History of the Restoration Movement

Wesley Taylor Kidwell

1847 - 1937

Photo Source: Ligon Portraiture, 1899

The Life of W. T. Kidwell

Wesley Taylor Kidwell was born in Alexandria, DeKalb County, Tennessee, on January 5, 1847. He was the son of Thomas J. Kidwell (1811-1884) and Susan Wood Wilson Kidwell (1813-1896). Wesley was the sixth of eight children and the fifth of six sons. His eldest brother was James Monroe Kidwell (1836-1892), and his youngest brother, Thomas L. Kidwell (1854-1906), were both gospel preachers.

Growing up in a Christian home, his parents were farmers. They raised their children in an era when hard and honest work was routine and expected. E. A. Elam, in his biography on older brother James Monroe Kidwell, Twenty-Five Years Of Trust: A Life Sketch Of J. M. Kidwell, went into greater detail on the goodness and solid commitment of their parents, with particular emphasis on their mother, Susan. She was a very determined woman and faithful to the Lord and her husband and children all her days.

Wesley's education is uncertain. Growing up in Smithville, Tennessee, he was exposed to a hotbed of growth among churches of Christ. Some of the earliest reports of his preaching are in Warren County, Tennessee, in the mid-1880s. He preached gospel meetings, planted churches, and strengthened many others.

The Firm Foundation was a brotherhood paper produced out of Austin, Texas, founded in 1884 under the editorship of Austin McGary and Elijah Hansbrough. Early on, the editors raised objections to some of the teachings of David Lipscomb and James A. Harding over accepting denominational baptisms into the fellowship of the church of Christ. The dispute led to what some believed to be a feud between the Texas and Tennessee paper, the Gospel Advocate.

Believing the position posed that one must be baptized Scripturally, Wesley submitted his first article in agreement with the Firm Foundation editors. In the April 15, 1888 edition, page three, under the title, "To Whom It May Concern," he set out to show that sectarian baptism was not acceptable according to the Scriptures. Little did any know this article would be the first of many over the ensuing years from the pen of W. T. Kidwell.

From 1888 to 1890, the family lived in Granville, Jackson County, Tennessee. At the close of 1888, he wrote an article and submitted it to the Firm Foundation. Entitled "One More Year Gone," it appears in totality as follows: "The last night of 1888 has come. The nail that has supported the calendar for twelve long months stands all alone, and to-morrow we write 1889; and the figures at the top of this article will only be a thing of the past. We look back over the year, and with glad hearts do we remember the many pleasant days we have spent with brethren, sisters, and friends, and a few with the loved ones at home.

"Our failures and short-comings in the gone-by days, crowd themselves into the mind and make a lasting impression, that we are weak in the flesh. But God has promised, that all things work together for good to them that love him. Let us then try to profit even by the wrongs we have done in the past by keeping a constant watch over self in the future.

"Another number of the F. F. made a visit to our home to-day, and this reminds us that we have done at least some good in 1888; for we have been instrumental in putting the F. F. Into the hands of some of our friends, and we think we can say truly that they will be both interested and benefitted. Many of them only subscribed for six months, and with some of them, the time is almost gone. Now, to one and all, let me say, don't let the paper stop, but send in your name and one dollar before your time expires. Pass a few copies into your neighbor's family after you have read them, and ask them to subscribe, it will cost you nothing to do this and it may be the means of saving man's souls.

"We now have the promise of a weekly in the near future, and still at one dollar a year. This, I think, will be a more sound reading matter than can be obtained elsewhere for one dollar. There is enough brethren and sisters in our State that read no paper, to give the F. F. a large circulation, if they could only be induced to subscribe. And many of them can, by a little effort on my part. And even many who are taking other religious papers, would be glad to add the F. F. To their reading matter, if their attention was only called to it. Then let all go to work in real earned, and do a work that we will be glad of in eternity. May the Lord bless us all with a happy New Year." - W. T. Kidwell, Granville, Tennessee. (FF, 02.01.1889. p. 7)

In the Spring of 1891, the Kidwell family moved to Decherd, Franklin County, Tennessee, to work with the church there. He continued his meeting work in other places as well.

