by Al Maxey

Issue #474 ------- February 2, 2011
Wisdom and goodness are twin-born, one
heart must hold both sisters, never seen apart.

William Cowper {1731-1800}

Charlotte Fall Fanning
A Woman of Noble Character

In the ancient Jewish Talmud it is astutely stated, "A wife is the joy of a man's heart." In the Hindu sacred writings -- the Upanishads -- the male and female are said to be "two halves of a split pea." In other words, to quote an ancient Russian saying, "Men and women are kneaded from the same dough." We need one another. We are separate parts of a whole. Indeed, men and women are incomplete without that unique, divinely designed union one with the other! In his classic work "The Song of Hiawatha," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) penned, "As unto the bow the cord is, so unto the man is woman: useless each without the other." Women especially are too infrequently given their due place in the history of great events and movements. We hear much about the accomplishments of the men within our own Stone-Campbell Movement, by way of an example, but what do we hear of the great women of this faith-heritage?! What about their place in history, and their sacrifices and accomplishments, and their influence upon our faith and practice?

Over the years, within these weekly Reflections, I have sought to focus our view upon some of these notable women and their noteworthy contributions to the cause of Christ. I have examined in some depth the lives, the work, and the struggles of such giants of faith as Fanny Crosby (#188), Rosa Parks (#218), Phoebe (#299), Carrie A. Nation (#335), Frances Ridley Havergal (#358), Silena Moore Holman (#371), and Emily H. Tubman (#451). In my current issue of these weekly Reflections I would like us to focus our thoughts upon a woman whose name you may never have heard, but whose husband will most likely be very familiar to you (especially those of you who are within my own faith-heritage) -- Tolbert Fanning (1810-1874), an evangelist and leader in the early days of the Churches of Christ, who worked alongside Alexander Campbell. He was also an accomplished writer and editor, and founded The Gospel Advocate in 1855, as well as a number of other journalistic efforts (including The Christian Review in 1844). In time, he and Campbell had somewhat of a "falling out" with one another theologically, with Tolbert Fanning becoming far more legalistic and patternistic in his thinking! On April 15, 1874 he was gored by a bull. Not too long afterward, on May 3, he died of complications from that tragic incident! In this article, however, we will not be focusing all that much on this man. Instead, I would like to give credit to his "better half."

Charlotte Fall was born into this world on April 10, 1809 in a small village near London, England. She was the youngest of 12 children. Times were extremely hard for the Fall family in England. Therefore, Charlotte's father and mother decided it would be best to relocate the entire family to America, and there attempt to make a new life for themselves. After their arrival, they chose to settle their family in Logan County, Kentucky. Unfortunately, Charlotte's mother passed away soon after their arrival, and her father followed his wife in death not too long thereafter. Thus, at the age of nine, Charlotte and her fellow siblings were left orphaned in this new world, an event that would have great bearing on her compassion in later years for the plight of orphans! On his deathbed, Charlotte's father entrusted his family into the care of his oldest son, Phillip, who then took on the responsibilities of raising his brothers and sisters. Phillip Slater Fall (1798-1890) was a brilliant scholar, and went on to become one of the best-known and most beloved preachers within the Stone-Campbell Movement. Phillip was also a professional teacher, and saw to the education of all his siblings (and he took a special interest in Charlotte, who blossomed under his influence). By her late teens, Charlotte had received a classical education, and had learned five languages (Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German and French). Following in the steps of her beloved brother, Phillip, Charlotte decided to become a teacher, devoting her life to the education of children, especially those who were underprivileged.

In time, Phillip Fall decided to move the family to Nashville, Tennessee. After relocating there, Charlotte secured a job teaching at the Nashville Female Academy. It was during this time that she first met a young widower by the name of Tolbert Fanning, whose wife, Sarah Shreve, from Nicholasville, Kentucky, had died just a few months earlier. They soon fell in love and were married in January, 1837. Although this couple would never have children, they shared a love for young people, and were both committed to their education and spiritual improvement. Thus, they labored together the rest of their lives to provide high-quality Christian education to the youth of their day. In so doing they impacted the lives and thinking of some of the great leaders in the Stone-Campbell Movement, including such notables as David Lipscomb and T. B. Larimore.

