Editor's note: In the 1855 section the author of this work has the following comment, "It will now be in order to begin the biographical sketches of ministers and prominent laymen who were active in their labors in the churches and in the councils of the Association." He includes many biographical sketches and written obituaries. They are not in alphabetical order and are interspersed among the following yearly records of this history.
Mississippi Baptist Association
1850 On the 5th of October the. Association met with Zion Hill Church, Amite county. Ham McKnight preached the introductory sermon from Psalm 87:2. Twenty-three churches responded to the roll call, with letters and delegates, and the body was organized by the re-election of Reeves and Claughton as moderator and clerk respectively, while Thomas R. Cheatham still held the office of treasurer.
The great missionary, Adoniram Judson, had recently passed away and the body adopted the following preamble and resolutions on his life and character:
"WHEREAS, God has seen proper to remove by death our beloved brother, Adoniram Judson, late a missionary of our denomination to the heathen, from the scenes of his earthly labors and trials to the glorious rest that remaineth for the people of God; and whereas, this Association is desirous of making an expression of the feelings occasioned by this melancholy event, and as a token of our veneration for the character and appreciation of the labors and services of our deceased brother, Therefore be it resolved, That this Association has heard with profound sorrow the intelligence of the demise of Elder A. Judson.
"Resolved, That, in our estimation, the character of Bro. A. Judson was that of a devoted Christian, a faithful servant and a good minister of Jesus Christ.
"Resolved, That the labors of Bro. Judson as a missionary to the heathen, the sacrifices and privations endured by him to
promote the Redeemer's Kingdom upon heathen shores, render his memory precious as one of the most illustrious benefactors of the human race.
"Resolved, That the blessings of God which have attended the labors of our missionaries to the heathen, and especially the labors of our deceased brother, indicate to us that the missionary cause is a cause approved of God."
An item of much interest this year is a historical sketch of the churches composing the Association, from which the following extracts are taken:
NEW PROVIDENCE. -- This church was constituted on the 27th day of July, 1805, with twelve members, two of whom were still living at this time. Elders Richard Curtis and Thomas Mercer assisted in the constitution. The church had been blessed with a number of revivals of religion, in which large accessions were made to its membership. Thomas Mercer was the first pastor. Others following were Ezra Courtney, Samuel Marsh, H. Humble, Chas. Felder and Thomas M. Bond. The pastor at this time was Alexander McKenzie, and the membership numbered 110.
EBENEZER. -- Constituted May 9, 1806, with eleven members, Elders Curtis and Mercer assisting. For a period of six years the church had no record of its proceedings. Ezra Courtney, Samuel Marsh and Asa Mercer served the church for many years. Jesse Young and Thomas M. Bond were also among the early pastors. At this time Alexander McKenzie was preaching for the congregation and the membership numbered 77.
EAST FORK. -- Constituted at the home of James Chandler, on the 3rd Sunday in September, 1810, Thomas Mercer and Ezra Courtney being the presbytery. Twelve persons went into the constitution. In 1812 the church built a meeting house, which was called East Fork church. William Denman, J. Nettles and Chas. Felder were the first pastors, the latter serving twenty-four years. In 1812 this church licensed Samuel J. Boyd, and in 1835 licensed and ordained Thomas M. Bond. At this time, 1850, Zachariah Reeves was pastor and the church numbered 78.
ZION HILL. -- This church was constituted June 11, 1811, by Ezra Courtney and Thomas Mercer. Sixteen members went into the organization, two of whom were still living. The first pastor was Thomas Mercer. Others following were John Lee, Chas. Felder, Asa Mercer, W. Clark and Jesse Young. Quite a number of preachers came from this church, viz: J. Nettles, Geo.
King, Asa Mercer, J. Cain, Moses Seal and Thomas Meredith. The pastor at this time was Zachariah Reeves, and the number of members was 55.
GALILEE. -- Constituted August 14, 1824, with eleven members, the presbytery being composed of Joseph Slocumb and William H. Erwin. For a number of years this church had no preaching and met but seldom. Later, however, she had some great revivals, one in 1848, in which eighty-eight persons were added to the membership. The pastors serving since the constitution were Joseph Slocumb, Chas. Felder, H. D. F. Roberts, Davis Collins, M. Barlow and T. M. Bond. Mr. McKenzie was then in charge and the number enrolled was 123.
HOPEWELL. -- Date of organization, October 20, 1813, with fourteen members, Elders H. Wall and Isham Nettles assisting. The early preachers were John Lee, Asa Mercer, Jesse Young and Shadrach Coker. The church numbered thirty-four, and William Mullins was the bishop.
MARS HILL. -- Constituted on the first Lord's day in June, 1815, with nine members. Thomas Mercer and Henry Humble composed the presbytery. Humble, Mercer, Felder, Cain, Young and Clark had served as pastors. The number of members was 28. Elders Young and Clark were sent out by this church. The spiritual overseer at this time was Shadrach Coker.
SALEM. -- This body was organized through the efforts of Chas. Felder, August 19, 1826, with nineteen members, at the home of John Dickinson, on Little Tangipahoa, spelled "Tanchipaho." Since the organization the preachers had been James Cain, Chas. Felder, Willis Magee, Zachariah Reeves, W. L. Sibley and T. M. Bond. They had 47 members and Calvin Magee was the bishop in charge. The delegates this year, 1850, were B. Carter and F. Allen. This is the Salem which was later moved to Magnolia.
FRIENDSHIP, Pike County. -- Date of constitution is wanting. Shadrach Coker had served most of the time very acceptably, and they had sent out Zachariah Reeves to preach the gospel. W. Clark was then in charge, and they reported a declining condition, with thirteen members.
RAMAH. -- Constituted with six members, but date is wanting. The early pastors were Elders Coker, Garlington and Young. Mr. Clark was then in charge, and they had 13 members.
