Readers, hello and welcome back to the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog! Quite a bit has happened since my last post back in December 2019, so before I get into today’s content, let me first update you on life and my tentative blogging schedule going forward.
As many of you know, I recently went through something of a career transition, having graduated with my PhD in history and having started in a new full-time teaching position back in May. Too, I stepped down from my college/young professionals ministry position at the end of July, though Candace and I remain (and intend to remain) active members of our congregation.
At any rate, it has been a particularly hectic last few months, and so I needed to take some time away from this blog as I finished up my dissertation and a couple of related projects. (I likewise took a short break from my general interest blog over the summer.) Now that I am settling into my new rhythms and routines, such as they are, I am ready to get back to a regular blogging schedule, and I have plenty of topics and ideas on deck. On that note, my plan is to write one new post for the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog and one new post for my general interest blog each month. New posts here will go up on the third Thursday afternoon of the month, with new general interest posts appearing on the first Thursday afternoon of the month. I believe this will be a healthy balance that will open up these sites as outlets for my writing without crowding out my other research, teaching, and service opportunities and obligations.
Moving into our actual post for the day, a longtime friend of the blog mentioned several months ago that he had heard a rumor that Playboy founder and editor Hugh Hefner (1926-2017) was a descendant of Barton W. Stone (1772-1844). Stone, of course, was a key figure in the Restoration, or Stone-Campbell, Movement and in turn a significant influence on the Churches of Christ and other fellowships with historical connections to the larger movement. To say that this would be an unusual pair of relatives would be putting it mildly, of course, but I had not heard of any connection between the two men myself. So, is there anything to the purported link?
While I was not able to turn up any evidence in support of a Hefner-Stone connection, I did find that Hefner had a historically significant ancestor and that Stone had a religiously controversial descendant, so perhaps the rumor wasn’t entirely off-base, even though there was no tie between Hefner and Stone specifically. As to Hefner’s ancestry, in a quite ironic twist, the (in)famous publisher was the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the English Puritan William Bradford (c.1590-1657), most notable for signing the Mayflower Compact and serving as governor of Plymouth Colony in the first half of of the seventeenth century. (1)
Conversely, Barton W. Stone’s grandson Charles Chilton Moore (1837-1906) started his career as a preacher but later lost his faith and became one of his era’s most outspoken critics of religion. Moore was indicted near the end of his life for mailing obscene literature–in this case, a conversation about free love that was included in his newspaper, the Bluegrass Blade–and was convicted of the charge. Within a few months, however, President William McKinley had commuted the sentence and Moore was released. A number of issues of the Bluegrass Blade are available online in digitized form, and there is a substantial biography of him by John Sparks which dubs him, quite aptly, “Kentucky’s most hated man.” (2)
So again, while the Hefner-Stone rumor was just that–a rumor–it did turn out to be a productive topic all the same, since Hefner’s and Stone’s family trees contained some quite surprising limbs. Check back in a month for the next entry here at “Church of Christ Celebrities,” which will focus on appraiser, scholar, and Antiques Roadshow mainstay, Lark E. Mason!
(1) “Family Relationship of Hugh Hefner to William Bradford,” FamousKin, accessed August 25, 2020, https://famouskin.com/famous-kin-chart.php?name=21789+hugh+hefner&kin=9243+william+bradford.
(2) John Sparks, Kentucky’s Most Hated Man: Charles Chilton Moore and the Bluegrass Blade (Nicholasville, KY: Wind Publications, 2009). Also worth checking out is Sparks’s biography of the famous Restoration Movement figure Raccoon John Smith. See Elder John Sparks, Raccoon John Smith: Frontier Kentucky’s Most Famous Preacher (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2005).