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

Wilkinson C. Huffman

The subject of this sketch was born in Central Kentucky, of German parentage, May 4th, 1802. His father being in moderate circumstances. He received only such an education as could be obtained in the common schools of that day. Early in life he apprenticed to learn the blacksmith's trade, in which he became a very skillful workman. Mr. H. grew up to manhood at labor in his employer's shop. With but little encouragement to literary taste and culture, and with very scanty means to persecute such a thing, if there had been any inducement for it. His habits were formed among the laboring, and jovial companions who frequently his place of business; he was a man endowed with a powerful constitution both physically and mentally, large perspective faculties, strong passions and quick to discern a point. Mr. Huffman grew up to manhood in the time of great religious excitement and discussion, when religious parties were engaged in strife about things of little value. It had been but a few years. Since the Cumberland Presbyterian church had been ushered into existence (1810) by violating the usage of the Old Presbyterian church. About the year of his birth. The religious excitement arose which spread rapidly through the Western country, supposed by many, if not the larger portion of the religious community, to be the effects of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Being a man of strong native intellect and quick decision, great firmness and integrity of purpose, when the time came for deciding upon the subject of religion, putting the confused mass of religious opinions together, and seeing a wide field of speculation upon which parties were drifting to and fro, without chart or compass, and, in which there was every conceivable doctrine taught, from election and reprobation of the strictest Calvinian type, on one hand, to Universalism on the other extreme; he decided, that Universalism to be nearer the truth than the other extreme Calvinism or the more moderate phase of it, Arminianism, which is nothing more than a sugar-coated form of Predestinarianism.

His mind having once settled down as to the right course. With characteristic zeal he set to work to maintain it, with all his powers. He read the Bible with a view of sustaining his theory, and supporting him in his religious course, and quieting him in his sensual enjoyment.

Mr. H. Removed to the state of Tennessee about this time, 1825, and settled in the flourishing little village of Cairo, on the Cumberland river, Sumner county, where he labored at his trade until his marriage, to Lucy A. Goodall, the daughter of Charles Goodall, of Sumner county, Tenn., in the autumn of 1827, who, ever afterwards, was his faithful helpmeet through life, a strong stay and support in the trials of life, and by his kindness of heart, meek and quiet spirit, and gentle words, calming the stormy mind of the strong man when passions threatened to break forth from their proper channel. As in his life. So, in death she was ever ready at his side to soothe, comfort and console him; and only when death separated them, did she yield her place to the kind offices of friends to prepare the body for removal to its resting-place, to await the last morn.

Mr. Huffman maintained his Universalism with more or less pleasure to himself, until the autumn of 1836, at which time he examined the writings of the apostles with more care than usual. His attention was arrested by the language of Jesus in speaking of the final judgment, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into eternal life." Matt. xxv:46. He saw at once, that the righteous and wicked would be separated and have different states; he also perceived that one would have "eternal life," the other with threatened with everlasting punishment. Upon a more careful and candid examination of the subject of the destiny of the two classes, into which Jesus did divided the human family, he was brought to the belief of future punishment, as certain as that of future reward. Having come to this conclusion, he began to cast about him to find the way of the Lord; as to the people who believed in future punishment, it was not difficult to find them on every side, in fact, they constituted the greater portion of the religious community. Seeing this he determined to submit himself to his new found friends to see, if they could lead him to the desired rest and salvation. His father-in-law and family being all members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church. And their revival season approaching, he determined to go forward and secure the pearl of great price, believing he could do so, if they were right, hating and loathing his former sins, and having a great desire to be saved, and live as a child fo God. When the time for the meeting came, and mourners were called for, Mr. H. pressed forward to the anxious seat, where he continued for four days and nights, during their exercises, in deep grief and earnest prayer, that God would have mercy upon him and remove his guilt.