JACKSON, LA. -- This church was constituted June 27, 1835, with thirteen members, the presbytery being composed of Elders
Courtney, Young, Felder and Roberts. Since its organization the church had received by letter and baptism 166 persons, and had sent out A. J. Spencer to preach, who was then reported as being a useful minister in Western Louisiana. Henry D. F. Roberts was then the pastor and the church had a membership of 93.
MOUNT PLEASANT. -- Constituted by Zachariah Reeves and Jesse Young, November 28, 1837, with twenty-two members. Mr. Reeves had been the bishop since the date of organization, now thirteen years, and they reported forty-one members.
LIBERTY. -- Constituted April 14, 1838, by Elders C. Felder, Z. Reeves, J. Young, T. M. Bond and A. W. Pool. In 1843, in consequence of the articles of faith upon which the church was constituted, being lost, the church adopted articles which gave dissatisfaction, and the same were subsequently changed. Chas. Felder and H. D. F. Roberts were the first pastors. Hamilton McKnight was ordained here in 1844, and was the pastor in charge at this time. Membership, 125.
MOUNT ZION, Franklin County. -- Constituted on the 22nd of January, 1820, with seventeen members. Since the organization 76 persons had been received by experience and on letters. Roland Wilkinson was the preacher in charge and the membership numbered 23.
SPRING HILL. -- Constituted on the 13th of September, 1842, with eleven members. Elders Young, Reeves and McKenzie had served as pastors. The number of members was 22.
MOUNT ZION, Copiah County. -- Date of organization, 1823, with fifteen members. James Bailey, William Martin, M. T. Conn and S. B. Mullins had served as undershepherds, Mr. Martin having been ordained here about 1830. The number of members was 40.
BOGUE CHITTO. -- Date of constitution, July 4, 1812, with ten members. Since the organization, William Denman, Geo. King, William Cooper, Shadrach King and Shadrach Coker had occupied the pulpit as pastors. Zachariah Reeves was bishop at this time, under whose labors the church had greatly increased. One minister, Elder J. Webb had been sent out. The enrollment of membership was 82.
MOUNT MORIAH. -- Constituted March 4, 1821, with seven members, Elders J. B. Hart and Absalom Harper composing the presbytery. S. Coker was pastor and they had 34 members.
SAREPTA. -- This church was constituted with five members, but date is wanting. It was in the early days of the Association, however, as David Cooper was present. The first pastors were L. Scarborough, J. Burch, J. T. Fairchilds and T. Spragging. Moses Seal was then in charge and they had a membership of 19.
PIERCE'S CREEK. -- Constituted October 13, 1813. Since 1841, fifty-two members had been received by baptism. M. W. Crestman was then bishop, and the number of members was 52.
MOUNT OLIVE. -- Constituted September 26, 1847, with fourteen members, by Elders Reeves, Young, Wilkinson and Seal. The church had enjoyed the labors of Moses Seal until 1850, when Elder R. Wilkinson was called. Membership reported, 16.
1851 The place of meeting this year was Mars Hill, and the time October 4th to 6th. The same officers were retained. Elders Calvin Magee, A. McKenzie and S. J. Caldwell preached on the Sabbath, the latter coming as a corresponding messenger from the Baptist State Convention. W. B. Wall was a visitor from the Mississippi River Association, and William Fortinberry from the Pearl River.
Thomas R. Cheatham tendered his resignation as treasurer, and R. J. Causey was elected to the place. And a vote of thanks was given Mr. Cheatham for his faithful services.
The Association had learned that the citizens of Clinton, Miss., had tendered the property of Mississippi College to the Baptist denomination free of all cost, only requiring that a literary institution should be maintained in the town of Clinton. This property had been received and new trustees appointed. It was accordingly "Resolved, That we recommend Mississippi College to the patronage and support of our denomination."
It was agreed to open correspondence with the Baptist State Convention and Elder H. D. F. Roberts was named as the messenger to the next meeting.
1852 The body met with Mt. Zion church, Copiah county, October 2d, 3d and 4th. The opening sermon was preached by Alexander McKenzie from the text, "Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." The old officers were continued and
one new church, Macedonia, Copiah county, was received, the delegates being William East and William Ellzey.
Elders William Fortinberry and Samuel B. Mullen came from the Pearl River Association, W. F. Green and A. R. Lum from the Union, and J. P. Martin and Norvell Robertson, Jr., from the Ebenezer. This is our first time to meet with Mr. Robertson, who was later the author of "Handbook of Theology." The Lord's day services were held in a grove, the congregation assembling at an early hour. Norvell Robertson preached first, his text being I John, 4: 10; J. P. Martin followed from Galatians, 4:4-6. An intermission of thirty minutes was given for refreshments, after which W. F. Green preached from John, 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world." M. W. Crestman closed, selecting Acts, 17: 30. When it is remembered that additional appointments were made for Saturday and Monday, some idea may be had of the amount of preaching done at these Associational meetings.
The "Western Recorder" and "Tennessee Baptist" were warmly recommended, and the new "Baptist College" at Clinton. Miss., again received favorable mention. The Association also appeared to be returning to her old-time zeal in the cause of missions, both Home and Foreign. Strong resolutions were adopted, urging the churches to consider the sad needs of the heathen nations and calling on the pastors to take collections.
Two more ministers had passed away since the last meeting, viz: Moses Seal and Adam Cloy, the latter having been but recently ordained. They had finished their work and had gone to join the saints on the other side. And another name with which we have become familiar, and which we have often heard for nearly fifty years of the Association's history, suddenly disappears from the minutes with no mention of death or removal. It is that of the venerable Ezra Courtney, who, as we have seen, was in the organization of the body at old Salem in 1806, and who for a number of years was the Moderator. He served on important committees, wrote "circular letters," and was often appointed to preach. He also stood faithfully by the old doctrines during the stormy days of "Campbellism."
