Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Alfred Ellmore
Indiana produced its share of good preachers. There was Horace Hinds, godly, unassuming, and thoroughly dedicated to Christ.23 There was Thad Hutson, whom J. C. Meyers described as a "pious, unassuming young man, resembling President Lincoln very much."24 There was E. C. Denny, "the giant killer of southern Indiana," and Frank and Will Ellmore. None, however, exceeded Alfred Ellmore in length of ministry and powerful impact.
Few men have ever loved their chosen life as much as Ellmore loved his, in spite of the hardships connected with it. He always wanted to be a preacher from his earliest days and when one arose to speak, Ellmore, as a young lad, could hardly "contain himself." Born August 11, 1838, near Owl Prairie in southern Indiana, he saw his first light of day in a log cabin, the eighth of ten children. He attended the neighborhood log-cabin school where he seldom saw a blackboard or a grammar book but did see numerous switches. His parents were born into the Quaker faith, but in the quest for divine truth they became New Light Baptists until they heard the full gospel. Few men in the Indiana wilderness knew the Bible like Eleazor, Alfred's father.
Alfred seemed destined to be a preacher. When he was grown, his older brother said to him, "Owing to blood and the influence upon our mother, made by preaching of the gospel by the most powerful preachers of that day, just prior to your birth, you were born a preacher." Alfred added, "Owing to my father's prayers." A strange feeling swept Alfred as a boy when he heard the story of a dream by a devout Methodist woman on the street in the small town where they lived. She dreamed that the Savior came to Eleazor Ellmore and said, "I want one of your boys to go and preach." In the fantasy Alfred had replied, "My two brothers are gone from home, and I am here alone with my parents." At that point in the dream Alfred's mother had spoken up, "Alfred, if the Savior wants you to go preach, go. Father and I will get along somehow." Finally, in the dream, Alfred had put on his hat and went with his Savior 25 Whether Alfred as a youth viewed this fantasy as an omen is difficult to say. However, he knew as others did, that someday he would be a preacher.
The Civil War was grinding to a close when Alfred went to an Academy five miles south of Frankfort, Indiana, and made his first effort to speak. It was the third Sunday of March 1865 when the twenty-seven years old Alfred stood up "with fear and trembling" to address people whom he had known from his birth.26 He had been baptized eight years before, and years later, regretted that he had not started this earlier:
I have no
desire to live again in this world only that I might do more good than I have
done. Instead of being immersed at nineteen, I would go into the church at
fifteen, and instead of waiting until twenty-seven, I would enter the ministry
at twenty, and I would preach, yes sir. If I were the son of a rich man, I
would preach. If I were the son of a poor man I would preach. If too poor to
make a living, and the brethren did not support me, I would work on the bench,
in the field, in the garden, in the school room, and then preach as I had
opportunity. I might keep some cows and some chickens, but I would preach the
gospel. If I were in age and became a bishop, I would go out during the week
into destitute places and preach the gospel... for forty three years I have
been a busy man . . . and I am still able and willing and anxious to preach the
gospel of Christ.27
Ellmore's childhood home life, though materially sub-standard, was spiritually idyllic, and it contributed greatly to his insatiable desire for the ministry. "Though my childhood home was very humble," he once wrote, "yet if I could have my parents and my brothers and sisters return, I would prefer that home to the finest mansions with the most costly furnishings. Our diet was plain but sumptuous, our apparel was something patched and in a house rude and open, in winter we sometimes almost suffered, but O, the tender love . . . "28 Years later, after explaining this boyhood desire, Ellmore wrote,
And having walked under the burning sunshine for half a century, I find
that my springtime is passing away, and my summer is ended, and the world has
few charms for me. My whole life has been one of toil, the few sweets from the
well of salvation have been sufficient to keep my spirit refreshed, while the
adverse winds have not ceased to blow which 1 suppose have been a help rather
than a hindrance to me . . . 29
He explained that he could truly say, "the Lord is my Shepherd." He had learned to care little what others had said against him, "and were it not for the hope of benefiting our poor humanity, I sometimes think I would like to enter some quiet vale and there spend my time unto the winter of death . . ."
