After Brother Thomas’ baptism in 1847 a dramatic change in his priorities took place. Firstly he preached on the
importance of the current signs of Christ’s second advent, particularly the political revolutions then developing in
Europe. By this he drew attention to the Hope of the gospel more clearly and accurately than other men were doing
at the time, and to the importance of full obedience to this understanding by baptism. Brother Thomas was then
impelled to visit his homeland Britain, where he felt the significance of European events would be better appreciated
than in America. Some of his family still lived in London and he knew that many of his British readers, both
Campbellites and Millerites, would be happy to hear him speak.
In Britain, Brother Thomas met both support for, and resistance to, his teaching on the second coming of Christ and
the mortality of man. The Millerites were particularly keen to hear him and he spoke over forty times in the first
four months after his arrival, sometimes to several thousand at a time, particularly in Scotland. In Glasgow he was
urged to record the substance of his lectures in a book. Brother Thomas agreed and consequently his planned six
month stay extended to two and a half years! As a result we possess a monumental exposition of the gospel in Elpis
Israel. The publication of this book was a watershed in the development of the ecclesia in the last days.
On his return to America Brother Thomas soon began the most extensive travels of his life. In the eleven years from 1851 to 1861 he usually travelled several thousand kilometres a year and totalled about 64 000 km for the period. In this period he spoke about 635 times, in addition to speaking frequently in his home ecclesia. Most of these tours were to places previously visited rather than to new areas. His priority, once a few brethren were established, was to help develop the new ecclesia.

From Baptism to Britain 1847 to 1848


 Brother Thomas was baptized in early March 1847 at the age of forty one. On 9 September he commenced a journey of about four weeks to Baltimore, New York and Buffalo.

At Baltimore Brother Thomas stayed with Brother Richard Lemmon who generously cancelled Brother Thomas’ financial debt to him. He spoke four times in Newark, New Jersey to “Second Advent friends” or Millerites (Miller was the founder of what became the Seventh Day Adventists). They were the followers of Joseph Marsh.

Of the views seen on this train trip he says: “The Hudson scenery is beautiful… a traveler gets a view through the highlands, of great beauty. It is worth the cost of a trip to the North, if it were only to view the scenery of the Hudson, from New York to Albany. It is truly delightful on a warm and sunshiny day.”

Herald of the Future Age, Vol 3, page 205.

In Buffalo Brother Thomas spoke in the Advent Hall of the Second Advent believers about seven times. During his time at Buffalo Brother Thomas visited the nearby Niagara Falls, the first of several visits over the following years. He describes visiting Goat Island, the Cave of the Winds behind the American Falls and crossing the Niagara River in a ferry to the Canadian side.

While in Buffalo Brother Thomas wrote to Joseph Marsh (the Editor of the Advent Harbinger) in Rochester, requesting the opportunity to speak at that place. This was the first contact between the two. Brother Thomas spoke twice in Rochester.

Later, in December 1847, Brother Thomas published a twenty eight point summary of his talks in New York.

The effect of Brother Thomas’ talks was the creation of the New York ecclesia which met initially in the home of Brother George B Stacy.

 Joseph Marsh

 Joseph Marsh lived from 1802 to 1863. He was publishing a magazine from about 1837 or 1839. The name of his magazine changed over time, one of which was The Restitution. At that time he was a Millerite.

  joseph 1

Joseph Marsh

 In 1851 Marsh published a book entitled The Age to Come, or Glorious Restitution of All Things. In this book his understanding of the millennium and the restoration of Israel at Christ’s return had matured and was very similar to that of Brother Thomas.

In 1851 Brother Thomas advertised Marsh’s magazine in the Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come. The issue which prevented a union of the two was the need for baptism based upon full knowledge, which Marsh could not accept. From about 1855 to 1858 Brother Thomas and Marsh steadily moved apart and were then no longer on friendly terms as far as beliefs were concerned. The group led by Marsh was simply known as the Church of God.

Today the Church of God General Conference, based in Atlanta, Georgia, identifies Marsh as its founder and pioneer. This church does now accept the need for knowledge before baptism. Their beliefs are generally similar to ours but described in less detail. There is some latitude in beliefs regarding immortal emergence, the devil, a paid ministry and fellowship.

The General Conference church, based in Atlanta, Georgia, estimates its membership at about 5 000, mostly in the USA. This group was formed in 1921 out of another group called the Church of God of the Abrahamic Faith. This latter group is even more closely aligned with the Christadelphian faith. There are at least six congregations in America in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Florida. Christadelphians have had many contacts with this group, but there is no fellowship between us.

Benjamin Wilson, the writer of the Emphatic  Diaglott, joined the Church of God after separating from Brother Thomas in about 1860. Wilson is also identified by the Church of God General Conference church as one of its pioneers. In 1892 the Jehovah’s Witnesses bought the copyright to the Diaglott and subsequently published the book. Wilson was not associated with the “JWs”.

 To Britain

 On 1 March 1848 Brother Thomas was awarded his MD at the Scientific, Eclectic and Medical Institute of Virginia in Petersburg, where he was resident in December 1847. He was made President in April 1848. Eclecticism is a form of natural or botanic medicine.

In April 1848 Brother Thomas indicated his expectation of visiting England. He planned to return in October, that is in six months.