Almost immediately after they married, Tolbert and Charlotte Fanning moved to Franklin, Tennessee. There they opened a school for girls -- The Eclectic Institute for Young Ladies. It was a tremendous success, growing from 60 students initially to well over 100. In his spare time, Tolbert would preach for area churches and engage in evangelistic campaigns! In 1840, they purchased a 300+ acre farm about five miles southeast of Nashville, as Tolbert had always had a strong passion for farming. They soon began building a school on this land, which, in 1845, came to be known as Franklin College. Charlotte operated a school for girls on the same grounds, although the two schools were technically considered to be separate institutions. The girls and boys at this time were strictly segregated on campus, except for morning chapel and evening singing (which was a time of devotion and fellowship). During the evening singings, Charlotte would sometimes play the guitar as she and the students sang hymns together. Since it was not uncommon for romances to blossom on campus (in spite of the strict segregation), Charlotte was sensitive to the need for "deserving students" to be given "discreet little meetings" (as one former student characterized them). These would often take place in one of the rooms of their house where Charlotte also taught many of the young ladies, a room that came to be known as "Aunt Charlotte's Room."

In her biography of Charlotte Fanning, Emma Page Larimore provided some of the motivation behind Charlotte's desire to provide a school for girls. She wrote that her heartfelt longing was that "orphan girls may be instructed in books and trained in habits of industry. I require that the Bible shall be made a regular textbook and that it shall form a part of the daily study. The pupils must perform services as cooks, laundresses, dairymaids, housekeepers, and the like, so that they might earn in such employment, if necessary, an independent and honest living." The daily life of this remarkable woman was a witness to the spirit of kindness and charity that she possessed. The sick and needy all around Charlotte gave constant testimony to her acts of benevolence on their behalf. She regularly visited the sick in their homes, seeking to bring them comfort and cheer. Throughout her life she was constantly giving away her possessions to those less fortunate. For example, in the latter part of her life, following her first stroke, friends came in to care for her and discovered that she had no clothing left in her house --- she had given it all away to the poor! In fact, the very last of her clothing had just recently been bestowed lovingly upon a very poor black woman she didn't even know!! Emma described Charlotte's life as being "full, to overflowing, of energy, patience, firmness, gentleness, temperance, meekness and other traits and graces that adorn a woman's character."

In 1861, with the beginning of The War Between the States, the school was forced to close. The Union army did not treat the Fannings very well, since both were staunch Confederates. In fact, when Tolbert refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Union, the army burned their home to the ground. There were times when they experienced such persecution at their hands that they were reduced to the point of starvation (surviving only by the benevolence of friends). Following the war they found that the main building on their land had survived the Union occupation, and they reopened their school. Unfortunately, one of the students accidentally set this building on fire a few months later and it burned to the ground. Not to be deterred, however, they managed to purchase some property adjacent to their own, which contained some buildings, and they opened a girls' school that they appropriately named Hope Institute. This school was a huge success and became their primary focus until the death of Tolbert a few years later (on May 3, 1874). After his death, and with the help of some close friends, Charlotte finished the school year, and then she closed the school.

Charlotte Fanning decided that she would deed all the land and its buildings to a board of 13 trustees (one of whom was David Lipscomb), with the stipulation that these men would develop this property for the purpose of educating orphan girls and that she would be allowed to use two rooms in this facility for the remainder of her life. This stipulation was honored, and Charlotte Fanning taught Bible to these girls as long as she was physically capable of doing so! To this day, by the way, some Lipscomb University students (as well as students at a number of other Christian institutions) continue to benefit from the scholarships that are made possible by proceeds from this donation of her estate. Those assets were managed well, and young women, long after she herself had passed from this life, are still receiving help through The Fanning Foundation to gain an education, thanks to the vision of a Christian lady who only sought to be a blessing to others less fortunate.

On December 18, 1895, Charlotte Fanning suffered a severe stroke. She remained bedfast for the next eight months, during which time this woman who had served others so selflessly, was cared for lovingly each day by friends and students. She frequently requested that the Bible be read to her, as she dearly loved the study of God's Word. She died on August 15, 1896 at the age of 87. She requested to be buried in front of the school building, and her grave and tombstone constructed in such a way that the girls of the school could play on it. Her wishes were honored, and Tolbert Fanning's body was moved to rest beside her. In 1943, this property was taken over by the Nashville Airport Authority, and their bodies were moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery, where they rest to this day. On her tombstone are these words:

Born on April 10, 1809
Died on August 15, 1896
She spent her life in training girls for
usefulness and doing good to the poor
and needy. She founded a school in
which girls would daily be taught the
Bible and trained in domestic and
useful callings of life. "I was sick
and you visited me."

