History of the Restoration Movement

*Prier Reeves


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Our History Of Prier Reeves

Prier (Pryor, Prior) Reeves is one of the “forgotten soldiers of the cross,” who was among restoration pioneers in southeast Alabama. He was born to Jesse B. and Sarah Jane Winchester Reeves, on May 22, 1799, on a farm in Southwest Georgia, which became a part of the village of Monticello. The village was established in 1808 — just nine years after Prier was born. Monticello was established as the county seat of the newly formed Jasper County, Georgia. The village grew into a town and then into a city. It was named after Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson. It was incorporated as a town in 1810 and as a city in 1901. Here Prier grew to manhood.

He was married to Maria Permelia Graves on December 14, 1821, in Jasper County. (Georgia Marriages, 1699-1944). Since he was born and raised on a farm—that was a way of life for him. He tried his hand at farming to support his family; but somehow by 1823 he became heavily indebted to a man named Joel Bailey and had to give up 30 to 35 barrels of corn which was sold at the Jasper County courthouse on March 11, 1823. (Paper is published in Milledgeville. This Abstract of the listing is found in the “Georgia Journal, under the heading: JOEL BALEY, vs said PRIOR REEVES). In that day and time, the loss of this amount of grain was a heavy blow to Prior’s ability to support his family. They managed to survive.

The story concerning Prier Reeves becoming a Baptist begins with the writing of a pamphlet in 1832 by Cyrus White, a man of great piety and considerable learning for that time and place. White wrote the pamphlet on “The Universality of the Atonement,” which resulted in a split of the Calvinistic (Hardshell) Baptist Association in middle Georgia. This was about three years before the modern Missionary Baptist Church was born in that State, and Prier Reeves beginning his association with White. There were no divisions known to the writer among the Baptist in that country up to the time of the writing of White’s pamphlet. Baptist, “only this and nothing more.” White, like Alexander Campbell, had no intentions of forming a new party or assuming the leadership of such, only set out with the laudable purpose of reforming the Baptist Church. This resulted (as in the case of Campbell) in the Association coming together and preferring the charge of “heresy.” Failing to sustain the charge from Bible proof, they went through the farce of turning him out, together with a score or two of noble spirits who refused to bow the knee to the fiat of the Association. [C. S. Reeves, Lone Grove Texas. (C.S., February 6, 1892, p.122).]

Sometime in 1825, Reeves became interested in preaching. He became friends with Cyrus White, who encouraged him. For the next 20 years he preached for the Freewill (Missionary) Baptist Church. Cyrus White had established this branch of the Baptists in Georgia; but it was rapidly making its way into Eastern Alabama. White and Reeves, along with other “Whiteite” ministers moved into East-Central Alabama, along the Georgia Stateline, especially Chambers, and Russell counties. Before moving to Alabama one incident must be mentioned, that helped shape Reeves religious views toward a restoration of New Testament Christianity. Sometime during 1837 a very unusual event happened. Prier Reeves’ son C. S. Reeves related the account:

Reverting back a few years, these people held a camp-meeting at old Rocky Creek, in Jasper county, Ga. Scores of “mourners” crowded the altar at each service. On Lord's day two “sober, grave, temperate,” elderly-looking strangers came into the audience, sought out the Committee on Preaching, represented themselves as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and one of them asked permission to preach and answer the great question of the Philippian jailer. “Who are you, and to what denomination, do you belong?” asked Elder Barny Strickland, of Baptist persuasion one of the committeemen. “My name,” said one of the strangers, “is Ephraim A. Smith. We are simply Christians—Disciples of Christ, only this and nothing more.” “Ah, yes; “Campbellites.” I have heard of you before. Been going through the world turning it upside down with your doctrine and now have come hither also. “We want nothing to do with you or your doctrine,” answered Elder Strickland. Smith insisted, entreated, begged, prayed for permission to tell these mourners now cut to the heart, crying, and beseeching for mercy, “what to do to be saved” (the good Lord preserve the memory of this godly man); he even proposed to go with Strickland to the woods and receive on his bare back forty stripes, saved one, if the committee would grant him the privilege to preach to these people all “the words of this life.” My father, Prier Reeves, was on the Committee, and was willing and anxious to hear these brethren; but Strickland was immovable. He said that he was willing to go with Smith and administer the flogging, for he believed he needed it for all his presumption; but to let him preach; nay. Father allowed them to hold meeting at his house the following Monday night; but Strickland and his coadjutors prevented them from having all but few hearers, so intolerant was secularism at that era. These men were the first nicknamed Campbellites I ever beheld, and I supposed the first who ever visited the State.

