History of the Restoration Movement

Earl Irvin West


Table of Contents

Dr. Earl I. West, Harp
State of Tennessee Resolution
Personal Reflections & Observations
The Indianapolis Star - Obituary
Campus Mourns The Loss Of Earl West, Meredith
The Search For The Ancient Order - Photo
Grave Location & Photos

Dr. Earl I. West

Earl Irvin West was born May 18, 1920 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He married Lois Louise Hinds. He was baptized by Hugo McCord in May, 1935. He attended Freed-Hardeman University, Abilene Christian University, and Pepperdine University, where he earned the B.A. degree in 1943. He attended Butler University in Indianapolis, where he received the B.D. degree. Finally, he received his terminal degree in in history at Indiana University.

He began preaching in Indianapolis as a young man, and preached in different locations over the years. His main work was with the Irvington and Franklin Road congregations in Indianapolis for over 40 years. Arguably, his greatest contribution to churches of Christ was in the area of historical research of Church History in general, and most specifically in the area of Restoration History. He produced five volumes in a series entitled, Search For The Ancient Order, the last of which was called The Trials of the Ancient Order. Additionally, he wrote biographies on the lives of the gospel preachers, David Lipsomb, Benjamin Franklin, and Hugo McCord. He wrote extensively for the Gospel Advocate and other church related journals for a number of years. He was in high demand for his scholarly research and explanation. He spoke on lectureships around the country.

He spent a number of years at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, and at the Harding Graduate School, now Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tennessee. Many preachers sat at the feet of the great historian and Bible scholar.

In April 1999, the state legislature of Tennessee made a formal resolution to honor Dr. Earl Irvin West for his efforts in the gospel. The resolution was as follows: "A RESOLUTION to honor and commend Dr. Earl Irvin West of Germantown for his meritorious service and for his many years of dedicated service and exceptional ability in spreading the gospel." Read the full resolution below.

His last years were spent in Memphis, Tennessee where he passed from this life on February 4, 2011. He was buried in the mausoleums at Indianapolis' Washington Park East Cemetery.

Source: Preachers Of Today

Filed for intro on 04/13/99
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 41 of the First Extraordinary Session
By Scroggs

A RESOLUTION to honor and commend Dr. Earl Irvin West of Germantown for his meritorious service and for his many years of dedicated service and exceptional ability in spreading the gospel.

WHEREAS, it is fitting that the elected representatives of the state of Tennessee should pause to pay tribute to those exemplary citizens who have given unselfishly of themselves, their time and their talents to perpetuate the public good; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Earl Irvin West, professor and church historian of the Churches of Christ, is one such remarkable citizen and a voice of integrity at Harding University's Graduate School of Religion since 1966; and

WHEREAS, a resident of Germantown, Dr. Earl West joined the faculty at Harding University’s Graduate School of Religion in 1966 where he has proven to be a valuable asset to the community of scholars; and

WHEREAS, previous to his lecturing at the graduate school, Dr. West taught at both Harding’s Searcy campus and at Freed-Hardeman University; and

WHEREAS, concurrent with his teaching assignments, he preached for almost 40 years at the Irvington and Franklin Road Churches of Christ in Indianapolis; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Earl West’s exemplary dedication to spreading God’s word is evident in his weekly schedule during the 1955-56 school year in which Dr. West preached in Indianapolis on Sundays, traveled by train to St. Louis, caught a Pullman car to Kensett and arrived at Harding’s campus just in time for class on Tuesday morning. Dr. West would then stay and teach on the Harding’s Searcy campus until Friday mornings when he would then drive to Memphis and teach in Harding’s graduate extension before flying back to Indianapolis.

