Charlie Alexander Wheeler
C.A. Wheeler, Gainesville, Texas
Courtesy of Terry J. Gardner & Tom Childers (findagrave.com)
Photo Provided By Tom L. Childers
Biographical Sketch Of Charlie A. Wheeler
(Editor's note: We are grateful to The Gospel Advocate for permission to reprint from H. Leo Boles' BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF GOSPEL PREACHERS some glimpses of some of the 'pioneer preachers' who blazed the trail in north Alabama. T.B. Larimore established Mars Hill school where he taught the Bible and trained others to preach. One of his students, Joseph H. Holbrook, lived in Fayette County, and preached a great deal in Walker County, of which Jasper is the county seat. "Joe" Holbrook baptized C.A. Wheeler, the subject of this current sketch, who in turn baptized my father, the late Gus Nichols. Brother Wheeler was not included in brother Boles' book, and I know of no written biography of him. In this journal I have requested such materials as our readers may know, but very little has been sent to me. From his descendants I have compiled the following. ( Flavil H. Nichols)
Charlie Alexander Wheeler was born near Vernon (in what is now Lamar County), Alabama, January 2, 1851. He was reared on a farm a few miles east of Vernon, near Crossville. His family worshipped at the Bethel Church of Christ, where a loyal congregation still thrives.
Little is known of his ancestors, or of his early life. He had at least three brothers: Tom, John, and Jesse; and he had at least three sisters: Maggie (who married a Mr. Lawrence and remained near Vernon), and Rachel, (who lived in Birmingham where she was employed, but never married); and Georgie who married Dude Hollingsworth of Fayette County.
C.A. (Charlie) Wheeler's early years were spent in Lamar County, where he obtained very little formal education. After he married, Charlie became interested in learning to read the Bible; so at home his wife used the Bible as her textbook to teach him to read. When his own children were old enough to go to school, he enrolled in school with them so he could improve his reading skills in order to learn more of God's will so he could better preach it. Although he did learn well to read what was printed, he never learned "script" (or "Handwriting"), and could barely write his own name. Words in the newspaper were not in his vocabulary; but he could read fluently the words in the Bible!
Brother Wheeler married Adeline Dotson, whose family home site is now occupied by a telephone company tower across Alabama Highway 69 from the Midway Church of Christ church building, south of Jasper. He was a farmer, and was never very prosperous; but his industry and toil provided food aplenty for his large family, and for the countless guests who came to visit him, often spending the night. In 1924, when he was 73, his wife preceded him in death. Here is a brief note of the Wheeler's seven children:
1. Mollie married John Hyde, of Blount County, Alabama. They had 11 children, one of whom (Joe S.) preached the gospel of Christ.
2. Reuben married Hester Rose, of Lynn, Alabama. They had 7 children.
3. Belle married Bud Hyde, also of Lynn (but no kin to John, who married Mollie). They had 5 children.
4. Ora married E.R. Morris, of Oakman; and they also had 5 children.
5. Della and her husband, Columbus Deason, of Jasper, had only one daughter.
6. Minnie married Jack Clark, of Jasper; and they had 7 children.
7. Joe Alexander married Pearl Ellis, of Jasper. Brother Wheeler gave them a Bible on their wedding day, which is in the hands of their son, Joe B. They had 13 children, eleven of whom were born in the same house, where they all grew up. (I am indebted to their daughter, Inez Trice, a member of Sixth Avenue, for much of this biographical data.) Three of their sons (Charley, Joe B., and Tommy) preached the gospel; and one granddaughter (Peggy) is the wife of minister Charles Crump. (She also has supplied information for this sketch.) A great-grandson, Kelly Joe Wheeler, also is preaching near Montgomery while attending Alabama Christian College.
At least in later life, all his family called him "Grandpa Wheeler." One characteristic remembered by the family was his strict discipline. They all knew to be on their 'best behavior' when "Grandpa" was around!
Those with whom I have conferred do not know the religious convictions of his parents, nor if the Dotsons were members of the Lord's church when C.A. Wheeler married into that family. It is known that he was baptized by Joseph H. Holbrook, who studied under T.B. Larimore at Mars Hill Bible School. Studying his Bible at nights by a kerosene (or, "coal oil") lamp, he learned much about it; and at the age of 24 he began to preach what he learned. Being a farmer himself, many of his meetings were only on weekends, or in the summer after his crop was "laid by." He never owned an automobile, but rode the train to almost all his meetings. In later life brethren who owned cars would 'haul' him to his appointments. His sermons were clear, and well documented with Bible quotations, for he stressed Bible authority for all that we do in religion. He taught many, baptizing 6,000 people -- one of whom was my father (the late Gus Nichols), and started about 100 congregations.