Shortly after this incident, Bro. Barnes issued a paper called “The Morning Watch,” began publication about two months later, in November 1837, at Evergreen, S. C. So, this dates the event to 1837, not 1847. C. S. Reeves’ article continues:

The churches composing "The Chattahoochee United Baptist Association" aforesaid, through a committee, employed my father to ride and preach within the bounds of the Association for a year, for which service they bound themselves to pay him twelve hundred dollars. (I cannot, after the lapse of time, be positive as to the dates). I think this was the year 1847 (1837), Possibly a year or two earlier…

The uncertainty in Prier’s mind grew stronger and stronger. He and two friends began to investigate the writings of Alexander Campbell. This cast doubt upon his Baptist doctrine. Through his connection with White he had already broken with the regular Baptist teachings; now he was doubting the part he had retained. The stage is set for Reeves’s leaving the Baptist completely. A few more things had to transpire, first. Reeves continues:

…While these proceedings were going on, there was a little leaven at work, the fruit whereof will only be developed in eternity. Two brothers-in-law, William McLendon and Lemuel A. Owen, the former nephew of Cyrus White, referred to in my first letter, each subscribed for and read that year Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger. After reading each number, they would turn it over to Bro. Reeves for his inspection and views of the several topics therein discussed. They also procured a copy of the Christian Baptist, and had him to read this book, so before the Associational year closed, the preacher began to “see men as trees walking.” The year (1845) drew to a close, sixteen churches through their accredited delegates met in association at Smyrna Church, Russell County, Alabama, within one mile of where my father then lived. After hearing his report of the number of miles travelled, sermons delivered, additions to the body, etc., a kind of buzz arose in the congregation. This kindled a little fire. As usual, the wind arose, and this sets the stubble. Anon the blaze arises higher and yet higher, until "the wood, hay and stubble are all consumed, because the building contained much of this material. Howbeit the preacher “is saved, yet so as by fire.” Figure aside, a brother of Fallstaffian proportion, chairman of the committee for paying the preacher alias old Bro. Jesse Hays preferred charge. “Cammelism” this is the way the name was spelled. Handing it to Bro. L. A. Owen, the clerk (a good English scholar) he read the charge and proposed changing the spelling, but this was not allowed; Bro. Hays insisting everybody knew what “Cammelism” was. Bro. Owen then arose and begged the committee to describe “Cammelism,” as his report would go to the press, and “it seemed unreasonable to try a prisoner and not signify the crimes laid against him,” and that he (Bro. O.) was somewhat acquainted with the writings of Alexander Campbell, and it might consume more time than the Association had, to write the whole New Testament, since Mr. Campbell repeatedly affirmed that he had no other creed or doctrine but this; lastly, what the committee called “Cammelism,” so worshipped he the God of his fathers, etc. Time would fail me to speak of the wrangling and bitterness over this nonsense. Suffice it for our purpose to say, wholly failed to make anything out of the charge. Father tore into shreds before them the paper containing their obligation to pay him the $1200 for the year’s services, refusing to receive one cent. How nine of the sixteen churches gave up the Baptist name and creed for that of the Christian, and how this was brought about before the close of the meeting, I did intend to record in this letter, but it is already too lengthy. C. S., Reeves, Lone Grove, Texas. (C.S., March 5, 1892, p. 212-213).

Just three years later Prier Reeves bought 318.8 acres on April 25, 1840, in Chambers County, Alabama. (Alabama, U.S., Homestead and Cash Entry Patents, Pre-1908). He had moved to Alabama sometime around the end of 1839 and was living in Chambers County, Alabama by April 1840. (U.S. Census of Chambers County, Alabama 1840). He continued to preach for the Baptists until the Fall of 1845. It was that Fall in Chambers where Reeves first heard preaching by Tilman A. Cantrell, who was a restoration preacher. Thomas B. Slaughter, a friend of Reeves wrote the following concerning this: This transition from the Baptist Church to the Church of Christ is verified by Thomas B. Slaughter. He gives a year for this exchange. In a letter to the Millennial Harbinger dated December 1845 he wrote:

Chambers County, Alabama, September 21, 1845: “Brother Reeves has long been an intelligent and able minister among the Baptists; but a few weeks ago, he renounced everything but the unmixed word of God, and is now proclaiming the gospel in its primitive purity and is "contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." A majority of all his churches go with him, and the prospect for the future seems to be flattering. Six months ago, a teacher of the un­mixed word had never been heard in this section of country; now there are two churches and will be many. We want more light, and more of the teaching and writings of the Disciples. Thomas M. Slaughter. (M. H., December 1845, p. 571).

When Slaughter said, “a few weeks ago, he renounced everything but the unmixed word of God,” places the event in 1845, as the letter was dated September 21, 1845. A few weeks, not a few months.

This transition is verified also, by W. V. W. McLendon, a nephew of Cyrus White, who also made the transition along with Reeves and many others. McLendon wrote:

About three (Fall of 1845) years ago brother T. Cantrell came into that country, preaching the primitive gospel. Brother Prior Reeves, pastor of Smyrna church, Russell county, Ala., was convinced and commenced preaching the truth. A majority of the church were also convinced and declared for reform, while the minority withdrew; considerable, accessions have since been made to this church; other churches have come out for reform, and now there are some four or five churches in Eastern Alabama, contending for the current reformation. They are as yet, however, in a state of infancy, and have much to learn, and are in many things wanting. May the Lord prosper them! W. V. W. M'Lindon. (M. H., April 1847, pp. 236-237).

