My paternal ancestors, as far back as I have any traditional accounts of them, were English. My grandfather’s grandfather whose first name I have never learned, and whom, therefore, I shall call “senior Spencer,” was either a native of Maine or an emigrant from England to that district which then belonged to the colony of Massachusetts. From Maine he moved to Virginia where he raised a large family. After the Revolutionary War he moved with some, at least, of his children and grandchildren to South Carolina, and settled near Charleston. After two years he and his colony moved to Georgia, and thence, after a short stay, to what is now Mercer County, Kentucky. From this point the family dispersed. Some of them located in different parts of Kentucky. Capt. Spear Spencer, a descendant of two or three removes from the old Patriarch fell in the battle of Tipecanoe, and his name was given to one county in Kentucky and another in Indiana. Ahimax Spencer, a son of Senior, settled in the village of Louisville at the mouth of Beargrass. Moses, another son, the father of my grandfather, finally settled on Barren River, in what is not Allen Co., Ky. Some of the family moved to Mississippi, some to Indiana, and one, at least, a grandson, located at Alton, Illinois. At a great age, Senior Spencer moved to Illinois where he finished his long eventful life at the age of one hundred and ten years.
My grandfather, John Spencer, was the second son of Moses Spencer, and was born, if I have been corrently informed, in Culpepper Co., Va., Mar. 13, 1773. With his father, and grandfather he migrated to South Carolina, thence to Georgia and thence to Kentucky, as related above. In 1796, he went from Shawnee Run in Mercer County, to what is now Allen County, and “made an improvement”, one mile west of where the old turnpike from Glasgow to Scottsville crosses Barren River. Here the young adventurer raised a crop of corn, and in the following winter returned to his father’s cabin on Shawnee Run. So far as is now known, young Spencer’s was the first “improvement” made within the present limits of Allen Count. The Country was gently
undulating, rather than hilly. An immense unbroken forest covered the whole region between Barren River and the Tennessee line. The trees were of great size, comprising many species, among which are Poplar, Chestnut, Ash, Black Walnut, white Walnut, Hickory, several varieties of Oak, Elm, Honey Locust, Hackberry, Beech and sugar maple. The last named was of special value to the settlers since from it they manufactured nearly all the sugar and molasses they used for more than a third of a century after the country began to be settled. The undergrowth comprised redbud, (valuable in the manufacture of gun powder), dogwood, sumack, sassafras, pessimmon, pawpaw, spicewood and hazle. Immense canebrakes covered a large portion of the richest uplands. Bear, elk, deer and wild turkeys with smaller game, were abundant, and all the streams teemed with excellent varieties of rish. The peavines and other nutritious vegetation in summer, and the canebrakes in winter, furnished abundant supplies of food for cattle and horses and there was abundance of nuts and acorns for all the hogs the settlers needed. The soil was fertile, and water was plentiful and of excellent quality. Cotton, flax and wool, for home consumption, were easily produced, and wives and grown-up daughters of the settlers were skilled in spinning and weaving them into fabrics, and in making the fabrics into garments. The skins of wild animals were also dressed and made into garments, caps and moccasins for the men. Perhaps there was no spot on our globe where men could live better with so little labor. To the migratory Spencers who lived principally by hunting and pasturage, it seemed a very paradise.
When my grandfather returned to Mercer County and made his report concerning the goodly land, his father, and others of his kindred, immediately “pulled up stakes” and set out for the land of promise. They all settled, in 1797, in the N. E. corner of Allen County on Walnut, Hurricane and Big Difficult Creeks, near Big Barren river. They procured homes of their own, and for a time, were happy and contented. But immigrants poured in rapidly. The cattle range soon become too narrow, and the game too scarce, and they were again restless and discontented. Moses Spencer, my great grandfather died. His oldest son, William moved to
Alton, Ill., where he, his wife and three others formed the first Baptist church organized in that region. He lived in this state till called home at a ripe old age. One of his two sons became a Baptist preacher in Texas. I think his name was Oliver. I think his other son, Thos. C. also became a Baptist preacher somewhere in the north west. But of this I am not certain. The several half brothers of my grandfather, sons of Moses Spencer, went west and south, and of them and their descendants I have no further knowledge.
Soon after my grandfather made his improvement in Allen County, he became enamored of a very young lady, recently come with her parents from Virginia where she had been born and raised. Her name was Chloe Hill, and her mother’s maiden name was Priscilla Chism. At just what time my grandfather and Miss Chloe Hill were married, I cannot state, but I have often heard her say she was thirteen years, five months and some few days old and that “John”, as she always called her husband, was just twice as old as she was, when that important event occurred. With the migratory instinct of his father’s my grandfather moved to Duck River in Tennessee, and afterwards, to the Wabash Country in Indiana. At the latter place his young wife was very much afraid of Indians who were still numerous in that region. After a brief stay, therefore, they move back to Allen Co. Ky. Their first home in Kentucky was two miles south of where he had made his first small improvement, in 1796. He had intended to secure a homestead at the latter place, but after he had cleared and cultivated a small field, with that object in view, he ascertained that it was covered by a military claim; hence his new location.
At this place my father, William Spencer, the second of three children, born to his parents, first saw the light, on the sixth day of September 1803. After some few years, my grandfather sold his home and lived a year or two on the place he had first improved. He then bought a small tract of land one mile north of this place, immediately on Big Barren river. There he opened a small farm and settled down, for the remainder of his earthly life. Both he and my grandmother,
like Zaccheus of old, were “little of stature”. His ordinary weight was about 130 pounds, hers, probably less than 100, though he grew somewhat corpulent in his old age. They were very orderly in their tastes and habits, and all their buildings, and even the fences and gateways on their farm, though necessarily cheap, were arranged with much neatness and convenience. In addition to cultivating his little farm, my grandfather carried on a small cooper-shop and was very skillful in making tight vessels, principally of cedar wood, for household purposes. Many of the settlers’ cabins were furnished with Spencer’s wash tubs, fat stands, water pails, piggins and noggins. He also tanned sole leather in large troughs, as did many other settlers, and made shoes for his own family. His amusements were hunting and fishing—especially the latter. These sports he indulged prudently. Both he and my grandmother were of a lively, cheerful temperament, and being well supplied, by their own economy and industry, with all the comforts of frugal living, their lives were spent very happily, until he was called away from earth after a brief illness, at the age of about 72. Both he and my grandmother were Baptists and Rigid Calvinists. They believed that God directed and controlled all the small, as well as the great, events of this world. They conscienciously refused to employ a physician when sick, because they thought it would be tempting God, whom they believed to have predestinated the moment of their death and the exact measure of suffering they should endure. During my grandfather’s last brief illness a neighboring physician who was a warm personal friend visited him and begged the privilege of administering a remedy for his relief. He replied, “No, Ben, if I cannot die without your help, I will send for you.”
My paternal grandfather’s nearest neighbor was William Rickey. He and his wife whose maiden name was Delilah Tinsley, unlike their nearest neighbors, were both large of stature. He was of Dutch extraction, on his father’s side, and his mother’s maiden name was Polly Caldwell. They were all from South Carolina. William Richey and his wife raised five sons and seven daughters, and after the death of his first wife, he married a widow Forth (nee Lightfoot) by whom he raised
four songs. He was a small farmer and teamster, was industrious and economical, and provided well for his family. But he drank freely till late in life, and hence accumulated no property. At about 65 years of age he professed conversion and became a zealous member of a Baptist church. He died at the age of about 90.
John Spencer and William Richey, my grandfathers, being near the same age and living in amity, only about a half mile apart, it was only natural that their children should grow up in close intimacy, which they did. That they should fall in love when they grew up would be equally natural. This they did also. That they should marry early would be to follow the laudable example of their parents; this they did not neglect. Near the close of the year 1822, Thomas, eldest child of William Richey was married to Betsy youngest child of John Spencer. The bride was aged 17, the groom 19. This marriage was blessed with 9 sons and 3 daughters, all of whom were married and blessed with children in due time. After the death of his first wife, Thomas Richey was married to Miss Jane Stamper who bore him two daughters.
In May, 1823, William, second son of John Spencer, was married to Sally Caldwell, third child of William Richey. The groom was 19, the bride 15. This marriage was blessed with 14 children, of whom four sons and two daughters were raised, the others having died in infancy. Of the living children, I am the oldest, having had two older brothers, twins. After the death of my mother, my father married Mrs. Susan Coleman (nee Marr) who then had three living children. She bore my father six sons and four daughters of whom all were raised ex cept one boy who died in infancy.
Soon after my father’s first marriage, he built a small cabin about one mile east of his father and half that distance from his father-in-law. The humble edifice was erected on the top of a precipitous bluff, some 300 feet high, at the base of which flowed, in a westerly direction, a beautiful clear,
rapid stream, some 200 feet wide, known as Big Barren River. Near the cabin was a depression in the bluff, called “Pete’s Hollow”, which formed a convenient passway down to the River and which, like Napoleon’s passage across the Alps, was “barely practicable” for the descent and ascent of a horse. The pass had been names after a migratory gentleman of the name of Peter Hobach, who confessed his abridged praenomen on more than one locality in the neighborhood. The cabin at the head of Pete’s Hollow was a delightful home for the young couple who were soon to become my parents. They had both been raised up among the privations and hardships of the frontier, and were strong and healthy. The land my father cleared around his cabin was fresh and fertile, and would produce all the corn, flax and cotton they needed, with very little labor. The wide forests all around teemed with deer and wild turkeys, and the river hard by was full of excellent fish. My mother was skillful in the use of the spinning wheel, the loom and the needle, and my father was a very Nimrod of a hunter, and a rival of Isaac Walton in fishing, though he used much more effective methods of taking fish than did that artistic celebrity.
According to the united testimony of my parents, my two grandmothers and two of my great-grandmothers together with the circumstantial testimony of my two grandfathers and numerous aunts and uncles, all of whom I had opportunities of consulting, after I became interested on the subject, I first breathed the air of this beautiful bright world in the little log-cabin at the head of Pete’s Hollow, in Allen Co. Ky. About 8 o’clock on Saturday morning, September 9, 1826. I did not long reside in this rustic home. My father’s lease having expired, he moved a small cabin on his father’s place. I use the term “place”, because at that time and for many years afterwards the word farm was not in use in the new country. The term “plantation” was sometimes used. This new home had most, or all, of the advantages of the one at Pete’s Hollow, and the additional convenience of being near my grand parents where my mother would feel the greater security while my father should make a trip to New Orleans on a flat boat, which he did in the Spring of 1827. He started to return home from New Orleans on a steamboat. But having been accustomed to spend his time in the wide forests of his native county he became disgusted with the confinement and imagined himself getting sick. When the boat landed at the mouth of the Cumberland River, he got off and walked home a distance of some 150 or 200 miles. He walked 57 miles the last day, and was probably compensated for his toil by a joyous welcome from his young wife, and a happy greeting, by proxy, from his baby. Our cabin stood on the top of the same high bluff occupied by the one we had recently vacated, and afforded aneligible point of observation of a most magnificent view of natural scenery. From the brow of the steep rocky bluff, more than 300 feet high, could be seen, with its clear foam-crested waters, gliding gently along at its rugged base, a long sweep of the slightly curving river, with its broad gravel-bars and deep fringes of dropping willows
along the opposite shore. Beyond the river lay a wide expanse of country, covered with a dense unbroken forest of gigantic trees, sloping gradually up from the water’s edge northward to the far-off horison, which seemed to my childest eyes, at my earliest remembrance, an immeasurable distance away. This vast landscape lay far beneath the feet of the observer, and the tops of the trees, on which the beholder looked down, appeared as a bed of foliage of varying shades of green, of unknown depth and illimitable extent, over which was spread a light blue veil, gradually deepening in color and density towards the distant line of vision. The rounded tops of the great trees along the far-off horison appeared like diminutive blue hillocks resting against the sky. In my early child-hood, while gazing with rapture on this gorgeous landscape, I asked a little cousin who sat beside me on the grass, much older and wiserthan I—she was almost five months my senior—what those hillocks were. With the gravity and dignity of age and wisdom she replied: “Them is tater hills at the eend of the world”. I received the information with reverential awe, and without a shade of doubt. I might have remained firmly grounded in the belief of this “tater hill” theory for many months, had I not sought further elucidation from my more prosaic parents. What influence the bold rocky cliffs, the groves of mountain laurel, the clear sparkling waters, the deep dark forests and the gorgeous landscapes that surrounded our cabin home had in developing in my infant soul the love of nature which became the strongest passion of my being, I am unable to say. But sure I am, that there has been no period in my life, since I was twelve years old, even to the present hour, when my inclinations would not have preferred the deep solitudes of natural scenery to any association with my race in artificial conventionalities of society. The earliest dawn of my memory dates back to the period of our residence in the cabin on the bluff. The day that I was one year old, my father cut down
a hickory tree for the purpose of gathering the nuts from its boughs. I distinctly remember the position occupied by my mother and myself, the direction the tree fell with reference to that position, and my being refused the privilege of going (or, rather, being carried) to the top of the fallen tree, where my parents were gathering the fruit, lest a lodged limb should fall on me. I have no remembrance of our going to or returning from the tree, nor Have I any recollection of the cabin itself (only as I saw it years afterwards except a dim impression of my father’s cracking the nuts on the hearth stone, of nights, during the winter after they were gathered. I think we lived at this place about two years; and there my brother William Thomas, named for my mother’s father and oldest brother, was born, May 14, 1828. During the following fall or winter we moved some three miles down the river, and on its opposite side, in Barren County. My father had “hired out” to work for a man of the name of French Settle, for a term of twelve months, for which if I remember correctly, he was to receive eight dollars per month. We lived in a little round-log cabin on Mr. Settles place. This was an unpropitious year for my father. He lost all his hogs after they were ready to butcher—23 in number. Mr. Settle neglected to pay him his wages. By the close of the year he had consumed, and lost, nearly all of the little possessions he had previously accumulated. However, I did not take these misfortunes to heart, and it was a very happy period of my life. In the spring of 1829, my brother Will was a year old, and was unusually sprightly and precocious: at least so thought our mother. He could run and walk briskly and talk fluently. Our cabin was in the edge of the woods, with no fence around it. I will remember our frequent excursions into the woods to gather wild flowers. We were especially fond of may—apple blossoms, of which we made milk crocks. As the summer advanced we often induced our mother, and sometimes on Sundays our father, to make jaunts to the orchard, where our little
garden was located, to get cowcumbers, afterwards called cuccumbers and now known as cucumbers. I also remember our occasional visits to Mr. Settle’s and the names of his four small children with whom we played, though I do not remember ever to have seen but one of them since that period. All these events occurred before I was three years old, and yet sixty years have not effaced them from my memory, not, perhaps, erased the impressions they made on my moral character. In the spring of 1830, my father moved back to Allen County and settled on the identical spot his father had cleared and cultivated in 1796. The only building on the place, if I correctly remember, was a one-story hewed-log cabin comprising a single room some 18 feet square, with a rough puncheon floor and a clapboard loft. The cabin had two doors with shutters made of clapboards and hung on wooden hinges. There was no window, the cracks between the logs were daubed with clay, and the chimney was built of sticks and dirt. The roof was made of rough clapboards, laid on rib-poles, and held in their places by weights. Into this cabin we moved with a scant supply of clothing; one thin feather bed and bed clothing to match, a small wooden box, in which to keep my mother’s wardrobe, a since cooking vessel called a skillit with a lid, a large earthen dish, two or three plates of pewter, as many pewter spoons and about the same number of knives and forks. Add to these a rifle, a shot-pouch, a powder horn, a hunter’s knife and a pair of bullet molds and I can remember nothing else, except it was a small table as to which I cannot be certain, whether it was brought with us or made soon after we moved. Yes, there was our supply of literature, consisting of a small Bible, the most precious article we ever owned, a campaign biography, of Andrew Jackson, and a life of Gen. Francis Marion. I think my father did not own a single head of live stock, at that time, except a small black dog name Tanterbogus. Such was the poverty to which we were reduced by a year’s “hiring out”, we
having been poor before. My parents were not “at the bottom of the ladder” as to worldly possessions, and must needs begin its ascent anew. But they were neither unhappy nor discouraged. They were still young, healthy and active. My father was a small man, five feet ten inches in height and his weight ranging from 125 to 144 pounds, my mother being of the same height and weight. He was a total abstainer from intoxicants, strictly moral and remarkable for his industry, courage and powers of endurance. He could jump over a stick laid on the heads of two men six feet high, run and jump 21 feet on a dead level, and could jump 33 feet, on level ground, at three jumps. His good humor rarely forsook him, even for a moment, and his cheerfulness, never. His unostentatious hospitality was unbounded, and whatever stores of provisions he gathered from the woods, the waters and the plantation were open to the poor around him. He was a farmer all his life; but he had neither taste nor skill for that occupation. He could not endure the tame monotony, and had not patience to give the needed attention to the minutia of details. By dint of hard labor he produced commodities enough to have yielded him a moderate fortune. But such was his want of order in arrangement, and his impatience to get away from farm work to engage in enterprises involving vastly more physical labor, that, I should think very little less than half the products of his farm were wasted. When we moved to the place last described, there were about eight acres of land around the cabin in cultivation. The remainder of the survey of 1966 acres was covered with a dense unbroken forest. My father paid a rent of eight dollars a year for the whole place, during a period of about six years, clearing a small area of land each winter. During this period his activity was untiring. There were still “a good many” deer and wild turkeys in the country, and he procured most of his meat from the woods. But in this he economized his time. He rose early and devoted two or three hours in the morning to
deer hunting at such seasons of the year as the venison was good, returning with his game to breakfast, when he was successful. Frequently, however, when there was a tracking snow, he would hunt all day. He did most of his fishing and turkey hunting of nights. The remainder of his time he devoted to farm labor, and to such jobs of work as he could find time to do for his neighbors who wished to hire. These jobs consisted principally in making fence-rails and clapboards, getting out timber for building houses, bridges and flatboats, and cutting plank with a whip-saw. In the last named occupation, which was by far the most laborious, he was regarded an excellent hand. He was a top-sawyer (that is stood on top of the log or “stock”, much the hardest place) and was fond of the work. He and another good hand could cut 450 feet of poplar flooring in a day. With the products of his rudely cultivated, but highly productive little place, and the wages he received for jobbing, he first-always first-supplied a bountiful table for his family and numerous visitors. Whatever else we were stinted in, we always had a good supply of wholesome food. We soon began to gather some small comforts about our little cabin, and to feel at home. These six years of toil and poverty to my young parents were among the happiest of my life. They were, with me, the beginning of things. The world was new and fresh and bright. Every object around me was full of engaging interest. Mysteries lurked in the deep forest, the sunny fields, the opening leaves and flowers, the bubbling springs, the rippling brooks the roaring winds, the singing birds, the frisking squirrels, the flying clouds, the broad arching sky, the every-varying moon, the glowing sun, the flashing lightning, and the awe-inspiring thunder. Every sound in nature was thrilling music, but none so sweet to my ears as the deep-toned thunder. From my earliest remembrance, I never failed to stand out in the open air, day or night, when opportunity was afforded, and watch, with soul-thrilling awe and
inexpressible delight, the approaching thunder storm, till forced under shelter by the drenching rain or the imperious command of my parents. The lowing of cattle, the singing of birds (not excepting the quacking of ducks and the cawing of crows) the sighting of zephyrs, the chirping and humming of insects and the murmuring of waters filled my soul with gentle, but inexpressible pleasures. Nature was my sweetheart; I loved her as Jacob loved Rachel, and nothing gave me such enrapturing pleasure as to woo her in solitude, to watch, with a lover’s eyes, all the varied expressions of her features, to see her ever-varying moods, and to listen with lover’s ears, to all the modulations of her voice. But I had some little drawbacks to my pleasures. I think I was unusually orderly and obedient child, and was early taught and made to feel the importance of being truthful, obedient to my parents, considerate of my little brothers, and of strictly avoiding all profane or unbecoming language. But I was subject to thoughtlessness and hasty temper, and was sometimes tempted above that I was able to bear. My father was a Bible reader, and believed in Solomon’s philosophy concerning the use of the rod. He never chastened in anger; but always with deliberation, expressions of regret for its necessity and earnest words of advice. He chastised seldom and moderately, and I can remember still, perhaps, every whipping he ever gave me. I believe, now, as I felt then, that most of them were unjust, and were inflicted on account of his and my honest mistake. I, doubtless, however, deserved many chastening that I never received. My first whipping that I can remember, was received, I think, in my fourth year. One day I was standing by the fire, idly punching the daubing out of a crack in the jamb. My father seeing me, asked why I was doing that. I began at once trying to think of a reason, but was unable to discover any and remained silent. My father repeated his question several times, and receiving
no answer, because I could think of none, he commenced chastising me with a small switch, for what he deemed my stubborn refusal to speak. For what seemed to me a long time, he continued to administer a few stripes at a time, then repeat his question, then lay on stripes again. Finally my mother said to me persuasively: “Why don’t you speak to your pa?” I had still be unable to think of any reason I had for poking the daubing out of the jamb. So said in desperation: “Cause I wanted to”. My father said (not unkindly): “Why did you not saw so at first,” and lectured me on this propriety of always speaking when I was spoken to. I think he discovered his mistake about the time I discovered mine, and the result was a wiser father and a wiser son. Many young parents make similar mistakes, often, it may well be feared, to the lasting injury of the temper and disposition of their children. About this period, perhaps in the fall of 1830, my mother’s oldest brother, Thomas Richey, who had married my father’s only sister, moved with his wife and three children into the little cabin with us to remain until he could build near by. Their household goods were moved, in what appeared to me an immense wagon, painted red, and presenting to my eyes so magnificent an appearance that I was awed by its grandeur. It was the first wheeled vehicle I remember to have seen. Very few of the settlers around us kept any convenience of that kind. I think my grandfather Spencer, though one of the well-to-do citizens of our neighborhood, never owned a wagon. Like his neighbors, he did his hauling on a slide, or sled. While my uncle and his family remained with us, his oldest boy, Willis and I played with a wooden hoe. I do not yet know to whom it belonged; for we both claimed it; and one day in a contest for possession of the coveted relic of pioneer horticultural implements I received a severe cut on my head. This ended the strife, and severed my connection with wooden hoes. I never saw another, but I bore the scare inflicted by this rude instrument long after
advancing civilization had banished it from the field and garden forever. Later the same fall, my second living brother, Francis Jasper, was born, and named for two heroes of the American Revolution. One of my earliest remembered intellectual struggles began when I was about four years old. It was on the subject of the popular superstition of the time. The belief in witch craft, ghosts, haunts, and foretokening apparitions, was almost universal. My grandmother Spencer, believed in these supernatural phenomena as firmly as she did in her large old family Bible which was illustrated by a portrait of the Devil, a picture of John the Baptist, pouring water on the Savior’s head out of a ram’s horn and many other grotesque and edifying cuts, including of course, the witch of Endor. She had seen many ghosts with her own eyes, and received incontestable accounts of many others, which she could repeat almost verbatim. An aged widow, Mrs. Sally Foster, and Nancy, wife of Jack Tinsley, were also great adepts in relating the marvels of their experience. A little old dried-up man, with a dark-brown, beardless, weazen face, and little round black eyes, close together, and set in deep sockets, avered that the witches often transformed him into a horse, and rode him far away into the deep dark forest, where he had “eaten a hundred bundles of fodder, tied to one dogwood sapling”. The name of this sadly abused citizen was Thomas Ashley. His wife was also annoyed by the witches. At one time she killed one of her husband’s largest hogs with an ax under the delusion that it was a certain pious palsied old woman of the neighborhood, who has assumed the form of a swine for the purpose of practicing her black arts. One of the many sons of this venerable couple, Thomas B. Ashley, married my mother's oldest sister, Polly, which brought us into social relations with the family. My grandfather Richey’s Sister, Polly, who married Capt. Ben. Benedict, was also annoyed by witches, principally by their bewitching her cows, so that the butter would not come when
she churned their milk. This she remedied by dropping a silver half dollar into the churn, which always “broke the spell”. All these good people, and others of like faith and experience, exchanged social visits with our family. The visits often extended to “late bedtime”, and much of the gossip was on the inexhaustible subject of witches, ghosts, “haunts” and “tokens”. To the marvelous tales of these dear old gossips I listened with ever increasing wonder, crouched on the floor by my mother’s chair, and holding my breath from indescribable emotions of awe and fear, while the hair seemed to stand up on my head. The stories were told with such earnest gravity, and in such minute detail as to force upon my childish mind undoubting conviction. To my conception the world became densely peopled with these dreadful and mysterious beings, capable of transforming themselves into any conceivable form and of becoming visible or invisible at will. I feared to move a finger or draw a full breath. The bag of diamonds which lay at the foot of the rainbow would not have tempted me out into the dark. When I was put in bed I covered up my head and would sometimes lie awake with fearful apprehensions more than a whole minute. My father was the only open dissenter I knew of to a belief in the awful apparitions and all-powerful witches. He was too polite to dispute with guests much older than himself. But when they were absent he took much pains to teach me that there were no such beings as witches and ghosts. I had unbounded confidence in his wisdom and truth. But I passionately loved the stories that terrified me so much, and was loth to have my idol broken. I think my young mother sympathized with the majority. But she would not interfere with my father’s teaching, and I do not remember to to have ever heard her express an opinion on the subject. I thought much, and felt more, on the subject of supernatural appearances and their interferences in the affairs of men, and it required several years,
under my father’s faithful and persistent teaching, to unlearn what I had so readily learned without an effort. I was finally convinced of the truth of my father’s theory so far as my reason was concerned. But I doubt much whether my feelings and imagination have yet been freed from their influences. Perhaps my mode of though and feeling has been influenced during my whole life by the marvelous tales poured so profusely into my infant years by these aged women whose memory I have not yet ceased to reverence. How difficult it is to know the man without having known the boy from which he evolved. In 1832, the Asiatic Cholera appeared first in the United States. It did not visit our county, but there were a number of fatal cases about the little village of Bowling Green in Warren County, 25 miles from us. The subject was a topic of conversation, but produced little excitement. Indeed we knew very little about the terrible scourge. I had probably never seen a copy of a newspaper at that time, and I am quite confident that it was eight years later before any one of our neighbors took a paper. The Cholera visited the country again, in 1833, but in a less malignant type. On the morning of the 13th of November of that year, occurred the great “falling of the stars”. Little or nothing was known, among us, of meteoric phenomena; many thought that it was the literal falling of the stars of heaven. They believed the end of the world had come, and their terror was inexpressible. When the phenomenon had ceased and the world continued to stand apparently as firm as ever, the wise women of the neighborhood warned us to be prepared for some near-approaching calamity evidently foretokened by the falling of so many of the stars. This great meteoric shower began to fall about 3 o’clock in the morning and continued till obscured by the rising sun. I did not see it; but a preacher who appears to have been a calm observer describes it as being truly wonderful. One exclaimed, says he: “The whole heavens are on fire! All the
stars are falling”. He describes it as the grandest and most beautiful scene his eyes had ever beheld; and then continues: “Imagine snow flakes drifting over your head, so near that you can distinguish them one from another, and so think in the air as to almost hide the sky; then imagine each snow flake to be a meteor, leaving behind it a tail like a small comet; these meteors of all sizes, from that of a drop of water to that of the apparent size of the full moon, and you may have some idea of this wonderful scene.” When about six years of age I looked with solemn awe upon the first corpse I ever saw. It was that of the aged mother of my grandfather Richey. She died of a cancer on her face at our cabin, whither she had come to make us a visit. I had been taught that all people must die, and that all should prepare for this solemn event. But I had not before realized it, and the soft tread and low whispering in the death-chamber inspired me with a degree of solemnity that I had not previously felt. This aged mother in Israel entered into the constitution of Bethlehem Baptist church, in 1801, the first church organized in her county, within 25 miles of her residence. She was regarded a pious and intelligent Christian. But I have since gotten the impression that she was a little vain in extreme old age of her connection with the somewhat distinguished Caldwell family of South Carolina. Atleast she insisted on having all the babies born among her descendants named Caldwell. She was a tall, spare oldlady, and was afflicted with a nervous affection, then popularly called “shaking palsy”. Notwithstanding her aristocratic blood, she was strongly suspected of being a witch, and it was she whom Mrs. Ashley attempted to distroy when she killed one of her husband’s hogs instead. However, she was much loved and revered by her numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren who called her granny Richey.
Chapter IIINot far from this time I began my literary pursuits under some disadvantage. My father, who was not a professor of Religion at that time, had become much concerned about the salvation of his soul, and devoted his leisure moments to reading the small Bible I have before mentioned. I would watch for him to turn a page, and then ask him to tell me the names of the large letters at the beginning of the chapters. By this means I succeeded in “learning my A. B. C.’s”. For sometime I made no further advance in the knowledge of letters; but did not become “rusty” in what I had learned. A new phase of study now (winter of 1833-34) began to perplex me much. My father’s older and only brother, Moses, was feeble minded, as was also my mother’s youngest sister, Kitty. It occurred to me, as I heard grown up people discuss many things that I could not understand, that I did not know any more that “Uncle Mose” or “Aunt Kitty”. This gave me serious alarm. For a long time I pondered the question as to whether I was not an idiot, as my uncle and aunt were incorrectly styled; for both of them had sufficient intelligence to attend to ordinary business. I argued that, if I had “good sense” I should know as much as my parents and other people with whom I heard them talk. The evidence was against my sanity of mind, and I was in great trouble. But I kept silence on the subject, for very shame. I supposed everybody knew of my idiocy, and I shrank from contact with wise people. Finally the idea occurred to me that people got wiser as they grew older, and that I might get to know as much as other men by the time I grew to manhood. This thought greatly relieved and comforted me, and I resolved to try to learn all I could; not from books; for as yet I had formed no purpose of penetrating those sealed mysteries; but from listening to what wise people said, and giving attention to whatever came under my observation.
Our domestic affairs improved slowly. My father was kept very busy fishing, hunting, cultivating his little spot of rented ground, and doing such jobs of work as he could procure. By these means he kept our table well supplied. But we were scant of everything else. On the 19 of January, 1833, my brother, Moses Lawson, was born. My father was not in his 30th year, had a wife and four living children and was still extremely poor. He seemed to be conscious that he had managed badly; for I heard him say to my mother one day, that a man was of no account before he was thirty years of age. In the fall of 1834, my uncle Thomas Richey having vacated the new cabin he had built on our place, and ours being much out of repair, we moved down the hill, about one-fourth of a mile, into the vacated domicile, supposing it would afford better protection during the approaching winter, which proved to be a very severe one. The winter of 1834-35 was extremely cold, and the snow lay deep on the earth. I had no shoes during the entire winter: still I had a happy time trapping birds. When the snow was deep I, at first, would heat a clapboard before the fire, then run with it in my hand to my trap about a hundred years from the cabin. There I would put the board down on the snow and stand on it while I took out my game and readjusted my trap. But heating and carrying the board soon became irksome and I discarded the footwarmer. In January, 1835, came two days, said to have been the coldest that had occurred since the first settling of the country, and were long remembered as the cold Friday and Saturday of ’35. On the first of these days my father tracked up and killed a very large deer. It had taken him most of the day, and he was too much chilled and benumbed to bring it home. Having taken out its entrail he hung it up till morning. Next day, still colder, he brought it in, and it being
frozen stiff, he stood it up on the cabin floor. Standing there in the duskiness of the closed cabin, with its long branching horns reaching up to the loft, and its large dark stony eyes glistening in the dull light of the cabin fire, it looked to me like a huge and terrible monster. I trembled with awe for a moment, but soon recovered my equilibrium. My father killed nine deer, besides turkeys and other smaller game, that winter. This closed his career as “a hunter by occupation”, though he indulged in fishing and hunting—especially the former—as an occasional recreation, till near the close of his life. I was not (winter of 1834-35) in my ninth year, and had prosecuted my literary pursuits only so far as to master the alphabet. But about the time we moved into the cabin under the hill, I was seized with a desire to unravel the mysteries of Webster’s Elementary Spelling-book. At my persistent entreaty my father procured me a copy of that rare work, and I divided the time during the remainder of that winter, between trapping and learning to spell. At first I found my self-imposed task very difficult, and became somewhat discourage; but seeking help from my parents and “Aunt Mary Ann”, a young lady, sister of my mother, who spent a good deal of her time at our cabin, I finally got a start. After this my progress was quite rapid. My mother predicted that I would make a famous scholar. Her prophecy was based on the significant fact, that, when I was a baby, I persistently cried for a pictorial spelling-book, which I had caught sight of, and would be content to play with nothing else till I had torn it to tatters. By the opening of Spring, 1835, I had gone through my spelling book and could read words of one or two syllables. But a check was not put on literary pursuits. Having past the first half of my ninth year, and being large for my age, I was deemed of sufficient maturity to make a hand in
the field. It was quite evident that my father believed himself to have arrived at an age when a man should begin to be of some account. He bought a few common tools and erected a small blacksmith shop in which to do his own work, arguing that to save the time and expense of going some distance to a shop was an important item of economy in farming. Without any previous training he soon acquired sufficient skill to make and repair most or all of his agricultural implements. He put in a large crop of corn and tobacco, took brother Will, not eight years old, and myself to the field with him and put me between the plow-handles. We made a good crop, and in the fall, built barns in which to secure it. During this summer, 1835, I first felt the mortification of extreme poverty. Not that we were poorer than we had been since the year of my father’s hiring out; but I was not old enough to begin to have some sensitiveness about my personal appearance. As well as I can remember, I had not even an apology for a hat, and I know that I had no shoes, and that I wore but a single garment, which was spun, woven and stitched together by my mother. In short, my whole wardrobe, when I was nine years old, and over-size, consisted of a tow-linen shirt. However, I had courage to hide my mortification, and suffered no one to suspect that I felt any discomfort. On the 22 of June of this year, (1835), my oldest sister, Amanda was born. She lived to be about six years old, and died of what I now suppose to have been typhoid fever. In the fall of 1835, my father repaired our old cabin, up on the level, and we moved back into it. The next year my father and his neighbor, Mr. Wm. Pulliam, bought the tract of land we lived on, consisted on 1966 acres, for one dollar and fifty cents per acre. Mr. Pulliam took about 200 acres and my father retained the remainder. My father’s entire
possessions at that time would not have exceed $500 in value. His plan for paying the large debt he had incurred in purchasing the land was to cut the poplar timber off, and raft it to Bowling-Green a distance of sixty miles by the river, and twenty-five by land. He sold his only horse and his crop to make the first payment. He then walked to Bowling-Green laid his plans before Mr. James Rumsey Skiles, who was running a saw-mill there; and asked of him the loan of $100 with which to buy a team of oxen. That generous gentlemen replied: “I do not know you: I have never heard of you before, and you bring no reference, but I will trust your face.” My father walked back home the same day. In a few days he had bought a team made a wagon and was ready for work. Such a wagon would not be a curiosity; as well as I remember there was not an ounce of iron about it. The wheels were solid sections of a large black gum log with holes through the center for the axle-trees. The wooden surface of the axle and that of the inside of the wheel rubbing together, would produce such a degree of heat as to set them on fire. I have often had to stop the team, when hauling a heavy log, and throw water in the cavity of the wheels to put out the flames. These “truck-wagons”, as they were called, were not uncommon in those days. Sometimes they screaked so loud, as they were driven along the highways, that they could be heard at the distance of more than a mile. Once, when my two younger brothers and I were playing along the spring branch some half mile from our cabin, we heard this “unearthly screaking”. We paused and listened, but could not determine what it was. We had heard our grandparents talk much about Indians, bears, wolves, and panthers. We discussed the matter for a time. The terrific shrieks and yells seemed to grow louder and approach nearer. I affected a degree of courage and
indifference that I by no means felt, and was not sorry when brother Frank became utterly demoralized, and fled at full speed towards the cabin. Will and I followed very promptly, and we all soon reached home in safety. When we got home, I think we all felt ashamed of our cowardice, and said not a word about our fright. My Father’s going in debt for land when I was ten years old, gave hope for a permanent home, and inspired us with courage to work hard to secure it; but it precluded the hope of educational advantages. It would require years of active industry was set before us, and this we must learn. Hardships were laid upon us of necessity, and we must learn to endure them. We worked six days in the week all the year. In the spring and summer we cultivated our crops; during the winter we cleared land; cutting down and chopping up the trees in the daytime, and gathering and burning the brush at night. In our habits of industry we were almost peculiar at that time and place. A few families in the county had brought some money and slaves with them from Virginia, bought large tracts of land and built what were designated among the common people by the term “quality”. There was no middle class, and there was little social intercourse or sympathy between the “poor people” and the “quality”. The former were proud and independent in their poverty, and toadyism was held in supreme contempt and detestation. A high sense of of honor, a boundless hospitality and even a rugged kind of manly dignity prevailed among the tenants of the rude log cabins in the backwoods. Nine-tenths of the people were what would now be regarded extremely poor. The idea commonly prevailed among them that wealth could not be
acquired without dishonesty. I frequently heard our neighbors assert that they worked as hard as anybody, and that they could not make more than a bare living, and they did not believe any one else could and be honest. They harbored the opinion that all who owned property had acquired it by fraud. With these views they did not aspire to the acquisition of property, and made no effort to better their circumstances. They talked these things so constantly that their children became indoctrinated in their views, and while I do not think my father shared in them, I am afraid I was seriously affected by the popular belief. This had a tendency to make me dissatisfied with having to labor constantly. The people around us worked well during what they called “crop-time” that is from the first of April, when they began to prepare for planting corn, till that crop was “laid-by”, about the last of June. They did but little during the rest of the year; for it was a small job to gather such crops as they raised. They spent their leisure time in fishing, hunting, visiting, and in a variety of rude sports; such as shooting at a mark, running foot races, jumping, wrestling, playing marbles and pitching quoits. I imagined they had a great deal of fun, and perhaps felt that it was a little unjust in my father to keep me so constantly at work that I could enjoy none of these amusements; especially as I heard a constant repetition of the most popular proverb of the period. –“There is only sixpence difference between them that work and them that play; and them that play get it.” However, my father, though very firm in his purposes and in the exercise of discipline, was gently and patient and made us his companions and equals in everything except parental authority, which we never even dreamed of resisting. He took us into his confidence. We knew his business plans and arrangements as far as we were capable of understanding them. We knew results were
expected from our labors, what objects they were to be applied to and what mutual advantages were anticipated. We worked intelligently, and therefore, the more willingly. Our father also entered into close sympathy with us in all our little sports and enterprises. He conversed with us and drew out our opinions as if we had been men of his own age, or as if he had been a boy of our age. When engaged with us in our little amusements he discussed moral philosophy with us in so easy and simple a manner as to reach our comprehension. Not, indeed, under the name of moral philosophy; for like all his neighbors, he was comparatively illiterate, and probably had never heard that term used. But not the less earnestly did he endeavor to impress upon our mind, the principles of right and wrong, or justice, truth and benevolence. “A man who lives only for himself isnot worthy to remain in this worls”, was one of his aphorisms that made a deep impression on me, the more because I saw him illustrating it in his every day life. Such was the power of his influence over us that, while drinking, swearing, fighting and other popular vices were rife all around us I never knew one of his first family of children to take a dram of whiskey, utter a profane oath, play a game of cards, or, so far as I can remember, to commit any offence for which the strictest church would exercise discipline, except violating the Sabbath, and dancing after they were grown up. As to the Sabbath breaking, another word anon. Settled down at last, in a home he could call his own, though, as yet a very poor one indeed, and having a well defined object to accomplish, with a course of procedure clearly marked out, my father soon began to prosper slowly, but constantly. Within about eight years, he paid for his home, surrounded his family with some comforts of a plain substantial kind, added an additional room to our cabin and bought a couple of slaves. The latter transaction involved him in debt again. The liquidation of
this debt, and the building of a larger house, to live in, which now became a necessity if we were to enjoy a reasonable degree of comfort, required the remaining three years of my minority. My father and I sawed the lumber of which the house was built, with a whip-saw. So passed away the days of my childhood and youth, in a perpetual round of daily labor. Yet they were bright, joyous days. I doubt if any one of the boys raised up around me in idleness, whose apparent opportunities for a perpetual round of pleasures sometimes tempted me to discontent, enjoyed a moiety, of my happiness. From the time I was able to do the lightest work on the farm till I reached the close of my 21st year, I labored at the heaviest work I was able to perform. I worked at least a portion of every spring and summer on the farm. Out of thirteen summers, I plowed during twelve of them barefoot. Except the one summer, I never wore shoes from the time the ground thawed out in the spring till it froze again in the fall. This, at first a necessity, became, from habit, a matter of choice. So uncomfortable was it for me to wear shoes in warm weather that the terror of stone-bruises and the piercing of thorns and briers and the knocking of my toe nails against “grubs” and rocks did not deter me from going barefoot. As soon as I was able to wield an axe I was put to felling large trees and cutting them up into sawlogs. Then came the crosscut saw. The whip-saw and the mall-for we rafted fence rails as well as saw logs, to Bowling-Green. In putting the logs together into rafts in the summer and fall, when the river was low we had to roll them. This involved the necessity of our being in the water, and up to our necks from morning till night. When there came a tide we could float our rafts down the river to their destination. This usually required a run of about 24 hours. The river being narrow and crooked we usually landed and
lay by of nights when it was very dark. When the moon shone we ran all night. When forced to lie of nights we would lie down on the bank and wait for the morning or the rising of the moon, and then resume our journey. When we reached our destination we immediately disposed of our rafts and returned home on foot. I have walked from Bowling Green home a distance of 25 miles, after dinner. Notwithstanding we all worked hard and constantly, and lived frugally in a poor log cabin, we were a very happy family. We were of a buoyant, cheerful temperament. My mother had a fine voice for singing, and while she wrought at the wheel or loom, or plied her needle, she beguiled the time with cheerful songs from morning till night. When we gathered around out hearth at night, we made the cabin walls echo with merriment and laughter till bedtime. Some times we played little games of skill; but never any game of chance. Up with the birds in the summer, and long before day, in winter, we went to our work gaily, whistling and singing. At rare intervels we had a half holiday on Saturday. These were great and memorable occasions. We always spent the time in the woods hunting with our game dog; gathering wild fruits and nuts and fishing in the brooks. These rambles and sports became subjects for cheerful conversation, meditation and merriment long after they transpired. But these half holidays were only small additions to our seasons of pleasure. With us every Sunday was a holiday. This needs an apology now, though it demanded none in our neighborhood then. However, I tender the apology to a more enlightened generation. All my ancestors, who belong to any church, were Baptists, as far back as I have any tradition of them. A very large majority of the early settlers in what is not Allen County were of that persuasions. Many of them, including most or all of the preachers, imigrated from South Carolina. At that
period a portion of the Baptists of that State, under the leaderships of Rev. Gabriel Gerald, denied that Christians were under any obligation to keep the Sabbath. The preachers who settled in our country were much affected by this heresy. If they did not wholly ignore the Sabbath they held the obligation to keep it very lightly. Other church members, as is usual, occupied a little lower ground than the preachers. My grandfather, Spencer, long the clerk of Bethel Baptist Church, and the only male church member in our immediate neighborhood in my youth, did not hesitate to go afishing on Sunday. When church members held the obligation so lightly, it was only natural that others should discard it altogether. I do not remember to have ever felt a conscientious scruple about violating the Sabbath during my minority. We never labored on Sunday except in performing what we deemed works of necessity. The day was sacred to abstinence from work; and few, I trow, ever appreciated it more highly than did we, or anticipated its return with more eager delight. Six days we labored and on the seventh we rested. Not in the gloomy confinement within four walls, which has made the very name of the Sabbath hateful to so many children, but out in God’s great temple of nature. We sported in the bright sunny fields, rambled in the deep shady forests, bathed and fished in the bright sparkling waters and gathered wild flowers from the mossy cliffs. A thousand sources of sweet and soul-refining delights surrounded us on every side, and we enjoyed them as freely as the birds that flitted over our heads. Through all the varied avenues of subsequent life I have carried the pictures of those happy scenes and incidents photographed on my soul during those sacred days of rest in my childhood and youth, and I never look upon a forest, a rocky cliff, or a clear running stream without feeling the echo
of their enrapturing thrills. The innocent delights of the day of rest made the six days labor tolerable and even enjoyable, and the six days work gave the day of rest its thrilling joys.