As a young minister, Ellmore loved all preachers almost to veneration. His favorite was Ben Franklin, editor of the American Christian Review. When a young man, Ellmore spent three hours with Franklin in a restaurant in Indianapolis. When they separated, Franklin took his hand and said, "Brother Ellmore, do all the good you can and no harm." Ellmore said later, "That admonition went through me like a dart. 30 As the years passed, he noted that older preachers were not given large audiences, and that Franklin lost his popularity and was called only to speak in rural districts and to small audiences.31
Few preachers ever gave to their work more tireless devotion than Ellmore. In 1901, he turned his paper, the Gospel Echo, over to the Gospel Advocate and began a column called "Silver Chimes." He mused that he had been in the ministry thirty-six and one-half years and that during these times he had preached three times every Sunday, and often four. Though he was now past sixty-three years of age, he still averaged speaking fourteen times a week and carried a heavy correspondence for the papers, yet he was seldom overly-tired. "I have reduced my work to a system and find plenty of time for it all. I am often asked why I make such efforts, and my reply usually is: `I believe the Bible statements regarding rewards and punishment in the future for actions in this life, and I shall not return here to correct mistakes or to put in one hour of misspent time.’”32 That spring he traveled to Oklahoma Territory where S. W. York heard him and remarked,
. . I have never known a man of stronger faith or more untiring zeal in the
cause of the Master. His presentations of the gospel in his sermons are always
plain and forcible, and his love for the truth causes him to go among all
classes, from those who dwell in the humble cottage to the inhabitants of lofty
mansion, carrying the unsearchable riches of Christ.33
Ellmore's book, Sermons and Reminiscences was published in 1914, W. J. Brown
took a special interest since he had heard Ellmore deliver the first sermon in
the book in Belmont, Illinois, in 1892. Brown reflected nostalgically, "he
presents the gospel facts in a way that is simple, striking, true and mostly
original and interesting . . . I believe it will do much good in showing the
people the plain way of salvation, and extend his influence for good, long after
his work for the Master is done.”34
Ellmore found little ease in his chosen field of labor. "For forty-five years," he once said, "I have been a teacher in the field, and no days were too cold, no nights too dark, roads never too bad for me to go if any other man could go. And while on some occasions I have been liberally rewarded, on many I have labored for twenty-five, ten or fifteen cents per day and for hundreds of days I have not received a penny a day. I am now two hundred miles from home preaching in a sectarian house, and there is not one member in the neighborhood and but one man to look to for aid, and it is desired that we continue indefinitely. "35 Earlier, he had written:
The winter was bitter cold–too severe to be successful. It was not a
pleasant duty for a man of 66 to travel in sleet, mud, and ice, warm up cold
beds, eat irregularly and often such diet as does not suit the digestion of one
already injured by such viands, etc. But the worst feature of all is, the
churches are almost dead–some entirely lost in the weeds–and, of course;
there is very little reward, earthly, among such people. For twenty years I have
been urging the people to establish the worship and press every able man and
woman to be present and do their duty every first day and support faithful men
and send them into the wilderness to preach the gospel to the lost . . .36
In working out his own private
philosophy of life Ellmore sought Christian magnanimity; he would thus avoid
personal pettiness. "It is a thousand times better that we pass an insult
by than to resent it," he once said. "If we stop to quarrel, we make a
greater enemy of him who would injure us and becloud our own pathway, whereas,
if we pass the enemy unnoticed, he may become ashamed and confess his wrong. Let
us do good for evil. No man is yet a perfect Christian, who will not do
this."" Whether in personal relations or in public speaking he placed
the highest emphasis upon love. "After having preached for more than fifty
years, and to almost every grade and class of society, I am now fully convinced
that one great element in order to success is kindness. Shall we undertake to
reform the drunkard by tearing down his house? Let us be firm, but very
As age approached, Ellmore sought to extend his labors into the warmer climate of Texas. In March 1907 he went to Gunter for an evangelistic effort and met N. L. Clark and "learned of the true greatness of the man," he explained.39 He returned early the next year to spend five months with the Gunter Bible College during which time he was ill with a severe affliction. Now, he began to shuttle back and forth between Texas and his home in Covington, Indiana.
