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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Stone, Barton Warren

by William S. Powell, 1994

24 Dec. 1772–9 Nov. 1844

Barton Warren Stone, evangelist and author, was born near Port Tobacco, Md., the son of John and Mary Warren Stone and a descendant of the first Protestant governor of Maryland. When Stone was quite young, the family moved to Pittsylvania County, Va., just across the North Carolina state line, where he spent his youth not far from Danville. Intending to become a lawyer, he entered the academy conducted in Guilford County, N.C., by the Reverend David Caldwell. Although he had grown up in the Anglican church, Stone was swayed by the preaching of the Reverend James McGready in North Carolina and there became a candidate for the ministry in the Orange Presbytery in 1793. Not completely satisfied with the theology to which he was exposed, he went to his brother's home in Oglethorpe County, Ga., and obtained a teaching position in a Methodist school in the adjacent county of Wilkes. He returned to North Carolina in 1796, was licensed by the Orange Presbytery, and then took charge of several congregations in Tennessee and Kentucky. Despite his reservations with respect to the Confession, he accepted ordination "so far as I can see it consistent with the word of God." He still felt uneasy with some aspects of Calvinism, however.

The Great Revival of the early nineteenth century brought his objections into focus, and with four other ministers he withdrew from the Orange Presbytery and formed a new Presbyterian Synod. Within a year, convinced that there was no scriptural authority for synods, they dissolved the organization in June 1804 and for a time were referred to as "Stoneites." Other groups separated from the Methodist Episcopal church. Baptist congregations soon joined them, and they came to be called Christians with no creed except the Bible. Stone spent the remainder of his life organizing new congregations in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee; he also sometimes taught school and in 1826 established a periodical, the Christian Messenger.

Along the way Stone made the acquaintance of Alexander Campbell, leader of a group known as the Disciples of Christ. The two men led their followers into a cooperative relationship, and at a conference in Lexington, Ky., on 1 Jan. 1832, the Christians and the Disciples agreed to act as a unit. A Disciple became coeditor of the Messenger. Although he never gave up the title Christian, Stone considered the union to be "the noblest act of my life." He was the author of a number of published letters, addresses, tracts, and books and wrote part two of the Apology of the Springfield Presbytery (1803), which has been cited as the first declaration of religious freedom in the Western Hemisphere. He also composed a hymn, "The Lord Is the Fountain of Goodness and Love."

In 1801 Stone married Elizabeth Campbell, who died in 1810; by her he had five children. In 1811 he married her cousin, Celia Wilson Bowen, and soon afterwards settled in Lexington, Ky. They were the parents of six children. In 1834 he moved to Jacksonville, Ill., and extended his work into Missouri. While on a preaching tour, Stone died at the home of his son-in-law, Captain S. A. Bowen, in Hannibal, Mo., and was buried in the cemetery at Cane Ridge, Ky.


Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, vol. 5 (1888).

DAB, vol. 9 (1936).

Samuel S. Hill, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion in the South (1984).

Wheeler Preston, American Biographies (1940).

C. C. Ware, Barton Warren Stone: Pathfinder of Christian Unity (1932?).

David N. Williams, "The Theology of the Great Revival in the West As Seen Through the Life and Thought of Barton Warren Stone" (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 1979).

Additional Resources:

Campbell, Alexander, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and John Telemachus Johnson. 1856. Psalms, hymns, and spritual songs, orginial and selected. Bethany, Va: Printed and published by A. Campbell. (accessed August 5, 2014).

Dunlavy, John, Barton W. Stone, and J.P. MacLean. 1847. The manifesto, or, A declaration of the doctrine and practice of the church of Christ. New York: Reprinted by E.O Jenkins. (accessed August 4, 2014).

Rogers, James, Barton W. Stone, and William Rogers. 1910. The Cane Ridge Meeting House. Cincinnati: Standard Pub Co. (accessed August 4, 2014).

Search results for 'Barton College' in North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program: (accessed August 4, 2014).

Search results for 'Wheat Swamp Church' in North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program: (accessed August 4, 2014).

Stone, Barton Warren. 1805. A reply to John P. Campbell's Strictures on atonment. Lexington, Ky: Printed by Joseph Charless. (accessed August 5, 2014).

Stone, Barton Warren. 1847. The biography of Eld. Barton Warren Stone. Cincinnati: Published for the author y J.A. & U.P. James. (accessed August 5, 2014).

West, William Garrett. 1954. Barton Warren Stone; early American advocate of Christian unity. Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society. (accessed August 4, 2014).