The Life of H. Boyce Taylor
Elder Roy O. Beaman Murray, Ky.
Installment No. 2
HIS PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
Alfred Taylor, son of Elder Joseph Taylor whom we traced in our first article, was the paternal grandfather of H. B. Taylor. Alfred was born in Warren County, Kentucky, July 19, 1818. He became the leading Baptist preacher in Gasper River Association. A resolution in 1875 asking his son, W. C. Taylor, to write his biography says, "We remember with gratitude the laborious, self-sacrificing, and useful life of Elder Alfred Taylor, who labored so long and so successfully as a minister and Moderator of this body.''
Though Alfred's thirst for knowledge was great, because of the poor advantages of school in those days he could hardly read intelligibly or write his name legibly at the age of twenty. He "borrowed a grammar, the only one in his reach, copied it, and therefrom learned the rudiments of his mother tongue." Entering the ministry in Butler County, he removed to Warren County and went to school to Elder David Mansfield and later to Elder William Warder, a prominent Baptist preacher of that day in Logan County. Alfred read many books after his school days were over, and often gave a synopsis in his journal. His mind was analytical, dividing his subjects into their divisions and subdivisons, and he often penciled his thoughts when he was at work on his farm.
Alfred's conviction of sin began at eleven years of age, but his conversion came in his twenty-second year, in October 1829. His journal refers to indulgence in "many sinful practices," but he rejoiced that his "career in sin was short." A changed life followed his baptism into Sandy Creek Baptist Church, Butler County, Kentucky, by Benjamin Talbott, November 1829.
Licensed by Sandy Creek Church in May 1831, Brother Alfred's progress was slow until his ordination by the same church in May 1834, by his father, David Kelly, and William Childress. His powers, under God, soon brought him to the front, and those who knew him in his prime could scarcely realize that he ever had a slow start.
The following facts of the grandfather read like those of his noble grandson, lie tithed, often preached without remuneration, did not confine his preaching to church houses, and broke his health preaching. Dr. J. M. Pendleton, his contemporary, said, "Few ministers of his day spent more time in preaching, made more sacrifices for the cause of Christ, and received smaller compensation for faithful work." Elder J. F. Austin, his son in the ministry, wrote, "Brother Taylor died as a martyr to the cause of Christ." His son wrote, "Before he reached the age of thirty the providence of God placed him as the acknowledged leader of His Spiritual Israel" in three counties—Ohio, Butler, and Mulhenburg.
"The first regular protracted meeting ever held in Ohio County was begun and carried on by Alfred Taylor at Walton's Creek Church in December 1837." In the subsequent months the revivalist held about eight meetings and baptized some six hundred people. Dr. J. S. Coleman, his son in the ministry and moderator of the General Association of Kentucky Baptists for sixteen years, affirmed, "For twenty years after this ingathering his word was as good authority among Baptists, upon any and all questions, as Webster's Dictionary is in determining the meaning of words." And remember, Kentucky Baptists were in those days still shaking off those two deadly foes—the legalism of Campbellism and the antinomianism of Hardshellism. Alfred Taylor strongly preached Baptist doctrine, baptized many from other denominations, and held four public debates. In 1841 he debated with Elder Young and with a Methodist, T. C. Frogge, in 1854. The forces of Campbellism concentrated in the Green River country, and Alfred Taylor often skillfully exposed their fallacies and beheld their decline in that section.
Gasper River Association had no more prominent preacher than Alfred Taylor. He led in the organization of the Green River Bible Society in 1837, and was a member of the building committee, a trustee and "the agent to secure the funds" for a seminary which burned soon after its erection. He had a large part in developing the missionary spirit of that section, serving as the associational missionary. . . . He served his association eight years as treasurer, thirteen years as moderator; he preached the introductory sermon nine times and the Sunday sermon thirteen times; he attended the sessions of the association every year (except one) from 1831 to 1865.
Alfred Taylor baptized thirty odd ministers, led the first temperance reform inaugurated in Butler County, worked for the General Association of Kentucky Baptists in 1848 and 1858, and held these pastorates: Sandy Creek, Morgantown, and Salem in Butler County; Providence in Warren County; Mt. Carmel and Nelson's Creek in Muhlenburg County; Pond Run, Beaver Dam, Walton's Creek, Green River, Cool Spring, Hartford, Owensboro, and West Providence in Ohio County; and some in Christian County. A number of these churches he helped organize.
