by Al Maxey

Issue #636 ------- October 2, 2014
A ministering angel shall my sister be.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Alexander's Little Sister
Jane Corneigle Campbell McKeever

When one examines the history of Christianity over the past two thousand years, one cannot help but be impressed and inspired by the lives of those who devoted themselves tirelessly and sacrificially to the cause of Christ Jesus. Each group and movement within Christendom can point to men and women they regard as "leading lights" within their own faith-heritage. Although the Stone-Campbell Movement is somewhat new to the scene (relatively speaking), yet it too has produced some truly remarkable individuals who have contributed greatly to a better love and appreciation for our Lord. I have sought to pay tribute to many of these disciples of Christ over the years in my Reflections: Marshall Keeble (#294), T. B. Larimore (#352), K. C. Moser (#392), Moses Lard (#582), John Allen Gano (#411), Dr. Lewis Pinkerton (#445), Barton W. Stone (#131), and of course Thomas Campbell (#417) and his son Alexander Campbell (#115 & #148). Typically, when thinking of those who took the lead in our various movements within Christendom, we tend to think of male leadership. Too often we pass over too quickly those women who also led the way; women such as Silena Moore Holman (#371), Emily H. Tubman (#451), Charlotte Fall Fanning (#474), and Abigail Roberts (#506), just to name a few. In this issue of my weekly Reflections, I would like to introduce you to yet another woman in the Stone-Campbell Movement who has not received nearly enough recognition for the role she played in furthering the cause of Christ. Her name is Jane: the daughter of Thomas Campbell and the little sister of Alexander Campbell. I pray you will be encouraged by her courageous life in service to God and her fellow man.

Jane was born in Ahorey, Ireland on June 25, 1800. She was the fourth of seven children born to Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his wife Jane Corneigle Campbell (1764-1835), whom he had married in June, 1787. The young Jane, as previously noted, was the younger sibling of Alexander Campbell, who was the first child born to this couple (he was born in 1788). When Jane was just seven years old (in 1807), her father (Thomas Campbell) emigrated to the United States. Two years later (in 1809) the rest of the family followed him to the States. After living in several different locations (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky) for brief periods of time, the family finally settled in West Middletown, Pennsylvania. Not much is known of her early life or education, but according to volume one of the "Memoirs of Alexander Campbell" by Robert Richardson, it appears she was educated at home by her older brother Alexander.

It was here, in West Middletown, that she met, fell in love with, and married Matthew McKeever (1797-1884), a wool dealer by trade, a later picture of this man appears to your right. Five years before he was born, Matthew's parents, William McKeever (1758-1838) and Mary McFadden McKeever (1767-1840), moved from Ireland to the United States, settling in West Middletown, Pennsylvania. Although the family was originally affiliated with the Methodist Church, they eventually joined with a Disciples congregation that formed after the Brush Run congregation was disbanded, aiding in the work of the Campbells. Indeed, the building in which this group of disciples met was owned by Matthew, who was now the son-in-law of Thomas Campbell, and the brother-in-law of Alexander Campbell. Matthew and Jane would have nine children together, and would go on to adopt "at least a dozen others" [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 508].

Before this woman's life came to an end, she had distinguished herself in two major areas: as an educator and an abolitionist. Indeed, her impact upon our faith-heritage was so great that in the April 8, 1916 issue of the Christian Standard publication she was named as one of the 17 most influential women in the Stone-Campbell Movement. Due to the great number of children she and her husband had in the household, she decided to educate them at home. Others heard about this effort and asked if their children could attend this "home school," which Jane was more than happy to permit. Thus, many feel she became one of the first Christian "home schoolers" during the early years of our nation. It was known as the Pleasant Hill Seminary, and was open to both boys and girls. Around the year 1842 this school was no longer coeducational, but rather was for females only. It changed its name to Pleasant Hill Female Seminary, and provided a three-year curriculum which "included a blend of modern-day high school and college coursework; many of its courses, texts, and teachers were the same as those of nearby (about 15 miles away) Bethany College," which was run by her brother Alexander Campbell [The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, p. 599]. There was a very strong emphasis in this school on spiritual values and beliefs, and the students were encouraged to "attend church," although they were free to attend the church of their choice (in the school manual, however, it was stated that if a student had no preference in this area, then "they will attend church with the matron, and be under her special care"). Jane was the principal of this school until 1868, when her son Thomas assumed that position. He died a few months later, however, so Jane once again assumed the leadership of this school. This school for females closed in the mid-1870s, and her brother's school (Bethany College) then began admitting women. "Several of the seminary's graduates became influential in the Restoration Movement during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" [ibid, p. 508].

