It was a happy day on September 23, 1863,

in the Lipscomb household.  Margaret Lipscomb gave birth to a son.  They proudly called him Zellner Lipscomb, a fact not surprising to anyone who knew the family.  It was a proud family–even the women shared the family name with their children.  However, the happiness turned to helplessness and the sadness within nine months.  While teething Zellner became quite ill, probably becoming dehydrated.  Because of the war, it was impossible to get him to medical help or to bring a doctor to the Bend [Bells Bend, and area near Nashville where the Lipscomb’s farmed, MI].  On June 26, 1864, David’s and Margaret’s baby died.  Years later the mother told her great-niece that if she had known in 1864 what mothers knew in the 1920’s, her baby would not have died.  Had they not been surrounded by war, maybe Zellner would have lived.


Zellner died during the night before the morning of June 26.  At four o’clock of that day, after preparing the child for burial, the Lipscombs placed the small casket on their laps in the buggy along with a few belongings and headed for Maury County where they planned to bury their son–their only son–in the Zellner family plot in the Hughes cemetery.  They chose not to bury Zellner on the farm because of the fear of losing all their possession, including the land.  In fact, the few things they carried with them in the buggy might be all the possessed in the world.  They lost their son; they might lose their farm as well.  Lipscomb spoke sadly as the young family left the Bend: “We have no baby and when we get back we may have nothing here.”

It was difficult crossing the Federal picket lines in Nashville.  nor did the Confederates allow them to pass unstopped.  Because of these delays, they did not reach Franklin until the evening of the first day…Late on the second day, they arrived at the Zellner home where they laid their son to rest.  Anyone who knew Lipscomb was not surprised when he took the death of his son with so much emotion.  As is true of all fathers, he had great plans for his son.  The morning after the funeral, he remarked in a subdued voice: “I’ll just have to work hard and try to forget.”  In 1917 T. B. Larimore, writing in the Christian Standard, quoted David Lipscomb as saying following the death of Zellner: “I hoped to raise him up to work for the Lord; I shall have to work all the harder myself.”

The death of their son was never forgotten.  Some thirty years later when John S. Sweeney was holding a meeting at the College Street congregation where David Lipscomb served as an elder, mention was made in his sermon of the grief of King David over the death of his child, Sweeney said: “Friends, if any one of you are ever so unfortunate as to lose a little one, the best thing is try to forget.” Lipscomb, sitting on the front row, bowed his head.  A convulsive sob was heard by the hushed audience.


Pardon such a long quote, but Dr. Hooper tells it so well.  I’ve excerpted only a few paragraphs…there is more to the story, and more to D.L., and you should read it: Robert E. Hooper, Crying in the Wilderness, A Biography of David Lipscomb. Nashville: David Lipscomb College, 1979, excerted from pages 82-86.

I hear that a new edition of Crying in the Wilderness will be out soon.  I’ll call attention to it when I see it.

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