History of the Restoration Movement

Dr. William Henry Wharton


Dr. William Henry Wharton

Due to the important role of Dr. W. H. Wharton played in the Restoration Movement in the South, a brief sketch of his life will be in order.

Dr. Wharton was born July 6, 1796, to George and Elizabeth Harris Wharton in Albermarle County, Virginia.  His parents moved to Tennessee while he was a child, and received most of his early education there.  He returned to his native state at the age of 15 years where he studied classical education.  He studied medicine under, Dabney Wharton, and graduated in Philadelphia in 1818.  In 1819 he moved to Tuscumbia, Alabama where he began his practice.

On July 3 1823, he married Priscilla Dickson, the 13 year old daughter of Michael and Sene Dickson.  The Whartons were the parents of four sons and five daughters.

He was very active in community life.  He served as editor of The Tuscumbian, a local newspaper, from October 15, 1824 to the end of 1825. He had served as the manager of the Franklin County Bible Society during 1837.  He ceased his medical practice, at one time, and became a merchant, but in 1838 he resumed his practice.

Upon the death of President William Henry Harrison, Dr. Wharton was requested by the citizens of Tuscumbia to present the address in the Presbyterian meeting house.  The address was printed in full in the North Alabamian of May 22, 1841.

As a religious leader he was a notable character.  His first religious affiliation was with the Presbyterian Church of which he became an elder.  He was rejected by the Presbyterians upon his immersion and was aligned with the Baptist before 1834.  By June 1834, he and eleven other people were excluded from the Baptist as "Campbellites."  They immediately formed themselves into "The Church of Christ at Tuscumbia."  He preached from the church at Tuscumbia until 1842, at which time he moved to Nashville.  He preached for the church in Nashville for several years.  In January of 1844, he became one of the editors of Fanning's Christian Review.  In April of the same year, he was appointed to a committee, whose job was to find a qualified candidate for college president and professorships at Franklin College.

Wharton had become an elder in the church at Nashville March 19, 1843.  He remained at this post until November 20, 1853.  Due to his disagreement with J. B. Ferguson's "New Theology" Dr. Wharton relinquished the post he loved so dearly.  He felt his influence was no longer of any benefit to the majority of members who followed Ferguson's theology.  He had served as an elder in Nashville for eleven years.

During the Civil War, he had been imprisoned with other religious teachers in Nashville.  Prison was no stranger to him: he has been faithfully preaching to the imprisoned with him said that through the whole ordeal he remained cheerful and "was a standing reproof to his fellow prisoners."

After the war, Wharton was elected to the post of Tennessee State Librarian, which office he held at the time of his death.  Upon his death, all of the physicians in Nashville came together for memorial service in memory of Dr. William Henry Wharton whom they considered one of their greatest colleagues.  So the city of Nashville lost one of its most prominent men, and the Restoration Movement saw one of its great men promoted to his eternal reward on May 8, 1871.

Excerpt: Life and Legend in Muscle Shoals History Vol XI - 1986 Appendix C

The Death of Dr. Wharton

The illness of Dr. Wharton was announced some weeks ago through the ADVOCATE. On the 8th day of May he closed his earthly pilgrimage in death. We have waited for some one better qualified to write an obituary notice. We hope it will yet be done. We now only announce his death, and add the statement that we have seldom known one who so fully imbibed the spirit of his religion and so thoroughly carried it into his feelings, thoughts, and home life as did our deceased brother.

As he grew older, as the outward man perished, the inward was renewed day by day. The Christian religion seemed for years to be his only thought, his only theme of conversation. He had an aptness, peculiar to himself of introducing the Christian religion as a subject of conversation into every company into which he entered. His conversation was never in the spirit of controversy but always that of tender, loving humility and kindness. His religion was such as made him cheerful, hopeful, confiding in the darkest hours. His tenderness to and sympathy for the lowly, the ignorant, the sinning was truly Christian in character. Our first acquaintance with him arose during a spell of sickness, in our boyhood away from home. His gentle sympathy then, strongly attached us to him and our partiality has never waved.

His sympathy for the poor, for the unfortunate, the sinning led him to seek to aid such. Hence he was preaching to the convicts in the State prison at the breaking out of our terrible war. He connection with this gained him arrest and imprisonment for a number of months, in connection with a other religious teachers of our city. More than one of these have confessed how his gentle, meek, cheerful deportment there, was a standing reproof to his fellow prisoners. They were disposed to complain and fault-finding, but no bitter word was heard from Dr. Wharton. The same cheerful humility, the same uncomplaining gentleman and forbearance that characterized him at home surrounded by friends, shone forth with remarkable brightness in the weary months of prison life. That same submissive and cheerful trust in Jesus enabled him to look with calmness on the approach of death. He bore his sufferings with cheerfulness as he looked through the dark tomb with steady unfaltering hope. He died as he lived a pious, devoted humble, trusting child of faith.

