The trustees of said school may admit to the school so many destitute orphan girls as the means at their command will allow. They are vested with authority to adopt all needful rules for the government of the school, but I require that the Bible shall be made a regular text-book and shall form a part of the daily study of all the pupils. The pupils must be instructed it household duties, and be required to perform service, as cooks, laundresses, dairymaids, housekeepers. etc., so that they may earn in such employment; if necessary, an independent and honest living. The trustees may admit white girls, not orphans, in destitute circumstances, as pupils, on payment of tuition; but no such pupils are to be admitted if such an arrangement shall in the least interfere with the training of the destitute and orphans, who are the peculiar objects of my solicitude.'

"The school was permanently organized February 11, 1884, and opened for pupils the following September."

According to Emma Page (Franklin College and Its Influences, p. 383) when Charlotte Fanning deeded to the trustees 160 acres of land "she imposed upon the board of trustees the condition that they should raise a fund equal to the value of the farm and buildings, that the school might be put upon a firm basis. She says that "this the trustees were able to do by the generosity of many who made contributions — some large, some small — to the work."

In the Advocate of January 16. 1884, p. 83, David Lipscomb, a trustee of the Fanning Orphan School, wrote as follows regarding the efforts of the trustees as they moved to put the School into operation:

"While doing what they are able with the means at their command, the trustees proposed to furnish a school at which individuals, churches and associations charitably inclined, may be able to educate destitute orphans in most favorable surroundings at a minimum of cost.

"....This is a work that ought to commend itself to the conscience of every man and woman that desires to help the innocent helpless, and those exposed to ruin from no fault of their own, as well as of all who desire the moral and material wellbeing of the human family."

Lipscomb also said:

"This is a good work. It does not assume the work of the church. It affords means for the church doing its work — the work of educating and training orphan children under the favorable circumstances and at small expense."

Permanent organization of the School was effected February 11, 1884. As the spring of 1884 turned toward summer Lipscomb wrote in the Advocate of May 21, p. 327, that the trustees were seeking a qualified superintendent and matron. Among other things he said:

"The trustees will be glad to have benevolent individuals and churches s e l e c t orphan children around them and make up their minds to help train and educate them for usefulness. The trustees will put the charges at the lowest rate of actual expenses for all who attend, besides giving what aid is in their power to the children...."

The trustees did not find the superintendent they wanted but with the coming of September the School opened with Miss Emma Page as teacher and Miss Bettie Holiman as matron. Twelve orphan girls were among those enrolled for a five-month term along with about twenty day pupils, according to Miss Page's account. In the Advocate of September 3, 1884, David Lipscomb reflected the fact that the institution was a "school," not a modern orphan "home," in these words:

"The trustees....propose to take destitute orphans sent by churches, individuals and associations of any kind, at forty dollars per session of five months. Their aim is to take these exactly at cost....

"....They propose to take children of those able to pay, at fifty dollars per term of five months, charging ten dollars extra for tuition...."

The account of the School's early years by Miss Page in Franklin College and Its Influences, p. 385, confirms the fact that churches were not making donations to this institution but were paying for services rendered in exactly the same manner that parents paid the same school for services rendered. After all, there is a vast difference in "giving to" any institution and "paying for" its services! Emma Page wrote:

"In the summer of 1885 the trustees elected, as superintendent and matron, Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Hammon. The school increased in numbers greatly during the term. More free pupils were admitted; and parents and guardians, realizing the superiority of such a school over ordinary boarding schools, sent their children or wards there, paying for their board and tuition. In some instances congregations of Christians sent, at their own expense, orphan girls to the school, to be trained to usefulness and independence."

Parents sent children "at their expense" and congregations sent orphan girls "at their expense"!

