Our Maternal Ancestors and Their Religion - updated

This page of this blog deals with our maternal ancestral family's involvement with religion. Because of additional information gleaned while researching other aspects of our family's history, it is an updated and expanded version of a previous page that deals with both their politics and religion.

This update leaves out their politics because that information hasn't changed. The previous information can be found here.

Rev. Carleton D. Jones and Rev. Rhoda (Ranee) Schurman Jones, circa 1960

My generation’s maternal uncle DeRand Jones (1927-2002) reported that his grandmother, Leona Cash Jones (1873-1957), told him that other than their work, in pre-radio, pre-television days the church was a central part of the family's activities. 

That has proven to be an accurate assessment. As a matter of fact, in my research on our family history I’ve thus far identified - by name - seventeen people on the maternal side of our extended ancestral family who were either ministers or missionaries. The list extends back to Revolutionary War days and includes:

■ Rev. John Wesley McPherson, a Methodist Episcopal minister, my generation's GGG grandfather;

■ Rev. James Anderson;

■ His son, Rev. J.W. Anderson;

■ Rev. James Jones;

■ Rev. Carleton Jones, my generation’s maternal grandfather, first a Methodist Episcopal minister, switching to the Nazarene denomination following its split from the MEs;

 Carleton's first wife, Rev. Nelle Virginia Field Jones, my generation’s maternal grandmother, also first a ME minister, then a Nazarene minister, later reported by her son (DeRand Jones) as having been defrocked, although this is disputed by her daughter (Claire Jones Dunn);

Carleton’s second wife, Rev. Rhoda (Ranee) Schurman Jones,  who was a Nazarene missionary to China before World War II, thereafter becoming pastor of a Nazarene church in Nova Scotia until her marriage to Carleton;

■ Rev. Jonathan Perkins;

■ Rev. Henry Cash;

■ Rev. William Galen Cash (in addition to his being a teacher, school superintendent and farmer);

■ William Maston Chambers, Jr., reportedly “a Holiness preacher”;

■ Dr. Elizabeth Field Moon, a Quaker minister;

■ Philip Solomon Moon, her husband, also a Quaker minister;

■ Dr. Grace Eleanor Field Chapman.

Add to the list a whole family who became Nazarene missionaries to India

■ Rev. Mary Elizabeth Jones Anderson, Carleton's sister;

■ Rev. J. Willis Anderson, her h

■ Rev. John Anderson, their son.

Based upon correspondence in DeRand’s archive, others of the Anderson’s descendants, whom I haven’t located, are believed to currently be involved in the ministry in one way or another, either as missionaries or ministers. 

[Editor's comment: Details of what's known about the lives of the people above are - or will be - included elsewhere in this blog. Readers can search this blog for them by putting a name into the search box above the Dunn family crest at the upper left corner of this page and clicking the little magnifying glass symbol.]


Beyond that, virtually every obituary or eulogy I’ve seen about our ancestral family contains references to their being active in their churches, being saved, being sanctified, teaching Sunday school, and so on. The one above is my generation's great grandfather and the one below is our GG grandfather. Fleet was Carleton's father and W.G. Cash was his maternal grandfather. (W.G.'s obit was provided by Cash cousin Cyndi R., and I'm grateful to have it, for it's almost 100 years old.)

(Click exhibits once - twice for the one below - to make 'em more readable.)

Also, biographical info about our ancestral family in the Belmont County centennial publication of 1903  makes reference to their very active involvement in their churches. Check out the link to Samuel W. Perkins and even the link to Thomas S. Rosengrant, M. D., who married Ada E. Jones, daughter of  my generation's GGG grandfather, Dr. William Jones. 

Furthermore, sprinkled throughout the various family lines are a large number of biblical names. For example, Mary and Elizabeth are seen frequently, and there is even a Delila among the female names. Among others, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Hezekiah can be found among the male names. 

Obviously, religion was very significant to the maternal side of our extended ancestral family.


Their beliefs and practices

◄ Leona Cash Jones, circa 1932

So what do we know about their churches, their beliefs, practices, etc? In 1932 or ‘33, Leona Cash Jones, my generation’s maternal great grandmother, wrote the following, probably for a church newsletter. She said, “…I believe the holiness folk today are leading the world in sacrifice. We have opportunities and privileges that no other generation has ever had…”

This was written in the midst of the Great Depression, and in the article she was advocating strongly in favor of giving to the church “to share with the needy at home and across the seas”. Because her son was Carleton Jones and her daughter was Mary Jones Anderson, one a minister and the other a missionary, her views are not surprising.