With the increasing political turmoil in Europe Brother Thomas wrote a number of articles in 1847 and 1848 on prophecy. After his trip to Britain he explained that the exciting events of February and March 1848 in Europe stirred him to visit the area. Political revolutions in Europe seemed to Brother Thomas at that time to be important heralds of Christ’s imminent return.

In May 1848 he published his thirteen point “Summaries of beliefs”. Whilst in New York he had letters published in at least two newspapers. In one of these he states that his intention in England is “to invite public attention to European affairs, as evidential of the near approach of the kingdom of God”.

 Brother Thomas carried with him to Britain letters of introduction to Mr G Y Tickle of Liverpool, John Black of London and James Wallis of Nottingham, editor of the British Millennial Harbinger. Brother Thomas was aware, whilst still in New York, that some people were favorably disposed to his views. Brother Thomas had been offered accommodation with his brother Henry in London at 3 Brudenell Place, New North Road, Hoxton. This part of London has been extensively redeveloped and the house no longer exists.

 In Britain 1848 to 1850

 Contact with Campbellites and Millerites

 Brother Thomas’ visit to Britain was something of a “leap into the dark”. He could not be sure of the response of the Campbellites or Millerites. In fact  there was known Campbellite opposition, particularly after Campbell’s own visit to Britain in 1847.

Brother Thomas left New York for Liverpool on 1 June 1848 on the De Witt Clinton. This was a new ship about to make its first voyage. He travelled at his own cost, with his “ten year old” daughter (as stated by Sister Ellen Thomas in 1850) Eusebia. Sister Thomas was an invalid with tuberculosis and could not therefore travel with Brother Thomas. He was forty three years old at this time.

He stayed with his brother in London for about a month. Shortly after arriving he visited John Black (a Millerite) with his sister Jane who was known to Black. Brother Thomas gave him a letter of introduction from America. John Black and David King produced the magazine The Bible Advocate.

Within a week of arriving in London Brother Thomas was effectively barred from association with the Campbellites in Nottingham by James Wallis, the editor of the British Millennial Harbinger in Nottingham. However at the same time the Millerites of Nottingham invited him to speak there. Brother Thomas comments on this as follows:

“But before Millerism fell into ruins it was useful in obtaining for the truth a large and attentive hearing.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1851, page 160.

 This visit to Nottingham eventuated as a result of an unexpected incident. Brother Thomas’ reply to Wallis, setting out his beliefs in sixteen points was sent to William Marriott. Marriott wrongly assumed that Wallis already had a copy so he sent his to the Millerites, who gladly accepted the opportunity to hear Brother Thomas. The Millerites also invited Brother Thomas to speak in Derby, Lincoln, Birmingham and Plymouth. From late July to early August 1848 Brother Thomas visited Nottingham where he spoke thirteen times. The lectures were reported in the local newspapers and audiences reached about 2 000. Brother Thomas, writing in 1851, comments that “providence opened this door of utterance”.

 The report in the Nottingham Review of Brother Thomas’ talks on 30 July stated that:

“Dr Thomas’ mode of teaching is at once convincing, persuasive, and impressive; his arguments seem clear and just, and sustained in every particular by the Word upon which they are founded. His expositions are simple and  effective, and intelligible to the most ordinary capacity.”

 Herald of the Future Age, Vol 4, pages 68 to 89. At this very early stage of his visit to Britain Brother Thomas was requested to publish these lectures.

Meanwhile Campbellites in America were writing to Britain to oppose Brother Thomas. At this time it became apparent that the Campbellites in Britain were divided in their views on Brother Thomas. Henry Hudson of Nottingham, the editor of The Gospel Banner, was supportive whilst Wallis was not. Brother Thomas observed that:

“It was more than we could have calculated upon that a paper was awaiting us in England ready to aid us in neutralizing the slanderers, and in defeating the machinations and machiavelianism of the enemies of the kingdom of God, although its editor and proprietor might be said to have scarcely any item of belief in common with us. Yet so it was, and thanks to God for the providence.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1851, page 79.

Brother Thomas was therefore able to take advantage of this situation and to speak to some Campbellite congregations. By November 1848 King and Black had withdrawn their support, having read Brother Thomas’ Confession and Abjuration written at the time of his baptism.

From Nottingham Brother Thomas went to Derby. Here he spoke six times and his audiences were about 1 000. At this time his mailing address is given as 49 Hoxton Square, London. This is highly significant as he was born in Hoxton Square! This house may have been his uncle’s and perhaps his sister and parents lived there at this time.

From Derby Brother Thomas went to Lincoln where he spoke twice. These were reported in the Lincolnshire Times newspaper. In Lincoln Brother Thomas was appointed the representative of the Campbellite church to the forthcoming Glasgow Conference of the Campbellites commencing on 27 September 1848. He was also invited to speak to the Campbellites in Newark. Without any ecclesias yet in existence he took every opportunity to speak to any who would hear.

Brother Thomas arrived in Glasgow on 15 September. Before the Conference he spoke fifteen times. By Sunday 24 September his audiences in the City Hall had grown to five or six thousand!

