"Beniah At The Apostolic Crossroads"
THE FORTUNES OF BENIAH, TENNESSEE came and went with
the fall of B.H. Irwin, founder of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Movement. Charleston, TN, home for M.S. Lemons (an early Church of God adherent) was labeled a “flourishing little village” located “two miles above” Beniah while Cleveland, TN, was said to be “nine miles below.” At the turn of the century, this short-lived community tried to give birth to a Fire-Baptized Holiness “School of the Prophets.” Irwin’s Live Coals of Fire (November 3, 1899) lists Daniel Awrey, who had spoken in tongues during 1890, as an ordained evangelist of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Movement of America living in Beniah, Tennessee. The 1900 census for the 8th Civil District of Bradley County reveals a large number of clergy, several non-Tennesseans, and some internationals in Beniah. Among the families recorded in the census here are Bryants, Martins, Tiptons, and McNabbs—all important names in early Church of God (Cleveland) and Pentecostal Holiness history.
Live Coals of Fire 1:10 (January 12, 1900) chronicles Irwin’s personal visit to Beniah. At that time in Beniah was ordained evangelist William B. Martin who was one of the evangelists in the 1896 Revival in Cherokee County, North Carolina. This event is so central to Church of God consciousness that a centennial celebration was initiated in connection with the 1995 Pentecostal World Conference.
Ambrose B. Crumpler, a Methodist Holiness preacher from North Carolina, was key to launching the North Carolina Holiness Association in 1896. The name Pentecostal Holiness Church was adopted when the congregation was formed in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1898. In 1911, the FBHC and PHC merged to form what is now the IPHC.
Sarah Smith, identified by B.F. Lawrence in his 1916 Apostolic Faith Restored as part of “The Fire-Baptized Association” prior to 1900, seems to mark both Joe Tipton and Billy Martin as part of the Fire-Baptized group. W.F. Bryant, a Church of God pioneer, remarked that Billy Martin got the “blessing” before he did himself, and added, “Billy Martin . . . came in there preaching entire Sanctification and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and talking in tongues.” A.J. Tomlinson’s Faithful Standard (Sept 1922) explains that Martin, McNabb and Tipton entered a new phase of spirituality in May 1895. It is known that Awrey, who arrived in Tennessee by 1894, was in Beniah by 1896, but it is presently unknown when Awrey and Martin or the others first met.
On a related front, early pentecostal periodicals reported that tongues-speech was known among the Gift People/Adventists since the middle of the nineteenth century. Some of their audiences were said to be in the 1,000s. Horace Bushnell, writing in 1871, related an eye-witness account of a trusted friend having heard tongues-speech in New England during the 1850s. Writing in 1909 concerning New England, V.P. Simmons spoke of 42 years of personal exposure to practitioners of tongues-speech. Counted among that number was William M. Doughty who in 1865 had spoken in tongues while in Maine. Doughty moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1873 and assumed leadership among those exercising the “gifts of the Spirit.” Simmons says that William Doughty had two sons. Frank, the oldest, was ordained. Could the unnamed brother of Frank be Edward Doughty, who at the end of the nineteenth century was part of Sandford’s entourage that visited Charles Parham in Topeka? The answer is yes!
C.W. Shumway wrote in his master’s thesis (1914) that tongues-speech started among Frank Sandford’s followers in 1893, and Sandford’s Tongues of Fire 3, June 15, 1897, refers to the miraculous use in 1895 of Chinese and African dialects by Jennie Glassey. Shumway also says that Parham told him that he first heard tongue-speaking from Sandford’s students as they emerged from the school’s “Prayer Towers” during his visit to Shiloh in the summer of 1900. It is known that Parham met up with Fire-Baptized enthusiasts in Topeka when arriving in 1898 and encountered Irwin himself at some point before 1901. Agnes Ozman, who was the first person to speak in tongues at Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, plays into the mix since prior to 1902 she visited John Alexander Dowie, who built Zion City, attended classes at Nyack with Stephen Merritt, and made an evangelistic excursion into Old Orchard [Beach?], Maine. William W. Menzies suggests (Dictionary of Christianity in America) that Agnes, who formally affiliated with the Fire-Baptized in Oklahoma after Topeka, had Fire-Baptized contact prior to 1900.
Although it can only be speculated as to whether A.J. Tomlinson’s 1896 exposure to Shiloh included at least stories about tongues-speech, his Last Great Conflict (1913) says the peak participation of tongues-speech followed the conclusion of the 1896 revival services in the Shearer School House. W.F. Bryant says that the “Holy Ghost and Fire” outpouring went for three years. This would cohere with Nora Bryant Jones not remembering having heard tongues-speech prior to 1907. In any event, given the dynamics of the Fire-Baptized formula and the wide-range of publicity given to tongues-speech in New England, it seems that the circle may be smaller than originally perceived. Thus, perhaps some light has been shed on the milieu out of which came the following reflections by B.H. Lawrence:
While it is true that the most of those who received
the baptism prior to 1900 did not regard tongues
as the invariable accompaniment of the baptism in
the Spirit, those who received in South Carolina,
and Tennessee did so regard them, at least to the
extent that when they first heard one speak in
another tongue they did what Peter did at Cesarea,
viz. believed that the Gift of the Holy Spirit had
been given to them as to the disciples at the
Dr. Harold D. Hunter