History of the Restoration Movement

Robert C. Rice


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Brief Sketch On The Life Of R.C. Rice

Robert C. Rice was a gospel preacher. In the early years of the Reform movement in Kentucky, he was one of the young preachers of the second generation who stood out as excelling in the work of evangelism. He was greatly influenced by John T. Johnson, and was often involved with him in evangelistic outreach. Many of Johnson's reports to the Millennial Harbinger and other papers would include his success in gospel meetings, being greatly assisted by R.C. Rice. The result of his preaching would sometime include 30 and 40 responses to the invitation of Christ. In the 1842 volume of the Millennial Harbinger, Johnson reported, "I rejoice to know that we have such young evangelists engaged in the cause, as R. C. Rice, A. Kendrick and C. Kendrick. Their labors have been greatly blessed. My prayer is, that they may be humble, and that the Lord may bless them with health and strength to advocate the good cause for many years!" (p.274). Commenting on this report to Alexander Campbell, Johnson's biographer added, "That prayer for R. C. Rice, and C. Kendrick, that came from the heart of the author of it, has been, and is still being, answered, as they have both been laboring ever since it was uttered, and are still laboring, very successfully in the evangelical field." (Biography of John T. Johnson, p.186.) Johnson often referred to Rice as "our evangelist."

Rice found himself involved in the various efforts to educate Kentuckians. In May, 1850 he was mentioned as part of a group of ministers who had committed themselves to the raising of $500 toward the endowment of the chair of Sacred History in Bethany College, from among churches in Kentucky, (MH, 1850, p.403). He was among the many brethren in 1856 to found the Kentucky Christian Education Society. He helped in raising support for Bacon College in Georgetown, and the Female Orphan School at Midway. He promoted missions and was involved in the promotion of the American Christian Missionary Society (MH, 1859, p.699). He was seen among Disciples in Kentucky as being a mover and maker of the movement. He attended annual meetings and was always looked to for his input. In 1860, he was designated as one of the primary representatives of the ACMS in Kentucky for funneling funds to support missionaries, (MH. 1860, p.151).

In 1859, he suffered a devasting loss in the passing of his young wife, Eliza Ann. At the age of thirty-three she succombed to the severe health issues that had plagued her body for some time. It was said by some that he never overcame his sorrow. Her body was laid to rest in Eminence Cemetery.

Robert C. Rice preached in locations throughout Kentucky and in both southern Indiana and Ohio. In his home state he did extended work at Lawrenceburgh, Georgetown, and at Shelbyville. As mentioned before, many reports to various journals included the success of R.C. Rice in numerous locations. His labors took him to Shelby, Woodford, Fayette, Scott, Henry, Oldham, Jefferson, Bourbon, and many other counties. He held meetings at Grassy Springs, the Forks of the Elkhorn, Maysville, Mayslick, Georgetown, Nicholasville, Lexington, Jeffersonville, Ind., Harrodsburg, etc.

The life of Robert C. Rice came to a most sudden and sad end in January, 1861. While in a motel in Cincinnati, he was reported to have taken his own life. In a note left behind he had written to Mayor of Cincinnati and church leader, Richard M. Bishop, he said, "all is lost, my mind frantic, my heart crushed." Many rumours persisted concerning the possible meaning of his words. As the country was in deep unrest, the beginning of the Civil War was only a couple months away., Adding to this was the troubles that had arisen in his second marriage. However, the possibilites seem too numerous to guess why someone would go to such an extreme to solve his earthly problems. Only eternity will know the real reasons. Though shadowed by such a ghastly end, the early years of his adult life contribute to a wonderful example of unending and sacrificial commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ.

The Death Of Eliza Ann Rice

Report of the Death of Eliza Ann Rice, Milennial Harbinger, 1859, p.600

Shocking Suicide – An Eminent Divine Shoots Himself Through the Head

A sad tragedy occurred last Sunday evening at the Spencer House, which has cast a gloom over a large portion of our community. The Rev. R.C. Rice, of Eminence, Ky, one of the most eminent and distinguished divines in the State, ended his life by committing suicide. Dr. Rice arrived in this city from Philadelphia on Saturday evening. The clerk of the hotel assigned him a room, to which he immediately repaired. At noon on Sunday the chambermaid knocked at the door and request the occupant to rise. The Doctor came to the door and stated he was indisposed, and would not leave his room. The chambermaid thought nothing of the matter, and merely said to him. “You had better take in your boots.” He replied, “Never mind, I’ll not need them.”

Later in the day, and toward evening, the clerk thought strange at not seeing the Doctor, and accordingly sent a porter to his apartment, in case he might be too ill to rise from his bed. The porter knocked twice, and, not receiving any answer, tried the door, and found it unlocked. He entered the room, and there discovered the lifeless body of the unfortunate man lying on the bed. An examination showed that he had shot himself through the head, the ball entering on the left side, and passing almost entirely through. The body lay on the bed, with the face toward the wall, the left arm outstretched, with the pistol still tightly clenched in the hand.

On a table by the side of the bed was a letter directed to His Honor the Mayor. Mr. Bishop was sent for, who opened the missive, and found it to contain these words:

“Please have my poor body put in a genteel case and sent, without molestation, to Eminence, Kentucky, where I hope it will be laid beside my dear Eliza. My Christian character is impeached, and by misfortune the means of vindication are cut off. I have been a true man, have lived for the good of mankind and glory of God. I never injured a human being intentionally. I have preached faithfully the true Gospel of Christ, and to the Cross of Christ I have clung as the ground of my hopes. Take charge of my trunk, money, and clothes here, to pay all charges. But all is lost, my mind frantic, my heart crushed."

-January 25, 1861, Cincinnati Enquirer Report (As copied from http://www.kykinfolk.com/woodford/obits/Woodford_Pennant.htm)

Gospel Advocate Obituary

Tolbert Fanning, Gospel Advocate, 1861, p.63

Directions To The Grave Of Robert C. Rice

Eminence Cemetery is located north of Shelbyville, Kentucky off I-64 (between Lexington and Louisville). Take State Hwy. 55 north. Just before entering the town of Eminence, the cemetery will be on the right. You will need to turn onto the side road to enter the cemetery. Once in the cemetery bear to the right and proceed to the southern end. As you bear around the southern end of the cemetery, look for a large stone with an angel on it. This is the W.S. & Lizzie Giltner monument. Back toward the drive to the west is the monuments of Robert and Eliza Rice. While in the cemetery, be sure to go back toward the Giltner monument to the graves of Aylette and Sarah Raines.

GPS Location
38°21'32.0"N 85°10'51.7"W
or D.d. 38.358883,-85.181017

(L to R) Raines Monuments, Giltner Monument, Rice Monuments

Special Thanks

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.

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