As a result of the opposition from Wallis and  others Brother Thomas was effectively excluded from the Campbellite Conference. However he had already made a great impact on the people of Glasgow and was also accepted elsewhere. From Glasgow Brother Thomas went to Paisley where he spoke eight times.

 The Writing of Elpis Israel

 On Thursday 12 October 1848 at Glasgow Brother Thomas was requested to defer his return to America and to publish the matter of his lectures in a book. After completing his appointments at Edinburgh and Lincoln he returned to London to write the book during the winter, while the proponents obtained subscriptions.

From Glasgow Brother Thomas went to Edinburgh for two weeks, speaking ten or twelve times to audiences of sometimes more than a thousand. By early to mid December 1848 Brother Thomas had returned to his brother’s house in London.

“Having completed a tour of nearly five months, I again found myself in London, with health considerably impaired from the fatigue I had undergone. Recuperation was therefore the first thing to be attended to. Rest of mind, and a little medicine (for, however professional it may be to prescribe much, I have a very great aversion to the conversion of my own interior into a receptacle for the quantities usually exhibited on the placebo-principle) to restore the cerebroorganic equilibrium of the system, effected this in two or three weeks, so that by the beginning of the new year [1849], I was enabled to commence the composition of Elpis Israel. I did not allow the grass to grow; but worked while it was called to-day, and much of the night also. For six weeks, the world without was a mere blank except through a daily perusal of the London Times; for during that period I had no use for hat, boots or shoes, oscillating, as it were, like a pendulum between two points, the couch above, and the desk below. In about four months the manuscript was completed… With the exception of two discourses at Camden Town, and two at a small lecture room near my residence, and an opposition speech at a Peace-Society meeting, I made no effort among the Londoners to gain their ears.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1852, page 227.

In March 1849 Brother Thomas wrote a booklet  against the Mormons, called Sketch of the Rise, Progress and Dispersion of the Mormons at the request of several who were concerned at the progress of the Mormons in Britain. This extremely rare publication was found by Brother Peter Hemingray of Detroit and this writer has a copy.

In June 1849 Brother Thomas commenced a second tour of the towns he had been to in 1848 and also visited Birmingham, Newark, Dundee, Aberdeen and Liverpool. At Aberdeen a ten year old boy named Robert Roberts, was taken by his family to hear Brother Thomas speak. He only remembered Brother Thomas’ beard!

The results of these labours was a list of about 1 000 subscribers for Elpis Israel which encouraged Brother Thomas to go to press on his return to London in September 1849. But on revising the manuscript he considered it unsuitable and imposed upon himself the task of writing it all over again– which, after four months, he accomplished by the end of 1849. The Preface to Elpis Israel is dated 1 January 1850.

In February 1850 Brother Thomas wrote that he had to extend his stay in Britain until the copies of Elpis Israel were sold and the printer paid. The Herald of the Future Age was to be suspended until he returned to America. In the mean time he undertook a third tour of Britain revisiting the places where he had previously spoken.

 Further Travels

 In April 1850 Brother Thomas visited Plymouth and spoke on the current issue of the baptismal regeneration of infants. Consequently he wrote Clerical Theology Unscriptural or the Wisdom of the Clergy Proved to be Folly. In May Brother Thomas travelled to Edinburgh with Eusebia.

From 7 to 19 September 1850 Brother Thomas undertook a tour of Europe with two friends. This tour took them through Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Arnheim, Cologne, Bonn, Mianz, Frankfurt, Brussels, Waterloo and Paris.

 Return to America

 On 11 October 1850 Brother Thomas and Eusebia left Liverpool on the Marathon for New York, where they arrived on 19 November after an absence of two and a half years. As Brother Thomas was the surgeon of the vessel they travelled free.  He was forty five years old.

Although Brother Thomas was then in apparently good health he wrote of a “latent predisposition to an almost fatal attack of disease… We were seized with a chill which introduced us to a sickness of a severer character than we have been the subject of for seven years. From December 3rd to the time we are now writing this article (January1) we have not left our bed. A continued bilious fever is the form of disease which has laid us low. Its effect upon us has been almost fatal. A change, however, for the better has taken place; and although our weakness is extreme and our bulk reduced to mere bone and attenuated muscle, yet we feel that we are improving, and that with care we shall be enabled to leave our bed in a few days”. Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1851, pages 19 and 20.

 North American Travels

 1851 to 1861

 Travels in Virginia

 Upon commencing the Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come Brother Thomas sent the magazine to all the subscribers of the Herald of the Future Age. On 20 March he spoke the first of four times that week in the House of Delegates in the Richmond Capitol. This impressive building honours George Washington and others, including one of the leaders of the French Revolution, LaFayette.

In July 1851 Brother Thomas again visited Lanesville in King William County with his daughter Eusebia (in her young teens) and Brother Allan B Magruder.

By the end of 1851 Brother Thomas reported that the cost of producing the Herald exceeded the receipts—a problem no doubt shared by the editors of magazines today too!

 Distant Journeys

 After his initial visit to the place, Brother Thomas revisited there in later years as long as there was still an interest in the Truth and his travel expenses were met. Most of these trips involved thousands of kilometres and many weeks away from home.

