History of the Restoration Movement

Elder Jesse C. Oliver


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Death of Bro. J. C. Oliver

We are pained to find in the Christian Weekly of this week, an announcement of the death of this excellent young brother just in the very vigor and strength of life, as we had supposed. We have known brother Oliver personally, for many years, being by marriage related to him. We knew him while he was a Baptist preacher, and had the pleasure of aiding him in reaching a clear understanding of the truth as it is in Jesus. We also had enjoyed the pleasure of receiving him into the church at Owen's Chapel, Tennessee. When he became convinced of the truth, he determined to do everything understandingly, and being dissatisfied with his former baptism, he was, by our own hands buried with his Lord in baptism, in the waters of Little Warpath, Williamson County, Tennessee. Since that time he has ben an earnest laborer in the cause of truth. He loved the cause of God more than earthly pleasures or treasures. He fell asleep the second day of this month, May, but we had learned none of the particulars. Brother J. M. Pickens promises to give them, as soon as he can get them through his paper. Brother Oliver was not only a public proclaimer of the word of God, but he was also an acceptable writer. His writings have been published, some through the Advocate, but more through the Christian Weekly, published by Brother Pickens. But our brother is gone from us, to meet us no more, till we meet around the judgment seat of Christ. So the, sad as it is, we have to say farewell, till the resurrection morn.

-Gospel Advocate, E. G. Sewell, 1874, 488. [E. G. Sewell at www.findagrave.com].

Death of Bro. J. C. Oliver

The death of this zealous and faithful brother caused us much sorrow. We knew him well--knew him in his private and public life. After uniting with the Disciples he made our house his home for months. He was truly a man of prayer, and was not afraid nor ashamed to contend for and defend the truth at all times. We had unbounded confidence in him--we loved him devotedly, and hope to meet him beyond the River, where there is no trouble. He was universally beloved where he was known, and labored incessantly to advance primitive Christianity. A more incessant student of the Bible we have never known. We will ever fondly cherish the emory of our departed brother. -- Mansel Kendrick, Near Corinth, MS, June 19th, 1874. Gospel Advocate, 1874, 640. [Mansel Kendrick on www.findagrave.com].

Self-Murder of Jesse Oliver, The Champion Campbellite Preacher of Miss

"Jesse Oliver was formerly a beneficiary of Murfreesboro, when Bro. Pendleton was Professor of Theology and was looked upon as a young man of his opposition to Baptist. But he was evidently an unhappy man, and like most of his class, a blasphemer of the Holy Ghost, denying the proper influences of the Spirit and attributing them to something else. This is sinning against the Holy Spirit. Brother Smith informed us that this poor man recently shot himself through the heart with a pocket pistol, while in bed with is wife -- A terrible end of a perverted wrecked life." -- The Baptist, July 18, 1874.

The article above was written by James Robinson Graves.

The above is copied from The Baptist, of July 18th. Of course no other pen could write an article of this character except J. R. Graves's. Seldom have human beings seen marks of such malignant and dark depravity in any human being as this exhibits. It is a humiliation to be compelled to notice the ungrounded, false statements of this vile defamer of the living and the dead, but I cannot bear to see the unblemished character of a departed lover of truth thus malignantly and maliciously assailed, without speaking a word in defense.

I am not afraid that anything will be detracted from the good name of J. C. Oliver, by anything J. R. Graves might say, where both men are know--far from it. Where it is knows--as it is here--that J. C. Oliver was a pious, humble, self-scarfing Christian, and that J. R. Graves is not believed by his own brethren except in isolated sections, that he has been published by Baptist papers as a defamer and falsifier, that he stands excluded from the largest Baptist Church in the State of which he was formerly a member for falsehood, &c. I say, where these things are known it is useless for this persecutor of the Christian religion to defame the name of a departed follower of the cross, and belch forth his filthy calumny. But where Graves is believed, and J. C. Oliver is not known, he might possibly do his name some injury.

