John Mannon Lemmons
John M. Lemmons – (1816-1898)1 (1 An article on this subject appears in Boyd Morgan's, Arkansas Angels, pp. 1-2.) The indefatigable and zealous John M. Lemmons (so described by William Lipscomb)2 (2 "Church News." Gospel Advocate (Feb. 1856):63.) was not the first Christian preacher in Northeast Arkansas, but his long tenure, from about 1851 until 1898, makes him one of the most significant figures in the history of the Arkansas Restoration Movement.
Lemmons was born in Virginia (in 1816). He moved with his family to Warren County, Tennessee, where he was living in 1844, when he was ordained a minister of the gospel by order of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. 3 (3 Marriage Record B, p. 15, Lawrence Co., Arkansas, recorded Sept. 9, 1852. The document reads: "Lemmons. John Elder License as Preacher" "To all whom it may concern—This is to cenify that the Bearer hereof, Elder John Lemmons was duly ordained a minister of this the Gospel of Jesus Christ, agreeable to holy Scriptures, And the rules of the Baptist Church. Taken from them Sacred oracles. This ordination was performed at Pleasant Grove Meeting House. Warren County State of Tennessee, on Saturday the 17th day of August 1844, by and with the Consent of his Brethren R. A. Frost, William Thompson, William McGaha. John Willock Presbytery" (Filed and recorded Sept. 9. 1852. Smithville, Lawrence County, Arkansas.) This information was a complete surprise to Reuel Lemmons, late and lamented editor of the Firm Foundation, and well known international preacher and descendant of J.M. Lemmons. (See: Letter to Boyd Morgan. Aug. 11, 1977, in author's possession). Shortly thereafter he and his wife, Barbara, and their four children: Mancen B. (b. 1838/39); John Thompson (b. 1839/41): Richard Mannon (b. 1842/43); and, Amos Josephus (b. 1843), moved to Iowa where Sarah Emmeline was born (about 1846). One year later the family returned to Tennessee where Caleb Gilley (b. 1847) and James S. (b. 1850) were born. Both William Peyton (b. 1853/55) and Margaret (b. 1859/60) were born in Arkansas. When the family appeared in Arkansas in the early 1850s (probably 1851), Lemmons was an able advocate of the principles of the Restoration Movement.
He first settled in Independence County where he established the Blue Springs Church. 4 (4 W. F. Lemmons, "W. H. Tomlinson, Gospel Advocate (April 10, 1930):360.) Although he moved to Lawrence County (now Sharp County) soon afterwards (and then to Randolph County), he preached throughout the area. The first public report of Lemmons' efforts in Arkansas appeared in an 1855 Gospel Advocate, where he indicated the favorable results of his preaching at sites in Northeast Arkansas.5 (5 Particularly at Steep Bank in Lawrence County and on Sullivan's Creek, J. M. Lemmons, "Church News," Gospel Advocate (Dec. 1855): 190.) Later that year he and Daniel Rose were selected to labor as evangelists for 1856 by a district cooperation meeting chaired by J. M. Lemmons and held at the Blue Springs Church. 6 (6 J. R. Reeves, "Co-operation in Arkansas," Gospel Advocate (Jan. 1856):30.)
During 1856 Lemmons was recognized as a busy preacher by the editors of the Gospel Advocate, William Lipscomb and Tolbert Fanning.7 (7 '"Church News, Gospel Advocate (Feb. 1856):63.) That year Lemmons preached in many protracted meetings and signed the ministerial credentials of James H. Mullinick.8 (8 Marriage Record B, p. 334., Jackson Co. Arkansas, recorded Dec. 8, 1862.) An Arkansas District Cooperation Meeting was hosted by the Steep Bank Church in Lawrence County in October, 1856, and thirteen congregations were represented. Three were from Randolph County: Mud Creek, Glaze Creek and Stony Point. Daniel Rose served as chairman of the meeting and "Lemmons and John Saylors were chosen to labor as evangelists for the ensuing year."9 (9 W.B.F. Treat, Christian Record (April 1857): 123)
Lemmons became generally recognized as the principle laborer in North Arkansas.10 (10 Church News, Gospel Advocate (Feb. 1856):63.) At Blue Springs he added 53 to the believers during three protracted meetings in 1857.11 (11 W.B.F. Treat, "News From The Churches" Christian Record (Jan. 1858): 18-19.) When the fall, 1857, district cooperation meeting was held at the Mill Creek Church in Izard County, Lemmons was once again chosen to serve as the evangelist, along with a relative newcomer, W.B.F. Treat of Yellville, for 1858.12 (12 W.M Barnett, "Cooperation," Gospel Advocate (Dec. 1857):410; and Christian Record (Jan. 1858): 18-19.) Randolph County churches represented at this gathering were Hubble's Creek and Glaze Creek. Lemmons and his family had moved to Hubble Creek (in Randolph County) in the mid 1850s and in 1857 built a meeting house Nearby.13 (13 Reuel Lemmons, "A Little Bit of History," Firm Foundation (Oct. 18, 1966):658, 661.) Much of this anicle is based on oral history and some of it contains erroneous information. But it is generally accurate. According to his own reports, J.M. Lemmons was a resident of Independence County in the fall of 1855 (See: "Church News," Gospel Advocate (Dec. 1855):190).) Not only did J. M. Lemmons preach for this congregation, he also came to serve as one of its elders, along with Cullin Pyland, L. D. Cartwright, Samuel J. Donnell and S. M. Huffstedler.14 (14 Randolph County Book 2, p. 321.) During the next few years Lemmons rode and preached in what was called "the Eastern division of our cooperation" in Arkansas. Helping him were Daniel Rose and preacher Boyd. One writer said, "We can personally testify that the labors of Bros. Rose, Lemmons, and Boyd, are not in vain in the Lord."15 (15 W.B.F. Treat, "Church News," Christian Record (Jan. I, 1860):30.)
