Minister to the Cherokees: a Civil War Autobiography: James Anderson Slover.
While many books promise more than they deliver, the title of this book actually promises less than is delivered. James Anderson Slover ministered to the Cherokees and endured the hardships of the Civil War for a total of only eight years, described in less than one-third of his autobiography. The remainder of the book selectively presents most of the rest of his quiet but eventful life.
Slover (1824-1913) was a largely self-educated man who worked in Tennessee, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, California, and Oregon. Twice wed, he fathered five children with each wife. At various times he was a farmer, cook, sawmill worker, teacher, governmental official, carpenter, hotel owner, and salesman. After his ordination to the gospel ministry in 1853, he often served as a bivocational Baptist pastor. He was employed by the Southern Baptist Domestic Mission Board as a missionary to the Cherokees (1857-1862) and to the whites in Arkansas (1865-1866). The American Baptist Home Mission Society sponsored him in 1871 as a missionary in California.
In 1907-08, he prepared a handwritten manuscript that was passed down in his family until Barbara Cloud, associate provost for academic affairs at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and one of his great-great granddaughters, prepared it for publication. In doing so, she produced 17 pages of introductory material, 172 pages of text, and 24 pages of explanatory notes.
The volume has its problems. It could well have included at least five maps and a chronological chart of Slover's life. In treating the pre-Slover Baptist work in the Indian Territory, the editor overlooks important figures such as Duncan O'Bryant, Samuel Aldrich, and Chandler Curtiss. She gives no evidence of being acquainted with some relatively recent relevant research: Albert W. Wardin Jr.'s books on Tennessee and Oregon; E. Glenn Hinson's book on Arkansas; J. M. Gaskin's books on Oklahoma; and essays in Baptist History and Heritage (1983), Oklahoma Baptist Chronicle (1975, 1988), Quarterly Review (1977, 1978), and Viewpoints: Georgia Baptist History (1976).
Although Slover was no "giant in the land," he was a father in the Baptist Israel who has been largely forgotten. This book rediscovers for us and introduces us to an indefatigable--if sometimes gullible--laborer with a keen eye for detail. True, he is still no giant, but we have now been introduced to yet another previously unheralded ordinary man. Most of our books deal with leaders. Here is one dealing with a follower. Read it to see what an average Baptist was doing and thinking a century and a half ago.--Reviewed by Robert G. Gardner, professor emeritus of religion, Shorter College and senior researcher in Baptist history, Mercer University.