A Great Life Closed
When I received the information that Brother J.T. Showalter, Redford, Virginia, had passed from his labors to his reward. My heart was bowed in heaviness. My thoughts were that a much great life had ended than his most intimate friends understood. I shall write briefly concerning his life and work, and I think I am in a position to understand both, perhaps as well as any one with whom he associated. I was born within about one mile of where he was born, in Pulaski County, Virginia, though about 28 years later. When I decided to obey the gospel at the age of 20, I sent for him to baptize me. During a number of years following, I spent many days in his home, listened to him preach many discourses, and was associated with him writing for the Octographic Review for a number of years. This intimate acquaintance with him under the many and varied circumstances, and during a long term of years, gave me an opportunity to discern his life and character as but few others could.
He taught school, preached, wrote for publication and farmed for many years. In point of industry, and economy, he has always stood before my mind’s eye as perhaps excelling in these qualities any other man whom I have ever known. His energy, industry, and endurances were remarkable.
In meeting appointments or fulfilling his promises to preach at certain place on certain dates, or meeting promises of any other sort, he was beyond question the most prompt man whom I have ever known. He lived in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, where hills, mountains, and valleys alternate. He kept up many appointments for as long as 20 to 30 years at the same place, preaching more or less regularly once each moth. Hills intervened, mountains separated. Valleys and rivers must be crossed. Some of these points were 12, some 18, some 24 miles distant. During the winter the mountains are frequently covered with snow for months. The rivers are often frozen over, or else are rag-lag torrents. No weather, even when the mercury was at zero or below, and though the wind raged, and the snow drifted, was sufficiently terrifying to prevent his horse-back journey to meet his appointments. If the river was frozen at one point, the lee must be crossed, as open ford fount, or the ferry must be cut in order that he might reach his appointment. If the river was a raging torrent, then he would travel miles in order to find a place that could be forded or ferried. We have read of the hardships of the pioneers of the plains, and mountains, but it has been my confirmed judgment for years that J.T. Showalter endured as much hardship from inclement weather and travel in order to preach the gospel as any other man who has ever been associated with the Restoration Movement. Yet he seemed never to regard it anything else than a delight in order to preach the truth in earnestness.
The moving religious motive that sustained and animated his long and great life was not emotionalism, but a calm, unwavering conviction of right. “Is it right?” was his only question. If the decision was that it be right, there was no further hesitation. It must be taught, urged and practiced. Numbers, popularity, public sentiment seemed never to influence his course. While he appreciated the esteem of his friends as heavenly as any man, yet so flattery, no ties of friendship, nor of blood relationship seemingly could in the least degree away his words and actions. His reverence for God’s word,. And his fear to offend his Creator were the only motives that could move him. When he reached a decision, he feared not in the least any antagonist or opposer. He never seemed to know what the fear of man was. He was constantly engaged in controversy, with tongue and pen. But I do not recall ever hearing of any one charging him with being insincere, or of ever bing two-faced. He was candor, frankness, and sincerity personified.
His preaching was as remarkable for its originality in style and character as any man’s whom one could perhaps name. He spoke rapidly, emphatically, and earnestly. He never followed regular stereotyped forms of sermonizing. Indeed, his style and manner had the least resemblance to sermonizing of any man I ever heard. Neither did he deliver long tedious lectures on any topics, as many preachers do. He treated all his subjects in a pointed manner, and usually touched upon many subjects each discourse. He was strong in setting forth the Christian’s duty, and urging him faithfully to perform it. He gave no encouragement to a loose, indifferent Christian life. His manner was often personal. It was not uncommon for him to referent to some one in his audience by name personally. When speaking with references to Christians voting or holding office under the government, to which he was opposed. I have heard him refer to brethren before him who either held office or were active in political matters. In like manner, he would refer to other brethren in regard to other matters or to sectarians. But all were well acquainted with him, and knew so well his intense sincerity, that they were seldom offended. But it was when he was pointing out some wrong in personal or false teaching, that as was most remarkable. He could denounce sin and wrong teaching with a force and power seldom equaled. No wrongs hold be tolerated, no false teaching should be endured, and no careless living should be condoned. He was strongly opposed to all questionable entertainments and amusements. Many regarded him as extreme in regard to amusements outside of the church, merely as amusements. But it is certain that no one would ever endanger his eternal welfare if he followed his advice.
He was associated with Benjamin Franklin during his two trips to Virginia, and was held in high esteem by Franklin. That deep discernment of character, and lover of good men, could not fail to see in J.T. Showalter a great soul. His indomitable will power, his energy, firmness, rugged integrity, and stability of character, will bear fruit long after his body has moldered to dust.
He wrote for the American Christian Review during the last years of Franklin’s life, and continued to write for it after it changed hands and was changed to the Octographic Review, and ceased to write for it several years before I did. The reasons leading up to his severing his connection with it need not be mentioned here.
