Joseph Emerson Cain
1846-1918

Sketch On The Life Of J.E. Cain
Excerpts From J.P. Dick
Directions To Grave of J.E. Cain
Grave Pictures Of J.E. Cain

Brief Sketch On The Life Of J.E. Cain

ELDER JOSEPH E. CAIN, minister of the Christian Church, was born in Durham County, in the Dominion of Canada, in 1846, where he lived until fourteen years of age, when he removed with his parents to Menard County, Ill. Owing to untoward circumstances, his educational advantages were very limited. In fact, he never attended school but one month after his fourteenth year, hence was compelled to educate himself in the best way possible. Remaining in Menard County but a few years, he removed to Girard, Macoupin County, where, in his nineteenth year, he united with the church. At the age of twenty, he began preaching the Gospel, working as an evangelist, in which work he continued five years, with the exception of the eighteen months, when he was located at Old Union, De Witt Co., Ill. In 1871, he located at Mount Pulaski, Logan Co., Ill., and preached at Copeland and Lake Fork, alternately, for five years. In 1876, he removed to Kansas, locating in Belle Plaine Township, Sumner County, where he bought 160 acres of land in Section 8. After finely improving this land in all respects, including the setting out of 250 apple trees and 900 peach trees of fine quality, and 2,000 forest trees, he sold it, and is now a resident of Bell Plaine, where he owns business and resident property. He was married to Miss Clara A. Erwin, of Menard Co., Ill, in 1867, and has three children - Emma O., John Byron (both living) and Anna L. (deceased). Mrs. Cain and her daughter, Emma O., are also members of the Christian Church. Elder Cain has been diligent in his work, and is noted for his promptness and energy. During the first nine years of his ministerial life, he never missed an appointment, and during his ministration has church of 1,200 members, and has united in the holy bonds of wedlock about seventy-five couple (sic). His parents are both natives of England, and now reside in Belle Plaine Township. His father is a hale, hearty gentleman of about sixty-four years of age, with good prospects of many years of vigor and usefulness, but his mother's health is poor. His parents are both members of the Christian Church. The subject of this biography is the youngest living child. Considering the obstacles that he was compelled to overcome in early life, his attainments are grand, and judging of the future by the past, his career for good and usefulness can hardly be estimated.

After the death of his first wife, Clara, he remarried. Zoda Fisher Smith, was born in Champaign, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel Fisher and Deborah Barnhiser. She, too, had been widowed after first husband, Reason Smith, passed away. (Note: Zoda and Reason had married in Sangamon, IL, about 1883.)

In his lifetime Joseph E. Cain served for a period as editor of the periodical The Christian Leader. He died August 13, 1918, and is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Wichita, Kansas.

-Most of this information comes from William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, Sumner County, Part 10 

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Excerpts From J.P. Dick*

The following is copied from records of the Church of Christ, Butler County, 1886.

            “Whereas, we the brethren and sisters of the Church of Christ scattered abroad.  Greetings (whose names appear upon the record) are desirous of promoting the cause of Christianity in our Community: and in order that we might become more efficient in the cause of the Master and the salvation of our fellow-men and the proclamation of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, therefore, resolved:

            That we organize ourselves into a Christian Church, taking the Bible and the Bible alone as our rule of faith and practice and the Lord Jesus Christ as head of the church.

            On motion of John E. Nicholson, Brother Jeremiah Love was called to the chair and Brother Joseph Haskell was appointed secretary.  On motion of Brother John E. Nicholson to repair from the Cumberland-Presbyterian Church, to the residence of Brother Rollins for the purpose of organizing -- motion carried.

            Therefore, we the brethren and sisters of the Church of Christ did upon the 13th day of November A.D. 1886 meet in solemn convention at the residence of brother Rollins and after the Word of the Lord and singing, we all bowed down before God, and Brother J. E. Nicholson led us in holy prayer.

            After prayer we gave to each other our hand, and to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ our body, soul, and spirit, over his sacred and holy Word, pledging ourselves solemnly and sacredly to walk in his statutes and keep all his commandments.

            We then proceeded to elect by ballot the following brethren as officers of the church:

            Elders: Jeremiah Love, J. E. Haskell.
            Deacons: John Fry Jr. and Franklin Primm.
            Clerk, William W. Guthrie.
            Treasurer: William Bradford.
            House-keeper, Elias Rollins.”