The "Baptist Encyclopedia," page 282, has this brief note on the life of Mr. Courtney: "Rev. Ezra Courtney, a pioneer preacher in Louisiana, was born in Pennsylvania in 1771. Living in Mississippi, he preached as early as 1804 in Eastern Louisiana,
then West Florida and under Spanish rule; he settled in East Feliciana parish in 1814. He was an efficient and popular preacher, and was often elected Moderator of the Mississippi Association and other bodies of which he was a member; and he continued his labors until disabled by age. He died in 1855."
It will be recalled that Mr. Courtney once had some trouble with Hepzibah and Ebenezer churches, and was excluded from the former. Later, however, he came as an accredited messenger and was recognized in the Association. It seems a mournful ending of a long life that no mention is made of his departure.
1853 New Providence, Amite county, is the place of meeting this year, and the time October 1st, 2d and 3d. Moderator Reeves delivers the introductory sermon, taking Isaiah, 2:2, as his text. The usual churches are represented, and two others are received -- viz., St. Helena and Bethel, in Louisiana. Samuel Davis and M. H. McCraine came from the former and Thomas M. Bond from the latter. Mr. Bond had removed to Louisiana some time before, as he had been a corresponding messenger from the Mississippi River Association.
Zachariah Reeves was continued as moderator, while G. P. Claughton, who had served nine years as clerk, asked to be relieved, and C. C. Cain was elected to the place. William Fortinberry and W. C. Maxwell came from the Pearl River Association; William and Lemuel Wall from the Mississippi River, and D. M. Chaney and A. Pennington from the Eastern Louisiana.
A large committee was appointed to investigate a difficulty between Zion Hill and Mount Olive churches, the latter being in Franklin county, and, therefore, not the present Mount Olive in Amite county.
A memorial was received from the Board of Trustees of the Amite Female Seminary, lately established at Liberty, Miss., and was referred to a committee. The following extract is taken from their report:
"The establishment of the proposed Female Seminary is, in the opinion of your committee, a worthy and desirable object, and one worthy of approbation and support; that the necessity of an institution for the education of our daughters in this section of our country is greatly felt, while the advantages
which would result from the establishment of such an institution cannot well be estimated."
The Association agreed to appoint trustees every three years, such trustees to be members of regular Baptist churches. This was the school founded by Elder M. S. Shirk, and which had a successful career until broken up by the war between the States.
Resolutions were adopted recommending that family prayer be maintained; that Sunday schools and Bible classes be organized in the churches, and also that the constitution of the Association should be so amended as to give the moderator the right to call a meeting of the body in case of a failure at any regular time of meeting.
Alexander McKenzie had accepted an agency in the Indian Mission Association, and was to enter shortly upon his duties. He was cordially recommended to the Christian sympathies and fraternal kindness of Baptists in the adjoining States, or wherever he might travel. And it was
"Resolved, That our sympathies and prayers go with him, that God may own and bless his labors, and give him grace and abundant success in the great and good cause in which he is engaged."
J. B. Quin was treasurer of the missionary fund, and he reported receipts of $96.
The ministers belonging to the Association at this time were fourteen in number, as follows:
Shadrach Coker, Zachariah Reeves, Hamilton McKnight, Wi1son Clark, Alexander McKenzie, Calvin Magee, M. S. Shirk, J. H. Smiley, Wm. Thompson, T. M. Bond, Elihu McCaa, T. Kingsberry, Wm. East and F. Clark.
1854 This meeting was held with Sarepta church, fourteen miles north of Meadville, in Franklin county, embracing September 30th to October 2d. Calvin Magee and Ham McKnight, appointee and alternate, both being absent, F. Clark preached the opening sermon from John, 5:39. The same officers were retained, and Elders Reeves, Clark and Bond were selected for the Lord's day services.
William Fortinberry was present again from the Pearl River Association, while William Mullens and J. Scott came from the Union, and G. Mullens from the Eastern Louisiana.
R. J. Causey resigned the office of treasurer, and James A. Jenkins was elected to the position.
The evil growing out of the use or intoxicating drinks was pronounced by the Association to be a crying sin, and all members were urgently requested to do all in their power to suppress the same.
The committee appointed last year to investigate the trouble between Zion Hill and Mount Olive churches submitted a lengthy report. The point of difference between these two churches was this: Zion Hill charged Mount Olive with having retained as their pastor Elder Rowland Wilkinson, who had been excluded from fellowship by the church at Zion Hill. Whereupon Mount Olive replied, "We deny the above charge on Gospel Order." Zion Hill church then submitted the following testimony in support of the charge: On the 18th of December, 1852, Elder Rowland Wilkinson offered this resolution to the Zion Hill church, of which he was at this time a member: "As there are so many institutions of men called benevolent institutions, and this church believing it to be her duty to provide for the peace and harmony of her members, she, therefore, declares non-fellowship with all the unscriptural institutions of the day, such as theological schools, State conventions, missionary societies, Bible societies, tract societies, temperance societies, and all their kindred relations, holding them to be unscriptural." This resolution was voted down by Zion Hill church, and Mr. Wilkinson was called on to say whether he would abide by the decision. He requested time in which to reply, and on the 19th of March, 1853, submitted his answer to the church, in writing, at considerable length, the document occupying two and a half pages of the associational minutes. In this lengthy reply Mr. Wilkinson claimed that Baptist churches and ministers, with whom he had affiliated for twenty-seven years, had largely departed from the faith of the gospel and were going after human institutions. He strenuously opposed conventions, associations, councils, ministerial conferences, etc., as being purely of human origin and invention. He was equally opposed to the literary honors of a college or the diploma of a theological seminary. And he formally declared his intention of withdrawing from the Baptist denomination as then known and understood. He finally says: "In withdrawing from a denomination with which my earliest religious associations and sympathies
have been so long and intimately connected, and formally separating myself from the communion and fellowship of those among that people with whom I have so often taken sweet counsel together, and whom I must esteem as the honored servants of the cross and partakers of the common salvation. I feel it to be one of the most painful and self-denying acts of my life thus to sever a relationship which was once so tender and endearing. It is not, however, because I love them less, but, as I humbly trust, it is because of the attachment which I entertain towards the institutions, ordinances and truth of Him who alone is King in Zion."