In response to an invitation from a “friendly community”, Brother Thomas set out for Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada on 28 September 1851. On the  way he records that his “health was much deranged by the Fall weather, having been seized with emesis at the moment of departure from Richmond, with loss of appetite and debility”. In describing his visit near Little Plymouth he comments that circulating Elpis Israel and The Herald “is better than building meeting houses”. His audiences were up to 1 000.the rich

The Richmond Capitol

 In 1853 Brother Thomas again visited Nova Scotia. Each trip involved about 3 200 km return, about the same as travelling from Adelaide to Sydney or Alice Springs. The 1851 trip from Richmond to Halifax took about ten days mainly by boat and he was away for six or seven weeks each time.

Brother Thomas visited Henderson in Kentucky in 1854 for the first of eleven times, the last being in 1866. He did not visit any other place outside of his home State as often. The distance from New York to Henderson was 3 540 km return, about the distance from Adelaide to the Bible School at Rathmines on Lake Macquarie. It took about seven days to reach Henderson from New York by paddle steamer and in later years, three days by train. Each time he was away from home from four to six weeks.

He describes speaking in Henderson to “large promiscuous [of mixed composition] congregations, and in talking replies to innumerable questions from house to house”. He spoke in the Court House on two evenings.

The ecclesia marks its commencement from 1854 and the sign in front of the existing hall proclaims this.

 Henderson Ecclesial Sign

 The hall is seven miles (eleven km) from Henderson and the existing hall was rebuilt on the site of the original building.

During his 1854 trip Brother Thomas travelled from Henderson to St Louis where 200 people a day were dying from cholera. From there he travelled to Dubuque, Iowa where he “had some particular friends”. In May 1853 Brother Thomas had advertised a pamphlet by his father titled “Popery as it was in the Middle Ages; and as it is in the Nineteenth Century” and gives his place of residence as Dubuque! Perhaps he was the “friend” visited the following year.sign

On 11 July 1856 Brother Thomas travelled to Toronto, Canada for the first of seven times, the last being in 1869. On the way he describes in detail the Whirlpool on the Niagara River about two kilometres below the Falls. During the 1856 trip Brother Thomas spoke in the St Lawrence Hall and in the Temperance Hall. The distance from New York to Toronto is about 800 kilometres, a little further than Adelaide to Melbourne, and took two days by train.

From Toronto in 1856 Brother Thomas then travelled to Paris, Ontario where he spoke twice in the Town Hall and three times in the Congregational Temple.

The Paris Star newspaper published a letter of support for Brother Thomas on 30 July 1856. Some in the town were sufficiently upset by Brother Thomas’ teaching and the Star’s sympathy towards it, that they threw the editor’s printing types into the Grand River and threatened to also throw the editor in!

When visiting Paris with Brother Colin and Sister Cathy Badger on 26 July 1995 we “discovered” the old Town Hall. We were able to visit the upper floor room and to stand on the platform where Brother Thomas spoke.

During the 1856 trip Brother Thomas then travelled to Illinois for the first of eight times.

 Paris Town Halltwon hall

 He visited Geneva, St Charles (where he had lived thirteen years earlier) and Aurora. The Geneva  hall is still standing and is identified as a local heritage building.

Regarding Geneva, Brother Thomas remarked that “their congregational singing is quite a treat to the ear, the treble, base, counter, and tenor, being  

Geneva Hall


 well sustained by all”.

 On his return east in 1856 Brother Thomas fell seriously ill in Milwaukie, Wisconsin and was disabled ten days.

“We are subject to this condition as the result of much uninterrupted exercise of brain in speaking. The nervous fluid, which is so much for the whole body, by much brain-work accompanied with but little muscular exercise, is expended too largely by the brain in its own operation, to the detriment of the other internal members of the body. The stomach, liver, and other parts of the alimentary system, become torpid, and the pressure of circumstances prevents the correction of this condition. This torpor of the chylopoietic viscera becomes the proximate cause of painful and troublesome symptoms. In our case, it produced tenderness of the teeth, painful swelling of the face, tightness of the frontal region of the brain, sleeplessness, and extreme general debility, so that talking became a burden, and the grasshopper too.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1857, page 36.

This trip extended 3 930 km return, nearly as far as from Adelaide to Brisbane and back, and took over six weeks.

1857 saw the first of three visits to Memphis in Tennessee. In 1860 his third visit extended to Fayette in Mississippi. This trip took over seven weeks and extended for about 5 000 km, nearly as far as from Adelaide to Perth.

In July 1858 Brother Thomas travelled to Ontario, Canada for the second time, this time with his daughter Eusebia. On the way to Toronto they stopped at Niagara Falls and bought ice creams—140 years later most people still do!

In 1860 he made his first trip since his baptism to Adeline in Ogle County, Illinois, where the Coffman family lived. In Ogle County Brother Thomas stayed with Samuel W Coffman who procured a Methodist hall in Adeline for him to speak in (twice in omÚ62day). Brother Thomas describes the believers in Ogle County as the most earnest, particularly the family of Samuel W Coffman. He comments at this time that those who invited him to visit (which was invariably the case) had to meet not only his travelling expenses but also to provide the means of support  for his family at home. Brother Thomas first visited Ogle County in 1842. This is recorded eighteen years later in the Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come for September 1860.

