Today in Restoration History: March 6, 1879

J. W. McGarveyOn 6 March 1879 John William McGarvey set sail aboard the Pennsylvania at Philadelphia bound for his trip to the “Lands of the Bible.”  It was a research trip intended to bolster his understanding of the Biblical geography and culture for the sake of his teaching at the College of the Bible in Lexington.  He prepared extensively in advance so that when he arrived at a particular place, he needed only to compare what he saw with what he researched and make appropriate remarks or modifications.  These notes comprise the first two parts of the book.  The third part consists of letters of travel which were published in the Christian Standard and the Apostolic Times and The Christian.

Though obviously dated, McGarvey’s Lands of the Bible remains a useful resource for Biblical studies.  It is especially useful for getting at where Disciple Biblical studies were in the late 19th century.  A hefty book, it was reprinted several times after its 1881 appearance from Lippincott.  Guide Printing in Lexington issued an edition in about 1893 as did Standard Publishing in Cincinnati in the 1910’s and Gospel Advocate Company in Nashville as late as the 1970’s.  Hans Rollmann has it for us online at the link above.  For a print copy (and no Restoration library is complete without one), check out

Here is the first part of the first letter of travel:

On Saturday last, March 1st, I completed the fiftieth year of my age. On Sunday I delivered a parting discourse before a large concourse of my neighbors and brethren, and on Monday, at 3 P. M., I started on my long voyage. To bid my friends a suitable farewell was beyond my power. I did what I could. The tears of many, the good wishes of all, and the fervent prayers that were pledged for me and mine, made me feel ashamed that I am not more worthy of such love. But the fiery trial came on Monday when the carriage drove to the door, and the moment came for bidding farewell to my own home and household. I had already been up-stairs in my library to take a last look there, and as I gazed upon the rows of familiar books I said within myself, “Good-by, my dear old friends; and if I never see you again, God bless you for the good you have done me and the happy hours we have spent together.” I next went to the kitchen to bid farewell to the servants. Faithful Jim had that morning expressed an earnest desire to go with me, and when I told him that a whale might swallow him as one swallowed Jonah, he said, “If he do I can’t help it. I want to go, anyhow. I ain’t never seen nothin’, and I want to see somethin’ before I die.” He promised me that he will do all that he can for my wife while I am gone, and I know that he will. When I bade farewell to him and Fannie, the cook, I had to stop in the porch [387] and lean against the post awhile before I approached my weeping family. If it had been the hearse at the door, waiting to take me to the cemetery, there could scarcely have been more grief.

      But I must draw a veil over that scene. When I reached the dépôt, bade farewell to some friends who had gathered there, among them a large number of students, and took my seat in the coach, I was oppressed with such sadness as I had never felt before on leaving home. I gazed with dim vision on the good town as it receded from my view, and the last objects that caught my eyes were the green pines and the white monuments of the cemetery, with the Clay monument rising high above the lofty trees. It struck me at once to ask myself, “Is this an evil omen? Already our first-born lies sleeping there, and shall another of my little flock or some of my dear friends be laid there ere I return?” And while I thought on these things I began almost to envy the traveler who has no friends, no wife, no children.

      My companions are my cousin, Frank Thomson, a young farmer from near Lexington, and W. B. Taylor, of Elizabethtown, Ky., a former student of the Bible College, of Bethany College, and of Virginia University.

      Our good ship, the “Pennsylvania,” left her dock at Philadelphia at precisely eight o’clock Thursday morning, the 6th, and as she turned her bow down the Delaware River passengers on the ship waved their handkerchiefs to friends more numerous on the shore, while the ship herself saluted the city with a shot from her brass cannon. Two friends in the city had come with us to the vessel and given us their benediction; so, having no other friends in sight to salute, I lifted my handkerchief high, and, giving it a wide sweep, I said to Frank, “Here’s to Lexington!


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