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Down, But Not Out
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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, "The Fear of the Lord" was another great study! It is so sad that the legalists believe that God will only accept someone when they are finally dunked in water, and that our God is helpless to accept them at any other time or in any other way!! Commenting on Cornelius, Peter declared, "In every nation the man who fears Him, and does what is right, is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:35). Apparently this verse doesn't exist in the legalist's Bible!! I am really looking forward to seeing you at The 2011 Tulsa Workshop, and just hope that nothing gets in the way of my being there this year!

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Dear Brother Al, In your article "The Fear of the Lord" you said it all when you noted that a child truly fearing his father (regarding him with terror) is not a healthy relationship. Too many people "go to church" out of fear (they're scared not to), instead of assembling out of honor, love and reverence for our holy Father. People who serve God out of fear/terror have much more amiss in their lives than just being afraid of God. Terror and fear are the direct result of ignorance, at best ... or a guilty conscience, at worst.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, Your last Reflections was excellent, as usual. I love the way you summed it up with these words -- "We commit our lives to daily walking in the light of His love, showing our reverence to Him in our loving relationships with one another. In this manner, we exemplify the reality of 'the fear of the Lord' in our daily lives for all people to behold." You nailed it again!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, I loved the readers' comments regarding last week's Reflections on Cornelius! This is just further confirmation that you are making a difference!! Now, I've gotta go brew some coffee and read this week's article!!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Dear Brother Al, I just read your study "The Fear of the Lord." Now, that's the kind of article I genuinely enjoy! Thanks! I feel like I learned something from it, and I was encouraged by it, also. I've got a question for you. It concerns baptism. At a youth camp one summer (this happened quite a few years ago, by the way), one of the teens from our congregation (where my husband was serving as an elder at the time) wanted to be baptized. His parents and grandparents on both sides had been members of our congregation for years. This boy made his decision on a Wednesday night up at camp, but said he wanted to wait until Sunday to be baptized, so he could be baptized back at the church building here. Why?! Well, what it boiled down to was: he had been one of the most ornery, disruptive, aggravating kids in the whole congregation, and he just wanted the people there to see that he really had been baptized -- that it was "real" and that he was "sincere." So they waited, and he was baptized on Sunday. He is now an adult (in his 30's) and lives in another state. Okay, what would you have done if you were advising him? The obvious question some would raise is -- "What if he had died between Wednesday and Sunday? Would he have been saved?" I hadn't thought of this incident in years, until I read your Reflections on baptism.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, The comments in the readers' area of your last Reflections by the minister from Tennessee bring to mind an interesting thought -- people who are immersed in water may or may not be immersed in (enveloped in) Christ. Conversely, those who evidence by their lives that they're buried with, surrounded by, enveloped by the very presence of Christ, have clearly been immersed by the Spirit of God. As Peter pointed out in 1 Peter 3:21, baptism in water isn't about the washing of filth from the flesh, but rather about our response to God's gracious gift. Of course you know this, brother, but many have apparently not yet realized that water per se has little to do with true immersion into Christ Jesus. May the scales drop from their eyes through your writings!!

From a Minister in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, A million "Thanks" is simply not enough for the good your ministry is doing in rescuing people from the cult-like grip of legalism!! Like a number of your readers, I come from a very ultra-conservative, legalistic, Pharisaical background, and I have many beloved family members and friends who remain enslaved to the patterns of thought and behavior that characterize that segment of the Churches of Christ. While I love them dearly, I find it increasingly difficult to overlook their legalistic theology and, even more, their judgmental and condemning attitudes toward me and others!! In Galatians, Paul teaches that legalism is a "different gospel," and that it is "anathema." My question to you, Al, is this -- based on the strong language Paul (and even Jesus) used to speak of legalism, how should those of us who have embraced the true gospel of grace regard and interact with those who have embraced this "different gospel" (which is not really a "gospel" at all)?

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Al, I enjoyed your Reflections articles on baptism!! There is a woman, formerly a member of a Church of Christ, who would like to join the Baptist Church that I attend. However, my pastor has declared that this woman would be required to be rebaptized in order to join our church. Why? Because he believes that she did not have a correct understanding of the role of baptism (she had a sacramentalist view). I disagree with him on this, but am wondering how you would rebut his position on rebaptism.

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