On receiving this reply from Mr. Wilkinson, Zion Hill church decided to invite a council of ministers and others to meet with them in conference to examine further into the matter and make a decision thereon. Accordingly, on the 16th of April, 1853, Elders Clark, McKenzie and McKnight, together with members from Galilee, New Providence, Liberty, East Fork, Mars Hill, Ramah, Mount Zion and Mount Olive churches, met with Zion Hill, and were constituted into a committee or council. W. Clark was the chairman and G. P. Claughton the secretary. The decision of this Council was in favor of Zion Hill church, declaring her course in the matter to be proper and scriptural. Elder Rowland Wilkinson was then promptly excluded from the fellowship of this church. The committee further reported to the Association that they had labored to point out the error, and to effect, if possible, a reconciliation between the churches, but had failed to do so.
On hearing this extended report, which altogether occupies six pages of the minutes, the old "Mississippi" whereas and resolved in the following. fashion:
"WHEREAS, we have evidence before us that the Mount Olive church has continued in her fellowship, as her pastor, one Rowland Wilkinson, whom she knew to have been excluded from the Zion Hill church since April, 1853; and,
"WHEREAS, we have received from her, whilst she was under the censure of her sister church for the same, an abusive and insulting letter, casting censure and reproach upon this Association and the Baptist denomination generally, and attempting to withdraw from our Union; therefore, be it
"Resolved, That we look upon such conduct as highly disorderly, and we hereby withdraw our Union and fellowship from said church."
So ends the chapter.
1855 Ebenezer church entertains the meeting of the Association this year, beginning October 6th. F. Clark preaches the first sermon, taking Exodus, 9:20, 21, as his text. Letters from twenty-four churches are read by J. B. Quin and Geo. F. Webb, the reading clerks. Zachariah Reeves is continued in the moderator's chair, while Lewis Perkins does the writing. Shady Grove and Fort Adams churches ask for admission, and are received, W. McCullough and E. Hodges coming from the former and N. Boren from the latter.
The Association heartily indorsed the views and doctrines contained in J. M. Pendleton's tract, "Old Landmarks Reset"; and a committee was formed, to be kown as the "Trust Committee," composed of W. F. Cain, W. Z. Lea and C. J. Bates, who should receive communications from the churches relative to furnishing denominational books.
A set of resolutions was adopted complimentary to and indorsing the Female Seminary at Liberty, presided over by that scholarly preacher, Milton S. Shirk. It was decided that a Board of Visitors, consisting of nine members, should be appointed annually, whose duty it was to visit the school, attend the commencement exercises, etc., and make report to the Association.
It will now be in order to begin the biographical sketches of ministers and prominent laymen who were active in their labors in the churches and in the councils of the Association.
LEWIS PERKINS. This faithful layman was born in East Feliciana parish, La., January 26, 1806, and was reared principally in Amite county, Miss. He was married to Miss Jennette Brown in 1831. In 1845 he united with Ebenezer church, and was ordained to the deaconship in 1848. This position he filled with efficiency, being kind and forgiving to the penitent, but firm and uncompromising in opposing willful sin. As a parent, citizen and Christian, these characteristics were prominent in his life. He was held in high esteem, and his opinions and advice were much sought. Even yet his opinions are often quoted by those who knew him. Mr. Perkins co-operated cheerfully with his pastors and allowed nothing derogatory to them to be spoken in his presence. He was often in the meetings of the Association, served on important committees, and was clerk two years. He
lived to see the close of the Civil War, dying April 25, 1865, just as the smoke of the last battles was clearing away and the weary soldiers were returning to their homes.
The following sketch is taken from an obituary written by Geo. F. Webb:
"James A, Jenkins had long been a prominent citizen of his native county. He was born May 27, 1819, and died March 4, 1896. Between these dates he spent the activities of his long life, and witnessed the upheaval of events now historical. Though not excitable by nature, nor very demonstrative as a participant in the great crisis through which he was passing, yet he was by no means an indifferent observer of what was passing in review before him, and at all times was in sympathy with the masses of the people in their patriotic struggle for the great measures that they thought to be right.
* * *
"His private character as a citizen was without blemish; he was a zealous and consistent Christian gentleman, and from youth to old age a member of the Baptist church, taking an active part in the religious work of his day. He was often a delegate to the Association and Sabbath school conventions, and was ever a prominent worker in such bodies. * * *
"In the death of James A. Jenkins another good man has passed away. He had long been a familiar personage in our midst, but he is gone and his face we shall see no more in the walks of life, from which he has just retired to his home, 'where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.'"
Mr. Jenkins was treasurer of the Association from 1854 to 1870, inclusive, making a period of seventeen years. This included the dark days of the Civil War and the troublous times of reconstruction. Zachariah Reeves was moderator all of this time, except three years. Both these worthy servants closed their official career with the Mississippi Association in 1870.
1856 East Fork, near by the rolling waters of the river Amite, and situated on a rocky bluff overlooking the valley, is where the saints gather this year for worship and consultation. M. S. Shirk preaches from Philippians, 1:9, and twenty-six churches answer by letters and delegates. Uncle Zach Reeves still has the oversight of deliberations, while Deacon Lewis Perkins keeps the records. Holmesville church, Pike county, is received, the delegates being D. H. Quin and P. B. Williams.
The correspondence from other bodies was as follows:
From the Pearl River Association, William Fortinberry and Calvin Magee; from the Union, J. H. Clark; from the Eastern Louisiana. William B. Allen; and from the Ebenezer, M. B. Robertson. Preachers for the Sabbath were F. Clark, M. S. Shirk, Calvin Magee and T. Kingsberry.
The Trust Committee appointed last year reported that they had bought and sold denominational books on their own account to the amount of $132, and the Committee was continued.
The Board of Visitors appointed to visit the Amite Female Seminary made a flattering report, saying that, in their judgment, too high a commendation could not be awarded Mr. Shirk and his teachers.
