History of the Restoration Movement

Guryn Emerson Sweeney


George E. Sweeney (sic)
Kentucky, 1807-1899, Kentucky

Was the father. He came to Illinois in 1855. His first work was with the Berean and Scottville Churches, in Macoupin County, then at Barry. Returning to Scottville in 1861, he evangelized for five years in the counties of Macoupin, Sangamon, Alorgan and Green. His last pastorate, which closed in the spring of 1868, was at Kansas.

In his funeral discourse at the obsequies of Mr. Sweeney, at Paris, Ky., May 25, 1899, Pres. C. L. Loos said: ''Our good Father above gave to our brother unusual vigor of body and mind up to a high degree. It was providentially a munificent inheritance from the sturdy Scotch-Irish stock of his ancestors; his father died one hundred years old. Doubtless, his thirst for knowledge, his keen interest in things worthy of a human soul, kept ahve his intellectual and even his bodily vigor. Some men die in the outer, because they die in the inner, man; they have lost the life of the soul. Internal often begets external decrepitude.

"And his entire rich and strong life, devoted to the greatest cause on earth—the kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. For seventy-one years he was a minister of the Word of life. What a record is this in the life of a man! The first year he was a Baptist preacher, a good prelude to the seventy years devoted to the mighty plea for the complete restoration of apostolic Christianity."

Mr. Sweeney's wife was his equal in native endowments of mind, with which she combined a very sweet and gracious disposition.

The Sweeney Family

The labors of the Sweeney family have been varied and versatile and are as deeply enshrined in the affections of the Church of Christ as any other family connected with it.

 Charles Sweeney emigrated from the north of Ireland about the year 1750 and settled in the state of Virginia, Buckingham county, where he erected a mill upon Slate River which bears his name to the present day. He lived there during the stormy period of the Revolutionary War, in which his eldest son, Charles, was a soldier. In the year 1786, his son, Job, removed to the state of Kentucky and settled near Crab Orchard Springs. The family were all Baptists and Job became a preacher late in the Eighteenth century. Shortly after the birth of his children, Job Sweeney removed to Liberty, the county seat of Casey county, where he divided his time between hotel keeping and preaching for nearly half a century. In January, 1807, his son, G. E. Sweeney, was born, and before he was twenty years of age, entered the ministry of the Baptist church, in which he continued for only a year, when the great rent was made between the Baptists who pleaded for the Word of God alone as a guide and those who stood for human creeds, Job Sweeney and his son, G. E. Sweeney, decided for New Testament Christianity. Job Sweeney was a preacher of the simple gospel for fifty years afterwards, and G. E. Sweeney for three score years and ten, preaching his last sermon at Paris, Kentucky, a few months before his death in that city.

 At twenty-one years of age, G. E. Sweeney was married to Talitha Campbell and as a result, nine children were born unto them; five daughters and four sons. The four sons all entered the ministry and the five daughters became prominent workers in the church.

 The eldest son, W. G. Sweeney, at an early age emigrated to Western Illinois and spent most of his life in that state and in Iowa. As his picture shows, he was a massive man and one of great personal force. He was frequently likened, in his personal appearance and manner, to Stephen A. Douglas the "little giant" in the political world at that time. Having large fiscal interests, W. G. Sweeney was never able to devote his entire time to the ministry, though he held several successful ministries at such places as Dubuque, Iowa, Winchester, Illinois, Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Hannibal, Missouri. He was a most fiery and impassioned speaker and charmed by his personal magnetism. He was appointed Collector of Customs, at Dubuque., Ia., by President Cleveland, which position he occupied at the time of his death, in February, 1897.

 J. S. Sweeney began his ministry also in Western Illinois and soon developing great logical force and power, was put forth by the Church of Christ as its representative in more than one hundred public discussions with the representatives of other religious bodies. He was naturally of a very peaceful disposition and not at all belligerent but when his brethren sounded the call for duty or when aroused to his full force by the strength of his antagonist, woe betide the man who came within the circle of his sword-stroke. His keen eye penetrated through all sophistries and subtleties and fastened upon the real truth in all issues and continuously and mercilessly was this held forth in discussion. While his satire was always harmless, it was keen in the extreme, and always resulted in the confusion of his antagonist. John Sweeney met every form of opposition to his faith from that of the baldest atheism and materialism through the milder forms of universalism and unitarianism down to the gentler and subtler forms of opposition in modern sectarianism. In addition to his work as a debater, he was a powerful evangelist, and could appeal to the emotional in his hearers in a marvelous degree. He was also a successful minister and held ministries at Winchester and Lincoln, Illinois, and at Chicago and Cincinnati during the early period of his ministry. For thirty years past he has been the faithful and beloved minister of the church at Paris, Kentucky, which has more than doubled in membership and all other forms of prosperity under his labors. He holds probably first place in the church for a long continuous ministry. He is at present Postmaster at Paris, respected and loved by all who know him.

