History of the Restoration Movement

William Kimbrough Pendleton


WILLIAM KIMBROUGH PENDLETON was born in Louisa County, Virginia, September 8, 1817 . He is of English descent, and his ancestors, both paternal and maternal, have, from the earliest history of this country, occupied distinguished positions in the state and the church. His mother was brought up under Episcopal influence, but his father, Colonel EMUND PENDLETON, was not a member of any church until WILLIAM was about sixteen years of age, when he became a reader of the "Christian Baptist" and "Millennial Harbinger," and, after a full and free investigation of the plea presented by the advocates of primitive Christianity, he determined to be immersed "for the remission of sins." He soon became an active and earnest worker in the cause of Christ, and, through his influence, a church was established in his neighborhood, which was the first Disciples' church in that part of Virginia, and was the nucleus of the Mount Gilboa Church, which afterward became celebrated for being the germ from which sprung many other congregations. The "peculiar doctrines" which the father advocated met with very determined opposition from the various religious sects of the neighborhood. Hence, every position of the new movement was subjected to the severest investigation; and, as his father's house was the center of most of these discussions, WILLIAM had, thus early, every opportunity to become thoroughly acquainted with the principles of the Reformation.

From his earliest boyhood his education was carefully provided for. After attending, for several years, the best schools in that part of the State, he entered the University of Virginia , where, besides the academical course, he studied the law two years, and was licensed to practice. During most o f this time he had been a regular reader of the "Christian Baptist" and "Millennial Harbinger," and a constant and earnest student of the Word of God. He also acted as amanuensis for his father in conducting some epistolary discussions with a Baptist preacher and others; heard Elder S. HIGGASON and JAMES BAGLEY preach for years, besides hearing occasionally many of the most distinguished preachers among the Disciples; was constantly in company with Disciples at his father's house; and, above all, and before all, was carefully trained from his infancy by a pious mother--"a woman possessing the gentleness and mildness of a child, combined with the firmness and courage of a Spartan mother--extremely modest and unobtrusive, yet, when drawn into conversation, showing great depth of thought and clearness of perception, and a mind well stored with information." Such was the character of the religious influences brought to bear upon him, and, under these, having come to a full understanding of his duty, he was, in June, 1840, immersed by ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, at the Mount Gilboa Church, Louisa County, Virginia, being, at the time, in the twenty-third year of his age. In the fall of 1840, he was married to LAVINIA M., daughter of ALEXANDER CAMPBELL, a lady of brilliant intellect and beautiful Christian character, who died in the spring of 1846.

He was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy in Bethany College, in May, 1841, (the year the college was founded,) and has been connected with it ever since as Professor, and, much of the time, as Vice-President, and now as President. In 1844 he was united to the editorial corps of the "Millennial Harbinger," and has continued in that relation ever since, being at this time its proprietor and senior editor.

In August, 1848, he was again married-this time to CLARINDA, also a daughter of ALEXANDER CAMPBELL. Mr. CAMPBELL's celebrated letters from Europe were addressed to this daughter. She was greatly beloved by all who knew her, and was thoroughly devoted to the cause of Christ. She died in January, 1851, rich in good works, and meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light." In the autumn of 1855, he was again married--to CATHERINE H., daughter of judge Leceister King, of Warren,Trumbull County, Ohio.

For several years previous to the death of Mr. CAMPBELL, Professor PENDLETON discharged the duties of President of Bethany College, and, on the death of Mr. CAMPBELL, was unanimously elected by the curators to fill the place so long and ably occupied by his father-in-law.

President Pendleton is five feet eight and a half inches high, and weighs about one hundred and fifty pounds. His nervous system predominates over both the muscular and vital; hence, he is capable of great intellectual force, but has rather a feeble physical organization. As a speaker, he is chaste, logical, and impressive, but, on account of his profession, has never had sufficient opportunities for thoroughly testing his powers before the people. As a writer, he stands unquestionably without a superior in the ranks of the Disciples. But it is as the dignified, courteous, polished, Christian gentleman that you delight to know him. And, to understand what we mean by this, you must know him, for no description can ever do him justice.

-Biographies And Sermons Of Pioneer Preachers, editors, B. C. Goodpasture and W. T. Moore, Pages 303,304

Painting Of W.K. Pendleton In The Bethany College Library

Pendleton Home On The Campus At Bethany College, WV

Pendleton Heights As It Is Today photos taken in June, 2005

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