[Editor's note: There are two sections of ministers listed -- the first group was pastors of the church and this second group was those whom the church sent out as either ordained or licensed ministers. They are not in alphabetic order, but I am listing them in alphabetic order so you may see who are included in the sketches without searching the entire essay. jrd]
Allen, Elder Zachariah -- Creath, Elder William -- Montague, Elder John E. -- Richards, Elder William -- Walker, Elder Sanders -- Whitehead, Elder William.
Biographical Sketches of Ministers sent out either as
Ordained or Licentiate Preachers from this Church
(Grassy Creek Baptist Church)
By Robert I. Devin
Elder Sanders Walker
Mr. Walker was probably a native of Mecklenburg county, Va. He was a lay elder and a licentiate of Grassy Creek Church. He removed to Georgia about the year 1771. He was one of the constituent members of Kiokee Church, which was organized by Elder Daniel Marshall in 1772. This was the first Baptist Church ever regularly constituted in Georgia. Mr. W. appears to have been quite useful as a minister in that then frontier country. It is said that he was very zealous in proclaiming the gospel; and that he, with other licentiates, as co-laborers with Marshall, was efficient in gathering the scattered sheep of Christ into the fold, and in multiplying believers unto the Lord.
Elder Walker, who, by way of distinction, was called meek, having been ordained to the full work of the ministry by the Kiokee church, settled on Fishing Creek, in Wilkes county, Ga. Here he labored with marked success, preaching the gospel of the grace of God in regions round about him. There were in the vicinity a number of Baptists, who had either emigrated thither, or were the fruits of the labors of Elder W. himself, in union with other heralds of the cross. These were soon gathered together, and in 1783 they were formed into a regular church, called Fishing Creek church, and it is presumed that Elder W. was their fist pastor.
He was one of the first, as well as one of the most prominent, ministers in the formation of the Georgia Association, which was organized in 1784. He was honored at some of the meetings of this body by being elected to fill the Moderators’ chair. He appears to have been a man of exemplary christian character, much beloved by his brethren, and useful in proclaiming the word of the Lord.
The writer of this regrets his inability, for the want of the necessary information, to sketch the life and character of this man of God, who has long since gone up to the home of the blest, to reap the reward of his toils and sacrifices to promote the coming and triumph of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
Elder William Whitehead
Mr. Whitehead was born in Granville county, N. C., about the year 1756. He was the son of Samuel Whitehead, who was a lay-elder at Grassy Creek, a prominent citizens and an active, valuable members of the church. His parents were in comfortable circumstances, and consequently their son enjoyed better opportunity of education than ordinary at that day. Early in life William professed conversion, and united with the church. He was baptized in December, 1774, by Elder James Reed. At what time he began to preach, the writer cannot learn, but probably soon after his baptism. He was dismissed by letter in 1778, and removed South, but to what point the compiler cannot determine, but it seems that he at length, settled in the Pearl River Valley, in Mississippi, the middle portion of which was open to white settlers immediately after the Revolutionary war. This portion of Mississippi soon became very generally settled. Among the immigrants were a number of Baptists of respectability and influence. It is thought that Elder Whitehead was among the number, from the fact that he was among the first ordained ministers of that region. He appears to have been active and prominent in the organization of the Pearl River Association. He seems to have been a diligent and useful minister of the blessed gospel of Jesus, and accomplished much good in his Master’s vineyard.
Elder Creath was a man of talent and deep research in matters of divinity, but was thought by some to have been rather fond of treating on points of religious controversy, and thereby exciting unnecessary prejudices.
He left home on the 4th of July, 1823, on a preaching tour in Eastern Carolina, from which he was not permitted to return. He was arrested by disease, and at the residence of Mr. John Blount, in Edenton, N. C., on the 9th of August, 1823, in his fifty-sixth year, he closed his earthly pilgrimage, and fell asleep in Jesus.
On this his last tour, it is said that he preached with unusual unction and power, as if struggling in the last battle, in full view of the Celestial City, and conscious of certain victory. As his joyful soul takes flight he sings: "Farewell vain world, I am going home," &c.
There is one other item that is worthy of special remark: all thirteen of his children whom he left behind, became members of the Baptist church, and three of this number ministers of the gospel.