The earliest feeling of which I am cognizant was a deep, instinctive reverence for the supernatural. From my earliest remembrance I intuitively worshiped a present all-prevailing Spirit. I had, at that early period of my childhood, no defined knowledge of God. My recognition of the supernatural was of the heart rather than of the mind. I felt, rather than believed, that there was a God of infinite attributed, always present. I did not know God. I worshipped I knew not what; yet not the less sincerely. Neither of my parents was a Christian at that period. I do not know that I had ever seen or heard any one pray. Yet I do not remember my first prayer. I do not know that I had ever seen any one on his knees. Yet I remember that when I was a little child I would slip away from my little playmates, hide myself in the growing wheat and kneel down in prayer. Often when I could find no opportunity to hide myself, I would whisper prayers as I moved about, and seldom neglected to whisper a few words of prayer after I got in bed. I do not think that, strictly speaking, prayer ever became a habit with me in my childhood, much less did I ever acquire any formality in that exercise. It was rather a oft-recurring impulse, and instinctive prompting of the deepest feeling of my inward nature. Nor has this feeling ever ceased to prompt me to secret prayer, even to the present hour. That was the instinctive recognition of, and reverence for, the supernatural was inate in me, I have no shadow of doubt; and, aside from any philosophical investigation of the subject at a later period, I infer that it is an essential element of the human soul. But to what extent external influences exerted upon a child from the earliest dawn of its rationality,
may tend to develop or dwarf that element I have no means of forming a satisfactory conjecture. The environments of my childhood appear, at the first glance, to have been very unfavorable to the cultivation of religious sentiment. My paternal grandfather and two or three aged women were the only professors of religion with whom I was brought in contact. I have since formed the opinion that they were honest sincere Christians. But I seldom or never heard them speak of religion. Most of our neighbors were profane wicked people. Drinking, fighting, petty gambling and other popular vices there practiced by an overwhelming majority of the men. All were illiterate and their language was coarse and rude. Except my father, I knew not a man who did not drink whiskey and few indeed who did not occasionally drink to excess. But, on the other hand, there were some favorable circumstances. Wicked as the people were they believed in the truth of Christianity. I knew of but one man who was suspected of skepticism, and he, though otherwise a good citizen, was regarded with marked disfavor, if not positive aversion. A strong religious sentiment was almost universal. The people spoke with reverence of God’s judgments, when calamities overtook them, and when any of their friends died, they expressed the hope that the dead were “better off”. These things made a deep impression on my childish mind. Once I incidentally heard some one say, in a solemn manner, that my grandfather had prayed in his house all night, recently. This filled me with reverential awe. I think I must have been peculiarly susceptible of religious impressions. I have already spoken of our manner of life at home. My father and mother, though not professors of religion, were very strict in their morality. They discussed what was right and wrong in the sight of God even in the [p. 33] little transactions of every day life. My father advised us with great care and earnestness to be truthful and honest, to avoid bad company and never to use a bad word. He did not wait for us to get old enough to understand the full meaning of his words, but pressed those precepts upon us from our infancy to our manhood. This example of strict truth and integrity gave his counsel the greatest possible force. Our mother would talk to us in a simple but grave and solemn manner about God and heaven and the “bad world”. These precepts fixt me firmly in the simple principles of morals and Christianity at a very early age, and before the temptations of the world seriously beset me. I was armed, equipped and disciplined by gentle hands, wise counsel, and loving hearts before the enemy made his appearance. But, I think, of all the means by which a deep and sensitive religious feeling was early developed in me the constant contact with nature was the most potent. We lived and labored among the deep solitudes; our recreations were taken amid verdant glens and wild, romantic gorges; in flowery, wooded vales and forests of giant oaks and spreading beech and elms; along the base of rock-crested hills and among foaming cascades and leaping cataracts of crystal waters, and in light canoes on the bosom of a clear bright river. Our companions were the deep-throated wood-lark, the light-grey fawn, the chattering squirrel and the sportive bass. Our worship was in God’s great temple of nature; our matins were the songs of the thrush and mocking-bird; our noon refrains, the chorus of the zephyrs, our vespers, the hum of insects among the woodbines, and our anthems the roar of waterfalls and the thunder of the heavens. I, at least, was a devout worshiper of the God who manifested his power and wisdom and benevolence in these beauties and sublimities of his handiwork. The scenery by which I was
surrounded never grew tame or lost any of the glory of its charms. While I was yet an infant my romantic young parents rambled with me in their arms, among the great forests that surrounded my birth place, and gathered “sweet Williams” from the sunny slops and plucked glossy cow-slips and dark green ferns from among the mossy rocks. My earliest reminiscence is of the crashing of a great tree among the branches of its fellows, felled my father’s ax for its nutritious nuts. My earliest remembered sport was fishing in a clear sparkling brook which meandered along a narrow valley between two ranges of high, rocky hills, while my parents sat near by on an old moss-covered rock or trunk of a fallen tree surrounded by a profusion of plants and wild flowers through which my infant bare feet could hardly make their way when I ran to show my admiring mother the first fish I ever caught, and receive her congratulatory kiss. My father was by my side when I brought down the first squirrel I ever “drew a bead” upon, from the top of a gnarly oak. I grew fond of fishing and hunting. But it was not from these sports that I derived my real enjoyments. Their pursuit served to bring me in contact with the charms of nature, which never cloyed. Often I laid down my gun or fishing rod and gazed with reverential awe upon the bold rocky cliffs and giant forest trees, or watched with soft soul-thrillings, the foamy river ever rippling over its pebbly bed toward the great sea. During my childhood and youth I was a perpetual worshiper among these sacred symbols of God’s power and glory; and here, perhaps, were most nurtured and developed all the purest, deepest and happiest feeling with which my soul has been blessed. “God’s first temple” was my first school house, as well as my first sanctuary. There, before I read the first line in a printed book, I began the study of Botany, Geology, Natural History, Hydraulies, Geography,
Meteorology, and Astronomy. I was curious to know the names, habits, qualities, and practical utilities of all the trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, and animals that came under my observation. In pursuit of this knowledge I questioned, not only my parents, but every man, woman and child, white and colored, from whom I hoped to obtain information. I inquired also about the various kinds of rocks, the source of the winds, clouds, snow, frost, hail, rain, thunder and lightning. I sought to know where the water came from that made the springs and rivulets and where the river ran to. I gained much information from many teachers. Had it all been correct I should have had much and varied knowledge before I got established in pantaloons. But I soon had reason to suspect that much of my teaching had been erroneous. My teachers did not agree, and what was learned from one was unlearned through another. Some of my teachings were to the effect, that the earth was in the form of a great mill-stone and rested on the back of a “mighty-mud-turtle”; that the sun went down behind the trees, then turned at a right angle to the right, made his journey around the rim of the earth during the night and was ready to come up from the east again in the morning. The moon, of course took the same direction. The water which runs out of the springs ran down the branches to the river thence down the river to the sea. From the sea it made its way back through veins in the earth, purging itself of salt by percolating through the ground. This theory was believed to be sustained by the Bible. I was taught many things equally absurd and ludicrous. But they were serious verities to me then, and if they served no other purpose they so deeply interested me as to stimulate my mind to constant inquiry. When alone I meditated on what I had been taught, and drew many conclusions, as absurd as the supposed facts from which they were deduced.
My first idea of the infinity of space flashed into my mind suddenly when I was about ten years old. Up to this period I had taken it for granted that the earth and sky were really just as they appeared to my eyes. They sky was a solid arched vault coming down to the earth, all around, just as it appeared, at no great distance. To my conception the world was by no means what I would not regard as large. I supposed we lived just in its center, and was not greatly surprised when my little cousin told me that the tree-tops on a range of hills beyond a broad deep valley were “tater hills at the end of the world”, though that theory was soon exploded. When about the age specified above, I was walking from the woods or field towards our cabin, and thinking about the blue sky above me and wondering what was above the smoothe arched canopy in which the stars were set, and how far it was to the outer boundary of space. Having conceived a boundary as far distant as my imagination could reach, the question as to what was beyond that came into my mind. The though then flashed upon me that there could be no limit to space; for thought I, if I fix the utmost conceivable limit, what is beyond that? In a moment, I felt, as surely as I recognized my own existence, that upward, downward, horizontally, in all directions, there could be no possible limit to space. I stood still and trembled as an aspen leaf. The walls of my mind seemed broken down on every side. My whole mental structure appeared as a wildly confused wreck. I came near fainting. After a time I recovered my composure and walked on to our cabin. But I was changed. My mental organism was regenerated. My cosmic theory was exploded. My infancy which had lingered among its toys until now, had forever departed. My mental kaleidoscope was broken, and only rude fragments of glass and soiled paper remained instead of the endless variety of beautiful forms and brilliant colors. A new era in my life, which under
other circumstances, should have commenced three or five years earlier, now began. I was henceforth a more earnest and intelligent seeker after knowledge. Hitherto, curiosity had prompted me to perpetual inquiry into everything that came under my observation, and had received fact, fable and fancy with equal credulity. But not I became earnest in my desire to know truth. I soon discovered the absurdity of much that my illiterate associates had taught me, and in this, discovered the ignorance of the people themselves. This not only robbed me of a large percent of the stock of knowledge I had supposed myself to possess, but also deprived me of my teachers. However, I had learned much that was useful, especially in the departments of botany and natural history. Under a vulgar nomenclature, I knew the names and ordinary uses of most of the trees, plants and shrubs in our forests. I also knew the vulgar names and something of the habits of our native quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, fishes and insects, with other natural phenomena. But not I realized that, “If any man (or boy) think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” But there was still, to my conception, one infallible source of knowledge if I could only gain access to it. Whatever was in print was of undoubted authority. The little Bible, from which I learned the alphabet, was the only holy thing that sanctified our cabin. I had never heard it read except in a tone of voice befitting a solemn chant. It was a sacred symbol of eternal truth. I looked upon it with the reverence due its holy Author. But its sacredness did not terminate with itself; it hallowed all books. To me all book were Bibles; not, indeed, of equal importance; but equally reliable, in every statement of fact. I felt assured that if I could only know what was in books I would be in possession of all attainable knowledge. I suppose
this reverence for, and confidence in books is, in some measure, common to all children. How careful then should parents, and all others intrusted with care of the young, be in selecting literature for the perusal of the youth under their control.
Youth—Study Under Difficulties I have already referred to the manner in which I learned the alphabet and my first lessons in spelling. At the close of my ninth year I had gone through Webster’s Elementary Spelling Book. It was not deemed wise at that time for children to begin to read until they could spell well both “on the book” and “by heart”. I had transgressed this rule in so far as to learn the first reading lessons in my spelling book. I continued to prosecute my studies in spelling and reading till, at the close of my tenth year, I was moderately familiar with both the spelling and reading lessons in my spelling-book. I mentioned in the preceding chapter the circumstance that prompted in me a greatly increased desire to get into the secrets of books. But my opportunities were so poor that nothing less than an irresistible desire would have induced me to open a book at all. All of us who were old enough to work were compelled to labor from dawn till dark, and some of the time till two or three hours after dark. Our habit was to “rise” with the lark, hurry to our labor and “work hard” till 8 o’clock; then go to the house, feed our teams, wash our hands and faces and eat breakfast. We had dinner at one o’clock and supper at dusk. When pressed with our work, as we often were, we would go out and work two or three hours after supper. It was my regular habit to take up my Spelling-book when I entered our cabin at meal time and use it diligently until I was reluctantly compelled to go to the table; as I rose from a meal I picked up my book, and again applied myself to its pages till forced to follow my father to the fields or the woods. I remember an occasion of this kind very vividly. Just after we had arisen from the dinner table, and, as usual, I had taken
my book, I was slowly drawling out the sentence: “Friday is just as lucky a day as any other”. My father promptly responded: “So is Saturday: let us go to work.” I much regretted that I had not read to myself; but I had no choice but to follow my father to the field. When we had no work to do after supper, I gathered an armful of dry poplar bark or which I made a light to study by until bed time; for coal oil lamps had not come into use them, and we were not able to have candles. I often sat up long after the rest of the family were asleep. But with most rigid economy I could use my hours of study were few and much interrupted. I might have used Sunday for a day of study. But from my infancy that had been our holiday, and I could not forego my rambles in the forests, which were the charm of my life. On rainy days we were engaged in stripping tobacco, in winter; at other seasons of the year I aided my mother at the spinning wheel and loom. Common schools had not been instituted in Kentucky at this period, and from my earliest remembrance there had been no school of any kind in our neighborhood. But about the time I was striving so earnestly to unravel the deep mysteries of the spelling book, an elderly man commonly spoken of as Old Tom North recently moved from Virginia, set himself up for a school master. He was a fair representative of the teachers of that period, although we had occasionally one of a better type, especially at our county seat. We had no school house in our neighborhood until after I was twenty-one years of age. Indeed I was the contractor for erecting the first edifice of the kind that ever existed in that corner of the county, so far as I ever known. It was not a very pretentious building, as may be supposed from my having agreed to put it up and seat it ready for occupation for the modest sum of $100. But this was some ten years after “Old Tom
North’s” introduction among us as a teacher. Mr. North taught his first school, in our immediate neighborhood, in “the little cabin on the bluff” into which my father had moved when I was some three months old, and from near which I had first gazed with solemn awe, upon the “tater hills at the end of the world”. While endeavoring to make up the school, he came to my father’s with a long, formal indenture in which it was agreed that Thomas North of the first part should teach a school for a term of three months, and that the said party of the first part obligated himself to teach spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic as far as the single rule of three to the best of his skill and ability, and that “we whose names are hereunto affixt agree to pay the said Thomas North, at the expiration of said term the sum of three dollars for each scholar subscribed, one half of said term of three dollars for each scholar subscribed, one half to be paid in cash and the balance in trade.” My father knew “Old Tom North” to be an ignorant, drunken sot, and declined to put me under his tuition. However, a number of our neighbors, decided that he could “write a good hand”, and accordingly, made up the school. I may here quote from a description of a school similar to the one taught by Mr. North, which may be seen in my Life of T. J. Fisher, pp. 39, 40. Thus indentured, the teacher would borrow a chair from the nearest neighbor, arm himself with a bundle of beech limbs and enter the school room “next Monday morning two hours by sun”. With a grim visage, more terrible to the children than the scream of a panther, he would “call to books”; and with his bundle of switches at his right hand, would seat himself with awful dignity. Sternly ordering the children to “study out loud” they would begin a choral yell that might be heard far out into neighboring forest, each one trying to read, spell, or “say his letters” louder, than his neighbor. This produced an agreeable monotony which soon lulled to
sleep the teacher, stupefied by yesterday’s drinking. The children would gradually cease their repetitions and “get up a row” among themselves which would finally become so boisterous as to wake the master who would suddenly start up, grasp a switch and, with fierce vengeance, administer a promiscuous flogging. This done, he would return to his seat and call up the children one by one to “say their lessons”; for students were never formed into classes at that period. Some of the children were likely to be overlooked, and as the uniform rules was that the one who first reached the school house in the morning “said first”, a boy that arrived late might go to school several successive days without having to say a lesson. In this manner he would sit in his borrowed chair five days in the week, from two hours by sun in the morning till an hour by sun in the evening (giving an hour’s playtime at noon), by turns dozing, flogging the “boys and gals” and blowing his red, pulpy nose with startling effect on the nerves of the ragged and barefoot urchins. Saturday and Sunday were the teachers drinking days, and it frequently required a considerable portion of Monday for him to get his thirst satisfactorily slaked. On the arrival of the first holiday, or at the end of the term, the “big boys” would “turn the master out”, i.e. they would go early perhaps before day—and bar the door of the school house so that he could not get in. He would usually compromise the matter by sending for a gallon of whiskey with which to treat the school, and as a consequence, “the school” would get drunk, and indulge in a “free fight”. Sometimes the larger boys, who had no special affection for one who had exercised a most cruel tyranny over them during a reign of three months, would flog the teacher. Thus moralized and enlightened, the children would return to their homes, and wait for another three months school to open, the following
summer, before resuming their studies. Strange as it may appear, some of the more sprightly children learned to go through with an exercise they called reading, but which was performed during their subsequent lives in the tone and manner of a mournful dirge. Some of my associates attended “Old Tom North’s” school, and my favorite cousin, Louisa Richey, the same who had taught me the “taterhill” philosophy, learned to read. My grandfather Spencer, with whom she lived, bought her a book, titled The Young Reader. I do not remember who was its author, and I think I have never seen but one copy. I think it was the first child’s reader that made its way into our part of the country and was, perhaps, among the first published in America. Previous to its introduction, the New Testament and English Reader were the principal readers used in schools. The later was a compilation of extracts from the parliamentary speeches of Pitt, Burke and others, with selections from famous authors—and excellent work for students of oratory, but wholly unsuited to children. After using her young Reader until she was familiar with its pages, my cousin loaned it to me, as I was not able to read a little. I was greatly charmed with the simple stories, fables and poems it contained and sat up at night reading them by fire light, till I could repeat many of them by rote. After returning the Young Reader to its owner, I commenced with my father’s library, which consisted of a Bible, Hossy’s Life of Marion, and a life of Andrew Jackson. I began with the Life of Marion and read it through and through till I could repeat many pages of it without the book. I next attempted to read the Life of Jackson. But the style was so stiff and prosy that I took no interest in it, and soon laid it aside. I was so disgusted with it, that I have never read a biography of that famous
American hero until this day. I next took up the Bible—the same copy from which I had learned my A.B.C.’s. It interested and delighted me from the first sentence. The proper names were difficult to pronounce and the statutes given by Moses I found hard to comprehend, but I was so charmed with the stories, the history and biography and the poetry and oratory, that I would not allow myself to skip a single verse. With my few and brief opportunities to read, I was a long time—perhaps more than a year—getting through the Old Testament. But I did not stop till I had finished the last Chapter of Malachi. I commenced reading the New Testament. But, for some reason, yet unintelligible to me, I could not become interested, and laid it aside for the time. I was not aware then, not have I been at any subsequent period, that I entertained any conscious enmity or prejudice against Christianity, its divine Author, or any of its doctrines. But I simply had no taste for a book that I have since come to regard the world’s greatest literary wonder. I had not had a desire to read a story book, and having heard of “Sindbad the Sailor”, asked my father to procure it for me. He attempted to do so. But being unskilled in the selected of books, an unscrupulous dealer put upon him a small, cheap publication bound in boards, titled the Life of Jane Shore, which happened to have Sindbad the Sailor advertised on the cover. I was greatly disappointed when I discovered the mistake. But it was the first reading book I ever owned, and, dull and worthless as I perceived it to be, I read it with care, through with little interest or profit; and I do not know, even now, whether it was a dull biography of that unfortunate beauty or a very poor attempt at fiction. It was several years later when a friend loaned me the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment, and I read therein the coveted story of Sindbad.
The next book my father bought for me was Peter Parleys Takes of Europe, by that eminent writer of juvenile literature, Samuel G. Goodrich who had awakened the minds and won the hearts of so many American children. It was after dark when my father got home from Bowling Green with this inestimable treasure. We ate a late supper and soon all the family except myself were in bed. I sat down on the hearthstone and, by the light of a winter fire, read till I had finished the last page. Up to this time I had never seen any book that had so fascinated me. Even the Young Reader was thrown in the shade. I read and re-read the charming little volume till I could repeat a dozen consecutive pages without looking on the book. About this period, Mr. Henry Pulliam, one of our neighbors, loaned me a school geography and atlas. This seemed to me a book of wonders, and I imagined there must be an immense amount of learning in it, if I could only get a clew to its mysteries. I gave my close attention to it during all my spare moments, which were very few. But I got very little insight into its mysteries; for Mr. Pulliam allowed me to keep it only about two weeks. It was several years before I saw another work on geography. I was not about fourteen years old, and very tall for my age. But I was not more developed mentally, I suppose, than most boys are at ten, I still felt all the dependence, the wondering curiosity and the fresh delight in the beauties of nature around me of a little child. But an incident occurred about this time which wrought no small revolution in my feelings. My father took occasion when he and I were walking together one day, with no one else present, to speak to me to the following purport: “I have tried to teach you what is right and to always try to do right, and I have punished you when I was satisfied you deserved it. I shall not chastise you any more. You are old enough now to think and act on your own responsibility. If I have not succeeded in convincing you of the importance
of trying always to do right, by this time, I despair of doing so in the future; and further punishment would do no good. If you will not do right without chastenening, you would do no better with it.” Perhaps this would not be considered an eloquent speech. But no oration I have ever listened to since has stirred my feelings so deeply or inspired me with such strong and earnest purposed. Hitherto I had endeavored to so act as to avoid punishment. Bu not I felt the responsibility of doing the right for its own sake. Numberless times I have committed acts, or omitted duties, the wrong of which I was afterwards convinced. But I cannot now remember ever to have gotten my consent to do any act, of the wrong of which, I was conscious at the time. During that brief speech and the reflections of my mind consequent upon it, I made a long stride towards assuming the responsibilities of manhood. A new world of though and feeling was awakened within me, and I could never again return to the thoughtlessness and irresponsibility of childhood. I now became very desirous to learn to write and induced my father, who wrote a very fair hand, to buy some paper and set me some copies. I was extremely clumsy in the use of a pen. But I pursued this art with the same zeal and persistence that had enabled me to master the Spelling-book. Within a few months I had advanced so far as to enable me to write a legible letter to my uncle, Thos. B. Ashley, who had moved to Missouri. I could also make my own pens, which was a triumph of art at that period; for only goose-quill pens were used then. When I received an answer to my letter, I had to pay 25 cents postage on it before I could get it out of the post office. This was a heavy tax on my pecuniary resources, and I never wrote to uncle again. He afterwards moved to California where I could not ascertain the name of his post office after postage became cheaper.
My next effort was to learn “ciphering”. My father bought me a copy of Pikes Arithmetic and I commenced my new task with my old zeal. My father helped me all he could. But he had gone no father in arithmetic than “the simple rule of three” (simple proportion). I had no especial fondness for that branch of study, and within a few months, I had passed the “Old Tom North” limit of a school education. There was now no one in our neighborhood who could render me any assistance. During a year or more after this I continued to occupy such moments as I could snatch from incessant hard labor in struggling with my Arithmetic, practicing writing, principally on a slate, and reading such books as I had or could borrow—both very few and mostly very poorly adapted to my needs. As might be supposed, I learned to read in the tone and manner of those around me. All our neighbors and even the few preachers I had the privilege of hearing read in the same drawling sing-song manner. There was a story to the effect that a pious old lady administered a severe castigation to her irreverent son for “reading the Scriptures in a common tone”. For the truth of this story I cannot vouch. But I am sure none of our neighbors could have been justly charged with such irreverence. Indeed I did not know that there was any other manner of reading, until one day, when I was about fifteen years old, a man of the name of Thomas Moore, who lived a little out of our neighborhood came to our cabin. I was both surprised and delighted. He read along in an easy fluent style, much as if he had been relating some pleasant narrative in which he was interested. After he was gone my father remarked that Tom Moore was a good reader. I was at once resolved changed my style of reading. This I found to be more difficult than it had been to learn to read. But I deemed it of sufficient importance
to warrant a persistent effort, and I finally succeeded in ridding myself of the sing-song style. I afterwards heard Mr. Giles Buford, an intelligent gentleman say, that he would give $500 dollars to be rid of the style of reading he had acquired of a certain old school master, but that, after an effort of thirty years continuance, he had not been able to shake it off. About this period, a man of the name of James Green came from Virginia and took a little school in a small cabin on my father’s place. My brothers, Francis and Moses, attended this school. But brother Will and myself could not be spared from work, and so did not go a single day. The next year Mr. Green took another school at the same place. My same two brothers attended, while Will and I were compelled to work. In the fall, however, there came a brief lull in the pressure of our work and my father consented for me to attend school a short time. This was a source of great joy to me and I waited with eager impatience for the following Monday morning when I was to start. I was now, as nearly as I can remember, sixteen years old, and had never seen the inside of a school house. I was conscious of being overgrown, extremely awkward and ungainly and excessively timid and bashful. But I had been several times through my spelling book, had read through the Life of Marion, the Young Reader, the Old Testament, the Life of Jane Shore and Parleys Tales of Europe, had peeped into an Atlas and Geography, could write legibly and was for advanced in my Arithmetic. I did not know that there was much more to be learned. I had, as well as I remember never heard of English grammar, natural philosophy, or any mathematical science except practical Arithmetic. I had learned of the existence of geography through Mr. Pulliam’s having loaned me a school book on that science. I supposed I might complete a finished education within a few months if I could only have the opportunity of attending school.
CHAPTER VISCHOOL DAYS The day on which I was to enter school at length came. I got together my spelling book, arithmetic, slate and pencil, some writing paper, a goose quill pen, and a bottle of ink I had made from the roots of blackberry briers and copperas, and started to Mr. Green’s humble hall of learning. Mr. Green was a rather tall man, some thirty-five years of age and unmarried. He was of spare build, dark swarthy complexion, black hair, large brown eyes, nearly destitute of bear and always smooth-shaved. He was of gloomy, morose temperament, and was rendered despondent and irritable by having become a confirmed dyspeptic. Neither I nor any of his patrons were capable of judging of the extent of his education. But he taught only spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic, and he never spoke of any higher branches in my hearing. I had gotten very well acquainted with him; for, according to the custom of the period, he boarded at no particular place, but spend his time, when out of school, among his patrons, and, consequently was often at our cabin. Still I entered the schoolhouse with much trepidation. The first lesson assigned me was the first one in two syllables in Webster’s Elementary Spelling-Book and the reading exercise connected with it. I understood that I was required to “say the spelling lesson by heart” as the teacher gave it out; but did not know whether I was expected to repeat the reading exercise “by heart”, or from the book. This uncertainty gave me great perplexity. But I was too timid to ask for an explanation, and determined to “prepare for the worst”. I recited the spelling lesson without missing a word and was greatly relieved when the teacher handed me the book and directed me to read the now familiar lesson, which I did apparently to his satisfaction. I went to this school about two weeks, and made the best use of the
time of which I was capable. During the first day, I think it was, Mr. Green suddenly seized a long beech limb which he kept by him, and administered to “Jim Tinsley”, the most terrible flogging I have ever seen any boy receive. The splinters from the switch flew all over the room, and the infuriated teacher did not cease till he had literally worn it out on the boy’s back. All the school was terrified, and, although I had no apprehension that the teacher would attempt to flog me, I shared largely in the general terror inspired by such fierce and relentless fury. I do not remember if the teacher administered another flogging while I was in the school. Mr. Green was plodding, painstaking and thorough in his method of teaching, and did not weary in helping a boy who was ambitious to learn. I was, from the first day, I entered, the most advanced student in his school, as well as by far the most desirous to learn. Seeing this he took great pains to instruct me. The principal advantage I derived from his teaching, however, was that I got some better idea how to learn than I had before entertained. Of course I feel in love with Lucy Wade, a rosy, dimple cheeked lassie of some twelve summers. But this singular circumstance I kept a profound secret, even from her, and did not long continue the study of her cherry lips, violet eyes and trembling curls. According to a custom then prevalent, I had a manuscript “ciphering-book” into which the solution of every problem in my arithmetic, that I solved, was carefully copied; as I wrote but an indifferent hand at that time, Mr. Green, who excellent penmanship was his principal recommendation as a teacher, copied my “sums” for me. After this first two weeks attendance at Mr. Green’s school, I occasionally went a few days at a time during the next eighteen months.
After this we had no school in our neighborhood for probably some two or three years. During this period, my father kept us in a great push in our labor. I found but few spare moments for study. But I used these few in pursuing my studies in arithmetic, and reading such books as I could procure. Among the latter was a ponderous volume titled, Book of the United States, which my father obtained at a very extravagant price by subscription. It gave a brief outline of the history, geology, natural history, commerce and other features in a style, to my apprehension, as dull as that of the stupidest article in a cheap encyclopedia. Still I imposed on myself the task of reading it through, with the hope of gaining some information, which I suppose I did. But I do not remember to have taken any pleasure in reading any one of the 600 or 800 pages. My cousin Louis Richey gave me a little book called, Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted. But it was written in a style above my ready comprehension and I think I laid it aside before I finished its reading. I read it in after years with more pleasure. Our next school was taught in a little cabin in the woods about a mile from my father’s house, by a man of the name of George D. Winston. He also was a Virginian. He was of a somewhat distinguished family. His father was a noted lawyer, a judge of some one of the Virginia courts and married for his second wife the widow of the famous orator, Patrick Henry. One of Judge Winston’s sons was somewhat prominent in political affairs in Missouri. But George D. Winston, after receiving a fair education in letters and studying law took to tramping. At the age of about forty-five he came into our neighborhood, without money and almost without clothes, and made application for a school. The school was soon made up and he commenced teaching in the little cabin in the woods. I was not, I suppose,
in my twentieth year. I did not attend Mr. Winston’s school with any regularity; but went a few days at a time when I could be spared from work. Up to this period (1845) “Old Tom North’s” Curriculum had been the invariable course of study in our schools. None of the children, and few, if any, of the grown up people knew that there was anything to be taught in school beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. A full knowledge of these branches was supposed to constituted a finished education. Even this limited extent of mental culture was regarded by many as a matter of little moment, and a few were openly opposed to education. A very honest, industrious old settler of the name of Elijah Tinsley, whose wife was a sister of my grandmother Spencer, very earnestly insisted that education made men “rascals”. His influence in the neighborhood was very pernicious especially over his numerous relations. Being a brother of my maternal grandmother, he was called uncle by both my parents, especially my mother, less zealous in their efforts to educate their children, though my father always spoke in favor of education, and aided my all he could in my early studies, while my mother, who could not aid me, seemed proud of my progress. Wm. K. Morgan, a respectable Baptist preacher and a professional school teacher used to relate the following incident, illustrative of “Uncle Elijah Tinsley’s” opposition to education: “In attending a little “old field school”, when I was a lad,” said Mr. Morgan, “I had to pass through old Mr. Tinsley’s farm every morning and evening. As often as his boys would see me they would taunt me for going to school to learn to be a rascal. One evening I passed immediately by where they were at work. One of them said to me: “Billy, have you
larnt nearly enough to be a rascal?” I assumed an air of gravity and replied: “Yes, I think, by the time this three months school is out, I can steal a horse and get away with it without being found out.” The boys all seemed frightened lest I should steal one of their horses. From that time they never spoke to me about becoming a rascal, but seemed anxious to secure my good will.” Mr. Winston, though rather indolent and inefficient, as a teacher, soon wrought no small revolution in educational ideas and polity of our neighborhood. He insisted on having text books on geography, natural philosophy, English grammar and other branches of elementary education that we had never heard of, for the use of his more advanced students. There was much grumbling among his patrons who avered that such studies were of no use, that they had never been taught in our neighborhood and that the buying of such books was merely throwing away money. But he continued to insist till some of them yielded. I got Olney’s geography and Atlas, Comstock’s Natural Philosophy, Ray’s Practical Arithmetic and McGuffie’s Fourth Reader which was then the last of his series. I studied these books at school on the few days that I could be spared from work, and at home during my leisure moments, with thrilling interest, and consequently made very rapid progress. My teacher decided that I had sufficiently mastered these works to warrant my taking up other branches. Meanwhile I had arrived at my majority. This circumstance with the consequences resulting from it seriously retarded my studies. I now felt the necessity of providing for my own wants. I still held the purpose I had long entertained to secure a good education; but I could not see how this end could be attained. While I was under my father, I was free from care and responsibility. I had to devote most of my time to hard labor. But I could use all the leisure hours according to my own inclinations, without
embarrassment. Now I had to think and plan how to pursue my purpose. The responsibilities of manhood came upon me while I was conscious that I was not a man in any proper sense of the term, except that I was twenty-years old. I was still a boy in body, mind and inclinations. I continued to grow in height fully four years later. I had no inclination to go into society; and my mind was scarcely beginning to develop. I still retained all my love of boyish sports as fresh as in the beginning of my teens, and my studies I resolved to engage in teaching school. I resolved also to enter into society notwithstanding my extreme timidity and utter ignorance of social customs. For both of these new enterprises—i.e. teaching school and mingling with society—I knew myself wholly unfitted. But I knew that both were necessary to the accomplishment of my purposes, and I formed my resolution to meet the difficulties as best as I could. On the day that I was twenty one years old I went with my mother to the now extinct village of Port Oliver, on a shopping expedition. While she was making her purchases, I was looking over some school books on the merchant’s shelves. Among these was a copy of Smith’s English Grammar, which
was the first work on that subject I ever saw. It had only been a few months since I had first learned that there was such a science. I did not purchase the book at that time, but, instead, paid twenty-five cents for a rasor which I used until the practice of shaving the face went out of vogue, and which is still ready for use should a recurrence of the custom require its services. The season for country frolics now came on. The custom among us was for the younger men and women, both married and single, to meet at the house of a neighbor whiter they had been invited and spend the day in hard work, the men in rolling logs, clearing ground or putting up a house, the women in quilting or other work with their needles. After supper a fideller [sic] having been secured, the dancing would begin and continue till midnight or a little after when the company would disperse to their homes. Sometimes we would be invited to a cotton-picking whither we would go after supper, spend two or three hours in separating the seeds from the cotton fiber with our fingers and then spend the remaining hours till midnight in dancing. Weddings and infares were great occasions. The couple was usually married just at noon. As soon as the ceremony was pronounced the happy pair would go to the dining table followed by as many others as could be seated. Dinner over, and the preacher gone, the dancing would begin immediately and be kept up, only having a recess for supper, till midnight. Next day the guests would reassemble at the house of the groom’s parents where the time would be passed as on the day previous. The special advantages of these occasions were that we could wear our best clothes, and have twelve hours in which to dance, instead of four or six. But there was also the rather grave disadvantage that those of us
who had only well-worn working clothes could not appropriately attend. Of course when these gatherings occurred at the houses of church members there would be no dancing. My parents, though not church members at that time, did not favor dancing. However, they laid no restraints on me in regard to that amusement. Still my knowledge of their sentiments had a restraining influence for a time after I made my entrance into society. But green and awkward as I was, or rather, perhaps, because I was too green and awkward to allow my enjoying social conversation, I soon became strongly inclined to engage in the dance. I resolved to take the matter under advisement and determine for myself as to the right or wrong of engaging in the amusement. Unfortunately while investigating the subject, I stumbled on some remarks of Isaac Watts commendatory of the exercise. This decided me in favor of dancing, or at least, convinced me that there was no harm in it; for Dr. Watts was our great hymn writer and he was reverenced among us as one of gifted with inspiration. Having temporarily settled the question, I entered into the dance and very soon became much fascinated. For about one year I went to every frolic within easy reach of me, where I supposed all the company would be respectable people. For my father had drilled me so thoroughly on the subject of keeping only good company, that I was very sensitive about coming in contact with any one of doubtful character. About the close of my 22nd year, I was invited to a wedding a few miles out of our neighborhood and in an adjoining county. I knew the prospective groom and his family to be highly respectable; but of the family of the bride elect I had no knowledge and was unacquainted in the neighborhood. However I went to the marriage and found a large crowd assembled. Mr. B—the bride’s father was a thriving farmer and distiller.