 The third son was George W., who graduated from Eureka College in the year 1869, and settled at Charles City, Iowa, where he conducted his first successful ministry. He afterwards moved to Kentucky and became minister of the church at Millersburg and from there he was called to the ministry of Jefferson Street church in Louisville, Kentucky. His ministry at the latter place was greatly blessed with visible results and his name is honored and revered among the membership of that church to the present time. From Louisville, he went to the City of Chicago, succeeding O. A. Burgess as minister of the Twenty-fifth and Indiana Avenue church, where he held a ministry of several years, which was also very fruitful. After a short ministry in the City of New Orleans, he was called to Memphis, Tennessee, as minister of the Linden Street church, which was greatly prospered during his labors with it. While acting as minister at Memphis, he was called to Oakland, California, where he has resided for the last eighteen years. He filled an active ministry at Oaklandfor nine years, at the end of which time his arduous labors told so upon his physical health as to produce nervous breakdown and he was forced to resign and spend a year or two abroad. He returned to Oakland and resumed his labors but it soon developed that his restoration was only partial and he bid a final farewell to the ministry of the Oakland church and since that time has devoted himself to occasional preaching, lecturing and public addresses, for which he is most eminently fitted. His mind is philosophical rather than logical or rhetorical, and yet he is an orator of the highest grade. Few public speakers exercise a more powerful influence on their auditors than Geo. W. Sweeney, and it is to be greatly regretted that his ill health has prevented his constant exercise of his splendid abilities.

Z. T. Sweeney, the youngest member of the family, began his ministry at Paris, Illinois, and during the first year of his ministry 225 were added to the Paris church and those in the immediate neighborhood. During his ministry at Paris, the church, which had been begun, was completed and dedicated. From Paris he was called to Columbus, Indiana, where he still lives. He was minister of the Church of Christ for twenty-seven years, during which time 3,600 people have been added to that one congregation and when he left its active ministry it had grown from a church of two hundred to a church of twelve hundred members; he is still minister emeritus. Mr. Sweeney has also held short ministries—two in Augusta, Georgia and one at Richmond, Virginia. These have been only temporary, however, but were fruitful of great results. He is also an evangelist of great power. He held twenty-two protracted meetings in the City ofColumbus while he was minister of that church, each averaging six weeks in duration and over two thousand people were added during these twenty-two meetings. He has also held meetings in Baltimore, Maryland, Buffalo, New York, Augusta, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia, and Nashville, Tennessee, which have been very fruitful both in additions and other scriptural results. He has also dedicated 166 churches and has never called for all amount of money which was not made up in response to the call but once. He spends his time at present in holding meetings and in dedicating churches. He devotes a portion of each winter to lecturing upon the public platform and his entire time for years has been taken by the Redpath Lyceum Bureau of Boston, Mass. He is placed in their catalogue in an honor list of six or seven "universal favorites," holding this place along with such men as Russell Conwell, Thos. Dixon, Prof. J. B. DeMotte and three or four others. In addition to his labors as a Christian minister and lecturer, he has for ten or fifteen years held prominent State and Government positions. His ability as a campaign orator has often induced the political party with which he is affiliated to attempt to put him forward as a candidate both for Congress and for the Governorship of his adopted state, but he has steadily turned a deaf ear to all these solicitations and declares that he will never accept in elective office, believing it would interfere with his usefulness as a minister of the gospel. The secret of his success lies in the fact that he knows what he desires to do and then does it. He believes that the world gets out of the pathway of a man who knows where he is going. He has always been a power in his own community and is best loved where he is best known.

     The father of all these boys, G. E. Sweeney, was a great revivalist. Endowed with a magnetic disposition and soul responsive to all that was good, and a musical voice, his power in sermon and song was equally effective. Thousands have bowed to the sway of the blessed Lord under his persuasive teachings. He was always a man of peace and though born in the South was a natural Abolitionist, removing his children from the state of Kentucky long before the war that they might have the blessings of an education away from the blighting curse of slavery. All his sons have been men with clear cut and sharply defined ideas. They have always, had something to say and were neither ashamed nor afraid to say it. People have often gone away from their ministry without agreeing with them, but they have always made it impossible for intelligent people to say, "I did not understand him."

-John T. Brown, Churches of Christ, c.1904, pages 463-466

Millennial Harbinger Report

-News From The Churches, Millennial Harbinger, 1854, page 174

Directions To The Burial Site of the Sweeneys

The Sweeneys are buried in the cemetery at Paris, Kentucky. Heading northeast out of Lexington on the Paris Pike. (Hwy.27/68). As you enter from the south end of town, look for a white wall on the left that looks like the front of a castle. This is the entrance into the cemetery. Enter the cemetery past the offices and stay to the right. The road will dead end (no pun intended!). Turn to the right, and right back to the left. Then proceed toward the rear of the cemetery counting to the third left turn. Just before the third left turn, stop the car. Up on the rise to the left is the Sweeney plot. At least three generations of Sweeneys are buried there, G.E.'s son J. S. Sweeney, and four grandchildren, two of which were preachers, W. E. Sweeney, and E.S. Sweeney.

GPS Coordinates
38°12'14.1"N 84°15'52.9"W
or D.d. 38.203917,-84.264700

Paris Cemetery Entrance

The Sweeney Plot

G.E. Sweeney Plot in Foreground

The G.E. Sweeneys In The Upper Right Area Of The Section

Talitha Campbell, wife of Guyrn Emerson Sweeney - 1809-1899

Guryn Emerson, Son of Job & Sallie Edwards Sweeney - 1807-1899

History Home

History Index Page