Elder W. A. Chaudoin, the subject of this sketch, was born in Robertson County, Tenn., August 10, A. D. 1829. He is the son of Elder John Mims and grandson of Elder Lewis Chaudoin.
Lewis Chaudoin was one of a large family of children raised by Francis Chaudoin, a Frenchman and a Huguenot, who came to America from France in time to take part in the Revolutionary war. He married in Virginia and there his son Lewis was born; lived and died and was buried on his homestead, near Licking Hole meeting house, on a creek that
bears the same name, in Goochland county. He was for many years a Baptist minister, and his funeral was preached by Andrew Broadus.
Elder W. N. Chaudoin’s wife [note: Should be mother - mdB] was Sarah Calltharp, and William was her oldest child. She died when he was six years old. Very little is known of his maternal relatives. After his mother died he found a home with his half-brother, Lewis Chaudoin. The educational advantages of this orphan boy were very limited. His father accumulated no property; he preached a great deal but received only voluntary pittances in remuneration. During a visit to his grandfather in company with his father he enjoyed the advantages of country school for five months — first schooling he had. After returning to Tennessee he went as much as two years more, not continuously, but at intervals, when not engaged in the crop. From his first session at school he was fond of books, and loved to read and write, especially to write letters, in which his writing mostly consisted. He made fair progress, and by studying some between sessions was able, at eighteen years of age, to teach a primary school; which he did in the same house in which he received most of his education.
Elder W. N. Chaudoin, when a child used to play preacher with other children as audiences, but so far as known, he had no decided religious impressions until he was some fourteen years old, when meetings became more frequent in the community where his older brother then lived, which was in Davidson county, on the head waters of White’s creek, in ten or twelve miles of his birthplace. The matter of personal religion was seriously considered for some time, and during that time he says as he would be plowing or doing some farm work he would often find himself, in imagination, engaged in the ministry and laboring in a revival. Nothing definite resulted yet, and he relapsed and became harder; regarded not the Sabbath, and with other rude youngsters, would have sport in time of worship. He was not grossly immoral or skeptical, but fond of sport or "fun."
In the spring of 1846 a meeting was held at a schoolhouse very near where his brother Lewis lived. Elders W. F. Luck and W. D. Baldwin were the laborers in the meeting; earnest,
warm-hearted gospel ministers, who preached to the hearts, or the experiences of people. Quite early in the meeting the spirit began to work with our young friend Chaudoin, who strove hard to subdue all serious feelings, but in vain. His conviction was deep, and in a short time he presented himself for prayer, and in about three days after was rejoicing in believing. He often refers with pleasure to a fact, as proof in times of doubt, that he was converted, namely, that one of the first persons he met in his rejoicing was a man between whom and his brother there had arisen considerable alienation of feeling from a misunderstanding, and he, sympathizing with his brother, had felt bitterly towards him, but on meeting him now his bitter feeling was all gone, and he embraced the man as tenderly as if be had been his father. He did not unite with the church at once, but commenced reading the New Testament to ascertain his duty, to learn what would please the Savior. He did not delay very long in examining before he was satisfied as to his duty, and united with the Baptist church called Centre, (now New Bethel) and was immersed by Elder Wm. F. Luck, in the seventeenth year of his age. He immediately commenced taking part in prayer meetings; praying and sometimes leading a meeting, and soon had impressions of duty to preach, but gave the matter no serious consideration at first. These impressions still continued and became convictions, and then commenced a struggle that lasted for months, and was painful. His youth, limited education, meager Bible knowledge and poverty all seemed to him to be difficulties too formidable to overcome. The conflict was ended by his capitulation. He agreed to do what he could under the circumstances by the Spirit’s help, upon which surrender and pledge great relief was experienced.
The first effort to speak from a text was on the 2nd of April, 1848, two years and one day after his conversion, and in the same house in which he was converted, made the first public prayer and led the first meeting. In March 1849 he was licensed to preach by the church at Centre. The year following. May 6, 1850, the subject of this sketch was married to
Miss Carrie A. Frensley, of Davidson County, who was quite young as well as himself, and not a Christian, and her education limited. She soon became a Christian and has been a sympathizer and co-laborer with her husband in his ministry. Up to this time and for a year after his marriage the young licentiate labored as volunteer missionary, in the main preaching in school-houses and at places where there were no churches contiguous to the localities in which he, at the time was engaged in teaching, which was his means of support. He was teaching in the vicinity where he married, and remained there that year and the year following. There was a small Missionary Baptist church in the neighborhood, belonging to the Bethel Association, called by the name of the stream on which the house is built, Marrowbone. With this church he united, and soon it called for or suggested the propriety of the ordination of the young brother, as he was acting as supply in the place of a pastor. Arrangements were commenced to get a presbytery for the purpose, but there being no ministers in that section, and it being a rather inaccessible neighborhood no presbytery was secured until February, 1851, when William S. Baldry, William D. Baldwin and William Blumberlon, all of Robertson county, met with the Marrowbone church, in Davidson county, Tenn., and ordained our brother to the work of the ministry in the twenty-second year of his age. The beginning of our brother’s becoming more actively engaged in ministerial work was visiting the Second Baptist church in Nashville semi-monthly during the most of 1853. In the fall of that year he moved to Nashville, where he taught and preached to the Second Baptist church. This was his first pastorate. The connection between him and the church was interrupted by the prevalence of cholera the next spring, which closed the school in the city, and he went to the country. His labors were not resumed there neither as teacher nor minister.