He continued to preach in Indianapolis and teach in Memphis for the majority of his more than 30 years of service to his Lord; and

WHEREAS, throughout his excellent service as Professor, Author and Church historian, he has adhered to the common sense approach and has displayed the common touch in all endeavors, working well with old and young alike; and

WHEREAS, Dr. West’s credentials speak well of his expertise in his chosen field by having studied at Freed-Hardeman and Abilene Christian Universities and graduated from Pepperdine University. He also holds a Ph.D. in American history from Indiana University; and

WHEREAS, he has served as the foremost historian of Churches of Christ in the twentieth century; he authored the four-volume The Search for the Ancient Order, as well as The Trials of the Ancient Order, and also wrote major biographies on David Lipscomb and Ben Franklin; and

WHEREAS, he has been credited for having made major contributions to the beginning and continuing history of Harding University’s Graduate School of Religion, as he was instrumental in bringing Dr. W.B. West, the founding dean of the Graduate School, to Harding College in 1951; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Earl Irvin West will be honored as a longtime professor and church historian on April 23, 1999, at an event which will be hosted by the Graduate School of Religion; and

WHEREAS, a concerned person whose willingness to help those in need knows no bounds, Dr. West is highly regarded as a professional and as a friend by all persons in Germantown; and

WHEREAS, Dr. West is fortunate to share both love and companionship with his wife, Dorothy; and

WHEREAS, this notable individual is the perfect example of a person totally committed to his Lord, his family and his fellow citizens and thus should be specially recognized; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, That we hereby honor and commend Dr. Earl Irvin West for his meritorious service to his church, family, and to his fellow citizens.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That an appropriate copy of this resolution be prepared for presentation with this final clause omitted from such copy.

-Source: Resolution - Download a .pdf version here

Personal Reflections & Observations

          In May, 2012 it was my privilege to visit the grave of Earl and Lois West in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was on a one-week restoration research trip with my good friend Tom L. Childers. We were headed toward Bethany, West Virginia in an effort to be a resource for some students from Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies who were meeting us on the way there. Thousands of miles of travel I have taken over the years to visit graves of great men of God, but visiting this grave rated very highly on my list. Some of the photos taken that day are shown on this site.

In every generation it is essential that one will rise up to the challenge of most anything that is good, right, and holy. In the arena of historical preservation, especially in the study of Restoration History, the name Earl I. West will long be remembered as being one of the 20th century's greatest historians. His five works on the history of the Restoration Movement will long be heralded for their simplicity, clarity, and reliability. They are written in such a way that the novice historian can pick up any volume and quickly get lost in the world of yesteryear as the stories continue to entertain and excite the whole way through.

It was my great privilege to meet Earl West on just an occasion or two when he visited the campus of Freed-Hardeman University to lecture. So, to say I knew him personally would be a stretch. Yet, it has been a privilege of mine to know others who knew him and were his students. Some took his classes at Harding School of Theology and other places. It was my joy to sit at the feet of C. Wayne Kilpatrick while I was a student at Heritage Christian University. He was my history professor, and probably did more to whet my appetite for Restoration History than any other person. It has long been my belief that one of the reasons Wayne is the great teacher that he has been is due to the fact that the man who did instilled in him the similar love we share was none other than his teacher at Harding School of Theology, Earl West. In many ways, I feel I got Earl West through Wayne Kilpatrick. And, I believe that Wayne would attest to these sentiments.

Of the 20th century historians, Earl West will long be appreciated for the good he has contributed through the history he has preserved. Any reader of history can soon identify if the historian he is reading has a personal agenda he is either attacking or promoting. It is the true historian that appears to simply report the facts with summarization in keeping with the events as they unfold. If West had any agenda, it appeared to this writer that it was to report the facts as they happened. This is not to say that West had no opinions. His opinions did surface. One opinion he seemed to have was that history should be reported and not retold in an effort to support a personal feeling on a given subject. Reading his articles that appeared in the Gospel Advocate would give you the idea that he loved the truth of the Gospel. He decried revisionist history, and often wrote in later years against the writings of revisionist historians.

Brother West was not perfect. The documentation in his historical volumes were not perfect either. His efforts were reports of his findings. But, he never claimed they were infallible representations. Any historian worth his salt will check and recheck sources and events. That should be done with his volumes as well as any sources you find. The same attitude is stressed in the production of this website. A reporting of the facts is the desire of your webmaster in all that is given. This is why the earliest documention is always preferred over the later.

