The Story of the Lambuth Family

By Rev. J. B. Cain

The Lambuth family holds a uniquely important  role in the history of Methodism as ministers and missionaries. Mississippi Methodists hold a very special claim on this extraordinary family whose influence has been felt since the mid-1800s.

J.W. Lambuth (originally Lambeth) came to America from England and settled in Virginia where William Lambuth was born in 1765. William became a Methodist minister , serving first in Virginia, then in Kentucky and Tennessee as a missionary to the Indians and white settlers. He married a Miss Crenshaw and settled in Fountainhead, Tennessee, until his death in 1837, leaving three sons and at least one daughter. One son, John Russell Lambuth, became a Methodist minister too and was sent to the Mississippi Conference in 1821. He served in Louisiana and Alabama, both at the time part of the Conference. John Russell married Miss Nancy Kilpatrick in Clarke county, Alabama, eventually moving to Mississippi in 1843 where he settled with his family in Madison county not far from the Natchez Trace, near what is now known as Pearl River church . Called Pearl River Academy, the church included a school as well. There were eight children in the family: Alexander Drake, James William, John Wesley, Robert Wilkins, Mary Elizabeth, Jennie, Bascom and Nancy, joined by Martha and Sallie after the move to Madison county. Soon thereafter mother Nancy died.

Rev. John R. Lambuth married again two years later to Miss Laura Terry who was mother to six children: California, Florence, Henry, Clara, Laura and an infant. Mother Laura died young.

James William Lambuth, the second son, graduated in the first class at the University of Mississippi in 1851 and became a Methodist preacher. He served one year as pastor of the Vernon circuit, now Flora, and was married on October 10, 1853, to Miss Mary Isabella McClellan. Both volunteered the same year to be missionaries to China and sailed to Shanghai in 1854. J.W. and Mary served forty years as missionaries in China and Japan where they were founders of Methodist work in Japan. J. W. died in 1892 and was buried in Kobe, Japan. Mrs. Lambuth lived several years longer and is buried in China. J.W. and Mary were parents of four children: Walter Russell, Nettie, Nora and Robert. During one return visit to Mississippi during the Civil War, the family stayed in Madison county for two years, attending Pearl River church. Daughter Nettie died during this stay and is buried in the Pearl River cemetery. The family returned to China.

Walter Russell Lambuth was born in Shanghai, China, and was sent to his relatives in Tennessee and Mississippi for his early education. He graduated from Emory and Henry College in 1875, and later received theology and medical degrees from Vanderbilt University.  He was ordained an elder in the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Church, and returned to China with his wife Daisy Kelly as a medical missionary.  He returned to America in charge of all missionary work as General Secretary of the Board of Missions.  Lambuth was elected Bishop by the M.E. Church, South, in 1910 and was assigned to Brazil.  The following year he established Methodist work in the Belgian Congo, Africa, later traveling to Europe and establishing Southern Methodism in Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Siberia, supervising missionary work worldwide until his death in 1921.  He died in Japan and his ashes were buried in Shanghai, China, next to his mother.

Ministers and Missionaries in the Lambuth Family

Rev. William Lambuth (1765-1837). Missionary to Kentucky and Tennessee.

Rev. William Lambuth III, grandson of William. Member of Kentucky Conference.

Rev. John Russell Lambuth (1801-1892). Missionary to Alabama and Louisiana, pastor in Mississippi.

Rev. James William Lambuth (1830-1892). Missionary to China and Japan.

Mrs. J. W. Lambuth ( -1904). Missionary to China and Japan.

Rev. John Wesley Lambuth ( - 1882) Local preacher at Pearl River church.

Rev. Robert Wilkins Lambuth ( -1867). Pastor, Mississippi Conference.

Rev. Walter Russell Thornton Lambuth (1854-1921). Missionary and Bishop.

Dr. William Hector Park ( - 1927). Medical missionary in Japan and China.

Mrs. Nora Lambuth Park (1863-1949). Missionary.

Mrs. Nettie Craig Lambuth Lewis ( -1965) Missionary in China.

Rev. Dwight Lamar Sherertz. Educational missionary in China.

Mrs. Mary Margarita Park Sherertz (1889- )Missionary in China.

Rev. William Hector Sherertz. Member of the Ohio Methodist Conference.

Among the many honors and memorials to the Lambuth family are Lambuth University in Jackson, Tennessee, and Lambuth Inn at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

Each year a memorial service is held at Pearl River Church in their honor - Lambuth Day.  The service, by another name, was first held August 9, 1900, when the Lambuth Monument which stands in front of the church was unveiled. The name Lambuth Day was first used in 1927 and has been observed each year since, except for the W.W.II years.  The Lambuth Day observance is held each first Thursday in October.

*This article is an abridgment of "From Pearl River to the Ends of the Earth," by J. B. Cain, which appeared in the Mississippi Methodist Advocate, October 10, 1949. Supplemented by other reference material, including "The Lambuth Letters 1827-1949; The Lambuth Centennial 1854-1954," J. B. Cain (Comp.) October 5, 2000. These publications and more information are available in the J. B. Cain Archives of Mississippi Methodism at the Millsaps-Wilson Library, Millsaps College.