Daniel Sommer, 1850-1940: A Biography



Book: Daniel Sommer, 1850-1940: A Biography

Author: William E. Wallace, compiler

Publisher: William E. Wallace, 1969


Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Teens and adults

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Wallace, William E., compiler.   Daniel Sommer, 1850-1940: A Biography (published privately in 1969 by William E. Wallace).  Daniel Sommer (1850–1940) was a key figure in what is often called the “Restoration Movement.”  Born in Queen Anne, MD, and raised as only a nominal Lutheran by his German immigrant parents, Sommer had identified himself as a Methodist in 1864, and his conversion to “apostolic Christianity” began in 1868 in Harford County, MD, under the influence of his employer, John Dallas Everett.  After deciding to preach, Sommer enrolled at Bethany College in West Virginia in 1869 but in 1871 he met and came under the influence of conservative Restoration Movement figure Benjamin Franklin.  Sommer later purchased Franklin’s American Christian Review, merged it with his own paper The Octograph as Octographic Review, and eventually changed the name to Apostolic Review.  He spoke out against what he called “innovations” such as missionary societies and instrumental music in worship and pushed for a division between the Churches of Christ and the Christian Church.  His Address and Declaration delivered on Sunday, August 18, 1889, at Sand Creek, IL, known as “The Sand Creek Declaration,” is often held to be largely responsible for the formal separation of the Churches of Christ from the Christian Church in 1906.

The compiler of this material, my good friend William E. (Bill) Wallace, was a gospel preacher who was born on Sept. 17, 1928, in Hollywood, CS, to prominent gospel preacher Foy E. Wallace Jr. and his wife Virgie.  Though familiar with his name from my childhood up through his writings, I met and got to know Bill and his wife Elva in 1976 and 1977 when I was located with the church in Warrenton, MO, and Bill came to work with the church at Affton, MO.  After we both left the area, I really didn’t have much further personal contact with Bill, but following Elva’s death Bill returned to Affton around 1998 to fill in between preachers.  However, by the time I moved to work with the Affton church in 2002, Bill had gone on further west and passed away on May 4, 2010, at the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina, OK, at the age of 81.  Daniel Sommer, 1850-1940: A Biography is not technically a biography about Sommer’s life written by Wallace, but a compilation of a series of some 33 autobiographical articles in the Apostolic Review written over a period of years by Sommer entitled “The record of my life.”  I first heard about this book when it was initially published in 1969 but did not purchase a copy at that time.

Wallace added a foreword, some footnotes, and an appendix consisting of several items including a number of letters, along with an additional chapter, “The Final Days,” about Sommer’s death by Daniel’s son Allen.   After living for short periods of time in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Sommer finally settled in 1894 at Indianapolis, IN, although he travelled all over the United States to preach in protracted meetings and lectureships.  Like any other fallible human being, Sommer held many positions with which faithful Christians would heartily agree and some positions with which many people would not concur.  I personally thought that his chapter “On Alexander Campbell and Disciple Literature” had a bit of silly foolishness in it.  Someone noted that “even in Churches of Christ the name of Daniel Sommer is now most often cited in a negative context to condemn divisive behavior.”  That is unfortunate because Sommer taught much truth and did a lot of good.  Anyone interested in “Restoration history” will find the book fascinating reading, as I did.  It is no longer in print, but I obtained a used copy.

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