At the end of 1891, he penned the following,

"Another year is numbered with the past. Much good has been done, for which we rejoice. But some of us, no doubt, have made many mistakes. But the good we have done should strengthen us for a renewed effort for the new year, while a consideration of our mistakes should serve to make us more careful in the future.

"My time has been so taken in trying to preach the gospel, that I have had no time for writing for the F. F. For several months past.

"I have visited many congregations and labored with them in the gospel of our Lord and Master. The brethren in those places have assisted me with their substance. I have done much work in destitute places. This has been done largely at a sacrifice of time on my part. However, the few scattered brethren in such places have given me enough to pay my travel expenses, to and from such places.

"I have not gone into winterquarters, but have gone through snow and ice to meet the few who never freeze out. I find that it never gets too cold for people to die. And never so cold but that we can find some one ready and willing to obey the gospel.

"On January the first, 1892, after delivering a discourse to an attentive audience, we went through a cold wind and rain, to where there was much water, attended to the baptizing of three young ladies. The obedience was witnessed by a number of brethren, sisters, friends, and sectarians, which stood upon the muddy banks while the clouds sent one of their heaviest showers down upon their heads.

"One of the ladies baptized is the only one among her relatives know to have obeyed the pure unadulterated gospel. May she with the others, ever be faithful. I thought the above was a good day's work with which to start into the work of a new year.

"The Lord willing, I shall spend the next year laboring in the vineyard of the Lord. I am still located at Dechard, Tenn., and expect to make this my home, (or the place I will call home) perhaps for life.

"Those expecting to write me at any time in the future will please make a note of this. Will let the brethren hear from me occasionally through the F. F. Truly, W. T. Kidwell. (FF, February 8, 1892, p.7)

Photo Source: Kaci Jacobs, Ancestry.com

In the January 10, 1893 issue of Firm Foundation, W. T. Kidwell of Decherd, Tennessee, was listed as a regular contributor to the paper. That year the work in Decherd was fulfilling. He reported assisting in over 100 baptisms. (FF, 01.09.1894, p. 5).

Sometime toward the end of 1894, he and his family moved out to Austin, Texas. In the January 8, 1895 issue of Firm Foundation, among the list of contributors on page 4 was W. T. Kidwell of Austin, Texas. The September issue of that year showed he had moved to Weatherford, Texas. The family was there for a few years before moving around 1899 to Fort Worth.

W. T. Kidwell was a learned student of the Scriptures. He was a strong voice for conservative thinking. When churches across the brotherhood were fighting over things like missionary societies and whether instrumental music should be brought into worship assemblies, he assisted many brethren in resisting these additions. As the turn of the 20th century was fraught with division in the church ranks, Kidwell preached for the southside church, the only congregation in Fort Worth where they had refused to take up the societies and the instrument.

He wrote a tract on "The Dividing Line Between The Old And New Covenants" that sold through the Firm Foundation for ten cents a copy in 1892. (FF, 02.02.1892, p.7)

A series of articles he wrote on Instrumental Music appeared in the Firm Foundation in the early years of the 20th century. Upon completion, they were placed in a 48-page booklet released in 1904 entitled "Instrumental Music In Christian Worship." They were distributed throughout the brotherhood for 15 cents and believed to do much good to keep churches from digression.

In the July 5, 1904 issue of the Firm Foundation, Wesley was listed as Associate Editor of the weekly journal. (p.4) Then, in the March 13, 1906, issue, he was listed as one of the editors of the paper, along with N. I. Clark of Gunter, Texas; G. A. Trott of Georgetown, Texas; J. R. Lane of Coleman, Texas; and G. J. Steck as Manager. (p.4) In the November 21, 1914, edition of the Firm Foundation, editor G. H. P. Showalter answered a biblical query. Later in the column, another question was asked. The answer was delivered by W. T. Kidwell of Dallas, Texas, showing that the family had moved from Fort Worth earlier. In a short time, he was the designated querist for the paper, a role he continued in until 1935.

