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I Timothy 3:15


C. I. Scofield - The Rest of the Story

Thomas Williamson

From the Northern Landmark Missionary Baptist Newsletter, March, 2012

The year was 1877, and the man, who would someday be known as one of the greatest theologians in modern fundamentalism, and editor of the Scofield Reference Bible, was up to some skullduggery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


The November 29, 1877 edition of the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel reported that:


"A fellow named Charles Ingerson, who for 2 weeks post [sic] boarded at the Metropolitan Hotel, is under arrest for vagrancy. The fellow pretended to be the owner of a 1,300 acre plantation near Mobile and was paving the way to a union with a fair daughter of the South side, when his career here was suddenly brought to a close by the landlord of the hotel, Mr. Sam D. Maynard, who cared more to save the lady than to call him to account for the amount of the board-bill."


The same paper on December 4, 1877 followed up on this developing story, saying, "Ingerson, arrested on a charge of vagrancy by the landlord of the Metropolitan Hotel, is to be set free. His affianced settled his board-bill and the course of true love will again run smooth."


On December 17, 1877 we read further: "The fellow Ingerson, who talked freely of his large cotton plantation away down South, is again under arrest for vagrancy. He wheedled his affianced into paying his board-bill at the Metropolitan Hotel and has since managed to exhaust her pin-money and the loose change of a number of South Siders."


Luckily for "Ingerson," the local reporters did not find out that he was already married, having a wife and two daughters who were living in Atchison, Kansas.

 

We hear yet more of "Ingerson" from the October 3, 1878, issue of the paper:


"Cyrus Schofield [sic] alias Chas. Ingerson, who has been hanging around here since the first of July, and who figured conspicuously at the Metropolitan Hotel in Milwaukee a year ago, was arrested here [Horicon, Wisconsin] Tuesday morning on a charge of forgery, dispatches having been received by Deputy Sheriff A. E. Hart from parties in St. Louis to hold Mr. Schofield [sic] until an officer should arrive to take him in charge. Mr. Hart lodged the gentleman in our county jail, where he awaits the arrival of the Chief of Police of St. Louis."


The saga continued as reported on October 7, 1878,: "Mr. Cyrus Schofield [sic], alias Charley Ingerson, was released from the county jail on Friday on a writ of habeas corpus, but Under Sheriff End immediately served another warrant on him and took him back again. An officer is hourly expected from St. Louis to take him to that city on a charge of forgery."


All of this is significant, because many years later, Scofield, who had become famous as a Congregationalist preacher and editor of the Scofield Reference Bible, made the claim that he had maintained a successful law practice in St. Louis during the very same period of time that he was experiencing all these problems with the law in Wisconsin.


Scofield's conversion is variously dated to the year 1879 or 1880. He testified that he was saved through the witness of one of his law clients, Thomas McPheeters.


The chronology of his life immediately prior to his conversion indicates that he returned from Milwaukee to St. Louis around the end of 1877, and then left St. Louis in the late summer of 1878 to avoid a forgery charge. He was returned to St. Louis on October 8, 1878, and spent much of the following year in jail, until his case was finally dismissed in November, 1879.



Member of the Bar, Or Behind Bars?


How could Scofield have maintained a large law practice in St. Louis in this period immediately prior to his conversion, if he spent most of that time either in Wisconsin or in jail?


Scofield's biographer Charles Trumbull states that McPheeters witnessed to Scofield and won him to the Lord in Scofield's law office. Efforts have been made to locate that office without success.


Joseph Canfield, in his book, The Incredible Scofield and His Book, pages 55-57, 66, reports that:


"Admission to the Bar of St. Louis and the State of Missouri, not obtained before he left for Kansas in 1869, was out of the question. Scofield's behavior between 1877 and 1879 made it impossible. It was never granted. 'The Bench and Bar of St. Louis County,' an official publication of the legal profession, was checked. It shows that at no time in the 19' Century was C.L Scofield a member of the St. Louis Bar....


"When C.L Scofield gave information to the publishers of `Who's Who in America' he mentioned being admitted to the bar in Kansas, but made no mention of the bar in Missouri.... the admission of Cyrus Scofield to the bar in Missouri at any time was highly improbable, and more pertinent, is not confirmed by some recognized reference sources....


