History of the Restoration Movement

James Grant Conner


James G. Conner

One of the brightest luminaries in the panoply of Restoration Movement preachers in Northeast Arkansas during the fourth quarter of the 19th century was James Grant (J.G.) Conner. Born October 8, 1863, in Tennessee, he died January 18, 1897, the victim of a viral disease akin to influenza called the grippe.

He served the cause of Christ in Northeast Arkansas with unabated enthusiasm nearly half his life. J. P. McConnell of Independence County baptized Conner March 18, 1882,1 (1James Perry McConnell baptized Samuel E. Conner (b. Nov. 26, 1865; In a 1911 biographical sketch published by C. R. Nichol in Gospel Preachers Who Blazed The Trail, S. E. Conner is said to have been born Nov. 26, 1860. lbe family thinks lhe 1865 dare is correct) on March 19, 1882. He was James G. Conner's brother. The Conners had been reared in the Primitive Baptist faith. S. E. Conner married Dicie Warrick and they had five children. They moved to Texas where he did common labor, preached and debated.) and on October 8, 1882, he preached his first sermon and began a life dedicated to promoting the principles of New Testament Christianity.

During the next fifteen years he traveled extensively on behalf of the church preaching, debating and writing. His sermons were always recognized for their sincere earnestness and perspicuity. He was not one who "would drop a thread of logic to soar on wings of oratory," wrote
Bynum Black. He made every effort to present the truth in plain, simple, and understandable terms.

His ability as a debater perhaps exceeded that of his preaching. One contemporary believed J. G. Conner to be the best he had ever heard. He was so pointed and smooth in presenting his arguments, and was so earnest, that he invariably carried conviction to the hearts of all honest
persons in his audience. But it was in his writing that he may have had the largest and greatest influence.

An erudite individual, Conner began writing for the fledgling, Texas based religious paper, Firm Foundation (begun in September 1884). While
there were several popular religious papers in the South, the Gospel Advocate among them, Conner believed the Firm Foundation to be "the best paper published."2 (2 J.G. Conner, "Attention Reader," Firm Foundation (May 22, 1890):8. Evidently he had allied himself with J. D. Tant, Austin McGary, et. al., Texas preachers in the opposition to David Lipscomb of the Gospel Advocate and certain other preachers on the issue of rebaptism. The Gospel Advocate, since its inception, had stressed that baptism was done in obedience to God's will and resulted in the obtaining of all spiritual blessings. The Firm Foundation folk believed the design of baptism was expressly for "the remission of sins." If the candidate was not baptized for this specific reason, the candidate was not "scripturally" baptized. This issue is discussed in Robert E. Hooper's Crying in the Wilderness: A Biography of David Lipscomb (Nashville: David Lipscomb College, 1979), pp. 211-213. The Firm Foundation wielded significant influence in Northeast Arkansas.) He visited many congregations soliciting subscriptions for it. This practice and his frequent articles brought him before an admiring public which resulted in a number of invitations to preach in many states.3 (3. 21. G. Conner, "A Card," Firm Foundation (July 10, 1890):5.)

As a result of his literary skill, he became associate editor of the Gospel Echo, published at Dardanelle, Arkansas, in 1892. Later he served as editor of the first page of the Christian Preacher, a paper published at Corinth, Arkansas, and edited by C. M. Wilmeth, son of J.B. Wilmeth who began preaching in Lawrence County, Arkansas, in the 1830s. Before his pen was stilled he published several short books exposing religious errors.3 (3 Nina L. Collins-Conner of Oceanside, California, Conner's granddaughter, has me booklet, Something Wrong (1896); Sermons by J. G. Conner; and most of Is Missionary Baptist Church the Church of Christ? She also has Conner's diary listing many of the places he preached and how the brethren paid him.)

J. G. Conner was not without a suitable help-meet. He married Jennie Crockett of Noland, Arkansas. Her parents had come from Illinois in 1874. The elder Crockett was a relative of Tennessee folk legend and Alamo martyr, Davy Crockett. The editor of the Firm Foundation recognized this wedding and gave it national attention. McGary wrote:

Married at the residence of the bride's father, in Randolph County. Arkansas. June 24, 1888, Bro. J.G. Conner, of Strawberry, Arkansas, to Sister Jennie Crockett. Elder J. M. Lemmons officiating. The young couple have our best wishes for their prosperity and happiness here and hereafter.4 (Austin McGary, "Briefs," Firm Foundation (July IS, 1888):8.)

Three children were born to this happy union: Frankie, Howard, and Lulu. The youngest, Lulu, was only one year old when her father died. In the winter of-1895, J. G. Conner became ill but continued traveling by horseback and preaching until his health failed. Three months before his death, he canceled all outstanding appoinunents for meetings. He said, "It pains me to have to do this, but I find that I cannot hold out to preach. It is quit or die."5 (5 J. G. Conner, "Current Comment," Christian Preacher (Oct. 21, 1896):1.)

James Grant Conner died January 18, 1897, at the young age of33. His wife commented: "It was hard to give him up, but he is done suffering
and gone to rest." He was a Christian husband and father, never angry or complaining, always happy and loving. A bro. Harris made a short talk at the Maynard, Arkansas, cemetery, read Job 14, and sang, "Asleep in Jesus."