The second area in which this Christian woman distinguished herself was in the abolitionist movement. Indeed, Matthew and Jane were described by one of their friends as "rank abolitionists." They were personal friends with John Brown (of Harper's Ferry fame), and they ran an Underground Railroad station out of their home. They personally helped countless runaway slaves to make it to freedom farther north and/or into Canada. On occasion, slaves were captured on their property, but these were quickly released by order of the local judge (who just happened to be their son). Jane was not afraid to speak out in public on her feelings against slavery. One of her statements is preserved in the November, 1854 issue of the abolitionist North-Western Christian Magazine, in which she praised the strong stand of the editor: "I truly rejoice to find that ONE of our brotherhood has had the fortitude, and independence of mind, to rise superior to the reproach and opposition of so many of his professed Christian brethren, in behalf of the poor, oppressed and degraded slaves. ... I trust that you will be encouraged to persevere, believing that God, who in all generations has been the God of the oppressed ... will strengthen you, and bless your efforts in the good cause for which you plead. I intend to exert my influence in this vicinity amongst our brethren in behalf of your magazine" [p. 153-154]. Let us never forget the courage and conviction of such brave, godly men and women who risked their own lives to bring freedom and dignity to the oppressed during this tragic period of our nation's history. Jane Campbell McKeever rested from her labors on December 10, 1871. She is buried next to her husband, Matthew, and in the same row as her parents (Thomas & Jane Campbell), at God's Acre Cemetery in the panhandle of West Virginia.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in South Africa:

Dear Bro. Maxey, As usual, I stop whatever I am doing and open your latest Reflections whenever I see it arrive on my computer. I agree with you: more encouragement for the elderly workers for the Lord is needed, as well as advice that their lives now should be examples of fulfilled happiness, not of depression and/or guilt. I really appreciate your openness regarding the Word of God. Tradition seems to be the rock on which the Body of Jesus has foundered, especially when "we've always done it that way" does not tie in with the Bible.

From a Reader in Canada:

Thank you, Al. Your latest ("The Beloved Persis") is a wonderful article. Now that I am a "senior saint," I can identify with the feelings of this group. They all, almost without exception, feel left out, forgotten, and not of much use (as I do also, at times). But, we need to know that God still loves us and still has a purpose for us. Thanks for the assurance of this that you provided in your article!

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, thank you for this great work ("The Beloved Persis")! My life group on Sunday nights is made up of elderly people, and one big frustration they have is the feeling that maybe they're "not working hard enough" for the Lord. They seem to understand, at least knowledge-wise, what you have written, but having totally immersed themselves in active service during their younger years is leaving them feeling "less than worthy" now (because they can't do what they once could). I blame this on our heritage, where we have been indoctrinated to believe we are always just one step away from condemnation. My group understands the grace of God, yet they still remember "how hard they toiled for God" in their past, and they often now feel inadequate because of this traditional doctrine implanted within them. I am going to be sure to share this issue of Reflections with them this Sunday night. Keep up the great work!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Thank you for highlighting the value of this lady's service to the church ("The Beloved Persis"). It is without doubt, and can't go unnoticed, that Paul was especially encouraging to capable women in Romans 16, and that he would have us all remember their names for all time. In their culture, this was pretty significant. For the life of me, I can't understand why the church has worked so hard to restrict the use of the spiritual gifts and the natural talents of capable women, rather than, as Paul did, find a way to maximize their use for the good of the church!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Thanks for sharing this insight into Romans 16. Paul's epistle to the Romans has always been one of my favorite books to study, and so I was excited to find you have written several Reflections on things in this chapter. I'm anxious to find out your ideas. Thanks.

From a Reader in Arizona:

I just finished reading the latest Reflections ("The Beloved Persis"), and it is precious. Likely my view is colored by my own lack of strength and stamina. Thank you for placing emphasis on the work of sisters in the Family of God. They do have one advantage: they lack the male ego! 1 Corinthians 11:5 indicates the sisters at Corinth both spoke for God and to God in their gatherings in Jesus' name. There should be an increasing call for sisters to both speak and pray in our gatherings now!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Thank you, Al, for your study on "The Beloved Persis." Very interesting. Great conclusion. Encouraging.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Brother Al, I have to tell you (as I often have), you are one of the world's best Bible teachers, and you hit home runs every week with your messages of truth. Love ya, brother, and always will.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Do you have a Reflections in your Archives that addresses Matthew 5:38-42? Some questions about our right to defend ourselves came up in Bible class, and I would really appreciate your view on this issue. By the way, I enjoy your refreshing Bible studies so much!

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