At that time grogshops or drinking saloons were not in vogue among us except as tavern bars. There was abundance of drinking. But it was done principally at the still houses which were very numerous. Mr.B—‘s still house, as I learned, was a popular place of resort for a great many rude and profligate people. He had invited many of his customers to the marriage of his daughter and a great feast was made for them. Besides a profuse supply of whisky of his own manufacture he had procured several kinds of fine liquors, all of which he kept sitting in the presence of his guests, with frequent urgings to drink, from the time of their arrival early in the forenoon, till supper. By this time a larger majority of the guests of both sexes were drunk enough to stagger. Mr. B—was a church member, and would not allow dancing in his house. But one of his neighbors, living very near by offered the use of his cabin for a ball room, and such of the young people as deemed themselves sober enough to walk a quarter of a mile accepted the offer, and after an early supper, set out to enjoy an evening’s amusement. But some of the young women had overestimated their capabilities; for, notwithstanding the gallantry of their beaux in endeavoring to support them several of them got one or more falls on the way. However we all finally got to our destination in safety and the dance began. I danced the first set after which I retired to a corner and remained silent and sad. I had danced my last set forever. Next day such of the company as could procure horses to ride went with the bride and groom to the infare. The groom’s mother had heard that some objectionable persons were coming and when the bridal company rode up she met us at the yard gate and, in a loud, firm tone, exclaimed, “There is no invitation here for W—s and E—s,” calling the names of two extensive family connections
living in Mr. B—'s neighborhood. Several representatives of both the interdicted names were in the company. I had felt much mortified at being associated with these coarse, rude people at the wedding, when I knew no more of their character and reputation than their present deportment revealed, but not when I had heard them virtually ordered away from the house of people I knew to be respectable and hospitable, I felt deeply degraded. After dining with the bride groom and his friend I returned home. After having in a great measure wasted a year in social frivolity I came to myself mortified and ashamed. I had contracted no vicious habit except dancing. I did not drink or swear or gamble. I went into no bad company intentionally. I never ceased my efforts to keep a conscience void of offence before God. But an unhealthy social excitement had blinded me to a sense of life’s duties and responsibilities and I had idly frittered away a year of my brief life; and that, too, at the most important period of my earthly existence. I had taught a three months school during the summer of that year, my first endeavor in that occupation, had gone to school a short time during the winter preceding and had devoted some leisure hours to study at home. But all these had been so subordinated to my social pleasures as to have produced little good fruits. It was during this year, I think, that I first began to give some attention to the science of music. I inherited from my mother, who was regarded as a fine singer, a fair voice for singing, and I had, from early childhood, a great fondness for vocal music. Once when I was less than three years old I involved my young mother in considerable momentary embarrassment by insisting on her singing “Roaring River” a great number of times while bending over her wash-tub. An old neighbor came near and was standing very still and listening to her singing when she discovered that
he was present. I learned many songs by heart, and could repeat portions of almost every hymn in Dupuy’s collection which was the song-book in common use at that period. My father finally persuaded me to desist from reading the hymn book because he supposed the rhymed composition tended to the formation of a bad style. My fondness for music continued; but I had no opportunity of cultivating it till after I had grown up. My first attempt at instrumental music after the matter-of-course jews harb, was with a flute, which I made of an elder stalk. After learning to play on this I bought a flute. Next I procured a violin, and after that an accordion. I soon learned to perform on all these instruments; with no great skill or precision, certainly; but much to my own gratification. I also bought two music books—the Missouri Harmony and the Christian Psalmist—and attended a night singing school during one short session. I soon abandoned my instrumental music on account of its being offensive to some pious church members; but I continued the study of vocal music as opportunity was afforded until my voice became impaired by the encroachments of disease. My ability to sing I found of great service, when in after years, I became a missionary.
Having closed my first, and last, year of social dissipation, I gave my first attention to my financial affairs. I had, during that year, taught a three month’s school and built the first schoolhouse that was ever erected in our immediate neighborhood. When the house was finished I took the responsibility of calling a public meeting and inviting speakers to be present and address the people on the subject of education. In order to bring out a large crowd, we had a “big barbecue”, which was then the ordinary method of calling together a political assembly. This was the first public meeting ever assembled in the interest of Education in the Green River Country. The meeting was a brilliant success in everything except the speaking which was not followed by a number of public meetings in different parts of the county, attended by Rev. R. Y. McReynolds and myself. When I had collected, as far as practicable, the small sums of money due me, I lacked twenty cents of having enough to pay my debts. I paid out the last cent I had, and the remaining twenty cents was paid soon afterwards. This was the first and last time, to the present, that I went in debt beyond my ability to pay promptly. Having settled my little business affairs, at the beginning of my 23rd year, I entered Mr. Winston’s school in the new house I had erected, and commenced the study of English grammar and geography with some other elementary branches. I got on well with all my studies except grammar. That was wholly new. I could not understand what it was for, and could see no utility in it. My teacher failed to comprehend my difficulty, or lacked skill to remove it. At the end of two weeks, my confusion had become worse confounded, and I determined to abandon the study. At this crisis some hindrance kept me from school two or three weeks. During this
time my teacher, who boarded at my father’s, in urging me to resume the study of grammar, remarked that, without a knowledge of that science I would appear very awkward when talking with educated people. “Then, grammar teaches people how to talk correctly,” thought I. True, my text book taught this fact explicitly; but I had failed to understand its purport. A single observation spoken by my teacher gave me the true idea. I again resumed the study, and, in thirty days, with scarcely an effort, and with a high degree of pleasure, I mastered every principle of grammar set forth in my text book. Not long afterwards I studied a more critical and philosophical treatise on the subject and became a fair theoretical grammarian. But I had been speaking in the rude dialect of the illiterate backwoodsmen amoung whom I grew up, more than twenty years, and I found it exceedingly difficult to change my habit—so difficult, indeed, that I have not entirely succeeded even to this day. The Christmas holidays past, I entered with fresh zeal upon my studies and was progressing with satisfaction when I was brought to a sudden stop and all my thoughts were turned into a new channel. The great crisis of human life suddenly pressed itself upon me, and I was brought to a solemn consideration of the subject of my personal salvation. The subject of religion was not a new one to me. It had been a matter of serious thought of deep and solemn meditation and of earnest private investigation almost from my infancy. But it now presented itself in a new light. Christianity now appealed to me for personal acceptance on its own uncompromising terms. I must understand and fully accept these terms or fail of receiving its infinite and eternal blessings. Previous to this I had supposed I was very well versed on the subject, and I believed that I understood it better
than the ignorant churchmembers around me. Now it appeared to me an incomprehensible mystery. I was deeply humbled, confused and overwhelmed. But before I speak further of my mental and heart exercises at this, to me, most solemn period, I may be permitted to say something of the religious influences by which I was surrounded in youth. Allen county was settled principally by Baptists and their sympathizers, from the Carolinas and Virginia. They soon formed little churches in their principal settlements. As early as 1793, Sulphur Spring Church was gathered in the South-west corner of the county, in 1801, Bethlehem near the present county seat, in 1804 Puncheon Camp, in the South-east corner, in 1807 Trammels Fork near the center, Middle Fork, in the North-western part, in 1808 and Bethel, in the North-east corner, in 1820. These six were the only Baptist churches in the county, when I first became a denizen. If there was a church of any other sect in the county at that time I have never learned the fact. Bethel church of which my grandfather Spencer was a member and the clerk, was about four miles west of where I was raised. When I was so small as to be carried part of the distance in my father’s arms, I remember going with my parents one Sunday in summer to this meeting house. We started early and walked (except that I had to be carried part of the way). Our path lay through a deep unbroken forest, passing in sight of two cabins with an acre or two of cleared ground around each. When we got in sight of the meeting house, my mother sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree, took off her cow skin shoes and put on a pair make of prunella which she had brought with her in a striped cotton bag, with a drawstring at open end, called a reticule. This was in conformity with the prevailing custom. We reached the meeting house at twelve o’clock which was the usual hour of preaching. I have no remembrance of the
religious exercises. Jesse Lee Hickman was probably the pastor of the church. The first impression of hearing preaching that I retain was from a sermon at one of our neighbor’s cabins, delivered by Richard Raglan. I retain in memory nothing that he said but have an impression of his getting much excited, and frothing at the corners of his mouth. The next sermon I heard, and the first of which I have any distinct remembrance, was at the house of my grandfather Richey, and was preached by a venerable man named Thomas Scrivner. He was over medium size, was of a grave countenance and manner, his voice was deep and sonorous, and he preached in the tone of a solemn chant. He seemed to me as holy as an angel of God, and I was awed and almost breathless in his presence. So solemnly impressive was his voice that I retain a vivid remembrance of it after a period of fifty-five years. On the occasion refered to, I heard only the latter part of his discourse; for, reaching my grandfather’s some little time before worship began, I strayed off with some other children into the orchard where we remained what seemed to me a very long time—longer than a whole day appears to me now. At last, weary of play, I ventured where I could see the preacher who stood with his hands on the back of a chair in the door where he could, at the same time, address both the people who filled the cabin, and those who were seated on benches in the yard. My mother seeing me, stealthily glided out from among the people, captured me and carried me back to her seat. It seemed to me a long time after that before the preacher closed, though I supposed it could not have been more than fifteen minutes. After meeting was over my mother instructed me patiently as to the impropriety of my conduct. In turn I told her of a boy, about my size, who, all the time we were at play, kept grinning with his mouth shut.
She told me that he was not grinning, but smiling. Poor fellow! he kept on smiling till he grew to manhood and married, and then acquired the reputation of a common thief. Nearly all the preaching I heard during my childhood was in the cabins of our neighbors. Indeed I do not remember to have ever been in a meeting house, except the one time spoken of above, till I was nearly grown. This was the case with most of our neighbors and their children. There were several reasons for this. Bethel, then usually called Stark’s Meeting house, was the only church house in reach of us, the distance to it too great for women and children to walk conveniently, and they had no means of riding. A still greater hindrance was, that there were several rich families belonging to that congregation, and we had no clothes suitable to be worn in the presence of “quality”. We had no school house in our neighborhood; so in order to enjoy the privilege of public worship, most of the settlers opened their cabins for preaching, and usually kept a supply of rude benches for the people to sit on. There were but few churchmembers among us and not a single one, that I can remember, among the younger class of people. Most of the men would swear profanely, get drunk and fight, and were generally very wicked. Yet there was a strong religious sentiment among them. However bad their practice they were orthodox in theory. They exhibited sincere respect for ministers and other religious people, and were grave and serious when they talked on the subject of religion. I do not remember to have ever heard expressed a doubt as to the truth of Christianity during my minority. I was subjected to no temptations to theoretical infidelity and my morals were strictly guarded by my parents. The Bible was the only book with which
our people had any familiarity. This was freely quoted and was the universal and infallible standard of morals. There were no sectarian disputes or jealousies among us, there being no cause for them. We were all Baptists in sentiment and that of the most orthodox type. Few of us had ever heard of the London or Philadelphia Confession of faith, but our Carolina and Virginia ancestors had bequeathed to us the doctrines set forth in those instruments and we held them as a sacred inheritance. The first sermon I remember to have heard from any but a Baptist was preached by a Methodist minister in a school house which I had erected after I was twenty-one years of age. At this time the Methodists had become pretty numerous in the Southern part of our county and there began to be some disputing and public debating between them and the Baptists. During my youth there was a strong prejudice against young people’s joining the church, and this may account for the fact that none of our young people were church members. We had preaching occasionally at our cabin and those of our neighbors, principally by “Old Father Sorivner” and “Old Daddy Bailey”. The latter was a weak preacher living on the border of our neighborhood. I heard him preach twice at our cabin. He was very plain and simple in his talk, I could understand him very well, and I though him a good preacher. He preached the first time about Christ’s sheep, and said they always left evidence of their having been present, wherever they went, by leaving locks of their wool clinging to the briers and bushes. The next time he preached from the text: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, ec.” I think his preaching would have produced a good impression on me had it not been for my grandmother Spencer. She was prejudiced against him on account of something connected with his second
marriage and could not refrain from speaking her mind about him in such a manner as to destroy his influence over me. “Old Father Scrivner” was universally respected and reverenced. His preaching always produced a deep impression on me, and I never heard him after I was rational enough to understand what he said without resolving to be a Christian as soon as I became old enough. By the time I was ten or twelve years old this resolution became a fixt purpose. Had I known it was my privilege to do so I should probably have made an earnest effort to obtain salvation at that time. But having been taught by the force of public opinion that only grown people could become Christians, I contented myself with trying to avoid sin, and engaging often in secret prayer. I do not remember to have heard any except the three preachers already named during my childhood and I heard them very rarely. I suppose I did not hear preaching upon an average more than once a year during the first seventeen years of my life. Sometimes my father and mother would walk to a night meeting at a distance of three or four miles. They would start early enough to reach the place of meeting before dark. On their return my father would carry a torch made of a dry clapboard split into narrow strips, to light them through the deep forests. Lanterns had not come in vogue among us then. Sometimes the preachers would use this custom of carrying torches to illustrate the text: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” They year 1838 marked the beginning of a new era in the religious history of our county. A wonderful revival prevailed in all of the churches. As I have since learned this revival commenced in the First Baptist Church in Louisville (now Walnut Street) at the time of the constitution of the
General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, October 20, 1837. It reached our county the following winter. Christians were greatly revived, and many people were converted and baptized. There were four preachers in our county at that time, Levi Rcark, Isaac E. Tracy, Benjamin Bailey and J. L. Hickman. The first named was a weak illiterate man living in the extreme S. E. corner of the county. Tracy had been a good preacher but was insane and preached only during his more lucid intervals, Bailey was now old and feeble, and was opposed to the revival; so that Hickman was the only active minister living in the county. I think I did not hear a sermon during the year. But when the churches became greatly revived such of the private members as were accustomed to lead in public prayer went out into the surrounding neighborhoods and held prayer meetings. Two members of Bethel Church, Wm. Sears and Richard Griffin, and Wm. Furguson from Bethlehem came among us and held such meetings in nearly all of our cabins. There was much singing and fervent exhortation, with reading the sacred Scriptures and offering prayers. Once, with one of my aunts, I walked four miles to one of these meetings. I also attended several others nearer home. My grandfather Richey gave us much mortification by coming to one of the meetings while under the influence of drink and catechizing one of the brethren during his exhortation. Mr. Furguson was expressing, with much fervor, his desire to depart and be with Christ when my grandfather interrupted him with the question: “Billy, do you always feel that way when you are in perfect health?” This caused some confusion and the meeting was soon afterwards dismissed. But it may have resulted in good; for my grandfather afterwards apologized and invited the brethren to have a meeting at his cabin. This they did; and some time afterwards the old
gentleman professed conversion, united with the church and became a very zealous member. This revival wrought, in religious affairs, a great revolution in Kentucky, which has exerted a potent influence wherever the English language is spoken, and has been felt as widely as Christianity has extended its conquests. It was during this revival, and in Kentucky, that Protracted Meetings had their origin. The spirit of missions was also greatly enlarged, and a result of incalculable importance was the enlisting of private church members in the work of spreading the gospel. Previous to this period the impression very generally prevailed, that the whole burden of religious teaching and the conducting of religious exercises devolved on the preachers. But now an enthusiastic spiritual fervor prompted many private church-members to engage in holding meetings, reading and explaining the Scriptures and exhorting the unconverted to repent. Their work appeared to be profitable, and it gradually came to be believed that all church members were under obligation to do all they could to spread the knowledge of the truth and indue sinners to seek salvation. At the beginning of this revival it was a grave question among the churches and preachers as to whether there should by any effort made to induce the unconverted to seek salvation. It was universally agreed that the gospel should be publicly preached. But many, perhaps a majority among us, questioned the lawfulness of using any private persuasion to induce people to accept it. It was said the Freemasons were allowed to teach and defend their principles; but not permitted to persuade any one to join their order. This was thought to be a good illustration of the proper method of propagating the Gospel. It was believed, that, if the gospel
was correctly preached, the Holy Spirit would do all else necessary to bring the elect to Christ, and afterward to the church. It was common in those days for persons to be known as seekers of religion for months, and even years, before obtaining hope in Christ. They were spoken of as mourners, with a kind of reverence; for the Sprit of God was supposed to be working with them. Sudden conversions seldom occurred, and when they did, grave church-members were suspicious that they were spurious. Usually the only instruction and encouragement mourners received were from the monthly ministrations of the pulpit. When it was supposed they had obtained the hope of salvation, the door of the church was opened, as usual only on church meeting days and the converts were not persuaded to unite with the church lest they should be deceived. If they voluntarily offered themselves for membership they were required to stand up before the church and relate their experiences. If the church judged their evidence of conversion to be satisfactory they were approved for baptism, and afterwards baptized. If an applicant failed to give satisfactory evidence of conversion he was rejected and exhorted to continue seeking. Many of the opinions and customs of the old settlers were much modified by the great revival. The larger part of the ministers and churches soon became convinced of the propriety of making persistent efforts to lead sinners to Christ. Out of this new conviction and the fervent zeal enkindled by the revival grew protracted meetings: hence they were at first called “effort meetings.” They were at first strongly opposed by many old church members and some of the old preachers. But they grew rapidly in favor and soon became a fixt institution. As soon as the private members of the churches became engaged in the general effort to
bring sinners to Christ a younger class of people was reached. The “mourners” as those convicted of sin and seeking salvation were still called, were encouraged to present themselves as objects of special prayer and private instruction. For these purposes a convenient seat was designated for them to occupy which came to be called the “mourner’s bench”. The mourners were diligently instructed by zealous Christians, by which false impressions, misconceptions and erroneous views were removed. And now, instead of being several months or years feeling after the Lord if haply they might find him, they were led to the cross in as many days or hours. During this revival a large number of young people were added to our churches, and seven young men were brought into the ministry who became active and efficient preachers among the churches of our county. These were younger Witherspoon, M. F. Ham, J. P. Brunson, Isaac McMurray, W. F. Spillman, James B. Evans and Robert W. Thomas. Brunson died young; all the others lived to labor long in the Master’s vineyard. Thomas, Ham, McMurray and Evans are still living, (March 1889). Previous to this revival there had been some disturbance in the churches concerning Parker’s Two-seed doctrine, the extent of Atonement, the Freedom of the Will and the lawfulness of Benevolent Societies. These disputes had been silenced by the unwonted spiritual influence. But when the revival had subsided the disturbances were revived. Bethel church of which my grandfather was a member belonged to Drakes Creek Association; Bethlehem the next nearest church to us belonged to Barren River Association. From the latter a faction had seceded and formed a new association holding the Two-seeds doctrine and opposing all benevolent societies. The new
fraternity was organized under the leadership of Elder Andrew Nuchols the 4th Saturday in July 1837, just before the beginning of the revival. A split occurred in Drakes Creek Association in 1841. The minority which favored missions was organized and took the name of Bays Fork Association. During the same year, 1841, another division took place in Barren River Association, this time on the question of missions. There was great excitement and much ill feeling among Christians during these schims. Hapily I was too young and ignorant to understand the grounds of the contentions or be much affected by the quarrels. All the churches within ten or twelve miles of us identified themselves with the missionary party. If, therefore, I received unconsciously any bias form the exciting contentions it was in favor of missions. In 1844 a small church called Hopewell was constituted about three miles south of our cabin. It was composed of a poorer class of people than the congregation at Bethel, and therefore, we could attend its meetings with less embarrassment. After this I began to attend preaching oftener and not only at the new log meeting house, but also at Bethel and several other churches that had grown up around us; for we had now finished paying for our home and, while we still worked as hard as ever, we were able to have horses and saddles to ride and better clothes to wear. I listened with solemnity and was usually much affected by the preaching, but supposing that I was too young to seek religion, I did not yield to these impressions but held to my purpose to become a Christian when I should be old enough. I soon got the impression that the appeals of the gospel were not made to me, but to older people and I often wondered that they were not moved to immediate action. After this I became gradually less and less affected by
preaching. But I did not forsake my habit of secret prayer nor waver in my purpose to keep a good conscience before God and seek religion when the proper time should come. I was much shocked at the wickedness of our neighbors and had a great desire that they should repent of their sins and seek salvation. Sometimes I tried to pray for them. I remember one occasion when I was greatly agitated. It may have been in my twenty-first year. I went one evening to my grandfather Richey’s to spend a few hours with him and his family. I found him much under the influence of drink. He was excessively merry and talked a great deal, mingling many profane oaths with his idle conversation and, perhaps singing some snatches of Bacchanalian songs. I remained but a short time. The night was dark. As I walked along a foot path through a deep forest on my way home, I became intensely desirous for salvation of my grandfather’s soul. After awhile I became so overwhelmed that I dropped down on my knees and pleaded with God with great intensity of feeling for the conversion of the aged sinner. At last my heart was warmed with a bright hope that my prayer would be answered. A year or two afterwards, as I have said before, the aged man, who had grown gray in sin, after deep repentance and humility during many days, obtained a joyous hope in Christ, united with the church and walked humbly before God till he was more than ninety years old. When I first began to attend preaching at churches my extreme timidity caused me to sit far back in the house. But being very fond of vocal singing, I soon ventured up nearer the pulpit, after which I usually sat among the church members and engaged with them in singing. I was soon at ease and enjoyed attending religious worship. I was also very fond of
listening to public speaking, especially if the speaker exhibited any earnestness or fervor. All the preachers I had ever heard were very illiterate men. They had no idea of arrangement in preparing a sermon, or of elocution in delivering it. They talked to their audiences in a sort of elocution in delivering it. They talked to their audiences in a sort of miscellaneous harangue and always in a sing-song tone. I never heard a discourse that could properly by called a sermon till after I had attained my majority. Nor had I any idea of any other manner of preaching. But after I began to read some good authors, these discourses began to seem to me clumsy and awkward and they soon began to lose the solemn effect they had formally had on me. Instead of listening with reverential awe as to holy messengers of God, I became a critic on the ignorance and blundering speech of the weak illiterate preachers. I did not become skeptical, I am not conscious that my belief in the truth and infinite importance of religion was ever diminished. But the sensitiveness of my feeling was blunted. The deep reverence I felt for God’s ministers was greatly lessened. I mentally criticized the sermons, exhortations and prayers of God’s people, and was not unfrequently amused at what seemed to me their ludicrous features. Religious exercises in the house of God had lost their sacredness, not so much to my mind as to my heart. I became conscious of this, and deplored the apostacy. I tried to pray in secret, but had lost all my fervor. I found no remedy for the constantly increasing hardness of my heart. “My feet had well nigh slipped.” [no page #]
On the first Saturday in January 1849, a “protracted meeting” was commenced at the little new church called Hopewell, in Allen County, Ky. about three miles from my father’s house, and some four miles from the little cabin at the head of Pete’s Hollow where I had been born on another Saturday a little more than twenty-two years before. I was attending Mr. George D. Winston’s School in a house I had built for his occupancy, only a few hundred yards from my birth-place. At first I continued in school and attended the meeting at night. I think it was the first “protracted meeting” I ever attended. About the fifth day of the meeting I left school, for the time, and went to meeting both day and night. The pastor, William F. Spillman, was aided in the meeting by Mordicai F. Ham and Robert W. Thomas, both, like himself, young preachers. Mr. Thomas was a man of strong intellect, was fairly educated, and was a speaker of great eloquence and power. His preaching interested me from the first and I greatly wondered that his powerful appeals did not bring all the unconverted to the “mourners bench”. As to myself I retained the old impression that the preaching was not addressed to me, and I occupied a place among the church members and engaged with them in singing. After a few days I became restless and uneasy. I desisted from singing, and sat farther from the pulpit. My thoughts were turned inward. I was not moved to tears; but to a deep contemplation of myself and my relation to God, I deeply deplored the hardness of my heart. My seriousness became manifest to those around me. A young associate who had joined the church some months before came and spoke some words of private exhortation to me. But I was rather repulsed than encouraged; for I had heard him, after he had joined the church, using the slang oath, “By jing,” and I had no confidence in his sincerity. After that Mr. Thomas came to me and invited
me to come forward for prayer; but I could not get my consent to go. There was a large number of mourners on the “anxious seats,” and many serious persons in the congregation. Just before dismissing the congregation that night, Mr. Ham said, in effect: “If there are any in the congregation who desire the people of God to pray for them, let them take these front seats when they come in tomorrow morning.” I thought over the proposition that night and when I went into the meeting house next morning I took the ”anxious seat”, or as it was often called, “the mourners bench”. I do not know how many days and nights I continued to occupy the seat of prayer—perhaps about a week. An attempt to analyze my thoughts and feelings during that period would prove a failure. I was deeply humbled in my feelings. I had thought I understood the plan of salvation as well as the preachers I was accustomed to hear. But now I felt that I was utterly ignorant about it. My prominent feeling was an intense desire to be converted. I do not think I was terrified by the fear of going to hell, or greatly prompted by a desire to go to heaven. I did not think about joining the church. I wanted to be a Christian, to know that I had been born again, as I had never desired anything before. This was the one thing I looked for, hoped for and prayed for incessantly. I entertained the impression that if I should be born again, I should know that fact with undoubting certainty. At one time I entertained the thought that if I should be converted I would keep it a secret; for I had not yet recognized the obligation of Christians to unite with a church, but supposed that to be a mere privilege of such of them as desired to do so, and I had no thought that I should ever be qualified to discharge the solemn duties and
responsibilities of a church member. As the days passed on my perplexity of mind and distress of soul constantly increased. When I first went forward for prayer I had no thought but that I would be converted during the meeting. Now I began to fear greatly that I should not. I was overwhelmed with distress and almost in utter despair. It was near the close of the services on Friday night, and the meeting was to close on Sunday morning, when a new question came into my mine—“What shall I do if the meeting closes and leaves me unconverted? Shall I continue to seek? or shall I go back to my former course of life?” I hessitated but a moment and then mentally answered:--“I will seek salvation till the last moment of my life or obtain it.” I had though, confessed my sins and prayed, and sought the prayers of Christians; I had tried to repent and had sorrowed that I could not repent more deeply. I felt that I had done nothing rightly, and that I could do nothing more. Despairing of being able to do anything meritorious, I yielded myself wholly to God’s mercy. All the powers of my mind seemed to be suspended, and, for a time, I was unconscious of thought or feeling. Whether this continued for a single moment, or for several minutes, I have never known. I only know that it was a complete surrender of my whole mental and moral being as unto death. When consciousness returned all the mental confusion and every feeling of anxiety and distress of soul that I had endured for many days and nights were gone. A calm, restful peace filled my bosom and for a moment I felt no want, no desire. The congregation were singing the old hymn, beginning: “Come, thou fount of every blessing,” to the tune Olney. The feeling of peace that filled my soul kindled into active joy. I felt a strong inclination to join in the singing; but restrained myself. The log meeting
house was lighted with a half dozen or so of sputtering tallow candles. Yet when I looked up the mildewed walls seemed to glow with a soft effulgence, such as I had never seen. Everything in the house, the people, the rude seats and the unpainted pulpit seemed resplendent with a joyous radiance. As I walked to the door, after dismission, I felt a strange tendency to rationalism. I inquired into the reason of all phenomena that came under my observation. I was not willing to believe anything I could not give a satisfactory reason for. But now I was thrilled with a series of strange, joyous experiences for which I could give no reason whatever. Nor have I ever been able to give any rational explanation of the phenomona until this day. It had not entered into my mind that there was anything supernatural in it. I had been hoping, praying and expecting to be converted in soul by the Holy Spirit, and had expected unmistakeable evidences of such conversion. But so different were my present feelings and the accompanying appearances from the expected evidences, that they did not even suggest to my mind that I had been “born of the Spirit”. I believe I yielded to the quiet, heavenly, rapture of soul for the time, without making any effort to think. But during the forty years that have intervened between that happy hour and the present, I have given the subject the most earnest and patient investigation of which I have been capable, and have been able to arrive at no satisfactory conclusion, except that it was the Spirit of God working in me that mysterious change which all men must undergo before they can “see the kingdom of heaven”. When I walked out under the broad, open heavens, that cold January night, the world seemed to have been transformed since I had entered the
little rude meeting house some two hours before. The sky appeared to have approached nearer the earth and the stars seemed to have increased their brilliancy many-fold. The great leafless oaks had relaxed the sternness of their mien as if they were softened into sympathy with my glad heart and all the great wide forest had dispersed with its sullen gloom and seemed to smile with the gentle radiance of love. I chose to ride alone that night, and silently enjoy the new and strange gladness that filled my soul utterly full. I cannot remember that any thought took definite form in my mind till I had ridden through the unbroken forest about three miles. Then suddenly, and for the first time, came to me the question—“Can this be religion?” I can not say that I have ever settled that momentous query to my entire satisfaction to this hour. But at that moment it filled me with a joyous hope which has never forsaken me. The question had scarcely taken definite shape in my mind when I involuntarily exclaimed: “I will praise Him as long as I live!” Next day when the door of the church was opened I presented myself for membership. It was the uniform custom at that period to require each applicant for admission into a Baptist church to stand up before the congregation and relate the exercises of his mind and heart from the time he was convicted of sin till he found hope in Christ. Then any member of the church was encouraged to ask the applicant any question or questions relating to his experience, which he deemed proper. If the evidences of conversion appeared satisfactory to the whole church, the applicant was received; if not he was rejected and exhorted to continue seeking. There were some others joined the church
at the same hour I did, among whom was Anthony Atwood who was recently gone to his final reward. When my time came I related my experience, as clearly as I could, and then entreated the church to exercise caution and not to receive me unless they were fully satisfied with the evidences of my conversion. I was received. Next day was Sunday, January 21, 1849. The day was cold and some snow-flakes drifted on the strong north wind. After the morning sermon, I, with perhaps some twenty others, was baptized in a small rivulet which had been dammed for the purpose some half mile south of the meeting house by W. F. Spillman. The meeting closed and next day I returned to school. A weekly prayer meeting was kept up at our little church during the remainder of the winter. I attended and took part in the singing. I did not enjoy these meetings much, on account of being constantly in fear that I could be called on to lead in prayer. Atlast the thing I feared came upon me. At the call of the leader, I knelt down and made my first attempt to pray in public. I uttered a part of one sentence, then choked up and could not say another word. Some one else offered prayer. I regretted my failure, but not my attempt. I had, from the first, determined not to refuse to try if I should be called upon. I had done the best I could and felt little or no mortification. I was glad I had made the effort, and resolved to try again if I should be called on. After this, though, for sometime, with much embarrassment, I engaged in public prayer whenever I was called on. By some means I learned there was such a science as Algebra. This I added to my other studies. But I soon ascertained that Mr. Winston was incapable of teaching Algebra. There were at this time two rival schools in Scottsville. I first applied for admission into the Waters’ School
which was more popular of the two. But Mr. Waters told me he could not teach Algebra. I then applied to the rival schools. Mr. Waters tried to explain by saying that he did not mean he was unable to teach Algebra, but only that he had no class studying that science. However that may have been, Mr. Robe got the advantage in the contest, and Mr. Waters, who had been immensely popular as a teacher, soon moved away. The fact was evinced that I was the first to undertake the study of Algebra in our county, and Mr. Robe was probably the first teacher in the county who was capable of giving instruction in that branch of mathematics. My moral courage was pretty severely taxed in Mr. Robe’s school. I was in my twenty-third year, was nearly six feet three inches in height and was almost utterly ignorant of the habits of polite society. The school was attended by the children of the wealthiest and most cultivated families in the town and vicinity. In all my classes in school I stood up to recite with little boys from eight to ten years old. But I was fixt in my purpose to acquire the best education my circumstances would admit of. I considered that I had but little time, and less money, to devote to this end; and I determined to fully consecrate all the resources I could command to the purpose I had in view. I wholly avoided going into society, and devoted my time to study all day and a large part of the night, up to the measure of my capacity. I attended this school only about six weeks, when I again entered the school room as teacher. This occupation I continued till the fall of the next year, attending school during my vacations. I went a few weeks to Mr. John H. Collins, and, at another period, a short time to Mr. Robert Wiles.