Elder William Richards
Mr. Richards was born in Essex county, Virginia, in 1763, of highly respectable parents. At the age of eighteen he was brought to the knowledge of the truth through the instrumentality of the Baptists. His relations and friends were violently opposed to his uniting with that sect, everywhere spoken against, and resorted to every expedient to prevent it, but, having examined the Scriptures and learned the path of duty, he was immovable in his determination, and accordingly united with the Baptist church in 1781. In following Christ he was caused to suffer mant severe trials, but he bore them all with meekness. His deportment was so upright and consistent with his profession, that the mouths of gainsayers were stopped, and soon all were compelled respect him as a good man. He very soon felt it to be his duty to preach, and at once began to exercise his gift in public. His earliest attempts were unpromising, and many were of opinion that he would never stand high as a preacher, but in this they were mistaken. He immigrated to North Carolina and settled in Granville county. The most of his first efforts were made while he was a member of Grassy Creek church. He was ordained at this church in November, 1793, by Elders James Reid, George Roberts, and Reuben Picket. Having been invited by the Blue Stone (now Bethel) church, in Mecklenburg county, Virginia, to become their pastor, he removed into vicinity of that church, and became permanently settled for life. He served as pastor several other churches. His labors were extended to different parts of Mecklenburg, Lunenburg and Charlotte for many years, to the joy and edification of the people of God. He was a good pastor. The church found in him an example of unaffected simplicity of character and Christian loveliness. They, with their pastor, were not only prompt in their efforts to build up at home, but also liberal in their contributions to the cause of missions, and indeed to every benevolent enterprise that had the glory of God in view. He was an excellent disciplinarian. No abuses were allowed to remain uncorrected. His influence was great in the Meherrin Association, over which he presided as Moderator for a number of years. As a preacher, he was highly esteemed, not so much for deep thoughts or beauty of language, but for the peculiar simplicity and energy with which he exhibited scriptural truth. He was emphatically a preacher of the cross.
For several years before his death, feebleness compelled him to relinquish all pastoral connections. Still he loved the house of God, and would not forsake it as long as his strength would permit him to attend. At length the hour of his dismissal came, and found him ready. He joyfully committed the mighty interests of eternity into the hands of his divine Redeemer. On the 13th of July, 1837, in the 74th year of his age, and 50th of his ministry, he left the land of shadows and death for the climes of life and immortal blessedness.
Elder Zachariah Allen
Mr. Allen was born in Virginia, Jan. 4, 1773. He was the son of Samuel and Mary Allen, who was Mary McCollister. In his early childhood his parents moved to North Carolina and permanently settled in the Northern part of Granville county, in the vicinity of Grassy Creek church, of which they were both worthy members -- his father sustained the office of deacon. No information worthy of notice concerning his early history has been obtained.
On the 29th of January, 1794, in his 22nd year, Mr. Allen was united in marriage to Miss Rebecca Barnett, a lady of high respectability and piety, and through whose influence he was subsequently brought to a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Mr. A. united with the church at Grassy Creek, and was baptized on the 4th Sabbath in December, 1800 by Elder Thos. Vass. Soon after his connection with the church, such were his convictions of duty that he began to exhort his fellowmen to flee the wrath to come. As he continued to exercise his gifts, the brethren encouraged him to persevere, and licensed him for the gospel ministry. He preached at various points in the surrounding country with much zeal. God owned and blessed his efforts, and many were benefited by his ministrations.
In 1808, Mr. Allen moved to Lincoln county, N. C., where he remained until 1811, when he returned to Granville and settled for life in the south-eastern part of the county, some three miles from Wilton. The writer has no information concerning the brother during these three years, but he was doubtless busily employed in the Master’s vineyard.
In 1812, Bro. Allen was ordained by Elder James Weathers and others, at Cedar Creek church, Franklin county, with which he had united after his return from Lincoln county. The church at New Light, Wake county, enjoyed for many years his ministerial labors as pastor. He was instrumental in implanting the church at Brassfields, which he served as pastor for twenty years. He commenced preaching at Corinth, in 1832, once a month, and continued until 1st August, 1835, when the church was regularly constituted. He was then elected to the pastorate, which office he held until 1842, when feeble health made it necessary for him to resign his charge.
He was instrumental in gathering the church at Fellowship, which he served as pastor for a number of years, very satisfactorily to the brethren. The churches under his charge were generally united in brotherly love and Christian affection.
Elder Allen was a man of strong mind and sound in doctrine, with a warm heart and flaming zeal, devoted to the Master’s cause, full of faith and good works. A brother who visited him in his last illness says he found him “full of faith and the comforts of religion.”
He died on the 29th of February, 1845, in the seventy-third year of his age, in full assurance of a blessed immortality. Thus this eminent servant of God passed away, after spending a long life in the service of his divine Master. He was greatly blessed both temporarily and spiritually. He brought up a large family of children, ten in number, all of whom he had the pleasure of baptizing into the fellowship of the same church. When he baptized the last one he was so overwhelmed with joy that he exclaimed in the language of Simoon [sic]: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”
When old age and its infirmities rendered him unfit to perform the duties of the pastorates, he continued to visit the house of God, and preached whenever his strength would allow.
As a preacher, he was much esteemed, not for beauty of language, but for the earnest simplicity with which he exhibited divine truth. He labored extensively among the churches of the Flat River Association, and over which he often presided as Moderator.