Years later C. S. Reeves’ gave an account of how his father was converted to Christ and is given as follows:

“The Association of the Freewill Baptists,” composed of delegates from sixteen churches presided over by Elder William Presley as Moderator, preferred a charge against their missionary (Prier Reeves, who had traveled and preached within the bounds of the Association that year, at a salary of $1200 of “Cammelism.” This is the way the name was spelt in their written charges and specifications. Bro. L. A. Owen, their Secretary' and a true disciple, insisted on their defining “Cammelism.” This they refused to do only in a very general and indefinite way, the whole purport of which appeared to be questions of their own superstition, and the teaching and writings of one Alexander Campbell, of the State of Virginia, in the United States of America. Father was thrown on his own defense, Indeed, and for three days, amid much wrangling and bitterness of feeling, he demonstrated that after the manner they called “Cammelism,” so worshipped he the God of our fathers, believing all things written in the “Prophets, Psalms and New Testament concerning Jesus Christ.” The report of the committee, to whom the matter was referred for final decision, was withheld from Saturday until Monday morning.

During the interview occurred one of the grandest scenes ever enacted in presence of this scribe. Most of the actors have long since crossed over and entered that rest “that remains for the people of God.”

Very like some of Job’s reporters, “It seems that I alone am left to tell thee.”

Were I eloquent with either tongue or pen, this is the time and occasion above all others, I would love to invoke the aid of these faculties, Had I ever doubted a special Providence, or a Divinity that shapes our ends,” I could doubt no longer. On Saturday night some third-rate preacher, name forgotten filled the pulpit. Lord’s day following opened with a glorious sun; splendid day! Very large concourse of people, including the delegates aforesaid. Who’s going to preach today? Where is the preacher/ Wonder if he’ll be a Baptist or a Cammelite? Were some of the many questions asked by many in the congregation. The eleven o’clock hour arrives. Here he comes! A little bit of a “dried up man,” stooped shouldered, dark complexioned dark haired, grey eyed man, weighing perhaps 125 pounds, and maybe forty-five years of age, a perfect stranger to nineteen-twentieth of the audience. He ascends the stand and reads in a clear, ringing voice, “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners, spake in times past to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these latter days spoken unto us by his Son.” Finishing the chapter (Hebrews 1) and picking up a hymnbook, he reads:

Let Christians agree,

And peace among them spread.

Gentile and Jew, and bonds and free,

Are one in Christ their head.

Five hundred caught the inspiration of the words, and such music has not been excelled since the morning stars sang together at creation’s dawn or of singing of the heavenly hosts at the birth of the Son of God! Although half a century has passed away, often in my dreams, these scenes are reenacted, and the music reverberating in my ears! I have often heard many of our most popular preachers from my far Western home to New York and Philadelphia, but positively I have never heard a discourse to excel this one. For two hours he kept his hearers spellbound—entranced! Christian Union! All sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures vs. Human Names and Creeds; The Divinity of the Son of God; The Gospel as the Power of God unto Salvation; Faith, Repentance, Confession and Baptism in Order to Remission of Sins, etc.—these were his themes, presented in the mildest and most winning blandness of manner and inviting voice. Closing the discourse, he picks up the large church Bible and descends the from the stand. Laying down the book on a table, he proposed a union on its teaching. Said he: “Come to the Book. I do not ask you to come to me, for I am like you, a poor, erring mortal; but if I go to it, and you come to it, we will be going to the Lord.” A song is raised:

Brethren all who disagree,

Yet would have charity to please us,

Union there can never be

Unless that we are one in Jesus

One in spirit and in faith,

One also in disposition

This the Holy Scriptures teach

'Tis plain without an exposition.

Party names then throw aside,

And cast _away your broken cisterns,

Christ the Lamb, the Church the Bride,

Then take no other name but Christian.

All the family on earth

Yea, all the family in heaven,

Take this name the Scriptures say:

Indeed, “no other name is given.”

Enough! From all parts of the vast assembly, they rush to shake the little man's hand, The delegates from nine of the sixteen churches led by my father give the hand and give up their Baptist name and creed. No pen can describe the scene that followed, therefore mine shall not try. A green spot in the history of my poor life is this: If there is joy among the angels in heaven over one repenting sinner, what a commotion over this scene. Eternity alone will develop. This grand achievement was brought about by the preaching of Tilman A. Cantrell, of blessed memory, who died near ninety years of age, at Ashland near Clay County, Ala., a few years ago. Monday came, Association met, failed to sustain the charge of Cammelism against the preacher as stated. Nine of the churches through their delegates went into the Reformation. Seven of the churches kept their organization a few years, and then went to the Missionary Baptist. Many individual members came in to the Reformation, from time to time, and are yet coming. Father tore up their obligation to pay him the $1,200 and refused to receive one cent. C. S. Reeves, Lone Grove, Texas. (C.S., July 23, 1892, p. 626).