Being now fairly advanced in all the branches of learning taught in the schools around me, I supposed there was little else to be learned in schools. However I had heard of Georgetown College, and supposing it to be a somewhat better school than I had yet attended, thither I went in December 1850. A young man names Andrew Alexander went with me. We took a steamboat at Bowling-Green and went down Green River to its mouth. At Evansville, Ia. we took another boat and went to Louisville. A rail road from Louisville to Lexington had recently been finished, and by this we went to Frankfort where we took stage to Georgetown. When I presented myself to the faculty it was ascertained that I was not qualified to enter college even to take a course in English. I was much surprised and mortified. However, I took board and lodging at Paulding Hall, and determined to remain long enough to get a view of the situation. Meanwhile I recited lessons to Mr. B. T. Blewett, principal of the preparatory department of the college. I remained some four weeks, mingled with the most advanced students (among whom I remember Rev. A. B. Smith and Dr. Jno. B. Link now of Texas) and attended one or more meetings of one of the college debating societies. By this time I got some idea of what had to be studied, and of the amount of time and money required to take a college course; besides the years study necessary to prepare me for entering college. The undertaking appeared to me impracticable, and I felt compelled to abandon the effort. With a heavy heart I turned my face towards home. On Saturday evening I went in a stage coach to Frankfort and remained over till Monday. Meantime a deep snow fell and it turned bitter cold. At 7 o’clock Monday morning I started on the cars to Louisville. The day was so intensely cold that for a long time it was referred to as “the
cold Monday of January "51". The snow on the railway track so obstructed our progress that it took the train twelve hours to reach the suburb of Louisville. There I and other passengers got off the train. The day had been clear, but the steam from the locomotive had been converted into snow and had fallen to the depth of a half inch on the platform and steps of the car. I had not been able to get anything to eat since breakfast, and was now compelled to walk about two miles to a hotel. I stopped for the night at the old Gault House in Louisville. Being very plainly (not to say shabbily) clad, I was sent to a little bare room in the fifth story of the building where I had to sleep on a thin, hard shuck mattress with very scant cover, and without a spark of fire. The Ohio River had frozen over (for the second time that winter) so that boats could not run and I was compelled to make the rest of my journey by stage coach. Next morning the murcury stood at 16 degrees below zero which was said to be the lowest point it had then attained in the climate since the first settling of the country. But cold as it was, I got in the coach at four o’clock in the morning and we drove twelve miles to breakfast. That night we reached Bardstown where I had to wait 36 hours for another coach. During this time the weather moderated considerably. But being thinly clad and having been exposed to such severe cold, I had a protracted attack of asthma from which I suffered much during the remainder of my journey. However, I soon recovered my usual health after I reached home. I now began to consider what occupation I should adopt. I had been raised up on a farm and was fond of farming. So I settled on that as my life-work. When the spring opened my father tendered me the use of a plow-horse, with such agricultural implements as I would need, and as much
ground as I chose to cultivate. I entered upon my work with enthusiasm and raised a crop of tobacco. But as the fall approached I became enfeebled to labor regularly on a farm with any degree of comfort. Accordingly I sold my crop and again entered the school room as a teacher, not intending however to adopt teaching as a permanent occupation. I was strongly inclined to the law, and after thinking deliberately on the subject, I came to the conclusion that I would endeavor to prepare myself to enter that profession. With this object in view I went to Louisville on horseback in the fall of 1852, and bought a small library, including works on ancient history, treatises on science, several volumes of poetry and English translations of the principal classical works of ancient Greece and Rome. I purposed to study these books while teaching school for the purpose of securing means to read law with Judge Loving of Bowling Green whom I had selected for my teacher. When I returned from Louisville I learned that during my absence the little church at Hopewell of which I was a member, had brought up and discussed the question of licensing me “to exercise a preaching gift within the bounds of the church”. There were objections offered by some of the members. It was alleged that I played the flute, the accordion, and worse than all, I not only played the fiddle, but played “carnal tunes” on it. Perhaps others objections of equal gravity were urged. But most of the church favored a motion to grant me the license and a reference of the matter was made to a future meeting. I think it was on the first Saturday in April, 1853, that the motion was again brought before the church. I was present, and promptly declined
a license limiting me to a certain boundary, saying to the church that if God had called me to preach at all, he had called me to preach wherever he should open the way to me. I have since doubted the correctness of this position. However, no objection was made, at this meeting, to my being licensed and the church unanimously voted me an unlimited license. It had now been a little more than four years since I had united with the church. During the first year I had been greatly troubled with doubts as to the genuineness of my conversion. Sometimes I blamed myself for having joined the church so hastily, and often prayed in secret that my doubts might be resolved. I tried to discharge my duties as a church member. I led the prayer meeting when called on. Once, atleast, in the absence of our pastor on Sunday morning, I read a passage of Scripture and made some brief comments. I tried to perform whatever the church required. In 1851 I was sent as a messenger to Barren River Association which met that year at Dover in Barren County. There I met, for the first time, the great John L. Waller, L.L.D. and heard him deliver his famous sermon from the text: “On this rock I will build my church, etc.” I also had the good fortune to spend one night with him. I was greatly charmed with his wonderful colloquiel powers. Excessively bashful and ignorant as I was he made me feel almost as easy in his company as if he had been at my father’s hearth-stone. I remember to have asked him if Fleetwood’s Life of Christ was worth reading. He promptly replied: “No! no life of Christ is worth reading, except the New Testament.” I afterwards heard of his remarking to one of my brethren, concerning me, that he did not know but what there was something in that boy. This may have first suggested to my church the idea of licensing me to preach.
The next year our Association met at Bethlehem Church in Allen County. Here I heard the now distinguished J. R. Graves, L.L.D. deliver his sermon from the text: “Watchman what of the night?” He was then the most brilliant and fascinating young orator I had ever heard. During the following winter I think it was, he held a meeting of two weeks continuance at Bethel church in the same county. He cause a great excitement by exposing in his sermons with terrible force, the evils of the whiskey traffic. He baptized many converts and among them my sister Ann. His closing sermon on the divinity of Christ, was one of great eloquence and power, and made a deep impression on his vast audience. I listened to Mr. Graves’ sermons during the meeting with intense interest, and, although I never attempted to adopt his style, nor, indeed, that of anyone else, I doubt not they had no inconsiderable influence in the formation of my manner of preaching. Soon after I was licensed, I made my first attempt to preach. It was on a Sunday morning, at my own church, and my text was Christ’s great commission given by Matthew. I had been practicing public speaking a little in a debating society which held its meeting in a schoolhouse in which I was teaching. I was much embarrassed, but succeeded better than I had expected, and the church appeared satisfied with my effort. My second attempt, was, I am afraid, a very unsuccessful attempt at plagiarism, although I did not at that time, know the meaning of the word, or the impropriety of the transaction. I had heard M. F. Ham preach a sermon that interested me very much, from the words: “A highway shall be there, etc.” I thought I could reproduce the substance of the discourse. The occasion was at Concord meeting house in Barren County. I had not studied my subject. The congregation was large and composed of strangers. I was
greatly embarrassed, and although I succeeded in keeping my tongue going long enough to have preached a sermon of ordinary length, I was conscious of a most signal failure. I believe it was Robert Hall who said: “When God designs to bless the people he opens the preacher’s mouth; when he designs to bless the preacher he closes it.” The preacher was blessed on this occasion. I was cured of all my plagiaristic proclivities, and convinced of the necessity of studying a subject before attempting its elucidation. My third attempt was at Peters Creek in Barren County. My subject was, “The Mesiahship of Jesus,” although I did not give it that name, nor, indeed, any name at all. But I studied my text very earnestly. When I reached the meeting house I found there the Venerable Thomas Scrivner, our standard of orthodoxy for all that region, and R. W. Thomas, the ablest pulpit orator, perhaps, in the Green River Valley. I was greatly perturbed at the thought of having to speak in the presence of these great men, and should probably have declined the attempt but for the fact that, when I accepted a license from my church, I formed a fixt resolution never to decline an invitation to preach unless there appeared to me very grave reasons why I should do so. I have sacredly kept this resolution till the present hour, and I believe it has been of incalculable benefit to my ministry. On this occasion I was much confused and agitated when I rose up to speak. But I had my line of thought clearly fixt in my mind, and I succeeded fully up to my expectation. By this effort I gained a most important victory over myself. I conquered my timidity in the pulpit, and from that time till the present I have rarely felt any serious embarrassment in trying to preach.
I continued to try to preach as I could make opportunity during the summer. About the time my school closed that fall, “Old Father Scrivner” and the now venerable F.C. Childress commenced a protracted meeting at Peter’s Creek. It was only about four miles from my fathers and I resolved to attend. I did not expect to preach; for I was very ignorant of the Bible and especially the New Testament, and I knew almost nothing to preach. My object was to learn what I could from the preachers engaged in the meeting. When I got to the meeting Father Scrivner, who was the pastor of the church and now somewhat in his dotage received me coldly, and made in manifest that my presence was not agreeable to him. When the morning meeting was dismissed he suggested that I had better not go with him and Bro. Childress to Bro. John Britt’s , as there might not be accommodations for so many. But Bro. Britt assured me that there was plenty of room for us all and pressed me to go with him, which I did. I discovered that the brethren generally were glad I had come. After dinner to Bro. Britt’s, the good old pastor said to me: “Two preachers are enough at a protracted meeting, and more than that is in the way.” I replied that I had heard old preachers say so, and I supposed it was true, though I knew nothing about it myself. He then said: “Some young preachers never make any appointments of their own, but are always running around to the appointments of others to be in their way. Such young preachers never know whether people wanted to hear them or not.” I promptly asserted to the position and apologized for the young preachers by saying that they were generally timid and had not courage to make appointments of their own at first. Apparently disgusted with my stupidity, he quoted from Isaiah: “The ox knowethe his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but…my people doth not consider.” I modestly and respectfully discussed these matters with the aged father as if they were mere abstract propositions.
While the good old pastor was so manifestly annoyed at my presence the church was glad to see a young preacher starting out among them and forced him to invite me to preach time about with him and Bro. Childress. According to the rule I had laid down not to decline an invitation to preacher I took my turn with the pastor and his chosen assistant. It happened that the congregation was unusually large the first night I preached. When we got back to brother Britts, after meeting, Sister Britt asked her pastor about the exercises. He promptly replied, in my presence: “There was the largest congregation we have had, and nothing done.” As I appeared unaffected by this final thrust, the dear old father seemed to despair of driving me away, and accepted the situation. Bro. Childress was a good preacher; Bro. Scrivner had been an earnest student of the holy scriptures more than fifty years, and his sermons were very instructive. I evinced a desire to learn, and not only listened with close attention to the preaching, but diligently sought private instruction from the preachers, especially the venerable pastor. This was not only very profitable to me, but was the means of winning the confidence and warm affection of the venerable man of God. After this the good old father made an especial pet of me, and always seemed delighted to have me with him. This protracted meeting at Peter’s Creek, the first in which I was a colaborer with the pastor, proved a very successful one. Quite a large number was added to the church by experience and baptism. At the close of the meeting, an aged sister, the second wife of my father’s old neighbor, Wm. Pulliam, gave me a half-dollar, the first money I have received for preaching. I was ashamed to take it, and would have decline it had I known how to do so without giving offence. I had been raised up among
people who regarded preaching for money little less than blasphemy, and had habitually heard “hireling preachers” denounced with withering scorn from the pulpit. I soon afterwards labored in a meeting at Bethel, the old church of my ancestors, and the first meeting house I had ever entered. That zealous and successful man of God, Younger Witherspoon, with whom I labored much afterwards, was the beloved pastor. There I met with much kindness and encouragement. We had a happy meeting and several were added to the church. But not I go into a great difficulty in my own church, which stopped me from trying to preach for a time, and gave me much trouble. Of this sad affair I will endeavor to give some account in the next chapter. I had now been licensed to preach about ten months. I had been very active in trying to improve my “gift” as my church had been please to call it in the written license it had given me. Ministers were very scarce in the county I lived in as well as the adjoining counties. The churches were praying the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers and both they and the few preachers we had among us gave me a hearty welcome wherever I went (if I except old father Scrivner’s temporary disapproval of my presence at Peter’s Creek). My attempts to preach, poor as I know them to have been were generally received favorably by both the preachers and churches. The brethren began to insist on my ordination, and I began to be very hopeful that I might succeed in becoming a preacher of some usefulness when I was suddenly called down for the pulpit, which I had so lately entered, to grapple with a church difficulty.
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Whiskey drinking was a great evil among us from my earliest remembrance. There were very few men in our neighborhood who did not occasionally get drunk. The churches were strict in disciplining their members for getting drunk according to their definition of that term. But that did not prevent many—perhaps a majority—of their male members from being “overtaken in a fault” and arraigned, too frequently, before their churches for intoxication. Most of the preachers drank in what was termed moderation which term was frequently defined with great elasticity. Whiskey was regarded a great blessing “in its place”, and the rule was, that every family kept a supply of this “good creature of God.” Our family was the only exception I knew of during childhood. At the age of about ten years my father became disgusted with the drunkenness he saw around him and made a vow never again to drink a drop of whiskey. This was during the British war of 1812-’15. This vow he sacredly kept to the close of his life. He did not prohibit his children from moderate drinking. But so potent was his example that I have never known one of his first family of children to use a drop of whiskey except for medicinal purposes. This left us in an attitude to see and deplore the more readily the evils of drink around us. It was often the subject of conversation around our humble hearth-stone, and our attention was frequently directed to the degradation it brought upon our neighbors. I should have been an enthusiastic temperance reformer from my boyhood had any such reformation been attempted. But unhappily no such attempt was made in our part of the country till after I was grown up. Doubtless “the curse of drink” was seen and deplored by many good men; but there was no one to lead them into a concentration of
[p. 88 [MS penciled in, says 88-1]
their influence against it. No political aspirant could have hoped for success, if he had been known to oppose social drinking. The preachers were the only men who could have exercised any considerable influence against moderate drinking, which, when generally indulged in, inevitably leads to excessive drinking. If the ministers of the gospel were all firmly united against the use of intoxicants, they could speedilysuppress it in any Christian country, at least, in a very great measure. But among us the preachers were surrounded by grave embarrassments. Many of them had been educated in the habit of using ardent spirits both in the family and social circles. They believed it to be their Christian privilege to continue the habit, and acted accordingly. Others who were convinced of the evil knew that the churches were not so convinced, and were not even open to conviction. Had they preached their sentiments on the subject they would have been thrust out of the pastoral office, rendered obnoxious to the masses of the people, andtheir places would have been filled by those who favored and practiced the use of strong drink. We had no preacher among us who was bold enough to attack the popular social custom, and our leading church members continued to make trafic in and drink whiskey without rebuke, and, perhaps without scruple of conscience. Some temperance lecturers passed through our community once in a while, but they did little more than amuse the rable with ludicrous anecdotes about stupid drunkards. Finally Rev. R. W. Thomas an able and bold speaker from a neighboring county visited our churches and preached against drinking and selling whisky, with great power. The people, generally, church members as well as others, were greatly incensed at his attack on what they regarded an enalienable privilege. But great eloquence drew immense crowds to hear
him, and were convinced. After Mr. Thomas, Rev. J. R. Graves of Nashville, Tenn., now Dr. Graves of Memphis, came into our neighborhood and preached two weeks at Bethel Church. He also preached at other points in the county. In his sermons he depicted the evils of drinking and retailing whisky with such wonderful force and vividness, that multitudes were won over to temperance reform. Among those who espoused the new reformation with great zeal was Wm. F. Spillman, the popular young pastor of Hopewell Church. Several of the prominent members of his charge also espoused the reformation, and I had “been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb”. The subject was much agitated among our people and we soon had a majority on our side of our question. The church placed a resolution on her records to the effect that she would retain in fellowship no member that should be engaged in manufacturing or retailing intoxicating liquors. We had in our church, at that time, a brother John Davasher, a man of considerable property, and, with the exception of his dealing in liquor, a zealous and orderly member. He kept a distillery, and, according to the common custom of the period, sold its product by the retail at his still-house, allowing it to be drunk on the premises. It came to the ears of the church that he kept a very disorderly drinking house, that there was much drunkenness and fighting amond the men that resorted there, and that these men greatly neglected and abused their families. Bro. Davasher had long been engaged in distilling, had professed to be converted to religion of Christ while attending to his still, had so related in his “Christian experience” at the time he was received into the church, and now he could not be convinced that there was any sin in following his occupation. However, he agreed to submit to the discussion of the church,
and asked for a short time in which to close out his business. This he did according to promise. This occurred not far from the time I was licensed to preach. In the fall of 1853, our pastor resigned and, with some other prominent members of our church, moved to Missouri. This left the temperance party in the minority. Bro. Davasher who had only closed his distillery because a majority of the church demanded it, now that he was assured that a majority was on his side, reopened the obnoxious business. As soon as it was known the matter was brought before the church. It appeared that the Davasher party had purposed to make a motion to rescind the antiwhisky resolution. But the temperance party anticipating this, succeeded in getting the floor first and moved that Bro. Davasher be excluded from the church. The vote showed a majority against the motion. But the moderator decided that the votes cast against the motion were illegal since they were in direct antagonism to an undisputed rule of the church, and sustained the minority. Whereupon the majority being heated and confused, left the house in disorder, forcibly carrying the church record with them. The minority constituting a quorum remained in the house, and finished up the business of the day, including the calling for a council from the neighboring churches to aid us in adjusting the difficulty. The council convened the day before our next meeting. Meanwhile, the minority had called a meeting and gone through the form of excluding the leaders of the temperance party, seven in number, I believe, among whom I was included. They also excluded Bro. Davasher, not for keeping a tippling house, but for breaking his promise to refrain from dealing in intoxicating liquors. The council decided in our favor. The next day was
our regular church meeting. Both parties came together. Several prominent brethren from neighboring churches met with us and advised us to compromise. Both parties were desirous to take the advice. The principal grievance now urged by the anti-temperance party was that there was a resolution on the church book requiring the enforcement of discipline for a breach of Christian morals whereas the Bible was the only proper authority insuch matters. We agreed that the resolution should be appealed, provided they would concede that the Bible taught the principle it set forth. To this they agreed. We then required that Mr. Davasher should stand excluded, according to the action of both parties, and that all the transactions of the called meeting should be nul and void. These terms were accepted, and we all agreed to live together in peace. So ended the painful and protracted difficulty on the liquor question. As soon as this difficulty was settled, the church agreed to call a council for the purpose of considering the propriety of setting me apart to the full functions of the gospel ministry. This council convened with the church on the 6th day of May, 1854. A sermon was preached by the venerable Thomas Scrivner, and I was ordained to the work of the ministry with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, consisting of Thomas Scrivner, William Semands, Isaac McMurry, M. F. Ham, Wm. K. Morgan, Willis M. Turner, and John H. Durham. After the ordination ceremonies were concluded these ministers gave me the following document with their signatures affixt: "We the undersigned ministers of the Baptist Church of Christ, being called on by the Hopewell Baptist Church of Christ to ordain and set apart Bro. John H. Spencer to the work of the gospel ministry, and on
examination, find him worthy and correct in faith, do this day ordain him to exercise the full function of the gospel ministry, commending him to all, wherever his lot may be cast." "May the 6th, 1854." Had these brethren examined me a little more closely they would have found me very ignorant of Bible teaching and strongly inclined to Arminianism, especially on the item of "falling from grace". By atleast two of them, Turner and McMurry were Arminian in doctrine and Durham was suspected of inclining in the same direction. They were all disposed to be lenient and so passed me without very critical investigation. This may have been an error; but if so it was soon corrected on my part. A little study of the New Testament soon brought me up to the standard of Baptist orthodoxy. On the same day that I was ordained, if I remember correctly, I took a letter of dismission from Hopewell, and two weeks, later, united with Bethel Church. I did this from motives of prudence. I was not in harmony with the church on the temperance question. One of the members was said to be selling whisky without license, and to have the approbation of some of his brethren in so doing. I feared a renewal of the old difficultly on the exciting subject, and deemed it prudent to unit with a church with which I was in full accord. Besides, Bethel was the old church of my ancestors and I felt assured of a cordial reception and hearty sympathy in my new and sacred calling. I had a pleasing remembrance of my first attempt to preach in that church soon after I was licensed. When I came down out of the pulpit on that occasion the brethren crowded around me with tears and words of encouragement, and old brother Wm. Sears
took me in his arms, called me his son and thanked God for raising me up to fill the vacated seat of my grandfather in the sanctuary. From the day I was licensed to preach the gospel I felt the responsibility of the great work to which God had called me, and my unfitness to discharge the sacred duty. After my visit to Georgetown College, I relinquished the idea of further attendance at school. Even after I had formed the purpose to study law I did not purpose to enter a school of letters again. But as soon as I had laid on me the responsibility of preaching the gospel of God, I felt anew the need of higher literary attainments, and began at once to make arrangements for entering school again. I spoke to my father about my wish to seek a better education. He warmly approved my desire and offered to furnish me with $500 to aid me in my design. But I considered that he had a large family to support and educate, and, perhaps, I felt a little disinclination to be dependant on his bounty at my age. I therefore declined his offer and set about teaching; and laboring by the day in the harvest field, and in the heavy forest in turn to procure means with which to carry out my purpose. I received small compensation—perhaps not more than $20 a month - for teaching school; for work in the woods with the ax, the mall and wedge and cross-cut saw I received fifty cents a day, and I never received more than a dollar a day for working in the harvest field and going down the river on rafts and flat boats. In the latter occupation I engaged as often as Icould find opportunity; for although it was exceeding hard rough work, it paid better than any other employment I could procure during the winter and spring months. At that time, the [
farmers in our region of the State freighted their tobacco down the river in flat boats, sometimes to Bowling-Green, sometimes to Evansville, Ind. but much oftener to New Orleans. Large quantities of saw-logs, fence rails and other kinds of lumber were also floated down the river in rafts to Bowling-Green which was located at the head of steamboat navigation. Sometimes we brought fright up the river on pinouges or keel boats. These occupations gave occasional employment to many hands among whom I took a prominent part. My father having been engaged in this species of lumber trade from the time I was about ten years old. Had I attempted to dress myself and keep a horse coparisioned as the young men with whom I occasionally associated, the entire income from my labor would have barely sufficed. But “God who counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,” gave me grace to wear cheap, rough clothing, ride a borrowed farm horse, (or walk) and deny myself every luxury, in order to prepare for my life work. I went barefoot in summer, even while teaching school. Once a woman, died near my school house, and, having no shoes with me, I went barefoot and conducted religious services with the bereaved family. I was rigidly economical in every thing, except the use of my physical capabilities and mental powers, and whatever may have been said of my mean garb and cheap methods of living, it never came to my knowledge that anyof my employers ever accused me of idleness, unfaithfulness or want of efficiency. I respected public opinion, when it did not meddle with public affairs, but I unhesitatingly disregarded it when it antagonized any honest means by which I proposed to accomplish a laudable purpose. I was in my twenty-eighth year when I was ordained to the ministry. I had duly considered the matter during the thirteen months of license, and had made up my mind as to the course I would endeavor to pursue. I
purposed to perform the best life’s work of which I was capable. With this end in view I resolved to strictly guard all the means for its accomplishment, which I could command. First of all I would make the best preparation I could for my work. Accordingly, a few days after my ordination, with the small sum of money I had saved and a scant supply of coarse half warm clothing I started to Russellville to enter school once more. This cost me a hard struggle. My preaching had been well received by thechurches, and preachers among whom I had exercised my gift and my labors appeared to have been blessed. It was suggested to me that I already was as well educated as any of the preachers around me, that I could study at home while engaged in the ministry, that I was too old to go to school and that by the time I could complete a college course I could be well advanced in my thirty-second year. On the other hand I argued: “I know I need a better education in order to be able to understand and explain the Bible, well, I am still capable of learning at school, and, If I stay at home, I shall grow old just as fast as if I were in college. The difference will be that in the latter case I shall be thirty-two years old and a fair scholar, in the former I shall be a thirty-two-year-old fool.” My decision was made as stated above. I went to Bowling-Green on horseback carrying a small trunk before me on the pommel of my saddle—by no means a pleasant mode of travelling even no greater a distance than twenty-five miles. From Bowling-Green I went to Russellville in a stage coach. The institution of learning that I entered was known as Bethel High-school; but, under the principalship of B.T. Blewett, now Dr. Blewett of Jennings, Missouri, it was organized with a faculty of four professors and regular college classes; and in 1856, was chartered under the style of Bethel College. As soon as
I entered the school, as I afterward learned, the boys, of whom there were over 100 in attendance, fixed on me as a suitable subject for some rare sport. I was full six feet three inches in hight, of a spare, ungainly build, stooped form constant hard labor, and, altogether, the awkwardest, ugliest and greenest member of the school. The professors and some of the more benevolent spirits among the older students appeared to compassionate me, and patronize me as an object of commiseration. With a nature sensitive and shrinking to a fault I felt this quite keenly. But I had fortitude and was sustained by a strong, unwavering purpose; and so, applied myself to constant study. I neither sought nor shunned the association of my school mates, and the conspirators for my improvement found no favorable opportunity to “run the green off” of the new student. I think it was the present Rev. A. B. Miller, D. D. of Little Rock, Ark. who ventured to ask me where I was from. I replied: “I came from the backwoods of Allen County where the bridle paths lead up and down the hills at an angle of forty-five degrees with a horizontal line, and boys follow any four-wheeled vehicle that may happen to pass through the county, several hours, to see how long it will take the hind wheels to catch up with the fore wheels.” This saying rapidly circulated among the boys and was regarded witty, which circumstance somewhat unsettled their purpose to run the green off of me. At the end of the first three weeks it came my turn to read an original composition. I had written An Essay on Spring, and, according to requirement, handed it to the principal for correction. Within a few minutes he came to me, with manifest agitation and say: “Where did you get this essay?” I replied that I had written it. He expressed a mixture
of surprise, and incredulity in his countenance as he looked closely at me and asked where I learned to write. I replied, “at home”, and he turned away. Next morning he brought the essay into the college chapel and read it in the presence of the whole school, commenting on it, and recommending it to the students as a model. This caused the boys to relinquish their purpose to run the green off of me, and for a time, I was quite lionized. Soon after this I sent my first article to a religious newspaper—The Tennessee Baptist—and in due time saw my name in print for the first time. Not long after this I published, under a nom de plume, in the village paper, two short “humorous poems,” which the editor criticized as “Not very practical, but pithy and humorous”. The authorship of the “poems” was soon ferreted out, and my literary reputation among the boys was considerably enhanced. This I took care not to diminish by seeking further newspaper notoriety, for a time. My regular habit was to apply myself to study of my lessons from seven o’clock in the morning till eleven at night, except during brief intervals, at meal times, during five days in the week. The hour from 11 P.M. till twelve, I spent in writing. I went to bed at midnight and was ready for breakfast. On Saturdays and Sundays I usually went to the country and preached. Sometimes I could borrow a horse and saddle from old Brother Ben. Yarborough, a farmer with whom I boarded for a few months and who lived a mile from the college. But I generally walked from three to ten miles Friday morning, or Saturday morning, preached Saturday and Sunday walked back on Sunday evening. This I kept up during my stay at college, for which poor service I received never a cent. My teachers were opposed to my preaching, believing that it would interfere with my studies, but I was more desirous to learn to preach than I was to learn
Greek and Latin, and so I took the risk of incurring their displeasure. However, they did not forbid my preaching. Had they done so I should have either desisted or left the college. On my return home to spend the summer vacation I found a Mr. Robert Wiles who professed to be a latin scholar teaching a summer school in my father’s neighborhood. I at once resolved to pursue my studies under his direction during the vacation. But on entering his school I found him ignorant of every branch I wished to study. So I did from necessity, what I should have done from common prudence—spent the summer in recreation, except that I preached on Saturdays and Sundays, and, perhaps labored a few days in the harvest field. My second year in college was a pleasant one, and I made fair progress in my studies. I kept up my habit of preaching on Saturdays and Sundays and made some improvement in public speaking. Two incidents occurred, however, of which I still have sufficient cause to be ashamed. The first was the nearest approach to an old time “fist and skill” fight I ever made. A student boarding at the same house with me got in a cross mood on account of my having ridden to meeting one Sunday with a young lady whom he had contended to accompany. She was the daughter of our host and was going to a school house in the country where I had an appointment to preach. I did not know of Mr. Baker’s intention—for Baker was the student’s name—and simply rode along with the young lady because she and I were going the same road. But Mr. Baker’s jealousy was aroused and nothing would satisfy him but a quarrel. So the next night when we were in adjoining rooms studying our lessons by the light of tallow candles—for that was before petroleum came into use as an illuminating agent—he began the skirmish. I had borrowed a pair of candle snuffers. When Baker needed them he came into my room and got them. I went and brought
them back when I had need of them. Baker soon began to growl ill-naturedly when he would come after the snuffers. I was deeply immersed in the perplexing mysteries of Crossby’s Greek grammar, and, for a time, paid no attention to him. But he was determined to have a quarrel and continued to grow more insulting. But he was determined to have a quarrel and continued to grow more insulting. Finally I said: “I brought the snuffers upstairs, you need not make such a fuss about them.” He replied sneeringly: “No, you didn’t; I brought them up myself; So a preacher will not always tell the truth.” I sprang up and, with a hand accustomed to weild the ax and the mall, grasped him by the throat and held him till his arms dropped limber at his sides. I them gave him “a hearty shake” and thrust him from me. Getting beyond my reach he thrust his hand in his pocket as if to draw a weapon. But a stern word stopped that demonstration. He went back to his room, I plunged again into Crosby and we had no more difficulties with each other. Poor Baker, he was a fair student and might have become a scholar. But not long after his adventure with me, Sam. Buck, and John Hubbard, two little boys from Hopkinsville met him out in the woods, one Saturday, hunting, and, with an old shot gun, run him at the top of his speed with a loaded fowling piece on his shoulder, about one mile, to his boarding house where he fell exhausted on the door step. This so mortified him that he left school. The other incident, of which I am even more ashamed, was that at the opening of the presidential campaign in 1856. I allowed myself to become excited on the subject of politics. I went so far as to join a political club, and to write for two or three political papers during the campaign. When the election came on I walked home, a distance of fifty miles, to vote for Filmore. My candidate was beaten and I “came to my senses” again.
I saw how foolishly I had acted and deliberately resolved to avoid all political disputes and entanglements for the future. So strictly did I keep this resolution that I did not again vote for a candidate for any political office during a period of thirty-two years. This was an unwarrantable extreme. It is not only the privilege, but also the duty of a Christian minister to give his aid and use in influence in securing good men as rulers of the people as far as he can do so without injuring his ministerial usefulness. During my junior year at college I discovered a gradual decline in my health. I had never been really healthy. Perhaps in my whole life I have never enjoyed what could properly be called a well day. I inherited asthma from my father, and at frequent intervals have suffered greatly from that distressing malady, from my early infancy. From my mother I inherited the virus of pulmonary consumption and have been afflicted with an annoying cough from my early childhood. I had, nevertheless, extraordinary powers of endurance and had proved myself capable of much hard labor and severe exposure, while I continued an active life in the open air. But when I became more sedentary in my habits my digestion failed and my hereditary maladies grew more serious. I became convinced that to remain in school would, to say the least, be hazzardous. I made up my mind, therefore, to leave college and enter upon the active duties of life. This was a hard trial. I had set my heart on completing my college course, and was much disappointed in not being able to accomplish my design. But Ifelt then—and feel much more forcibly now—that a moderate education, with a strong, healthy body, is more serviceable than finished scholarship with an enfeebled physical constitution. The sharpest tools are of little value to the mechanic if his arm be feble to use them.
I was in my thirty-first year when I left college. I do not remember how I traveled home, but most probably on foot, as that was my usual methodof going over the road. But I remember very distinctly that I preached at Old Providence, commonly known as “the Knob Church”, seven miles west of Bowling-Green, and at two other points, on my way home. I felt that I had lost much time and was desirous to enter at once into the field of ministerial labor. But I had nearly exhausted my little store of money and worn out my scanty supply of clothing, and recognized the need of replenishing both my purse and my wardrobe. Col. Elijah Claypool offered me $50 a month to teach school in Warren County. I accepted the offer, and was preparing to open the school when some brethren made up a subscription of $150, and offered it to me to labor a year as missionary within the bounds of Baysfork Association. I eagerly accepted this offer, provided Col. Claypool would release me from teaching the school.
My return from college brought me to a serious crisis. I had reached a condition which required speedy pecuniary relief. I could probably have borrowed money with which to meet my current necessities, or perhaps, I could have gotten a supply of clothing, a pocket Bible and hymn-book, and a pair of sadell bags on a credit. But I had determined not to go in debt if it were possible for me to avoid it, although I had not then so fully learned as I have since, that many preachers of the gospel greatly injure their reputations and impair their usefulness by contracting debts which they cannot promptly pay. I looked about me, therefore, for the means of earning the amount of money I was compelled to have. The school room presented the first opportunity. This I readily embraced. I was eager to get employment, and would have accepted the position at half the salary with equal alacrity had no greater inducement been offered.
But God who had called me to preach his gospel, did not purpose that I should be lost in the school room. He put it into the hearts of his servants to offer me, for a year’s labor in his vineyard, the same amount that I would have received for teaching school three months. He gave me grace to accept the offer not only willingly, but with grateful delight. I did not want money, except to meet my bare necessities, and I did yearn with my whole soul to preach the gosept to dying men. Col. Claypool, who was a brother, beloved, readily released me from my obligation to him and I hastened to prepare for my work. My preparations were very simple. I procured a new suit of clothes made of home-wove blue jeans, a hat and a pair of boots to match and such other articles as were necessary to decent attire. My father loaned me a handsome young mare which had the big head, and took sundry occasions to fall down with me going over a peculiarly smoothe, level road, although she was sure footed enough when traveling over rough ground, I bought a pocket New Testament from a Methodist preacher named L. B. Davidson; and Elder Isaac McMurry, who had aided in my ordination, gave me an old pair of saddle-bags, of an ancient pattern with the openings in the sides. Thus equipt, I started out to begin my life work.
The first meeting I engaged in was at Gilead meeting house in Allen County. The Venerable Thomas Scrivner, then in his 82 year, was pastor of the church. This time he gave me a hearty welcome. I think that godly minister, Wm. Seamands was with us a few days. During this meeting which continued eight days, I preached four times. The pastor, notwithstanding his great age preached once a day and was otherwise active in the meeting. As he and Bro. Seamoands, though among the ablest preachers in Barren River Association, were devoid of the gift of exhortation that exercise devolved principally on me. As I began so I continued as far as practicable during that first year of my active ministry. Whenever I had an older minister with me I would endeavor to induce him to preach, and I would follow him with an exhortation. By this means I got the benefit of his teaching, at a time when I most needed theological instruction, and also developed what was then my most effective gift. We had a good meeting at Gilead. Fourteen persons professed conversion. Among these was Mary Carpenter who was baptized at the close of the meeting, early in her ninth year. She was a godly and zealous young Christian. But the Lord was pleased to call her home about the time she arrived at womanhood. The meeting closed Nov. 29, 1856, and I went away much encouraged in my work.
This was the last meeting in which I labored with the noblemen of God, Scrivner and Seamans. The latter died a few years afterwards from a tumor in his eye, and the former retired from the pastoral office at the age of 83 years. Sketches of their lives may be seen in my History of Kentucky Baptists.
My next meeting was at Hopewell where I had been baptized and ordained. Willis M. Tuner was pastor. He had been a Methodist circuit rider some ten years, but had joined the Baptists and been ordained to the ministry. He was illiterate, deficient in Bible Knowledge and heterodox in doctrine; but he was of fine personal appearance, an easy, fluent speaker and extremely agreeable in the social circle. These qualities made him very popular and he enjoyed a good degree of success in the ministry. It was though that he believed in withcraft and it was certain that his charge became much infected by that pernicious superstition. A very singular man of the name of Christley Miller wsa with us in the Hopewell meeting. His mother was a Methodist and played the role of a preacher, although I believe she had been excluded from her church. Once I heard her and her son preach from the same pulpit in immediate succession. This was the first and last time I ever heard a woman attempt to preach, and the last time, but one, I ever heard a female deliver a public speech.
Christley Miller had belonged to two or three religious sects before he joined the Baptists. Among the last names he was ordained to the ministry. He was illiterate, but a natural orator and his descriptive powers were wonderful. For a time his wild, passionate eloquence drew together and held spell-bound multitudes of people. But his popularity soon waned, and he finally joined the General Baptists. He was in the zenith of his popularity, and preached three sermons during our meeting, at Hopewell. His subjects were, the Crucifixion of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead and the Final Judgment. These sermons were beyond all comparison the most masterly specimens of oratory I had ever heard at that time. But I am convinced that they were in injury rather than an advantage to our meeting. The people were entranced by the orator, but their hearts were untouched. All our other exercises seemed tame and common place, and the meeting which continued nine days resulted in only three conversions.
From Hopewell I went to Bethel and began a meeting just before Christmas. There I had with me that eminently zealous and successful minister, Younger Witherspoon, and the now venerable M. F. Ham. They were both well instructed in God’s Holy Word, and were good, sound gospel preachers and men of spotless Christian characters. To these men and the Venerable Thomas Scrivner I was indebted from my system of theology more than to all other sources except the Bible; for at that period I had read no other religious book. My membership was in Bethel Church as had been that of my ancestors, and I had a comfortable homelike feeling sanctified by a deep reverential religious awe. Several venerable and dignified old men and women who had long worshipped with my grandparents were members of the church and attendants at the meeting. Among these was old Bro Wm. Sears who had taken me in his arms and thanked God for raising me up to take the place of my departed grandfather, when he had first heard me attempt to preach. It seemed to me as if I were standing on holy ground. I had never before preached with such a feeling of solemn earnestness, nor listened with such reverential attention to the preaching of my seigniors.
From the beginning the presence of God seemed to be with us at our every coming together. The meeting continued two weeks, closing January 1, 1857. There were 18 conversions. Among those baptized at the close of this ever memorable meeting was my father, then in his 54th year. He had been many years a disciple but had not, hitherto gained sufficient confidence in the evidence of his conversion to enable him conscientiously offer himself to the church. This was an occasion of great joy to me. From my early childhood my father had set before his family a daily example of Christian deportment in everything except religious ceremonials; and it may be pardonable in a son, who owes to him the maxims of morality that has shaped the whole course of his life, that I thought in my childhood and youth, and still think, he was one of the best men I ever knew.
From Bethel I went some five miles to a little new church called Big Spring, which had been gathered, and ministered to for a short time, by Isaac McMurry, but was not without a pastor. It had recently been rent asunder on the question of missions and was in a sad state of confusion. The people in the neighborhood were generally poor and illiterate, and I had there my first real missionary experience. I had no regular assistant; but Bro. Witherspoon was with me a part of the time, and preached when he was present. During the meeting which continued from the 5th to the 18th of January, 1857, we had a crowded house and great interest. There were 17 persons professed conversions, most of all of who joined the church.
One little incident occurred which, despite the serious surroundings, amused me a little. A sister Hill, a widow and a very religious woman had gone off with the antimissionary faction, and was in a pouting humor with the church. But as I was a distant relative of hers she came out one morning to hear me preach. She took an extreme back seat and looked very cross. Shouting aloud was, at that time, one of the most common exercises in public worship. As I advanced in my discourse the sternness of Sister Hill’s countenance gradually relaxed and finally she sprang up quick as a though, clapped her hands, with great rapidity, and gave a loud should of rejoicing; but, instantly remembered where she was, dropped back into her seat as suddenly as she had sprung up and assumed her former look of stern defiance.