When he was 83 (which would have been in 1934) the following article about him, written (I believe) by G.C. Brewer, appeared in The Gospel Advocate:
A Gospel Veteran
On this page we present a picture of C.A. Wheeler, of Jasper, Alabama. Although this is a recent picture and shows brother Wheeler as he looks now, one might suppose that this picture was made when he was not more than fifty years old. He is now in his eighty-fourth year, and is still preaching the gospel with almost unbelievable vigor. He does not just preach on Lord's days only; he is still doing evangelistic work, and preaches every day and often twice a day during his meetings. He also does his own baptizing when there is no one else available to do it for him.
Brother Wheeler is a remarkable man in many respects. Born in Lamar County, Alabama, January 2, 1851, he knew all of the hardships of life in a primitive and rugged country. He, in his own language, was "a considerable chunk of a plowboy" when the Civil War came on, and took the men away to the army and left the country in a practical state of starvation. Under these conditions, he, of course, had no chance to go to school. Schools were almost nonexistent in that country in that day. But in some way brother Wheeler managed to acquire the elements of an education, and he even yet reads and speaks with an accuracy, and an inflection, that would put to shame many preachers who have been to college.
He possesses a logical and an analytical mind, and his sermons are models of clear thinking and concise arrangement. He has read and loved God's book all his life, and he preaches it to his fellow men just as he reads it from the sacred page.
Brother Wheeler had a number of debates in his early preaching life, and it was in his debates that he made some of his converts who afterwards became stalwart contenders for the faith. Some of these converts tell of seeing brother Wheeler go into debate with denominational giants, who brought ponderous volumes with them, and who were surrounded by confident and admiring friends; and brother Wheeler had only a small pocket Bible, and no brethren to encourage and help him. This made the other man's defeat the more full of meaning. The people were ready to listen to the humble man who relied wholly on God's word to refute the other man's claims.
Brother Wheeler has preached in some 8 or 10 states, but the greater part of his labor has been within a radius of a hundred miles of his present home at Jasper, Alabama. He has converted hundreds of people from denominational error, and he often relates that the first man he baptized was a Baptist preacher. More than a dozen men who are now preaching the gospel were baptized by brother Wheeler. He has received practically no financial support for his work. When he began preaching, there were no churches and very few members in his country. He recently remarked that we have more congregations and meetinghouses now than we had members in his early day.
He worked on the farm to support himself and his family, and preached the gospel for naught. It was no unusual thing for him to walk twenty-five miles to an appointment and preach Saturday night, Sunday, and Sunday night -- and then walk back home and spend the rest of the week working in the field.
Brother Wheeler is now not able to work, and still gets little support for his preaching. If any of the readers of the Gospel Advocate would like to cheer the heart of this veteran of the cross and help to supply his necessities, they could not do anything that would more surely abound to their account than to send a contribution to C.A. Wheeler, Jasper, Alabama. Come, let us give him a shower. -- The Gospel Advocate.
Earlier an issue of The Mountain Eagle, a weekly paper at Jasper, said: "Although seventy-nine years of age, Rev. (sic) C.A. Wheeler is still actively engaged in preaching, not only in Walker County but all over the state and in other territory. He is a minister of the Church of Christ, and was born in what is today Lamar County, but at the time of his birth was Fayette County, and the little schooling that he acquired was obtained in Walker County schools.