Prier Reeves’ home became a haven for visiting preachers. Brother Cantrell made many visits to the Reeves’ home. As did many others. C. S. Reeves wrote:

Prier Reeves and Tilman A. Cantrell became loving brethren and lifetime friends. Together they spent much of the time as general evangelists. Bro. Cantrell moved back to the northern part of the State. Bro. John R. McCall became the companion of my father, and together they travelled and preached much, adding many scores to the army of the faithful. Bro. McCall came West sometime in the ’50’s, established the first church in Austin, died and was buried in that city.

In many respects Bro. M. was a remarkable man. He had the largest head I ever saw; a splendid logician, understood the Scriptures well, never tired in preaching, loved music dearly, but had one of the hoarsest, harshest, most discordant voices of anybody. Still, he would sing! His favorite chorus, in and out of season, was:

In my Father’s house sit down,

They who conquer shall wear the crown.

Who shall say that his song has not been realized? His sons are among the most prominent men in our capital. His eldest, John D. McCall is now and has been for several years, State Comptroller of Public Accounts. The children and grandchildren all, so far as known to me, are warm hearted and worthy members of the church of God. Soon after Bro. M. left us Bro. Pendleton Cheek from Atlanta, Georgia, came into our midst and did considerable preaching with success.

Ben Cooper, traveling agent for the Millennial Harbinger, was wont to call and preach for us occasionally. My father’s house being headquarters for all the brethren when passing through the State. Bro, Robert Graham, then a young man, also called and preached for us. Should this meet his eye, he may know that the writer still loves him for his works’ sake and has not forgotten his discourse founded on the first chapter of Galatians.

In the sweet, “bye and bye”

We shall meet on that beautiful shore

During his short stay with us he seemed much amused at my father’s continually confounding his name with that of Bro, Alexander Graham, of Marion, Perry Co., Ala. of this dear last-mentioned brother we will have more to say after a while! The day after Bro, Robert left us father began a three days’ debate with the celebrated Universalist, C. F. R. Shehane, who went out from us, and was at one time co-editor of the Morning Watch with John M. Barnes. Proposition, “Do the Scriptures teach the final holiness and happiness of all mankind?” Shehane affirmed, Reeves denied. But my sheet is full, and I lay by the pen for another week. C. S. Reeves. (C.S., August 13, 1892, p. 689).

When Reeves switched, nine of the sixteen Baptist Churches in the Association split, and part of the membership in the nine churches decided to follow Reeves. This occurred in 1845. The Shady Grove Baptist Church, one of the nine, voted that both groups should continue to use the same building. There was considerable opposition on the part of the Baptists, but the difficulties were settled peacefully. The records relate the following:

31st Oct 1845 in conference Brother P. Reeves Mod(erator). The church agreed to divide on the following terms viz those who wish to retain the United Baptist name and doctrine practice & discipline not sacrificing the fellowship of the church was to do so & their internal wrights (sic) with the sovereignty of the denomination was not to be meddled with & that they shall hold possession of the Church records & shall have the first Sabbath and day before in each month in the house as days of worship on the other part those who wish to assume no name but what the new testament give (Christians) follow out the doctrine faith and practice of the same have equal wrights (sic) unmolested to two days in each month in the house to which each member shall have equal wrights (sic) to have their names registered in the book of church records according to their choice Hugh Wallace, ch. Clk. (“Minutes of the Church of Christ at Shady Grove,” Mss., in possession of Mr. R. L. Betts, Opelika, Alabama, pp. 1-2).

The church formed by the Christians was called the Church of Christ at Shady Grove and dated its history from 1845. (“Minutes of the Church of Christ at Shady Grove,” Mss., in possession of Mr. R. L. Betts, Opelika, Alabama, pp. 1-24, as of 1937).

The following note from the Bible Advocate of Paris, Tennessee gives an account of Reeves preaching in Macon County, Alabama:

Last Sunday brother P. Reeves baptized eight persons into Christ, at Macedonia. The cause is still moving on though slowly. H. Odom, Souchahatchee, (Macon, County) Ala., Aug. 20th, 1848. (B.A., October 1, 1848, p. 189).

Even though Prier continued to evangelize, sometime after 1848 Reeves became more active in public affairs. In 1850 Reeves served on a barbeque committee to raise money to support the union. An advertisement appeared in the paper at Tuskegee, Alabama that read as follows:

Public Barbeque

Tuskegee Republican, Tuskegee, Alabama
Thursday, August 8, 1850, p.3

There will be a public Barbecue given in the town of Tuskegee on Saturday, the 10th instant, at which all the friends of the South and the Union are requested to be present. Every arrangement will be made for a large meeting, and several popular speakers are expected to be present. Particular attention will be paid to the comfort of the Ladies, who are 1especially invited. The following gentlemen have been requested to act as a committee of arrangement and invitation. Prior Reeves was one of 33 committee members. (News Paper published in Tuskegee, Alabama, August 8,1850).