The phrase “holiness folk” she used above intrigued me, for I was unfamiliar with the term. However, I’ve since become aware that she was, in all likelihood, referring to people who were part of what has been labeled the “Holiness Movement”, which provides us a clue to understanding their religious lives.

I ran across a website that describes that movement. Here’s a link for readers who might like to know more about the religious/spiritual context in which our ancestral family lived and worshipped.

Here's a link to an article that describes a revival service that was reportedly very emotional and full of preaching about "fire and brimstone". Here's a snippet from that article.

"...Penitents knelt, ordinarily in front of the pulpit, while the members prayed, sang, and shouted around them as others, out among the audience, urged them to go forward, under the penalty of an eternal punishment in an actual yawning hell of fire and brimstone to which they were sure to be consigned unless they repented..."

It also describes a confrontation between a minister and a parishioner that resulted in the arrest of the parishioner. 

The article is an excerpt from a 1907 book titled  
Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, which describes life in Belmont County, Ohio, in the 1800s. (Our maternal family centered there during that era.) The church is labeled as Methodist, but was most likely actually Methodist Episcopal.

Related to this subject is this link which provides info about the early Nazarene church to which many of our ancestors turned after leaving the Methodist Episcopal denomination.

More recent family relationships with religion
With all that history, it saddens me when I think about the fact that when it came to my generation’s parents, all four of Rev. Carleton Jones’ children apparently walked away from their religious heritage.

In fact, one of his daughters clearly stated in a letter that she became a firmly committed atheist, saying she’d never seen any good come from religion. According to an online history of the Nazarene church, "The denomination started as a church that ministered to the homeless and poor, and wanted to keep that attitude of ministering to "lower classes" of society." (Source)

From what I've gathered, it appears that because his parishioners were at the low end of the social scale, Rev. Carleton Jones wasn't highly paid, and often his pay was not forthcoming at all. In addition, in letters about family history matters, my mother, a "preacher's kid", described how, as a family, they often got their clothes from what was called the "missionary barrel".

This was  a place in the church where hand-me-down clothes were stored for later distribution to visiting missionaries. She reported that their family was entitled to take clothing from the barrel - and apparently often had to do so. She was embarrassed by that fact, and it appears to have colored her view of the church, God and religion.

Although our relationship was distant for most of his life, I grew to love and greatly admire my generation's uncle DeRand Jones in his later years as we corresponded and talked about family history matters. He never expressed to me any skepticism toward religion, and was, in fact, complimentary about the "church people" who "rescued" some of my cousins from an extremely dysfunctional situation. Therefore I was surprised to find in his little pocket-sized 
diary (part of his family history archive) the following:

"DeRand baptized by Dr. R.J. Williams in Vancouver, Wash. May 1927

Saved, Warwick [Ohio], Aug. 1, 1943
Sanctified, Aug. 8, 1943 at camp close to Kittanning, PA"
However, as can be seen in this copy of that page of his little diary, he bracketed the two entries about being saved and sanctified and drew an arrow to a note that says, "Not really. Was easier to go along and be "in" than fight it while living with Dad [Carleton] and at E.N.C." [Eastern Nazarene College, where he earned his bachelors degree]

This is pure speculation, but my guess is that the original entries were made while his father was alive, in case his father ever saw the diary, and that DeRand added the disclaimer after his father's death.


Some family members turned back to religion
In spite of our parents' generation's unbelief, several of Carleton's grandchildren - cousins of my generation - have reported that they have had life-changing spiritual experiences, and testify that their lives have been impacted in amazing ways by becoming Christians.
As for me, I simply accepted - and defended - atheism as a youngster and into my early adulthood. However, in my mid-30s I had a spiritual experience that dramatically changed my life - and it's my conviction that it also changed my eternal destiny, for I became what's sometimes called an evangelical Christian.

While many people I know simply "inherited" their spiritual beliefs from their parents, what's especially interesting to me about my experience and that of some of my cousins is that each of us grew up in non-religious homes - in fact, extremely anti-religious homes - and each of us independently responded to the calls on our lives made by Christianity. 

My personal story is one that will someday be included in this blog, for it's part of our overall family history. Meantime, d
uring my lifetime, if you're curious about why I gave up atheism and became a Christian, feel free to contact me; I'd be delighted to share my experience with you. 

Last revised 7/7/2012

Please refer to the disclaimer on the index page of this blog for a statement regarding the accuracy of - and documentation for - the information presented in this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment