James Turner Barclay

James Turner Barclay

Hanover County, Virginia, USA
Death 20 Oct 1874 (aged 67)
Bethany, Brooke County, West Virginia, USA
Burial Bethany, Brooke County, West Virginia, USA
Plot Plot 27
Memorial ID 39450960 · View Source
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Gospel preacher. First missionary of the American Christian Missionary Society and missionary to Jerusalem.

Original burial location.

James Turner Barclay was born in Hanover county, Virginia, on the 22nd day of May, 1807 [Tombstone reads May 7, 1807]. His father, Robert Barclay, was the son of Thomas Barclay, of Quaker descent from Barclay of Urie, the Quaker apologist, and an intimate and cherished friend of Washington and Jefferson. His mother, Sarah Coleman Turner, was left a widow when James was a little boy. She afterwards married Captain Harris, a wealthy tobacco planter, of Albemarle county, Virginia. He was devoted to James, and educated him at the University of Virginia. In his twenty-second year he graduated in medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Barclay was married in 1830 to Miss Julia A. Sowers, of Staunton, Virginia, who is in her ninety-first year, and living with her son and his wife, Decima Campbell Barclay, in the old Campbell mansion at Bethany, West Virginia. Shortly after their marriage he purchased Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, from the Randolph heirs, and lived there for some three or four years. Finally he was persuaded by his mother and his wife's parents to dispose of the place, which he sold to Captain Uriah P. Levy, of the United States Navy. In early life he joined the Presbyterian church, and was most earnest in his desire to go as a missionary to China. He offered himself to the Presbyterian Board of Missions, but afterwards yielded to the entreaties of his aged mother not to leave her to go to a foreign land. A few years later he became convinced of the importance of believer's baptism, and embraced the views of the disciples of Christ, as taught in the New Testament, and illustrated in the life of his Divine Lord and Savior, and taught by His apostles, which constituted the joy of his hope, the strength of his faith, and the life of his love throughout his eventful and consecrated life. He was baptized by R. L. Coleman in the James River, at Scottsville. Afterwards he moved to Washington City and organized our first church there in his own house. A short time after the death of his mother, he offered his services to the American Christian Missionary Society, and in 1850 went to Jerusalem as our first missionary to the Holy Land, with the one desire of his heart to proclaim from Mt. Zion the Kingdom of Christ as on the day of Pentecost. There, on the ground, he prepared the material for his book, "The City of the Great King." This work is a standard authority on Jerusalem in England as well as America. On his return to the United States, in 1854, he published this book. The next year he was appointed by the President in special charge of the Philadelphia mint, to make experiments and tests to prevent counterfeiting and the deterioration of the metallic currency. This important work he successfully accomplished. The result of his experiments and his report were fully indorsed by Professors Rodgers, and Vatheck, two eminent scientists of Philadelphia, who had been appointed by the President to co-operate with him. When the matter of remunerating him for his discovery was brought before Congress, a bill passed the House giving him $100,000. It failed to pass the Senate by one vote, cast by Senator Mason. In 1858 he returned to the missionary work in Jerusalem, with renewed zeal and energy. On the breaking out of the Civil War, in 1861, he resigned his position, not wishing to be a tax on his brotherhood in time of war. For a time he lived with his children in Beirut, Syria, and on the Island of Cyprus. In 1865 he returned to America, and the next year was called to the chair of Natural Sciences in Bethany College.

This position he resigned in 1868 and removed to Alabama, where he spent the remainder of his life, preaching through the mountains and villages of Northern Alabama. He organized the little church in Wheeler, Alabama, where his memory is cherished and honored by all who knew him. There he was buried on the plantation of his oldest son, Dr. R. G. Barclay, who survived him only two years. Cf. Original burial site on Barclay Cemetery, Lawrence Co., AL.

Dr. Barclay was a man of wonderful constitution and fine physique. At the time of his death he was sixty-seven years and five months old, yet his sight was perfect. He read the Bible in the finest print without glasses. He could write the Lord's prayer, in a clear, distinct hand in characters so small that they could all be inscribed on a five cent piece. His teeth were all strong and perfect at the time of his death. His memory and mental powers were not in the least impaired. One who knew him well states that he was a most diffident and retiring man. Bro. Hobson once remarked of him that "Dr. Barclay was criminally modest." Because of his connection with and devotion to our missionary work his name will be held in everlasting remembrance by our people. The pulses of his great and benevolent heart and self-denying life in the Master's service in Christian, as well as heathen, lands are still the pulse of this world's life and are beating in these latter days with greater force than ever. A marked characteristic in the mental and moral make up of Dr. Barclay was his enthusiastic devotion to prophecy, of which he took a literal view and upon which he read, talked and wrote incessantly during the last years of his life, and his chronological and prophetical maps and charts are something wonderful in the way of exact and minute work. He was a line draughtsman and spent months absorbed in these maps and charts. Another feature was his intense love and study of the Bible, which he read continually, his morning, mid-day and evening devotion literally wearing out Bible after Bible by his constant use of them. I remember hearing him say that he read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation every six weeks. He was so familiar with the Scriptures that he could refer at will to almost any passage that was brought up for comment or discussion. On his library shelves were all of the latest prophetic works, the "Battle of Armageddin," by Baldwin, the writings of Dr. Cummings, of London, and Dr Seiss' "Last Times," and "Pisgah Views," were read with deep interest by him. But the chief love of his heart was for missions and missionary work, in which service he knew no weariness. "Servant of God, well done, rest from thy fond employ, the battle fought, the victory won, enter thy Master's joy." -- John T. Brown, Churches of Christ, 1904.

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"Go ye into all the world
and preach the gospel to
every creature"

"Our first missionaries"

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  • Maintained by: Tom Childers
  • Originally Created by: William Fischer, Jr.
  • Added: 14 Jul 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 39450960
  • Flinsbach
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Turner Barclay (7 May 1807–20 Oct 1874), Find A Grave Memorial no. 39450960, citing Campbell Cemetery, Bethany, Brooke County, West Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Tom Childers (contributor 46515204) .