One incident will illustrates the bodily exposure I had to endure in this and many other meetings. The little meeting house at Big Spring was new and well arranged for warmth. Being much crowded at night, it was almost suffocating. The weather was extremely cold and deep snow covered the earth. As was usual in the early part of my ministry, I had no certain place to stay, but went from house to house as I received invitations. One night a good old brother Thos. Rickman, pressed me to go with him. The distance was some two or three miles. A high bitter north wind was blowing, and the fierce gale swept the snow into our faces almost blinding and choking us. We had to ride along a “blind path” through a deep forest, with a dense under growth, over the trunks of fallen trees and through inter-locking brush and wild grapevines. After a long time we reached our destination pretty thoroughly chilled; for we had come out of the meeting house in a profuse perspiration. The old brother had recently built a large hewed-log house and only one small apartment had been finished. Into this I was ushered, and for some half house, enjoyed the warmth of a huge log fire. But by this time it was getting late. The good old brother took me into a room about twenty-feet square with the cracks unchinked and some of them nearly large enough for a man to crawl through. There was no provision for fire and only the thin roof sheltered me from the snow-freighted storm clouds. I got in bed as quickly as convenient and covered up my face to protect it from the snow that swept profusely through the great openings in the log wall. However I did not suffer so much from cold as I feared; for the snow soon laid an additional cover on my bed.
At the time I held this meeting, if I remember correctly, there lived in the neighborhood a singular old man of the name of Peter Boucher. He was spoken of as a good citizen with one exception. He profession to be an atheist, and greatly shocked his neighbors by his bold, daring blasphemy. Old Bro. Henry Motley told me the following anecdote concerning the professed Atheist who was by trade a mill right:
"On one occasion," said Mr. Motley, "I had old Mr. Boucher employed in repairing my mill. It was summer time, and one day there came up a heavy thunder storm. We went into a cave in the bluff of the creek for shelter. The form of the cavity was such that any loud sound entering it was greatly increased by the reverberation. The thunder was very heavy and as the cloud came up facing the mouth of the cave, the sound was awfully terrific. As the cloud came nearer Mr. Boucher began to turn pale and trembled. Erelong he fell upon his knees and began to beseech God for mercy with such agonizing cries as I seldom or never heard before. He remained on his knees till the cloud passed over. When we came out of the cave the sun was shining brightly and the apparent danger was over. Instead of expressing gratitude, the old man began to blaspheme as daringly as before."
My next appointment after that at Big Spring was at Liberty, about as far from Big Spring as that church was from Bethel. Liberty was in a worse condition than Big Springs; the latter had cut off the antimissionary element from its membership, while a large majority of the members of the former, though belonging to a nominally missionary church, were antimissionary in sentiment. The body had been gathered a few years before by Younger Witherspoon, and had bee prosperous under his care until the principal members had imbibed antimissionary sentiments which necessitated his resignation. The church was then without a pastor for several months. Finally they requested a church some 35 miles away to have an illiterate old brother of the nameof Henderson ordained for their benefit. This was done. Bro. Henderson had been serving Liberty Church some two or three months when I sent my appointment. Most of the principal members were opposed to my holding the meeting; but could find no plausible excuse for closing the door against me. However they did what they could to forestall any influence I might have been able to exercise. They revived the old story about my being a fiddler. One of the brethren asserted that I played “carnal tunes,” and another, that I had been heard whistling Yankee Doodle. One brother, atleast, stationed himself by the road side and tried to turn the people back, who were on their way to meeting, saying he, himself could “preach better than that fellow.” Yet these were good, sincere brethren, whose minds had been perverted, for the time, by antimissionary teachers.
To an older minister the prospects for success in this meeting would have appeared very gloomy; but I had not had sufficient experience to enable me to appreciate the difficulties, and I commenced my work with strong faith and buoyant hope. This was the first meeting I held without any ministerial aid. But God was with me and held me. A pious old brother, Henry Johnson, very illiterate, a great blunderer in the use of his mother tongue, and reputed “the ugliest man in the county” stood by me from first to last. He had the full confidence of the people, and was an esteemed justice of the peace, and was mighty in exhortation. He probably contributed more to the success of the meeting than I did.
During the first week of the meeting only two of the older members of the church attended — Wyatt Williams and Tabor. But we had a house full of young people. The power of the Holy Spirit was present. Several persons were converted and many others were forward for prayer. Old Bro. Tom Bruff was reported to have said contemptuously: “I hear they are making Christians as fast as a tailor can work button-holes.” But many of the mourners and young converts were children of the old members and this aroused their parents and brought them to the sanctuary. The first time they came together, I read the text: “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth.” Gal. 4:16. I endeavored to enforce the obligation to preach the gospel to every creature, and to show the unseasonableness of those who opposed it. Some of them were angry, and old Bro. Major Witherspoon (brother of the preacher) said, if that was the gospel he never wanted to hear it again. However, they all came back to meeting, and soon became deeply interested. After this I had the hearty cooperation of the whole church. The meeting continued from the 25th of January to the 8th of February, 1857. There were 14 conversions, and the church seemed to be completely won back from its antimission proclivities. After this it had no farther use for good, ignorant Bro. Henderson, who was accordingly soon dismissed from its pastoral care, and Bro. Witherspoon was recalled. After this I had no warmer friends or more zealous supporters than the members of Liberty Church.
Among the converts at this meeting was Mark Hill, a large heavy-set young man and wholly illiterate. He was a son of that widow Hill who involuntarily shouted during the meeting at Big Spring. During that meeting he had been serious concerning the interest of his soul. But on account of his mother’s ill will toward that church he stubbornly refused to come forward for prayer. He followed me to Liberty and was among the first to ask the prayers of Christians. I was very anxious for his conversion, but I must confess that I wanted him to have a “hard time”, to cure him of his stubbornness. In both of these desires I was gratified. For nearly a week he seemed in an agony of despair. One day while I was preaching he, sitting on the front seat in great distress of soul, straightened himself out as if in extreme torture, slipped from his seat, feet foremost and his head struck the floor like a heavy mall. This feat presented an exceedingly ludicrous appearance Yet no one seemed inclined to smile. The congregation appeared to be awed rather than amused. For a few moments the penitent lay stretched out on the floor, stiff and rigid as one dead, and then suddenly sprang to his feet with great agility. As he did so his eyes caught sightof the Bible lying on the book-board before me. He sprang forward, seized it in both his hands, and holding it above his head with the open pages facing the congregation, exhorted the people with electrical earnestness to receive and obey its teachings. The effect was wonderful. He did not know a letter in the book, and both his language and gestures were ludicrously uncouth and grotesque. Yet the most hardened scoffers in the audience wept, shrieked and trembled as if they had been before the awful bar of God.
As long as I remained in that part of the state, Mark Hill lost no opportunity to hear me preach, and he almost invariably “got happy”, slid off his seat feet foremost as at the time of his conversion, and frequently gave vent to his feelings in a fervent exhortation. Brief and joyous was the pilgrimage of this simple minded young Christian. In the strength of his early manhood good took him to himself.
From Liberty I again moved some five miles to another little young church named Harmony. This body had been gathered by a pious young preacher, Joseph Skaggs, who after serving it a short time died of consumption. Bro. Witherspoon was with me during the meeting at Harmony which continued from the 13th to the 25th of February, 1857. The meeting was well attended, there was much noisy weeping and many came forward for prayer and instruction at every coming together after the first two or three days. But the feelingwas manifestly shallow and evanescent, and we had credible evidence of only four conversions.
My next meeting was at Bethany in the eastern border of Warren County, This was an older and larger church, and had for its pastor Young Witherspoon who was with me during the meeting. At the beginning of our services here the circumstances were very discouraging. Spring of the year had come on, the farmers were very busy and of the very few who were at church meeting, some of the prominent members openly opposed a continuation of the services. Another circumstance was much against us. The church had attempted to hold a protracted meeting some months before. A small organization of Campbellites had been recently gathered in the neighborhood, and according to a well known characteristic of that sect at its formative period, its members possessed unbounded confidence in the infallibility of their creed and were exceedingly belligerent. They disbelieved in the hitherto universally accepted orthodoxy of praying for the conversion of sinners, and had an especially abhorrence of the “mourners bench”. They went in force to the meeting at Bethany withwhat they deemed commendable iconoclastic intent. As soon as one would go forward for prayer one of these fanatical zealots would hastan to his side, exhort him not to be excited and use the utmost endeavor to get him away from the mourner’s bench. This method of procedure on the part of these new converts to Cambellism soon broke up the meeting, and left the church in a discourage and uncomfortable condition.
Such was the attitude of affairs when Bro. Witherspoon and I arrived at Bethany on the first day of March, 1857. It was Saturday church meeting, the attendance was very small and everything looked chilling as an iceberg. Next day we had fair congregations and some feeble sparks of life were manifested. Monday morning there were but few out; but that night we had a fair congregation, and, what was infinitely better, the mighty power of God was present. After this the people left their business and came out in great crowds. The “anxious seat” was filled with mourners from day to day. The same Campbellites that had thwarted the previous attempt to hold a successful meeting at this place, were present, but they did not molest our seekers, nor make any raid on the “mourners bench.” Themeeting continued sixteen days and 19 persons confessed conversion.
After the close of the meeting, I spent a month, riding over my mission field and around its borders, preaching from one to a half dozen sermons at a place.
In May, 1857 I went to Louisville to attend the meetings of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, and the Southern Baptist
Garnettsville. Our meeting resulted in five professions of religion. During this meeting a woman applied for membership in the church on her Cambpellite baptism. I opposed her reception and her application was rejected. I think the church afterwards reconsidered its action and received her.
At the close of our meeting at West Point I went across the Ohio River into Indiana and preached twice at a school house. The next day I rejoined Bro. Miller at Brandenburg, forty miles below Louisville where we held a meeting of fourteen days continuance and witnessed six professions of religion. Here I met, for the first time, that eminently useful minister of Christ, George H. Hicks, who was at that time pastor of the church at Brandenburg. I also met that humble and godly preacher, Elsy T. Hickerson.
From Brandenburg I went to Cloverport 110 miles below Louisville, and commenced a meeting on the 9th of June. The Baptist meeting house had been destroyed by fire, and we got the use of the Presbyterian house of worship. Bro. Miller joined me after a day or two. Our congregations soon became too large for ouraudience room, and we procured the use of Martins Hall where we continued to meet twice a day till the first day of July. The meeting grew in interest from the first and the large hall was crowded from day to day. A. J. Dye, the young pastor, lived some 18 miles away, and did not come to the meeting till its close, when he preached an excellent sermon on Saturday morning of Church meeting day. But that night, instead of attending the meeting, he went to the Masonic Lodge. This greatly mortified the church and was probably one cause of his resignation shortly afterward.
He was a pious and gifted young man, and did not mean to neglect his religious duty, but he made a sad mistake. Soon after his resignation he moved back to Pulaski County, where he was raised, and on the 3rd of November, 1863 died of consumption.
Our meeting at Cloverport was one of great power and widespread influence. There was a large number of conversions and 46 were added to the church. Bro. Dye not being present at the close of the meeting Bro. Miller did the baptizing, as he had done at West Point and Brandenburg. From Cloverport he went to Hickman, Kentucky, and I returned to my mission field in Allen County.
Arriving at home by stage coach from Louisville, I rested a few days, preached one sermon at Bethlehem and then commenced a meeting at New Rae in Allen County. This meeting continued from 26 to 31st of July. I think Bro. M. F. Ham was with me. There were two professions of religion. On the 1st and 2nd days of August I preached at Bethany. On the night of August 2nd I commenced a meeting at an “Old Hard Shell” Baptist meeting house called Shiloh. Bro. Witherspoon was with me. We continued the meeting 11 days, and 12 persons professed conversion. Such of the converts as desired to unite with the Missionary Baptists were examined before such brethen as were present, baptized by Bro. Witherspoon and we gave them certificates to that effect. I think the present Dr. Wm. G. Inman then a licentiate, was with us a part of the time.
The doctrine of Antinomianism had done its legitimate work in the neighborhood of Old Shiloh. The pastor of that church, who was reputed a common drunkard, taught the church that there was no such thing as a free will; that every transaction of men was predetermined from before the foundation of the world, and that all persons were necessitated to do just what they did do. “I never chastise my children, for wrong-doing,” said one of their preachers; “I am sorry for them; but their actions are all predetermined and it is impossible for them to do otherwise than they do.” This fatalism was insisted on in every sermon. The people finally accepted the monstrous doctrine and by it justified themselves in the indulgence of every corrupt inclination of their fallen nature. There were some good people in this church despite its bad doctrine but the neighborhood generally was greatly corrupted.
From Shiloh I went, after a few days’ rest, to a place in the same (Allen) county, called Pleasant Valley. Here I preached in a schoolhouse, at night and in a grove in daytime. When the weather was fair. After laboring here about eight days I had a violent attack of asthma from which I suffered greatly for about a week. It was now September. Feeble in health at the beginning I had labored almost incessantly during a period of ten months. Weary and sick, I was compelled to lighten my labors till I could recuperate a little. So I did not enter into another protracted meeting during the remaining two months of the year. However, I preached a sermon or two at each of several different points. At the close of the year I summed up my work and found I had preached 200 sermons, witnessed 160 professions of conversion and received $99.60. This was a small sum of money for a year’s labor. But I had lived on a little less had enjoyed the much coveted privilege of devoting my whole time to preaching the gospel and was satisfied.
Before I recognized a call to the ministry I had the ambition common to thoughtful young men to acquire property and distinction. But when I felt that God had honored me by putting me into the ministry, I laid aside all worldly ambition. I did not even aspire to any distinction in the ministry save such as would aid me in the accomplishing of my supreme desire to lead the greatest possible number of sinners to the cross of Christ. I did not desire apparent success. I think there has never been an hour since obtained hope in Jesus that I was willing for any person to make a profession of religion or unite with a church without first being born of the Spirit of God. I wanted sinners really converted and then added to the church. During my entire ministry I have felt it as much my duty to warn men not to join a church without evidence of true conversion as to encourage the regenerated to unite with the people of God. It is possible that I have kept some weak Christians out of the church by perpetually urging the importance of satisfactory evidence of conversion—though I hope not—but if so, it is certain that I have kept none out of heaven thereby; and if so, it isquite probable that I have prevented many from joining the churches, in times of religious excitement, without being converted and thereby fatally deluding themselves as well as bringing reproach on the cause of Christ.
By the time I had labored in the ministry one year, I had formed the fixt purpose of devoting my whole time exclusively to this divinely appointed work. Such a resolution would not be a matter of course rather than something extraordinary. But at that period no Baptist preacher in Kentucky except a very few in some of the larger towns, had deemed it possible for him to “live of the gospel”. No country preacher had attempted to give his whole time to the ministry. Many had doubtless desired to do so—perhaps every man called of God to the ministry so desires—but they lack the means. They were compelled to engage in some secular occupation for their support. But I believed that, with the blessing of God, I could devote my whole time to preaching the gospel, even to the poor, and firmly resolved to try. I need hardly repeat that I was very poor—almost penniless—and had no source of income except my labor. This was the one obstacle in my way. How could I overcome it?
It does not require much money to enable one to devote all his time to preaching the gospel, if his whole heart and soul be in it; but it does require some, or its equivalent. I kept both of these facts in view and demonstrated their truth. I knew from general observation and one year’s experience that I might expect to receive only a pittance for preaching at that period. My hope was to make that pittance suffice. To do this was among my first sacrifices for the gospel’s sake. A young man constantly in society, as my calling forced me to be, wants to dress well, indulge in social luxuries and be liberal with money, and would feel it a bitter reproach to him not to do so. I felt this keenly enough; but schooled myself to resist every temptation to spend five cents needlessly. I had engaged to support a missionary of the Cross (myself) for all his time, and must keep my engagement. I wore as cheap clothing as I deemed respectable, indulged in no more luxuries and wasted little time.
I think I never loved money, or, after I entered the ministry, had any purpose or desire to accumulate more than would enable me to carry out my fixt plan. I was extremely desirous to lose no opportunity to exercise the ministry with which God had entrusted me. I wished always to have in hand the means to make any necessary preparation for my work or travel to any point at which my labors might be required. In order to do this, I must spend no money needlessly. The means of accomplishing an end are as indispensable as the end itself. The means of accomplishing an end are as indispensable as the end itself. It was as much my duty to my Master, therefore, to save the money necessary to enable me to go and preach the gospel as it was to do the preaching, and I as conscienciously did the one as the other.
Soon after I procured my suit of blue jeans in which I entered my first mission field, I met with Old Bro. Jas. Farquarson a Scotch preacher from New York who was traveling in Kentucky in the interest of the Bible Revision Association. After hearing me speak a few times he invited me to come to New York and preach in my jean clothes. I did not feel called to go to New York. But if I had, I was destitute of the means of traveling so far. This circumstance presented to my mind an important lesson: I could preach in jeans clothes, however mortifying it might be to my flesh. I could not go a long distance to preach without money; ergo it would be better to have some money with which I could go and preach in cheap rainment than to invest all I could procure in costly attire and be forced to remain at home in idleness. The lesson was not lost. After another twelve months, there never came a time during my physical ability to preach when I could not command the means of traveling to any point which I desired to visit.
At the close of my first year’s labor in the ministry, I attended the meeting of Bay’s Fork Association. I had received and accepted a call to the pastoral care of the church at Cloverport. To express their appreciation of my labors and commend me to the people among whom I was about to cast my lot, the brethren elected me moderator of the Association. At the close of the meeting I returned home to make preparation to enter my new field of labor. A few days afterwards I bade a final adiew to the home of my childhood. It was a sad parting. It had been to me a happier home than I should ever find again on this side of the cold dark river. I had known it as a home of poverty and toil. But it was not the less dear to my heart; for it had been, from my infancy, the dwelling place of my father and mother, until the latter had been called from the trails of earth a few years before, and it had always been the bright home of peace and parental and filial love.
On the 31st day of October 1857, I took pastoral charge of the church at Cloverport, Ky. at a salary of $400 a year for half of my time. If I did not believe that God directs his servants in their labors I should think I made a sad mistake in this transaction. I was, by nature, gifts and education, unfitted for the pastoral office. I had no capacity for conducting the details of church finances, church discipline and pastoral visiting. I knew not how to engage and direct the members of the church in Christian work; I was fitted for a laborer, not an overseer. To be a pastor, where I was raised, meant little more than to visit the church once a month, preach on Saturday and Sunday and administer the ordinances when occasion required. With this idea of a pastor’s duty I accepted my first pastorate. I soon found out my mistake, but lacked the qualifications necessary to correct it in practice, and, while my preaching seemed to give satisfaction, I regarded my pastorate a failure. Indeed I was practically a missionary in a broad field of which Cloverport was the center, rather than pastor of the church in that village.
I preached my first Sunday sermon as pastor of Cloverport Church on the first day of November. On the next Sunday I went across the River into Perry County, Indiana to a pastorless church called Gilead and commenced a protracted meeting. In a few days the weather turned very cold—the coldest weather we had that winter—and a deep snow fell. Ilodged with old Bro. White who lived in a very small log cabin near the meeting house. The meeting continued from the 8th to the 22nd of November during which I preached twice every day except the last when I preached in the morning, and, in the afternoon baptized nineteen converts in the Ohio River. These were the first persons I ever baptized. Francis Roff, who together with threeothers, came from the Methodists, was the first one I immersed. I had gone over to Colverpt and preached on the third Sunday morning, but returned to Gilead at night.
After the meeting at Gilead I spent two days at home. I called Cloverport my home—and went up to the village of Big Spring in Mead Co., Ky., and aided Bro. G. H. Hicks in a meeting of five days. There was little apparent interest and only one conversion and I regarded our effort there a failure. I was greatly discouraged. This was the first protracted meeting I had ever engaged in which there was not a fair degree of success. For a time I was very gloomy and began to doubt whether I had ever been called to the ministry. However my courage revived within a day or two, I preached on the following Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 5 and 6th, at Cloverport, and, on the 10th of the same month, went over to Gilead where I preached 11 days and baptized 7 converts.
I now accepted a call to Gilead Church for one Saturday and Sunday in each month at a salary or $100. This gave the promise of $500 a year. Had this amount been promptly paid I could have lived on it and devoted much of my time to study. But instead of its being promptly paid I received of the church at Cloverport for two and a half years service only $627.60 and from Gilead for two years service $149.75. My past experience had taught me to anticipate this and I was not embarrassed by it. Besides to resist a call to preach the gospel to the destitute around me, and I did little more than supply my charges with Saturday and Sunday preaching on the days of my regular appointments, and frequently missed an appointment when engaged elsewhere in a protracted meeting. If these churches paid me but little over half of what they promised I rendered them a proportionately small part of the service due, and, whatever may have been their religious obligation to supply the destitute around them with the gospel, they had not employed me as a missionary. God sent me to do this work at my own charges, and did not suffer me to want food and rainment.
A few days after I accepted the call to Gilead I went to a little church called Deer Creek some ten miles north of Cloverport in Perry County, Ind. And commenced a meeting on Christmas day. I met Isaac Hicks, a good young preacher who lived in that region. Elder R. M. Snyder who had moved from Kentucky and who afterward went blind and a German preacher, Jacob G. Miller, from Louisville. I think Bro. John Briant, who was my most efficient colaborer in that region was with me a part of the time. Bro. Briant was a native of Pulaski County, Ky. who had come with his parents to Perry Co. Ia in childhood. He grew up a wild, reckless young man. But having been converted he became a very zealous preacher and was quite useful. He aided me very efficiently in many meetings while I lived at Cloverport.
I continued the meeting at Deer Creek eight days and we had a precious time. Nine persons were united with the church, all of whom I baptized in the beautiful clear waters of Deer Creek, on New Years morning 1858. The day was calm, mild and lovely as May. A large crowd assembled at the water and the scene was solemn and impressive. This meeting closed the first calendar year of my ministry. With me it was a busy and eventful one. When I reviewed it I thanked God and took courage. I had during the year engaged in 15 protracted meetings, preached 249 sermons and witnessed 161 professions of religion. I had not had much time for study but had made use of such opportunities as had been afforded. I had collected a small library which I used diligently when at home. But during the whole of my active ministry, save, perhaps one year, I used other peoples books more than my own. I rarely visited a house in which I did not find some books, and it was rare indeed that I found a book that did not contain something that would aide me in preaching. I was a constant reader, as well as a constant preacher, wherever I went. Of course I read the Bible more than all other books.
On the 17th of January, 1858, I borrowed a horse and started to visit my father a distance of about 100 miles. In crossing Rough Creek the first day, it being deep and swift, my horse was beaten down stream and I got wet. It was midwinter and by the time I rode three or four miles to Leitchfield, I was much chilled. But old Major Bozarth at whose inn I put up for the night presently had a great roaring fire and I was soon comfortable again. Next morning I called to make the acquaintance of the now well known D. Dowden D. D. who lived in Leitchfield at that time. At Brownsville I spent a night with Wm Kidd, then quite an able and influential preacher, but who afterwards fell into a sad disrepute and, I believe, moved to Texas. Some supposed him to have been partially deranged. I reached my fathers on the 20th and the same night preached at old Bethel. The meeting at this old church of my fathers, which had been commenced before my arrival continued some two weeks. There was a mighty revival which spread widely over the country. There were 57 professions of conversion, and 47 united with that church.
This was among the happiest meetings to me, I ever labored in. My father, my oldest brother, my oldest sister and myself were members there. Most of the converts were my moreor less familiar associates of the past; and all the old members were very dear to my heart. They have nearly all gone to their reward and I anticipate with exceeding joy the next meeting with them.
The meeting at Bethel closed on the 2nd of February and I started home the same afternoon. I reached Cloverport in time to preach the first Saturday and Sunday. On the 16th of the same month I went to a rude mining village in Hancock Co. Ky. called Bennettsville. The distance was about ten miles, and I went afoot. A small church had been gathered in the little new village and was ministered to by an humble pious young man of the name of James D. Philips. We began a meeting the same night I got there and continued till the last day of the month. I think Bro. David Whittinghill, who had recently begun to preach, was with us a part of the time. There were twelve additions to the church.
In March I went down to visit Bro. J. S. Coleman, whose acquaintance I had formed while I was in college, and preached several days at Hartford and Old Beaver Dam in Ohio Co. After this I preached a few sermons at Brandenberg and then paid a visit to my old mission field in Bays Fork Association. On my return home I began to preach at two school houses in destitute neighborhoods in Indiana and at two destitute points in Kentucky at such times as I could make opportunity. Bro. John Briant was with me in most of these meetings. In June I attended the meeting of the General Association at Georgetown. On my return I went to one of my schoolhouse appointments near Durbin, Ind. After preaching a few days, with the aid of Bro. Briant, I constituted a church of 8 members to which we gave the name of Mt. Pisgah. We continued the meeting till August 4th fifteen days. The Lord greatly blessed our labors and 36 were added to the church.
In the midst of this precious work of grace I was attacked with chills and fever. So reluctant was I to close the meeting that I continued to meet with people day and night till the second chill came on me while I was up preaching. I was taken to the house of a brother Joseph Glenn. The people in the neighborhood were very poor. Bro. Gleen lived in a cabin of one room about 18 feet square in which his whole family, consisting of himself, his wife and nine children, ate, cooked, slept and entertained their visitors, of which they had several to spend the night with them while I was there. Their oldest son, a young man, was an idiot, and their oldest daughter, also grown up, was afflicted with epilepsy. The cooking stove was heated for preparing dinner just as my fever rose to its greatest height. That I lived through this fearful ordeal must be attributed to the grace of God. After a few days I induced Sister Gleen to have her stove moved out of doors. I sent down to Rome for an old Gentlemen by the name of Thompson who was an attorney at law, a Methodist preacher and a Doctor of medicine, and retained him in the last named capacity. After a few days he succeeded in “breaking the chill”, and soon afterwards I was able to get to the house of a Bro. Wm. Briant (brother of the preacher) who had two rooms in his cabin. There I recruited sufficient strength to enable me to return home.
On the 15th of August I started to the meeting of Gasper River Association. I preached five sermons on the way and two at the association. At this meeting I met J. F. South, D. D. an able and eloquent, but erratic preacher who had recently come from the Methodists to the Baptists. I also heard J. M. Bennett, then regarded one of the ablest preachers in Kentucky, but who a few years later fell into disrepute and was excluded from the church at Maysville, Ky.
On the 10th of September, I started to Indianapolis to attend some Baptist aniverssary; but was taken sick on the way and was compelled to return home when I was well enough to travel.
In the latter part of September I attended meeting of Salem Association at Mr. Moriah in Nelson County. I was still too feeble in health to preach; but had much pleasure in forming the acquaintance of those noble men of God, Wm. Vaughan, P.B. Samuels and the venerable Colmore Lovelace. I also heard the strangely gifted orator, T. J. Fisher, whose biography I wrote some years later.
In October I went to the little church at Mt. Pisgah and preached a few days. Eleven were added to its membership. In the latter part of November I went to visit my father, intending to go from there to Memphis to attend the meeting of the Sunday School Convention at which was form the Southern Baptist Sunday School Union. Failing to get conveyance to Memphis, I commenced a protracted meeting at Hopewell, the little church I first joined and by which I had been ordained. I continued the meeting without ministerial aid from the 4th to the 18th of December. Eleven more were added to the church. From here I went to Glasgow and preached four sermons. This closed my labors for the calendar year 1858.
This year had been to me an uncomfortable one. My health had been poor, I had preached 190 sermons and only 117 had been added to the churches under my ministry. However I had devoted some portions of my time to study and had formed the acquaintaince of many of the most prominent ministers in the state from whose preaching, speeches in public meetings and private conversations I obtained much useful information.
I began the year 1859 with a protracted meeting with my own charge at Cloverport. J. M. Billingsly was my assistant and did most of the preaching. He was rather an attractive and brilliant young preacher; but was wanting in spirituality and preached in such a manner as to arouse opposition rather than draw the people to him. The meeting continued two weeks and I baptized only two persons. In February I went down to Hickman and spent two weeks with my college mate and former colaborer, A. B. Miller. We preached at Hickman, Columbus and Trenton, Tenn. After this I spent the spring and summer preaching to my pastoral charges and at various destitute places around them, I had a good meeting in August at Cunningham’s school house in Breckenridge County. The now venerable Wm. Head, and J. B. English who had recently begun to preach were with me. Seven persons were baptized. In September, 1859 I had a debate at Hardinsburg with A. L. Alderson, a Methodist preacher, on the subject of church government.
My second year’s pastorate closed both at Gilead and Colverport in October, 1859. I had become convinced that I was unsuited to the pastoral office, and resolved to give myself to the work of an evangelist. However, as I made my home at Cloverport, I continued to supply the church at that place with preaching six months longer.
In October I went to Western Kentucky where I assisted D. B. Ray, now editor of the American Baptist, at St. Louis, Mo., in a meeting at Hopewell in Ballard County. There were seven additions to the church. Between Hopewell and Columbus and about five miles from the latter was a small log cabin known as Field’s School house. The neighborhood around it was thickly settled with good citizens, but had been destitute of Baptist preaching until Bro. Joseph Daws had filled two or three monthly appointments there recently. I think he had gone to fill his 3rd appointment when I joined him at the little school house. I learned that an old local Methodist preacher had ministered to a small class there about 20 years. But the old man was not in good repute and this seemed to have disgusted the people with religion, especially with Methodism. Perceiving this, I concluded it would be well to convince them that we had no connection or sympathy with that system. Accordingly I held forth the doctrine and practice of the Baptists in contrast with Methodism in every sermon. This produced the desired effect. Within three days the people were wonderfully aroused. On the 31st of October we constituted a church of 32 members to which we gave the name of Cane Run. After the constitution we received and baptized four others. This church had since taken the name of Arlington, and is now a strong and prosperous fraternity under the oversight of that able minster, T. H. Pettit.
After this meeting I returned to Cloverport and, after visiting several of my mission stations, closed my year’s work at Russellville. As during the preceding year I suffered from chills and fevers and had been able to perform scarcely more than half year’s work, though I had labored about up to the measure of my strength. I had preached only 157 sermons during the year, and gathered into the churches only 52 members.
At the beginning of the year 1860, I preached a series of seven sermons at Cloverport, and then commenced a protracted meeting at Rownes’s Sschool House in PerryCo., Ind.; this was a very destitute neighborhood near Flint Island. Bro. Briant was with me in the meeting. On the 26th of February we constituted a church of seven members to which seven were added by experience and baptism. From this church, to which we gave the name of Beech Grove, we crossed the Ohio River, and spent nine days at Hites Run an old church in Breckinridge county, Ky. which has become almost extinct. We succeeded in reorganizing it; Bro. Bryant was called to its pastoral care and soon afterwards located within its bounds. From Hites Run we went to Dorretts Creek another old church in the same county and in the same condition where we also spent nine days with only two additions. It was in this church that the gifted but unfortunate David W. B. Tabor had his membership. After preaching with great popularity and remarkable success for about twenty years he became a monomaniac on the subject of a common proprietorship of all property which led to his spending two terms indifferent state prisons for horse stealing.
After the meeting at Dorrett’s Creek I went to West Tennessee where I held meetings at Paris, Jackson, Bolivar, Troy and Lexington. At the last named place I made my home with the now distinguished evangelist W. E. Penn who took me from Jackson to Lexington in his buggy. He was at that time a young lawyer. From West Tennessee I went to Columbus, Ky. where I preached several days, and then went with that pious old minister, Henry Porter, over into Missouri and preached three times at a place called Pinhook. After this I went to the northern part of Illinois to attend the Illinois River Association and visit some relatives I had living near Minonk. From this extensive tour I returned to Cloverport about the first of July, 1860. About this time a little circumstance occurred which led to a change in my field of labor and had an important bearing on my subsequent life. During the preceding summer Miss Alice Everhart, daughter of Capt. G. W. Everhart of Jefferson County, Ky. visited her friend, Miss Mary Lightfoot, at Cloverport. While remaining there several weeks she attended my preaching appointments. I also formed her acquaintance, met her several time in the social circle and had frequent religious talks with her, she being unconverted. Just before I returned from Illinois, in writing to her friend, Miss Lightfoot, she stated that Mr. Powers expected to hold a protracted meeting in her father’s neighborhood in July, and expressed a wish that I could be there to assist him. Miss Lightfood mentioned this fact to me, and as I had some inclination to visit Miss Everhart at her home, I resolved to go to the aid of Bro. Powers of whom I had never heard before. I went on a boat which carried me some three miles above Capt. Everhart’s landing, at which I had directed the Clerk to have me landed, and put me off about 11 o’clock at night. I tried to get shelter at a house near where the boat put me ashore, but could not obtain admittance. I then walked about three miles, with a carpet-bag, the only baggage I carried with me, in my hand, when I came to a house answering to a description I had gotten of Capt. Everhart’s residence and again applied for shelter about midnight. I suppose I presented to the hospitable Captain the appearance of what would now be called “a regular tramp” and he hesitated about admitting me into his house. However, after catechizing me for some time, he invited me in.
Next morning, which was Saturday July 22, 1860, I met Bro. W. E. Power’s at the place of his appointment. He invited me to preach in a manner which gave me the impression that he did not wish me to accept the invitation: so I declined. However I preached that night and was immediately admitted to Christian fellowship and confidence. Bro. Powers had been ordained to the ministry the preceding November, had subsequently been appointed missionary within the bounds of Long Run Association, and was not on his third visit to this part of this field. We held our meeting in a small house owned by the Campbellites and located on Salt River turnpike 12 miles S.W. from Louisville, and at the houses of the people in the neighborhood. There were a few Baptists living in the vicinity, and on the 26th of July we constituted a church of 11 members to which we gave the name of Beechland. We continued the meeting till the 2nd of August and 14 were received by experience and baptism. Among those baptized was my young lady friend, Miss Alice Everhart.
The day after our meeting closed I went down to Flint Island to see after the little church Bro. Briant and I had gathered there in January. Here I preached ten days, and 14 were received into the church by experience and baptism. From here I went to Bullitt County where I met Bro. Powers, and we commenced a meeting on Knob Creek on the 18th of August. On the 21st of the same month we constituted a church of 8 members to which we gave the name of Knob Creek. We continued the meeting till the 24th and 10 were added to the church by experience and baptism. From here I went to the church we had constituted at Beechland, preached three sermons and re’d three members.
From Beechland I returned to Cloverport where I had an attack of chills and fever which confined me at home about two weeks. As soon as I was able to travel I went down to see my father where I remained about three weeks, recuperating, preaching, meanwhile, 11 sermons at the neighboring meeting houses and school houses. Thence I went to Bardstown for the purpose of attending Nelson Association which was to meet six miles from that town, at Coxes Creek. From Bardstown I walked to the place of meeting. I had just procured a new suit of clothes and was unusually well dressed for me. As I walked by a country story where a crowd was lounging one remarked to the others: “There goes a horse thief or a broken gambler: you had all better lock your stables tonight.” At this association I occupied the pulpiton Sabbath morning in the presence of a more intelligent audience than I had hitherto preached before, and was much encourage by the hearty endorsement of my sermon by the Venerable Dr. Wm. Vaughan.
From Coxes Creek I went with Elder J. B. English in his buggy to the meeting of Goshan Association at Goshan Church in Breckenridge County. Here I learned of a destitute region in the great bend of the Ohio River in Mead County. To this region I went and preached about a week at two points. Known as Willets School house and Wolf Creek. From here I went to Nelson County and, on the 28th of October, 1860, commenced a meeting at old Mt. Moriah Church with that eminently wise and successful preacher and pastor, P. B. Samuels. The meeting continued a week and six persons were baptized.
From this meeting I went with Bro. Samuels to Coxes Creek Church, of which he was pastor. Here we labored 16 days, and 21 persons were baptized. This was one of a few wealthy, liberal churches in central Kentucky from which I obtained my chief financial support during a period of nearly twenty years. Bro. Samuels felt that we had not finished our work at Mt. Moriah. Accordingly we went back to that church, from Coxes Creek, and preached five days. Four more were baptized.
About the 1st day of December, 1860, I accepted an appointment to labor as missionary within the bounds of Nelson Association for a term of six months at a salary of $50 per month. I began my work at Lebanon. A. B. Miller who was then pastor at Bardstown was with me. We preached there ten days to great congregations. But there were no additions to the church while we remained. From here I went to Bullit’s Lick, a destitute neighborhood in Bullitt County, preached four sermons and received two by experience and baptism. From here I went to Beechland, preached two sermons and then went to Cloverport where I closed my labor for the year, 1860.
This had been with me a year of ceaseless activity. I traveled by steamboat 1452 miles; by railroad 1569 miles; by stage, wagon and buggy, 370; on horseback 344; and, on foot, 61—making a total distance of 3796 miles. I preached 263 sermons and received into the churches 104 members. My receipts were a few dollars more than my expenses, the latter being about $214.55. With this result I was well satisfied. After I resigned the pastoral office I was dependent on the people I preached among for pecuniary support. To a preacher who is fond of getting money this always involved strong temptations at two points.
In the first place he is tempted to preached such things, and in such manner, as will most please those who have money, and to omit teaching such things as would be likely to offend that class. In the second place; when he had choice of two or more points at which to labor, he is tempted to select the one at which he thinks he is likely to receive the most money. I perceived those temptations and resolved to use my utmost endeavor to strengthen myself to meet them before they came upon me. I determined, therefore, to preach, under all circumstances, just what I myself believed the word of God taught without regard to the opinions of any, or all, others. In doing this, however, I would not be hasty, and would not advance any doctrine, especially if it be a controverted one, until I had satisfied myself of its truth. On the other hand, I allowed myself to withhold no doctrine of the truth of which I was convinced, no matter how unpopular it might be with my audience. By this means I soon acquired the habit of preaching just what I believed the Bible taught, without thinking, or in anyway concerning myself, as to whether it would please or displease my audience. However narrow may have been my range of though, my convinctions were always clear (to my own mind) and intense. Whatever I believed at all I believed with my whole heart and soul; and what I did not so believe I could not preach, how ever firmly or extensively believed by the great minds of the age. Hence, in accordance with the example of my Master, I “taught as one having authority”. I preached as if what I taught would admit of no contradiction or rational doubt. With these habits and principles fixt I had little or no temptation to compromise truth under any inducement that was ever presented.