Affectionate mention is made of the deaths of Deacons Isaiah Cain and Rowland Thompson, the former of Zion Hill church and the latter of New Providence, these brethren having been faithful in their Christian lives.
THOMAS R. CHEATHAM. Thomas R. Cheatham, a deacon of New Providence church, died July 7, 1856, aged sixty-nine years. For many years successively he was a delegate to this body, and always took a deep interest, as he bore an active part in its proceedings. To admit that he had faults is but to acknowledge he was human. But, if he had what all others have, it may also be said that he had what all others have not -- virtue enough to overbalance them. Ever a stern advocate for the truth, he could not compromise with error in any form. Yet he had a heart of tenderness and friendship for all who merited and sought it, and his benevolence was unlimited by the boundaries of sect. He loved the cause of Christ, and was ever ready to labor for the advancement of evangelical Christianity.
Mr. Cheatham served as associational treasurer seven years, was frequently on committees, and faithful in the work of the body.
THOMAS M. BOND. "Thomas M. Bond departed this life October 7, 1855. In the decease of this able, devoted, laborious and talented minister of the gospel our churches have sustained no ordinary loss. For years we have been accustomed to look to him as one of the pillars of Baptist principles in our extended regions, and we deeply lament his loss, yet not without the consoling reflection that, though lost to the church on earth, he lives, a spirit, in glory.
"Brother Bond was born in the State of Georgia, March 25, 1810. When quite a child his father, Henry Bond, emigrated to the State of Mississippi, Pike county. He professed religion at the age of seventeen years, and was baptized into the fellowship of Salem Baptist church. In his eighteenth year he was united in marriage with Rebecca Felder, a daughter of Rev. Chas. Felder. At the age of twenty he was licensed to preach the gospel, and was ordained to the full work of the ministry in 1836. From that period to the close of life he was identified with all the interests of his denomination in this portion of our country. During the twenty years of his ministry, though often in feeble
health, he labored most efficiently for God, and Heaven sealed with approbation, the word spoken to the conversion of more than two thousand souls, whom he was permitted to bury with his Lord in baptism. The character of his mind was acute, investigating and discriminative to an extraordinary degree for one of his scholastic discipline. Rarely did he close a sermon without exhibiting, by the fervor of his manner and the tone of his voice, that his soul was interested for the salvation of sinners. His heart was with his brethren in every good word and work."
Mr. Bond died, it is said, from yellow fever, and at this time, October 7, 1855, the Association was in session at Ebenezer. The reader has become familiar with the name of Thomas M. Bond, who will long live in history for his works' sake.
JAMES B. QUIN. James B. Quin was born in South Carolina, September 4, 1810. When he was eight years old his parents came to Pike county and settled just south of where McComb City now is. When the Illinois Central Railroad was built, it came near or through Mr. Quin's farm, and the place was known as "Quin's Station."
Mr. Quin received his education in the country schools, and was married to Miss Narcissa E. Smith on November 15, 1838. Ten children were born to them, seven of whom are yet living. He was for a time clerk in a store in Holmesville, then the courthouse town of Pike county, and later he conducted a mercantile business of his own. He was for a number of years Probate Judge of his county, and also served two terms in the State Legislature, one in the lower house and one in the Senate. He was likewise a member of a State Constitutional Convention not long after the war.
Mr. Quin united with Bogue Chitto Baptist church about the year 1850, and was baptized by Elder Zachariah Reeves. He served both as clerk and deacon of this church. Later he moved his membership to Summit, his home being now east of Bogue Chitto river. He donated the land on which to erect the Baptist church at Summit, and was a large contributor in building the house of worship. He contributed liberally to Mississippi College, and was for a time one of the college trustees. He was prominent in the affairs of church and State, and was faithful in his day and generation.
Mr. Quin was one of the treasurers of the Mississippi Association for sixteen years, his term expiring in 1869. His family Bible, published in London in 1826, is kept by his eldest son, John H. Quin. His death occurred November 8, 1871, interment following at Summit, Miss. Such men as Reeves, Jenkins, Webb, Claughton, McKnight and Graves were colaborers.
The following extracts are taken from a lengthy biographical sketch written by Elder C. H. Oiken and published in the minutes of 1874:
Zacharian Reeves was born in Richland district, South Carolina, October 31, 1799. * * *
Early in 1811 his parents removed from South Carolina, and during the month of February of the same year they located in Pike county, Mississippi,
then a territory.
* * *
He grew to manhood among the early scenes of hard work and joyous life, strong in the power of bodily endurance and vigorous in native thought of mind. Without this preparation it is questionable whether he could have ever performed the work in the ministry which his long and zealous labors among the churches of the Mississippi Baptist Association abundantly show.
He married early in life. The partner of his choice was Miss Anna Wells, a young lady of respectable parents. They were Presbyterians. Some objections were raised by the parents of the young lady to the marriage. As, however, there was a mutual understanding between Mr. Reeves and Miss Wells, any obstacle thrown in the way of those who have privately plighted their troth would only strengthen their determination to consummate their wishes. They soon found an opportunity to carry out their design. It was not long before all parties became reconciled. Mrs. Reeves was a pious woman. At this time Mr. Reeves was not a Christian. He was fond of worldly amusements and enjoyed them with a zest.