"We established that there is no record, in recognized sources, of a Scofield law office in 1879 when the conversion supposedly took place. Deputies could not locate Scofield's office in 1877 or 1878. It must have passed out of existence almost before the ink was dry on the pages of the 1877 edition of the City Directory."


James Lutzweiler of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his unpublished paper on the Scofield conversion stories, states, "Whatever the case, the St. Louis City Directory for 1879 lists neither a residence nor a business address for Scofield or for any of the variations of the spelling of his name. Of course it can't be ruled out that a prominent businessman like Tom McPheeters had for a lawyer a recent convict without a business address. But it does seem improbable."


To add to the confusion, there are other stories of how Scofield was converted. A story that appeared in the Atchison, Kansas Patriot, and the Topeka, Kansas Daily Capitol, in 1881 stated that Scofield, having spent 6 months in jail in St. Louis, was converted while in jail, and then after his release began a courtship with a Christian woman, alleging that he was now divorced from his wife in Kansas (which was not true - they were still married).


Does Character Matter in the Ministry?


By now, some of my patient readers may be thinking, "What difference does it make how or where Scofield was saved, as long as he got saved?" and, "It is unfair to bring up offenses committed by Scofield before he was saved."


Scofield had a lengthy record of financial deceptions and dishonest practices before his conversion. All that was changed after he was saved and he became an honest man, right?


Well, not exactly.


As of 1899, Scofield still owed a lot of people in Atchison, Kansas, a lot of money which he had not yet paid back. This was noted in an article in the Kansas City Journal on December 28, 1899. Scofield had attracted the notice of the paper by officiating at the funeral of the famous evangelist D.L. Moody.


D. Jean Rushing of East Tennessee State University, in her unpublished paper on the life of Scofield, notes,


"The Kansas City Journal published a story under the headline 'A Preacher with a Past,' which recounted Scofield's checkered history in the states of Kansas and Missouri. Indicating Atchison residents still sought restitution from Scofield after he became a clergyman, the paper reported, 'when approached by his Kansas creditors, Parson Scofield declared that he is poor and unable to pay.' Perhaps what Rev. Scofield owed in Atchison, Kansas, far exceeded his income sources but the cost of 7 months abroad might have made some headway in paying the debts."


Rushing notes that Scofield in February, 1899, applied for a passport for foreign travel, and then he and his second wife and son spent 7 months traveling abroad.


There is something seriously dishonest about a man who owes money that he will not repay, but then spends 7 months in presumably expensive foreign travel. Scofield was a dishonest man, a shyster and a deadbeat who refused to pay money that he admitted that he owed. Most fundamental Baptist churches today would expel such a scoundrel from the membership. They certainly would not make such a man into an infallible source of Christian doctrine, and yet that is exactly what modern dispensationalists have made out of Scofield.


What about Scofield's marriage? When he got saved, surely he returned to the wife and children he had abandoned in Kansas, and took up his proper role as husband and provider, like a Christian man should. Right? Wrong!


David Lutzweiler, in his Scofield biography, In Praise of Folly, notes that:


"Leontine [Scofield] had drawn up that first pleading for divorce. The papers were filed on December 9, [1881] charging that her husband had 'absented himself from his said wife and children, and had not been with them but abandoned them with the intention of not returning to them again.' The petition stated further that he 'has been guilty of gross neglect of duty, and has failed to support this plaintiff or her said children, or to contribute thereto, and has made no provision for them for food, clothing or a home, or in any manner performed his duty in the support of said family although he was able to do so." (page 98)


Lutzweiler in his book reproduces the original copy of the court decree for Scofield's divorce dated December 8, 1883, which states:


"Now comes the plaintiff by her attorneys Tomlinson and Griffin and the defendant enters for appearance and files answer and makes no further appearance.


"And thereupon this cause came on for hearing upon the pleadings and testimony and was argued by counsel upon consideration whereof the Court does find that the defendant has been guilty of wilful abandonment of the plaintiff for more than one year prior to the commencement of this action.


"It is therefore adjudged and decreed that the custody nurture education and care of the said minor children Abigal [sic] and Helen [sic] be and the same is hereby given to the said plaintiff and the said defendant is hereby forever enjoined from interfering with or disturbing the said plaintiff in the custody care nurture and education of the said above name children until further order of this Court."


Scofield's minions have made all sorts of excuses for his divorce. They say it was not his fault because his wife initiated the divorce, and that there was no way the newly saved Scofield could be expected to get along with a fanatically Roman Catholic spouse.