The map below illustrates the places most frequently visited by Brother Thomas:

 Significant Events

 During the years 1851 to 1861 a number of significant events occurred. Some of these are highlighted below.

At the end of 1851 Brother Thomas made these interesting comments:

1 “We have suffered indeed from weariness of flesh and spirit.”

 2 His expenses, particularly for the Herald, exceeded his receipts.

3 He gave seventy lectures during the year, averaging two hours each.

4 He would have been rich if he had practised as a doctor.

In the Herald for July 1852 Brother Thomas began a series of articles on the Tempter. On page 155 he describes meeting with a physician in London (sometime during 1848 to 1850) who gave him a copy of pamphlet he had written, titled “An Inquiry into the existence of a personal Devil”. I believe this man was Dr John Epps. This booklet was republished in Australia by Christadelphians in 1944 as “The Devil —An Expose” and reprinted in 1959.

In the Herald for December Brother Thomas reported that the Thomas family was moving from Richmond to New York where he considered the prospects to be better for a hearing for the Truth. He calls this move providential and due to circumstances beyond their control.

In January 1854 Brother Thomas published the Constitution of the New York Ecclesia, which called itself “The Royal Association of Believers”. Their order of worship is of interest:

1 Prayer by the presiding brother

2 Singing

3 Scripture—Reading

  1. From Genesis to Job b. From Psalms to Malachi c. From Matthew to Acts d. From Romans to Revelation

4 Singing

5 Contribution, and Reception of Members, if any

6 Breaking of Bread, &c

7 Exposition of the Word to edification (fifteen minutes at most!)

8 Singing

9 Prayer

On 28 February 1854 Brother Thomas received a letter dated 18 October 1853 from “Brother” David Leishman of “Pentridge, near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia”. He describes having emigrated in 1848 as a Campbellite. He had requested Brother George Patterson of Scotland to send him all of Campbell’s works but was also sent the Herald and Elpis Israel! These he read with delight and although no details are given he may have been the first person baptized in Australia.

On 20 May 1854 Brother Samuel George Hayes wrote to Brother Thomas from “Port Wellington, New Zealand, Australasia”. He mentions that Elpis Israel is known and appreciated by a few even in that remote corner of the earth. By 1856 there were reported to be seven members in the Wellington ecclesia.

In June Anatolia, or the “Exposition of Daniel”, was published.

By January 1855 the New York ecclesia had grown to forty members. In July Brother Thomas published a forty six point “Summary of the Christianity Revealed in the Bible”.

In September 1855 Brother Thomas gave the first indication that he planned to write an interpretation of the Apocalypse. Eureka Volume 1 was published in 1861, Volume 2 in 1866 and Volume 3 at the end of 1868. The whole work therefore took thirteen years.

In December 1855 Brethren Benjamin Wilson and Joseph Cockroft of Geneva, Illinois advised that they intended to publish a New Testament translation, which we know as the Emphatic Diaglott. According to reports of the time the work was commenced in 1857. The writing of the Emphatic Diaglott took seven years, and was published in parts up to 1863, by which time Wilson had separated from Brother Thomas. The whole book was published by Fowler and Wells in New York in 1865.

In the September 1857 and January 1858 Herald Brother Thomas describes his contact with a Jew, Dr D E de Lara. These articles form the basis for much in Eureka Volume 1 dealing with God manifestation.

In the April 1858 Herald Brother Thomas penned the well known words, “God manifestation, not human salvation, was the grand purpose of the Eternal Spirit.”

 On 27 August 1859 Brother Thomas travelled to Virginia with Eusebia. At this time it appears that Eusebia was still unmarried. In the March and April 1861 Herald her husband Brother B Lasius wrote an article,“On the Nature and Constitution of Man”. Perhaps she had married him around 1860. However since she again travelled with Brother Thomas in 1866, she may by then have been widowed. In 1869 she is referred to as a widow.

Commenting on his 1859 visit to Louisa in Virginia, where the ecclesia had a hall in the shape of an octagon, he observed that “the press is more effective” than a building in preaching the Truth.

On 3 May 1860 the Thomas family moved from Mott Haven in New York to West Hoboken in New Jersey, just a few miles away across the Hudson River. This was the last of the family’s nine moves. Here they lived until Brother Thomas died. In June 1860 Brother Thomas reported that he was free from debt.

1860 was a difficult year for Brother Thomas and the brethren. He had major disputes with a “Brother” John Williams in Toronto and Benjamin Wilson in Illinois. Wilson and A B Magruder are mentioned in October 1878 as being associated with the Restitution magazine (The Christadelphian 1878, page 570).

This disagreement caused him to speak out against “crotchets”. These included the insistence by some that one should abstain from pork, alcohol, tobacco, meat, leavened bread and slavery. Some advocated vegetarianism, water cure and the use of a decoction of raisins (after boiling them) rather than wine for the memorial drink. Brother Thomas did not necessarily take the opposite view of any of these but was very strongly opposed to making them a matter of ecclesial fellowship.

It was at this time that he said:

“We do not arrogate to ourselves the Spiritual Fatherhood of the believers of the gospel of the kingdom.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1860, page 203.

 The American Civil War

 1861 to 1865


 The American Civil War interrupted the steady growth of the American ecclesias. Not only was  travel and post restricted but many brethren were distracted from their ecclesial responsibilities. The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come was suspended, permanently as it transpired.