In 1823 he was hopefully converted, and in the month of June of this year he was baptized into the fellowship of Friendship Baptist church by Elder Absalom Harper. This church was situated about six miles north of Summit, in Pike county. Prior to his conversion Mr. Reeves was deeply irreligious. He was exceedingly fond of gay associates, and the gatherings of young persons for the various amusements of the day. Frequently would he ride a dozen miles after the day's work to be present at a party, and yet lose no time from his work in the field next day. His conversion was genuine. It was not only a change of the intellect, but of his moral nature. His love of things had been transformed. What was once irksome now became a delight. There was a sure foundation for a better life. Nobler objects than those he once pursued inspired his renewed nature. The conference meeting of the church was to him a pleasure no less than a duty. He felt that he was a soldier in the sacramental hosts of God's people, and that it was his duty to be present in the drill and march and battles of that army which God had chosen for the subjugation of a hostile world, and the enlisting of that world under a new banner, and under a new commander, even Christ, the Captain of our salvation. * * *
After a membership of nine years the church believed him called to do a great work in the Master's vineyard -- to preach
the unsearchable riches of Christ's gospel to earth's perishing mortals. On the 7th day of April, 1832, he was, therefore, formally licensed to exercise his gifts. In seven months the church became satisfied that he should now be set apart to the full work of the gospel ministry -- a presbytery was called for this purpose. On the 18th of November of this year the presbytery assembled in the Friendship Baptist meeting-house, when Bro. Zachariah Reeves, after being thoroughly examined, was set apart to his lifework as a minister of the gospel by the imposition of hands, prayer, charge and presentation of the Bible. The ordaining council was composed of Elders Joel Harvey, Chas. Felder, Jesse Young, Benjamin Garlington, Thomas D. Grante and Shadrach Coker. He had now entered the thirty-fourth year of his age, full of bodily strength and vigorous health.
He soon took a prominent position among the ministers of that time. He was regarded by his brethren as a man of native powers of mind -- one mighty in the Scriptures. After the death of the lamented Chas. Felder, Bro. Reeves was chosen moderator of the Mississippi Baptist Association in 1843, and for twenty-four years he was the beloved and revered presiding officer of the oldest Baptist Association in the State.
* * *
His labors in the ministry during thirty-nine years were full of zeal and self-denial. He was indeed instant in season and out of season. He was constantly pastor of four churches, and for years served as many as seven. He seldom spared himself. * * * In the latter part of his life, when an invalid wife required his attention, he seldom failed to be at his appointments. * * * As to the matter of his preaching, salvation by grace was the great theme -- Christ the Savior appeared in every sermon. He appeared before his congregations as one conscious that the impenitent were spiritually diseased; that they were alienated from the life of God, and that there is but one remedy -- namely, salvation through faith in Christ. His ideas upon these two central truths of the gospel were as clear as a sunbeam -- man's helplessness and a willing and able Savior. Nor did he ever omit to enjoin obedience to all of Christ's commands upon the converted. If you love the Lord, he would say, you must keep His commandments. Obey Him, then, in the ordinance of baptism. Follow Him into the Jordan. It is thought that he baptized from three to four thousand persons during his ministry. * * *
He was a strict disciplinarian; was a strong believer in the purity of the churches. Those who would not walk according to the gospel had no interest in Christ's kingdom on earth, and the church should, therefore, withdraw fellowship from such. He was a landmark Baptist; he did not believe in pulpit affiliation. He could not comprehend how a mixture of truth and error could promote spiritual growth or subserve the cause of Christian union.
* * *
He was decidedly in favor of an educated ministry. He took a common-sense view upon this subject. The ax sharpened would do more and better execution than one not sharpened. * * * He stated many years ago to Elder E. C. Eager, who was then on a visit to South Mississippi as agent of Mississippi College, that "two worldly men proposed to educate him, pay his expenses through college. He was then married. His life sorrow was that he had not embraced the opportunity." * * *
As a missionary Baptist, he believed that the church, being the "pillar and ground of the truth," and the" light of the world," owed to the world the gospel -- that neither latitude nor longitude bounded this debt. "Go ye into all the world" meant every zone and clime of earth; that the soul of the Hottentot, or the New Zealander or the European was alike precious in the sight of the Lord; that men everywhere stood in need of the gospel. * * *
We come now to the close of his life. Amid all of his arduous labors and many privations he had experienced many sorrows. Often had he been called upon to pass through the deep waters of affliction. Dark clouds had often gathered over his home. * * * Six lovely flowers had ceased to bloom; six times he and his beloved companion had followed the remains, of their little ones to their last resting place. * * * At last, after an illness of ---- years, his devoted wife was called hence on July 20, 1866, in the sixty-second year of her age. * * * He now felt that his own end was near at hand; that his work was about finished. From this time he thus expressed himself to his brethren at every associational meeting. His house had been set in order -- he was waiting for the summons. He was ready for the Master's call. After an illness of a few days at the house of a friend where he had been invited to celebrate the rites of matrimony, on the 23d of July, 1871, he fell asleep in Jesus. All who, knew him felt that a good man in Israel had fallen. He was beloved by all his brethren. His name is a
househo1d word of sweet remembrance in all the churches of South Mississippi. He is gone, the last save one of a noble line of pioneers who preached the blessed gospel of the Son of God in the southern portion of this State."
Mr. Reeves was a man of remarkable fidelity and endurance. We first meet with his name in 1833, when Friendship church was received into the Association. From this time until 1870, a period of thirty-eight years, he ,vas absent from the meetings of the body only five times. Thus in thirty-eight Associational meetings he was present at thirty-three. And twenty-four years of this time he was the Moderator. He was evidently a man of great influence and power in his day.
1857 The place of meeting this year was Liberty, embracing October 3d to 5th. Wilson Clark preached the introductory sermon from Psalms, 46:4. Geo. F. Webb and M. S. Shirk were the reading clerks. The number of churches represented was twenty-eight. Zachariah Reeves was retained as the presiding officer, while Geo. F. Webb kept the record of proceedings. Two new churches, Pioneer and Cold Spring, were received.
Jesse Crawford and Calvin Magee were messengers from the Pearl River Association; A. Pennington from the Eastern Louisiana; N: B. Robinson from the Ebenezer, and Thomas Adams, L. A. Duncan, A. W. Smith, J. R. Jackson, Henry Nabring and Elder Edwards from the Mississippi River. The name of L. A. Duncan is still familiar in many Baptist homes in Mississippi, as he has long been active through the religious papers and otherwise in this State. There was preaching during the meeting by Elders Crawford, Reeves, Morris and Clark.
