Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times

1400030722.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considered by some the most dangerous man to be President and others as one of their own that deserved the office, he ushered in a sea change in Washington and American politics. Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands follows the future President of the United States from his birth in the South Carolina backcountry to frontier town of Nashville to the battlefields of the Old Southwest then finally to the White House and how he gave his name to an era of American history.

Brands begins with a Jackson family history first from Scotland to Ulster then to the Piedmont region of the Carolina where his aunts and uncles had pioneered before his own parents immigrated. Fatherless from birth, Jackson’s childhood was intertwined with issues between the American colonies and Britain then eventually the Revolutionary War that the 13-year old Jackson participated in as a militia scout and guerilla fighter before his capture and illness while a POW. After the death of the rest of his family at the end of the war through illness, a young Jackson eventually went into law becoming one of the few “backcountry” lawyers in western North Carolina—including Tennessee which was claimed by North Carolina—before moving to Nashville and eventually becoming one of the founders of the state of Tennessee and become one of it’s most important military and political figures especially with his marriage to Rachel Donelson. Eventually Jackson’s status as the major general of the Tennessee militia led him to first fight the Creek War—part of the overall War of 1812—then after the successful conclusion of the campaign was made a major general of the regular army in charge of the defending New Orleans from British attack which ultimately culminated in the famous 1815 battle that occurred after the signing of the peace treaty in Ghent. As “the” military hero of the war, Jackson’s political capital grew throughout the Monroe administration even with his controversial invasion of Florida against the Seminole. After becoming the first U.S. Governor of Florida, Jackson left the army and eventually saw his prospects rise for the Presidency to succeed Monroe leading to the four-way Presidential contest of 1824 which saw Jackson win both the popular vote and plurality of electoral college votes but lose in the House to John Quincy Adams. The campaign for 1828 began almost immediately and by the time of the vote the result wasn’t in doubt. Jackson’s time in the White House was focused on the Peggy Eaton affair, the battle over Bank of the United States, the Nullification Crisis with South Carolina, Indian relations, and finally what was happening in Texas. After his time in office, Jackson struggled keeping his estate out of debt and kept up with the events of around the country until his death.

In addition to focusing on Jackson’s life, Brands make sure to give background to the events that he would eventually be crucial part of. Throughout the book Brands keeps three issues prominent: Unionism, slavery, and Indian relations that dominated Jackson’s life and/or political thoughts. While Brands hits hard Jackson’s belief in the Union and is nuanced when it comes with slavery, the relations with Indians is well done in some areas and fails in some (most notably the “Trail of Tears”). This is not a biography focused primarily on Jackson’s time in the White House and thus Brands only focused on the big issues that is primarily focused on schools instead of an intense dive into his eight years.

Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times is a informative look into the life of the seventh President of the United States and what was happening in the United States throughout his nearly eight decades of life. H.W. Brands’ writing style is given to very easy reading and his research provides very good information for both general and history specific readers, though he does hedge in some areas. Overall a very good biography.

The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt

0802126936.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt by Randall Sullivan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The riddle wrapped in a mystery inside the enigma that is a small island just barely off the shore of Nova Scotia has tantalized and tortured people for over two centuries. The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan covers the history of the longest treasure hunt from the individuals involved in the hunt to the theories of what is or isn’t on the island including the History Channel reality series of the same name.

Building upon the Rolling Stone article he wrote 13 years before, Sullivan was invited back to the island by the producers of the reality show to write this book, appear on a few episodes of the show, and interview the Lagina brothers. Starting with the historical backdrop of the Oak Island area, Sullivan goes over the often-told discovery of the Money Pit but thorough research finds out that the named three discoverers is not agreed up as well as their biographies. Throughout his 220 year history, Sullivan goes into the numerous lead searchers as well numerous theories of who made the Money Pit and what they believed was buried in there from pirate/privateer treasure to French Royal Jewels to possessions of the Knights Templar to cultural treasures connected with Roger Bacon. The history of the last 60 years on the island which focuses on the now-deceased Fred Nolan and Dan Blankenship with their rivalry and how they joined the Laginas search as well as how the titular reality series came about is covered extensively compared to the earlier history as Sullivan had first-hand access to the participants.