Among historians, Earl West was at the top of his field. In the thinking of many, he was the scholar, the recorder, and the ultimate example of researcher and reporter of historical events. For me, Earl Irvin West will always serve as an inspiration to dig a little deeper, to try to word things more accurately, to ask more questions, and make every effort to search for the ancient order.

-Scott Harp, web editor, www.TheRestorationMovement.com

The Indianapolis Star

Dr. Earl Irvin West Former university professor, church minister and author of 9 books, passed away Friday, February 4. He was 90. Though born in poverty, Earl worked his way through college, eventually earning a PhD in American History at Indiana University. He devoted his life to being a Church of Christ minister, first with the Irvington congregation in Indianapolis (10 years) and then with the Franklin Road Church of Christ, also in Indianapolis (30 years). At the same time he commuted once a week to Memphis to teach classes at the Harding University Graduate School of Religion. During this time he lost Lois, his wife of 38 years, to cancer. By then he had moved to Memphis, where, 5 years later, he married Dorothy "Dottie" Carrel, his loving wife for 25 years. In addition to Dottie, he is survived by two sons, Robert and Timothy, 5 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. Funeral services will be held 3:00 Sunday, Feb. 6 at the Flanner and Buchanan Washington Park East Funeral Center. Visitation will precede the service. The family is asking that donations be given for Alzheimer research ( www.alz.org) andor to the Harding University Graduate School of Religion Library.

-Published in the The Indianapolis Star on February 5, 2011

Campus Mourns The Loss Of Earl West

I guess it's appropriate that a librarian speak about the books West wrote. I was fortunate to have a long association with West as librarian at the Harding Graduate School and witnessed the production of several of his works. Earl left a great legacy through the books, articles and published lectures that he left behind. Although West wrote many articles, I am going to mention briefly only the books he authored; they will continue to be of inestimable value for anyone who is interested in or who studies about the American Restoration Movement in years to come.

West was a very humble man and never considered himself as an important person in the Restoration Movement or in churches of Christ. But West was the first and for many years the only historian of the Restoration Movement within the churches of Christ. If a person wants to know what transpired from the beginning of the American Restoration Movement in the early 1800s and in the churches of Christ up to 1950, his works are the ones to consult.

His interest in the Restoration Movement began when he was a student at Butler School of Religion in Indianapolis. The only comprehensive history of the Restoration Movement at that time was written in 1909 from the perspective of the Disciples of Christ. In his autobiography, Searcher for the Ancient Order (2004), he says, "I was frustrated by my course work in the Restoration Movement; I had to do my own research and bury myself in the movement to learn about it ... Now the Restoration Movement took hold of me." West's research for his Bachelor of Divinity became in large part the first of five volumes on the history of the Restoration Movement.

This first volume of Search for the Ancient Order, which dealt with the Restoration Movement from its early beginnings in the 1800s to 1849, was published in 1949; Earl was only 29 years old. The title of the work was influenced by a series of 32 articles Alexander Campbell had published in his periodical The Christian Baptist, 1825-1829. Campbell titled his articles "Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things." In his autobiography, West states that he devoured Campbell's articles in The Christian Baptist.

The research for the first two volumes of Earl's work was done before the old periodicals had been microfilmed, and he had to make trips to libraries that had these volumes and slowly flip through them page by page and take handwritten notes of their contents. Very fortunately, the library at the Butler School of Religion had an excellent collection of these materials. He was also able to spend many hours at the library of the old College of the Bible in Lexington, Ky., where J.W. McGarvey had taught. Scanning through West's volumes and looking at footnotes reveals the immense amount of time and effort spent writing these books. After several of the important periodicals were microfilmed and were more readily accessible, West spent many hours slowly scrolling page by page through each volume and taking handwritten notes on hundreds of 4 x 6 cards.