Alfred Taylor died October 9, 1865, near Bowling Green, Kentucky, at the home of Charles Asher, after eleven days illness of remittent fever and congestive chills attending tuberculosis. He had gone to assist his son, J. S. Taylor, in a protracted meeting at Providence Church, Warren County. J. F. Austin, his son in the ministry, preached his funeral at Green River meeting house, Ohio County, and he was buried in the family cemetery beside his parents.
Mrs. F. A. Taylor, the mother of Brother H. B. Taylor and "a grand old saint in Israel," was born in Ohio County, Kentucky, January 14, 1850. As we showed in the former article, she is related to "Old Harrison Taylor" of Virginia through two of his sons, Richard and William. Richard Taylor probably served in the Revolutionary War and lived to his eighty-fourth year, being celebrated for industry, integrity, and hospitality. Susan, his daughter by a second marriage, married Richard Stevens, whose ancestors came from Maryland to Ohio County, Kentucky. Blackstone Stevens, the father of Mrs. Taylor, was a son of Richard and Susan Stevens.
William, fourth son of old Harrison Taylor and great-grandfather of Mrs. F. A. Taylor, was a man of powerful frame, will, and energy. He was distinguished as one of the best farmers, as the first to use the swamp-lands for meadows, and as the builder of the first brick dwelling in Ohio County. Mrs. Taylor well remembers this house and the thick walls and flower-filled windows. Septimus, William's oldest son, married Althea Leach whose parents were from Maryland, and their daughter, Hannah Ann Taylor, following the proneness of the Taylors and Stevens to intermarry, married Blackstone Stevens. Mrs. F. A. Taylor is the oldest and only surviving child of their five children. Mrs. Hannah Ann Taylor died December 22, 1919, aged eighty-nine, and H. B. Taylor preached her funeral and said in News and Truths, "Her home was open to orphan children."
Mrs. Taylor's people were all Methodists except Richard Taylor, brother of her maternal grandfather, who preached for the Presbyterians in Ohio and adjoining counties. Thomas Taylor (1764-1836) second son of old Harrison Taylor, was a prominent pioneer Methodist preacher in Ohio and adjoining counties. She was, therefore, the first Baptist on either side and has had a very unique experience.
Mrs. Taylor was reading by the time she was four years of age, having been taught from the old blue-back speller by her maternal grandparents in whose home she stayed much of the time. Influenced by her grandmother who was a great Bible reader, she read the Bible through by the time she was seven years of age. For this striking act a Methodist presiding elder gave her a copy of the Word of God, which was to play such an important part later. To date she has read the Bible through ninety-two times and the New Testament through five additional times, being hindered from reaching her goal of one hundred times by failing sight that has for years required a magnifier when she read.
One night when Mrs. Taylor was about nine years of age, her father suggested that she read a chapter from her Bible. It "happened to open" at Matthew 3, and she took it to her mother, who was washing the supper dishes, saying, "Old Alfred Taylor is right; Jesus was baptized." Mrs. Stevens replied pacifyingly, "The Methodists will baptize either way." Her father did not dream of the end, but, to use the words of Mrs. Taylor, "It was the Master's leading."
Mrs. Taylor says she never saw her mother angry but once. Once when Mrs. Taylor was at the home of her maternal grandparents, a Methodist preacher was to hold a sprinkling service at a nearby schoolhouse. Her grandfather stopped planting corn to attend, and her grandmother said to her grandchild, "I am thinking of taking you today and having you baptized. If I do you will go to heaven." Of course the child desired to go to heaven and told her mother when she returned home, who exclaimed in anger, "She had better not take away from my child her privilege as she did from me in having me sprinkled." Mrs. Taylor became a Baptist and so did all of her brothers and sisters.
Septimus and Silas Stevens, brothers of Mrs. Taylor and younger than she, stayed in her home in Auburn, Kentucky, during their four years in high school. Through Mrs. Taylor's teaching in the home and Pastor Taylor's from the pulpit, Silas was converted there and joined the Baptists at his home, and Septimus professed later. Since his wife was a Methodist, the Methodist preachers came over to win him; but Septimus had Silas present who answered the arguments to the satisfaction of his brother. Septimus, therefore, became a Baptist and the father of two noble Baptist preachers, Elders Chester and Cecil Stevens of this state.