Given the murky history of Oak Island, Sullivan did an excellent job and navigating everything connected with the long story of the Money Pit. However, the biggest grip I had was with the intertwining of the history and the various theories, I personally felt that it would have been better to break up the history of the search in two and have all the theories discusses in-between. Sullivan actually goes against the show’s narration of events several times in relating the history of the island and previous searchers, however he never discusses “the legend that seven must die” which is hinted at being the “curse” in the show’s open for the first four or five seasons.

The Curse of Oak Island is a fine look at the history surrounding the search of the Money Pit and the men who’ve dug on the Nova Scotia island. Randall Sullivan gave the reader an idea about the individuals who kept the search going and what they believed they were searching for while also showing the toll it took on them and the island itself. Overall it’s a fine book, but not laid out very well.

J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers

0828026629.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers by Brian Eugene Strayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Advent preacher when he joined the embryonic Seventh-day Adventist movement in 1852, John Norton Loughborough would spend the next 72 years as a preacher and administrator before being the last of the pioneers to pass leaving lasting legacy to the denomination only behind Joseph Bates and the Whites. Brian E. Strayer’s J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers is the first major biography of influential preacher, missionary, and Church historian that was a little man who cast a long shadow.

Strayer begins with an impressive family history that gives background not only to Loughborough but how he was raised, including the influence his grandfather had on his spiritual life, and how in his youth he was influenced by the Millerite message. Loughborough’s resulting spiritual wandering in the years after the Disappointment before deciding to become a “boy preacher” at age 17 among the Advent Christians then his introduction to Seventh-day movement and later conversion to Sabbath were give significant time as well. Yet 85% of the book took up Loughborough’s 72 years among the Seventh-day Adventist movement covering his time as a preacher, president of numerous conferences, missionary to fields both domestic and foreign, and finally Church historian who was the last link to the “early days” for 3rd- and 4th-generation Adventists in the late 1910s and 1920s. Throughout Loughborough’s relationships with other important and influential denominational leaders was examined including Ellen White whose admonishments were welcomed by Loughborough in contrast to other Adventist leaders some of whom would later leave and attack not only the denomination and White. Strayer covered in detail Loughborough’s fight against apostacy and his role as the first Church “historian” as well has the lasting influence he had in both areas among Adventists.

Given the place in denominational history that Loughborough, Strayer used a wide range of sources to give a thorough look at his subject including what surviving letters he could find (Loughborough burned his own) and Loughborough’s own diaries (that was saved by a nurse instead of destroyed upon his death). Unlike the only other biography of Loughborough that followed the subject’s own apologetic look at Adventist history, Strayer brought a critical eye to his subject including Loughborough’s Church history books that influenced Adventist historiography for half a century.

J. N. Loughborough is a well-written, well-researched look at the last pioneer of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Brian Strayer showed the large footprint and long shadow this “little man” had had until this very day. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in Adventist history.

A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier

0828025622.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the pivotal figures during the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session on the debate about the Adventist view of righteousness by faith, he become one of the most influential leaders of the church for a decade before his extreme leanings lead him into apostasy. George R. Knight’s A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier follows the life and career of one of Adventism’s most important figures for both good and ill as well as how he went from almost being General Conference President to be disfellowshipped in less than a decade.

Bringing decades worth of research and materials, Knight essentially begins his biography on Jones with his conversion to Seventh-day Adventism and the beginning of his ministerial career months later. He talent and ability got him noticed by the Whites and other denomination leaders allowing him to go to California to begin teaching at and editing denomination periodicals, including those focused on religious liberty. While in California, Jones met and studied with E.J. Waggoner forming a partnership that would last the rest of their lives during which they would oppose “the establishment” in the denomination beginning in the lead up to Minneapolis in 1888 and continuing even as they got General Conference leadership positions. After following the ramifications of the Minneapolis, Knight continued chronicling Jones’ life and career including his need to go to the extreme in his logic, arguments, and beliefs which would eventually lead to his battle against the denomination’s organizational structure that would force him against A.G. Daniells and joining the side of John Harvey Kellogg that would see both disfellowshipped from the church.