In January 1911 he came to
work in Austin where he labored with the church in the eastern part of the city
and often in tent meetings. After preaching to a large body of university
students late in January on "The Church-Origin, Organization and
Work," Showalter wrote, "Brother Ellmore is a preacher, in my
judgment, worthy of the work. "40
He returned to Covington in the spring and then back to Austin in September
where, when the train arrived, almost the whole church was waiting for him. He
noted the change of weather from Indiana where it was "damp and
pleasant" to Texas where it was "very dry and hot-almost beyond
endurance."42 Resuming his work in the Southwest, Showalter
noted, "Brother Ellmore is loved and appreciated by the whole church. In
most large cities not one in one hundred bear the gospel in its primitive
simplicity. Austin is trying to change this,"42 By early 1912 J.
D. Tant visited Austin and found "old brother" Ellmore, he said, hard
at work preaching from house to house and delivering five to six sermons per
week. "If reports be true," Tant added, "Brother Ellmore is one
of the best personal workers in the church of Christ today."43
In the summer of 1912 he was back in Covington where T. J. Jackson saw him after
several years and "studied with delight the young spirit encased in the
aged body . . ." Ellmore remarked to Jackson that he lived on a beautiful
street and Jackson placed his hand on his shoulder and said, "yes, brother,
it is a very nice street, but there is one more beautiful awaiting us over
there. "44 There was, however, no rest yet, for a year later, he
returned to Texas where he replaced Clark as president of Gunter Bible College.
West, “Horace Hinds: Glorious In Obscurity,” Gospel Advocate, CIV (Apr. 19,
Myers, "Briefs Here And There,” Christian Leader, XIV (July 24, 1900), 4.
Showalter, "Alfred Ellmore," Firm Foundation XXVIII (Mar. 26, 1912), 2.
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Christian Leader, XXVIII (Apr. 20, 1915),
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXIV (Sept. 1, 1908), 4.
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXX (Aug. 18, 1914), 1.
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXVII (Oct. 10, 1911, 1
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXIX (Oct. 21, 1913), 1.
Ellmore, “Notes,: Gospel Advocate, XLIV (Jul 10, 1902), 443.
Ellmore, “Silver Chimes,” Gospel Advocate, XLIII (Oct. 24, 1901), 683.
York, “Oklahoma Territory,” Gospel Advocate, XLIII (Apr. 11, 1901), 237.
Brown, “Items Of Passing Interest,” Christian Leader, XXIX (Feb. 23, 1915),
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXV (Nov. 9, 1909), 1.
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXI, (Apr. 11, 1905), 6.
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXVII (July 11, 1911),
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Christian Leader And The Way, XX (Feb.
13, 1906), 4.
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXVII (Mar. 7, 1911), 1.
Showalter, “Austin Brethren,” Firm Foundation, XXVII (Feb. 7, 1911),
Ellmore, “Wheat and Chaff,” Firm Foundation, XXVII (Oct. 3, 1911), 1.
Showalter, “Austin Is Helping Herself,” Firm Foundation, XXVII (Dec.
5, 1911), 2.
43J.D.Tant, “The Church of Christ At Austin, Texas,” Firm Foundation, XXVIII (Jan.
16, 1912), 5.
& Notes, “The Cincinnati Mission,” Gospel Advocate, L (May 14,
–The Search For The Ancient Order, Volume III,
Earl Irvin West, Religious Book Service, Indianapolis, Indiana, pages 192-196
The information above is an excerpt from a volume of one of the foremost
historians among the Restoration Movement, Earl I. West. In Volume III of the
series, Search For The Ancient Order, the events surrounding the turn of the 20th
century are discussed in depth. This excerpt is reproduced above with his
footnotes that appear here as endnotes, the numbers being as they appeared in
the book. For further information on other people and events in the R.M., this
series is a must for the serious student of the Restoration History. Special thanks
is extended to Terry J. Gardner of Indianapolis, Indiana for supplying information of the final resting place of Alfred Ellmore.
contributed by Terry J. Gardner, July, 2012
Covington Minister Called To Reward
Rev. Alfred Elmore, 87, one of the best known ministers and evangelists in the middle west, died at his home here early Friday, from the infirmities of age and the effects of a fall about a week ago, when he suffered a broken hip.
