Henry Russell Pritchard
Preacher & Master Debater Among Churches of Christ/Disciples in Indiana - Held 40 Debates
Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Henry R. Pritchard
Henry R. Pritchard belonged to the first generation of Indiana preachers, and was an active herald of the cross to the day of his departure in the autumn of 1900. Few men have been as well known by the disciples in Indiana, and for fifty years thousands claimed his personal friendship.
Coming to Indiana when churches were few, and preachers were, compelled to make great sacrifices, he began earnestly and intelligently a work that cannot be adequately set forth within the limits of this brief sketch. In many ways he was well fitted for such an undertaking. He believed in God and his Book, and that Christ would lead him on to victory.
His Kentucky origin was much in his favor, and he loved to remark that "a Kentuckian, with an Indiana finish, was an unusually strong man." Born, January 25, 1819, his birthplace stood by the road from Georgetown to Paris, and here he spent his earliest years. To have been born in the "Bluegrass Region" was considered a heritage, and his early home was treasured in his memory to the end of his life. In his ninth year he first heard the primitive gospel, and he never forgot Blackstone Abernathy, the preacher of that gospel. Thomas Campbell had just finished his noble efforts to "restore the Bible" to its divinely appointed place as the sole standard in matters of faith and life. Alexander Campbell had completed his essays in the Christian Baptist on the "Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things," and Walter Scott, not a year previous, had first stated the conditions of salvation from sin, in the. New Testament order, thus "restoring the gospel." The boy's memory was to retain incidents of that historic time, that were to bear richest fruit to himself and thousands of others.
On the first day of August, 1830, he was called upon to give up his mother by death. In less than another month he lost a little sister. Leaving a brother and sister in the home of their grand-parents, Henry and James, his brother, two years his senior, together began the battle of life for themselves. They won success by earnest efforts, and through many trials and hardships. James worked for a General Taylor, and Henry for Mr. John W. Tibbetts. This arrangement continued until Henry reached his majority. They owned all things in common, and all their possessions scarcely filled one small trunk. Before their mother's death they had each received six months' schooling, and during these times read and studied much of evenings and on Sundays. They read none but good books, and Bro. Pritchard followed this rule through life.
After Henry had reached his twenty-first year, he worked three months and sent James to school, and then James did the same for him. He loved to tell of his school days, and while his advantages were meager, he used his opportunities well. Like the great Lincoln, whom he so much admired, and resembled in personal appearance, he used the open fireplace the long winter nights in his determination to secure an education.
Naturally, with religious instincts, Henry, in his nineteenth year, desiring to lead an earnest Christian life, joined the Methodist church, and devoted much time to the study of the Bible. His genius was soon recognized, and his brethren soon encouraged him to exercise his gifts in public, and made him a class leader. He met with one class in the forenoon, and another, six miles distant, in the afternoon. After eighteen months he was licensed to exhort, and his ability as a preacher was soon recognized, and he became popular wherever he went.
At the age of twenty, he was examined for the ministry, and it was arranged that after twelve months he should be admitted to the conference as a preacher of the gospel in the Methodist church. But from the beginning his logical mind led him to a systematic study of the Messianic prophecies from Eden to the advent of Christ; and his study of the "Articles of Religion" put him out of accord with his Methodist brethren, as they did not appear to be in harmony with the Scriptures.
Meanwhile the movement to restore original Christianity had made remarkable progress. The cause in Kentucky had taken great strides. In the spring of 1840, Henry R. Pritchard came to know that he agreed with the disciples in most things, and with his Methodist brethren in but few. About this time he heard the scholarly L. L. Pinkerton in a series of sermons on Romans, which Henry had previously committed to memory. The young man's love of truth led him to appreciate the Scriptural position occupied by Mr. Pinkerton, and on May 20, 1840, he became identified with the restoration movement. He always retained the kindliest regard for his Methodist brethren, with whom he had been so pleasantly associated.
On the first Lord's day in July, 1840, Henry R. Pritchard delivered his first sermon as a minister of the Church of Christ, in his twenty-second year. He often told of the work he did the following winter when he cut one hundred cords of wood and sold it for one hundred dollars. This money he used to attend school for eight months, at Rising Sun, Indiana. Here he formed the acquaintance of Love H. Jameson and B. U. Watkins, with whom he was afterwards associated in the ministry for nearly half a century. By preaching for the congregation in Rising Sun on Lord's days, the young minister was enabled to continue his studies. In 1842 he served the churches at Carthage and Fulton, and studied Latin and Greek, under Walter Scott and B. U. Watkins. He boarded with Walter Scott, and had the benefit of his ripe scholarship and fine personality. During 1843 he served as evangelist for the counties of Hamilton, Butler and Preble, and was supported chiefly by the churches of Cincinnati, and continued to study under the same teachers. In 1844, after spending some time in the Eclectic Medical College in Cincinnati, he began the practice of medicine at Rising Sun, and for three months was very successful, but his love for the ministry triumphed, and he again gave his entire time to preaching the gospel. About that time he took a trip up the White Water Valley in Indiana, and preached seventy times, and received is compensation thirty-seven cents, from a Bro. Pond, at Metemora. But the people were poor, and gave him their best hospitality, and gladly received the word.