"For fifty-five years, Rev. (sic) Wheeler has preached, covering Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Alabama. He was married to Miss Adeline Dodson (sic), who died about six years ago. It is said of Rev. (sic) Wheeler that he has preached more discourses, baptized more people, and built up more congregations than any other preacher of the Church of Christ that is now living in North Alabama. He has added between 40 and 50 additions to the (local) Church of Christ in the past few months. He now resides about three miles west of Jasper with his son, Joe Wheeler, and has made his home in and around Jasper about 20 years. "
As a boy I heard the following story of brother Wheeler's first meeting, which was (I believe) at Mount Pleasant in Lamar County. He went down to preach from Sunday through Friday night. By midweek the interest was so great that the brethren insisted he stay on and continue the meeting another week. He refused, saying that it simply MUST close Friday night. By midweek the interest was so great that the brethren insisted he stay on and continue the meeting another week. He refused, saying that it simply MUST close Friday night. Upon learning that he did not have another engagement for the next week, and knowing that his crop was already "laid by, " they rather pressed him to continue. He insisted that he HAD to go home Saturday! They inquired if his wife, or one of the children, might be sick, -- and were relieved to find this was not the case. He did NEED to get home to pull fodder -- but the brethren told him they would pull him some fodder and give it to him -- if he would stay another week. As Friday night approached, he finally explained to one of the brethren why the meeting MUST close that night: He had only seven sermons -- and he would preach the last one of them that night! But about 33 had been baptized, and others were almost converted! So, he yielded to their pleas that he stay longer! He preached the same sermons again -- and 37 more were baptized! However, he did not carry their fodder home with him -- for he did not have train fare, but had to walk home -- about 60 miles!
Brother Wheeler was a firm believer in the power of the word of God, both spoken and written. He utilized the printed page to spread the truth. At least three of his sermons were printed in individual tract form: Proper Division of the Word of God, The Conversion of an Honest Gentile, and What Must I Do To Be Saved? In his writing he refers (see below) to a tract on "Walking By Faith," and I am almost certain a fifth one was entitled, "Reconciliation." In addition, a booklet, The Heavenly Guide, contains his picture standing in his familiar stance, with four of his sermons: The New and Living Way, The New Testament Church, Walking By Faith, and Handling Aright the Word of Truth.
In the preface to this booklet, he wrote: "As long as time lasts it will be necessary to preach the gospel, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes" it. But "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Paul foresaw that "perilous times" would come, and that men would "turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside unto fables." In view of this he gave the most solemn charge to Timothy that mortal man ever delivered: 'I charge thee,' said Paul, 'IN THE SIGHT OF GOD AND CHRIST JESUS ... PREACH THE WORD.'
Brother Wheeler continued: "A few days ago a noted woman evangelist was preaching in Washington City, and she asked which the audience had rather hear her preach on: 'Christ's Coming?' or 'Her Life Story?' The latter subject was chosen by a majority of 2,000 votes. There is no power in a subject like that to "save" people. Since therefore we are now living in 'perilous times,' when many people had rather hear anything than the gospel, and a majority of preachers had rather preach on anything else than the gospel, it makes the obligation all the more important that the 'Word' be preached. For this reason I feel the great weight of the responsibility pressing heavier and heavier as the flood of years swiftly rolls upon me.
"For almost half a century it has been my constant endeavor to fulfill the charge delivered by Paul -- to 'preach the Word' -- both by tongue and pen. But since no man can stay the hand of Time, these will, in all probability, be the last sermons I shall ever publish. And while my pen and tongue shall both be forever stilled in a little while, my message of His Truth will live on."
Soon after he began preaching, brother Wheeler visited the home of a brother Holley who inquired if he had ever preached a funeral. Upon learning that he had not, brother Holley sent his son for the gun, and told him to go kill the first bird he saw. Strolling down toward the hollow, he scarcely was out of sight when they heard a shot, and he presented a dead bird to his father. Laying it on a nearby stump, brother Holley said: "Brother Wheeler, meet Mr. Jay Bird. He is dead, and we want YOU to preach his funeral." Pretending that 'Mr. Bird' was a person, brother Wheeler got some practical experience before a sympathetic brother Holley, and this helped him be at ease in real-life situations later.
In my boyhood days my father would bring Brother Wheeler to spend the most severe weeks of the winter with us. Although our home had no central heating system, but a coal-burning fireplace in each of the four bedrooms, plus one in the parlor, it had some advantages over the farmhouse where he lived: -- it was underpinned; and we did have running water and indoor plumbing. While he was staying with us, mother at dinner passed him a dish of beans which she had just taken up. The dish was 'piping hot!' Aged brother Wheeler, with his tender, shaky (palsied) hands trembling, managed to set it down without spilling any of the contents and exclaimed: "Sister Nichols, this is STILL A COOKING!" We laughed heartily! -- and have related this story numerous times when a hot dish has been passed to us!