In 1854 Prier Reeves and other citizens appealed to the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads for a for new mail route from Goldville, Tallapoosa County through Youngville, Lee’s Ridge to Delta, Randolph County, Alabama. (Petition to Congress, April 1,1854). Just eleven days later, July 19, 1855, Prior Reeves was appointed Post Master at Delta, Russell County, Alabama. He served that position until April 12, 1856, when he was succeeded by William H. Grogan. (U.S. Post Master Appointments, 1844-1857).

Letter To Governor, April 1855

Another committee convened, in April 1855, to write the Governor of Alabama with an emotional plea for help with relief from a three-year drought in Southern Alabama:

To The Governor Of This State Of Alabama:

Dear Sir: In a meeting of the citizens of this beat and vicinity at this place today, it was agreed by the people, en mass to lay before your Excellency the destitute and actually starving condition of many of our neighbors at this time, hoping and confidently believing that you, in your wisdom and excellency, can devise some means to afford breadstuff to the needy, either by recommending to us by general subscription, or by any other plan that your Excellency may deem sufficient to meet the exigencies of our case. It is not considered by us necessary to advise your Excellency that in consequence of a three-year drought, we are now reduced to the point (many of us) of extreme want and that some of the citizens indeed,—many of them—of this commonwealth are actually perishing for food, to say nothing of the probability of a short wheat crop, in which event, our condition is still more deplorable. We can conceive of no better plan for the alleviation of our suffering than to lay the matter before our Chief Magistrate. Our minds revert with pleasing recollections to the charity of the people of this State, when the cholera raged at New Orleans and Mobile three years ago; and believing that our condition at this juncture in time, in every respect, is as deplorable theirs, (the sufferers,) we do hope that it is only necessary to advise them of our wants, to elicit the same charitable donations so lavishly bestowed on that occasion by the citizens of Montgomery, as well as Selma and Mobile. Some of our neighbors have suggested the propriety of the loan of Bank of Montgomery, to enable us to buy provisions, &c., while others think, as do the present committee, that would hardly meet our necessities. True, we could buy corn, if we had the money, and knew who had it to sell, but dear sir the corn is not in all in this country to spare. For those who did have a little to dispose of have long since disposed of it. Delta, Randolph County, Alabama, April 28, l855. (Local News Paper, Delta, Randolph County, Alabama, May 23, 1855).

The appeal showed the desperation of the folks south of Montgomery:

We want something to eat, and we want it now. We would be willing to go anywhere for it with any reasonable probability of finding an Egypt. Could the merchants, or groceries of Montgomery, Selma or Mobile do anything for us, in the way of provisions—meal, meat, molasses, or anything of the kind? We would thankfully and with grateful acknowledgements, receive it and send forthwith after it. (Local News Paper, Delta, Randolph County, Alabama, May 23, 1855).

Plan To Sell Dry Goods Business

Jacksonville Republican, Jacksonville, Alabama
Wednesday, August 29, 1855, p.3

October 5, 1855, Prier Reeves, and son Dr. N. P. Reeves sold their store. What prompted him to sell the store could have been because he had lost so much money during the drought of 1853-1855. The sale was advertised in the local paper at Delta, Alabama. Prier made an appeal to all who owed him to pay up their accounts. He wrote:

Furthermore, I take this method of requesting all who are indebted to me for 1853 and 1854 to come and settle with note or cash, as they know that I have been as indulgent as the times have been oppressive. A word to the wise is sufficient. Prier Reeves, Delta, 20th August 1855. (August 28, 1855).

In 1856 he resigned from the Post Master’s position at Delta. What prompted his resignation from the Post office on April 12, 1856? The next report came in 1856 from the Millennial Harbinger. From Delta, June 1856, Prior Reeves sent Alexander Campbell a copy of a Baptist publication. He did not mention the name of the magazine, but stated that it carried an article attacking Campbell and charging the Disciples with Unitarianism etc. Reeves’ letter to Campbell follows:

Delta, Ala., June 19, 1856. Brother Campbell—I send you an issue from a Baptist press or 15th May last, which is edited by two scribes, (the Baptists think, possessing attainments of no ordinary character. I send it because it contains a scurrilous piece against you and those who believe and leach the ancient gospel. I heard the writer of the piece say once, that he could not take issue with us on most, or nearly all the topics which we defend. I heard the other say as lately as last fall, that he could take your own writings and convict you on various topics—i.e., sometimes you were in favor of them, and sometimes against them: for instance, Unitarianism, &c. However, I challenged him to the task, and he was unwilling to undertake it in my presence. And again, they would have the public believe that the Reformation is on the wane, and that Mr. Jeter handled you as adroitly as a boy would a toy upon a marble yard. It was mere pastime fur him. And I think that I never saw a poorer thing than his review, except Graves' slang and vile fabrications. I am ready to say of the two editors (and you may add Graves as a third) as the sworn enemy of God and man said of Job, that he did not serve God for naught. I would only change it and say, that they do not serve the Baptists for naught, for they are the pioneers and guardians of the Baptist faith. North and South, as much slang, sarcasm, and vile vituperation, as their papers contain.