"He was looked upon as a young man of promise, if not of piety." Who ever doubted the piety of Jesse Oliver? Not a single individual who was not so full of prejudice that he could not do justice to any one. He was very "pious" as long as he remained a Baptist, but so soon as he threw off the fetter of Sectarianism, according to Graves, he became very impious. One thing is sure, he had too much piety to slander the dead, or misrepresent the living. Would to God J. R. Graves and others of his stamp possessed such a spirit! He had too much piety and good sense to hurl offensive epithets at his religious neighbors, and to call people and things by opprobrious names.

"That system of religious infidelity"!!! What kind of a spirit dictates such expressions as this? I think it might appropriately be denominated the Graves spirit. I think it almost peculiar to himself--at least I hope so. If we would just adopt a human creed, a human name, and a few unscriptural practices, like Graves, such as calling mourners, relating experiences, &c., &c., we would then be received into the pale of orthodoxy, and would have no infidelity among us. Does he not know it is unjust to call people infidels who fidelity to the Bible is unsurpassed by any people on the globe? Yes; he know it, but he cares little for justice.

"His ministry was characterized by the bitterness and constancy of his opposition to Baptists." He was opposed to Baptists just so far as Baptists are opposed to the Bible, no farther. Truth, he was opposed to the unscriptural doctrines and practices of Baptists, as he was to those of all other denominations, but as regarded the individual members he always spoke of them in the kindest terms; and to day, there are scores of Baptists who fondly cherish the memory of this noble, though unfortunate man. There are a few prejudiced, unprincipled men, such as J. R. Graves, who rejoice in this misfortune, and seek to make the impression that it was caused by religious dissatisfaction. But a more slanderous insinuation has never been circled. "He was evidently an unhappy man." I ask, what evidence has J. R. Graves or any other man that Jesse Oliver led an unhappy life? Simply none at all. There is not the semblance of truth in this statement. A man can scarcely be found who exhibits more signs of peace of mind, who is more firmly fixed in his faith, and more zealous in defense of the same than was he. To say that he was an unhappy man is without evidence, does him the highest injustice, and is prompted alone by a disposition to avoid the truth and make a false impression.

"A blasphemer of the Holy Ghost." O God! May he repent of this awful charge against one who is known by thee to innocent. May he be forgiven before being called to stand before the great tribunal of justice, to receive a reward according to deeds done in the body.

Bro. Oliver denied no influences of the Spirit. No man was ever a stronger advocate of Spiritual influences than was he. He only tried to draw the proper lines between a wild enthusiasm and the true Spirit of our God. Nothing is affirmed of the Spirit in the word of God which he did not earnestly believe and teach. If to teach the word of God just as it is, and persuade men to accept it, is to deny the influences of the Sprit then he was guilty of the charge. It is very easy for such man as J. R. Graves to deceive that a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, but thanks be to God, we do not have to be tried before such petty tribunals, but the Infinite One, who knows the hearts of all men will judge us, and award to us our dues.

"A terrible end of a perverted, wrecked life." Such expressions as these are enough to arouse the righteous indignation of every honest man. Upon what grounds can a man say his was a perverted life? He lived a faithful Christian, as thousands to day will testify. He was universally beloved by all unprejudiced persons who knew him, he labored earnestly for the blessed Redeemer's cause, sacrificing everything in reason for the welfare of others. Was this a perverted life? None but Graves, or some other possessing the same malicious disposition, could say it.

As I said in the beginning of this article, under any ordinary circumstances I should not have noticed J. R. Graves, for be it known that I consider him entirely beneath the dignity of a gentleman, but J. C. Oliver was a man whom I had known from my childhood, one whom I loved as a brother indeed, one who was a friend to men in the true sense of the term. He was interested in my welfare, he did all he could for my benefit and encouragement. Now, he is dead and gone, and I deem it my duty to defend his character. 

I do not deny that Bro. Oliver was a champion defender of the Christian faith, in North Mississippi. We owe much to him here for his untiring labors, for his faithful counsels, his wise admonitions, and above all, for his godly examples of piety and devotion to the cause of religion.