As the dark clouds of Civil War began to gather on the Arkansas horizon, people tried to conduct their lives as usual. Lemmons officiated at a marriage in Bird Township in Jackson County,16 (16 4Marriage Record B. p. 317, Jackson Co., Arkansas.) and the fall district cooperation meeting was held at the Antioch Church in Independence County, in late August, 1861. The Hubble Creek Church was represented by J. M. Lemmons and his son, Thompson. The group agreed to raise the necessary money and put J. M. Lemmons and W.B.F. Treat in the field as evangelists during 1862 and scheduled the next year's cooperation meeting for Big Bottom Church.17 (17 Z.W. Vincil, Gospel Advocate (Nov. 1861):304-305.)
On April 14, 1861, the battle at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, was fought, and the long and tragic years of the Civil War began. Arkansas seceded from the Union and joined the newly formed Confederacy in May, 1861.
The crushing waves of the new War finally reached Arkansas, and its people were no longer allowed to live and let live as had been done in the Ante-bellum days of the South. Families were horribly split as father and son, or first one son and then another, went off to fight each other on the bloody fields of battle.
The Lemmons family favored the Northern position and this made living in Confederate-filled Randolph County uncomfortable at best. J. M. Lemmons son, Thompson, took his family and moved to Illinois.18 (18 Dalton, History, p. 313.) Josephus (A.J.) Lemmons, another son, joined the Union Army and fought at Pea Ridge in March, 1862.19 (19 "The Pocahonras Preacher: Amos M. Lemmons, by Tom D. Nuckels, N.D. p. 4.) A monograph prepared for Dr. Jerry Rushford. Pepperdine University, a copy of which is in this writer's possession. Hereafter referred to as Nuckels. Nuckels is a preacher for the Church of Christ and a descendant of J.M. Lemmons.) Apparently, the elder Lemmons felt the War was getting too close to home, so he moved his family (including Josephus) to Johnson County, Illinois, for the duration of the War.20 (20 Nathaniel S. Haynes, History of the Disciples of Christ in Illinois (Cincinnati: The Standard Pub. Co., 1915), p. 239. In Illinois the Lemmons family established a church at Gum Springs (near Vienna), in 1893, formed mostly of southern refugees. After the war the Vienna Church continued but most of the refugees returned to their homes in the South.)
J. M. Lemmons was back in Randolph County, Arkansas. in the summer of 1865. He signed the credentials of James N. Anders, "an elder of the Metroplis. Illinois, Christian Church." and resumed preaching for area churches. In the fall of 1866, Lemmons, William Barnett, and W. B. Hodge held protracted meetings throughout Northeast Arkansas. They organized a congregation at Sulphur Rock in Independence County and found the Hubble Creek Church in Randolph County "alive to the cause of our master."21 (21 William Barnett. "Report from Arkansas," Gospel Advocate (Nov. 27, 1866):767.)
John M. Lemmons continued to travel, attend cooperation meetings22 (22 J.C. Mason, "Searcy, White Co., Arkansas," Christian Standard (Nov. 4, 1871):351.) preach, establish churches,23 (23 Lester G. McAllister, Arkansas Disciples (Lester G. McAllister, 1984), p. 43 McAllister is wrong when he says that Payton (Peyton) Lemmons was involved in establishing congregations before the Civil War. Peyton was not born until ca. 1854. Records clearly show that John M. Lemmons was founder of many churches.) and conduct marriages throughout Northeast Arkansas for the next thirty years. He officiated at the wedding of preacher J. G. Conner to Jennie Crockett at Noland on June 24, 1888.24 (24 "Briefs," Firm Foundation (July 15, 1888):8.) The old soldier of the Cross died in 1898 and was buried in the sainted ground of Lemmons Cemetery in Randolph County.