This hasty sketch is written without much reflection as to what the paper contains. I am no patron of theirs. My brother-in-law sent, me the paper, and I decided to mail it to you. I think (as they said of the cause you advocate) of their cause, or any other cause that has to resort to such low means for success, that Ichabod might justly be written upon it. Meantime, want you to propose a discussion with the Right Rev. S. Henderson, as he seems to be leader, on some of the topics on which we take issue, and let the public see or hear for themselves. If you cannot come South yourself, appoint a proxy, or propose a written discussion. But I do not know what could be gained from discussing with a man of his caste, for, to my knowledge, he has been a constant reader of your productions ever since I knew him. I once told him, that when he left home, he put on your costume, and that he looked very pretty, dressed out cap a pie in your armor, &c. Yours in hope, P. R. (M.H., July 1856, pp. 412-413).

June 1,1860, he was living near Tallassee and Daviston, Tallapoosa County, Alabama. (U.S. Census of Tallapoosa County, Alabama 1860). The cause in East Alabama was much hindered by the sectarians and Reeves was concerned. In August Reeves sent one of his few reports to a brotherhood journal, the millennial Harbinger. Reeves sent an article to Alexander Campbell from an unnamed Baptist journal. Campbell wrote the following:

Alabama. — Bro. Prier Reeves, August 3, '60, reports the cause of Truth in Tallapoosa County to be much obstructed in its progress by the prejudice and ignorance of the masses, not excluding a large portion of the Baptist Ministry. Bro. R. meets once a mouth with a church meeting some 60 miles from his residence, which he hopes before long to have properly organized. Many of the Baptists in its vicinity, are very friendly, and appear desirous to understand better the way of Truth. Bro. R. regards the miserable ignorance of the ministry, the most formidable opposition the cause has here, (as, indeed, almost everywhere) to contend with. (M.H., September 1860, pp. 537-538).

Prier had two son in the Civil War, which began on April 12, 1861, when South Carolina Militia artillery fired from shore on the Union garrison. C. S. and N. P. Reeves were both medical doctors and served as surgeons. They both came home safely. C.S. Reeves wrote of the end of the war and the return home:

After termination of the hostilities, during the days of reconstruction it was not much better, father having died from home, on an evangelizing tour in 1865 (February 9th). C. S. Reeves, Lone Grove, Texas.

In the Fall of that year, Bro. Dr. Barron had built, at his own expense, near Troy in Pike county, a commodious meeting house. Being a good physician, and religiously opposed to war, he was permitted to remain at home and minister to the sick. He mailed circulars to all the different congregations throughout that region of country, inviting them to send delegates to hold a cooperation at the new church, embracing the fourth Lord’s day in October (I cannot be positive, after the lapse of time, as to the dates). The time arrived and a goodly number assembled. The preachers, Bro. W. C. Kirkpatrick, Robert W. Turner, Dr, F. M. D. Hopkins, J. M. Barnes, Jr., Sanford Barron, Andrew Moore, C. S. Reeves, and David Adams; elders William Linam and John T. Penn, and several others whose names are not now recollected. These though most of you have crossed the river, I trust, dear brethren, we shall meet again! Prayer meeting ended. Most of the delegates were entertained by Dr. Barron that night at his hospitable mansion hard by. Morning came. Meeting organized by calling W. C. Kirkpatrick to the chair and the writer hereof Secretary. Before the transaction of any business, the chairman preached, by request, a very feeling discourse in memory of the departed former chairman, prier Reeves and read from the Scriptures Paul’s charge to the elders at Ephesus, as recorded in the twentieth chapter of Acts of Apostles, these very words being repeated by Elder Prier Reeves only a few minutes before his death. His very last words were “tell Bro. Perdue to preach my funeral from the words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is a crown of life laid up for me.” It was done, and on his tombstone is an open Bible, with these words engraved upon it, at Sandy Ridge church, Lowndes County, Alabama: “Till the resurrection morn, dear father, rest in peace!” We will be together then, tho’ mother lies at Mansfield, Louisiana! Blessed hope! (C.S., October 1, 1892, p. 835).

Thus ended one of the most colorful lives of a true soldier of the cross—Prier Reeves. His body sleeps south of Montgomery, in the Payne Cemetery, Sandy Ridge, Lowndes County, Alabama awaiting the Resurrection Day. May we all die in the Lord, as we believe he did!

Wayne Kilpatrick, 11.26.2021

Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Prier Reeves

Prier Reeves is one of the many unsung heroes of the Restoration Movement. With a life that began at the end of the 18th century, and spanned through to the end of the Civil War, undoubtedly he saw many things, and had many experiences that are lost to the ages. Little is known of the day to day aspects of his life, his family and relatives. He is buried in a small cemetery a few miles south of Montgomery, Alabama in the Shady Ridge Community in Lowndes County.