Given Jones controversial place in Adventist history, Knight was clear on which positions and theological developments that Jones championed are still with Adventists and which were too extreme officially but still have an influential strain even today. A part of this divide is how Ellen G. White reacted and corresponded with Jones on his thoughts and beliefs as well as the relationship between the two over the course of two decades. Unlike his colleague Waggoner, Jones’ family life was unfortunately not covered much but as Knight pointed out he late in his biography it was because he was never home to be a real father and husband or lived in the same state as his family during important periods in his life.

A.T. Jones gives a detailed view into the life, teachings, and career of one of the most important individuals in Adventism at the turn of the century. George R. Knight covers the ups and downs of Jones’ life as well as explaining his positions and how he developed them, but in a very readable and understandable way for lay readers without getting too technical. A highly recommended book for those interested in Adventist history.

Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America

0828023972.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most effective evangelists in Adventist history was totally forgotten for over a century, let alone that he was a black man who found an audience no matter skin color. Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan not only reveals the life of one of the first black pastors in denomination history, how Adventism navigated the rising segregation in the Southern U.S., and why Sheafe was forgotten until rediscovered by historians within the last quarter century.

Born to two former slaves in Maryland, Lewis C. Sheafe was raised in abolitionist dominated Massachusetts with a very spiritual-minded mother. After his conversion at 15, Sheafe began searching for a denomination to join but during his search he felt the call to become a preacher. Though not as well-schooled as his eventual classmates at Wayland Seminary, Sheafe worked hard at the Washington D.C. school to graduate with honors and along the way meet is future wife Anne. The newlyweds would first go to a Baptist church in Minneapolis where they healed the recently divided congregation as well as become a major part of Black community in the city, something that would happen everywhere Sheafe would go. Sheafe and his growing family would then pastor at several Ohio churches before his health brought him to Battle Creek Sanitarium where he learned about the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. Within months Sheafe and his family had joined the denomination, which found Sheafe to not only be only their second black preacher but obviously the best educated minister. For around five years, Sheafe worked in Ohio, Kentucky, and various cities in the Southern States before the denomination asked him to come to Washington D.C. to help found a black only congregation as they attempted to “accommodate” the segregation of the city so as to spread the word. However, Sheafe upset the plan from the beginning by bringing in both black and white converts to the church meant only for black members. Later Sheafe began a new church that only had black member which as time progressed would eventually be a thorn in the side of the denomination with and without Sheafe for the next two decades. It was while he was at this church that Sheafe left the denomination for the first time only to return with said church before taking a position in Los Angeles where he would eventually break with the denomination again to start the Free Seventh-day Adventist denomination. But eventually Sheafe would return to the Washington church he began and spend the rest of his ministry there before his death, but never turn away from Adventist beliefs even though he had left the denomination.

The sources on Sheafe’s life were few and far between but Morgan was able to find them to bring his life to the fore. Yet Morgan also examined how the General Conference handled spreading the messaged to African-Americans just as Segregation and Jim Crow began taking hold in the Southern United States, which resulted in causing friction between the GC officials and Sheafe that only grew when many black Adventists felt they weren’t being given equal treatment with educational and health institutions constructed for their use. In fact, Morgan gives an in-depth view of the early beginnings of the Negro Department which would eventually lead to Black/African-American Conferences within the structure of the North American Division. And Morgan brings in the controversy of John Harvey Kellogg and A.T. Jones’ criticism and break away to give greater context to how the General Conference viewed Sheafe’s first break and how the situation was completely different during his second break.

Lewis C. Sheafe was until recently not a well-known name in the greater Adventist community, however Douglas Morgan found his influence strong not only with prominent black Adventists but also in denominational history for the changes his breaks resulted in making. Mixing not only Adventist history with wider American history at the time, Morgan places Sheafe in context with his times and helps explain his actions. This is a highly recommended biographical and historical book that history-minded Adventists should read.