The George Farnsworth family met with this group and transferred their membership there September 14, 1890.  Later he was chosen as “an elder which office he fulfilled faithfully” until his death February 6, 1903 (quote from his obituary).  At that time Isaiah Stewart was appointed an elder and served until his death in April, 1931.

Joseph Emerson Cain

            The Church was fortunate in procuring an excellent minister, Joseph Emerson Cain, who preached for them twice monthly for more than a quarter of a century.  He preached for the Bethel Church near Whitewater, Kansas, and the Richland Congregation west of Douglass, the other two Sundays of the month.  Nathan Wright preached for the Richland Church, also, as had Elder Yard, previously.

            Following are quotations from the obituary of Joseph E. Cain whose death came in 1918:

           “He was possessed of an eloquence and a grace as a speaker and as a fellow-man that would have been popular in the greatest pulpits and before the largest congregations of the land” (He was invited to fill one of the largest pulpits in Wichita.)“His sermons were logical, eloquent, pleasing and convincing.  No minister, perhaps in this part of the state officiated in more baptisms, marriages and funerals than he.”

            Members of the church have said, “He had the wisdom to say the right thing at the right time, in any circumstance.”

            Brother Cain was a dignified man who always appeared in the pulpit in a formal black Prince Albert coat.  He felt his responsibility to both God and man to “speak as the oracles of God.”  I recall that often he would say, “Thus saith the Lord,” and “Whatsoever the Master says do, do it.”

            Joseph E. Cain was Canadian born but, with his family, migrated into the states when he was a young man.  He was educated in Dentistry but considered it secondary to preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ Jesus.

            The following is quoted (copied) from an article from his own pen entitled “How I Became a Preacher,” which obviously was a requested treatise as it began:

            “I do not know as I can state with clearness how I became a preacher.  I must have been to the honor born.  Coming into the world of a family of zealous Wesleyans, aglow with religious fire kindled in Old England -- a family that had never failed of at least one preacher to represent it as far back as their records extended.  I cannot remember the day when I did not feel that the mantle was to fall on me.

            I passed beyond the traditions of my fathers . . . . Early in my nineteenth year I heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for the first time and reared as I had been it was a revelation . . .

            My enlightenment came through the apparently accidental meeting of an old disciple who in return for a ride in his carriage that saved me miles of dusty walking, exacted from me a promise to attend ‘from beginning to end’ the first meeting held within my reach by the Christians.

            The opportunity presented itself sooner than I expected when D. D. Miller came to Girard, Illinois, then my home.

            The preaching so essentially different from all teaching I had ever received, and which I hesitated not to pronounce false . . . I fought with all the power in me.

            I soon found the conquest an unequal one--and I appealed for help in defense of the church which had dedicated me to the Lord and to the preacher in charge who had the reputation of being the deepest theologian, as well as one of the brightest men in that region, besides hgaving served the state in the Legislature he had been honored by a seat in the National Congress.

            To this man I went, Testament in hand, without a doubt of his ability and willingness to help me, but I found him as weak as a broken bull-rush when pressed by the truth, and pressed he was, for by this time it was a question of life and death to me.  My repeated coming wearied him until, upon my sixth perhaps seventh, visit he angrily repulsed me and informed me in words emphatic, if not elegant, not to come any more with my questions.

            God makes the wrath of man to praise him, and so it surely proved in this case, as my faith in God’s word increased and strengthened.  these interviews, especially the last, loosened my moorings and gave me courage to take the decisive step and my surrender to the authority of Jesus quickly followed.  the night following the day of my burial with Christ in baptism and resurrection to new life, urged by Brother Miller I gave an exhortation at the conclusion of his discourse, closing with an invitation to which two penitents responded and confessed the Saviour.  This confirmed my faith that I was to preach the gospel, though for some time I continued to look for additional assurance of my call.  I had heard a leading preacher of our family tell how the Lord had called him by the blast of a trumpet in the night.  I lay awake nights -- hoping it would come but no sound was heard.  I began to inquire in my mind what need there was for a special ‘call’ to a work where there was work in abundance and right at my hand.  I decided to enter the field that I saw all around me ‘white unto harvest’ and consecrate my untried powers--whatever they might prove--my heart, my life, my all to making known the greatness of that cause which had delivered my soul from confusion and death, and had set my feet where I could stand and feel no fear.