In March Brother Thomas observed that the prospects for war between the States were ominous. In April the Civil War began. Living in New Jersey Brother Thomas was effectively a ‘Northerner’ but many of the brethren were considered ‘Southerners’, such as those in Virginia.

In an endeavour to help the ecclesias in the north and south at this difficult time Brother Thomas left home on 19 June to visit Ogle County in Illinois (second time), Wisconsin and Henderson in Kentucky (eighth time). Whilst in Henderson County Brother Thomas heard that it was possible to visit Richmond.

“Having a strong desire to see the brethren there, and to strengthen them in the faith, and to fortify them against the influences calculated to seduce them into the bloody civil strife inaugurated by the hungry and impious politicians of the hostile sections of the late United States, we determined to adventure our liberty and well being among them for these purposes.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1861, page 206.

Brother Thomas obtained letters to Confederate military leaders to assist in his travels near the battle front. On the train from Chattanooga to Knoxville he experienced at close hand “the disgusting presence” of many soldiers. At Bristol Brother Thomas secured a seat on train by climbing in through a missing window! “Our mode of entrance was neither elegant nor dignified; but in this instance ‘the end’ seemed to ‘justify the means.’”

 Brother Thomas spent nearly six weeks in Virginia visiting many of the brethren. “In our tour, we aimed more to strengthen the believers, than to add to their numbers.” He advised them to have nothing to do with the factions of either side of the war. Prayer for those in authority was urged so that they would allow the brethren to “lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty”. Brother Thomas advised that Paul “would not approve of christian civilians turning soldiers”.

 To assist in his effort to undertake the hazardous crossing of the front line Brother Thomas was given a letter from Brother Allan B Magruder to his brother in the flesh General Magruder at Yorktown, Virginia.

Before venturing to cross the front line Brother Thomas was nearly arrested by Confederates who suspected him of being a Northern spy.

In Lunenburg County Brother Thomas urged the brethren to obtain exemption from military service under the law that allowed all persons “licensed to preach the gospel” to legally avoid the bearing of arms.

On 2 September Brother Thomas arrived in Yorktown where he met General Magruder. The next day he successfully passed through the front line under a flag of truce. On his way to New York Brother Thomas stopped at Washington DC to visit his brother in the flesh, Alfred. He arrived home after an absence of twelve weeks.

In August Brother Thomas announced that it was probable that he would suspend the Herald. In that event he indicated the possibility that he would revisit England.

In September Brother Thomas reacted strongly to the position taken by George Dowie and others in Edinburgh, Scotland. This caused the 22 year old Brother Roberts great anxiety. They rebuked Brother Thomas for his “lawlessness of language”, and “low style of talk” particularly against Campbell, Cook, Marsh and Storrs. Brother Thomas maintained the necessity of warning against the teachings of these deceivers.

In December he published an article on “Are Christians of the Present Day Baptized with the Spirit?” in which he states the following profound words:

“Our proposition, then, is this, He that is taught of the written word is taught of God; and that a man hath just so much of the Spirit of God in him, as he hath of the truth in him intelligently and affectionately believed.”

 Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 1861, page 278.


 Brother Thomas revisited Britain in May 1862, returning in February 1863. He travelled throughout England and Scotland and, according to Brother Roberts:

Little was accomplished by the tour beyond the encouragement and strengthening of the friends of the truth, who were poor, and without social influence.”

 Dr Thomas, His Life and Work, 1884, page 282. This visit had a significant impact on the life of the 23 year old Robert Roberts. Brother Thomas saw great potential in him, particularly since his  lectures in 1860 when he was 21 years old. These later became the basis for Christendom Astray.

First regarding his place of abode Brother Thomas “advised me to go to Birmingham if I could arrange it. He said there was a wide field for the truth there. There was not only a large population, but circumstances specially favouring religious independence”. My Days and My Ways, page 130.

The amazing foresight of this advice is still evident in the numerous ecclesias in Birmingham today. He also “advised me to start a magazine”. My Days and My Ways, page 145.

This too had a dramatic effect. The Ambassador of the Coming Age commenced in July 1864 when Brother Roberts was 25 and in 1870 its name was changed to The Christadelphian, which continues to this day. It has been estimated that in 1864 two thirds of the 400 brethren and sisters in Britain lived in Scotland.


 After his return to America Brother Thomas travelled to Ontario, Canada for the fourth time and to Milwaukie.

 1864 Coining of the name Christadelphian

 In early August Brother Thomas commenced a trip that lasted over two months and covered over 3 000 miles (4 800 km). In Henderson ten brethren were about to be conscripted into the Confederate army, the Civil War having about eight months yet to run. Brother Thomas, with the assistance of brethren J M Stone, Paul Blackwell (a notary public) and Eades (a justice of the peace), was able to convince the authorities that all the brethren were ‘Ministers of the Gospel’ and therefore exempt from military service. Whilst in Henderson he was ill.

For several days I was prostrate: appetite fled and energy none. Rest restored me.”