With equal earnestness I endeavored to avoid the temptation to make merchandise of the Gospel, or to impair my influence by seeming to do so. To this end I resolved never to be in want of money if it were possible for me to avoid it, without neglecting my work in the Gospel. As I have already said I expected to received but little money for preaching, and none from any other source. I resolved, therefore, to make very little do me. In the calling I had joyfully accepted from God, I could not make much money but by habits of economy and self-denial I could save a portion of the little I received. By this means, as I have said before, I never wanted for money, and, therefore had much less desire to acquire it then I had to preach the gospel with strict integrity and where I supposed it would accomplish the most good. That I might avoid any temptation to be influenced by financial consideration, I laid down the rule to accept invitations to hold meetings in the order that I received such invitations irrespective of whether they were to be held in schoolhouses among the poor and destitute or in large, rich churches. I do not now remember if I ever violated this rule in a single instance.
Except during a few brief periods in which I labored in the pastoral office and under the direction of missionary boards, I never made any charge for my labors or even intimated that I needed or desired any compensation for exercising my ministry. I did not, however, attempt to conceal the fact that I was dependent on the people I preached among for a support; nor did I hesitate to preach to the churches, and all good citizens, the duty of supporting the ministry; but I did not intimate either publicly or privately that I wished it so done to me. Sometimes when I suspected that church members were absenting themselves from meeting, as occasionally occurred, to avoid being called on for money, I would announce from the pulpit that I would make no demand for any contribution and thereby put the people at east on that subject. When I accept a call to the pastoral office or agreed to labor under the direction of a missionary board I demanded a specified salary, and tried to induce the people I served to pay it. Always I strove by ever laudable means in my power to keep perpetualy in the work, and under such circumstances as would secure the best results.
I have already mentioned the circumstances that led to a change of my field of labor. Having ben led to an acquaintance with some of the pastors and churches around Louisville, I was offered, and accepted, the position of missionary in the territory of Nelson Association for a term of six months, at a salary of $50 a month. I entered upon this work a little before the beginning of the year 1861. Therewas supposed to be no room in my field for a new church. My principal labor, therefore, was to be directed to the building up of the churches already in existence.
My first meeting in the year 1861 was commenced on the 12th of January at Shepherdsville the county seat of Bullitt. The church was small and weak, had been some time without a pastor and its house of worship was much out of repair. Bro. J. B. English, if I remember correctly, had just accepted the call to the care of the church. He had recently been ordained to the ministry and was a very moderate preacher, but proved to be a successful pastor. We continued the meeting 15 days; the interest was very great, and we had 18 additions by experience and baptism.
The same day we closed the meeting at Shepherdsville, I went to Mt. Washington in the same county wither I had sent an appointment for that night. The distance was ten miles over a road always bad, but now from the great depth of the mud, barely passable. That good man, Samuel McKay, M. D. sent me to Mt. Washington on horse back. When I got there a littler before preaching time, I found that my appointment had not been given out. At first I supposed that this was a mere oversight. But I was soon led to the conclusion that the church, which had for sometime been without a pastor, and was not in a cold uncomfortable condition, had deliberately withheld my appointment and virtually closed the meeting house door against me. I knew no one in the village or surrounding country. I was without any means of conveyance, without any friend near me and perhaps, little or no money with me. I finally found old Bro. Wm. S. Thurman, who seemed to be a pillar in the church, and who gave me hospitable entertainment for the night, but was opposed to my attempting to hold a meeting. I passed a gloomy night, indeed.
Next morning after breakfast no one offering to forward me on my way, I stuffed the bottom of my pantaloons in the tops of my coarse boots, threw my overcoat across my shoulder, took my carpet bag in my hand and walked 12 miles, to Bro. Abner Kings, near Coxes Creek Church. Here I met with a cordial welcome and warm Christian sympathy from that noble brother and his family. Bro. King was a member of the board that employed me. The next morning after I got to his house, he furnished me with a horse and saddle, went with me to Coxes Creek, where I preached, and, after consulting with some of the brethren, advised me to go to old Cedar Creek, five miles west of Bardstown. This was the second church organized on the soil of Kentucky, and was constituted July 4, 1781. It had long been a famous fraternity under the care of Joshua Morris and, afterwards, of Isaac Taylor. But other churches had grown up around it, and it was now weak and pastorless.
When I reached Cedar Creek on the 3rd of February I found a very small congregation assembled and looking icy cold. But the congregation rapidly increased from day to day. I had no help except that Bro. A. B. Miller came out from Bardstown and preached a few times. By the close of the first week our large house was crowded. Bro. Wm. L. Morris came over from Rolling Fork and preached on Sunday night and again on Monday night. The meeting had not continued nine days. There had been no special move among the people. Bro. Morris advised that the meeting close. I held a different opinion. Bro. Miller was present and I said to him, “Bro. Miller, you go down out of the pulpit and exhort with all your might, while Bro. Morris and I consult about this matter.” Under his fervid exhortation the congregation broke down, and a number came forward for prayer. The meeting was continued six days longer and there were 39 additions to the church. I Baptized on Sunday, after preaching, in an icy mill race. I had sent an appointment to Mill Creek for that night. As it would be late before I could reach that point, Bro. Miller had agreed to fill the appointment while I should preach for him at Bardstown. When I reached Bardstown about preaching time, much wearied and thoroughly chilled, I found that Bro. Miller had failed to go to Mill Creek. It taxed my courage to start immediately to ride six miles farther over a strange road on a cold dark night. But I did it, and found at a late house some 20 or 25 persons assembled in a little old dilapidated log meetinghouse. I preached to them the best I could, but it was a rather poor effort. By next morning, I had gotten warm, was somewhat rested and was again ready for work.
Mill Creek was an old church, having been constituted in Dec. 1793. Under the care of Wm. Taylor, Jno. Penny and Joshua Morris it had been very prosperous. But in 1834, Samuel Carpenter had led off many, perhaps a majority, of its members to the Campbellites. It was now small and weak. I began the meeting there on the 17th of February and continued it till the 1st of March. Bro. A. B. Miller was with me part of the time, and the now venerable J. T. Hedger, who supplied the church with monthly preaching was present on two or three occasions. He and Bro. Miller differed on some points of doctrine in their preaching which caused some disputing and confusion. But a more adverse circumstance was the visit of Bro. R. J. Slaughter who had recently established himself in a school at Bardstown. He was a good teacher and a poor preacher. He wanted some churches to preach to on Saturdays and Sundays while teaching, and both the pastor and people had the impression that he was endeavoring to supplant Bro. Hedger at Mill Creek. Through what was then deemed an indispensable act of courtesy, I invited him to preach, perhaps on Friday night, and did not purpose that he should preach again during the meeting. But seeming desirous to keep himself before the church, he did not wait to be asked. Next morning when I got up to go into the pulpit he darted by me, tripped up the pulpit steps, seized the Bible and proceeded to preach. But despite all the embarrassments the Lord was with me, and we had a good meeting. Nine persons joined the church, eight of whom I baptized.
Next day after the meeting closed at Mill Creek, I returned to Cedar Creek and preached two sermons. Thence I went to Cloverport, 150 miles and married a couple, for which service the happy groom gave me $2. Afterwards the bride supplemented the amount with a five-dollar gold piece. On my return I entered into a meeting at Bardstown on the 10th of March. This meeting continued till the 22nd with only 2 additions to the church. From Bardstown I rode down to Beechland, 50 miles, and on the 24th of March, entered into a meeting there with the pastor, W. E. Powers. We had a pleasant meeting of eight days continuance, with 5 additions to the church.
At the close of the meeting at Beechland I gave attention to another matter which I had seriously been considering for several months. I was not [now] in the 35 year of my age, had been actively engaged in preaching more than four years, and had come to the conclusion that I was sufficiently established in my calling to justify me in marriage. Accordingly I went to see Miss Alice Everhart, laid my purposes and plans before her and asked her to participate with me in my life work. She agreed to consider the matter, and I immediately mounted my borrowed horse and returned to my mission field. The next day I preached at Sheppards schoolhouse in Bullitt Count and spent a week visiting from house to house in the destitute neighborhood around it.
On the 14th I commenced a meeting at a School house commonly called Log College five miles East of Shepperdsville on the road to Mt. Washington. My health had been poor for some weeks, and I kept growing more uncomfortable daily, but continued to labor in the meeting. On the morning of the 20th I started to ride to the post office at Shepherdsville and back before preaching, as I was expecting a letter from Miss Everhart. The morning was exceedingly lovely. The peach trees were in full bloom and there was a very heavy white frost. I took a chill soon after I started which very gradually grew more severe until I got back to the place of meeting. I got up and tried to preach with the chill on me, as I had done at Cummins’ School house in Perry County, Ind. nearly three years before; but, as on that occasion, was forced to desist after speaking some 20 minutes. This grieved me much; for during the week I had been there, 8 had been approved for baptism and we had a bright prospect before us. I went to the house of an Old Sister Stallings near by, and after a night of much suffering, succeeded in reaching the residence of Dr. Samuel McKay, near Shepherdville next morning, where I went to bed with Typhoid fever. By the wasting disease I was confined about a month. After I got up I spent some weeks in visiting my father and other friends till I recuperated sufficient strength to enter again into regular work. I could not refrain from preaching wherever I went and so recovered my strength slowly. I preached a few days at Portland Avenue church in Louisville and a few days at Beechland. The people were much excited about the threatening of civil war and there were but few conversions in these meetings.
I had completed my arrangements to marry and on the 15th of September was agreed upon as the time for consummating this transaction. On the 6th of that month I went to the meeting of Long Run Association at old Long Run church in Jefferson County. Dr. S. H. Ford then of Louisville, had been appointed to preach the annual sermon before the body, but he declined and the task was laid on me. I took occasion in my sermon to urge upon the large number of ministers present a more thorough and self-sacrificing consecration to the work of the Gospel. I think I use the expression: “We should be concerned about drawing tears rather than salaries.” There was more war-excitement than spirituality among the brethren, and some of them were offended at my preaching. But that did not prevent my preaching that night at a school house. At this meeting I met for the first time those faithful servants of Christ, T. M. Vaughan and E. G. Berry. The latter preached on Saturday. A. B. Miller and I preached on Sunday to an audience estimated at 5000 souls.
On the following Thursday I met with Sulphur Fork Association at Hillsboro in Henry County. I was put up to preach at the stand the same day, but the rain drove us in the house before I was half through my discourse. That night I heard for the only time, the illiterate but gifted Lewis Alexander, Owen Co. The faithful Wm. B. Smith preached the introductory sermon. T. C. McKee who afterwards proved himself an impostor delivered a brilliant sermon in the house and was followed by the pious A. E. Shirley. That night I stayed at the house of the now aged Wm. Coombs, who entertained me during many subsequent meetings at Hillsboro. To prevent exciting discussion of the war, which had already commenced, old Bro. E. G. Berry induced several aged persons, who, were present, to relate their Christian experiences.
On Wednesday I was compelled to leave in order to meet Capt. Everhart at the clerk’s office in Louisville for the purpose of securing my marriage license on Thursday. The Captain was a steamboat man and thought it unlucky to transact important business on Friday. On Saturday I went to Knob Creek in Bullitt County and preached to the little church I had aided in constituting the year before. That night I stayed at old Mr. Wm. Kennedy’s near Beechland church. Next morning I rose early, rode three miles to Capt. Everhart’s and was married to Mis Alice Lavelia Everhart, by Rev. W. E. Powers, before breakfast. This was on Sunday, September 15th, 1861. When we arose from the breakfast table I walked with my bride into the parlor, and, without sitting down, said to her; “Now, my darling, you are all of this world to me; but my duty to the cause of Christ is all of the next world.” I then printed my first kiss on her lips, bade her adieu and hurried away to my appointment.
I preached at Knob Creek at 11 o’clock a.m., and then went to Little Flock in the same county, where I had made an appointment to commence a protracted meeting at this time before the day for my marriage had been fixt. I went with Bro. Powers in his buggy. The road was rough, and slippery from recent rains, we traveled slowly and I had to walk up the hills. But we reached the meeting house in time for me to preach that night. I had pretty fair powers of endurance, but I was a little wearied that night; for I had ridden and walked 30 miles, married, and preached two sermons. The meeting at Little Flock continued one week. J. A. Ireland, M.D. was pastor of the church and labored with me. We had little apparent success. On the 21st I met my bride at Beechland, and after preaching, went home with her.
On the 2nd of October I started to Hardin’s Creek in Washington County to attend the meeting of Nelson Association. After this meeting, I filled the pulpit of East Church in Louisville the two Sundays following. I now moved my books from Cloverport to Captain Everhart’s and devoted the little time I could spare from my work to studying the Bible in connection with Henry’s commentary and such other helps as I could command. But I could find by little time in which to study; for I could not remain at home when there was a demand for my services in preaching.
On the 3rd of November I commenced, with Bro. Powers, a meeting at Long Run Church in Jefferson County. This was an old fraternity, having been constituted in 1797. Dr. Ford’s flight to the southern army had left it pastorless and Bro. W. E. Power’s, one of its members was supplying its pulpit monthly. My wife was with me; for the first opportunity afforded us to make our wedding tour; and a most happy one it was to both of us; for we had a precious season of revival from first to last.
The meeting continued 17 days, I preached 33 sermons to great crowds of deeply interested people and there were 20 additions to the church.
After this meeting I went to Louisville and supplied the pulpit of East Church during the winter. I had been invited there with the view of ascertaining my suitableness for the pastoral office in that fraternity, and as I had been recently married and wished for a better opportunity to study than I had hitherto enjoyed, I felt some inclination to go into the pastoral office for a time. But I soon found that the church was not harmonious, and the different parties seemed to by trying to overreach each other by artful management. This disgusted me very much; for I had always been accustomed to the open direct proceedings of country churches, and could not tolerate the appearance of insincerity in religious affairs: so, with more warmth an candor than meekness and wisdom I publicly rebuked the church for their political trickry and declined to consider any proposal to become their pastor. However, I continued to supply them with preaching till Spring, when they secured the services of Bro. R. M. Dudly. While in Louisville I closed my labors for the year 1861, in a few days’ meeting with Portland Avenue Church.
This had been another busy year with me. Except while confined with typhoid fever I had enjoyed few days of rest. I had traveled by railroad 853 miles; by steamboat, 861; on horseback 1058; in buggies and wagons, 327, and on foot, 52, making a total distance of 3151 miles. I had preached 204 sermons and witnessed 102 additions to the churches. The year 1861 closed with a deep gloom over all the land. The great Civil War was already raging fiercely. The people in Kentucky were nearly equally divided on the question of the house. Fierce contentions prevailed in every neighborhood. Hot disputing were heard wherever two or three men were together. Families were divided, and many hearthstones where peace and happiness and hitherto prevailed were now embittered by made passions and bitter strife. Fathers were divided against songs and brothers against brothers in the deadly conflict of opposing armies. Many preachers were carried away by the wild storm of excitement and some after rendering themselves obnoxious to the military authorities, fled to the armies for protection. Others assumed the position of recruiting officers and wildly exhorted the young men to enlist in the armies. There was, in the nature of things, division of sentiment and sympathy in all the churches, and some of them, though much fewer than might have been expected, were actually split into factions, while many of them were left pastorless. Soldiers, “home guards” and guerrillas were scattered everywhere. Bad men, taking advantage of the disorganized state of society, became active thieves and robbers. The masses of the people were in such constant fear of losing their lives or their property that it was difficult to get their attention to the gospel.
Early in the contest, and before actual hostilities began, I took the subject of my individual duty into consideration, and came to the fixt conclusion that I could do no more to advance the cause of Christ by taking no part in the great national conflict, either in word or deed, than by any other course I could pursue. And this position I endeavored to maintain during the war. I suffered some bitter reproaches from brethren of both parties. But these I bore as patiently as I could, and devoted my time and energies to preaching the gospel wherever I could obtain an audience. I preached indiscriminately to federal and confederate soldiers and guerrillas, and had the happiness of seeing some Christians revived, the spirit of peace promoted and some sinners converted even during the darkest hours of the war.
As before stated I spent the winter of 1861-2 in Louisville supplying the pulpit of East Church, and preaching as opportunity was afforded to the churches around the city. On the 22nd of February, 1862, I went out to Jeffersontown to commence a meeting. The little church there had become scattered and seemed threatened with extinction. Bro. W. E. Powers had recently taken cha4rge of it and was making an effort to collect its dispersed membership. Our first meeting was at night. When I commenced preaching I had an audience of six persons. Two of these—young men—got up and walked out after a few minutes afterward, leaving me a congregation of only four. But we continued the services the usual length of time with as much earnestness as if we had had a crowded house. Next morning we had a few more. The meeting was continued 11 days. The audience continued to increase from day to day till the house was filled. The little church was much revived and encourage and has continued to enjoy a good degree of prosperity to the present time.
Soon after this meeting the venerable and eloquent John Bryce, who had recently resigned the pastorate of the church in Henderson, Ky. on account of advanced age, wrote me privately to come down to that city and preach a few sermons. The church not knowing this wrote to Bro. E. D. Isbell to visit them. I had preachced two or three times before Bro. Isbell arrived neither of us knowing that the other had been invited until we reached there. As soon as he came I yielded the pulpit to him and listened to two or three good sermons from him. He seemed to by annoyed at my presence. One day at Bro. Bryce’s house, after speaking of how much his reputation, or atleast, his popularity had been advanced by his attending the Western Baptist Theological Institute at Covington, Ky. he spoke with open contempt of some opinion I advanced, saying he would not talk with a man who held such views. I was so surprised at this sudden and unexpected outburst that, before I had taken time to think, I spoke unadvisedly with my lips, saying I could not see why a man who had been a few weeks to a theological school should suppose that he knew everything and that no one else knew anything. This was the only time in my life that I can now remember, that I ever spoke an angry word to a brother minister, and I am still much ashamed of the childish weakness I displayed on that occasion.
After my return from Henderson in May, I labored a week at my house church (Beechland) in connection with Bro. A. E. Shirley. In the same month I went to Little Flock, the same church at which I had begun a meeting on the day of my marriage, and held a meeting at 16 days continuance. I think that eminently useful minister, Smith Thomas was with me most of the time. We had a good meeting and six additions to the church. The following Sunday, June 22, I commenced a week’s meeting at Portland Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville. From there I went to Utica Ind. and preached several days. But the war cloud hung darkly over the land, and little visible good was accomplished in these meetings.
From Utica I went home and after spending two weeks with my wife and my books I went to New Salem Church in Nelson County and commenced a meeting with that prince of pastors, P. B. Samuels, on the 27 of July. We held what was called a “basket meeting” i.e. the members of the church and their neighbors took provisions in baskets to the meeting house sufficient to furnish dinner for all who attended the meeting. We held services from 10 o’clock a.m. till 12, then took an hour’s recess for dinner and then held services again in the afternoon. After a day or two the people seemed to forget that the war was in progress, and religion became the absorbing topic of conversation. The meeting continued 17 days and there were 77 additions to the church. The last day of the meeting we assembled in a grove on the bank of Wilson’s Creek some four miles from the meetinghouse. After preaching old Mr. John Stoner a prominent farmer was approved for baptism. Then came the baptizing. It was a solemn and impressive scene. The pool of water wasclear and placid with a smooth gravel bottom. The day was warm and bright. A great crowd of people stood on both banks of the creek. I stood on a large flat stone at the edge of the water, and as Bro. Samuels would prepare to bury a convert in baptism, I would quote a passage of Scripture on the subject. This I was in the habit of doing on such occasions.
When about half of the candidates had been immersed I felt some one tap me on the shoulder as with a lady’s fan. Looking around, I met the face of old Sister Malinda Overall, a pious Methodist, well known to all the brethren, with tears streaming down her cheeks. She sobbed out, “I can’t stand it any longer: I must be baptized now.” I repeated her words to Bro. Samuels. He said: “What shall we do?” I replied: “The church is here: ask them what we shall do.” Without moving from his position he called the church to order, put the question of her reception to a vote, she was cordially received and within another minute or so, she was buried with Christ in baptism. She immediately got in her carriage and was driven four miles to her home in her wet clothing. I saw her afterwards, but never learned that she suffered any injury from obeying her Lord.
When this extraordinary meeting closed, there were still so many people in the neighborhood seemingly interested about their souls that the pastor exacted a promise that I would return the 13th of September and preach a few days hoping to gather up the fragments that nothing be lost. This was a mistake that is too often made. We should have continued the meeting while the people were interested. That was the Lord’s time. When our time came Satan had stolen the word out of the people’s hearts and we could not reach them.
On the 22nd of August I went to Mt. Eden in Shelby County were I preached 11 days in Mt. Moriah meeting house. Bro. T. M. Gray was pastor and was with me. Most of the people in this neighborhood sympathized with the Federal party, and I believed several members who sympathized with the Southern Confederacy had been excluded, from the church, on account of their political views. The war excitement was very high. Someof the most prominent old membersof the church sat in the congregation and read the daily papers in time of worship. For this indecorum I rebuked them before all. This caused me to be suspected of sympathizing with the rebellion and I was threatened by a mob and a halter. The meeting resulted in only one addition to the church.
From Mt. Eden I returned home to meet my appointment at New Salem. But about the same time John Morgan came in with his ubiquitous cavalry and destroyed the railway bridge across Salt River, and was scouring the country in search of horses. I had no horse. Mr. Phil Kennedy offered to lend me to ride to New Salem. But I was afraid to ride it, lest John Morgan should take it from me. There was no means left me but to walk. I never allowed any surmountable obstacle to keep me from an appointment; so I set off on foot. The distance was 32 miles. When I reached Shepherdsville I found it in possession of soldiers. I wheedled and bribed a sentinel to let me pass within the lines. But I found it more difficult to get out. I was detained under guard some 18 hours and then allowed to take the oath of fealty to the U. S. Government and pass through the lines. I reached the neighborhood of New Salem in time to meet my appointment. But the people had become too much disturbed by Morgan’s raid, for me to get their attention: So after preaching three sermons and witnessing one addition to the church, I set out to return home. This time I went round Shepherdsville. A brother conducted me on horseback some 25 miles, and I walked the remainder of the distance, about 12 miles.
On this walk I passed a cabin near the road when a large dog made a furious rush at me. A woman sitting in the yard saw my dilema, but gave no attention to the dog till I ran by hand into my pocket as if to take out a pistol, when she called him back with great eagerness. At another point I was attacked with vertigo and fell to the ground. But Ireceived no serious injury and was soon up and walking on again. I reached home the same evening.
About this time I received a call to the church at Henderson, Ky. I accepted the call and entered on my pastoral work there about the 10th of October 1862. Here I finished my labors for that year. It had been a year of perplexity, anxiety and disappointment. But amid the deep and thickening gloom there had been some bright spots, and I had, through grace, accomplished a little in the cause of my beloved Master. I had traveled during the year, by railway 324 miles; by steamboat 730; in buggy, wagon, and stage 413; on horseback 115 and on foot, 129, making 1,711 miles. I had preached 173 sermons and witnessed the reception of 86 persons into the church.
My pastoral labors at Henderson were unfruitful. The war raged fiercely during the whole time I remained there. The people were divided in sentiment in the church as well as out of it. Some of our members were in the Federal Army and some were in the ranks of the Confederates. Among the former was Geo. F. Pentecost, then a young Baptist preacher, holding the rank of Chaplin, but now known as Dr. Pentecost of the Congregational church in New England. His brother, Hugh O. Pentecost, who had made himself somewhat notorious in New York, having run on the down grade from a regular Baptist preacher to an open-communionist, thence to the pastorate of the Peoples Church and finally, I believe to the rostrum as an Infidel lecturer, was in my Bible class in Sunday school. But what was more to my credit, I taught, in the same class, Wm. Harris, D. D. of Baltimore and, if I correctly remember, Prof. J. Shannon Blackwell of the State university of Missouri.
At this time the issue of the war seemed doubtful, and the people of both parties were constantly agitated with alternate fears and hopes. The presence of soldiers irritated the people, and party spirit rendered every attempt to exercise discipline in the church futile. I had the warm friendship and wise counsel of the ex-pastor, the venerable John Boyce, and the zealous support of Judge Lockett, now Rev. P. H. Lockett of Trenton, Ky. So far as I knew I enjoyed the confidence and affection of the whole church. But my unfitness for the pastoral office and the untoward surroundings prevented any considerable success. I baptized 8 colored persons during the 14 months that I remained there. The great confusion of the people consequent on the war prevented my going out into the country as I had done while at Cloverport. I preached a few sermons around the city and held two or three protracted meetings at different points.
Notwithstanding my want of success in the ministry and my consequent discomfort, the year 1863 was one of the most important of my life. I had enjoyed little opportunity for systematic study since leaving college. But now, confined at home, by necessity, I devoted myself assiduously to my books and my pen. My wife and I went through the Old Testament with the comprehensive Commentary and then studied the New Testament together in the Greek language. I also studied a Latin version of the New Testament. I devoted a portion of each day to the practice of composition, writing poems (so-called) and other articles on literary subjects for our city paper, and exegetical and homiletical articles for the religious press. I also wrote and published a small pamphlet on the Action of Baptism. These publications were of little or no value to the public, but the writing of them served me an important end in giving me practice in composition.
In February I took a brief rest from study and went up to Mt. Washington where I engaged in a protracted meeting. This was the church that had closed its door against me two years before. But now being introduced by Bro. W. E. Powers who had recently assumed the pastoral office there, I met with a cordial welcome. The meeting continued from the 14th to the 24th of February and there were 9 additions to the little church. I returned to my studies and pastoral labors refreshed and encouraged.
In September my wife and Iwent up to Jefferson County to attend a meeting at Beechland. We had both gotten the impression that if her father passed through that meeting without being converted, he would probably never be converted at all. He had been a steamboatman from his youth, and was a profane swearer and a skeptic. With the hope of leading him to Christ, I had studied his character and habit of thought as minutely as I could. The meeting had been in progress several days when we reached Beechland. Capt. Everhart was attending with his family, and entertaining the preachers with cheerful politeness. I knew he was a man of great candor and honesty, and that, if I could present an argument in favor of the divinity of Christ that he could not refute, he would accept it. I preached three nights in succession from Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the Messiah. I was greatly interested. My wife was wrestling with God in prayer. I think the Lord helped me. The captain conceived the idea that I was preaching especially for his benefit, and, therefore, gave the more earnest heed. The Lord opened his heart, and he was overwhelmed with conviction of sin. About 12 o’clock of the night on which I had preached the third sermon he sent for me to come to his bed room. I found him shrieking in the most fearful agony of remorse. After calming him as well as I could I sat down by him and presented the plan of salvation as clearly as I could. When I had finished he said: “I have understood that from your preaching, but I cannot feel it.” We then knelt down and besought the Lord to enable him to believe. Next morning we found him rejoicing in the love of God, and when we met together at the sanctuary he united with the children of the King. It was a day of great rejoicing not only with his family but also with the whole church. Bro. W. W. Fores was with us a part of the time. The meeting continued 10 days, and 10 were added to the church.
About the first of October I started to see my father in Allen County. When I got to Louisville the military authorities had possession of the railway, and were employing its full capacity in transporting soldiers and army supplies South. So I turned aside and entered into a meeting at Hillsboro in Henry County. W. W. Foree was pastor. The meeting was one of extraordinary interest. I preached 31 sermons in 16 days. The house was packed with a deeply interested audience from day to day. There were only 15 additions to the church at that time; but there were more than 30 added the next year, nearly all of whom dated their conviction back to this meeting. From that time Hillsboro Church becameone of the strong supporters inmy subsequent missionary labors.
Immediately after the meeting at Hillsboro, the Railroad having been reopened to general travel, I paid a hasty visit to my father, and then returned to my pastoral labors, stopping to preach five sermons at Cloverport on the way.
The year for which I agreed to serve the church at Henderson had now expired. I was unanimously called for another year. But I had become more thoroughly convinced than ever before that I was not adapted to the pastoral office, I therefore declined the call, but agreed to supply the pulpit till the last of December. Accordingly I finished my labors for the year 1863 at Henderson. I had traveled during that year, by railway 264 miles; by steamboat 1660; in buggy, wagon and stage 305, and on horseback, 74, making a total 2,243 miles. I had purchased 198 sermons and witnessed 34 additions to the churches besides the 8 colored people I baptized at Henderson.
During this year I consummated one purpose I had formed in the beginning of my ministry. Some of the preachers with whom I was most familiar in my youth repeated a few sermons in the same neighborhood, and even in the same pulpit, so frequently that it became a matter of ridicule. One man asserted that he heard W. F. Spillman, the pious young man who baptized me and was several years my pastor, preach from the same text forty three times within a few months. I listened to old Bro. Jesse Bewley frequently during several years, and I never heard him preach from but two texts.
Old Father Scrivner related the following incident:
"I had an appointment," said he, "not far from Bro. Bewley's. I reached the place early. Two youths who did not know me were loitering about the meeting house yard. After a while one of them said to the other: 'Tom, I can preach daddy Bewley's sermon.' 'Well let's hear it,' said Tom. The youth then mounted a log and delivered a sermon about twenty minute long. About the time the congregation assembled Bro. Bewley came in. I asked him to preach. He rose up and repeated the text that that young man had quoted, and preached the same sermon, as nearly as I could remember, word for word."
Circumstances like these induced me to form a purpose never to preach twice from the same text till I had endeavored to deliver a sermon from at least one passage from every passage from every chapter in the Bible. I finished the accomplishment of that purpose at Beechland on the 18th of September, 1863: so that within a little more than ten years after I was licensed I had tried to preach from some text in every chapter of both the Old and New Testaments. After this I did not allow myself to preach twice from the same text during the same year. This mode of proceeding may have prevented my preaching as well as I might otherwise have done, for the time; but it resulted in great advantage to myself. It forced me to a perpetual study of the Bible and as I adopted the plan of introducing every sermons with a brief analysis of the chapter or paragraph in which my text occurred, and it gave me greater familiarity with the teachings of God’s Word as a whole. Besides this it taught me to speak extemporaneously with ease, confidence and fluency. I very often preached twice, and occasionally three times a day, and never preaching twice from the same text it was not possible for me to go through the performance commonly called “making a sermon”. The utmost that I could do was to arrange in my mind the briefest analysis of my subject and then depend on the Holy Spirit for mental energy and fervor to “clothe the skeleton” as I proceeded in the delivery of my discourse.
I soon acquired the habit, by nomeans natural to me, (for I was by nature a slow plooding thinker) of studying very rapidly, if the expression by allowable, and of fixing the memory very intensely. When I entered the pulpit with necessarily hasty preparations, I felt for the Holy Spirit and attempted to lean on him confidently - seldom or never in vain. One other precaution I seldom or never neglected. The first opportunity after leaving the pulpit I selected and fixt in memory a text from which to preach the next sermon, whether I expected to preach again the same day or at some indefinite time in the future. This mode of preparation and delivery of sermons involved much exhausting mental labor; yet I could never be comfortable except when engaged in preaching the Gospel, up to the measure of my strength.
On leaving Henderson I returned to Jefferson County and engaged to labor as missionary within the bounds of Long Run Association for a period of one year, at a salary of $600. I was to enter upon this work the 1st of January, 1864. During the first two weeks the weather was reported the coldest that had occurred since the settling of the State. I could do little else than survey my field, visit the ministers within the bounds and make arrangements for future operations. The preachers all gave me a cordial welcome and promised me their aid and sympathy. My business was to visit and preach at destitute points, in school houses, private dwellings and, in warm weather, in the groves, and to collect and build up the churches most of which had been more or less divided and scattered by the War.
After preaching one or more sermons at each of the half dozen points in my field, I commenced a meeting at West Point in Hardin County. The little church there had been dissolved. But a few brethren and sisters had gotten together and reorganized. Our meeting continued from the 13th to the 22nd of February. There was much interest among the people and 11 persons were added to the church. I went back there in March and preached six days when 6 more were added to the church. One night during these meetings a young man name Kelly threw some stones against the meeting house while I was preaching. A man named Sheets, who was not a church member, but who had contracted a kind feeling for me, went out and administered a severe castigation to Kelly, who finding his sport incongenial went back across the Ohio River to where he lived and we heard no more of him.
From West Point I went across the Ohio River to where a little church called Fellowship had been gathered in Harrison Co., Ind. Through strife gendered by the war it had become well-nigh extinct. I preached six sermons in three days, and the church was encouraged by four additions to its membership. After this I visited several mission stations, and then commenced a meeting at Jeffersontown, with Bro. W. E. Powers, on the 9th of May. The church there was very small and weak at that time. The great struggle for the possession of Richmond by the armies under Generals Grant and Lee was going on, we received daily news of the fearful slaughter of the soldiers and the people were greatly excited. But the Lord did not forsake us utterly. The meeting continued 14 days, and there were 4 additions to the church.
The war excitement was so great during the summer that I found it difficult to get the people together at my mission stations and equally difficult to get their attention to the Gospel after they were collected. In July I preached five days at the schoolhouse where I had taken typhoid fever three years before. Two persons were approved for baptism.
A drinking man named Spencer Collins, who persisted in calling me cousin, attended the meeting. One night while I was preaching, he got up, staggered to where I was standing, handed me an apple, and, falling on his knees in a ludicrous, clownish manner, asked me to pray for him. A general titter pervaded the congregation. But, with some difficulty, I maintained my gravity and spoke to the young people the following purport: “See what sin had done for this poor man. He was once in prosperous circumstances, and was one of the most highly respected and popular young men in his county. Had he sought the Savior in youth he might now, at middle age, have been a noble, god-fearing man and a wealth and useful citizen, surrounded by a happy family and virtuous friends. But he continued in sin. Now look at the poor, degraded wretch, trembling and quaking in his drunken delirium, without a decent garment, without one friend, a homeless, helpless vagrant, and the laughingstock and butt of ridicule for the young and thoughtless. Dear young people, avoid the road that has brought this poor, wretched man to such hopeless degradation and ruin.”
I then finished my sermon before a solemn and thoughtful audience.
In August I went again to the little church called Fellowship in Indiana and preached 11 days. We had a joyful meeting with 12 additions to the church. John T. Hoke had been with me at this church and at West Point, and was chosen pastor of the former if not of both.
In September I went to New Salem in Nelson County where we had had the great meeting two years before. We held a basket meeting as before, and again had a precious revival. The meeting continued 15 days and there were 32 baptized. From here I returned to my mission field where I found the people more ready to heard the Word and one was approved for baptism at Bullits Lick.
In November I went to Coxes Creek in Nelson County where I labored with Bro. Samuels 11 days and 8 were received into the church. The meeting was continued some days after I left, and I think there were 27 additions to the church. Again I returned to my mission stations. At one of these called Sand Hill, Mrs. Mary Tuley, a rich young widow and a Catholic was converted. She was afterwards married to Bro. W. W. Foree and has made one of Christ’s most valuable ministers an excellent wife. I finished my labors for the year 1864 at Rolling Fork in Nelson County.
This was one of the most laborious years of my ministry, considering the field, the condition of the country and the confused state of the churches, I had a fair degree of success. I traveled, during the year, by railway 208 miles; by boat 346; in buggy and wagon, 457; on horseback 1943, and, on foot, 78—total 3031 miles. I preached 233 sermons and witnessed 81 additions to the churches.
I commenced my labors for the year 1865 with a sermon at East Church in Louisville on the first day of January. Being under no employment I was left free to go where the Holy Spirit inclined me. My first protracted meeting was at Bakers Creek, Spencer Co., Ind. This had been a flourishing church. But about the beginning of the war a preacher of the name of Crow, who possessed more animal magnetism than divine grace, held a meeting there and gathered into the church about forty people of an abandoned and profligate character. This gave the church a bad reputation, and a few respectable people except old members would attend its meetings. After two or three years a Bro. Veach took charge of the church. His first effort was to purge it of the profligate disciples of Crow, who, meanwhile, had proved himself as profligate as they. This done, he wrote forme to come and aid him in a meeting. The meeting had continued but a few days when the excluded debauches began to make efforts to get back into the church. But Bro. Veach would allow no one of them to return or even to come forward for prayer. The good people soon saw that he was in earnest, the church regained its former respectability and large congregations attended our services. The meeting continued from the 14th to the 29th of January, the church was much edified and 13 were added to its membership.
Soon after my return home from Baker’s Creek, Bro. Veach wrote me to come and aid him in a meeting at Pleasant Valley in the same county. He had unwisely taken an active part in politics. This church was divided on the current political issues. The party to which he was opposed would not attend upon his ministry. He thought if I would come over from Kentucky the “copperheads” would hear me. I found the “copperheads” rather stubborn; for their pastor, in the heat of war excitement, had spoken bitter things against them. However we finally got most of them to the sanctuary. Several of the sisters prayed in public—some of them quite eloquently. They generally referred to the war in their petitions and one sister closed her prayer in such language as—“And when this wicked rebellion is put down receive us to Thyself in glory: Amen.” The meeting continued from the 5th to the 19th of March and 10 were added to the church.
My next meeting was at Severns Valley Church in Elizabethtown, Ky. This was the first church organized on the soil and was constituted June 18, 1781. Bro. W. C. Jones was pastor. The meeting continued from the 8th to the 19thof April. I did not get hold of the people. Only one was baptized. After this I spent four months in my old mission field in Long Run Association, and gathered 11 persons into the churches.
In August I went to Rolling Fork in Nelson County where I had held my first meeting in that region of the State. Bro. P. B. Samuels was with me. We held a meeting of 12 days continuance, and five were added to the church. From here I went to Cedar Creek in the same County. As before observed this was the second church organized in Kentucky. When I reached there John M. Harrington was in the pulpit preaching. He was a very fascinating speaker. But he make a mistake here, was taken in his own craftiness and soon left. It was just after the close of the war, and party feeling was still high. Most of the people about Cedar Creek were zealous Unionists. Mr. Harrington, being a stranger, had supposed the reverse and was making artful efforts in his preaching to curry favor with the Confederates. This deservedly destroyed his influence. It was soon afterwards ascertained that he had been a Sutler in the federal army and had so acted while in that capacity as to cause his exclusion from Spring Bayou Church in McCracken County. He was afterwards restored, then excluded again and finally went to Kansas. I continued the meeting at Cedar Creek 10 days and 14 were added to the church.