Having received no comfort, nor any voice heard, no strange sight appearing, he came to the conclusion that religious was all a fable and that men were deluded and that the Bible, which he had never doubted before must be a bundle of contradictions and Jewish fables; he then determined to settle the question of its truth. Going home, and taking up his Bible, he began the solemn task of verifying the truth. One proposition would be sufficient for this; if it was false here it would not do to trust and then would perish all fond anticipations and expectations for which his soul anticipations and expectations for which his should yearned so intensely. He selected the proposition that, Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Jews. Did the prophets foretell his coming, the manner of it, his life and death? Beginning with his reference Bible he examined every text concerning Jesus. When he had assembled all the allusion made to him in the prophets, and fulfilled in only one of the evangelists, he arose from his investigation with the thought that Jesus was the most wonderful being of whom he had ever heard. Impressed with his goodness of heart, his kind words of comfort and encouragement and his preaching, his sermons were like any he ever heard from man, in his day, his miracles all perfectly coinciding with what the prophets had foretold concerning him. One question yet remained. It may be that the writers of the New Testament forged this fulfillment. When did the prophets write? The last one finished his prophecy about 400 years before Jesus came. He had learned that one of the kings of Egypt had had the books of the Old Testament translated 250 years before the birth of Christ, and that it had been preserved, so that there was certainly no chance for the apostles and prophets to meet and fabricate the life of Jesus. Besides it was admitted by every one that Jesus did live at the time that the evangelists said he did. Then again, the Pharisees would not have permitted them to have written such a history, and appeal to the prophets as proof, without branding it as a falsehood. Then again, how would the ignorant fishermen maintain the claims of Jesus, without some truth, and how could Jesus and his apostles put forth so pure a system of moral government and maintain it against such fearful odds, when the very foundation was a base falsehood.

Rising from his investigation satisfied, that Jesus was the Savior of man, that he was the Son of God and that he was at the right hand of God as a mediator between God and man, that the Bible was true and that the blessed hope of eternal life was not a fable, but one of the rich gifts of God to those who will love and serve him. He was satisfied that the Bible was not false, but sorrowful because those who had attempted to instruct him has not found the proper way, he resolved to return once more to the meeting: but that he would not do any thing unless the preacher read his instructions from the word of God. On his return to the meeting he took his seat in the assembly again, not going forward to be prayed for when the anxious were called for, and being observed by the preacher and good people of the assembly, it was supposed that he had got religion. It was determined to learn the facts in the case, and one of the preachers came to him to interrogate him, when the following conversation took place:

Preacher. "Well. Mr. Huffman, you are satisfied, I suppose, that yo have got a hope, and that God for Christ's sake has pardoned your sins?"

Mr. Huffman. "Well no, I do not believe he has pardoned me."

P. "Why then don't you come forward to the anxious seat and continue to pray?"

H. "Well, sir, I don't see any use in it. I have tried."

P. "But you must continue, the promise is only to the faithful."

H. "But I have tried as I could, and I know I want my sins pardoned, and God knows it, and I have sought earnestly, but have found nothing."

P. "But you must wait the Lord's good time, so do not give up, but come along, you must try again."

H. "No, I am not going up there any more, unless you show me where God has commanded me to go, and do as you say do. Do you take the Bible and read it to me."

P. "Why, Mr. H., you are a Campbellite!"

H. "No, I am not, sir, and I don't want you to call me a Campbellite, for I never saw or hear one that I know of. I have heard that they were the worst people in the world."

P. "Well. I hope you will reconsider the matter and come forward again."

H. "No, I never intend to go up there again, unless you show me that the apostles preached it, for I have done everything that you told me to do, and God has not pardoned me. If he ever promised to do it, if I went up there and prayed for him to, there is one time he has not complied with his promise. I don't think God will lie, but I don't believe you have told me to do what the apostles told the people to do in their day."

Mr. H. was completely bewildered. The refusal of the preacher to grant his reasonable request, quite robbed him of hope.

He reasoned, if this be the true way of salvation, God is a God of truth—I have been honest in all that I have done, I know that I have not acted the hypocrite, therefore, predestinarianism must be right, and I am one of the non-elect. He went home, after the meeting, a miserable man, utterly cast down, without hope and without God, a forlorn wretch only waiting the doom which he could by no means avoid. It would do no good to pray, God would not hear him, for he had determined long before he was born to cast him off forever.