            And now looking backward over the years that have come and gone since those beginning days, years so filled with joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, ecstancies and agonies, I can say, without reservation, were the choice to be made again I would choose the same work rather than all the wealth and honor this world has to bestow.  the fellowship of the saints, the esteem of co-workers in the field, the noblest men on earth--and, above all, the approbation of God, is wealth and honor beyond earth’s computation” “Joseph E. Cain” (from a clipping taken from the Christian Leader, pub. in Indianapolis, Ind.)

Little Walnut Chapel

            After a few years at Cumberland, the Little Walnut Chapel was built one-half mile east onb the southwest corner of the intersection. Above the double doors, facing east, was a section of glass upon which was painted in large gold letters, “CHRISTIAN CHAPEL 1892.”  Surrounded by trees, both evergreen and deciduous, the white Chapel was attractive, and the church was happy to have its own house.

            The doors were flung open, literally, beckoning worshippers from far and near.  The Christians there had nothing to offer except God’s Word with exhortation to accept and exemplify its principles in their lives.  They assembled together to commemorate the Lord’s death, as he requested, to study His Word, and to offer praises of adoration, thanksgiving, and supplication in prayer and in song, every first day of the week when there was no preacher the same as on preaching days.

            The singing at “Little Walnut” was always acapella, “singing and making melody in the hearts to the Lord.”   -Pages 63-67

"Cyril Emerson, a second son, was born to Dick and Mattie Stewart January 22, 1900.  He was named “Emerson” for their beloved minister, Joseph Emerson Cain."  -Page 97

*The previous quotations are taken from a book by V. Stewart-Novak entitled “J. P. ‘Dick’” -- It is a family history of J. P. “Dick” Stewart.  The book was loaned to me by his grandson, Cyril Emerson Stewart, Jr., a member of the church of Christ in Augusta, KS.  He and his father were given their middle name in honor of Joseph Emerson Cain. Special thanks are extended to Joe Slater for making this information available.

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Directions To The Grave Of Joseph E. Cain

At 1000 N. Hillside in Wichita, KS, turn east into the entrance of Maple Grove Cemetery. The office will be on your right; I recommend that you go inside and ask for a map of the cemetery so you can find section "F" more easily.  The sections are marked by granite posts with letters engraved on the top of the post and numbers engraved on the side.
After entering the cemetery, proceed north toward the Abbey (large building).  Turn right at the first opportunity, keeping the Abbey (in section "A") on your left.  Go across the next intersection; section "H" will be on your left, and section "O" on your right.  At the next intersection turn left, then immediately back to the right again.  Now section "F will be on your left, and section "G" on your right.  Watch for a granite post with "F" on the top and the number "8" engraved on the side.  A few feet further down the road on your right will be a granite post with "G" on top and "2" on the side.  Stop by the G2 post. Look for a large stone with SPEER on it at the edge of the "F" section.  The Cain stone is about four rows behind the SPEER stone.

While at this cemetery be sure to visit the grave of Homer E. Moore.

-Special Note Of Thanks Is Extended To Joe Slater, Preacher For The Church Of Christ In Augusta, Kansas. He Willingly Drove Over To Wichita, Kansas And Found The Grave Of Joseph E. Cain, Took Pictures, Had Them Developed And Sent Them To Me For Production Of This Site. He Also Has Provided The Good Directions To The Grave Below.

GPS Location
37.703832,-97.296206

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Maple Grove Cemetery


Zoda (Wife Of J.E. Cain)
Oct 2, 1853
Jan. 3, 1928


Joseph E.
July 26, 1846
August 13,1918

Web editor note: In February, 2012, it was my privilege to visit the grave of Joseph E. Cain. I was invited to take part in the annual Affirming The Faith Lectureship in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Getting into the area early, I was afforded the opportunity to put about 2000 miles on a rental car in order to locate graves of gospel preachers and church leaders of yesteryear in a wide area. My first day I was able to visit the grave of J.E. Cain. If you visit the cemetery, be sure to also visit the grave of another gospel preacher and editor, Homer E. Moore.

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