He was born at Frankfort Aug. 11, 1838 and was a minister of the Church of Christ for approximately sixty years. He had resided in Covington for thirty years, during which time he held many pastorates and held revival services in nearly every state in the union. He at one time held considerable property in and about Covington, most of it being converted into cash before his death.
He was united in marriage to Elizabeth Bogan, Nov. 7, 1859. She died here Nov. 5, 1906 and on August 18, 1907, he was united in marriage to Martha Brown, of Texas, who survives. Surviving also are Will and Frank, of Covington and Mrs. Della Elston, of Louisiana.
Funeral services were held at the Seventh street Church of Christ Sunday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock in charge of Rev. M.J. Elston, a son-in-law. Burial in Mt. Hope cemetery.
-Covington Republican, Vol. LI, No. 2 (18 December 1925): 1.; Special thanks to Terry J. Gardner for making this news item available.
Alfred Ellmore was born near Frankfort, Indiana, on Aug. 11 1838; died at his home in Covington, Indiana Dec. 11, 1925. He was the son of Eleazar and Ratchel Elliott Ellmore, being the eighth child of a family of ten children.
He grew up under very strict religious training, his father being a religious teacher in his family, and the theme of his instruction was the work and worship of the Lord as taught and practiced by Christians and churches in New Testament times.
A very common saying with his father was: "My son, let the New Testament settle every question of religious faith and practice with you," and to this we all know he strenuously adhered to the last. He obeyed the gospel at the age of nineteen years, and soon after began to take part in the public worship of the church.
He was an excellent singer, and from leading the song service, he soon began to pray and exhort in public. He began his ministerial work on the second Sunday in March, 1865, taking for his theme at that time, "The Unity of Christians," and to this end he worked until God called him home.
His labors were widely known, having preached from coast to coast and from the Gulf of Mexico to Georgian bay, also on board ship on the Atlantic ocean, his converts numbering over 8,000.
He published a number of books and tracts on religious subjects, and was, for several years, editor of "The Echo," a religious journal published at Covington, Indiana. He was also, for ten years, president of Gunter Bible college, at Gunter, Texas.
On Nov. 17, 1859 the subject of this sketch was united in marriage to Elizabeth Bogan, who died Nov. 5, 1906. Seven children were born of this union: Austin, Della (now the wife of B.J. Elston) William, Frank, Anna (who, at the time of her death was Mrs. Josiah Laney) Olive and Bert J. Ellmore. Austin, Anna, Olive and Bert have all passed to the other side.
Mr. Ellmore was married the second time on August 18, 1907, to Mrs. Mattie A. Brown of Salem, Indiana, who, for the past eighteen years, has been his helper, sharing his joys and sorrows, cheering him in shadow and sunshine and caring for hime, as no other could have done, to the end.
He leaves besides the faithful wife, two sons, William and Frank both of Covington, one daughter, Mrs. Elston of Carson, La., fifteen grandchildren and five great-grand-children, also many other relatives and numberless friends. "Blessed" are the dead who die in the Lord."
-Covington Republican, Vol. LI, No. 2 (18 December 1925): 3. Special thanks to Terry J. Gardner for making this news item available.
Directions To Grave
Mt. Hope Cemetery
From Indianapolis, Indiana you take Interstate 74 to the west. It is about a one hour drive. You take the Covington exit (exit #8 which also means it is eight miles from the Indiana - Illinois border. Turn right (north) as you exit the interstate onto South Meridian Avenue. The Mt. Hope cemetery is about two miles north of the interstate and is on both sides of the road. Alfred Ellmore is buried on the west side of the road (to a drivers left as he is heading north toward Covington). Enter the south entrance and wind around to the south-west corner of the cemetery. Stop the car and look notice that Ellmore's grave is in the sw corner of the cemetery. When searching for his son, William's grave, remember it is on the same side of the road, but at the north end. See his page and directions here.
In June, 2009 Tom L. Childers, C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Scott Harp traveled about 3000 miles in one week through parts of Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. During this time we found the graves of 75 church leaders in the Restoration Movement. Chronicling these leaders into websites has been time consuming. Many thanks to Tom and Wayne in helping to take photos, share the driving, and putting up with your web master's slave-driving effort to see as many as we did in the time we had. Their photos as well as some of mine are seen on this site.