Connected with the labors of Elder Chaudoin in Nashville is a bit of history, that because of its bearing upon his future life, bodily and spiritually, deserves particularly to be noticed or noted. In a meeting he conducted in Nashville on the
eve of his removal there, by neglecting to properly protect himself against the night air, after laboring vigorously, a deep cold was contracted. For several days he suffered considerably; the bronchia was so inflamed that it was painful to swallow anything; cough and cold remedies were used and relief soon obtained, but no cure; he has never been well since. The circumstances under which he labored during the winter, and being out frequently at night and in bad weather, he had constant attacks of cold, and each seemed to take deeper hold. By the spring of 1851 he was a confirmed invalid, and in the summer and fall he and his friends thought he would soon pass away with consumption. Physicians advised him to go south, and friends proposed to recommend him through the Tennessee Baptist to the churches and brethren. Being young and so very little known he hesitated to go unless he had some employment. As will appear after this, his affliction was finally a cause of his going further south, and his removal from his native state. Notwithstanding his infirm condition Elder Chaudoin labored considerably during the summer and autumn of 1854; assisting in several successful meetings, laboring with pastors Whitsitt, Stephenson, Crutcher and others. Towards the close of the year he arranged to remove to the northern part of Davidson County and teach in 1855, and did so. In the summer of that year he was invited to aid Elder W. A. Whitsitt in a meeting at Concord church, and at that meeting met and made the acquaintance of Dr. A. C. Dayton, who, as he has often remarked, "took as much interest in him as if he had been a father." During the first day and night they were together at the residence of Deacon Solomon Morton, Dr. Dayton suggested to Elder Chaudoin the propriety and importance of going south, and spoke of the great advantage he had derived from a winter spent in the pine region of Southern Georgia, as agent of the Bible Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Dayton was then the Corresponding Secretary of the Bible Board, and promised his influence with the Board to secure for Elder Chaudoin an agency for the Board, which was done: the appointment commencing in the fall of that
year. The design of Elder Dayton to send him to Georgia and Florida was hindered for a year or so by the ill health of his father, Elder J. M. Chaudoin, who died at his son's in the spring of 1856. In the month of November, 1856, Elder Chaudoin left Nashville for South Georgia and Florida to prosecute his agency, hoping the climate would be beneficial if it did not restore him. The labor of that winter and the following spring was the stepping-stone to his removal to the state of Georgia in 1857. At the Georgia Baptist convention in April of that year, a State Bible and Colporteur Society was originated, mainly through the recommendation of Dr. Dayton, who was in attendance, and Elder Chaudoin was chosen as secretary of the Society, which was located at Macon, Ga. Before entering fully, however, upon the work as secretary, a change was recommended by Dr. Dayton and Bishop Landrum, of Macon; and through the influence of the latter the subject of this notice was elected principal of the Academy for the Blind, an institution of the state, also located at Macon, Ga. He was induced to accept the position by the same motive that prompted the above named brethren to recommend and secure for him the position — the hope that his health would be improved. He was still feeble and coughing and expectorating constantly or daily. A year's confinement and cessation from the labor of preaching producing no perceivable improvement and preferring the ministry to any other work, he resigned his position, and in a short time entered upon the work of pastor in Southwestern Georgia. In this work and in the same section he continued till his services were sought as agent for the Domestic and Indian Mission Board of the Southern Baptist convention, (as then called, now simply Home Mission), for the state of Georgia. He received his first commission from the Board in July, 1869. For a year and a half he gave the Board only a part of his time, still serving the church in which he held membership as Bishop. Finding, as he thought, that he was slightly benefited at least by traveling, be very reluctantly left the pastorate and gave himself to the work of agent.
Here it is proper to say a few things about Elder Chaudoin's labors as Bishop and agent, respectively.
He loved the pastorate and was beloved by his churches as much as pastors usually are who do no more pastoral work in the visiting of their flock and private labor with members. There were two things that interfered with his labors out of the pulpit; feeble health and a conscious inability or want of tact in introducing the subject of religion in social circles or to individuals. He often mourns his deficiency in this important element of ministerial success and power, and thinks, perhaps correctly, that it is owing largely to timidity, which is natural, but increased by not having early advantages.
