When at our best, our family is a circle of strength,
founded on faith, joined in love, kept by God.
In my last post I wrote about 6 ministers from the 20th century in our family tree. All 6 of them, including myself, are ministers of the Campbell-Stone Tradition, also known as The Restoration Movement. To find other ministers in our family history one has to search before the time of The Restoration Movement which began in the early 19th century. If you know of other ministers in our family history besides those I have mentioned I would like to hear from you.
This search to find full time ministers in our history brings to my mind the strong inclination in our family, over many generations, to be people of faith. This is true of many families with deep roots in American soil. Even though our culture is gradually becoming more secular and less religious, there is still great importance placed on faith-based lives among many within our extended family.
This religious penchant can be traced back many generations. A number of our ancestors were 18th century Quaker ministers. This summer I have written here about a couple of them. Yet there are several others to be mentioned. First however it is important to note a couple of things about the Quakers. They were among the most influential religious groups in early America. In Pennsylvania during the time of the American Revolution some estimate that one in every 3 citizens was a Quaker. Their influence on the political, social and religious life of our country is remarkable. Among the important beliefs of the Quakers was their firm opposition to slavery, their support of Native Americans, their strict pacifism, and their belief in gender equality. Among the Quakers both women and men were equally allowed to be ministers, if they had the appropriate gifts and if they were called, "recorded," and certified by the appropriate church structures.
The following are brief profiles of some Quaker ancestors in our family tree who served as ministers.
James Wright Sr. (1671-1759). The earliest minister I have found in our family tree was my 7X Great Grandfather James Wright. We are related to James and his wife Mary through Malinda Wright Davis (1846-1920), the Grandmother of my Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard.
Hopewell Monthly Meeting House and Cemetery
Later in life Mary and James Wright continued to be held in high esteem by the Friends in Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Quaker leadership in Pennsylvania. The Wrights had suffered so much hardship on the frontier during the French and Indian War, that they were almost destitute. As a result a significant financial gift was sent to them by the Quaker leadership back in Pennsylvania. It was a gift that reflected gratitude for the many years of ministerial service of James Wright and his wife Mary. In one historical record it is written that James, "an elder of the Hopewell Monthly Meeting, was a sober, industrious honest man, grave in manner, and solid and weighty in conversation. He departed this life May 15, 1759 in the 83rd year of his age. And we have reason to believe he is at rest with the Lord." (the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Dec. 1982.)
James Wright then is the first of the 18th century ministers I have found in our Family Tree. Among all the accomplishments of his life and ministry, perhaps the most important was his family legacy of ministers. Five members of James and Mary's family, over three generations, also became ministers. The following is a profile of one of them.
Martha Wright Mendenhall (1713-1794). James and Mary Wright's third child was Martha Wright who was "recorded" (the Quaker term for "certified") as a minister when she was 20 years old. Clearly even as a teen she showed that she had gifts for ministry. She was born in Pennsylvania but as a child moved with her family and settled in the Valley of the Monocacy (Frederick, Maryland today) where the Wrights were one of the founding families of the Quaker community there. Martha married John Mendenhall III when they were both just 18 years old. For over 60 years she was active in the ministry of the Quakers in Maryland and Virginia. She is buried today with her husband John in the Providence Quaker Cemetery, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The following is part of a memorial found in the minutes of the Hopewell Monthly Meeting of the Quakers, September 25, 1797.
Providence Quaker Cemetery
Martinsburg, West Virginia
A Nursing Mother in Israel. Did you notice in the above memorial that Martha was referred to as "a nursing mother in Israel"? That was a description I had never heard before. It was so interesting that I had to do some research into what it meant. "A nursing mother in Israel" is a reference to caring Quaker leaders, especially, but not exclusively, women ministers, and their unique gifts. It described their strong nurturing ability to do such things as help backsliders return to the fold, and to nourish, exhort, and build up the young in the faith.
James Wright and his daughter Martha Wright Mendenhall, then are two of the ministers I have found in our family tree from the 18th century. In my next post I will profile other ministers from this same Wright family, individuals whose lives and ministries we can celebrate.
- - -
(he, him, his)
- - -
(he, him, his)