All the bright hopes of a blissful eternity vanished with the thought, he could not rest, after retiring for the night, but in agony rolled upon his bed, bemoaning his sad fate. The thought occurred to him to settle this difficulty as he had the one about the truth of the Bible, by reading for himself.

He immediately arose, obtained a light and got his Bible, and almost the first verse which he read astounded him. "Then Peter opened his mouth and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feared him, and wortheth righteousness, is accepted with him." Acts x:35-36. Then Calvinism cannot be true. The Bible, or it, one must be false. I have satisfied myself that the Bible is true, therefore predestinarianism must be false. But how does he say I must become acceptable? I know I believe Jesus to be all that he claims, and that I am sorry for all my sins and offenses toward God, and willing to cease sinning. At this moment he remembered the language of Jesus to John on the banks of the Jordan, "Thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness." Then to do whatever God commanded was to work righteousness, and not to do it was to be unrighteous. Upon further examination he found that Jesus associated baptism and remission of sin together in the commission to his apostles.

He then determined to read the histories of the apostles' labors, and see how they taught the people, when be found that they did not in their instructions contradict anything Jesus had commanded.

Closing the book, be determined to be baptized the first opportunity. He returned to his bed for the night, well satisfied that he had found the way of life, from the book of life.

The next morning, as soon as he could arrange his affairs, he determined to go over to old man Wiseman who was a very pious preacher in the Baptist church, and get him to baptize him. Having come to the old man's gate, he called him out and made known his wish. The preacher was greatly rejoiced, that he had obtained a hope, and told him to get down sand tell what the Lord had done for him in the remission of his sin, and that he would state his case to the church next Saturday, and he would then relate his experience to the church, and if the church would accept it, which he had no doubt they would, he would then baptize him. "But, Mr. Wiseman, you are mistaken. I want to be baptized for the remission of my sins, that is what the book says, and if you think my sins are pardoned now without it, you can't baptize me, for that is not the way the apostles taught." He rode away, cast down, thinking that he would be troubled to find one that believed just as he did. As he returned home, he fell in company with one of his former associates in wickedness, to whom he gave an account of his condition informed him, that a man, who believed and taught as he understood the Bible, would preach at Peter Hubbard's school house, a few miles below there, the next Lord's day, and fi he desired, he would go along with him. On Lord's day morning he set out to the place of preaching. The preacher seemed to be perfectly familiar with the Bible, and to Mr. H's great joy, spoke the same things which he believed. At the close of the sermon, the invitation was extended, a song was sung, but no one presenting to make the confession, the meeting was dismissed, when Mr. H., who did not understand the invitation, came up to the preacher and asked him to baptize him. His request was accordingly complied with, and that evening, April 22nd, 1837, he was baptized into Christ, by John Mulkey: from that time forward until the day of his death he never once doubted the position, to which he had been led by personal investigations, but always battling for the truth. To him who had given such loose rein to his appetites and passions in early life, the narrow way was exceedingly difficult, but the power of that religion which he professed shone forth on more than one trying occasion and only became stronger by every severe trial. On one occasion when the man who had taken the life of his only brother, and whom he was then prosecuting, came forward and confessed the Savior in Mr. H's presence and in the congregation to which he belonged every one who was acquainted with him expected him to object to his reception and baptism, or that he would leave the church if he was received. When the hand of welcome was extended which at that time was a custom in some congregations, Mr. H. Did not go forward, asking for time to reflect and learn his duty, repairing immediately to his closet, shut himself up with no companion but his faithful counsellor, his Bible, upon which he had so often learned for support in an hour of difficulty, trial and doubt.

Then by reading and praying to his father in heaven he sought in tears his duty. At the appointed time he came to the meeting house resolved to follow the brightest example set before his mind on the pages of revelation. Going to the house of worship with trembling step and tearful eyes, and subdued spirit, he went forward and gave his hand, saying, "if God can forgive you it is my duty to do so." A sore trial, which tried the faith of the strong man.

