Most people who come to Springfield Friends are familiar with Allen Jay, the Quaker minister from Indiana who came here for 8 years and helped rebuild the spiritual life, the economy and the educational system of the area. He rescued Guilford College from bankruptcy, helped to create the new “pastoral” form of worship and led the creation of Friends United Meeting.
Very few people today know about Rufus P. King, a younger contemporary of Allen Jay who was an active member of Springfield Friends, an outstanding fund raiser and who was even more of a world-traveling minister than Allen Jay.
He was born near Chapel Hill in 1843 to a poor family, and never went to school as a boy. When he was 19, he was drafted into the Confederate Army and was assigned as the personal servant of Captain Jennings in the 11th North Carolina Regiment.
His captain came down with yellow fever, which causes jaundice, liver and kidney damage, internal bleeding and (very frequently) death. It was so dreaded that no one would care for him. Rufus King nursed his captain devotedly, and escorted the body to the family home at Durham because no one else dared to approach it.
He believed that God had intervened to spare him from catching yellow fever, and was converted at a Methodist revival service. He also became deeply convinced that war was wrong, and fasted and prayed for many weeks from Thursday through Saturday. Unable to read, he memorized the Sermon on the Mount.
He was assigned as a medic, and was at the Battle of Gettysburg. When his regiment charged the Union lines, they started with 900 men and finished the battle with less than 300 – 2/3 of his regiment was killed or wounded.
With officers and men lying dead and wounded and bullets flying all around him, he prayed on the battlefield, and many wounded men crawled closer to hear his prayer. At the end of three days of furious battle, the Confederate army retreated, leaving dead and dying soldiers for miles along the side of the road.
He was captured and spent a year in a Union prison before being exchanged in 1864. He returned home, was drafted again and sent back to the front line. As the front was crumbling, he and others crossed the lines and surrendered. He made his way to Indiana and met a Quaker family, who gave him work and food and taught him to read.
He joined the Friends, and soon was recorded as a Quaker minister. He returned home to North Carolina and helped with Quaker work during the Reconstruction.
During many years as a minister, he traveled to England, Ireland, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Palestine, “everywhere preaching the simple gospel of salvation to lost sinners, through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ shed for the remission of sins.”
When North Carolina Yearly Meeting built a new meetinghouse in High Point for its annual sessions, Rufus King raised the money to pay for it. When the yearly meeting started an orphanage near Springfield, he was the principal fund raiser.
His simple grave is located underneath the huge old oak tree near the columbarium in our cemetery.