A good man has gone to his reward, a great soldier has laid off his armor and ceased to battle. But not till victory crowned him did he put off his armor. A great life has ended, but the fruit of his life will live after him. He was a stay to the weak, a terror to the evil. His very name was a synonym for integrity throughout a large territory of country. His firmness for the right as he saw it, and his strong opposition to the wrong, made such a deep and lasting impression on many, that the harvest from his labors will not soon end. The good loved him, and were made stronger by his strength. The evil hated him, but al, friend or foe, respected him, and admired his rugged integrity and strength.
Though those who loved him are made to sorrow, yet we do not wish him back. His labors have been long and arduous, and his rest is deserved. Let us thank God for his life, and take courage and press on in the conflict.
For his aged companion, Sister Showalter, I breathe a prayer. May our merciful Heavenly Father give her strength for her remaining days on the earth. May her last days be her best. She will soon join her loved one, with whom she has been united as perfectly in heart and should as mortals can be. Soon the joyful messenger will call her away from weeping and tears, to joy and gladness. And, may his twelve children, and many grandchildren, walk in his footsteps, in the path of righteousness. To have had the guidance and protection of a godly father like him is a blessing vouchsafed to but few. But it incurs a correspondingly great responsibility upon those thus blessed. May much fully discharge that responsibility. Then when the Lord descends with a shout and with the trump of God, all the faithful will hear him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
WW. Otey, Winfield, Kansas, Firm Foundation, November 15, 1915, page 3.
Sarah Katherine Vaden was born September 23, 1842, in Chesterfield County, Virginia. In the year 1860 she married J.T. Showalter. To this union seven sons and five daughters were born. About the time of her marriage she was “born again,” being baptized into the church of Christ.
In October of last year she traveled alone to Texas from Virginia, to spend the winter with her son, G.H.P. Showalter at Austin, intending to visit another son. M.V. Showalter to Abilene, and two daughters. Mrs. Minnie Whitt and Mrs. Jennie Randolph, both at Lockney, in the spring.
She was remarkably preserved despite the years through which she had journeyed. She was very active in body for one of her age, and her mind was keenly alert to every cause for right, for truth and for justice. She came to the Ladies’ Bible class, which meets at University church of Christ on Tuesdays and Thursdays, several times during the past fall, and manifested an intense interest and earnestness in the topics which were discussed.
Her face was one of the most kindly benevolent that I have ever seen, and it was to every one who knew here, an esteemed pleasure to talk with her and win from her one of her beautiful smiles of approval.
Her health was apparently exceptionally good, and she was enjoying her visit with “George” and his family so much. But in the afternoon of January 17th, she was stricken by an attack of apoplexy. Every care and attention was given her, and on Wednesday evening she had sufficiently rallied from the stroke that it seemed she would overcome the attack. She rested quite well through the night and in the early morning hours was conversing with those at her bedside, but the battle was too much and at 6:30 Thursday morning, quietly, almost without struggle, her spirit quitted the body, going out to await the resurrection morn.
Eleven children survive her, four of whom live in Texas, the others in their native state of Virginia.
A large number of friends, among whom were ministers of the gospel, W.F. Ledlow, P.C. Key, and A.B. Barret, gathered at the residence of Brother Showalter at 8:30 Friday morning for a brief funeral service, conducted by the writer, assisted by Brother Barret and Brother Key.
The body was taken to Virginia for interment in the family burying ground near East Redford. All the Texas members of the family accompanied the body, G.H.P. Showalter being joined at Longview Junction by M.V. Showalter of Abilene and Mesdames Whitt and Randolph of Lockney.
Surely a “Mother in Israel” has passed into the “Great Beyond.” Jesus taught that “a tree is known by its fruits,” and while I have an intimate personal acquaintance with only on member of the family, I can say surely the tree must have been good, for I esteem that one whom I know as a “prince among men” and a “nobleman of God.”
-Chas. H. Roberson, Firm Foundation, January 31, 1922, p.2
Directions To Grave
Snowville, Virginia is a small community on the very eastern edge of Pulaski County, separated from Montgomery County by the Little River. Snowville is on State Highway Route 693, Lead Mine Road. Just as you enter Snowville, from the south, turn right at the first street after the sign (see pic below). Head down a hill and on your left is up a hill is the little cemetery where the Showalters are buried. The small cemetery is on private land. Be sure to knock on the residence's door and ask permission to walk over to the monuments in the front yard.
John Showalter at the grave of his great grandparents, J.T. and and Sarah Showalter
In Memory of our Mother
Sallie P. Showalter
Born January 17, 1803
Died August 20, 1866
Photos Taken 04.2019
Webpage produced 12.21.2019
Courtesy Of Scott Harp
In April, 2019, I had the privilege to speak on the lectureship program of Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies, held at the Karns church of Christ in Knoxville, Tennessee. Along with me was long time friend and fellow laborer in restoration research, C. Wayne Kilpatrick. After we both completed our responsiblies at SEIBS, we made our way into southern Virginia where we sought the burial places of several leaders in the Restoration Movement in that area. Special thanks are extended to John Showalter, great-grandson of J.T. and Sarah Showalter who traveled with us from his home in Abingdon, Va., to show us these graves as well as other sites in his Snowville, Va. home.