While his gravesite remains unmarked, J. G. Conner certainly made his mark on behalf of New Testament Christianity in Northeast Arkansas. He was honored posthumously by having his picture appear along with many notable preachers in D. S. Ligon's, "Portraiture of Gospel Preachers," published in 1899. In addition, J. G. Conner's nephew, Thomas L. "Lakie" Conner (the son of Ephraim Conner, J.G.'s brother), preached in Northeast Arkansas throughout his lifetime, as has his son, Marshall Conner. Furthermore, J.G.'s grandson, Jerry Collins, Lulu's Conner Collins' son, now preaches for the Noland, Arkansas, Church of Christ.

-Dr. Michael L. Wilson, Arkansas Christians:A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph County, Arkansas 1800-1995, c.1997, Delight: Gospel Light Publishing Co., pages 173,174.

J G Conner Is Dead

-----I called at the office this evening and the postmaster gave me a bundle of mail. One letter was colored on the margin in black----a color all the world has chosen as a sign of sorrow. It contained the sad news of Bro J G Conner's death, which occurred 13 January 1897. He had la grippe in the winter of 95 and contracted a cough from which he never recovered. Bro Conner had become well known throughout the South and West by his writings. He was born in the state of Tenn., October 8, 1863 and was baptized by J P McConnell, 18 March 1882. He preached his first sermon on his birthday of the same year, being only 19 years of age. 

He had the following pamphlets published: (1) "Is the Missionary Baptist Church the Church of Christ?" (2) "My reasons for not being a Methodist" and (3) "Something Wrong."

The books have all reached a large scale and are well worth the price. The first can be had for 10 cents each, or a dollar per dozen. The two last can be bought at 5 cents each or fifty cents per dozen. Address: Mrs J G Conner, Noland, Ar. Dear reader, If you could read the letter I have before me from Sister Conner, you would be moved not only to buy some of the books , but to give her a liberal donation besides. 

Bro. Conner became associate editor of the Gospel Echo, published at Dardenelle, Ark in the year 1892. At his death he was editor of the first page of the Christian Preacher. He has contributed many well-written articles to the Firm Foundation and other religious papers after the primitive order. He was recognized by all as an able preacher and writer. He was a good speaker and manifested great zeal in trying to get the truth before the world. He was a pointed and forcible writer and it was a ------------ (can't make out the word) feature of his sermons to be marked with great earnestness and perspicuity. He seldon, if ever, would drop a thread of logic to soar on wings of oratory. I have heard many able debaters, but I recognized J G Conner as the best I ever heard. He was so pointed and concise in presenting his arguments, and was so earnest, that he invariably carried conviction to the hearts of all honest persons present.

He was married to Jennie Crockett, 24 June 1888. One page of her letter before me on the table reads as follows: "In all our married life, I never knew him to be mad. He was always kind and loving, and in all of his sickness he never mummered. Bro Harris made a short talk at the grave and read Job 14, after which he sang Asleep In Jesus. 

It was hard to give him up, but he is done suffering and gone to rest." 

Indeed, it is hard to give up our dear dead. Death seems like a cold and barren peak between two eternities. We stand at the grave and hear the clods falling on the coffin lid and then in heart-rendering grief we cry aloud, but we hear no response save the echo of our wailing cry. One by one we cross over the sea. There is a home of everlasting joy and feliticy where we will meet to part no more. Bro's Conner's life seemed all to short, but the Lord knows best. Let us hope to meet him some sweet day. 
Bynum Black, Oconee, Ark.

Transcribed from family records of his daughter, Lula Conner Collins. The records show that James G Conner was buried at Maynard Cemetery. James G was the son of Miles M & Martha (Peacock) Conner. He has no tombstone.
There has been speculation by some that James was buried at Chesser Cemetery based on the fact that his wife Jennie is buried there. However, family records have shown that speculation to be in error.

-Source - Find-A-Grave

Directions To The Grave of J.G Conner

The small town of Maynard, Arkansas lies in the northern part of the state, a few miles north of Pocohontas. Head north out of Pocohontas on Hwy. 115. Go into Maynard and turn right on Hwy. 328. Heading out of town you will come to the cemetery on the left. Enter the cemetery and bear to the right. As you begin curving back to the left again, stop and enter the lot to your left, and look for red colored monuments. See photos below to assist.

GPS Location
36.420562, -90.889930

No Grave Marker Is Extant

Cemetery Visit 11.14.2014
Webpage Produced 02.18.2015 
Courtesy of Scott Harp

*Special thanks to Tom L. Childers and Charlie Wayne Kilpatrick for assisting in the burial location. They, along with your web editor, took a trip into northern Arkansas to find the graves of gospel preachers of yesteryear in November, 2014. We traveled together three days and located the final resting places of nearly forty preachers and their families. It was a great trip. Many of the personalities we researched were chronicled in Boyd E. Morgan's book, Arkansas Angels, or later in Dr. Michael L. Wilson's book, Arkansas Christians: A History of the Restoration Movement in Randolph County, 1800-1995.

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