However, it is not clear that Scofield ever made any attempt to reconcile with his wife. Also, as we have seen, Scofield prior to his conversion had grown tired of his wife and had taken a romantic interest in at least one other woman. His disaffection for his wife began while he was unconverted, and thus was not a matter of Christian scruples about being unequally yoked to an unsaved spouse.


The August 27, 1881, the Topeka Daily Capital reported:


"Cyrus I. Schofield [sic] formerly of Kansas, late lawyer, politician and shyster generally, has come to the surface again, and promises once more to gather around himself that halo of notoriety that has made him so prominent in the past. The last personal knowledge that Kansas  have had of this peer among scalawags, was when about 4 years ago, after a series of forgeries and confidence games he left the state and a destitute family and took refuge in Canada.


“For a time he kept undercover, nothing being heard of him until within the past two years when he turned up in St. Louis, where he had a wealthy widowed sister living who has generally come to the front and squared up Cyrus' little follies by paying good round sums of money. Within the past year, however, Cyrus committed a series of St. Louis forgeries that could not be settled so easily, and the erratic young gentleman was compelled to linger in the St. Louis jail for a period of 6 months....


"In the latter part of his confinement, Schofield, under the administration of certain influences, became converted, or professedly so. After this change of heart his wealthy sister came forward and paid his way out by settling the forgeries, and the next we hear of him he is ordained as a minister of the Congregational Church, and under the chaperonage of Rev. Goodell, one of the celebrated divines of St. Louis, he causes a most decided sensation.


“In the meantime the courtship between himself and the pretty young representative of the Flower Mission continued, Schofield representing first that his wife had obtained a decree of divorce. When the falsity of this story was ascertained by inquiries of our district clerk, he started on another that a divorce would be obtained, that he loved his children better than his life, but that the incompatibility of his wife's temper and her religious zeal in the Catholic Church was such that he could not possibly live with her.


"A representative of The Patriot met Mrs. Schofield today, and that little lady denies, as absurd, such stories. There was never any domestic clouds in their homes. They always lived harmoniously and pleasant. As to her religion, she was no more zealous than any other church member. She attended service on the Sabbath, and tried to live as becomes a Christian woman and mother. It was the first time she had ever heard the objection raised by him.


“As to supporting herself and the children, he has done nothing, said the little woman. Once in a great while, say every few months, he sends the children about $5, never more. 'I am employed with A.L. deGignac & Co., and work for their support and mine. As soon as Mr. Schofield (sic) settles something on the children to aid me in supporting them and giving them an education, I will gladly give him the matrimonial liberty he desires. I care not who he marries, or when, but I do want him to aid me in giving our little daughters the support and education they should have."


I suppose it is possible that the first Mrs. Scofield misrepresented herself to the reporter, and that she really was an insufferable shrew after all. But do we want to give all of our church members today implicit permission to be divorced and remarried, any time that the going gets rough in their marriage? That is what we are doing, when we defend Scofield's divorce and remarriage.


Torn Between Two Lovers


Rushing reports on how Scofield's divorce was finalized, right around the time that he was being ordained by the Congregational Churches of North Texas:


"Leontine Cerre Scofield filed for divorce just days before the council held the ordainment ceremony and this time the court granted the divorce on December 8, 1883. The final decree barred Scofield from contributing to the upbringing of Abigail, 16, and Helen, 14. Freed now from 'being unequally yoked,' Scofield took notice of Hettie Hall Van Wartz, another northerner who relocated to Dallas, Texas, from Michigan. Hettie and her sister Mattie joined First Congregational Church just one day after the court filed Scofield's divorce decree on December 9, 1883. While the ink dried on the decree, Dallas County, Texas, issued a marriage certificate to Cyrus Scofield and Hettie H. Van Wartz and they married the following day on March 11, 1884."


Scofield's divorce and remarriage have been justified by his followers (and by Scofield himself) on the basis of the necessity to separate from unbelievers. However, Paul specifically taught in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 that new converts are to remain with their unbelieving spouses and not to abandon them.


In the information that Scofield submitted for publication in the 1912 edition of "Who's Who," he omitted any reference to his first wife and his children. At that time, knowledge of his divorce and remarriage would have been very damaging to his reputation, although nowadays such conduct is no longer considered such a big deal, perhaps in part because of Scofield's bad example.