There were those who had known Tolbert Fanning who felt that even the Fanning Orphan School as it existed and functioned did not conform to Fanning's concepts of what a school should be. In a letter to James E. Scobey, appearing in Franklin College and Its Influences, pp. 315, 316, P. W. Harsh of Nashville wrote under date of April 3, 1905, as follows:

"I entered the primary department of Franklin College when I was only eight years of age. Shortly after this the main building was burned. The question, 'Why was this building not replaced?' naturally presented itself. The answer to my mind, is clear. Tolbert Fanning had commenced to doubt the owning of church property and the running of denominational schools. I remember having heard him more than once allude to the troubles of Kentucky University by asking: 'Who is to determine what is the Christian Church?' His idea was that the church is a spiritual body, without visible organic union. He hooted at the thought of such a thing. Years ago W. T. Moore, who was preaching in London, said: 'It is time we were taking on organic union' Mr. Fanning showed that this was foreign and antagonistic to the attempt to restore the primitive church.

"It is my humble opinion that Tolbert Fanning is misrepresented when it is claimed that the Fanning Orphan School and the Nashville Bible School are the outgrowth of his ideas and purposes. He wanted to see industrial schools, and he would have been glad to have set one in motion if he had known how without helping to build another sect. Is it not significant that he individually owned the house in which he worshipped and in which he taught school?"

P. W. Harsh may or may not have properly appraised Fanning's views. It is possible, however, that he did.


This, then, is a brief account of the Fanning Orphan School as it was purposed by Charlotte Fanning and began functioning. That It was a school, not an orphan "home," is evidenced by the reflections of those who spoke on this point in the early years of that institution. That churches paid for services rendered orphan girls and that other girls, not orphans, might attend school there at a regular tuition is evident from the "deed of gift" whereby Charlotte Fanning conveyed her property to the trustees of Fanning Orphan School, as well as from the words of David Lipscomb, Emma Page and others. Even if it could be shown that several churches contributed to Fanning Orphan School, there is still lacking any evidence to show that this was a general practice of churches, much less a universal or scriptural practice!

In later years a few churches made outright donations to the School. That any did so while the School was being established and becoming functional, however, I am compelled to deny in view of the evidence available! I have made a rather detailed search through the 1883 and 1884 volumes of the Gospel Advocate but find no indication of such contributions by churches. Did churches make donations to widows and their needy children in those days? Yes! There is abundant evidence that churches and individuals supported these objects of charity but none that they supported "homes" or "schools" from their treasuries. The churches had treasuries, but they did not divert their funds to the support of purely private enterprises regardless of their "non-profit" or "good works" implications.

Kentucky Female Orphan School was properly set forth as a "school" not an "orphan home." It graduated girls and awarded diplomas Fanning Orphan School is properly described as a "school," not an "orphan home." It also awarded diplomas and graduated students. As H. R. Moore pointed out in his "reunion speech," delivered at the 1904 graduation exercises, "the term 'orphan' should be dropped. 'Fanning School' is better and more appropriate."


To summarize at this point we have discovered the following facts:

1. There is a difference between "orphan schools" and "orphan homes"

2. Orphan schools operated by persons connected with the Restoration Movement date back to 1849.

3. The first "orphan home" officially identified as such by persons continuing its support became operative in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1884. It was established by churches identified with the 'Disciples of Christ" (Christian Church).

4. The next benevolence organization was the National Benevolence Association founded by the Disciples of Christ and headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1886. It became "national" in operation about 1901.

5. The first and oldest orphan "home" currently supported by churches of Christ was Tennessee Orphan Home, chartered in 1909 and formally opened September 5, 1910, approximately fifty years ago.

6. The introduction of missionary societies among the churches brought serious opposition. By the 1880's some churches were dividing and by 1906 there was a separate listing in the Federal Census of "Disciples of Christ" and "Churches of Christ."

7. No churches rejecting missionary societies were making donations to orphan homes of any kind at the time of the 1906 Census, so far as I have been able to ascertain. No orphan homes supported only by churches rejecting missionary societies existed in 1906.

— Glen Arvin Avenue, Temple Terrace, Fla.