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Tidence Lane
"First Minister to Preach Regularly to a Tennessee Congregation"
By J. J. Burnett, 1919

Tidence Lane, son of Richard and Sarah Lane, was born in Maryland, near Baltimore, August 31, 1724. He was a grandson of Dutton Lane and Pretitia Tidings, and a great-grandson of Major Samuel Lane, an officer in the King's service in the Province of Maryland, in 1680. He was an older brother of Dutton Lane, a "pioneer" preacher in Virginia, whom both Semple and Taylor mention in their respective histories of Virginia Baptists and Baptist ministers as a minister of "prominence" and "influence." He was the honored father of Lieut. Isaac Lane, who, under Colonel Sevier, performed patriotic service at the battle of King's Mountain, October 7, 1780; who also, in 1802, "gave the land on which was built the meeting-house of the Baptist church organized," it is claimed, "in Claiborne County," Tenn., the church at Big Spring (now Springdale).

The register of St. Paul's Parish shows that Tidence Lane was christened "Tidings," from which it would seem that it was his father's intention that his son should be the namesake of his paternal grandmother, whose maiden name was Pretitia Tidings. But later generations of the Lanes have thought Tidence the preferable name, and have adhered to this spelling and pronunciation.

In early colonial times the parents of Tidence Lane moved from their native state of Maryland to Virginia and thence to North Carolina, where young Lane grew to manhood, and where he married Esther Bibbin (or Bibber), May 9, 1743. To this union were born nine children, seven sons and two daughters.

About this time, perhaps a little earlier, young Lane was convicted and converted in a most remarkable way, under the ministry of Shubael Stearns, who had been "itinerating" extensively in Virginia and North Carolina, and preaching with wonderful success. Morgan Edwards describes him as a "marvelous preacher for moving the emotions and melting his audience to tears. Most exciting stories were told about the piercing glance of his eye and the melting tones of his voice, while his appearance was that of a patriarch." Young Lane had the most "hateful feelings toward the Baptists," as he confessed, but "curiosity" led him to make a horseback trip of some forty miles to see and hear the famous preacher, with the following result, in Elder Lane's own words: "When the fame of Mr. Stearns' preaching reached the Yadkin, where I lived, I felt a curiosity to go and hear him. Upon my arrival I saw a venerable old man sitting under a peach tree with a book in his hand and the people gathering about him. He fixed his eyes upon me immediately, which made me feel in such a manner as I had never felt before. I turned to quit the place, but could not proceed far. I walked about, sometimes catching his eyes as I walked. My uneasiness increased and became intolerable. I went up to him, thinking that a salutation and shaking of hands would relieve me, but it happened otherwise. I began to think he had an evil eye and ought to be shunned, but shunning him I could no more effect than a bird can shun the rattlesnake when it fixes its eyes upon it. When he began to preach my perturbations increased, so that nature could no longer support them, and I sank to the ground." (Morgan Edwards' unpublished manuscript.)

In regard to his call and ordination to the ministry I have no definite information. We find him, however, "among the first Baptists" to set foot on Tennessee' soil. He has the distinction of being "the first pastor of the first permanent church organization" of any denomination in th state, Buffalo Ridge, in Washington County, constituted in 1779. Under this date Ramsay says: "Tidence Lane, a Baptist preacher, organized a congregation this year. A house for public worship was erected on Buffalo Ridge." (Annals of Tennessee, p. 180.) The Nashville American (Sunday issue, May 16, 1891), among the one hundred "prize questions" submitted to its readers, had this: "Who was the first minister who preached regularly to a Tennessee congregation?" And the prize taking answer was: "Tidence Lane, pastor Buffalo Ridge, 1779." The Presbyterians generously and frankly concede Baptists this priority of date in church building, claiming 1782 as the date of their first church organization, viz., that of New Bethel Church in the forks of the Holston and Watauga rivers. (Pioneer Presbyterianism in Tennessee). Benedict (General History of Baptists) places the date of Baptist beginnings in the state "about the year 1780." Ramsay's date is 1779. While Benedict was a painstaking and thoroughly reliable historian in matters of vital importance and while he visited in person (in 1810) the historic grounds of our Baptist people throughout the country, and had, therefore, opportunity to investigate their claims and traditions, nevertheless, Ramsay, in my opinion, would likely be more accurate in a matter of date, being in easy reach of all the sources of information, having access to all the records in the state, public and private., and having, as he did, a smaller field for study, less subject matter to investigate, more written documents to refer to, and a later date, with its better opportunities for historical research, than his predecessor had or could have at his early day.