We append a notice of his death published in the Republican Banner of this city the morning after his death.

-D. L. (David Lipscomb)

There is hardly a man or woman in Nashville but will lament the death of Dr. Wm. H. Wharton. After a lingering illness of several months duration, he expired at a quarter of 6 o'clock yesterday afternoon, May 8th in his seventy-fifth year.

Dr. Wharton was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, July 6, 1796. He came to Tennessee when quite a youth and obtained a common school education. He returned to his native state at the age of 15 years where he was classically educated. He studied medicine under his uncle, Dabney Wharton, and graduated in Philadelphia in 1818. From this time until prevented by old age, he practiced his profession. He at one time engaged in the drug business in Huntsville, Ala., and in Tuscumbia in that state, was married to Miss Priscilla Dickson, after which he returned to Nashville, in the year 1841, having been chosen pastor of the Christian Church, which position he filled for several years, both preaching and attending to the duties of his profession as a physician. Such was the manner of his life. About the beginning of the war he was chaplain at the penitentiary for one or two years. He was elected State Librarian by the last General Assembly, which office he held at the time of his death. He was the father of nine children by his first wife, after whose death he married, in 1848, Mrs. Mary A. Daily.

The physicians of the city are required to meet in the office of Dr. Paul F. Eve, at 3 o'clock this P. M., to pay their respects to the lamented dead.


Died, on the 6th inst., in the vicinity of this city, Mrs. P. Wharton, consort of Dr. William H. Wharton.

In the death of this truly pious and exemplary disciple of Christ, a great loss has been sustained by her husband, children, numerous relations, and the community of which she was a most ornamental member.

Her disposition was guileless-her carriage unobstructive, her friendships sincere, her christian spirit "meek and quiet," and her love for her husband and children, relations and friends remarkably pure and disinterested-above all, she was a decided follower of the meek and lowly Saviour, and exhibited by a life of humble and consistent piety, the reality of her faith, in its purifying and overcoming properties. She bore a long affliction with unwearied patience and fortitude. And departed in hope of the glory of God. May her deceased be blessed to her deeply bereaved husband, children, and numerous relatives and friends.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of the saints."

E., From the Christian Record, August 19, 1847

Directions To The Grave of W.H. Wharton

According to an article that appears in the Nashville Tennessean, Sunday Morning, June 15, 1930, Dr. W.H. Wharton was listed among those buried in the Old Nashville City Cemetery. There was a plot owned by Dr. Wharton in Section 11, Lot 33. His first wife and his second wife are buried there. Also some children are buried there. However there is no monument with an inscription to Dr. Wharton. There is a marker that is broken, the upper part of which that would have had the inscription is missing. It is presumed that it is the grave of W.H. Wharton.

The location of the Wharton plot is as follows. The Old Nashville Cemetery is located at 1001 Fourth Avenue South, Nashville Cemetery. Heading west on I-40 take Exit 210C. Proceed through the first traffic light crossing 2nd Ave. S. Then take the next left on 4th Ave. South. Go two blocks south and enter the cemetery to your right. Go straight ahead and park at the little parking area at the end of the drive in front of the locations of the restrooms. In the alcove, there is a map on the right. Look for Section 11, Lot 33. This is where the Whartons are buried. It is very easy to find. Also see below for specific location.

Grave Location
City Cemetery
Section 11 Lot 33
GPS Location
36°08'52.3"N 86°46'14.3"W
or D.d. 36.147851,-86.770635

City Cemetery

View from the south

View from the East, Looking Toward the West

Priscilla Jane Wharton
June 19, 1810
Deid the 6th Day of
August 1847

Note: W.H. Wharton married, Mrs. Mary Dally July 3, 1849.
In the distance is the grave of Mr. Joseph G. Dally (1801-1843), probably her first husband.

Mary Dally Wharton
Married W.H. Wharton (2nd Marriage)
July 3, 1849

Mary Dally Wharton
Second wife of Dr. W.H. Wharton

Ellen Josephine Wharton
died April 2, 1842
Daughter of W.H. & P.J. Wharton

Adaminta Jane Wharton
November 24, 1832
November 4, 1867
Daughter of W.H. & P.J. Wharton

Click On Photo For Closeup

A New Stone For W.H. Wharton 2015

William H. Wharton
Born July 19, 1797
Died May 8, 1871
Nashville, Tennessee
State Librarian
Erected 2015

Photos Taken 12.31.2010/01.01.2011 & New photos 02.2019
Courtesy of Scott Harp

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