F. D. Srygley
F. D. Srygley: "And the Old Guard"
The name of F. D. Srygley will last as long as interest remains in the activities of David Lipscomb and his co-workers of two and more generations ago. Srygley's life is inseparable from the GOSPEL ADVOCATE, Christian education, and the churches of Christ in the later Restoration Movement.
F. D. Srygley was the last to join Lipscomb, Sewell, and McQuiddy on the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. They were referred to as the Old Guard and their passings were especially noted in the ADVOCATE. The contributions of David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, and J. C. McQuiddy to church history is much clearer than Srygley's, but he was not the least among them.
Srygley was born December 22, 1856, at Rock Creek, Alabama. His father, James H. Srygley was a poor hard-working farmer. His mother, Sarah Srygley, who was the daughter of a Presbyterian preacher, was deeply religious and devoted to her family. They were the parents of nine children.
Rock Creek was located in the rough mountain region of North Alabama. F. D. Srygley grew up in Rock Creek receiving the little education that such harsh frontier communities offered. F. D. had four brothers whose names were initials-F. W., F. B., F. G., and F. L. They were of course curious questions raised. To the inquisitive, F. D. Srygley wrote in 1880 -"Those who are curious to know why all of our names commence with an "F" may write to our dear mother who lives at Rock Creek, Alabama enclosing stamp to pay return postage." There is no record that anyone wrote.
Few travelers from the outside world came to Rock Creek. Occasionally an itinerant preacher came in. T. B. Larimore preached at Rock Creek in a log cabin church house when Srygley was just a boy and described at Srygley's passing his impressions, "a bright little, black-eyed, bareheaded, barefooted boy; perfect picture of health . . . faultless in form and feature, he stood silent, motionless, and erect." Srygley was baptized when he had just turned eighteen.
The story of F. D. Srygley actually begins when he enrolled in the school of T. B. Larimore which was located in Mars Hill, Alabama. The school was established by T. B. Larimore in 1871, and was widely patronized by the brethren throughout the South until Larimore closed it down to give his full time to evangelism. Young Srygley was a bright student and made excellent progress. J. C. McQuiddy, still in his teens, met Srygley at Mars Hill, and they became life-long friends. Srygley had just reached twenty-one at that time. McQuiddy and Srygley loved, and honored T. B. Larimore in the same fashion that Timothy revered the Apostle Paul.
F. D. Srygley was first married December 15, 1878, to Ella Parkhill of Mars Hill, Alabama. The wedding ceremony was performed by T. B. Larimore for Srygley and his sixteen-year old bride. Two children were born to them-Mamie and Jeffie. Mamie died at a tender age and her mother followed her to the grave not many months later. Jeffie is still living in Nashville.
Srygley was married a second time on December 26, 1888, to Jennie Scobey. He was a semi-invalid at the time and slowly dying of Bright's Disease. She was a faithful companion and the tender care she gave her husband no doubt prolonged his life.
Srygley will be remembered as one of David Lipscomb's associate editors of the ADVOCATE and the author of good books. But F. D. Srygley's indecisive stand on the "missionary society" issue until near the end of his life serves to point up the soul searching that finally led to a clean break away from the forces of "digressive liberalism" in that day.
Srygley first met David Lipscomb head-on in 1881 in a series of articles on the advisability of the "missionary society" as a method for carrying the gospel into virgin fields. His thinking was similar to that of Alexander Campbell, Moses E. Lard, and Walter Scott. Lipscomb studied Srygley's comments and added his own that "no man could write with profit on a subject that he so little understood." However, Lipscomb answered Srygley's articles lest he labor with the delusion that Lipscomb found his position unanswerable.
David Lipscomb well remembered when he himself "halted between two opinions" and actively participated in the Tennessee society before the Civil War. Srygley felt keenly the brunt of Lipscomb pen and went off "to lick his wounds." The generous David Lipscomb who bore no ill will toward any man left the door open for Srygley's return.
When Srygley turned away from the GOSPEL ADVOCATE he supported the Old Path Guide, a religious paper owned and edited by F. G. Allen, for about five years. When Russell Errett of the Christian Standard took over the paper and moved its editorial policy into the main stream of "digressive liberalism," Srygley was visibly moved and began his turn away from the unscriptural practices of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
In 1889 F. D. Srygley and his wife came to Nashville with his completed manuscript of Larimore And His Boys. While visiting with J. C. McQuiddy in the Advocate office, McQuiddy told Srygley that the Gospel Advocate Company was anxious to publish the manuscript
J. C. McQuiddy wanted to bring his friend in on the GOSPEL ADVOCATE staff, and he was confident that Srygley could work with the indomitable David Lipscomb who laid down one "ground rule" for ADVOCATE writers that they could write on any subject that came from the Bible.
Srygley was still far from convinced that the missionary society was an unscriptural device. However, Lipscomb brought Srygley in in 1891 as the front-page editor of the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. David Lipscomb was a wise judge of men and their hearts, and he was confident that the pendulum of Srygley's thinking was moving in the right direction.
There is no doubt that T. B. Larimore's hesitancy in taking a firm stand against the "society" influenced "his boys." This great saint of the church simply believed that the issue should not be made explosive and divisive. J. C. McQuiddy for awhile also shared the view.
A good insight into David Lipscomb's patience with his young associates grew out of some secret talks that Russell Errett of the Christian Standard had with McQuiddy and Srygley about consolidating the Apostolic Guide and the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. When the matter came to light, Lipscomb observed that "any harm the boys had done was simply because Errett had taken advantage of them."
F. D. Srygley lived only forty-four years. In the later years of his life, he spent a great deal of his time evangelizing in destitute fields. McQuiddy said -"In those years he did far more of this work than any man known to me." Srygley was not a great preacher in the sense that James A. Harding and E. A. Elam were, but his power in the pulpit ranked with the best preachers of the time.
His contemporaries regarded Srygley as a gifted writer. His fine use of humour in his writings led one of his contemporaries to describe him as the "Mark Twain of the Restoration Movement." Srygley's Seventy Years In Dixie was written in the style of the humourists of the Old Southwest. The work is based upon the experiences of T. W. Caskey and has since remained one of the best "all-time sellers" on the Gospel Advocate Company list of publications.
Srygley wrote two other books-Biographies and Sermons, and Letters and Sermons of T. B. Larimore. All four are good books and hold irreplaceable positions in Restoration literature.
F. D. Srygley was a clear and forceful writer. He wrote with ease and enjoyed his task. No writer on the ADVOCATE staff wrote with greater force and clarity in the defense of New Testament Christianity. His "moving pen" was never stilled; and before his last editorial was printed, Srygley lay in his grave.
Along toward the end of his life, the rumour was being circulated that he would inherit the "mantle" of the aging David Lipscomb. Srygley humorously assured his readers that the doctors had doomed him to a premature grave while Lipscomb was in vigorous health-"I think I can `rustle' around and keep a mantle of my own as long as I live, and the way David Lipscomb is tearing around, I am inclined to think his mantle will be pretty well ripped up by the time he is done with it."
F. D. Srygley died fifty minutes after midnight at his home in Donelson, Tennessee on August 1, 1900. The end came after a lingering illness of two, months. He requested that no mention be made of his illness in the ADVOCATE and his passing came with shocking sadness to the readers of the paper when J. C. McQuiddy wrote the announcement. He was survived by six children. T. B. Larimore preached his funeral and F. D. Srygley was buried in Mount Olivet in Nashville, Tennessee.
- J. E. Choate - Gospel Advocate, Vol. CVIII, No. 29, July 21, 1966 - pages 455, 456