He has always felt that missionary or evangelical work was the work most congenial to him, and for which he was perhaps better adapted than for pastoral work. As a pastor, he generally held protracted meetings, but had visiting ministers, when he could, to do the preaching for the most part; he would "return work" with them, and in this way and in assisting pastors by special invitation he did a good deal of "protracted meeting work." He continued thus to labor till, unexpectedly to him, in 1869 he was solicited to take the agency of the Domestic Mission Board for Georgia. After giving the matter two months reflection, and consulting his church, be accepted the position, but with much hesitation because of a consciousness of unfitness in some respects for the work, and of physical inability to do it. On this account, and the reluctance he felt in dissolving his connection with his home church as pastor he continued for eighteen months — July 1869 to close of 1870 — to preach for the church monthly, giving only three-fourths of the time to the Board. During this time his health kept up and was probably somewhat improved. In the meantime he was kindly received by the churches and pastors, and encouraged and advised to continue in the work; and with the concurrence of the Board and Corresponding Secretary, M. T. Sumner, D. D., for whom he has the tenderest Christian affection, the result of seven years official connection and that continuously and only pleasant, was allowed to follow his own sense of duty or conviction in doing evangelical work, he decided to continue and gave up pastoral work, and has given his entire services
to the Board. For two years he worked only in Georgia, then he was commissioned District Secretary for Georgia, Alabama and Florida. In 1876 — last year — owing to a change in the work of the Georgia Baptist convention, Georgia was taken out of his district and Tennessee added to it.
As agent or collector, Brother Chaudoin has never been persistent. Constitutionally opposed to all "clap-trap" resorts, or appeal to improper motives, he has depended upon the simple preaching of the gospel and a statement of the work of his Board and its necessities. He entered upon the work in his own language, "aiming to so act that no church or pastor would be sorry to see him make a second visit." He has a conviction that in our appeals for aid for the spread of the gospel we have all made prominent the objective to the neglect of the subjective view of benevolence. He has preached and encouraged system, and urged the training of the children to system, and that giving, as every duty, should be a personal act; not parents give for children or husbands for their families.
The following article was published in the Christian Index in July, 1876, soon after Georgia was withdrawn from his district. Before inserting it, it may be proper to say the subject of this notice has always felt and loves to bear testimony to aid and encouragement received from Elders R. H. Jones, W. D. Trendry, J. R. Graves, and S. Landrum, yet living, and W. D. Baldwin, A. C. Dayton, and R. B. C. Howell, deceased; to these especially, and to many others, ministers, brethren and sisters.
The following extract is taken from the Index and Baptist, of Georgia, which will show how he is appreciated where known:Rev. W. N. Chaudoin. — As public attention is now being directed to this brother in view of the probability of his leaving the state, I take the present opportunity of expressing my appreciation of his merits as a minister of the gospel, and especially as an evangelist.
For the last six years it has been my privilege to be with him much in his labors, especially in the labors of protracted meetings, and have learned to love him very much for his work's sake. Brother Chaudoin is a wonderful preacher. In revival meetings he has no tricks; he is not soon satisfied; he relies solely for success upon the promises of God and the power of
[p. 191]His truth. He is discreet in his remarks, and prudent in his deportment. It is not necessary for you to be constantly making apologies for indiscretions. His sermons are sound, Scriptural, and contain the marrow and fatness of the gospel. His preaching never fails to edify Christians, generally tends to awaken even the hardest of sinners, and to silence the skeptic. He is a most sympathizing preacher, entering fully into the sorrows of all. There is a spiritual magnetism about him that draws all to him, so that while he is the children's preacher, he is in like manner the favorite of the intellectual and mature Christian. His preaching is highly appreciated by his ministering brethren. One clever minister observed to the writer: "What a wonderful preacher is Brother Chaudoin; I have never seen his like; I cannot preach in his presence; he completely takes the starch out of me every time I hear him." Another quite popular minister was exceedingly anxious to have Brother Chaudoin's sermon on the text, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;" others participated in the same wish. He is, in my judgment, the most successful revivalist I have ever heard in a protracted meeting. I have heard all the leading evangelist that have visited the state, as well as those to the manor born, and among them all I have not heard his equal. He is moreover a very eloquent preacher and a first-class pulpit orator. When warmed up with some grand theme, I have heard from him bursts of native eloquence not surpassed by the finest flights of Whitfield, Spurgeon, or Robert Hall.
I was in company a few days since, with one of Georgia's most learned judges, and not a professor of religion at that, who said of all the orators he had heard in Georgia, Mr. Chaudoin was more nearly the equal of Hon. A. H. Stephens than any man he ever heard. Now I have never heard the "great Commoner," though born and educated in an adjoining county, yet this is a wonderful compliment on one of Georgia's humblest yet most deserving ministers. I mention these facts because I do not think that Brother Chaudoin has received the full mead of honor due his modest and yet intrinsic worth; and again, because I do not think it will hurt him: but I would be very cautious of expressing such sentiments concerning many others not altogether unknown to fame. I think, however, "Uncle Shad" can bear it, and lastly, I write these things because I, with many others, desire that he may be retained in the state. I ask of Brother Chaudoin that when he is tired preaching the sermons from the following texts to give them in a volume to the public:
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," a complete refutation of Campbellism. "And be found in Him." "Precious faith." "Son, remember." "The time is short." "No man cared for my soul." "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." "My brethren." "Ye must be born again."
Amicus. July 2, 1876 =============
[From Joseph H. Borum, Biographical Sketches of Tennessee Baptist Ministers, 1880. The document is provided by Mark duBarry, whose wife Sheryl Chaudoin duBarry, is a descendant of the subject. - jrd]
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