 In Ogle County, Illinois the same issue of conscription had arisen. The Federal law exempted all who belonged to a Denomination conscientiously opposed to bearing arms. It was necessary to give the name of the denomination. Brother Thomas suggested “Brethren in Christ” but as the officials preferred names to phrases he added the name Christadelphian.

 Samuel Coffman’s house


 Brother Thomas stayed at the house of Samuel Coffman pictured above. The arrow indicates the room in which he coined the name Christadelphian.


 In January Brother Roberts reported in the Ambassador that Brother Thomas doubted whether he could renew the Herald because of the heavy taxation in America due to the Civil War. On 12 March Brother Thomas submitted a petition to the United States Congress stating the brethren’s conscientious objection to the bearing of arms and referring to them as Christadelphians. Since the Civil War ended in April the matter was no longer an issue.

On 31 March Brother Thomas wrote that he planned to visit the brethren in several places to “stir up their faith, and co-operation”. Therefore on 27 May Brother Thomas arrived in Richmond at the start of a five week trip.

“I did not go to see this scene of devastation and ruin… but to see what was the spiritual and temporal condition of the brethren, and to minister, as far as my limited means would allow, to their necessities.”

 On the way he stopped at Washington DC to visit his “fleshly relations” who were his brother Alfred (who was Surgeon-general at the United States Hospital in Washington) and sister Jane (The Christadelphian, 1870, page 319).

He described the war damage as follows:

“Richmond in the business part of it is a scene of desolation. Viewed from the Capitol Square is an open space of about eleven acres filled with burnt bricks and tottering walls and chimneys.”

 Near Petersburg he found that:

“desolation reigns. The wagon trains of the armies have made [the road] in places almost impassable. The fences being all destroyed,  the road and fields are blended into a common wilderness. Very many of the homesteads are burned, and the chimney stacks only remain to indicate their former position”.

 The Christadelphian, September 1865, page 250, 251.

Many of the brethren had suffered the loss of most of their possessions in the war, and sadly were also divided amongst themselves. There were no more than twenty in the Richmond ecclesia. Nevertheless the unity of the ecclesias north and south had not been broken by the War.

The total number of deaths in service during the Civil War was a staggering 624 511! This is more than the total of all the American war deaths since then up to and including the Vietnam War.

Brother Thomas arrived home “no little fatigued by the exhausting effect of heat, travel, and public speaking upon a nervous system not as vigorous as it was twenty years ago”.

 He was then 60 years old in 1865. Nevertheless in July Brother Thomas travelled to Ogle County in Illinois (fourth time) and Henderson in Kentucky (tenth time).

Whilst in Ogle County Brother Thomas was asked by Brother Samuel Coffman regarding the publication of Eureka Volume 2. Upon the news that insufficient prepaid subscribers existed to publish at that time, a shortfall of $1 115, Brother Coffman said that the money would be raised even if he had to give it all himself. He undertook to provided $1 260 in subscription and extra donations. Other brethren also assisted and Brother Samuel Coffman personally gave $545. $1 000 was then a reasonable salary for one year!

 Planned Move to Britain 1866 to 1870


 During June Brother Thomas and his daughter Eusebia travelled to Worcester, Massachusetts.

In July he also travelled to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Norfolk. Writing on 30 July he says that:

owing to a hereditary disability affecting my  left arm and hand, developed since 1862” he found writing “positively disagreeable” and “exceedingly burdensome”.

 The Ambassador of the Coming Age, 1868, page 204.

From this we can deduce that Brother Thomas was left handed.

In August Brother Thomas visited Toronto (for the sixth time), Detroit, Milwaukie, Ogle County in Illinois (for the fifth time), Henderson (for the eleventh and last time) and Hayfield in Pennsylvania.

 1867 and 1868

 In these two years Brother Thomas’ travels were less extensive. He did visit Cincinnati in 1867, and Virginia and Massachusetts in 1868, the last trip with his daughter Eusebia.

On 5 November 1868 Sister Eusebia wrote that her father planned to visit Britain the following spring (May 1869) now that Eureka Volume 3 was published. She also mentions that her parents proposde that she go too as her mother was unable to travel (due to the tuberculosis she had had for at least thirty years).

 1869 and 1870

 A brother from Worcester, Massachusetts, writing on 25 January 1869, said that “the Dr thinks he has written as much as this generation can digest”.

 On 17 March Brother Thomas commenced a journey to Newhaven in Connecticut, Worcester in Massachusetts, Toronto (for the seventh time), Detroit, Milwaukie, Chicago, Ogle County in Illinois, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

On 5 May Brother Thomas and Eusebia left New York for Liverpool, England. They were in Britain for twelve months “for the very arduous tour through Britain” during which Brother Thomas was unwell at least three times. He spoke 145 times. He was 64 years old.

In October it was reported that Brother Thomas was organizing with other brethren to enable Brother Roberts to become a full-time editor of The Christadelphian at the age of thirty.

In September it was announced that Brother Thomas proposed to remove to Britain. Brother Thomas’ experiences over the previous 25 years or so had convinced him of the greater prospects for the spread of the gospel in Britain than in America.

However, Brother Thomas first had to return to  America to wind up his affairs. On 4 May 1870 he travelled on the Idaho, leaving Eusebia in England. Writing on 6 June 1870 he states that, to sell his house, we have whitewashed the fences, mowed the grass, dug the garden, &c. so as to make a naturally pleasant residence, still more tempting and attractive to the eye”.