On the first day of October I commenced a meeting at BurksBranch in Shelby County. That excellent brother, A. B. Knight, who was afterwards retired from the pulpit about the time I was, and with the same disease, was the much beloved pastor. We had an exceedingly enjoyable meeting of two weeks continuance, and 11 were added to the church.
The day after this meeting closed I went to Nelson County to aid Bro. P. B. Samuels in a meeting at Coxes Creek. I found this prince of pastors dangerously sick and, of course, unable to enter into the meeting. But he insisted that I should preach a few days for the especial benefit of the church. The war had produced antagonism of feeling among the members. Several prominent brethren were zealous union menand could not, for a time, be reconciled to the rest of the church and the pastor. The prospect for a successful meeting was gloomy indeed. But against reason and appearances, I had strong faith which did not fail. After a few days the breath of God dispersed the clouds and his Word triumphed gloriously. The pastor came to meeting the last day, but was not able to go into the water: so on the first day of November I baptized 4 young women and 14 young men. Among the latter was Ross Raddish who afterward entered the ministry.
The second day after leaving Coxes Creek I commenced a meeting at Long Run in Jefferson County. Bro. W. E. Powers was pastor. We had a pleasant meeting with 7 baptized. From Long Run I went to Little Union in Spencer County. The Venerable Dr. Vaughan was pastor. We had a meeting of much interest, and 14 were added to the church. The aged pastor was in feeble health and I did the baptizing. From Little Union I went to Bloomfield in Nelson County. Dr. Vaughan had been the honored pastor of the church in this village about thirty years, and it had been a prosperous fraternity. But it had been sadly demoralized during the four years Civil War which had just closed. There was much drinking among the young men of the village, the weather was bitter cold, and I failed utterly to get the attention of the people. A vigorous temperance movement soon afterward did much to reform the place and the church had since prospered under the ministry of Thomas Hall.
From Bloomfield I went to Bellmont In Bullitt County and preached three sermons. This closed my labors for the year 1865. I did a hard year’s work, and, considering the war troubles, had fair success. I traveled by railway, 1029 miles; by boat 757; by buggy, wagon and stage, 424; on horseback, 1590, and, on foot, 126—total 3826. I preached 310 sermons; and witnesses 105 additions to the churches.
166-168 are missing
Burk Branch in Shelby County. We had a quiet pleasant meeting of 12 days continuance and six were added to the church. From Burks Branch I went home, stayed one night, and next, day started to Plum Creek in Spencer County. Bro. Hobbs was pastor of this church, but having recently suffered from an attack of typhoid fever was unable to labor in the meeting. My faith became very weak at the beginning of this meeting. Our congregation was composed chiefly of unconverted young people, and they appeared a gay and frolicsome as a wedding party. But after a day or two they began to sober down. Bro. W. E. Powers came to my assistance. The meeting continued 15 days and 44 were added to the church. Of these I baptized 39 and among them Thomas E. Jasper, now an ordained minister.
From Plum Creek I went immediately to Long Run in Jefferson County. Bro. W. E. Powers had succeeded Dr. S. H. Ford in the pastorate of this old fraternity. I continued with him in a meeting one week during which 6 were added to the church. It was during this meeting that that eminently pious and gifted young preacher, Wm. E. Waller came into the church. He began to preach a few weeks afterwards and died at Jeffersontown, greatly lamented, Nov. 10, 1878.
I went from Long Run to Elk Creek, the oldest church in Spencer County. Wm. G. Hobbs was pastor here as well as at Plum Creek. After a few days Bro. Powers joined us. There was an unusual number of venerable old people belonging to this church. They seemed to take great delight in the worship of God and our services were delightful from the beginning. The meeting continued from the 14th to the 28th of October. There were 44 additions to the church—the same number that joined at Plum Creek. Among them was F. J. Jessop a native of Ireland who had come to America youth to join Gen. John H. Morgan’s Cavalry. He had been classically educated, and was something of a poet. Having been raised up in the Episcopal Church, he began to pray in public immediately after his conversion, and before he was baptized, and like Wm. E. Waller, began to preach a few weeks afterwards. He died at Morganfield, Ky., July 21, 1875.
A week after we closed the meeting at Elk Creek, I went to Allen County to visit my father. While there I held a meeting in Harrison schoolhouse in which I had taught school before I went to college. A little church called Bays Fork had been constituted there and was one of six churches to which Bro. M. F. Ham was then ministering as pastor. We had a meeting of great spiritual power. Several young people who were members of the church were brought to the conclusion that they had not been born again, and sought the Savior with great earnestness. They all obtained a joyous hope in Christ. Several of them persisted in the belief that they had not before been regenerated and were accordingly received into the church. As new converts and were immersed the second time. Several others of them finally became assured that they had been converted previous to their union with the church and had now had the joy of salvation restored to them. Among them was the valuable preaching, T. J. Ham, now of Warren County. The meeting I returned to Jefferson County and preached a few days at Jeffersontown where I baptized one. From there I went to Liberty in Oldham County for the purpose of holding a protracted meeting. Bro. A. E. Shirley was the pastor. We made several appointments, but very few people came together. The church had become demoralized during the war. Several of the members, and among them two or three of the most prominent, had got to drinking freely. The rest had become discouraged and made no attempt to exercise discipline. With a sad heart I was forced to leave without getting a hearing.
After a few days rest, of which I had much need, I went down to aid Bro. M. F. Ham in an effort to establish a newchurch on Middle Fork in Allen County. Here I finished my labors for the year 1866. I had, as usual, labored about up to the measure of my strength. During the year I traveled, by railroad 1312 miles; by boat, 229; in buggy, stage coach and wagon 557; on horseback 1777, and on foot 96—total 3971 miles. I preached 255 sermons and witnessed 192 additions to the churches. During this year I wrote and published a biography of the singularly gifted pulpit orator, Thomas J. Fisher, who had fallen in the strength of his manhood by the hand of an unknown assassin.
A new feature was added to my labors this year which became a paramount element of my work during the next 20 years. I had become interested in the history of the Baptists in Kentucky, and conceived that a true account of their transactions ought to be collected and published in a permanent form. From this time I added to my ministerial labors the task of searching records, gathering old documents and interviewing aged men and women, wherever I went. At such times as I could not be engaged in preaching, I would canvass such portions of the State as I had not been able to reach, while engaged in the work of the ministry. However, I would by means neglect my preaching for this work, important as I deemed it; for I felt a reasonable assurance that God had called me to preach the Gospel and I was far from being sure that he had called me to write history. So I continued to preach when I could, and to collect materials for history when I could not preach.
I commenced my labors for the year 1867 with a little church which had been constituted four days before under the name of New Middle Fork, in Allen County, on the 1st day of January. This was in the vicinity of an old “Hardshell Baptist” church. Around this church we found about fifty persons who professed to be converted and yet belonged to no church. Of course this originated from the erroneous teachings of the only church within reach of these people. Our meeting here continued two weeks. Only six were baptized. Of these, S. H. Pope and Ervin Allen became preachers: the latter among the antimissionaries. The little fraternity has grown to be quite a respectable church.
The next day, after the close of our meeting at New Middle Fork, I commenced a meeting at Bethlehem with Bro. M. F. Ham in the same county. Here also we continued the meeting two weeks and 13 were added to the church. From this point I returned home, and, having had no rest for many weeks, I spent most of February with my books. Within this time our young brother, Wm. A. Caplinger, who had gone from Oldham County and taken charge of the Baptist church in Charleston, Ill. wrote back, requesting that some brother would come out and aid him in a meeting. Some of the brethren in council assigned the privilege to me. I went out about the first of March.
At Charleston we had a meeting of great interest. The whole city was moved. For five weeks our meeting house was crowded with eager listeners day and night. But the Baptists were weak andhad but little influence in that city and we had only 15 additions to the church. After this meeting I returned home and attended the meetings of the General Association at Henderson, Ky. and the Southern Baptist Convention at Memphis, Tenn.
After my return from the convention I went up to Trimble County and commenced a meeting at Middle Creek. That devoted and efficient missionary and pastor, Wm. B. Smith was with me. It was in June and the farmers very busy. We heldonly one meeting a day, at 4 o’clock p.m. The rest of the day we spent in going from house to house, talking, reading the Bible and praying with the people at their homes. We had a precious meeting of two weeks continuance, and 18 were added to the church. At one house which we visited an elderly mannamed Webster seemed greatly exercised. He wept loud enough to have been heard 100 yards. But we could not induce him to attend meeting. He said: “The good Book says: ‘Thou shalt get religion on thy death bed.’” When I told him the Bible did not say that, he replied, “Well, they tell me it says so.” The poor, wicked old man died no long afterwards, as he had lived.
From Middle Creek Bro. Smith and I went to Sligo in Henry County. Here we held a meeting of 14 days on the same plain and again had 18 additions to the church. As this plan seemed to work well in the busy season of the year we acted on it at the Forks of Locust Creekin Carroll County, whither we went immediately after the close of the meeting at Sligo.
The Forks of Locust was in a very destitute neighborhood. But a mission station had been established there and Bro. Smith had, a few weeks before, we went there, gathered a little church of 20 members, in a small dilapidated log cabin which had been used for a schoolhouse. Rude benches had been placed in the yard for the accommodation of such of the congregation as could not get in the cabin and the preacher stood in the door while he addressed the people in the house and those in the yard at the same time. There was a striking contrast between this arrangement and a well appointed “city church”. But the Holy Spirit was as willing to visit the former as the latter. Our meeting continued 13 days. The mighty power of God wrought with us and there were 58 additions to the little church.
During the meeting a Miss Warmsley who had been immersed in the Methodist church, applied for membership. She was rejected on account of her alien baptism. There were two Methodist preachers present. Bro. Smith, who was averse to disputation, lingered in the house after dismission for fearof being attacked by them for setting at nought their baptism. But they waited in the yard till he came out, when one of them—an aged man of the name of Harson—approached him and said: “You did just right brother Smith: I have heard Methodist ministers preach two hours against immersion, and then go right down into the water and dip their converts: I tell you, Sir, they shouldn’t baptize a dog for me.” On the last day of the meeting, Mis Warmsley again applied for membership, consenting to be baptized, and was cordially received.
We closed the meeting at Forks of Locust on the first day of August and the second day afterwards commenced a meeting at South Benson in Franklin County. I continued there till the 16th. Only one was baptized. On the 17th, I began a meeting at East Fork in Henry County, where the venerable E. G. Berry was pastor. Here again I failed to reach the unconverted. From East Fork I went home and rested a week, after which, on the 9th of September, I commenced a meeting at Mill Creek in Nelson County. The late Dr. A. J. Miller was the pastor. We had a pleasant meeting of nine days duration with three additions to the church.
After a brief rest I began a meeting with Bro. W. W. Fosee, at Hillsboro in Henry County, on the 5th of October. We had cause to say: “The Lord was with us indeed.” I think Bro. Powers was with us part of the time atleast. The meeting was continued 16 days and 29 were added to the church. From Hillsboro I went home remained one day, then started to Hopewell, Sumner Co., Tenn. That good and useful man, Jonathan Wiseman was pastor of this church. We held a meeting there from the 26th of October to the 10th of November. There was considerable interest among the people. And 7 persons were baptized. I think this was the only meeting I ever engaged in where a majority of the professed converts failed to join the church while I was present. While I tried to guard against any ones uniting with the church without credible evidence of conversion, I was equally diligent in teaching that all true converts should submit to baptism and unite with God’s people. Very few persons professedconversion and neglected to join the church; for I had little confidence in the genuineness of a conversion that did not prompt to obedience.
From Hopewell I returned home, and on the first day of December, commenced a meeting at Perryville in Boyle County. The church at this village was small and weak and owned only a one-fourth interest in a sadly dilapidated old house. Wm. T. Wood was the pastor. He was a young preacher of good ability. He succeeded in building up the church and erecting a good house of worship. But after a few years he virtually abandoned the ministry for some reason not known to the brethren. Our meeting at Perryville continued with much interest 13 days, when we were compelled to give up the house to another denomination. This was to us a bitter fruit of having to worship in a partnership house. There were only five additions to the church.
From Perryville I went and preached a few days at Hutsonville in Lincoln County, then a mission station, supplied with occasional preaching, I believe, by W. B. Arvin. On my way home from this point, I closed my labors for the year 1867, with a sermon at Bethlehem in Washington County. My work was too much scattered for comfort. Too much of my time and strength were expended in traveling. But this was necessary in order to keep at work, and I could not get my consent to remain idle. I traveled during the year by railway, 1268 miles; by boat, 1580 miles; by buggy wagon and stage coach, 603; on horseback 1178, and, on foot, 12—total 4,641 miles. I preached 297 sermons and witnessed 173 additions to the churches.
At the beginning of the year 1868 I again went out to Charleston, Ill. to aid our young Bro. Caplinger. We commenced our meeting of the 4th of January andcontinued till the 2nd of February. Charles B. Parsons, D. D. who had left the stage for the Methodist pulpit was holding a meeting at Mattoon only 12 miles from us. The people were passing back and forth between the two meetings, and disputing as to which was the best preacher, I had a persistent attack of asthma and Bro. Caplinger had a serious misunderstanding with his sweetheart who lived in Kentucky. A result was that Dr. Parsons and myself make comparative failures in our meetings. We had only three additions to the church in Charleston. Mr. Caplinger was more fortunate. He came to Kentucky, adjusted the misunderstanding with his lady love and was soon afterwards married to the amiable Miss Jennie Bain, who made him an excellent wife. After a few years of successful labor, he died of consumption, Nov. 7, 1878.
Six days after closing our work at Charleston I commenced a meeting at Rolling Fork, Casey Co., Ky. W. B. Arvin was pastor. The meeting continued two weeks with only three additions to the churchy. From here I went home, and a few days afterwards commenced a meeting at Westport in Oldham County. This church was very weak, worshipped in a union house, and, I believe, was without a pastor. The meeting continued with much interest from the 16th to the 31st of March. There were 12 additions to the church and Bro. J. F. Martin was soon called to its pastoral care.
The busy season was coming on and religious interest being at a low ebb, I could find no more place where I could hold protracted meetings. I therefore spent the remainder of the spring and early part of the summer in canvassing such portions of the central part of the State as I had not previously visited in search of historical information, preaching, meanwhile, wherever I could make opportunity.
On the 19th of July, I entered into a meeting at Sligo in Henry County. The faithful W. B. Smith was still pastor. The meeting continued 13 days, and there were 9 additions to the church. From Sligo I went to Beechland in Jefferson County, where I held my membership.
I had aided in the constitution of Beechland Church, July 30, 1858, and had been a constant co-laborer with the pastor in trying to build it up. It was constituted of only eight members, hadgrown very slowly and had owed no horse of worship. During the present year, the little band, aided liberally by Dr. S. A. Foss, L. M. Paine, John Kennedy and others of their neighbors, had built a good house, which was not just finished. It had been the intention of the church to have a protracted meeting as soon as the house should be completed. The pastor and I had wept together as we talked over our hopes and fears, and the little church seemed deeply interested. We commenced the meeting the first dayof August. Soon the mighty power of God was manifested among the people, not only at the meeting house, but throughout the surrounding neighborhood. I remained in the meeting 16 days during which there were 40 additions to the church. The meeting was continued two or three days after I left and some 15 others were added to the church—more than doubling its membership.
From Beechland I went to Long Run in the same county, whither I was followed after a few days by Bro. Powers, the pastor, who had remained to close up the work at Beechland. We had a joyful time at Long Run. The meeting continued 14 days and 30 were added to the church. Among those baptized was E. Polk Johnson, the widely known journalist.
From Long Run I went to Eighteen-Mile in Oldham County of which church Bro. A. E. Shirley was pastor. This was a very old church, constituted September 12, 1800. Our meeting here continued from the 6th to the 20th of September and 13 were added to the church.
Next day, after we closed our meeting at Eighteen-Mile, I commenced another at Providence in Clark County. This is one of the pioneer churches. It was constituted in Virginia, September 28, 1781, and moved to Kentucky two years later. About 1796 it built a unique stone house with broad gallares on three sides and huge gaudily painted and elaborately carved pulpit. It was still worshipping in this house when I visited it first in 1868. The Campbellites, by courtesy of the Baptists, had also been occupying the house one Sunday in the month since the origin of the sect in 1830. Ben Franklin, a prominent preacher of that fraternity had just closed a 10 days meeting there, and had captured one of the Baptist lambs, which, however, soon returned to the fold. Afterwards when the Baptists sold the house to the colored brethren, the Campbellites claimed an interest in it and instituted suit to establish their claim. However, they were defeated, and left the colored Baptists in possession of the oldest meetinghouse I know of in Kentucky. Our meeting there was commenced on the 21st of September and continued 14 days, W. B. Arvin being pastor. We had a delightful season and 20 were added to the church.
At night of the same day we closed Providence, I commenced a meeting at Winchester in the same county. For some reason the church at this village was much dissatisfied with its pastor, a young Bro. Murphy, a stranger in the State, who had recently been called there. Here, as everywhere else, where I have labored with a very unpopular pastor, our meeting proved a comparative failure. I remained there 8 days. There was only one addition to the church. Despite my earnest effort to uphold the pastor, as was my unvarying custom, or, rather, perhaps, because I endeavored to strengthen the pastor, I left him more unpopular and the brethren more discouraged than I found them.
From Winchester I went home where I remained three days and then started to Simpsonville in Shelby County. That godly man and excellent preacher, T. M. Vaughan, was pastor of the church in this village. Bro. W. E. Powers was with us in the meeting which began on the 19th of October. Better still, the Lord was with us. The meeting continued 18 days and 13 were added to the church. Of the 9 baptized 8 were young men. From this place I went to Jeffersontown, in Jefferson County where I aided Bro. Powers in a ten days meeting. Only one was baptized.
From Jeffersontown went home where I remained some 14 hours, and then started to Rolling Fork in Casey County. I had been in a meeting in this church the preceding February, but it had not been satisfactory. So I now began another, on the 8th of December. This time there was much interest among the people. The meeting continued 14 days and 13 were added to the church.
One bitter cold night during this meeting, while I was stopping with Bro. Wm. Spraggins, who kept a little country store, the neighborhood physician came in and called for morphine as if he wanted it to use in his practice. There was none in the store. He then said he must have some opium in some form. The merchant let him have a half dozen ounces of laudanum. The doctor whose name, I think was Vallandignham (popularly pronounced Flannagan) began to give indications of mental confusion as one deep in drink. He was an enthusiastic Campbellite, and some of his arguments in favor of his religious system floated through his muddled brain. He seemed determined to force me into a dispute. His tongue was thick, and I think he must have muttered indistinctly, more than a hundred, time, the quotation: “We know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth,” Jno. 9:31. I gathered that he was aiming to prove from this passage that unconverted men ought not to pray. He would frequently turn to the merchant who was lying on his bed sick and, beg piteously for brandy. Being refused, he would exclaim in a tone of despair: “I would not give ten cents for my life.” This was repeated over and over. After awhile he called for a glass of water, poured an ounce of laudanum into it, and drank it all at a single draught. This did not relieve him; for he was a confirmed opium-eater. In about an hour he called for another glass of water for the purpose oftaking another ounce of laudanum. Bro. Spraggins refused to let him drink any more in his house. Poor man! I have seldom or never seen elsewhere such a picture of horror anddespair. About 10 o’clock that night—the coldest of the winter—I caught his horse, helped him into his saddle and he rode some three miles in search of morphine, brandy or whisky. Failing to find either he drank two more ounces of laudanum, as I was afterwards informed, between that and day. This finally relieved him for the time, and he was out early next morning visiting his patients. This horrible experience gave me the first vivid conception of the fearful power of opium over its victims.
From Rolling Fork I went home, spent Christmas day and the day following, and then went to Garnettsville in Mead County. Here I closed my work for the year 1868. During this year I traveled by railway, 811 miles; by boat, 12; on wheels, 638; on horseback 2054; and on foot, 74—total 3489 miles. I preached 343 sermons and witnessed 168 additions to the churches.
As I closed the preceding year, so also I began the year 1869 at Garnettsville. Our meeting at that village was not prosperous. After spending a few days at home I commenced a meeting at Bethlehem in Washington County, Jan. 17. If I remember correctly, H. G. Crews, recently from Virginia was now pastor of this old church. He was a good man and a fair preacher. But he was irritable and inclined to be dictatorial. This soon rendered him unpopular and I think he returned to Virginia, after a year or two. However, we had an interesting meeting on the present occasion. It continued 14 days, and there were 12 additions to the church. The day after we closed at Bethlehem, I commenced a meeting at New Hope in the same county. Here our labors continued 16 days with 9 additions to the church.
From New Hope I went home, remained there two days and then went to one of my old mission stations in the upper end of Jefferson County. Here I remained 15 days preaching and visiting from house to house. Bro. A. E. Shirley was with me and Bro. W. E. Powers was with us part of the time. On the 17th of April we met in a school house near the mouth of Harrods Creek and constituted a church of 17 members. Brother Shirley was called to its pastoral care, and for a time it gave promise of prosperity. But its chief members moving away it became discouraged and soon disbanded.
About this periodmuch attention was directed to the mountain counties of the State as a mission field. Among the brethren interested in missionary operations little was known of this region. I resolved to explore this country about which so much was being said and so little was known. Accordingly I left home the 26th of May, 1869, and, in company with Bro. W. B. Arvin, travelled over a large portion of the mountainous region of Eastern Kentucky and the western part of Virginia. To my surprise I found a large proportion of the people church members, and the country as well supplied with preachers as in the older and thickly populated portions of the State. The preachers, like the people were very illiterate, and most of the churches were antimissionary, both in theory and practice. The people generally were very poor and improvident, but cheerful and contented in their poverty. The worst feature I saw among them was that the women performed most of the labor while the men devoted their time to hunting and rude sports. We preached as often as we could make opportunity and the people usually gave good attention. The preaches received no support from their charges. I met one brother who was pastor of four churches in Bell County, working as a day laborer in the harvest field. In traveling across the central part of the mountain region from Virginia to Madison Co., Ky. a distance of 140 miles, we saw only one woman with shoes on her feet, and she was walking out in rough brogans just after a heavy rain.
After my return from the mountains, I entered into a meeting at Sligo in Henry County. We had a very pleasant season of worship. The meeting continued from the 17th to the 30th of July and 13 were added to the church. I went down to Middle Creek during the Sligo meeting and preached one sermon where we had two additions to the church.
From Sligo I went to Beechland, my church home, praching at Long Run and Cedar Creek on the way, and began a meeting there with my old colaborer, W. E. Powers, on the 2nd of August. Here, as during the previous summer, there was a deep and wide spread interest. The meeting continued 18 days and I enjoyed the privilege of seeing 37 of my neighbors unite with the church. But the sequel was not so comfortable; for, to use the quaint figure of John Leland, we afterwards learned that we had strung some 12 or 15 tadpoles with our fish.
From Beechland, Bro. Powers and I went immediately to Long Run where we commenced our labors on the 21st of August. There again the Lord was with us. We continued the meeting 17 days and received 25 souls into the church. Among these was the venerable Wm. Gregg. He was among the most prominent and wealthy citizens of Shelby County, was not in the feebleness of old age and had been a professor of religion from his early manhood. Being a man of a high sense of honor and integrity, he had declined to unite with the church on account of his want of confidence in the sincerity of one of its members. At last he had overcome this scruple, and the old members of the church who had long been his neighbors received him with great joy. As this aged grandfather walked with feeble step down into the baptismal water, supported on one side by the minister and on the other by his oldest son, he paused, turned his face towards the large and solemn congregation on the shore and said: “This is what I oughtto have done forty years ago.” He then submited to being buried with Christ in baptism. For a few years after this he walked before God in meekness and humility, and then went to his final rewards.
My next meeting was begun at Ephesus in Clark County, September 12. Bro. W. B. Arvin was with me. That good pious missionary, Thornton I. Wills was a member of that church as was also Elder Nathan Edmonson. Bro. George Hunt came and preached three or four excellent sermons. The mind of the whole church seemed so much set on bringing into the fold an aged and prominent citizen of the name of George Fox that they appeared to think little of any one else. But the Lord had hisown purposes and would not be hurried. He gave us a number of young people from time to time and kept Mr. Fox back till the last day then brought him in as if to give us a joyous surprise. His aged brother, Boaz Fox, had come into the church the day before. We had a joyful time indeed. The meeting continued 15 days, and there were 26 additions to the church.
We closed the meeting at Ephesus on the 26th of September and began a meeting that night at Old Providence in the same county. We did not succeed well there. The meeting continued 13 days. Only two were baptized. During this meeting I attended the funeral of Tandy Quesenberry. He died of paralysis in his 79th year. Dr. Evans, his physician, told me that during 49 consecutive days, Mr. Quesenberry took no particle of food of any kind, taking nothing but spring water. He was the son of the old pioneer preacher, James Quesenberry, who baptized Dr. Wm. Vaughan so long and favorably known in Kentucky.
From Providence I went immediately to Hillsboro in Henry County were I entered into a meeting with W. W. Foree. We had a pleasant meeting of 13 days continuance with 11 baptisms. From here I went directly to Plum Creek in Spencer County. The church, at this place, had a few weeks before finished a new meeting house and invited me to preach a sermon at its opening. I was a little discouraged at the beginningofour meeting here. There were many unconverted young people in the neighborhood, a large class of them had been taking lessons in vocal music and they were so much carried away with their singing that I feared I would not get their attention to the Gospel. But my fears were groundless. Within a few days the Holy Spirit manifested his mighty power among us. I believe every one of the singing class professed conversion. The meeting continued 17 days and there were 48 additions to the church. W. G. Hobbs was still the pastor and I think Bro. W. E. Powers was with me. Among those baptized were J. W. Carlin, now a young preacher, and Frank Straus whose father was a Jew, and who is now a lawyer of some prominence at Shepherdsville, Ky.
Next day after the baptism at Plum Creek, I entered into a meeting at Simpsonville in Shelby County. Smal success attended our labors there. Only one was added to the church. I had not been at home for about ten weeks. So Inow turned my steps in that direction, not too eagerly, however, to stop and preach at Walnut Street Church in Louisville on my way. After this I preached a few days at Gilead Church in Hardin County, with a vain hope of healing a grievous breach in that fraternity, and a few sermons at LaGrange in Oldham County, whence I returned home, closed up my work for the year 1869 with two sermons at Beechland.
I had finished another of the few years allotted to me in the service of my beloved Master. I had endured much toil and weariness and been deprived of the quiet of home, always dear to my heart. But I had enjoyed much of presence of the blessed Savior, and felt very grateful to him, I trust, for his protection and the measure of success he had given me. During that year I traveled, by railway 108 miles, by carriage and stage coach, 1267; on horseback 238, and, on foot, 50—total 3663 miles. I preached 283 sermons and witnessed 185 additions to the churches.
My sermons averaged about one hour in length. I could never get my consent to be a mere revivalist. I aspired to be a teacher of the gospel, and I designed every sermon I preached to be a lesson in theology of the New Testament. I tried to indoctrinate every church I held a meeting with both in theory of the plan of Salvation and the practical duties of Christians. It appears to me even now that it can not be properly taken for granted that every pastor sufficiently indoctrinates his people, and it seems to me, still the first duty of every minister of the gospel to teach the people the doctrine of Christ.
After the year 1864, during which I had labored under the employment of the board of Long Run Association, I preached without any salary, depending on the people among whom I wrought for a support. My receipts were meager, uncertain and irregular; but I kept up my habits of economy, and had no lack. At the beginning of the year 1870, I accepted employment as an evangelist under the boardof the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky at a salary of $1200 a year. This was just double as much as the highest salary I had ever received before.
Under my new appointment, I began my labors for the year 1870 at Pilgrim (now Franklin Street) Church in Louisville, on the 2nd of January. W. B. Smith was pastor. We visited from house to house during the day and I preached at night till the 11th. On the 12th I visited home and next I started to go I knew not till I could find some place to preach. I visited a number of prominent brethren—ministers and others—in five or six counties. It was a warm wet winter, and I was in many heavy rains. The first opportunity I found to preach was at a schoolhouse near the mouth of Serubgrass in Boyle County, where on two consecutive days, I met perhaps less than a dozen people. I think it was on the night of one of these days, the 15th of 16th of January, that Cave City was blown away. The storm was terrific where I was. Bro. H. G. Crews was with me. We had sent an appointment to begin a meeting at an old church called Doctors Fork in the same county on the 17th. When we reached the place, we found not a soul there. Bro. Crews was discouraged and returned home. I felt a little depressed; but soon rallied and went in search of a place to preach. Next night I preached at Perryville. After this I visited that amiable and useful man of God, J. M. Frost, of Harrodsburg, the now venerable Strother Cook at Shawnee Run, the aged Burdett Kemper at Forks of Dix River and the lovable and eloquent Henry McDonald at Danville, now Dr. McDonald of Atlanta, Ga. I also visited, at Danville, that noble Christian statesman, Aaron Harding. On the 23rd I preached at Danville, and the next day set out for Craborchard in Lincoln County where I had determined to attempt to hold a meeting. That night I reached the home of the aged patriarch, John S. Higgins, having ridden five or six hours in a heavy rain.
When I told the venerable man of God that I was on my way to Craborchard to hold a meeting, he said, insubstance: “I am glad that you are going; the Lord has been there before you and prepared the way for you. A few weeks ago,” he continued, “two young people of prominent familes in the village were married and went down to Louisville the same day. In the afternoon the bridegroom and his friend walked out for a short time. When they returned they found the bride struggling indeath, she had through mistake, taken an overdose of morphine. On the next day the gay and happy bride of the previous marriage was brought back to her friends a corpse. Then,” the aged father continued, “on Christmas morning a popular young man of the village accidently shot himself and fell dead in his father’s yard with his parents, brothers and sisters and a group of friends around him: andnow the whole town is in mourning.”
The church at Craborchard, formerly called Cedar Creek, is the oldest in Lincoln County and was long one of themost flourishing in the State. But the village had become a popular watering place. There was much frolic and gaiety and the people had become very wicked. Finally the war had completed the demoralization of the church so that it had been reduced from a membership of about 400 to less than 40. I reached there January 25, 1870j. Bro. John James—a godly man and an excellent preacher—was with me most of the time, and the eloquent “mountain missionary”, John O. Southerland was with us a day or two. The Venerable John S. Higgins helped with his prayers and exhortations. The great old dilapidated meeting house was soon filled with people and the mighty power of God wrought among them. The meeting was continued 12 days and 18 were added to the church. The church which had long been pastorless now called Bro. John James to its oversight. After a time he was succeeded by the famous mountain missionary, N. B. Johnson, and the old fraternity has since continued to prosper.
From Crab Orchard I went to Stanford in the same county. The little church here had recently called A. D. Rash to its pastoral care, but had not recovered from the demoralizing influence of the war. The notorious George O. Barnes was then pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Stanford. He had anticipated us in commencing a protracted meeting there and had already gotten the ear of the multitudes when I reached there. We made a persistent effort to get the Baptist congregation together. But, while Bro. Rash was much above medium as a preacher, he was a “poor mixer”, and was unpopular as a pastor. Our meeting continued 14 days with only two additions to the church.
While engaged in this meeting I received a letter from my wife informing me that Bro. Carter with whom we were boarding was about to move. So onthe 21st of February I started home on horseback, the distance being about 120 miles. I reached home the third day. Next day I found me a new boarding house, and the day following moved to it, took my wife in a carriage and started to Lancaster in Garrard County, distance 111 miles, where we arrived and I began a meeting on the 28th of February. Bro. Rash was also pastor of the church at this place. Again we had a dull meeting which continued 17 days with only three additions to the church.
The day after the meeting closed we started to Doctors Fork in Boyle County, where Bro. Crews and Ihad failed to get a congregation in January. It was the 17th of March and the wind, freighted with occasional snow showers, was so keen and bitting that we suffered greatly with cold. However, when we got to Bro. McDonald’s at Danville we were soon made comfortable. In the afternoon we drove to Perryville where I preached at night. I reached Doctors Fork and commenced a meeting on the 19th of March. I labored here a week. But the old church had become so weak and discouraged that I couldnot get the people together. I then inquired if there was a school house in the neighborhood, and learning that there was, I sent an appointment to it. The country around it was very rough. So I left my carriage and took my wife behind me on a horse. There I had a crowded house and a meeting of much interest during 16 days. Eight persons were added to Doctors Fork church, and the ancient fraternity was saved from dissolution.
From here I took my wife home, and, after resting a few days, during which I preached five times in the neighborhood, I returned to Garrard County and commenced a meeting with the aged pastor, Burdette Kemper, at Forks of Dix River. Here I preached five days to a gradually increasing congregation and I thought we had a fair prospect for a good meeting. But “father Kemper” insisted that we should close the meeting and go to old Shawnee Run where also he was supplying the church. The church was much opposed to closing the meeting; but the old pastor was inexorable. Some of the sisters alleged that the venerable pastor, having lost his wife sometime before, was desirousto marry again and that he had a sweetheart living near Shawnee Run. The sequel went far to confirm in my mind the allegation; for the old gentleman at the age of 82 led up the horse of a young widow assisted her in mounting, than vaulted into his saddle and escorted her home as gallantly as a young courtier, on several occasions during our Shawnee Run meeting.
We had a rather singular marriage near Forks of Dix River during our meeting there. A man and woman who had been living together, without having been married, some 25 years, were the contracting parties. A gang of Ku-Klux had warned the groom that he must either marry the woman or leave the country within ten days. After waiting till the time had nearly expired he chose the former alternative, and I witnessed the marriage of the unhappy couple in the presence of their children, and grandchildren. I was told that the man had been raised by wealthy and highly respectable parents, was well educated, and, before he meet with this woman, was one of the leading young men of his county. How certain and terrible is the penalty of disobedience to the law of God!
A feeling akin to sacred reverence came over me when I got to old Shawnee Run in Mercer County. My paternal grand parents had lived there in their youth. They had probably attended worship at this church and been married by its first pastor, the famous old John Rice. The church had been famous in early days embracing more than 500 members. It was now weak and pastorless, having preaching only once a month by a man who came in his dotage probably more for the purpose of courting than preaching the gospel. Our meeting there continued form the 20th of May till the 1st of June with only four additions to the church. I learn that the old fraternity had been greatly built up since then.
From Shawnee Run I went to Poplar Ridge in Trimble County, and preached six days to very small congregations; for it was not a very busy time with the farmers. From there I went to old Corn Creek in the same county and entered into a meeting with that eminently laborious and successful old veteran of the cross, Archer Smith; Bro. J. M. McGuire was with us two or three days. The meeting continued from the 11th to 16th of June with three additions to the church. Boththe church and myself were desirous to continue another week. But the old pastor must needs go to Owen County to fill an appointment, and would not allow me to continue the meeting in his absence. The sisters asserted that, as in the case of old Bro. Kemper, he was going to see a sweetheart. In this case the sequel proved their sagacity in such matters; for a few weeks later the venerable pastor brought home a new wife from that same Own County.
From Corn Creek I went to Locust Creek in Carroll County preaching one sermon at Milton on my way. I induced Bro. J. M. McGuire to go with me to Locust Creek; for the church was without a pastor, and I hope to prevail on the brethren to call him to their oversight. But he came near thwarting my purpose; for, although he was well educated, was a good preacher, had been a lawyer and afterwards an officer in the confederate army, the weather being very warm, he would not wear a shirt collar, and was otherwise careless about his dress. This gave offense to good old deacon Daniel Shelton. However, the Lord greatly blessed our labors there. Bro. Shelton’s scruples were overcome, and Bro. McGuired was called to the care of the church. Our meeting continued from the 18th of June tillthe 4th of July, and there were 50 additions to the church.
On the 18th of July I began a meeting at Sligo in Henry County. I think Bro. W. E. Powers was with me. The meeting continued till the 31st of the month and seven were baptized. I now went home and spent a couple of weeks during which time I labored with Bro. Powers in a meeting at Beechland where four were added to the church.
The day after our meeting closed at Beechland, I started to Owenton in Owen County on horseback. On my way I spent a couple of days at North Benson in Franklin County where Franklin Association was in session. The next night I preached at Monterey in Owen County and lodged with Dr. James E. Duval who had now been a preacher about sixty years. Owenton Church was, at the time I commenced the meeting there, rather a weak fraternity without a pastor. Two aged and much beloved ministers, P. H. Todd and J. E. Kenny, were with me part of the time. We had a most glorious work of grace. The meeting continued from the 27th of August till the 16th of September and there was 60 additions to the church. Among these were some of the most prominent citizens of the county.
From Owenton I went to Carrolton in Carroll County and preached a week. Ex-U. S. Senator Jesse D. Bright, hitherto a skeptic, became interested on the subject of religion and not long afterwards professed conversion. There was only one addition to the church. Long continued labor had so exhausted me that I took sick and was compelled to close the meeting. The last night I preached I had Dr. Prentice Mead to sit by me ready to give me medical attention if I should need it, and I was compelled to hold to the book board to keep from falling.
After a weeks rest at home, I went to Port Royal in Henry County, and commenced a meeting with Cane Run Church. Bro. James O. Anderson, an excellent young preacher who afterwards died in Missouri was the pastor, and that good, earnest minister, Levi Chilton was with us part of the time. We had a delightful season of worship, and the Lord added to the church 16 souls. The meeting continued from the 4th to the 20th of October.
I went from Port Royal to Muscle Shoals in Owen County. The church was without a pastor. We had a good meeting of 18 days duration with 38 additions to the church. From this place I went home and stayed five days during which I preached seven times in the neighborhood. I then started to Campbellsburg in Henry County, taking my wife with me. When we reached Esquire John Morris’ on our way, his daughter Mattie, a godly young woman who afterwards became the wife of Elder J. M McGuire, said to me: “I am glad you are going to Campbellsburg. There have been three meetings there this fall, each of about two weeks continuance; and nothing has been accomplished. I want you to stay till you succeed.” Somehow I felt that God would answer the prayers of that pious young woman, and I took good courage.