Elder John E. Montague
This brother lives at Bethel Hill, in Person county, N. C. Although he has passed the meridian of life, and is now on its shady side, still he is in the vigor of manhood, and actively engaged in the work of the ministry. He stands deservedly high in the ordination of his brethren, as a faithful, zealous laborer in the Master’s vineyard. Bro. M. was born near Oxford, the county seat of Granville, October 23d, 1818. Having been reared by pious parents, who brought up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and, as it might be expected, under such training, he was, at a very early age, the subject of many religious impressions; but he was not fully awakened to a true sense of his guilt and danger, and brought to feel deeply the necessity of a change of heart, until the summer of 1830. A short time after his conversion he united with the Baptist church at Corinth, and was baptized by Elder Zachariah Allen, in the 21st year of his age. Not long after his connection with the church, he became deeply impressed with the conviction that it was his duty to devote his life to the work of the gospel ministry. He suffered much mental anguish in considering the subject; and for a long time he was anxiously asking, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” in reference to the ministry. Being sensible of its solemn responsibilities, and his unfitness for that high calling, he shrank back at the thought of such an undertaking. He struggled with God in prayer, with many tears, to be released from the obligation, but still he felt: woe is me if I preach not the gospel. At length, having become fully satisfied that it was his duty to preach, and having received from his parents only a business education, he felt the necessity of a better cultivation of his intellectual powers to qualify him for the great work of the gospel ministry.
In January, 1843, after consulting with his most judicious friends, and by the advice of that man of God, Elder Samuel Wait, involving no little worldly sacrifice, he connected himself, as a student, with Wake Forest College. At this institution of learning he remained two years, receiving instruction in literature, both secular and theological; for, at this time, by special arrangements, all the students were to a limited extent instructed in theology under the supervision of Dr. Wait and Prof. J. B. White.
After leaving college, and having exhausted his means, it became necessary for him to engage in teaching school for the support of his family. Bro. Montague continued in this business for a number of years, and at the same time preaching in many destitute places, with evident tokens of divine approbation. In passing, the writer, from long and intimate acquaintance with Bro. M’s family, wishes to say that amid all the trials and sacrifices our brother has experienced in his vocation, his estimable wife has ever seemed to delight in aiding him in the great work of his life.
In 1848, Mr. M. moved to the vicinity of Grassy Creek and united with the church, where he holds his membership up to the present time.
In 1850, Grassy Creek church, by a unanimous vote, invited Elders Jas. King, S. A. Creath and R. I. Devin, the pastor, to meet on the 23d of February, as a Presbytery, to ordain Bro. John E. Montague to the gospel ministry. Bro. M. was publicly set apart to the full work of the ministry at the date above given.
In 1851, Bro. M. was called to the care of Aaron’s Creek church, in Halifax county, Virginia. He continued in that relation nine years. His labors were greatly blest in building up the church, and adding to its membership by baptism. Under his superintendence, the brethren built a new house of worship, creditable alike to pastor and church.
In 1853, Elder M. accepted an appointment of the State Mission Board of the General Association of Virginia, to preach at Dryburg, Halifax county, Va. The following year a Baptist church was regularly constituted at that place. The Board continued to aid the church in supporting the pastor two or three years, when it became self sustaining. Bro. M. preached for this church thirteen years, the Lord crowning his labors with much success in the up-building of Zion, and in making large additions to its membership. In the meantime, a commodious meeting-house was built for prayer and praise and the public administrations of God’s blessed word -- a sanctuary unto the Lord.
In 1853, Elder M. became pastor of Bethel church, Person county, N. C., and after serving the church ten years resigned the charge; but he was recalled to the pastorate in 1871, in which relation he has continued to the present time (1880). This old church, constituted in 1774, has recently built a new house of worship that reflects honor upon the community in which it is located. The church maintains a happy standing under the efficient labors of its devoted pastor
In 1860, Elder M. was called to the pastorate of Musterfield church, Halifax county, Va., and after serving the church eight years resigned. His labors were attended with a large measure of success. Many souls professed conversion under his ministry and quite a number were added to the church by baptism.
In 1864, Elder M. took the oversight of Buffalo church, Mecklenburg county, Va., and sustained that relation until December, 1879 -- a period of fifteen years. During the time several very precious revivals of religion were experienced by the church, and many were added to its membership by baptism.
In 1867, Bro. M. was chosen by Clement church as their spiritual guide. After serving this church for a time he resigned his charge and became the pastor of Olive Branch church. Both of these churches are in Person county, N. C. Bro. Montague is still serving the Olive Branch congregation acceptably.
In January, 1854, Elder M. entered upon the pastorate of Mill Creek church, Person county, N. C., which office he still holds -- a period of twenty-six years. Bro. Montague’s labors in connection with this church have been abundantly successful. Its membership is now (1880) larger than it has ever been since its constitution, and yet there are but two male members belonging to it who were there when Bro. Monague took the pastoral care of the church. Great changes have taken place in Mill Creek church since our brother became their spiritual guide. The old hull of a house has disappeared, and a new, neat and handsomely painted one taken its place. The generations then living has nearly passed away, and another has arisen to take its place. The membership is mainly composed of the descendants of the brethren who have gone to the spirit land, converted under the ministry of its present pastor, and baptized by his hands.
In addition to his regular pastoral work, our brother has been accustomed to preach at different points, either statedly or occasionally -- thus guarding the outposts of his various charges. In this way he has performed much gratuitous labor among the destitute, doing good service for the Master.
[From Robert I. Devin, A History of the Grassy Creek Baptist Church, 1880; rpt. 1977, pp. 136-150. -- jrd]
Return to Baptist Biographies
Return to HOME Page