Wesley was married twice. His first wife was Mary Frances Hennessee (1850-1883). They were married on September 23, 1865. He was 19, and she was 17. Four children were born to the couple, William Henry Kidwell (1866-1956), James T. Kidwell (1870 - ????), Hershel Kidwell (1875 - 1931), Arthur Charles Kidwell (1879 - 1956), and John Francis Kidwell (1883-1972). Mary Francis died in November 1883 in Warren County, Tennessee. Two years later, he married Elizabeth "Lizzie" J. Howard (1861-1948). They were married In 1880. They had three children, Ethel Howard Kidwell (1888-1947).

In 1935 brother Kidwell suffered a severe stroke. His body was deeply affected to the point that he had to give up his responsivities with the Firm Foundation and his preaching activity. He continued to struggle for two years. Even though he continued to feel strong in his mind, his body was deteriorating. He finally passed away at the age of 90 years of age.

The funeral was conducted at Oak Cliff church of Christ with W. L. Oliphant and L. S. White speaking. Burial followed in the Laurel Land Cemetery in Dallas.

-Scott Harp, 02.02.2023
Sources: Firm Foundation, Gospel Advocate, Ancestry.com

Gospel Preachers In Texas And Oklahoma

W. T. Kidwell is a native of Tennessee. Raised on a farm. Born in 1847.

Brother Kidwell has ever been a great lover of books, and a hard student. His rich store of information covers a wide field. With him the Bible is truly the “Book of Books.” Few men have a more thorough knowledge of its teachings than he.

For twenty-four years he has devoted all his time to the ministry of the word. Brethren ever appreciating his intrinsic worth as well as his ability as a teacher of the Truth, he has ever had all the work he could do. In the twenty-five years he has been preaching he has never failed to reach his appointment, nor been forced to close a meeting on account of sickness.

Recognizing Christ as King, and the only law giver of his Kingdom, Brother Kidwell ever strives to present the word of the King, assuring his hearers that it is not the province of the subjects of the Kingdom to enact or repeal laws in the Kingdom of Christ. He warns people against the spirit of “Anarchism.”

For the past two years he has done more preaching than ever in the same length of time in his life. He enjoys the very best of health—is strong and active in body and mind. Many hundreds have been brought to Christ through his faithful presentation of the word.

For several years he has been one of the editors of the Firm Foundation.

-Source: Gospel Preachers in Texas And Oklahoma, C.R. Nichol (also, Gospel Preachers Who Blazed The Trail)

Nashville Banner, Nashville, Tennessee
Monday, July 8, 1889, p.4

The Moulton Advertiser, Moulton, Alabama
Thursday, October 8, 1891, p.3

El Paso Evening Post, El Paso, Texas
Wednesday, April 16, 1930, p.2

Advertisement For A Book On Instrumental Music by W. T. Kidwell

Gospel Review, 1903, p33

Advertisement For Kidwell's Tract

Firm Foundation, May 22, 1890, p.6

Firm Foundation, Novemeber 20, 1890, page 8

Our Departed
Sister W. T. Kidwell

Sister W. T. Kidwell died September 15, at 10:45 at her home, 1714 Cascade. She lacked two months of being 87 years old.

There will not be room here to tell the story of this grand woman’s life. She was a Christin in the finest sense of that word. Her husband was a pioneer gospel preacher. They were married in 1885, and lived together until his death a few years ago. Brother Oliphant often said of Brother Kidwell that he was the most loyal minister ever to have membership in a congregation where another man preached. Sister Kidwell carried on this same tradition. I never once had occasion to question here loyalty to me as a minister, nor to the Lord whom she loved, nor to the church for which she lived. The last time I saw her, she put her arms around me and said, “May God bless you.” That was characteristic of her. She is the kind of person you delight to think of when you are discouraged.

