James A Garfield was converted, on March 4, 1850, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Born in a log cabin in Orange, Cuyahoga County, Ohio on November 19, 1831, James was the youngest of five children. From Puritan and Huguenot stock, James was raised to a strong faith. When his father died suddenly the family endured frontier poverty and learned the stoic tenacity of their situation.
James started at a log hut school at age 3 and knew the value of a high standard of moral and intellectual worth. By fourteen he had read and re-read every book in the district and had a keen interest in American history. At the age of 17 he headed for Cleveland, planning to enjoy the romance of the high seas. But he soon recognised that reality was different to the stories he had read and found work on the canals.
His cousin, captain of a canal boat that sailed to Pittsburgh and back, gave him a job, first on the towpath, pulling the boat, and then as a deckhand. On the first trip young Jim fell into the canal 14 times! And he couldn’t swim!!
Nevertheless the prayers of a godly mother, and the mercy of a loving Heavenly Father, combined to keep him safe.
After a six months’ bout of malaria, and a position as school-teacher … he was confronted with a “revival meeting” at the local Disciples’ Church. Although regular in church attendance before this time, on 4 March, 1850, he responded to the preacher’s invitation to accept Christ as his own personal Saviour.
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A few months later he wrote: “When I consider the sequel of my history thus far I can see the providence of God in a striking manner. Two years ago I had become ripe for ruin. On the canal … ready to drink in every species of vice … I was taken sick, unable to labour, went to school two terms … took a school in the winter; and greatest of all, obeyed the Gospel. Thus by the providence of God I am what I am … I thank Him.” (Quoted in How Great Christians met Christ, by J. Hefley, page 127).
Pursuing his education and expanding his religious training, Garfield excelled himself. “Garfield was not born, but made; and he made himself by persistent, strenuous, conscientious study and work. In six years (1856-61), he was a college president, a state senator, a major general in the National army, and a representative-elect to the National congress. No other American president had received so many rapid and varied promotions.”
Garfield excelled in the Civil War, gaining rapid promotion and achieving significant victories due to the military discipline he maintained with his troops.
In 1881 James A. Garfield became the 20th President of the United States, a position he held for only seven months, when he was assassinated. He was shot while waiting to board a train for a vacation. He lingered for ten weeks after the shooting and the finest doctors did what they could. They could not tell where the bullet was, so Alexander Graham Bell tested a metal detector, which did not work because the president was lying an a mattress with springs in it – which was a novel invention of the day.
Garfield’s dying words, on 19 September, 1881, were – “God’s will be done, doctor. I am ready to go if my time has come” (ibid, page 128).
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com