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J. Frank Norris' 1917 Sulphur Springs Revival

by MBG

I purchased a group of old newspapers on eBay that were advertised as having an article about J. Frank Norris. What I found in the papers was not just one article about Norris, but three articles and two advertisements. I have tried to produce scans of these articles as examples of the techniques of Norris and how the press would have covered him.

To put everything in historical perspective, let's begin by looking at J. Frank Norris' ministry at that time. He had been pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth for ten years. His "sensational" preaching and ministry was only around eight years old. The first church fire and arson/perjury trial where five years past. He was expelled from the Fort Worth Baptist Pastor's conference in 1914, but no group more noteworthy than that as of yet. He had been publishing the "Fence Rail" since 1914, but changed the name to "The Searchlight" in the year of this revival. These articles report that the First Baptist Church had "over two thousand members" with "an average attendance of over sixteen hundred" in Sunday School. At this early date in his career, Norris was not quite the divisive figure he would become. To say that he was controversial is an understatement, but it wasn't until the 1920's that Norris was shunned by the Baptist conventions and even many of the Fundamentalists.

Sulphur Springs, TX, is the county seat of Hopkins County. It received its named from, of course, springs that contained sulphur that where in the area. It is located in northeast Texas about 100 miles from Fort Worth. In 1914, the population surpassed 5,000. The Sulphur Springs Gazette, was published between 1862 and 1928.

I have not found reference to this particular series of meetings in any of my Norris books. This is probably because it is simply a "typical" campaign and lost in the multitude of other meetings throughout Texas and elsewhere. He is accompanied on this campaign by singer W.J. Ramsey. The details from these articles have attendance of up to 5,000 for services. The last report I have here has the "conversions and reclamations" at six or seven hundred with one more week of services.

I tried to get the best scans possible of these articles. The papers are not in mint condition (they are 90+ years old after all!) and some of the text is lost. The July 27 paper was subject to some type of preservation attempt by attaching some type of plastic sheeting to it.


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July 27, 1917

Paper

Article announcing the start of the Revival

Paper

Advertisement for a "Men Only" meeting. Note the "sensational" advertising.


August 10, 1917

Paper

Advertisement for upcoming Sunday services.

Paper

Report on the progress of the meetings


August 17, 1917

Paper

Report on the progress of the meetings