The amount of $109 was raised to assist in building a house of worship for a German Baptist church in New Orleans, and the "Mississippi Baptist," published at Jackson, was commended.
The Board of Visitors to the Amite Female Seminary made a favorable report, and a uniform dress for the students, suited to the seasons, was recommended.
Some time before this meeting Elder M. S. Shirk had preached a sermon at Ebenezer church on "Christ Is the Head of the Church," from Ephesians, 5:23, and the discourse had been published. In this sermon Mr. Shirk took strong ground for
believers' baptism by immersion, restricted communion and the independence of the churches. The positions taken by him were ably defended, and the sermon had evidently occasioned a good deal of public comment, especially among other denominations, as Elder John A. Smylie, pastor of the Presbyterian church at Liberty, reviewed this sermon in a pamphlet of some thirty-three pages. To this "review" Mr. Shirk published a "rejoinder," in which he still further defended his positions, quoting at length both from ancient history and the Scriptures. The Association requested a copy of this rejoinder, and, accordingly, on Monday, Mr. Shirk read both the sermon and his reply to Mr. Smylie, which the body indorsed and ordered published in the minutes, of which it was agreed to publish fifteen hundred copies.
Milton S. Shirk was born in the State of Ohio, November 27, 1818. He attended school at Oxford and Granville, in that State, and later he entered Madison University, New York, where he graduated in 1848 from both the literary and theological departments. He was converted at the age of seventeen years, uniting with the church at Oxford, Ohio, of which his father, Elder Joseph Shirk, was pastor.
On coming to Mississippi, after teaching school about one year, he attended the meeting of the Baptist State Convention at Grenada in 1845. He united by letter with the Preston Baptist
church, Yalabusha county, and was licensed to preach. He was recommended to itinerate for one year in the bounds of the Convention. God blessed the work, and during the year some four hundred and fifty persons were added to the different churches. He was ordained in 1846 at Columbus, Miss., during a meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention. Mr. Shirk was married three times -- first, to Miss Eliza S. Washburn, and, after her death in 1871, to her youngest sister, Miss Emma H. Washburn, who died in 1886. In December, 1888, he was married to Miss Mary J. Jesse. He left no children.
For a time he was president of the Pearl River Institute at Monticello, Miss., and after this he established the Amite Female Seminary at Liberty, Miss., in 1853. This was continued with large and increasing patronage until broken up by the war, when his extensive college buildings, with their contents, were burned by the enemy. During all these years he had the pastoral care of three to five churches, which he served monthly. He was for a time pastoral supply of the Coliseum Baptist church, New Orleans, resigning to accept the presidency of Shreveport University, in Louisiana.
Mr. Shirk's last location was at Osyka, Miss., where he spent the remainder of his life, or something like twenty-five years. Here he taught school and was pastor of the Osyka Baptist church and a number of others in the country. He frequently preached from manuscript, and his sermons were models of good English and consecrated thought, He was a man of reserved manners and dignified bearing.
In a life prolonged to nearly eighty years, and a ministry of more than fifty years, Mr. Shirk saw almost the entire Baptist ministry of the State changed. In his heart was embalmed the memory of W. H. Holcombe, W. Carey Crane, S. S. Parr, S. S. Lattimore, H. B. Haywood and James G. Hall, the giants of former days. Next to these came E. C. Eager and Henry Pitman. Then the Middletons, Minters, Norvell Robertson, William Mullins, Samuel Mullins, Thomas Bond, Samuel Bullock, Zachariah Reeves, Jesse Crawford, Ham McKnight, and others of more recent memory.
The statistics of his ministry can only be given as he remembered them, as his memorandum book was lost during the war. The number of sermons preached may be given at 6,000; number of baptisms, 2,000; number of marriages, 400; and the number added to the churches in meetings where he labored, 600.
After a pilgrimage of fourscore years, less a few days, he died at his home in Osyka, October 31, 1898, and was buried in the town cemetery. Since Mr. Shirk's death his third wife has also passed away. GEORGE F. WEBB. Geo. F. Webb was born January 8, 1818. He was a lawyer by profession, being admitted to the bar in 1840, and continued in the practice of law during his life. He was married December 15, 1841, to Miss Louisa Harrell. In 1861 he joined the Confederate army as a private, and was promoted to the rank of major in 1864. Later he represented his county in the State Legislature. Mr. Webb spent his long life at Liberty, Miss., having a spacious country home nearby. He served his church in the capacity of clerk, and was also Sunday school superintendent. He was seldom absent from his post of duty. He was a man of refined manners, and had a keen sense of appreciation of all that was good and uplifting. He wrote many reports for the Associational minutes, besides numerous obituaries and other public documents. And his writings are marked by the same polite, deferential spirit which he so uniformly exhibited in his life. He was clerk of the Association in 1857 and 1858, and again in 1871 and 1872. It was his to labor with such men as Chas. Felder, Zachariah Reeves, T. M. Bond, Ham McKnight, Lewis Perkins, W. Z. Lea, and others of faith and piety. His death occurred June 8, 1902, in the eighty-fifth year of his age.
1858 The body met this year with Mount Zion church, October 2d. M. S. Shirk preached the first sermon, his text being Daniel, 2:44. Twenty-seven churches were represented, and the organization was completed by the re-election of Zachariah Reeves and Geo. F. Webb, moderator and clerk, respectively. James A. Jenkins was still the treasurer.
Elder William Fortinberry was present from the Pearl River Association, after an absence of several years. P. H. Harbour and John L. Simpson came from the Mississippi River, and N. B. Robinson from the Ebenezer. S. S. Relyea, M. S. Shirk and F. Clark were selected to do the preaching on the Lord's day, this being our first time to meet with Mr. Relyea in the Association.
A Sunday School Convention had been recently held in Nashville, Tenn., which had created considerable excitement in Baptist ranks, but on what point is not clearly stated. The Association approved of the Convention's action, however, and appointed five messengers to attend the next meeting at Memphis.
