History of the Restoration Movement

Wilkinson C. Huffman


Biographical Sketch On The Life Of W.C. Huffman 

Brother Wilkinson C. Huffman was born in Central, Ky., on May 4, 1802. His parents were German. Circumstances were such that he received only a moderate education, as public schools were not maintained at that time. According to the custom of that age, he was apprenticed to the trade of a blacksmith, and became very skillful in this trade. His early days were spent in hard labor and with a class of people who gave no encouragement to culture or literary pursuits. He formed the habit of working hard and remaining cheerful, and was a jovial companion about his place of business. He inherited a strong physical constitution and keen perceptive powers of mind.

Brother Huffman came on the stage of action at the time of a great religious excitement.  Religious parties were engaged in heated discussions and were accomplishing very little, save the strife which they augmented with each other.  The Cumberland Presbyterian Church came into existence in 1810, when he was eight years old. Religious parties were drifting to and fro without chart or compass. The great question of doctrine between religious parties lay between the extreme Calvinistic type, on the one hand, and Universalism, on the other, and there was much discussion over questions which came between these two great extremes.  Young Huffman soon found himself with the Universalists.  He decided that Universalism was nearer the truth than Calvinism, and he read the Bible to justify his position.

In 1825 he moved from Kentucky to Tennessee and settled in the little village of Cairo, in Sumner County, on the Cumberland River. In 1827 he married Lucy A. Goodall, the daughter of Charles Goodall, a very prominent man of Sumner County. She proved to be a faithful wife and a great help to him through life.  He maintained his belief in Universalism until the autumn of 1836. At this time he examined the teachings of the Bible on this point.  He found that Jesus said: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." He saw at once that the Savior divided all into two classes and that he pointed out the destiny of these two classes. He saw from this statement of the Savior that there would be a future punishment for the wicked, as well as a future reward for the righteous. He further saw that the duration of the punishment of the one class was as long as the duration of the reward for the other class.  Promptly he gave up his belief in Universalism.

His wife's people were all devout members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  When the revival season came on, he sought religion after their custom. He went to the mourner's bench and anxiously sought pardon for his sins in deep grief and earnest prayer.  He remained there for four days and nights, scarcely eating or drinking anything during the time.  He received no comfort, saw no strange sight, and heard no voice which gave him any evidence that he was pardoned.  He became discouraged and turned away from it in disgust. However, he was not willing to abandon all hope; so he turned to the New Testament and began reading the Bible, seeking to know more about what it taught on the redemption of man. He read the prophecies of Jesus and traced their fulfillment in the New Testament. He was convinced that Jesus had lived upon earth and that he was the Savior of man. He concluded that surely God would teach poor mortals how to obtain salvation in Christ.  He read earnestly and prayerfully to find the way of salvation.  He arose from an investigation of the Bible one afternoon and sought a preacher to further instruct him.  He soon found the preacher, but he also found that the preacher did not know as much about the New Testament as he himself had learned. This preacher instructed him to go to the anxious seat and plead for salvation. He turned away from the preacher somewhat discouraged, but still having some hope.  The next morning he determined to visit another preacher and obtain help.  This time he visited an old man by the name of "Wiseman," who was a preacher in the Baptist Church.  He told this Baptist preacher that he wanted to be baptized; that he was penitent of his sins and wanted to obey his Savior. The preacher told him that he was glad of his conversion and that he would have him come before the church at its next meeting and relate his experience as to how he had obtained pardon.  He told the preacher that he had not yet received the remission of sins, but wanted to be baptized "for the remission of sins." This Baptist preacher promptly refused to baptize him and soon dismissed him.

One day, in conversation with a gentleman, he told the condition of his mind and what he wanted to do.  This man told him that a preacher by the name of "John Mulkey" would preach at a certain place not far distant; and he told him further that, from what he had learned of this man, he thought he would baptize him.  When the hour arrived for the preaching, young Huffman was present, and he listened attentively through the lesson.  At the conclusion be demanded baptism, and was baptized that afternoon by John Mulkey. This was in April, 1837. From this time forward he worked faithfully and prayerfully in the vineyard of the Lord. Soon after he became a Christian his brother was killed by a neighbor.  Some months after this the man who had killed his brother obeyed the gospel at the same place where Brother Huffman held his membership.  It was customary for the members of the church to extend the right hand of fellowship to those who obeyed the gospel. Brother Huffman refused to do this that day. He went home and carefully searched the Bible as to his duty.  He went for three days and nights without eating or drinking, and finally came to the conclusion that if God could forgive this man, it was his duty to do so.  So he went to the house of worship, and with trembling steps, tearful eyes, and subdued spirit he went forward and gave the man his hand, saying: "If God can forgive you, I can."  He had conquered himself and was now ready to help others.