Of these experiences the aged saint remarked, "Certainly the Master was in the lead and had something in view or it would not have ended this way. My life must have been a planned life for the Master." She had in mind the facts that she became a Baptist from a strong Methodist family, a Baptist preacher's wife, mother of two Baptist preachers, and instrumental in making Baptists of two brothers, one of whom has two Baptist preacher sons.
William Carey Taylor, the fifth child of Alfred Taylor and Mary Ann Mahon, was born February 4, 1845, in Washington County, Alabama, while his parents spent six months with Taylor relatives there. His father had bought up a drove of horses or cattle and driven them to Alabama. Our former article relates the going of a son of Moses Taylor to this state.
W. C. T. was converted and baptized at the age of thirteen, during a meeting held by his father at West Providence Church in Ohio County, a church planted by his father. Green River Church of the same county licensed him in 1867 and ordained him in August 1869, J. F. Austin, R. H. Miller, and Judson Taylor, his brother, officiating. He attended Bethel College from 1866 to 1869, but his health forced him to leave during his junior year. He married Fannie A. Stevens (already described above) November 30, 1869, Elder J. F. Austin officiating. Their three children are: Boyce, Fred, and W. C., Jr.
Brother Taylor held these pastorates and probably others: Green River and Mt. Zion in Ohio County; Providence, Rockfield, and Clear Fork in Warren County: Nelson's Creek in Muhlenburg County; and Bethlehem, Greenville, Shady Grove, Smith's Grove, Mizpah, and Friendship of that section. He was half-time pastor of Auburn Church, Logan County, for eight years and full-time pastor of Mayfield, Graves County, for five years. He was once moderator of West Union Association. He was loved by his churches in that they always wanted him to stay longer.
Like his father and son, W. C. Taylor held several debates, at least six oral and one written. Two of these were at Providence Baptist Church of Warren County, one with a Methodist and the other with a Campbellite, who left the second or third day and his church died. His eight-day debate in 1881 with J. B. Briney, a Campbellite, at Oakland, near Bowling Green, was attended by forty preachers and led to a long newspaper discussion with A. H. Redford, Methodist presiding elder of that section. His son, after a meeting there in 1908, wrote this in News and Truths, "At that time the Campbellites had a very strong church at Oakland, and the Baptists none at all; now the Campbellites have a weak struggling organization of about fifty members, and the Baptists have a live, wide-awake, aggressive church." He went from Mayfield to be moderator for J. N. Hall in a debate with the above-mentioned Briney, at Newbern, Tennessee. Illness kept J. N. Hail away, and the people choose W. C. Taylor in his place. He debated with J. C. Creel at Dexter City, Missouri. In his debate near Mayfield, Kentucky, with Mr. Perkins, a Hardshell, Elder Perkins talked in the last speech of how he had defeated Taylor and quoted in conclusion these words : "W. C. Taylor, here he lies; no one laughs; no one cries; where Ile is and how he fares, no one knows and no one cares." W. C. Taylor solemnly answered, "I do care where Brother Perkins goes after death; that is the difference between Missionaries and Hardshells."
But the body of W. C. Taylor could not go on longer. He left Mayfield in September 1887, locating his family in Russellville, Kentucky, to school his sons. He went during the winter to Florida and elsewhere, but tuberculosis of the throat took him away in his prime after four days confinement in his home in Russellville on May 12, 1888, at the age of forty-three. Mayfield Church continued his salary for sometime after he left her, sent one hundred dollars for funeral expenses, erected to his memory (as the monument shows) a beautiful tombstone in the cemetery at Russellville, and had Dr. J. B. Moody hold a memorial service with her at Mayfield.
An obituary notice said, "He became one of the most successful pastors in the state. His style was clear and vigorous." The Auburn Coonranger said when he left Auburn, "Elder Taylor justly ranks high among the purest men and ablest divines in the state." Dr. J. S. Coleman said that in his esteem W. C. Taylor "was Kentucky's greatest pulpit orator." The recent publication by his sons of his tract, "Defects of Campbellite Repentance and Faith," is a fitting tribute.
============[From: T. P. Simmons, editor, The Baptist Examiner, November 1, 1932, pp. 5-6. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.] Third Installment
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