Challen Dewey Plum (1898-1977)

By Bill Cavender

C. D. Plum was born on June 5, 1898 on a farm in the hills of Wirt County, West Virginia, a place he later referred to lovingly as “Starvation Point.” He died at home, 2503 Liberty St., Parkersburg, West Virginia, at 12:30 p.m., June 30, 1977, at age 79 years and 25 days.

He went through the eight grade of school, then attended State Normal Colleges at Elizabeth and Ripley, West Virginia, and began teaching school. While teaching, at age 19, he met and married one of his students, Goldie May Henderson, age 16. They loved each other and lived together in holiness and devotion to God and to each other for 60 years and 3 months. To them three children were born: Wilma, who became Mrs. Carl Parsons and who passed away Aug. 20, 1965; Russell D., now age 56, who is crippled due to illness in his youth and who lives at home with his mother; and Charles D., who passed away Aug. 7, 1976 at age 51, who was a faithful gospel preacher and the Chief of Police in Parkersburg at the time of his death.

Brother C. D. Plum is survived by his wife, by Russell, by one sister who is in a nursing home in California, and by five grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Sister Plum is 76 years of age, appears to be in good health, and for the more than three years of Brother Plum’s illness and the one and one-half years he was bedfast, she tenderly and lovingly cared for him day and night without complaint, assisted by her two sisters and by her excellent daughter-in-law, sister Lillian Plum. Sister Plum is of the old school of womanhood, a gracious, lovely, modest, godly woman, who loves the Lord, the church, her husband and children, and all that is good and true. She and Russell will continue to live at their home which they built in 1941. (All preachers ought to own a home of their own.) Cards and letters will reach sister Plum at her home address if any of our readers wish to write her, to thank her for what she, her husband, and family have meant to the Lord’s cause and kingdom for these many years.

Brother Plum was baptized during a gospel meeting in 1911, held by J. H. Pennell. “One little twelve year old boy was baptized,” it was remarked, but that boy gave sixty-six years to the Lord’s work, fifty-six of them in active gospel preaching. He went to embalming school in Cincinnati, Ohio, immediately after marriage but never worked as a mortician. He began preaching in Hundred, West Virginia and in 1918 moved to East Liverpool, Ohio. After preaching there, he did located work in Moundsville, West Virginia; .Wheeling, West Virginia (where he did extensive radio preaching); Lynn Street in Parkersburg; Belpre, Ohio; West Broad Street and Whitehall churches in Columbus, Ohio; and in Paden City, West Virginia. In 1964 they moved to Coraopolis, Pennsylvania to care for their daughter who was terminally ill. Brother Plum began holding meetings and preaching for churches within driving distance of Coraopolis when he was not in meetings. He continued to do this for the next ten years, the remainder of his preaching life. After their daughter’s death, they moved to their own home in Parkersburg in March, 1966. In his 56 years of preaching, he baptized hundreds of people, holding meetings in twenty states and Canada. He held six meetings in Port Arthur, and was scheduled to hold another for us when he became too ill to preach anymore. We then asked Brother Charles D. Plum to come in his father’s place for the meeting. He consented, but then became ill with cancer and passed away before the time agreed upon.

Brother Plum engaged in two religious debates, both with the Seventh-Day Adventists. He wrote several tracts and for many years was a regular staff writer for the Gospel Advocate. He spoke on college lectureships, especially at Freed-Hardeman College, and was well known as a personal friend to the notable preachers, elders and brethren of the twenties, thirties and early forties. But all this changed in the forties, after World War II. In the late forties and early fifties, when the Gospel Advocate became the foremost voice for institutionalism (human institutions being supported, maintained and subsidized from church treasuries) and centralized church cooperation (many churches working through a centralized, sponsoring-church arrangement, with a concentration of plans, funds and personnel under the oversight of a central eldership), Brother Plum opposed this unscriptural movement and wrote in opposition to these digressive, liberal practices and plans. The Advocate editor, Brother B. C. Goodpasture, ceased printing his articles, so Brother Plum resigned from the Advocate staff. He later remarked that the twenty-five dollars a month he received as a staff writer was greatly needed in those days, yet he could not take it to the peril of his soul. He was the first writer to quit the Advocate due to the paper’s liberalism. He contributed articles afterwards to several papers among faithful brethren, the Gospel Guardian and especially Truth Magazine being the main outlets for his views. His writing was ever like his preaching-true to God’s word, simple, understandable and appealing.

One of the great sadnesses of Brother Plum’s life was the condition to which the majority of churches of Christ in the Ohio Valley have come. This was home to him, the area and people that he loved best, and where most of his life’s work was done. He grieved at the digression of the churches in that area and at the fact that he was greatly ostracized by the very people he had helped the most in earlier years. The college begun and operated by liberal brethren in Parkersburg and the Ohio Valley has been and is a prime mover of digression throughout the entire area and Brother Plum ever looked upon it with disdain and sorrow. He had great sorrow of heart due to broken fellowship and friendships as digression gained more and more power and fewer brethren in his area arose to speak and stand against it as time went by. Especially keen was the loss of association with gospel preachers who had been bosom friends and fellow-laborers, men who had preached and proclaimed similar convictions as his own, but who would no longer preach and stand by their convictions when divisions began to occur. Brethren Fred E. Dennis and Tom Butterfield were extremely valued fellow-soldiers, yet their fellowship was lost when he stood for truth and they tacitly and quietly gave their influence to the digressive movement. They continued to hold the meetings for churches in the Ohio Valley, churches which were and are embracing more of error and becoming more denominational as time passed, while Brother Plum preached elsewhere and had to go further out into the countryside to weak and small churches to find places to preach. In his long illness they never contacted him in any way, never came to see him nor inquire of him. Brother Butterfield attended his funeral. Brother Plum often remarked that if he, Dennis and Butterfield could have stood together as one man in the truth during the crucial years of the fifties and sixties, they could have saved much of the cause of Christ in the Ohio Valley from digression.

In the nineteen years I knew Brother Plum well, I came to love and appreciate him as I have few other men. He stayed in our home in two meetings; I stayed in their home in Parkersburg during two meetings. We corresponded often. I will never forget the way he walked, his unusual speaking style and voice, his beautiful and perfectly-drawn blackboard diagrams, the scripture-filled sermons, his tenderness of heart and feelings. He was a deeply pious man, given much to prayer, Bible study and meditation. He always talked of the scriptures, the church, home and heaven. I never heard him discuss sports, politics, fishing, hunting, or gossip about anyone. He loved his family as much as any man I have ever known. Only to preach the gospel would he leave them, while gone he wrote them every day, and when a meeting was over he wanted to return home. Humble in spirit, reverent in demeanor, always moderate in his habits, very unassuming and quiet in disposition, thrifty with money, undemanding and simple in his needs, accurate and meticulous in his work, kind and gentle in manner, forgiving and without rancor toward any enemies, hopeful for the best in all things, believing in God’s will and providence in every facet of his life, he tried to live as much as possible at peace with all men, consistent with God’s will, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this world.

His funeral was conducted in Parkersburg on July 5 by Brother Richard Greeson, preacher of the Marrtown Road church in Parkersburg, and by this writer. His mortal body was laid away to await the resurrection by the side of his son, Charles, in the Chapel of Peace Mausoleum, Sunset Gardens Cemetery, Parkersburg. May God continue to be with and bless Sister Plum, Russell, and this entire family as they serve Him, and may Brother Plum’s life, preaching and works be a continual blessing and influence in the lives of all of us who knew him.

Truth Magazine XXI: 41, pp. 647-649
October 20, 1977