I shall ever revere his memory, and shall expect to meet him beyond the rolling river. If Mr. Graves had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, no harm could have been done. But he did not do this. Why did he not tell that it was insanity which led to the unfortunate deed? Why did he not tell that his mind was injured by sun stroke? Simply because he wished to conceal the truth and make an erroneous impression.

I have spoken in pretty sever terms of J. R. Graves, but I am thoroughly satisfied that it is not in the least undeserved. I again reiterate what I have said of him, and claim that I have not given him what he deserves, even at that, but he can supply the deficiency--he knows his own principle.

--A.W. Pryce, 1874, p.822.

More Information Involving J.C. Oliver

He committed suicide. He suffered from a severe heat stroke a year earlier and it is believed to have effected his mind. He said the ceremony of Rufus P. Meeks and Mary Laramore [Larimore] on Sept. 18, 1873. - LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA, MARRIAGES, MARRIAGE BOOK A, 1870 - 1876, As copied by the WPA, BRIDES H - O, Contributed 14 APR 2001, by Pat M. Mahan.

He is mentioned twice in the Gospel Advocate obituaries. He baptized J. C. Billingsley in 1871 (GA, Oct. 15, 1908, 666). He baptized Mary Jane Billingsly in Sept. 1870 (GA, Sept 9, 1885, 568).

"Bro. J. C. Oliver, Baldwyn, reported his labors and success since the middle of July last by letter. These and other brethren present represented at least three‑fourths of the entire brotherhood of the State. I would like to speak at some length of all the younger preachers whose acquaintance I made from 1870 to 1876, and of the work they did in Mississippi --- of the devoted and ever to be lamented J. C. Oliver, who for the time he was with us did as much good doubtless as any other man, who ever labored in the State, and whose sad and untimely death was so deeply deplored..." -M.F. Harman's History of The Christian Churches in Mississippi.

Directions To The Grave of J.C. Oliver

J.C. Oliver is buried in the Baldwin Masonic Cemetery in Baldwin, Lee County, Mississippi. From Tupelo, Mississippi, head north on Hwy. 45. Go past Saltillo, and then you will a few miles from Baldwin. Turn right on Hwy. 370 (Bethany Rd.) in Baldwin. Cross Hwy. 145 and Bethany Rd. will dead end into S. 3rd Ave. Turn right on S. 3rd Ave., then right back to the left on Gower St. Then turn right on S 2nd St. Ext. Then, turn left on Bush St.\Cemetery Rd. The cemetery will be about six blocks on the right. Take the first entrance to your right and go as far back as you can. Then road will turn to the south. Stop car just before crossroads and the grave should be on your right.

GPS Location
34°29'49.6"N 88°37'41.4"W
or D.d. 34.497109, -88.628157

In Memory
Eld. J.C. Oliver
Son of
M.A. & E. Oliver.
born April 24th, 1837,
died May 2nd, 1874.
He loved the Bible. It was his study and constant
theme. His life was an exemplification of its
pure precepts and doctrines. He labored to
disseminnate its great truths and to persuade men to
place themselves within the range of its promises.
He died believing that Faith, Repentance, and Baptism,
were the conditions of pardon to the alien.
That Love, Prayer, and the practice of the Truth,
were indispensable Christian duties, and conditions
of his final acceptance.

Oh! who can say his faith was vain?
His glowing hopes decry?
Does man's device, or truth, contain
The germ that will not die?
His faith of Living Truth was born
On it his hopes were stayed;
Tho life was not without its thorn,
He labored on and prayed.

No sign from Christ did he implore.
And took his Word, nor asked for more.
He searched to know what God had said
And there to lean his weary head;
Assured that what would be the same,
The worlds are wrecked and wrapt in flame.

7.8.2011 - C. Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom L. Childers visited and restored the
grave marker of J.C. Oliver. Many thanks for their efforts.
Thanks to Tom for the photo above!

Special Thanks

Most of this information is taken from Find-A-Grave.com. Tom L. Childers gave permission for its use on this site. Special thanks to him for his hard work locating the grave of J.C. Oliver and then gathering the things in print available to us.

Photos Taken by Tom L. Childers
Courtesy of Tom L. Childers / Find-A-Grave

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