West told the story of the Restoration Movement through the lives of its characters. In "Personal Note" in his 1993 volume, West stated:

It should be emphasized that the Restoration Movement is the story of people—their thoughts, their personalities, their actions and their interplay with forces that surrounded them. To a serious student of this movement, all that these people did and thought is of interest. The author has tried to throw as much light on them and their deeds as seemed feasible to make the times and personalities come alive for those who read restoration history for the pure joy of it.

Through his anecdotes, he brought their stories to life. One such example comes from volume one of West's history about Jacob Creath Jr., an early preacher in the movement:

In Creath's many trips over Missouri in preaching, he rode an old horse he called Jack. He was very much attached to this horse. On one occasion he stopped with a brother in a village, and the man sent the horse to the tavern stable. The tavern was owned by a member of the church that knew Creath well. Frequently, Creath would send someone over to see if Jack had been fed, then watered, and bedded. The lady became annoyed finally and sent word back to Creath: "Go tell Brother Creath that I have done everything for his horse I can think of, except to give him a cup of coffee, and I am getting that ready."

In 1950 West published the second volume of his Search for the Ancient Order that covered the years 1866 to 1900. The third volume published in 1979 covered to 1918, and the fourth volume in 1987 continued the story to 1950. In 1993 he published The Trials of the Ancient Order, 1844-1865. In this work he presented supplementary material for his first volume published 45 years earlier. In 45 years and five volumes, West had written 2,027 pages on the history of the Restoration Movement.

His interest in the restoration characters is reflected in the major biographies he produced. In 1954 he wrote a biography of David Lipscomb, long-time editor of the Gospel Advocate and leader among the churches of Christ based on his Master of Theology thesis completed at Butler in 1953. In 1983 he published a biography of Benjamin Franklin, restoration leader and editor of a major periodical in the Restoration Movement. He published Hugo McCord's biography in 1999. McCord had baptized West when he was 15 years old. They remained very close friends until McCord's death.

West created his own publishing company, Religious Book Service, to publish his works and reprint valuable 19th century works to make them available to those who did not have access to them. In keeping with his conviction of the importance of the people in the movement, he reprinted Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, the life of Jacob Creath, and the life of John "Raccoon" Smith and kept them in print so others could be introduced to these significant men and their thoughts.

Thank you, Dr. West, the Restoration historian among the churches of Christ, for the incredible amount of work you did and the resources you left behind for us and generations to come.

-Don Meredith, The Bridge, Volume 54, No. 4, winter 2010/spring 2011

The Search For The Ancient Order Series

Above are four of the five volumes of the Search for the Ancient Order Series. The first volume was issued in 1949, and subsequent volumes were produced over the next fifty years. The series was initially published through his publishing house, Religious Book Service. However, today the series is kept in print by the Gospel Advocate Company in Nashville, Tennessee.

Directions To The Grave of Earl I. & Lois West

Washington Park East, 10612 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46229. Plot Info: Rotunda of Mausoleums

From Downtown Indianapolis, take I-465 to exit 46, E. Washington Street, and go east about two miles. The cemetery will be on the left. NOTE: Do not be confused when seeing the first cemetery you come to which is called Memorial Park Cemetery. Continue past it and Washington Square Mall. Then enter to your left, Washington Park Cemetery East. There is a rotunda of mausoleums at the NE rear of the cemetery. The Wests are buried in one of these buildings. The building they are in is in the SE quadrant. Note GPS mapping below for exact location.

GPS Location

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Washington Park East
Cemetery and Funeral Center

Scott Harp at the graves of Earl and Lois West

Earl I - 1920-2011
Lois H. 1916-1980

Photos Taken May 23, 2012
Site built 10.2.2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp

Web Editor's Note: On May 23, 2012 I visited the grave of Dr. Earl I. West. It was the third day of a week's Restoration Research trip with my dear friend Tom L. Childers. Special thanks to Tom for doing the driving on this trip and taking photos along the way. Also, thanks to Terry J. Gardner for assisting in the location of the grave of Earl West.

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