From October, 1844, to January, 1846, he preached at Oxford, Ohio, and continued his studies under professors of the Miami University. In January, 1846, he married Miss Emeline Birdsell, whose home was near Oxford, and began that sweet companionship that lasted over fifty-six years. This good wife was a fit companion for such a man. She appreciated his remarkable gifts, and in her sweet, strong way, did all that could have been done to make him useful and happy. She still survives him, and is a blessing to all with whom she has to do. She attends church regularly, and is zealous of the interests of the pure gospel. After their marriage, they immediately began an eight years' residence at Fairview, Indiana, where he studied Latin and German under Professors Benton and Hoshour, of Fairview Academy. Here, and in all this region, he did most effective preaching, not only in that early day but from time to time as long as he lived. One of the best sermons of his life was delivered to over one thousand people in McMillin's Grove, west of Fairview, but a few weeks before his departure, when he spoke with clearness and vigor.
Here, too, he held a debate, in 1847, with the Methodist champion, Williamson Terrell; and another in 1890, with Elder Potter, a Primitive Baptist minister. Bro. Pritchard's "Addresses," published in 1899, contains some of his best arguments presented in that first debate. They are marked by his love for truth. He never argued for argument's sake, yet he became restless when he heard an error advocated, and when opportunity offered, corrected it. He loved to give private instruction in fireside talks, and all who had the privilege of entertaining him in their homes will recall this remarkable characteristic.
He was greatly loved by young preachers, and at all their gatherings he became the magnetic center of a group of deeply interested brethren. He served the church at Columbus, Ind., from 1854 until 1870, when he moved to Washington, Ind.
In 1873 he disposed of his farm near Washington, and moved to Indianapolis, where he resided until the end. From here he went far and near. He preached and lectured, and led effective evangelistic work. He served as state evangelist, and brought many to Christ. At Lebanon and at Angola, where there had been only weak congregations, he proved to be just the man to start movements that have built up in these cities two of the strongest churches we have. He always championed every aggressive work for Christ, and never harbored a "fogy" notion.
Henry R. Pritchard was always a kind man, and although fearless as a lion, he had no spark of cruelty in his makeup. His most remarkable characteristic, according to his own estimate, as given to the writer, was his power to remember anything at the time he needed it. He seemed to forget nothing, and greatly rejoiced in this gift, but never obtruded the consciousness of it upon others.
His long ministry almost covered the history of our movement in the nineteenth century. He considered it a great privilege to take part in so great a work and he certainly held the first place in the Indiana field for many years. He loved to recall his acquaintance with the first men of the Restoration. He told many anecdotes of Campbell and Scott and others, that should have been preserved. He told of A. Campbell's love for children, and that at his Bethany home he could have been seen in his hours of rest and recreation with a band of children following him and clinging to his coat. Besides being associated with A. Campbell, Scott, Stone, Pinkerton, Watkins, Burnet, Challen, Rains, Smith, Loos, McGarvey, Lamar and others, outside of Indiana, here he labored with Jameson, O'Kane, Franklin, Hoshour, Benton, Danbenspeck, Burgess, George Campbell, Mathes, Brown, Thompson and a host of noble men, many of whom awaited him on the other shore. Two daughters and two sons, gladly minister to their mother, and grandchildren, possessing many of his best characteristics, cherish his memory. He fell asleep at Chesterfield, Ind., on a Saturday afternoon, while seated on a veranda, ready for the morrow's sermon.
-E. B Scofield, Churches Of Christ, John T. Brown, pages 438-440
Directions To The Grave Of H.R. Pritchard
Henry R. Pritchard is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana. Traveling On I-65 North Out Of Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana Take The Dr. Martin Luther King Street Exit - Exit 117. (Note: If you cross White River, You Have Gone Too Far) Go North On Dr. Martin Luther King Street. Turn Right On West 32nd Street. Cemetery Will Be On Your Left. Go Until The Road Dead Ends Into Boulevard And Turn Left. There Will Be An Entrance To The Cemetery As You Cross The 34th Street Intersection. Turn Left Into The Cemetery. Be Sure To Click On The Map for specific location in the cemetery. Also, be sure to see the grave of Daniel Sommer also buried in this section of the cemetery.
Hover over Green Arrow Below To See Exact Area
In June, 2009 Tom L. Childers, C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Scott Harp traveled about 3000 miles in one week through parts of Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. During this time we found the graves of 75 church leaders in the Restoration Movement. Chronicling these leaders into websites has been time consuming. Many thanks to Tom and Wayne in helping to take photos, share the driving, and putting up with your web master's slave-driving effort to see as many as we did in the time we had. Their photos as well as some of mine are seen on this site.