At last a hot spot at Nashville Airport where the homeland security guard is so friendly he says “Pass right on through, Dennis!” It’s still a few hours before my flight to LA, so I’ll just upload my journal re the journey through Campbell stamping grounds –
Travelling east through the plains of Ohio, we cross the river of the same name into the rolling hills of West Virginia, a north-south panhandle some 20 miles wide and maybe 100 miles long. This is Campbell country. My eyes had still been getting used to the deep green of the Kentucky and Ohio countryside we’d been crossing. Here the green is greener still as we catch a glimpse of the occasional deer (yes – the Bambi kind) skipping off through the heavily wooded mountain sides. The steep winding road takes us to our lodgings in Bethany, renamed from Buffaloe by Alexander Campbell when he applied to run a post office from there. By that stage his writings supporting the Restoration plea had become so prolific that incoming mail warranted its own facility. I was halfway through re-reading Louis Cochran, The Fool of God: a novel based on the life of Alexander Campbell (Standard, 1958).
It was an uncanny feeling of being able to recognise and feel familiar with the various rooms of his perfectly preserved home – a rambling mansion by the frontier standards of the early to mid 1800s. He added to it three times to accommodate his various enterprises, including 14 children to two successive wives, a school, a printing press, and a thriving farm (on which, for some time, he raised merino sheep). To sit in his place at the long dining room table at which he entertained often up to thirty guests, to gaze upon the ornate furnishings of the Stranger’s Hall where he received various luminaries of early American history, to poke around in the cellar where his first wife, Margaret (then with three small daughters), agreed to live so they could accommodate a boarding school), to look through the separate study he built 100 yards from the house, was to find oneself once again in a “thin place.” A tour of Bethany College, a large and imposing liberal arts university founded by Campbell, testified to the boundless energy and enterprise of this man for whom sound education and deep faith in Christ alone as expressed through a church uncomplicated by man-made creeds was the core of his being.
After overnighting in Cincinatti, we visited the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The Shakers were a sect to which some signatories of The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery later subscribed. A separatist community something like the Amish, they adhered to a particular millennial view that stated Christ had already come in their leader (a woman) and that their task now was to live out the heavenly simplicity of the perfection of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Consequently their work was their prayer, permitting no flaws . Such visions of perfection led to continuing improvement in agriculture, medicine, hygiene and household items (this is where the flat straw broom originated). Their expertise in such matters was much sought after. Caught in the crossfire of the American Civil war, the millennial vision evaporated and the Shaker communities began to dwindle. Workers were leaving farms for the factories in town. The Industrial Revolution with mass production facilities overtook them. Enforced celibacy did not improve their chances either. Today there are three remaining Shakers living in Maine. One remaining legacy is the a capella music that forms one genre of the Country and Western spectrum.