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J. S. Coleman - War Horse of the Green River Country
By Ben Stratton, Pastor
East Hickman Baptist Church, Hickman, KY
James Smith Coleman was born near Beaver Dam, Kentucky on February 23, 1827, the only child of Elisha and Susanna Coleman. Coleman was converted at the age of 11 while reading Isaac Watt's old hymn "That Awful Day Will Surely Come" and baptized into the membership of the Beaver Dam Baptist Church. At age 15 Coleman felt a call to preach, but ran from this call and pursed a career in public service. Finally in 1854, he submitted to the Lord's will and was ordained to the gospel ministry that year. He would spend the rest of his life strengthening the cause of Baptists in his beloved Green River country in western Kentucky.

Besides pastoring, Coleman served as missionary of the Gasper River Association for four years, during which time he baptized over 1,000 people. Coleman was regularly asked to preach revivals and often saw over 100 conversions in these meetings. During a revival in Auburn a boy named Boyce Taylor was converted. Taylor would grow up to be the well-known pastor of the First Baptist Church of Murray. In 1878, he preached an eleven week meeting in Owensboro with nearly 300 conversions, and he saw the reorganization of the Walnut Street Baptist Church. As a result of his efforts, Coleman was able to organize over 60 new churches, including the First Baptist Churches of Madisonville, Greenville, and Hartford.

Coleman was a staunch Baptist and regularly emphasized Baptist peculiarities and distributed Baptist literature. In 1857, Colman was challenged to a debate in Calhoun by William Caskey, a Presbyterian preacher. Coleman's defense of scriptural baptism was so strong that a young Methodist Sunday School teacher by the name of W. Pope Yeaman decided to be immersed and become a Baptist. Yeaman went on to become a great Southern Baptist leader in Missouri. As a result of his doctrinal preaching, Coleman baptized over a thousand people from other denominations. In his own words Coleman was a "Landmark successionist, denying the validity of all other denominations."

Much more could be written about Coleman. He edited his own religious paper, the Green River Baptist at Hartford, KY for a time. He served as moderator of local associations for 32 years and of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky for 16 years. He introduced the first resolution during the Whitsitt Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention and was made chairman of the investigating committee. He successfully pastored at least 17 churches, all of which were within fifty miles of his birthplace. The "Old War Horse" as he was affectionately known died on March 29, 1904 after spending 50 years in the Lord's harness.

[From the Western Recorder September 26, 2006, Kentucky Baptist Heritage Section, back page. Document provided by Ben Stratton, Hickman, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

An Expanded Bio on J. S. Coleman by Ben Stratton.

J. S. Coleman Index
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