When he died, I had been preaching for three years, and was honored to be one of the preachers who served as his pall-bearers. After the service in the old Fifth Avenue church building, his body was buried at the Dutton Cemetery, near where he lived, and not far from the Midway Church of Christ just south of Jasper. My father helped raise funds to erect a suitable marker for his grave, on which is brother Wheeler's portrait, perfectly preserved (shown here). The inscription reads:
Jan. 2, 1851
Apr. 29, 1937
Church of Christ 63 years
Baptized 6,000 souls, and
established about 100
congregations. His influence
abides with us while his
spirit is at rest.
Webmaster's Note: This Sketch is from a little book called, "Sermons Of C.A. Wheeler, Jasper, Alabama" It was edited by Flavil H. Nichols, eldest son of the late beloved Gus Nichols. The book also contains a number of Bro. Wheeler's sermons. It also appeared in Words of Truth, November 1, 1985, pages 2-4.
Family History Info
I recently received an update from Raymond T. "Bud" Mason, a descendant relation of C.A. Wheeler that updated some family history. We extend our appreciation to Bud for providing this information on this great champion of truth.
First, I want to thank you for your website. It is most enlightening and edifying. As I read the article about Bro. Charlie (C. A.) Wheeler, I noticed that you indicated that not much knowledge of his ancestry was available. I am quite familiar with the Wheeler family history. Bro. Charlie's grandfather, David Wheeler, was my ggg-grandfather, so Bro. Charlie's father, Jesse Jones Wheeler, was the brother of my gg-grandfather, Alexander Wheeler.
Bro. Charlie's parents are buried at Lone Oak Church of Christ Cemetery, Lowndes County, MS.A number of Wheelers settled in Lone Oak Community, and Bro. Charlie baptized them and founded the Lone Oak Church of Christ, which isone of the oldest congregations in the state. One of these Wheelers was my g-grandmother Hessiah Octavia Wheeler, who was married to William Andrew Mason. My father was an Elder ofthe Lone Oakcongregation for over 30 years.
Walker's Oldest Preacher Dies At Advanced Age of Eighty-Six
Funeral services for Rev. C.A. Wheeler, 86, Walker County's oldest minister of the Gospel, were conducted at the Jasper Church of Christ Friday afternoon, with Bro. Gus Nichols officiating, assisted by Rev. G.A. Dunn. The remains were laid to rest in the Dutton Cemetery, west of Jasper, A.B. Legg and Sons directing. Rev. Wheeler passed away at the home of his son, Joe Wheeler, three miles west of Jasper on Thursday. He had been in feeble health for a long time.
Surviving are four daughters and two sons.
Brother Wheeler was born in a section of Lamar County, Alabama, that is now Fayette County. His education was limited. All the education he had was acquired in the common schools of Walker County. He was married to Miss Adeline Dodson, who preceded him to the grave about twelve years ago.
Brother Wheeler preached more sermons and baptized more people than any other minister of the Church of Christ in North Alabama. He has served as a minister of the gospel for more than 60 years. During his career as a minister of the Church of Christ he preached in Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama. He was poorly paid for his services and oftentimes not paid at all, but he sever faithfully to the end.
-Mountain Eagle, Jasper, Walker County, Alabama, Thursday, May 6, 1937, Front Page, Top of Center Column.
From Birmingham take I-22 (Corridor X) to Jasper. Take exit 61, the Jasper/Tuscaloosa Exit, and head south 1.4 miles and Hwy 69 will turn to the left. Go 1.4 miles and you will see Midway Church of Christ on your left. At the corner of the property, just past the church building is Dutton Hill Rd. Head down Dutton Hill Rd. all the way to the end (about 6/10 miles). Park in front of the the Dutton Hill Missionary Baptist Church and go up the hill in the cemetery. At the tope of the hill you will see Brother Wheeler's Grave.
Accuracy of 20'
Grave Faces NW
Jan. 2, 1851
Apr. 29, 1937
Church Of Christ 63 Years
Baptized 6000 Souls, And
Established About 100
Congregations. His Influence
Abides With Us While His
Spirit Is At Rest
Flavil Nichols, July 5, 2001 - Was A Pall-Bearer At Bro. Wheeler's Funeral
Recent Photos - 2011 by Scott Harp
January 2, 1851
April 29, 1837
Church of Christ 63 Years,
Baptized 6000 Souls, And
Established About 100
Congregations, His Influence
Abides With Us While His
Spirit Is At Rest