History of the Restoration Movement

Robert Graham

"The Sacred Trio"

Robert Graham, Isaiah Boone Grubbs, John William McGarvey, the three men who came together to form the faculty of the "New" College of the Bible in the Main Street Christian Church, remained together for several decades. They came to be associated in the minds of students and friends of the Seminary under the affectionate title of "the Sacred Trio." An three had been Alexander Campbell's students in Bethany College. For several years they had served together on the editorial board of the Apostolic Times, published in Lexington, Kentucky. When they joined forces on the faculty in 1877, Graham was fifty-five years of age; McGarvey was forty-eight; and Grubbs was forty-four.


Robert Graham's father, William, had been an English sea captain. He brought his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to live when Robert was nine years of age.


At the age of twelve Robert began a five-year apprenticeship in the shop of a Pittsburgh carpenter. While thus employed he worked in the shop by day and went to school by night. And while still working at his carpenter's trade only a few years later he helped erect the first buildings of Bethany College. It was then that the desire to attend the College he was helping to erect became overpowering. And in 1844 with the personal encouragement of Alexander Campbell he laid down his saw and carpenter's rule to take up the Bible and the textbook.


He became student pastor of the Dutch Fork Christian Church, eight miles from Bethany; with his salary from this plus earnings as a Greek instructor in his junior and senior years, he was able to complete his work. He graduated as the salutatorian of his class.


Following his graduation from Bethany College in 1847, he rode horseback to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he established the Christian Church and where he also founded Arkansas College, forerunner of the University of Arkansas.


When Bacon College had been revived as Kentucky University at Harrodsburg in 1859, Robert Graham joined the faculty as teacher of English and related subjects. But he stayed only one year, then returned to Arkansas. Caught in the emotional tides of the Civil War he was compelled, because of his Union sympathies, to leave Arkansas. First he served as pastor of the Walnut Street Christian Church of Cincinnati from 1862-1864, and then in 1864 moved to California where he became minister of the Santa Rosa Christian Church.


He left this church in 1866 to become presiding officer of the Liberal Arts College of Kentucky University, recently removed to Lexington. This completed the circle from Kentucky University and return in six years. But, anticipating trouble with Regent John B. Bowman, Graham resigned this University post in 1869 to accept the presidency of Hocker Female College (later called Hamilton College). At the death of President Milligan in 1875, Graham left Hocker College to become presiding officer of the College of the Bible in Kentucky University.


Graham was later described by his students as "a solid block of a man." He had a florid complexion, light blue eyes, and "an orator's mouth," and in later years, "a halo of white hair." The dress of the day was a Prince Albert. But later, in the nineties, says Harvey Baker Smith, Graham wore an English walking suit, a standing collar, and a white bow tie. Priding himself on the control of his emotions, he almost never laughed or smiled.


President Graham began his teaching at The College of the Bible in the chair of English Literature and Homiletics, but after 1880 he occupied the chair of Mental and Moral Philosophy. This covered a wide range of subjects, also required of students in the Arts College of Kentucky University: psychology, logic, political science, civics, and economics.


As a teacher Graham was methodical and exacting. Though disposed to be kindly, he could be "sharp, even caustic" toward slipshod work." He was capable of acting out his lessons and took great pains to make things clear.


Robert Graham resigned the presidency June 28, 1895, less than two months before his seventy-third birthday. He continued to teach three years longer, but retired altogether in 1898, at which time, in recognition of a distinguished career, Kentucky University awarded him the LL.D. degree. He died January 20, 1901, at the age of seventy-eight.


--From Lexington Theological Seminary 1865-1965, Dwight E. Stevenson, Bethany Press,  pages 67-70

Location Of The Grave Of Robert Graham

President Graham is buried at Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Ky. Heading west from downtown on West Main Street enter the cemetery to the right. Continue through the iron gates on the main little road (Main Avenue). Just as you approach the "Sunken Garden" section you will want to turn right and head between it on the right and Section "8" on the left. At the end of "8" you will turn left. Section "11" will be on your right and "9" on your left. Continue down the lane until you reach near the end of section 9. Grave is tall spire on the left.

Note: Also in Section "9" are the graves of John B. Bowman and B.C. Deweese. Two sections over in Section "26" is E.E. Snoddy.

See Another Sketch On Robert Graham By J.W. McGarvey

GPS Location
N38° 03.545' x WO 84° 30.411'
or D.d. 38.059173,-84.506889
21 Ft. Accuracy
Grave Faces North
Section 9 Lot 97

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Maria Thornley
Wife of
Robert Graham
September 12, 1821
September 8, 1909

Robert Graham
August 14, 1822
January 20, 1901

See Where Graham Is Buried At Lexington Cemetery, Lexington Kentucky

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