He soon began to take part in the worship of the church at his place and gradually developed in the work. It was through his efforts that John T. Johnson and G. W. Elley came to hold a meeting at what is now called "Old Union," in Sumner County. The meeting resulted in many additions to the church, and ever since that time there has been a strong church at Old Union; even today it is numbered as one of the strongest churches in the county.  He preached wherever opportunity was had in the surrounding country. He saved the churches at Hartsville and Union from the confusion which resulted from the speculative doctrine of Jesse Ferguson. He was courageous in his defense of the truth. He did not hesitate to face any foe that attacked the truth which he preached or the church of his Lord.

The War Between the States brought much trouble to the churches.  Many of them were broken up entirely, others were greatly weakened.  After the war closed, Brother Huffman began to labor among the churches, giving all of his time. There was much work to be done in setting the old churches in order and establishing new ones. He did much work in Wilson County, Tenn., laboring with the churches at Bethel, Bethlehem, Silver Springs, Berea, and Bellwood. He also preached in many destitute places of that county.  It was through his efforts that the services of General R.M. Gano were put forth at Lebanon which resulted in building up a strong church in Lebanon.  He labored with the church at Lebanon for several years. His field of labor gradually enlarged, and he traveled and preached much in the counties of Smith, DeKalb, Jackson, and Macon, in Tennessee, and in the southern part of Kentucky.  Wherever he went he strengthened the church, if one was there; and if no church, he usually established one.  He was patient and earnest in his preaching and brought many to Christ. He seldom held a meeting that there were not from fifteen to fifty additions.  He knew only the Bible and preached that. The people were anxious to hear him, and he was anxious to preach the gospel.

The last two years of his ministry were spent with the church at Union City, in West Tennessee, and in the surrounding territory. He labored here, as he had labored all his life, earnestly and faithfully, and he won many souls to Christ in this field and made many friends. His fame as a preacher did not reach as far as some other preachers of the pioneers, yet his labors were as hard and his success as great. He is not known in the brotherhood as are some of the other pioneer preachers, yet his work was as important, and he probably brought more souls to Christ in his limited territory than did others whose praises have been sung and whose memory has been cherished. Brother Huffman was truly a servant of God and worthy of a high tribute from all who love the truth.  The churches in the counties of Sumner, Wilson, DeKalb, Smith, Macon, and Jackson should know that it was largely through the sufferings, sacrifice, and faithfulness of this man of God that they were established.  The younger generation should know that Brother Huffman labored more abundantly in these counties than any other of the pioneer preachers.

Brother Huffman died on February 19, 1880, and was buried in the Goodall Cemetery in Sumner County.  He had a large family of children, and many of his descendants are living today; and they have reason to thank God for such a hero of the faith which has blessed them with such an example in the service of God.

-From Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages 109-114

Huffman Cemetery

The above sketch reports that W.C. Huffman was buried in the Goodall Cemetery in Sumner County. Time has changed the County borders and name of the cemetery. The location of the cemetery is now in Trousdale County, and the name of the cemetery is the Huffman Cemetery, although the Goodall family is still buried there. 

The Huffman Cemetery is located about 30 miles Northeast Of Nashville Tennessee in Trousdale County. Heading east from Gallatin on Highway 25, take Highway 231 North. Go 2.2 miles and turn (L) On Doodles Nest Lane/Crenshaw Road. Go to the first driveway on your left and the cemetery will be in the front yard.

W. C. Huffman
May 4, 1802

February 19, 1880

A Preacher Of 
The Christian Church

"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,
for they rest from their 
labors and their works 
do follow them." 

REV. 14-13

Special Thanks is extended to Dave Miller, descendant of W.C. Huffman. He supplied information about the location of the grave of W.C. Huffman, as well as the sketch scanned from Bole's book on Gospel Preachers.


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