Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Dusty Bible Effect

Have you ever heard of the Butterfly Effect?  A butterfly flaps its wings and causes a hurricane on the other side of the world.

Well, I'm going to tell you about the Dusty Bible Effect.

The story is that in 1810, a farmer named Caulier living in Nomain, France found a Bible in the corner of the dusty attic of his home.  As a Catholic, he wasn't supposed to read the Bible.  But he did anyway and discovered that what he was being taught didn't match what was in the Bible.  So he started his own church.

In 1815, after the battle of Waterloo, a French speaking British soldier began to attend Caulier's church and distribute scriptures.  This resulted in several Catholics converting over to this new church.

In 1819, Henri Pyt, was out distributing literature in northern France and stumbles upon Caulier's church.  He stayed there 18 months preaching and baptizing.  Because they were baptized by immersion in a stream, they are considered to be the first Baptists in France.

As membership grew, so did the missionary work and many Baptist churches started popping up in northern France.  Eventually the Baptists in America found out about this and traveled to France as missionaries.

One such missionary was Dr. Erastus Willard.  He came to France and established a Baptist pastor school.  One of those who attended that school was Irenee Foulon*.  Another person to be baptized was Stanislas Besin, my 3rd great grandfather.  Stanislas became a colporteur, a peddler of religious books.

Well, American Baptists weren't the only ones who noticed the growth of Baptists in northern France.  The Catholics and the French government noticed too.  As you can imagine, they had a very different reaction.

Mr. Leopix wrote to Dr. Willard and told him that he saw Besin bound and being taken away by some gensd'armes.  They had him bound to a thief.  He said that Besin seemed happy and unaffected by his situation.  In fact, he was teaching the thief  and the guards the gospel!  Foulon said this of Besin:
"Our brother is now known as a faithful disciple of Christ--by our friends and our enemies, he is loved by all."
Later they were going to begin a meeting when a Roman Catholic woman came running down the street screaming, "There he comes!  There he comes!"
"Who?"  everyone asked.
"Mr. Besin! Mr. Besin!"  Soon everyone was rejoicing and had tears in their eyes as they ran to meet the freed prisoner. Foulin said, "I cannot describe to you the emotion that pressed into our hearts that day."

Besin would be imprisoned and fined more than once.  (What is it about my third great grandfathers and prison?)  Eventually the persecution got so unbearable, that the families had to come to America.  I find it interesting that they settled not very far from where another religious group was trying to escape persecution.

Had Caulier never read the Bible, he never would have started the Baptist church in France. The Demoulins, Foulons, and Besins wouldn't have converted from Catholicism. They never would have traveled to America to escape persecution. John wouldn't have ended up in Utah working on the railroad; he never would have married June Miller, and they wouldn't have had my grandpa, who wouldn't have had my dad.  Which means I wouldn't be sitting here today writing this story.

 I never realized I owed so much to a Bible laying in a dusty attic.

*Irenee Foulon married my second great grandparents, Nathan Demoulin and Suzanne Besin in Illinois.

To read more about the legacy Stanislas Besin left our family, click here.  

This post features

Stanislas Besin (1807-1859)

My third great grandfather

me-->Bruce Albert Buchanan-->Robert Amos Buchanan-->John Buchanan-->Suzanne Besin-->Stanislas Besin


  1. You may have noticed this book but just in case :'un%20pasteur%20protestant&f=false
    there are a few words about your ancestor's baptism (in the baptist Church) !

  2. my post just seem to have disappeared so here is the reference : Jean-Baptiste Pruvot, Journal d'un pasteur protestant au XIXe siècle, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1996 ! This document is very important about life in Viesly's area especially within the minority protestant groups (both reformed and baptist). There are references to your ancestor and Irénée Foulon ; I knew the latter had fled like many early french baptists to Illinois in the 1850's ; thanks for telling the rest of the story ! my email is miettesdelatable [at] hotmail [dot] fr