The "Tennessee Baptist," edited by Graves, Pendleton and Dayton, was warmly commended as a faithful exponent of Baptist principles. And the subjects of missions and ministerial education, also the Amite Female Seminary, all received due consideration.
This year M. S. Shirk served New Providence, Ebenezer and Galilee churches; Zachariah Reeves had East Fork, Mars Hill, Mount Zion and Bogue Chitto; J. A. Wooten was pastor at Zion Hill and Ramah; William Mullins served Hopewell; Thomas Adams preached for Jackson, La., and Liberty. S. W. Bullock was bishop of Mount Pleasant, Friendship and Holmesville; F. Clark preached for Spring Hill and Cold Spring; William East had Mount Zion, Copiah county, Sarepta and Macedonia; W. H. Bailey had the care of Mount Moriah; E. M. Tabor preached for Pierce's Creek and Bethel; Wilson Clark was pastor of Shady Grove, and T. Kingsberry served Fort Adams.
SHADRACH COKER. Another preacher had finished his course and laid his armor by. It was Shadrach Coker, of whom we have heard much in the past years. He was born in South Carolina, September 22, 1782, and died November 23, 1856, and so was in his seventy-fifth year. He was ordained a preacher in 1816, and came to this country in 1821, preaching his first sermon here at Mars Hill church. He was called to serve this church, and continued in that relation for a number of years. He was for a time connected with the Pearl River Association, coming into this body in 1833, and continuing the remainder of his life. The committee said: "His labors were eminently successful in winning souls to Christ."
1859 This year's meeting was held with Galilee church, beginning October 8th. In the absence of S. S. Relyea, the appointee, Zachariah Reeves preached the introductory sermon. The same moderator was continued, while Elder Ham McKnight was made clerk. Two new churches
asked for admission -- viz., Union and Damascus, both in Franklin county. W. Seale and J. F. Long came from the former, and C. L. Oliver and B. F. Freeman from the latter.
New Providence church sent this query: "Is it according to gospel order for parents to allow their children, under their control, to participate in dancing?" It was referred to S. M. Brian, G. P. Claughton and M. S. Shirk, who answered in the negative, the report being unanamously adopted.
An invitation was extended to Dr. J. R. Graves to preach at Summit on Wednesday and Thursday before the fourth Lord's day in the following November.
The preachers for the Lord's day services were William Green, Norvell Robertson and W. M. Stambaugh, and a collection of $89.70 was taken for missions. A committee was appointed to secure a suitable missionary to labor within the bounds of the Association, and a further subscription was made, amounting to $407.
The Board of Visitors made another fine report as to the condition and progress of the institution. Among other things, they said: "As a further mark of the prosperity of this seminary, we take pleasure in reporting that, since our last report, the young ladies of this institution have organized a Library Society, and have collected together about one hundred and ninety volumes, mainly of the young ladies' own contributions." But alas! the war clouds are seen in the distance, the muttering thunder is heard, and the Amite Female Seminary will soon have run its course.
The reader has become familiar with two names which we shall meet with no more. They are Jesse Crawford and William Fortinberry. Up to this time they had attended the meetings of this Association for many years with greater regularity, perhaps, than any other visitors. But they were now growing old and feeble, and only a few more years remained to them. The following sketches are taken from obituary notices written by J. E. Pounds, chairman of the committee, and published in the minutes of the Pearl River Association for 1870:
JESSE CRAWFORD. This pioneer preacher was born in the State of Georgia, February 4, 1795. On coming to Mississippi he united with Antioch Baptist church, Maroun county, in 1824, and was ordained deacon in 1826. It was soon discovered that he was destined for a wider
field of usefulness, and, accordingly, on the 28th of March, 1828, he was licensed to preach. His ordination occurred the following October, the presbytery being composed of Elders Martin, Brakefield and Thigpen. He was soon after called to the care of the Antioch church, serving until 1843. He then moved his membership to Silver Creek church, in, Pike county, remaining there during his long life and serving many years as pastor. Few men have more entirely devoted their time and talents to the Lord's work than did Mr. Crawford. He did much missionary work and led in the constitution of many churches. Under his teaching the members were indoctrinated in the great principles and living truths of the gospel. For a number of years before his death he was afflicted with paralysis, and thus prevented from any outdoor exercise or ministerial labor.
Mr. Crawford was often appointed to preach at the meetings of this Association, and so contributed in no small way to the success of the Kingdom in these parts. Death came to him March 11, 1869, at the age of seventy-four years.
William Fortinberry was born in Lancaster District, South Carolina, December 28, 1799, and removed to Mississippi many years ago. In 1823 he united with New Zion church, Marion county. He was ordained to the deaconship in 1825, and served in that capacity until 1828. Having felt it his duty for some years to preach the gospel, he was accordingly licensed June 23, 1827, and was ordained in November of the next year. The
presbytery was composed of Elders John P. Maxtin, Isaac Brake-field and Jesse Crawford. He was called to the pastorate of this church in January, 1829, and continued to serve until 1844. In 1845 he moved his membership to Hepzibah church, in Lawrence county, remaining there six or seven years. He next moved toĢ Society Hill church, in the same county, where he remained the rest of his life, serving, also, here as pastor. "* * * Fame
has not inscribed his name among the great ministers of the day and time, but his honest worth, his unfailing integrity, his great zeal for the work of his Master, and his untiring usefulness, all have joined to endear him to the people and the denomination, among whom his lot was east and for whom he labored." Both he and Mr. Crawford served as moderator of the Pearl Eiver Association. This worthy and pious man of God devoted himself to the great work of preaching the gospel that sinners might live, and many were brought from darkness to light. He was often selected to preach at the meetings of this body, and was a familiar figure in the councils of his brethren. He died October 27, 1867, aged sixty-eight years.
[From T. C. Schilling, Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association, From Its Preliminary Organization in 1806 To The Centennial Session in 1906, 1907, pp. 74-99. - jrd]
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