What is known of this preacher of old is that early in the 1840s he was a circuit minister among the Baptists in southeast Alabama. Preaching for the Shady Grove Baptist church around 1845 or 1846 he became aware that a preacher among the "Campbellites," a T.A. Cantrell, was troubling the neighborhoods among the Baptists. Reeves entered a debate with Cantrell at Shady Grove, and from it was converted to New Testament Christianity. He at once began teaching among the Baptists with whom he had influence, and very soon nine of the sixteen churches in the local Baptist Church Association withdrew, becoming churches after the ancient order. Not all at Shady Grove were convinced and a split resulted. For a while both churches met in the same building, but ultimately separated. The church of Christ at Shady Grove is one of the oldest churches in the Restoration Movement in south Alabama, located just four miles east of Opelika in Lee County.

Reporting on Reeves conversion it was said, "Brother Reeves has long been an intelligent and able minister among the Baptists; but a few weeks ago he renounced every thing but the unmixed word of God, and is now proclaiming the gospel in its primitive purity, and is "contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." A majority of all his churches go with him, and the prospect for the future seems to be flattering. Six months ago a teacher of the unmixed word had never been heard in this section of country; now there are two churches. and will be many. We want more light, and more of the teaching and “writings of the Disciples. —THOMAS M. SLAUGHTER. (MH 1845, p.571)

No distance was too far or doctrine too inferior to intimidate this pioneer speaker for God. He once reported traveling over 60 miles each week to help one group of interested believers come out of denomination confusion into the light of the simple gospel of Christ. He regarded the greatest and most formidable foe of the cause of Christ as the "miserable ignorance of the ministry," in that area of the country, (MH, 1860, p.537,538). Reeves continued the rest of his life evangelizing among the people of South Alabama. He sent reports to the Millennial Harbinger and other brotherhood papers.

Very soon after Brother Reeves' death, J.M. Barnes, close friend and fellow minister in Alabama, wrote to Alexander Campbell, not aware that the elder brother was shortly to take to his own deathbed never to rise again, reporting of the sad departure of his friend and co-worker. He said, "We are not without our troubles. The death of the energetic, zealous and indefatigable laborer and defender of the truth, Elder Prior Reeves, I suppose has not reached you. We lost much in his death." (MH, 1866, p.45,46)

—Sources: The Millennial Harbinger, History Of The Christian Churches In The Alabama Area, by George H. & Mildred B. Watson

Prior Reeves - Unsung Hero

Prior (Pryor, Prier) Reeves is one of the unsung heroes among restoration pioneers in southeast Alabama. He was born on 5/22/1799 in Georgia. He was married to Miss Parmelia Graves in Jasper, Georgia on 12/14/1820. They would become the parents of twelve children.

He joined the Baptist church in young adulthood and soon became an ordained minister for them. He was an excellent proclaimer and by the 1830s his popularity had increased until he was riding circuit for a sixteen member group of “free” Baptist churches in southwest Georgia and south east Alabama. The free Baptist were similar in their teaching to the “separatist Baptist in the Tennessee Valley. They seemed to be searching for a way out of the Calvinist restrictions that the regular Baptist practiced.

Several different stories are told of his introduction to the ancient gospel. The most plausible is that he heard T.A. Cantrell give a lesson in Lee County, Alabama and was moved to challenge Cantrell to a debate. Cantrell did not consider himself a gospel preacher but was considered an exhorter. He evidently was well versed in the scriptures and accepted Reeve’s challenge. As the debate progressed, Reeves began to realize that the doctrine he was preaching was not founded in scripture and at some point during, or shortly after the debate, admitted his error and united with the disciples. Reeves and Cantrell became close friends (Reeves named a son for Cantrell) and working together, the two began to teach the churches on Reeve’s preaching circuit and before long had switched nine of the sixteen to the old Jerusalem gospel. This was a monumental happening. Likely because of the high esteem in which his Baptist brethren held Reeves, these changes were accomplished without the rancor and bitterness that was common to such changes. To convert nine Baptist churches to accept the Bible as their only authority, to say the least, created a sir in southeast Alabama and Reeves became a popular and important worker in that area. The Shady Grove Baptist Church, one of the nine which divided ever the matter, voted that both groups should continue to use the same building. There was considerable opposition on the part of the Baptists to this procedure but the difficulties were peaceably settled. The record states:

31st Oct 1845 in conference Brother P. Reeves Modr.

The church agreed to divide on the following terms viz those who wish to retain the United Baptist name and doctrine practice & discipline not sacrificing the fellowship of the church was to do so & their internal wrights with the sovereignty of the denomination was not to be meddled with & that they shall hold possession of the Church records & shall have the first Sabbath and day before in each month in the house as days of worship on the other part those who wish to assume no name but what the new testament give (Christians) fellow out the doctrine faith and practice of the same have equal wrights unmolested to two days in each month in the house to which each member shall have equal wrights to have their names registered in the book of church records according to their choice Hugh Wallace ch clk

Thus, the "Reformers" in this congregation went through the same experience that Stone and Campbell had previously had in separating from their churches. The church formed by the "Christians" was called the Church of Christ at Shady Grove, and dates its history from 1848. In the "Minutes" the following is found:

November 15, 1846...., Bid agree to come together in the worship of God on the following terms: viz. first, giving themselves to the Lord and to each other by the will of God. Second Corinthians, 8th Chapter, fifth verse. Agreeing to believe all that the New Testament teaches and to obey all its injunctions to the best of their capacity and to submit to the laws of Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, in all things.

