On Sabbath, July 10, the Wellsville church in Wellsville, New York, will host a special Sabbath School, worship service, and graveside ceremony honoring Adventism’s recently-rediscovered first African American ordained preacher, Eri L. Barr (1814-1864), who is buried in the Bellamy aka Petrolia Cemetery near the town of Alma.
Born in Reading, Vermont, Barr graduated from the Wesleyan Academy, an interracial Methodist ministerial training school in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, around 1836. In 1842, he married Lori Harvey, and two years later they joined the Millerite movement and experienced the Great Disappointment on October 22, 1844. Subsequently, Barr became a Methodist preacher and a mechanic to support his family.
In 1852 the Barrs accepted the Sabbath and Eri became a full-time itinerant evangelist. During the 1850s he preached throughout New England. After the Whites heard him preach, James White declared: “May the Lord give [him] success in winning souls to Christ and the present truth.” James called Barr “our much-beloved Brother” and “a firm friend of the cause and a devoted laborer.” Ellen White found him to be consistent and reliable.
During his short preaching career, Barr teamed up with Adventist ministers such as Frederick Wheeler, J.N. Andrews, and Joseph Bates. He won scores of converts, including his brother, Horace, and chaired several general Adventist meetings.
Shortly after moving to the Southern Tier in 1859, Barr became a charter member of the Niles Settlement Church (near Wellsville) and lived with the Witter and Oviatt families, early pioneer Adventists in Allegany County. When he died in 1864, conference president Nathan Fuller conducted his funeral.
Christopher Hufnagel, pastor of the Wellsville church and Salamanca church district, would like to invite all those interested in celebrating the life of this first black Adventist minister to join the Wellsville church on Sabbath, July 10, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Brian Strayer, professor emeritus of History at Andrews University, will talk about “The Adventist World of Eri L. Barr” for Sabbath School. Benjamin Baker, the African American scholar who discovered the career of Barr, will preach the sermon at 11:00 a.m. Following a potluck at the church, a graveside service will be held at 2:00 p.m. at the Bellamy Cemetery where a “Footsteps of the Pioneers” flag will be planted next to Barr’s grave.
—Communication team, Wellsville church