I began the meeting on the 20th of November. Bro. T. M. Daniel was nominally pastor of the Church; but was in feeble health and under mental depression, and was not present. When the meeting had continued some ten days without the appearance of any special interest among the people, one and another began to ask me when I was going to break up the meeting. I invariably replied very promptly: “I didn’t come here to break up a meeting, but to hold a meeting.” At last the might power of God began to be manifest. The people crowded forward for prayer and private instruction, and many obtained a blessed hope in Jesus. The meeting continued till the 18th of December and 33 were added to the church. Among those baptized were Ernest Yager, now a banker in Florida, Arthur Yager now a professor in Georgetown College and Jno. T. Christian, at present a prominent preacher in Chattanooga, Tenn. The parentsof the last named were Campbellites and were much opposed to his joining the Baptists. But seeing that he was inflexible in his purpose, they finally yielded their consent.
With this meeting I closed my work for the year 1870. It was the most laborious as well as the most successful period of my ministry up to that time. During the year I traveled, by railway, 80 miles; by boat 62; in carriage, 1384; on horseback 1368; on foot, 50—total 2944 miles. I preached 424 sermons and witnessed 247 additions to the churches.
I began my labors for the year 1871 at Mt. Washington in Bullitt County, on the first day of January. Bro. W. E. Powers was the pastor. The Spirit of the Lord wrought with us with mighty power. The people of the village and vicinity were greatly moved. Our meeting continued 24 days and 20 souls were added to the church. Among these was an aged Catholic man, two Methodists and two Campbellites; for there were few people in the community who were not members of some church. This happy meeting was held just ten years after my first visit to this village, when I was denied the privilege of preaching and was sent away on foot.
From Mt. Washington I went home and thence, after two days, to Cloverport where I commenced a meeting with Bro. D. Dowden, now Dr. Dowden, on the 4th of February. My first pastorate was at this village, and, although I had succeeded but indifferently in the pastoral office, I had retained the good will of the people and was not met by many warm friends both in and out of the church. From the beginning of the meeting we had large congregations, and soon a deep religious feeling pervaded the people of the village and all the surrounding country. The young people in the families of other denominations became so much interested in our meeting that much sectarian jealousy was aroused. The Presbyterians sent for Rev. J. L. McKee, one of their ablest preachers and endeavored to get him into our meeting as a fellow-laborer with Bro. Dowden and myself; but as neither of us believed in union meetings the offer was declined. However, Mr. McKee, now Dr. McKee, I believe, could not risk his lambs among the Baptist wolves unprotected, hence he made one of our audience during the remainder of our meeting. It seemed very sad to me to see this able and learned minister neglecting his preaching and using all his influence and powers of persuasion during a period of ten days to prevent two or three honest young disciples from following their beloved Lord in one of the solemn ordinances of His house; and this appeared the more pitiable because Mr. McKee acknowledged the scripturalness of immersion and even practiced it in at least one instance just about this period. The Methodists also had their jealousies aroused; for some four of their members, I believe, united with the Baptist Church.
It may be that these sectarian jealousies and the secret as well as the open opposition they gendered curtailed our influence with the people. But nothing could resist the power of the Holy Spirit. Our meeting continues 38 days with 60 additions to the church. Among those baptized was the venerable Philip Lightfoot, an uncle of the distinguished John Lightfoot Waller, L. L.D. It was an affecting scene to behold this aged patriarch walk down into the baptismal water with five of his grandchildren all of whom were buried with Christ in baptism in the same hour. During this meeting a Campbellite who had married a Baptist sister made indirect application for a place in the church until his own sect could organize a church within his reach. Bro Dowden promptly replied, “We are not taking in boarders.”
From Cloverport I went home, remained two days and then started to Westport in Oldham County. Preaching two sermons on the way, I arrived at Westport and commenced a meeting on the 20th of March. Bro. J. F. Martin was pastor. We continued the meeting 8 days, with only four additions to the church. My next meeting was at Ballardsville in the same county, but it was unsuccessful. From there I went to East Fork in Henry County where the venerable E. G. Berry was pastor. Here we continued a meeting two weeks with seven additions to the Church. On the first day of May I began a meeting at Antioch, a little new, pastorless church in Trimble County. Bro. J. M. McGuire was with me. We continued the meeting two weeks with nine additions to the church.
From Antioch I went home, remained one day and then went to Mt. Washington where I held a four days’ debate with Dr. Hays of the Methodist Church, on the subject and action of baptism. I had neither taste nor aptitude for this kind of work, But at our meeting here in January two Methodists had joined our church. The Methodist church in the village challenged the Baptist Church there to debate. The challenge was accepted. Dr. Hays and myself were chosen to do the debating. During the succeeding year, if I remember correctly, some seven of eight more of the Methodists joined the Baptists.
This was the last formal debate I ever engagedin; not that I am opposed to earnest sincere discussion of Christian doctrines for I think such discussion properly conducted, tends to eludicate Bible teaching and educate the people in a knowledge of revealed truth; but I conceived that capacity for debating was not by best gift, and, therefore, I could be more useful in another sphere of labor. However I always held myself in readiness to defend the Gospel as I understood it, when occasion so required.
From Mt. Washington I went to make a brief visit to my father, and preached a dozen sermons among my old friends in Allen County. After preaching one or more sermons at each of several churches, I commenced a meeting at Sligo in Henry County, which continued nine days with only one baptism.
The day after we closed the work at Sligo, I commenced a meeting at Christianburg in Shelby County. The church here was without a pastor; for Bro. T. M. Daniel, the nominal pastor was in a stateof mental depression which disqualified him for ministerial labor. This good and eminently useful preacher partially recovered his mental balance and spent some two or three years in successful labor. But again relapsed and was sent to an insane asylum. Remaining there a short time he was taken back among his friends at Christianburg where he closed his earthly career.
I commenced preached at Christianburg July 24th and continued till the 13th of August. We had a very precious revival with 20 additions to the church. On the last day of the meeting I preached at 10 o’clock and started immediately to Long Run in Jefferson County. On the way I stopped in at Chestnut Grove Church, since dissolved, in Shelby County, and heard the closing of a sermon from Garland Williams. This humble pious man preached many years to this little church. He was below mediocrity as a preacher, but he was a truly good man and remarkably familiar with the Scriptures. He died greatly beloved about 1878.
I reached Long Run late and preached at night having eaten nothing since early breakfast. At the beginning of the meeting here we had considerable disturbance. But order was soon restored. We continued the meeting from the 13th to the 20th of August and had 10 additions to the church. The same day the meeting closed I went to Mt. Washington and preached at night. Next day I went to New Salem in Nelson County. The pastor, P. B. Samuels had prepared his people for the meeting, and the Gospel triumphed gloriously. We continued from Aug. 21st to Sept. 5th, and had 58 additions to the church. This meeting was one of peculiar solemnity. Thegreatly beloved pastor while appearing to be at the zenith of health and strength several times expressed his impression that this would be the last protracted meeting he would be in at that church.
From New Salem I went to Long Run Association at Plum Creek in Spencer Co., and from thence, after two days, to Cox’s Creek in Nelson County where Bro. Samuels and I commenced a meeting on the 9th of September. Here again our labors were blessed. The meeting was continued 16 days and 15 were added to the church.
From Cox's Creek I went home, preaching at Mt. Washington on the way. While spending a few days at home I aided Bro. W. E. Powers in a meeting at Beechland. There were no additions to the church. I went from home to Hillboro in Henry County, preaching at Eighteen-Mile on the way. We commenced our meeting at Hillsboro Oct. 8th and continued till the 24th. Bro. Powers was with us and we had a most enjoyable meeting. There were 8 persons baptized. The day after the meeting closed I went to a schoolhouse called Millers Branch where I preached three sermons and one person was baptized. On the 28th of October I commenced a meeting with Bro. W. W. Foree at Hopewell in Henry County. We continued 15 days and had 12 additions to the church. From Hopewll I went home and thence, after two days, to East Fork Schoolhouse in Nelson County, where I met Bro. P. B. Samuels and we labored together in a protracted meeting for the last time. He spoke of it being the last meeting he expected to labor in; and so it proved, for on the first day of the following January he was called to his final reward. His death deeply saddened me. I had labored with him in many meetings during a period of ten years, and I think I never knew truer man, or a more sincere and earnest Christian. I loved him as a brother indeed.
I was afterwards called on to preach a sermon in commemoration of him at each of New Salem and Cox’s Creek Churches of which he had long been pastor, which I did to great crowdsof weeping people. We remained only four days. Three persons were baptized. Then I bad my yoke-fellow adieu for the last time and went to Mill Creek in the same county. J. M. Coleman now (1890) of Missouri was the pious and devoted young pastor. Our meeting began on the 22nd of Nov. and closed Dec. 1st. We had a pleasant meeting with ten additions to the church.
From Mill Creek I went to Greensburg. The church there was weakened in an uncomfortable condition. I began a meeting, Dec. 3rd, and continued till the 21st. There was some interest in the small congregation that attended and some 8 or ten persons prefest to be converted, but only 3 united with the church. I was surprised at this, and, on inquiring for the cause; ascertained that some of the members had dissuaded the converts from joining the church lest it should offend the Methodists who were somewhat numerous in the village. On learning this, I despaired of accomplishing much good; so I closed the meeting and started home, reaching home the 23rd. Next day I preached at Beechland, andon the 26 started to Westport, Oldham County. Here I closed my labors for the calendar year 1871. It had been one of the most laborious as well as one of the happiest during my ministry. I traveled during the year, in a carriage, 1698 miles; on horseback, 803; by boat, 100—total 2601. I preached 466 times and witnessed 241 additions to the churches. When I closed this year’s labor with joy, and I trust, with a heart overflowing with gratitude to God, I little dreamed of the deep, dark waters I must pass through next year. What a blessing it is that God witholds from us a knowledge of the paths before us, few of us would be willing to walk in them.
I began my labors for the year 1872 on the first day of January at Westport. I had commenced the meeting there on the 27 of Dec. J. F. Martin was the popular and efficient pastor and Elder Thomas Reynolds was a member and aided in the meeting. We continued till the 3rd of Jan. with only 4 additions.
From Westport I went home and next day started to Hawesville where we commenced a meeting Jan. 7th. The church here was small and weak and was overshadowed by the Methodist influence. It had recently had internal strife and was every way in an uncomfortable condition. W. H. Dawson, a promising young preacher, had recently become pastor of the church, and the Venerable Elder James E. Stone was a member. Our meeting continued till the 29th, but the church was not much revived and there were only six baptized. My wife was with me andwe went up to Cloverport where we visited some old friends, and I preached 11 sermons. From here we returned home, and after three days, started to Columbia. We went in a carriage and I preachedone sermon at Campbellsville on the way. G. A. Coulson who had recently given much trouble to some of the churches in Salem Association was the pastor. Next day, Feb. 26, I commenced a meeting at Columbia.
The church at Columbia was much in the condition of that of Hawesville. T. C. Stackhouse had recently become its pastor and was endeavoring to arouse it to action. There was great rivalry between the Methodists and Presbyterians on one side and Campbellites on the other. The last named had recently gotten a foothold in the village and had just finished a good house of worship and settled a pastor and were overflowing with enthusiasm. I had gained some reputation as a successful preacher and the rival sects seemed much concerned as to which should reap the fruits of my labors in the village; for they regarded the Baptists too weak and spiritless to be much in their way. When our meeting began all the rival sects met with us and crowded our house. But the Campbellites were the boldest. They massed their forces around the pulpit were foremost in the singing and doubtless were ready to do all the public praying. But as their creed prohibited their praying for the unconverted, I did not call on them to perform that service. I comprehend the task that was before me and the old Adam recoiled. But I saw that it was necessary to success in building up the Baptist church—the object for which I had gone there—and I resolved by the grace of God to discharge the solemn duty.
I began by assaulting Campbellism with the word of truth, discussing such subjects as the necessity of conviction of sinners by the Holy Spirit, of a heartfelt repentance, of a Spirit-inspired faith in Christ, of a recognizable regeneration and the futility and absurdity of baptizing sinners in order to the forgiveness of their sins. The Campbellites stood their ground like trained veterans for nearly a week. But at last they broke ranks and disperse. During this time I please the Pedobaptists. They seemed to think I had espoused their side of the controversy between them and the Campbellites and they now crowded forward to take the position vacated by their adversaries. The Baptists still occupied back seats, and we were in no better condition than before. I was loth to attach these pious Christian people, someof whom I had learned to know and love. But duty seemed clear and I very earnestly exposed the unscripturalness of “falling from grace”, “sprinkling for baptism,” “infant baptism”, and clerical domination. Within two or three days the Pedobaptists fell back, and, at last, the Baptists took their seats around the pulpit. Meanwhile a spirit of inquiry pervade the people of the village and our house was filled with attentive hearers. Our meeting continued 31 days with unabated interest. There were 18 additions to the church.
From Columbia we returned home by way of Mt. Washington and Floydsburg at each of which I preached one sermon. I next went to Leitchfield, preaching at New Salem and Bardstown on my way. I found the church at Leitchfield in a very feeble, uncomfortable condition. Its young pastor, T. W. Pierce, was sick and Dr. Owen, one of the prominent members died suddenly a few days after I reached there. I preached a few days without apparent success and turned my steps homeward. I spent one night with the Venerable Elder John T. Dean who had labored long and successfully among the churches of Ky. I reached home the first day of May and found my wife sickunto death. I remained with her until the 19th of August when the Lord was pleased to take her to himself. She had been my helpmeet, my comforter, my counselor, and my colaborer nearly 11 years. She had endured far more for the gospel’s sake than I had. She had never once spoken a word of discouragement to me concerning my work, never once hesitated to go with me or remain at home as might seem to me most appropriate and never once hesitated to undertake any task however burdensome or self-denying that would aid or encourage me in preaching the gospel. I cannot conceive that any man ever had a more loving, faithful wife. She was, indeed, as I has said to her on the morning we were married, all of this world to me. When the Lord took her away the light of this world went out to me. No human language can depict the horror, the gloom and despair that overwhelmed me. But, I think, I never once doubted the wisdom and goodness of God, and, though my reason tottered and life was a dark, fearful burden, his grace sustained me.
A few days after my wife was laid away to rest until the resurrection, I started out into the field of labor. On the 26th of August I commenced a meeting with A. E Shirley at Harrods Creek in Oldham County. But I was unable to preach with any apparent profit. At the endof the week we closed the meeting. I went thence to Beechland and preached once, and from there to my father’s in Allen County. From my fathers Iwent to Skaggs Creek in Monroe County, where I attended the meeting of Barren River Association, and from there to Tompkinsville, where I commenced a meeting with Bro. F. C. Childress, on the 22nd of September. The prospect was gloomy at first. But the spirit of the Lord soon began to move upon the people and the whole town became interested. The meeting was continued 18 days. There were 23 additions to the church—among them the Venerable mother and a sister of Gov. P. H. Leslie.
Next night after the meeting closed I preached at Oak Grove in Barren County. The behavior was very rude. I rebuked some young men whereupon they left the house and turned loose old Bro. Thomas Dodson’s horse, supposing it to be mine. When meeting was dismissed Bro. Childress lent Bro. Dodson his horse to ride home. Then as Bro. Childress was an old man I put him on mine. By this time the people were all gone, and brother Childress and I were alone, the night was dark, the neighborhood was strange, and I was a foot. After groping our way through a dense forest some three miles, we came to the house of an old Bro. Artherburn where we were hospitably entertained.
After this I returned home and went thence to Fisherville in Jefferson County where we commenced a meeting Oct. 20. Bro. Powers was with me. We had a pleasant meeting of 13 day continuance with 5 additions to the church. We went from Fisherville to Jeffersontown where we preached from the 2nd to the 10th of November. We had only one addition to the church. From this point I went to Mt. Washington and began a meeting the same evening. We had a previous revival. The meeting continued 13 days with 12 additions to the church.
During this meeting I was called to Shepherdsville to attend the funeral of Ben. Christ who had recently graduated in medicine and commenced practice with his father. He was a brilliant young man, a grandson of the famous old pioneer, Gen. Christ. But his career was cut short by a ball from a revolver in the hand of an intimate friend with whom we had gotten into a hasty quarrel. The occasion was a very sad one and his mother, brothers and sisters were plunged into additional sorrow when, just one month later (Dec. 17) I was called to attend the funeral of his father, Dr. Henry C. Christ, a prominent physician, a pious Baptist and an intimate and much beloved friend of mine.
From Mt. Washington I went to Shepherdsville and preached several days without any apparent success. From there I went to a mission point called Cedar Grove in Bullitt County and preached from the 8th to the 20th of Dec. We had an interesting meeting which resulted in 11 additions to New Salem Church.
I went from Cedar Grove to Hardins Creek in Washington County, where I closed up my labors for the year 1872. Except during the period of nearly four months that I watched in the chambers of my dying wife, I had labored almost incessantly, but during the latter months in such a state of despondency that my preaching was not so efficient as heretofore. I did however the best I could. I traveled during the year by carriage 886 miles; on horseback 1026; by boat 122, and by railway 40—total 2175. I preached 297 times and witnessed 80 additions to the churches.
I left Harrods Creek Jan. 1, 1873, and went to Franklin, Ky. preaching one sermon at each of Hogenville and Sonora on my way. I found the church at Franklin, under care of Bro. V. K. Witt, in a very cold uncomfortable condition and worshipping in a partnership worship house. Bro. Ernest Petri the former pastor was living in the village. We commenced a meeting on the 5th of January and continued till the 16th of February. This, I think, was the longest meeting I ever held. We finally succeeded in arousing some interest and had 20 additions to the church.
From Franklin I went to Sonora in Hardin County. J. Tol Miller since of Texas, was pastor of the church. I preached several days with no apparent success. From there I went to Hogenville and preached three sermons. There were two additions to the church. After preaching several times at different places I went to Westport in Oldham County. The church here was small and weak. Bro. Joseph F. Martin was pastor. Almost from the beginning of our meeting the little church labored with great zeal. That most godly woman the wife of elder Thomas Reynolds, went from house to house all over the village exhorting the people to turn to the Savior. The meeting continued from the 27th of March to the 20th of April. There were 30 additions to the church, which more than doubled its membership.
On the 24th of April I began a meeting at Middle Creek in Trimble County which continued will the 11th of May. Here also we had a very spiritual meeting, and, 14 additions to the church. I now returned home and went thence to a meeting of the General Association at Paducah. After returning home, I preached a few sermons at different points, and then was forced to suspend my labors for a time.
My health, always frail, had continued to decline since the death of my wife till I was barely able to walk a few hundred paces, with a feeble tottering step. After consulting some friends who had been in the Rocky Mountains I resolved to go thither with the hope of recruiting my strength. Accordingly on the 12th of June I started to the far West. I stopped over about two weeks in Kansas, and preached nine sermons at Parsons and vicinity. I reached Denver, Col. June 29th. There I met with Prof. Dalrymple of Missouri who was also health seeking. We agreed to travel together. After remaining a few days in Denver we set out for the mountains on foot, carrying our bedding and provisions on our backs. We slepted in houses when we could, but often we lay on the ground with only the sky for a shelter, sometimes surrounded by immense snow-drifts and far from any human habitation. We visited the chief places of attraction and especially the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains chain, one of which (Mt. Lincoln) rears its snow-capped summit over 1700 feet above ocean level. No description can give any true idea of the awe-inspiring grandeur of the scenery presented by these everlasting mountains. I gained strength very rapidly and within a few weeks could walk 25 miles a day carrying a heavy pack or climb to the summit of the highest mountain with very little weariness. But fascinating as was the scenery and the climate, I yearned to be in my field of labor as soon as I felt that I was strong enough to preach, and accordingly turned my steps homeward.
I reached Louisville on the 15th of August. Hearing that my old yoke-fellow in the gospel was in a meeting at Sligo in Henry County. I went there next morning without going home. I found Bro. A. B. Hunter with Bro. Powers. They had had six or seven additions to the church, and were about the close the meeting. When I arrived Bro. Powers concluded to remain a few days longer. I had been in several meetings in Sligo. Most of the church goers in the neighborhood were churchmembers and we did not expect many additions at any one meeting. But just north of the church in the border of Trimble County was a neighborhood in the center of which a popular drinking saloon had been kept for many years. County Judge Barclay had refused to issue license for drinking houses, and the saloon had now been closed nearly a year. We had never been able to reach the peopleof this neighborhood, with the Gospel. But now that their great temptation was removed they began to attend meeting. I had fought the grogshop at every meeting I had been in at Sligo; I now had opportunity to preach to the people who had been deluded by it. There was a great move among them, I was in the meeting eight days during which 53 were added to the church—among them the old saloon keeper and eight of his household.
From Sligo I went home and preached a week at Beechland. There was one baptized. I went thence to Locust Creek in Carroll County, where I preached from the 7th to the 20th of September. I think Bro. J. M. McGuire was with me. There were 9 additions to the church. From Locust Creek I went to Sulphur Station on the shortline R. R. in Henry Co. There being no house of worship in the little new village I got permission to preach in the R. R. depot. Our meeting continued two weeks, closing Oct. 5th. Twelve persons were baptized.
The Venerable John A. McGuire was with me in this meeting. He had been a very popular and successful preacher in this region of the State from his youth to the prime of his manhood. He then moved to Monroe, La. where he lived many years. He had now come back to his early field of labor in his old age. Younger and much abler preachers had been raised to fill his place, and the beloved old soldier was greatly afflicted with jealousy of his younger brethren. I have been much afraid that I should be annoyed with this painful disorder should I live to be old. I think it is very common with old men of small culture who have had some prominence among their fellows.
The day after the meeting in the depot closed, I began another with Bro. A. E. Shirley at Harrods Creek in Oldham County. At this small, but very spiritual church we had a delightful season of worship. The meeting continued two weeks. There were 13 added to the church. My next meeting began at LaGrance Oct. 27th and continued till Nov. 9th Some of the young people were exceedingly rude and for the first and only time during the ministry I failed to secure good order. I closed the services without any accessions to the church, and next day begana meeting at Fisherville in Jefferson County. There we had a pleasant season of worship for two weeks and 4 were baptized. After preaching five sermons at difference places, I commenced a meeting at Eminence in Henry County December 6 and continued till the 28th. Bro. A. C. Davidson was pastor of the church. We had a good meeting and 15 were added to the church.
From Eminence, I went to Christianburg in Shelby County on the 19th of Dec. and there closed the year’s work. It had been another year of unceasing toil. I had traveled by railway 3767; in carriage and wagon 1088; on horseback 711 on foot 339—total 5884. I had preached 397 sermons and witnessed 175 additions to the churches.
I began the year 1874, as I had closed the preceeding year, at Christianburg. Bro. Daniel was incapacitated for pastoral labors, by continued mental disorder. Dr. D. N. Porter was supplying his place. Our meeting continued from Dec. 29th to Jan. 18th. The hand of the Lord wrought with us and there were 24 added to the church. After this meeting I went home and rested a few days, and then went to the territory of Sulphur Fork Association where I had agreed to labor some months. After spending a few days in riding over my field, preaching some sermons at private houses, I commenced a meeting at New Providence in Trimple County on the 6th of February. Bro. Levi S. Chilton, a godly man and a good preacher, was the pastor. Our meeting continued 17 days. We had great rains and high waters. But the Lord blessed the little congregations that came together. Eleven were added to the little church and tiw asmuch strengthened.
When I came to the neighborhood of New Providence I was told a Methodist preacher—I think he name was Sedwick—had had a large ingathering recently at one of his charges nearby. At the close of his meeting he preached a sermon two hours long to convince his converts that sprinkling was as good baptism as immersion. Only about half of them were convinced. The rest insisted on going down into the water. Some Baptist brethren showed him a beautiful place to baptize. But as if to give accular proof that immersion was an “indecent practice” he took his candidates to a place where the water was very shallow and the soft leathery mud beneath it very deep. “Here,” said my informant, “he plunged his converts deep into the mud giving them a twist as he raised them up, apparently to cause the soft detritus to adhere to their clothing. If this was his purpose,” continued the narrator, “he certainly succeeded; for they came up as filthy as hogs from the mire; I saw atleast five pounds of mud fall from the dress of one young lady.” I replied: “Yes, and some of these mud-bathed converts will want to join the Baptists on their “indecent immersion”. Sure enough, one of them applied for membership at New Providence on her Methodist immersion. Of course her application was rejected. But a day or two afterwards she consented to be baptized and was received. Shortly after this, Mr. Sedwick began to publish, in one of his church papers, what he styled, the History of the Baptists.
The day after we closedour meeting at New Providence, I began another at Campbellsburg in Henry County. Dr. Porter was supplying the pulpit during the affliction of Bro. T. M. Daniel. The aged John A. McGuire who had been pastor of the church to midlife was in the meeting. He seemed to have grown more cross and jealous since he was with me in the depot meeting at Sulphur. I made a most persistent effort to secure his good will. I roomed with him, aided him in dressing, put his overshoes on him, looked up his hat, cane and gloves and waited on him as watchfully as the most vigilant servant. But all in vain. He only seemed to grow more cross and petulant to the last. He would shake his head in dissent while I was preaching and openly oppose all my plans. This rendered the church as well as myself uncomfortable. However, the Lord gave us a measure of blessing. The meeting continued form Feb. 23rd to Mar. 11th and there were 10 additions to the church.
From Campbellsburg I went to Eighteen-Mile in Oldham Co. preaching twice at Sligo on my way. Bro. A. E. Shirley was pastor at Eighteen-Mile. Our meeting there began Mar. 16th and closed April 5th. We had a most precious revival and 25 were added to the church. After resting a few days I returned to Trimble Co. and preached from the 20th to the 24th of April at Middle Creek. There was only one baptized. I also preached two sermons at Covington Church, near by, where one member was received.
I was now somewhat enfeebled by excessive labor, and felt the need of rest. On the 2nd of May I started West. After attending the Southern Baptist Convention at Jefferson Texas I spend 22 days traveling over that state. From there I went to Kansas where I rested with old friends two weeks. From there I returned home and, after a few days paid a brief visit to my father. During these eight weeks of relaxation I preached about twice a week. By this time I had regained my usual strength.
In July I went with Bro. W. E. Powers to Sligo where we held a week’s meeting without apparent success. From Sligo I went to Smithfield in the same (Henry) county. The Venerable E. G. Berry was pastor. Our meeting there continued with 22 additions to the church. I went next to Fisherville in Jefferson County. Here also we had a good meeting of 14 days’ continuance with 14 additions to the church.
From Fisherville I went with Bro. Powers to Beechland, my home church, where we held a meeting from the 6th to the 20th of September, with 9 additions to the church. From there I went to Harrods Creek in Oldham County where I spent two days in a meeting with Bro. J. M Weaver and the talented and godly young pastor, Wm. E. Waller, during which five were added to the church. From there I went to Hopewell in Henry County. Bro. W. W. Foree was pastor. We held a meeting from the 26th of September to the 11th of October, with 6 additions to the church.
From Hopewell I went to Owenton and preached from the 12th to the 26th of October. Our efforts did not succeed well; there were only five additions to the church. From Owenton Iwent home and thence to Tompkinsville where on the first day of November I preached a funeral discourse commemorative of Sisler Leslie, who in her old age, had joined the church under my ministry two years before. From Tompkinsville I went to Allen County and spent two days with my father. From there I went home, preached one sermon at Beechland and then went to Mt. Washington where I began a meeting, Nov. 9th. The Lord blessed my labors. The meeting continued 16 days and we had 16 additions to the church. From here I returned home, preached twice at Beechland and then went to Buffalo Lick where I began a meeting Dec. 5th. Bro Daniel had so far recovered his mental balance that he now resumed his pastoral here. Our meeting continued two weeks. It was a very pleasant, refined social gathering rather than a religious convocation. I labored very earnestly, but it was not the Lord’s time to send a revival. There was but one addition to the church.
The day after we closed at Buffalo Lick, I began a meeting with Bro. W. W. Foree at Hillsboro in Henry County. Here I closed my year’s work for 1874 in the midst of a precious revival. It had been an excessively hard year’s labor. I had traveled in carriage and wagon 1535 miles; on horseback 1019, and by R. R. 3125—total 5679. During the year I preached 404 sermons and witnessed 160 additions to the churches.
As I had closed my labors for the year before, so I began those for 1875 in Hillsboro. Our meeting here closed on the 4th of January with ten additions to the church. From Hillsboro I went home and thence, after a few days rest to Madisonville, Ky. A small Baptist church had recently been gathered here, principally through the effortsof Elder Wm. McLean, but it owned no house of worship. We got the use of the basement room of a Methodist meeting house which was in course of construction. Here I preached from 14th of January to the 6th of February. The Lord blessed our efforts, ten were added to the little church and the brethren were much encouraged.
The day after we closed at Madisonville, I went to Glasgow, and commenced a meeting there the day following. This was near where I was raised and I felt a deep anxiety about the success of the meeting. Many of my early acquaintances were there and I was much encouraged by the presence and assistance of those Venerable men of God James Brooks and Younger Witherspoon under whose ministry I had set in my boyhood. That eminent servant of Christ, N. G. Terry, was pastor of the church. Our meeting continued from Feb. 7th to March 1st. The whole town and surrounding county were moved by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. Many professed conversion and 53 were added to the church, among whom were some of the most prominent citizens of the county. At the close of this meeting I was thoroughly exhausted. For four days I kept my room being unable to travel.
As soon as I was able to move I went home, and, after resting three days, started to Nelson County where I commenced a meeting at New Salem, March 13th. Bro. J. M. Coleman was pastor. We had a good meeting with 11 additions to the church. From New Salem I went home, and thence after three days, to Frankfort. Green Clay Smith was pastor of the church at that place. P. D. Leslie was governor of the State and I made my home at his house. Our meeting which continued from the 4th to the 18th of April was not well attended. There were only 8 additions to the church. From Frankfort I went up to Lawrenceburg and preached a few days. W. P. Harvey was pastor of the church. There had been some sad cases of murder in the village and the popular mind was so much disturbed that I could not get the attention of the people.
From Lawrenceburg I went to Frankfort and thence returned home, preaching two sermons at Long Run and visiting Bros. Powers and Shirley on my way.
On the 11th of May, 1875, Iwas married to Burrilla Burton Waller, daughter of John M. Waller, granddaughter of Elder George Waller and great-granddaughter of the old pioneer preacher William Edmund Waller. The next day we started down the Allen County to make a brief visit to my father. Here I preached six sermons among my old friends at Gainesville and Scottsville. On the 26th of May we returned home and on the 28th we went up to Shelby County to visit some friends. We returned home June 2nd and next day I started to Westport in Oldham County. J. F. Martin had been pastor of the little church here several years andit had been very prosperous under his ministry. But recently he had fallen into disrepute and to prevent a rupture in the church had consented to be excluded from its fellowship. After the excitement had subsided, he was adjusted guiltless of actual criminality and was restored to fellowship and to the ministry. But when I reached there the excitement was still high. I preached several days only one, a son of the ex-pastor, was baptized.
From Westport, I returned home on the 17th of June, and next day started to Bedford in Trimble County taking my wife with me. There was no Baptist Church at Bedford. But I got leave to occupy the courthouse and preached there from June 20 to July 4th. Bro. Andrew Jackson was with me, two persons were baptized for the fellowship of Poplar Ridge Church with which I began a meeting the day after we closed at Bedford. Bro. Jackson was pastor of Poplar Ridge church. Our meeting there continued from the 5th to the 17th of July. The Lord was pleased to bless our labors and 19 were added to the church. From Poplar Ridge we went to Sligo where I preached four days without success. From here we returned home on the 23rd of July. Next day I went to Buck Creek in Shelby Co. H. F. Jordan was pastor of the church. I remained here preaching twice a day, as usual, from July 25th to August 5th, hoping the rain would cease so that the people could come together. But it did not. Our attempted meeting proved a failure.
This was the summer of great rains in the Mississippi Valley. For the only time, I believe, since the settlement of the country, the Ohio River overflowed its banks in August. There was immense destruction of crops from Louisville to Cairo, as well as along the smaller streams in the interior of the State. The heavy rains continued during the fall, and while I did not slacken my labors it greatly mitigated against my success.
From Buck Creek I went home where I took a much needed rest of five days. I then went to Coxes Creek in Nelson County of which church J. M. Coleman was pastor. Our meeting there continued from the 15th to the 27th of August. We had a quite but very enjoyable season of worship and 16 were added to the church. I went from Coxes Creek, by way of home, to Long Run in Jefferson Co. where I began a meeting with Bro. W. E. Powers Aug. 29th. There again the Lord blessed our labors. The meeting continued twelve days and 19 were added to the church. Among these was J. S. Powers.
From Long Run, I returned home Sept. 10 preached at Beechland on the 12th and next day started to Trimble County where I preached one sermon at Middle Creek and then returned to Harrods Creek in Oldham Co. on the 19th. There I preached 12 days with only one addition to the church. I returned home October 1st, and next day started to Locust Creek in Carroll Count. Here I continued a meeting from the 3rd to the 17th of October with 5 additions to the church.
From Locust Creek I reached home on the 18th and on the 20th went to Horse Cave in Hart Co. T. W. Bibb was pastor of the church here. Elder B. F Page was with us in a meeting. I suffered much from asthma but continued to preach two weeks. Here were but four additions to the church.
From Horse Cave I returned home Nov. 4th and next day started to Little Union in Spencer Co. T. J. Coleman was pastor of the church there. We had a good meeting of two weeks continuance with 12 additions to the church. From here I went to Gilead Church in Hardin Co. We were still having great rains and high waters. Bro. T. W. Bibb was pastor of Gilead Church. Our meeting began Nov. 27th. Three days afterward I had to take to my bed and send for a physician. After nearly a week I got out again and made feeble efforts to preach a few more times, but with poor success. The meeting closed Dec. 12th with no addition to the church. But I had regained my usual health and next day began a meeting at Big Spring Church in LuRue Co. A. W. Richardson was the much loved young pastor. Our congregations were small on account of the heavy rains and high waters. But we had a delightful season of worship. Our meeting continued form the 13th to the 28th of December. There were 8 additions to the church. This closed my labors for the year 1875. I had done a hard years work and had endured much fatigue and exposure to inclement weather. But I had enjoyed some refreshing seasons and I trust I felt thankful to the Lord for his blessings. I traveled during the year by R. R. 924 miles; in carriage and wagon 1847; on horseback, 239; on foot, 77—total 3087. I preached 468 sermons and witnessed 169 additions to the churches.
My health was manifestly failing. My physician urged me to desist from Labor. But the field of my activities spread out broadly before me and the cry of help came to me from every quarter. I was unable to resist the appeals. I replied to my doctor: I am like a clock wound up: I can not stop till I run down. So I continued my labor with unabated constancy. But I was so feeble and so often sick that I found it needful henceforth to take my wife with me most of the time, and to have her constant attention.
I began my labors for the year 1876 by preaching ten days at my home church. Thence I went to Rowletts in Hart County where I preached three sermons and then began a meeting at Gilead in the same county on the 17th of January. A. W. Richardson was pastor of the church. The mighty power of the Holy Spirit wrought with us. The meeting continued till 2nd of February, and 26 were added to the church. A terrific snowstorm beset us one night about the close of the meeting. I had to face it a half mile on foot, after preaching. This rendered me so hoarse for several days that I could scarcely speak above a whisper. I was rarely afflicted with hoarseness and when I was a strong decoction of red pepper freely drunk and frequently gargled speedily relieved me.
From Gilead I returned home and went thence to Port Royal in Henry County where I commenced a meeting on the 6th of February. James C. Anderson was pastor of the church. He was a good man and an excellent preacher. But a prophet is not without honor save inhis own country, and he was not popular in the church among whom he had been raised up. Our meeting continued two weeks, with only three additions to the church.
This was the centennial yearof Baptist operations in Kentucky. At the solicitation of the Centennial Committee, I visited several churches and delivered addresses. After delivering an address at Elizabethtown on the 4th of March I continued the meeting there a month. The Methodists had just had a meeting there and something near a hundred persons had professed conversions. “Baptist Bragging”, as their centennial addresses were contemptuously termed, had much excited the envy and jealousy of their rival sects. We had much unseemly opposition in our meeting. Some young people of opposing sects behaved very rudely during public worship. The good old Presbyterian minister was especially sour and peevish, the young Methodist preacher was exceedingly active in guarding his lambs against the ferocity of Baptist wolves and I was seriously warned not to say anything that could offend the Catholics. Dispite these oppositions the pastor, J. S. Gatton, and myself labored on and finally obtained favor of the Lord. There were 18 additions to the church.
At the close of this meeting, I returned home and went thence to pay my annual visit to my father. After remaining with him two weeks, and preaching a couple sermons among my old friends, I returned home and on the 16th of July began a meeting at Fisherville in Jefferson County. I think Bro. Powers was with me. The meeting continued till the 29th with five additions to the church. On the 30th I commenced a meeting at Pewee Valley in Oldham County. This little new church was without a pastor, and was dominated by a popular grog-shop in its vicinity which was leading astray some of the young men of the families connected with the church as well as many others. Deacon J. B. Moody was doing all he could to resist the influence of this den of vice, and, if possible, to have it closed up. But the church was too weak and spiritless to second his efforts and he seemed likely to be crushed by the monster he was wrestling with. I soon comprehend the situation and resolved to throw the full measure of what little strength I possessed. I assaulted the grog-shop in almost every sermon I preached during the meeting which continued two weeks. Bro. Moody stood bravely with me and the church soon rallied around us. We had only four additions to the church. But I still regard it one of the most profitable meetings I was ever engaged in.
[Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky - The document was hand-written and typed in 1947 by Mrs. J. Henry Simpson. Available at the SBTS Archives, Louisville, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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