The 1912 "Who's Who" entry contains other errors that could have been based only on information supplied by Scofield. It states that Scofield served in the Tennessee Infantry from May 1861 "to close of Civil War." The Civil War ended in April, 1865. It is a matter of record that Scofield was honorably discharged from the Confederate Army on September 26, 1862, long before the end of the war.


Scofield moved to St Louis, Missouri, after his discharge and was living there at the time of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, in April, 1865. However, he told his biographer Trumbull that he was "12 miles from Appomattox" at the time of the surrender, and said he claimed his share of Union Army food supplies that were transferred by General Grant to Lee's troops.


In his "Who's Who" entry, he gave the date of his second marriage as July 14, 1884, which is 4 months after the correct date of March 11. Canfield states, "The tendency of American husbands to forget anniversary dates is legendary, but we submit that the conflict in this case is not due to mere forgetfulness. It was reported by Trumbull and others that Cyrus and Nettie were married after a friendship of about 6 months. Now backdating 6 months from March, 1884, takes us back to September, 1883. Cyrus was then still legally bound to Leontine and not morally free to court Hettie or anyone else."


Scofield prudently omitted any mention of his alleged, and totally undocumented, D.D. degree or doctorate in his "Who's Who" entry. There is no record of any educational institution granting Scofield such a degree, but that did not stop him from claiming to have such a degree on the front page of his Scofield Reference Bible. Actually, we have no record of Scofield receiving any formal theological education.


Not only did Scofield expunge from the public record any mention of his first wife and children, but it is a matter of record that he never provided them any substantial financial support, even after he started receiving generous royalties from sales of the Scofield Reference Bible.


Nowadays there are serious legal penalties, as well as social ostracism and disgrace, for fathers who fail to pay child support, but for Scofield it was okay to withhold such support.


On May 4, 1921, Scofield wrote to his daughter Abigail, in response to a request for money, and advised her to pray to a Roman Catholic saint for the money.


Not a Role Model for Fundamentalists


The purpose of this article is not to propose that Scofield was not a genuine Christian believer. As far as we know, he was. Nor is it to deny that Scofield produced some valuable writings and presented some useful Christian truths in his spoken and written ministry.


The purpose of delving into Scofield's personal history is to point out that a man with his failings and problems ought not to be considered an infallible source of doctrine and practice for fundamentalist churches today. Unfortunately, there has been a tendency over the past 100 years for many fundamentalists to regard Scofield, because of his editorship of the Scofield Reference Bible, as an authoritative and almost infallible source of Christian doctrine.


There is an unwritten, unspoken understanding among many fundamentalists, in which many of the false or questionable teachings of the Scofield notes are accepted without question, on the basis that Scofield was such a great Bible scholar and a godly, saintly man. As we have seen, Scofield was not exceptionally great as a scholar nor as a practitioner of holiness.


If Scofield were alive today, most Baptist churches would not allow him to have a position of leadership and responsibility, based on the kind of problems he exhibited in his personal life. How is it, then, that we as fundamentalists and Baptists allow him to have the dominant position that he has had in determining the theological beliefs of our movement?


We need to rethink and reexamine the whole question of the authority of Scofield over our movement. And we need to give ourselves and our followers the liberty to dissent from the teachings of the Scofield notes, especially when such teachings are in clear conflict with the Word of God.


FOR FURTHER READING


1. The Incredible Scofield and His Book, by Joseph Canfield, 1988, Ross House Books, Vallecito, California.


2. In Praise of Folly: The Enigmatic Life and Theology of C.I. Scofield, by David Lutzweiler, Nicene Council, P.O. Box 411, Draper, Virginia 24324.


3. The Many Conversions of Fundamentalist Saint, Cyrus Ingerson Scofield: 'Peer Among Scalawags' and the Golden Goose of Oxford University Press - and Texan, unpublished paper by James Lutzweiler, Archivist, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 114 N. Wingate, Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587.


4. From Confederate Deserter to Decorated Veteran Bible Scholar: Exploring the Enigmatic Life of C.I. Scofield, 1861-1921, unpublished paper by D. Jean Rushing in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History, East Tennessee State University, December, 2011. Readers desiring a copy of this paper by email may request it from James Lutzweiler at ilutzweilesebts.edu.