Under date as above (1780) Benedict mentions by name eight Baptist ministers, who moved thus early into "the Holston country," all of them Virginians, "except Mr. Lane, who was from North Carolina. They were accompanied by a considerable number of their brethren from the churches which they left. Among the other "emigrants there was a small body, which went out in something like a church capacity. They removed from an old church at Sandy Creek in North Carolina, which was planted by Shubael Stearns, and as a branch of the mother church they emigrated to the wilderness and settled on Boone's Creek (then in North Carolina, now in Tennessee). The church js now called Buffalo Ridge." Tidence Lane, as above stated, was its first pastor. With respect to our tradition that Buffalo Ridge came out from Sandy Creek Church (North Carolina) in an organized capacity and established itself in its new home as an "'arm" of the mother church, with TidenceLane as pastor, if may be said that Benedict in, 1810 visited both these churches, mother and daughter, and made the record above given. Whether the record was, made on the evidepce of written documents or of verbal tradition, it is impossible at this distance to say; if the latter, the age of the record and the matter-of-fact way in which it is made, stamps, it seems to me, the traqition as history.

Tidence Lane has also the distinction of being "the first Moderator" of the first association of any denomination in the state, the old Holston, organized at "Cherokee meeting-house," in Washington County, on Saturday before the fourth Sunday in October, 1786, ten years before Tennessee was admitted into the Union.

After a sojourn in the "Holston country" for some four or five years Elder Lane pushed on toward the west into what is now Hamblen County, making a location on Bent Creek, near the present town of Whitesburg. Here he and Elder William Murphy constituted the Bent Creek (now the Whitesburg) Church, "June, the seond Sunday, 1785," Elder Lane becoming pastor of the church and continuing pastor as long as he lived, some twenty-one years. At the organization of the Holston Association (1786) Bent Creek Church was represented by Tidence Lane, Isaac Barton and Francis Hamilton. Tidence Lane was chosen Moderator, and was elected to the same position in May and October of the following year.

Tidence Lane was active in the ministry, had good organizing and good preaching ability. To use Benedict's language, he was a preacher "of reputation and success." He was much sought in counsel by the churches He was not so hard in doctrine as some of his brethren, his doctrinal belief being a modified Calvanism.

The writer has been searching for Tidence Lane's Bible, which he willed to his son Isaac, but it seems to have been lost or destroyed; its successor, however, to which has been transferred some of the entries, doubtless, of the old Bible, has been in the Lane family for more than a hundred years. It gives the dates of the birth, marriage and death of Tidence Lane, Sr., the subject of our sketch. The book is now in possession of Mrs. Crocket Williams, of Morristown, a descendant of Tidence Lane, Sr., about five generations removed, and has been handed down to the youngest child of each succeeding generation since 1812. According to this record Tidence Lane and Esther Bibbin (or Bibber, possibly a contraction of Van Bibber) were married May 9, 1743. To this union were born nine children, seven sons and two daughters. Elder T. J. Lane, for fifty-four years a member of the Bent Creek (Whitesburg) Church and forty years a Baptist minister, was a grandson of Elder Tidence Lane.

Mrs. S. B. Allen, of Williamsburg, Va.; Mr. R. A. Atkinson, of Baltimore, Md., and Mr. H. E. Lane, of Whitesburg, Tenn., all of whom have been interested in furnishing materials for this sketch, are direct descendants of Tidence Lane, of the fifth and sixth generations. Beside these are many others of his kith and kin scattered throughout Tennessee and elsewhere, who are justly "proud of their ancestor."

Having set his house in order and made his will, "the second day of July, 1805," Tidence Lane passed to his reward January 30, 1806.

NOTE. -- Some years ago, on the farm of Brother George Smith, on Bent Creek, one mile from Whitesburg, the writer was shown a large elm tree, one hundred feet tall, perhaps, and with branches reaching full fifty feet in all directions, under whose shade, more than a century and a quarter ago, tradition says, "Tidence Lane and Isaac Barton preached to the people."


[From J. J. Burnett, Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers, 1919, pp. 318-322. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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