It is likely that Lemmons assisted every congregation in Randolph County and Northeast Arkansas between 1851 and 1898. Rarely has one man served so many for so long. And his influence and good name will continue well into the third millennium.
-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., page 266-270.
The eldest of the Arkansas Angels (messengers of God's Word) of Northeast Arkansas of whom I can find record, is Brother John M. Lemmons, who was born in Virginia in 1816. He moved with his parents to Warren County, Tennessee in 1818. He married and lived in Warren County until 1851, when he moved to Arkansas, locating first in Independence County. After one year, he moved to Randolph County.
John M. was a preacher of the Church of Christ. I know nothing of his conversion or when he first began preaching, except that for more than forty years he preached the gospel of Christ. He died in 1898 at the age of 82.
In the same year he moved to Randolph County, he and his oldest sons (he was the father of seven sons and two daughters) and two or three neighbors built a log church building on Hubble Creek, one mile south of Birdell, Arkansas. In 1862, during the Civil War, this house burned, and in 1866, Brother Lemmons and others built another on Carter Creek. They retained the name 'Hubble Creek'; however. Brother Lemmons did much to help establish the church in North Arkansas. He served as an elder as well as a preacher.
Two of his sons, Peyton and Josephus, were preachers of great ability, and were among the leading preachers of the Churches of Christ, of North Arkansas and South Missouri. There have been a number of ministers in each generation and a family of descendants of John M. Lemmons.
Brethren Reuel Lemmons and A. G. Lemmons are direct descendants of this grand pioneer preacher.
The Old Hubble Creek meeting house still stands, and the Lemmons go back once a year and hold a reunion on the grounds. It is almost inaccessible. The congregation has moved out to Highway 62 and meets at Birdell. I conducted a gospel meeting (my second) with the Hubble Creek church in the old meetinghouse when I was 18 years old. This was August 1935.
During research, I discovered an article written by W. F. Lemmons, in memory of Brother W.H. Tomlinson who served the church as elder for more than fifty years, and who passed to his reward February 14, 1930, aged 86. The article was in the Gospel Advocate of April 10, 1930, and gives more information on this pioneer preacher of restoration days.
"He (Brother Tomlinson) was baptized during the Civil War, and if my memory serves me correctly, my grandfather baptized him, and later appointed him to the eldership of the Blue Springs Church, a congregation that was established by my grandfather before the Civil War."
Since the Blue Springs Church was in Independence County, it is most likely that Brother Lemmons 'began it there in either 1851 or 1852 when he lived in Independence County for one year. It is evident that he returned there to preach as the above baptizing took place during the Civil War and later the appointment of Brother Tomlinson as an elder was made. Many years later the Blue Springs Church was abandoned, when part of the members established themselves at Magness and part at Newark. The church was a forerunner of the present churches now located at these two places. The article continues:
"Brother Tomlinson was present when a man shot at my grandfather while he was baptizing his wife in the creek near the Blue Springs Church. It is a fact that he later baptized the man who shot at him. These were pioneer days in Northeast Arkansas. Sectarianism had blood in its eyes as it were, and to preach the primitive gospel was the sin against the Holy Ghost with the sects."
The article further stated of Brother Tomlinson that his plainness of speech came both by nature and by the fact that he was taught the truth by my grandfather who always called "a spade a spade."
-Boyd E. Morgan, Arkansas Christians, Second Printing, Paragould: College Bookstore and Press, 1967, pages 1-2.
Picture made in Randoph County in early 1890's. They were identified as follows by
Reuel Lemmons: Back row, L to R: Derenda Smith, sister of Mary Lemmons;
Mary Lemmons, second wife of John Lemmons; John M. Lemmons; Amos M.
Lemmons, his grandson; Josephus A. Lemmons. father of Amos; Mrs. M. J. Wilks
Lemmons, wife of Josephus; Florence Lemmons. eldest daughter of Josephus and
his wife, Mary M. Shelton. Five children shown in front row are also from this
marriage, as was Amos. They are Dora, Abbie. Emma and Frank, (twins) and
Walter, Reuel's father. This picture was probably made in 1892 or 1893.
Directions To The Grave of John M. Lemmons
The Lemmons Family Cemetery is located in the remote country of Northern Arkansas. It is located in the Birdell community in Randolph County. Lemmons Cemetery is located on Lemmons Cemetery Rd., Pocohontas. The GPS: 36.215182, -91.076475. Note: The cemetery is located about a mile from the main road. It is on private farm land and walking is probably the only way to get there. Just park at street and walk in.
or D.d. 36.215182, -91.076475
Photos Taken 11.14.2014
Webpage Produced 02.24.2015
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.