E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to the Agent of Division

0828019827.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_E.J. Waggoner: From The Physician Of Good News To The Agent Of Division by Woodrow W. Whidden II
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the pivotal figures at the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference sessions, he did not plan to follow his father into ministry but when he did he tragically followed his example. Woodrow W. Whidden’s E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to Agent of Division follows not only the life of the Adventism’s most controversial figures, but also the developments of his theological thinking which both contributed to Seventh-day Adventist thinking and to his separation from Adventist doctrines.

Whidden brought the most out of limited sources available to detail Waggoner’s life beginning with the troubled family life of his troubled Adventist minister father and egotistical, uncaring mother. Waggoner’s family were encouraged and rebuked by Ellen White throughout the young E.J.’s childhood and his home life might have led to heartbreak later in his life. Not wanting to follow his father into the ministry, Waggoner studied medicine and became friends with John Harvey Kellogg as he began his career in medicine which came to an end after a “vision” at a campmeeting in which Waggoner was impressed by Christ on the cross and began his lifelong theological study of justification and sanctification. Upon entering the ministry, Waggoner became was prolific in preaching, lecturing, writing, and in editorial work for the next two decades in both the United States and Great Britain but that would later result in have no time to nurture his marriage resulting in a scandalous divorce after his family’s return to the United States. The lead up and aftermath of the 1888 Minneapolis is hinge of the biography and Whidden analyzes Waggoner’s role thoroughly. Yet the most interesting aspect of the biography was Whidden’s analysis of Waggoner’s theology on justification and sanctification throughout his life divided into four time frames by Whidden.

The difficulty of finding sources to chronicle Waggoner’s life did not deflect from Whidden’s achievement in revealing the numerous facets of his subject’s life especially in the lead up to the “biggest” scandal in Adventism at the time with Waggoner’s divorce. The most important aspect of the book was Whidden’s in-depth discussing of Waggoner’s evolving theological beliefs, especially justification and sanctification, and how his bent towards mysticism as well as his slow moving away from distinct Adventist doctrines. Another important aspect is Whidden’s analysis of Ellen White’s interactions with Waggoner both in encouragement and concerned rebuke as well as if Waggoner’s later theological beliefs takeaway his emphasis on his Christ-centered message before, during, and after 1888. If there is on serious drawback is that Whidden’s study of Waggoner’s theology is very deep and can be a tad mindboggling.

E.J. Waggoner is an insightful look into the life of one of the most important second generation figures in Adventism. Woodrow Whidden’s expert work on getting out the most from the few primary sources available as well as his theological analysis is a great asset for any reader in Seventh-day Adventist biography and history.

John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer

4d3bf9809b64e4c596758336d67444341587343John Harvey Kellogg, M.D.: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A pioneer of the Adventist health message and controversial figure that had a very public break from the Church, yet his life was whole lot more. John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz details the long life of a man who wanted to teach and not become a doctor, but who became both in advocating healthy living.

Schwarz begins the biography in the standard way in relating the background of Kellogg family just before John Harvey birth then proceeded to follow the young Kellogg’s life until he became a doctor. The biography then shifts into various facets of Kellogg’s life ranging from his appointment to head Battle Creek Sanitarium and developing it, his development of various health foods and later his efforts commercially, his family life with 42 adopted children and cool relationships with his siblings, his humanitarian efforts, his work and later break with the Seventh-day Adventist Church including his relationship with Ellen White, and many more. The final chapter chronicles the latter events of his 91 year long life including the struggle to keep Battle Creek Sanitarium open.

In around 240 pages, Schwarz gives a thorough look into everything that John Harvey Kellogg did throughout his life but in a non-chronological manner save for his early and late life. Given the start length of the book and the long life of its subject, this non-chronological look was for the best as Schwarz covered topics in a straightforward manner and avoiding attempting to cover all of them in a on and off if the biography was written in a chronological fashion. This format also allowed Schwarz to reference big events that effected all topics and foreshadowing there importance for when he covered them later in the book.

John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer is a well-organized and informative biography of a notable pioneer in the Adventist health system that also influenced the larger American health landscape. Richard W. Schwarz work is outstanding and his prose presents a very easy read which makes this book a highly recommended one for anyone interested in Adventist health history.