"Minutes of the Church of Christ at Shady Grove

Prior Reeves served as the minister of the Shady Grove church for several years. In 1848 Thomas M. Slaughter reported in the Harbinger, that Reeves was "contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." He also said that "six months ago a teacher of the unmixed word had never been heard in this section of the country; now there are two churches and will be many." These two churches were, no doubt, the La Fayette church and the Shady Grove church. Brother R.M. McCall reported in the Harbinger- 4/5/1845, that he, brother Richardson and Prior Reeves had baptized sixty persons in the “last eighty days, thus firmly establishing the church in La Fayette, Chambers, County.

From Delta, in Clay. County, June, 1856, Prior Reeves sent Alexander Campbell a copy of a Baptist publication. He did not mention the name of the magazine, but stated that it carried an article attacking Campbell and charging the Disciples with Unitarianism and etc. The leader of this opposition was a "Right Rev. S. Henderson." Reeves wanted Campbell to propose a public discussion on the debated topics. Henderson, in charging Campbell with Unitarianism, was faced with the same problem which has puzzled many others. When the "Campbellites" denied belief in the Trinitarian dogmas, it was assumed that they were Unitarians. It was rather difficult for them to realize that one could be neither of these two extremes and still be within the pale of Christendom. At any rate, Prior Reeves, challenged Henderson to prove that he was a Unitarian, and, according to Reeves' statement, Henderson was unwilling to undertake the task.

Reeves reported from Tallapoosa County in the April, 1860 of the Harbinger, that he had started a congregation in that county. He bemoaned the fact that the Baptist ministers were extremely prejudiced against the gospel, but that the ordinary members were friendly and “ desirous to understand the ways of the truth.” He also stated that “the miserable ignorance of the ministry is the most formidable opposition the cause has here.”

Part of the reason Reeves was no better known in the brotherhood, was due to the fact that he seldom sent reports to the Journals and when he did, they were brief and to the point. He was, as Jno. T. Lewis would say years later, reluctant to “toot his own horn.” Also, he had spent his earlier years in the Baptist church. This, however had its positive aspects as he was well known and highly thought of among the Baptists. He likely had his greatest success among those people.

His preaching covered a large area in east Alabama and included the counties of Cleburne, Randolph, Clay, Chambers, Talladega, Tallapoosa and Lee, establishing churches and building up the cause. There is no way to know how many souls he brought to the truth nor how many churches he established.

Brother Reeves moved to Lowndes County, south of Montgomery, a few years later and settled in the Sandy Ridge community, likely to be near one of his children. There he no doubt, worked with such greats as Dr. David Adams, Pinkney Lawson, W.C. Kirkpatrick and Justus M. Barnes.

The old soldier finished his earthly journey on February 09, 1865. Only in eternity will we know the extent of his labors for his Master. Justus M. Barnes offered the following note in the Millenial Harbinger - 1866: We are not without our troubles. The death of the energetic; zealous and indefatigable laborer and defender of the truth, Elder Prior Reeves, I suppose has not reached you. We lost much in his death. I would say more of his triumphant death but have not space.

Only this short note to memorialize such a wonderful and faithful life. A man who may very well accomplished more for the cause of Christ in southeast Alabama than anyone since his time….Even in death, he was the “unsung hero.”

- Larry Whitehead, The Alabama Restoration Journal, Volume 4, Issue 1, July, 2009, pages 20,21

Location Of The Grave Of Prier Reeves

GPS Coordinates
32°01'16.4"N 86°27'05.3"W
or D.d. 32.021217, -86.451483
(Grave faces W)

Prier Reeves is buried in the little south Alabama community of Sandy Ridge. Take I-65 south of Montgomery. Just north of Fort Deposit, take Exit #151, Hwy. 97, and go east to Hwy. 31. Turn right on Hwy. 31, going south toward Sandy Ridge community. There will be a cemetery on the left hand side about 100 yards off the road called Payne Cemetery. Its got a fence around it. Enter the gate and head toward the rear of the cemetery. If you get to Hwy. 185, you've gone too far. Turn around and come back, and it will then be on your right. While in the cemetery be sure to visit the grave of another restoration preacher, William Payne.

Grave Without Chalking

II Timothy IV.
For I am now
ready to be offered
and the time of
my departure
is at hand.
Elder Prier Reeves
May 22, 1799,
Feb. 8th, 1865

*Sometime written "Prior," instead of "Prier.""Prier" is probably correct, as the times when being referred to by others his name was written, "Prior," but when he wrote to the Millennial Harbinger in 1860, his name was reported as "Prier." This fits with the inscription upon his grave.

Special Thanks: To C. Wayne Kilpatrick for locating the final resting place of Elder Prier Reeves. He took the pictures, and sent them in for this site.

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