There is no way of knowing the good that this grand lady has done. In the many years she has been a member of the congregation here, she has befriended many, and been a help to all who have turned to her. No wonder God spared her life so long! It was a useful life, and people with her spirit are badly needed.

Sister Kidwell was preceded in death by her husband December 27, 1937, and her daughter, Mrs. Ethel Steagall, March 4, 1947. She is survived by three stepsons, her granddaughter, Mrs. Mary Louise McAfee, and two great-grandsons. In addition to these relatives there are a host of people, in and out of the church, who came to know and love this great woman, and mourn her passing.—From Christian Visitor.

Sister Kidwell was the wife of the late W. T. Kidwell, who was for many years associated editor of the Firm Foundation. —G. H. P. Showalter
-Firm Foundation, Tuesday, November 2, 1948

Obituary In Firm Foundation

Brother W. T. Kidwell Passes On

Our Brother W. T. Kidwell, well known gospel preacher and writer, was called him on Monday, December 27, at eleven a.m., at the age of 92 years. Few men during the past half century have done more preaching and writing along the lines of sound, loyal gospel teaching than Brother W. T. Kidwell. Till his last illness, occasioned by a paralytic stroke about two years ago, he retained remarkably well his power physically and mentally. He said to the writer some three years ago that his mind was fully as active as it had ever been and that he was capable of doing the best thinking of his life. Those who had the privilege of hearing him during recent years will confirm this testimony.

Brother Kidwell was for a number of years an associate editor of the Firm Foundation and was its query editor up until the time that he was wholly incapacitated on account of paralysis. He was a friend of the younger generation of preacher. Brother Kidwell leaves a wife, two sons and one daughter to four his passing. Sister Ethel Steagall, the daughter, and Sister Kidwell have been keepers of the home and faithful attendants to Brother Kidwell’s bedside during his illness. The funeral services were conducted at the Oak Cliff church of Christ, Brethren W. L. Oliphant and L. S. White having charge of the services. The editor of the Firm Foundation regretted his inability to be in attendance. A great man has been called away. It is refreshing to know of a life that has been extended for so many years and applied to such usefulness in the cause and kingdom of our Lord and Master. In this we rejoice and it leaves for the family and the church a precious memory.

Sister Kidwell and the children and grandchildren have our sympathy and prayer in this hour of sorrow.

-G. H. P. Showalter, Firm Foundation, Tuesday, January 11, 1938, page 4.

Fort Worth Star Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Tuesday, December 28, 1937 p. 2

Fort Worth Star Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Tuesday, December 28, 1937 p. 5


Elk City Journal, Elk City, Oklahoma
Thursday, December 30, 1937, p.8

Directions To Grave

The Laurel Land Cemetery is locate in south Dallas, Texas. Take I-35E south of the city to the Laureland exit and head east. The cemetery is practically on the exit. It is a huge grave location. It may be best to stop in the office for a map. Locate Section 15 and head there. The Kidwell plot is on the flat end of section 15 close to the middle. I have a cemetery map here. Section 15, Space 5, Lot 189. See Cemetery map here.

GPS Location
32°40'15.8"N 96°48'41.4"W
or D.d. 32.671053, -96.811492

Lizzie J. Kidwell

Wesley T. Kidwell

Photos Taken 02.19.2015
Webpage produced 02.02.2023
Courtesy Of Scott Harp

Special Recognition: In 2015 my daughter and her family were in Fort Worth visiting her parents, Mark and Debbie Hooper. Jenny and I flew in to visit. While there they loaned me their car to do some research. On this trip, I found the graves of a good number of gospel preachers of yesteryear including that of Tim and Lucy Walker.


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