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W. Pope Yeaman, Pastor
First Baptist Covington, KY

By J. C. Maple, 1906
      The city of Covington, just opposite Cincinnati, Ohio, was fast becoming a commercial center. The Baptists of this city were fulfilling the scriptural command, "Covet the best gifts." There had been a theological seminary located there. It was the purpose of the founders of this institution to make a school for the training of the young Baptist preachers for the whole South as well as for the states that occupied the entire region watered by the Mississippi river and its tributaries. A valuable landed property in Covington was obtained and the school opened, with a good and strong faculty.

      If the property that was secured by the directors of this "Western Baptist Theological Seminary," had only been held intact it would long ago have been of sufficient value to endow a "School of the prophets," fully up to the demands of the twentieth century. But, through political jealousies and consequent bad temper, and worse management, nearly all was lost to the denomination.

      The Baptists of Covington, having been in contact with such men as the seminary, even in its short life, had brought among them, were looking for a pastor that could command the respect of the community at large and measure up to their enlarged ideals of that bishopric. They made overtures to the young pastor at Nicholasville. He assured

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them that he was well satisfied with his people and his work. The president of Georgetown College, Rev. D. R. Campbell, D. D., visited the minister and urged upon him the duty of taking the city work. He pleaded that there was no other man anywhere within reach that could do the work in Covington that the cause of Christ then needed. After a long and hard struggle Mr. Yeaman yielded and left his people in tears, to take up the larger work in the city. He told me often, after many years in the ministry, that his first was the most pleasant pastorate of his whole ministerial life.

      He at once began his work in Covington. Already the people had learned to appreciate his great abilities. He carefully studied the field and his own people, and soon learned the avenues of usefulness opening before him.

      In May, 1865, the General Association of Kentucky met in Covington. It was then the custom to hold, on the day preceding the organization of the convention, a state ministers' meeting. Men were chosen a year before to prepare addresses and sermons upon subjects assigned them. The most careful and elaborate preparation was expected. Sufficient time for a full discussion of each topic was provided for and full freedom for criticism, adverse or commendatory, was always anticipated. Some very important subject had been presented by the appointee, and was before the house for general discussion. After a number of the older men had presented their views, the pastor at Covington

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took the floor. He reviewed the position of the essayist and then the animadversions of the other speakers.

      The writer had, on the first of January preceding this meeting, settled as a pastor at Owensboro, and therefore was a member of the body. He was a new man in the state and kept very quiet, though a deeply interested listener. The Covington pastor had not uttered many sentences until it was evident that he had gone deeper into an understanding of the whole subject than any one who had thus far engaged in the discussion. Not only had he a more complete comprehension of the subject, in itself considered, and in all its relations to established principles, but his ability to put his thoughts into choice English words, charmed at least one of his attentive hearers. I said to a friend: "That man Yeaman has the brightest and most vigorous intellect of any man on this floor." And I have never yet changed my mind upon that subject.

      The summer following this meeting he came to Owensboro, Kentucky, to visit his brother, Hon. George H. Yeaman, and we hired a surrey and drove some eighteen or twenty miles into the country to attend the Daviess County Baptist Association. We were accompanied on this trip by Mrs. Maple, who added much to the pleasure of our jaunt. The meetings were held in a country church and we often drove three or four miles to the homes of those well-to-do farmers for our night's entertainment. By this means we were kept constantly in

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each other's company and that strong attachment began which lasted all our lives.

      At Covington Dr. Yeaman was soon recognized as a most accomplished pulpit orator. Many crossed the Ohio river from Cincinnati to hear "the best sermon preached anywhere" to use thir own words. While living in Covington Rev. George Varden, D. D., LL.D., one of the most scholarly men in the West, or anywhere else, joined Mr. Yeaman and for a year they published "The Baptist Monthly," a magazine of great merit. In this magazine Dr. Yeaman used his legal lore in a masterly review of the "Missouri Test Oath," a requirement made in the Drake Constitution of the great Commonwealth in which he was in the future to become such a distinguished citizen. In the main his animadversions upon this law were fully sustained by the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided it to be a violation of the National Constitution to pass or try to enforce such a law. How any company of men who had sense enough to find their way to the place where the Convention assembled to revise the constitution of a great state, could think that a man could be condemned for preaching the Gospel, when there was in no constitution of any state or in that of the United States, nor any decision of any court in the land, a definition of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, surpasses belief. Had they been possessed of any degree of common sense they would have known that they must first have some established form of religion and clearly define the things that, when proclaimed, would be in violation of their enactment. But there were men living in those days, and some yet remain, who were not wise in all things.

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      The magazine was growing in circulation, when the removal of the editor-in-chief to New York caused its suspension, never again to be revived.

      A few years after the close of the Civil War, when commercial activity and general intercourse between the various sections of our country were resumed, the name and reputation of the Covington pastor reached New York City. Some of the members of the Central Baptist Church of that city went unheralded to Cincinnati to spend a Sabbath and made their way on Sunday morning across the river. Without the knowledge of the preacher they were observing auditors. They not only gave attention to the sermon, but weighed well the entire service. Their purpose was to take full measurement of the preacher. Without making their purpose known they went home and reported to the church the conclusions reached by their scrutinizing visit. In a short time an invitation came to Mr. Yeaman to visit the chief city of North America. He went on to that City and the result was that, after hearing him, a hearty and unanimous call was extended to take the pastoral care of that large congregation.

      It was early in the year 1868, perhaps in February, that the urgent call came to him from New York. This call he accepted and, leaving his native state never again to become a permanent resident thereof, moved his family to the great metropolis.


[J. C. Maple, Life and Writings of Rev. William Pope Yeaman, S. T. D., 1906, pp. 24-28. - Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

      Additional Information -
      Samuel H. Ford, editor of The Christian Respository reported in 1859, as he attended an associational meeting at the Little Bethel Association convened at Grave's Creek, Henderson county. The Association embraces the churches of Henderson, Hopkins, Marion, and parts of Muhlenburg counties.

      "At night I had the pleasure of listening to Bro. Pope Yeaman, at the meeting house. He was a Methodist till a year ago. He was, also, a lawyer of ability and influence. Under the preaching of Bro. Coleman, he renounced his Methodism, Armenianism and all, and was baptized by him. He was soon after licensed, and has been since ordained; has given up all for Christ. He has recently been called to the church at Nicholasville, Jessamine county, Ky. He is a most promising young minister. May they make him a bright and shining light." -- (November, p. 872.)


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