 He was 65 years old. This was all to no avail, for before he sold the house he became ill and died within nine months.

On 2 July Brother Thomas travelled to Baltimore, Washington and Virginia, returning on 2 August.

In September he travelled to Worcester but became very ill. The November Christadelphian reported that Brother Thomas was “confined to bed for several weeks. He was seized with a violent attack of illness immediately on his arrival in Worcester, Mass.” He returned home to New York at the end of September. “He is now convalescent, but is in no condition to make the visits intended, in divers parts of the States.”

 In Dr Thomas: His Life and Work Brother Roberts describes the illness as “peritonitis, to which he had, for many years, been subject in a slight form.”

 Sister Eusebia travelled from Liverpool to New York on 2 November on the Colorado to be with Brother Thomas, whose condition made her company desirable.

 Death 1871

 On Sunday 5 March at 12:30 am, aged 67 less one month, Brother Thomas died. Sister Eusebia wrote that “his illness lasted eight days: days of excruciating agony, night and day”. Brother Thomas insisted on treating himself, but on the sixth day when his faculties failed they called a doctor.

Upon the death of Brother Thomas the task of guiding the young ecclesias fell to Brother Robert Roberts, aged just under 32 at the time.

He with Brother Bosher travelled to New York to arrange the burial of Brother Thomas, and to visit many of the ecclesias in the USA and Canada. They were the executors of his Will.

On 20 April Brethren Roberts and Bosher landed at New York. The burial of Brother Thomas took place on 30 April. The same grave site has also been used for his wife and daughter, and for Robert Roberts who died in San Francisco in 1898.

  Comments on Brother Thomas by Others

  Our conclusions on the legacy left to us by Brother Thomas could be many and varied. The unsolicited views of his contemporaries while he was still alive, both sympathetic brethren and non-Christadelphians, are instructive. His work under God’s providence was recognized even during his life time. Nearly 127 years after his death his outstanding example of perseverance and dedication cannot fail to impress us. May this review of his life and character spur us on to a greater commitment to our gracious God in these perilous last days.

The first extract is from a Campbellite history which describes Brother Thomas in the 1830’s:

“Dr Thomas was capable and talented and possessing an engaging personality. Almost from his arrival in Virginia he became popular and prominent. As an editor he possessed considerable power. The printed page was the only means available to reach large numbers of people in separated areas. However, he did not confine himself to that medium, but made extensive trips which provided personal contacts throughout Eastern Virginia. For over a year Dr Thomas’ success was phenomenal…

 “A R Flippo, many years after the bitterness which had been generated by the Doctor had




 subsided, recalled that Thomas was ‘a man of decided talent and personal powers… He was a man of earnest and eloquent speech, and of imposing personality; and wherever he preached attracted large audiences of delighted hearers. Next to A Campbell he was regarded as being head and shoulders above any other preacher in Virginia or elsewhere. And a few thought him second to none.”

 Ante-Bellum Virginia Disciples, H Jackson Darst, 1959.

 The following is from a Baptist writing in 1855:

“John Thomas, M D, an Englishman, early, and with marked zeal, enlisted under the banner of the Reformation. He was the first Disciple who manifested any disposition to do his own thinking… He admired, and extolled Mr Campbell, approved of the Reformation, so far as it had been carried, but he was desirous to see it advanced to perfection, and he engaged with commendable ardor, in the effort to increase the light of the Reformation. He maintained , with perfect consistency, that persons who had been baptized without proper views… of baptism… should be re-immersed.”

 Campbellism Examined, Jeremiah B Jeter, 1855  Robert Roberts wrote of the time of their meeting in 1862:

“He was a totally different man from what his writings had prepared us to expect. These writings were so pungent, so vigorous, so satirical, and had such a sledge-hammer force of argument and denunciation that we looked for a regular Boanerges—a thunder-dealer, a man not only of robust intellect, but of a combative, energetic, self-assertive turn, whose converse would be regularly spiced with explosive vocables.

 “Instead of this, he was quiet, gentle, courteous, well-mannered, modest, absolutely devoid of affectation or trace of self-importance.”My Days and My Ways, Robert Roberts, page 117.

In 1868 the Campbellites, in strongly opposing Brother Thomas, acknowledged that:

“Doctor Thomas, in scholarship, intellectuality, and personal popularity and influence, is the chief man among the Nazarenes or  Christadelphians of this country. He is a man of more than average intellectuality, of extensive information, and of superior speaking ability. Years agone, he was very popular in Richmond and in Eastern Virginia. Wherever he preached, listening, attentive crowds hung with deep interest upon his addresses. The novelty to his hearers, of his peculiar views, astonished and attracted them”.

 Christian Examiner (quoted in The Christadelphian, 1868, page 315).

Brother W A Harris of Chicago wrote in 1869 of Brother Thomas that he:

“was agreeably surprised in one thing. Somehow or other I had the impression that he was stern, and perhaps reserved, but such is by no means the case. The attention and honour which the Dr has received for years has not affected him in that way. To me humility seems a prominent part of his character. The least of our brethren can feel at home in his company”. The Christadelphian, 1869, page 317.