Notwithstanding his father-in-law cut him off without a penny and would have nothing to do with him he never faltered nor wavered from his duty. He fully gave up all for Christ, ever ready to contend for the will of heaven—to spend and be spent for Christ. He truly devoted his life to the cause of God. Mr. Huffman took membership with the few disciples of Christ meeting at Peter Hubbard's school house, to which his wife soon attached herself. Mr. H. With eight others sought and obtained the services of John T. Johnson and G. W. Elley to come and hold a meeting for the church at Union for which they contracted to pay $100.00 for their support. All was most harmonious, and the meeting resulted in many additions to the church. From this time forward Mr. H. began to officiate in the church, reading, singing and exhorting, first the brethren, then the sinners were constrained to turn from the error of their ways and obey God. The church grew rapidly; some Lord's days he would have several confessions and baptisms. This he continued up to the war. Ever faithful in the discharge of his duty, fearing neither learned nor unlearned opponent, he saved the churches in Hartsville and Union from the confusion, resulting from the Ferguson defection, meeting and opposing Brandon face to face, when he would have introduced his reformation into the church at Hartsville.

At the close of the war, elder Huffman was induced to go forth and labor among the churches in his own and adjoining counties, to set them in order, and build them up. Wilson County received a large share of his labor of love. For years he labored for the churches of Bethel, Bethlehem, Silver Springs, Berea and Bellwood, beside teaching the truth in many destitute places. We learned from him that he was instrumental in obtaining the services of Gen. Gano at Lebanon, which resulted in the building up of the congregation at that place, for which he labored for several years, instructing the brethren in the duties devolving upon them as the followers of Jesus, the Christ. Many throughout his district of labor will remember his strong appeals to them and his parting word of exhortation, that has saved them from much sorrow and perhaps ruin. His field of labor enlarged as success and usefulness become grown, until he traveled over the counties of Smith, De Kalb, and Jackson to the east of him, and Macon on the north, with a large district in the Southern part of Kentucky, building up new congregations, and setting in order old ones, that had fallen into decay by neglect during the war. Ministering to the sick, weeping with those that wept, giving a word of comfort and encouragement to the faint-hearted. For the last two years of his ministry he was employed by the church in Union City, West Tennessee, to labor in the city and around it. Here as in every field where he labored he won many souls to Christ, and made many friends who sorrow that they with many others, have lost a true guide and a sound instructor in the truth.

We were with elder H. a short time before his death. He told me that he had the utmost confidence in the truth of the system which he had proclaimed.

Elder Huffman has gone from us; never again will he address guilty man on his dearest, and highest interests.

The churches to which he ministered will hear his word of solemn warning no more, only as they are called back from the past. Elder H. was confined to his house for about fourteen months, a great portion of the time to his bed. Through all this, not one word of murmuring escaped his lips. Neighbors and friends with loving hands ministered to him, while four loving and devoted children, all that remained of a large family, stood by him as the darkness of the night of death gathered its gloomy folds around him. His spirit took its flight to the bright and pure abode of the redeemed to await the welcome call of the Lord of life. He departed this life Feb. 19th, 1880, leaving many to mourn his loss. His aged companion still lingers on the shores of time.

A large concours of friends, neighbors and relatives attended at the grave, when a song was sung and a chapter from the New Testament was read, and prayer offered. At the request of sister Huffman, a sermon was delivered at her house, reviewing to some extent his labors of love, his trials. And heroic devotion to the truth, presenting some of the promises, which soothe the spirit in a dying hour, and robs the gloomy scenes of death of its terror. A large audience was in attendance. May our Father in heaven comfort and console the aged wide of our departed brother and give her in her declining years the peace which is the privilege of the faithful as they near the tomb.

—A. Alsup, May 6, 1880, appearing in the Gospel Advocate, Vol. XXII, No. 21, May 20, 1880, pages 328,329

Huffman Cemetery

GPS Location

36°25'09.1"N 86°16'13.3"W

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 turn in (Note: You can't see the cemetery from here. Go to the end and park at the house. As the cemetery is in the front yard of the house, permission should be sought to enter the cemetery. The graves there are so few that finding Huffman's grave should be very easy.


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

Photos Taken 04.18.2021
Webpage Produced - 04.17.2003

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