Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.
Jacksonian Miscellanies is a weekly email newsletter which presents short documents from the United States' Jackson Era, with a minimum of commentary. Anyone can receive it for free by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org a message with
as either the subject line, or as the *only* line in the message body. If you want to make a comment or query, please send a separate message to email@example.com.
Jacksonian Miscellanies can also be read at http://www.panix.com/~hal/jmisc. The WWW version is augmented with much biographical, bibliographical, and other information.
Please direct responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, even though you may receive Jacksonian Miscellanies by way of a mailing list. That way I am more certain to read them, and perhaps, with your permission, post useful excerpts in a later issue.
The following chapters from The Life and Times of Elder Reuben Ross, by his son James Ross, conclude the two-part series of descriptions of Baptist ministers in central Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1800s.
The eccentric Elder Todeville kept dressing in the 18th century manner, lived in an isolated cabin, had involved conversations with his horse, and drew affection from his neighbors, who sewed for him or secretly filled up his corncrib. The author, casually racist as always, tells how the elder was on bad terms with "darkies" whom he endeavored to convince that "they ought to be very thankful they had some one to whip them when they needed it".
The writer treats Elder Sugg Fort (quite a name!) less as a "character", but uses him to describe his experience as a young boy, following his father and Elder Fort on the meeting trail. He also respectfully describes Fort's "spiritualizing" preaching style.
Daniel Parker is notable for propagating the "two seed" doctrine,
"which heresy shook the churches of the Old Order to their foundations
long after the Bethel Association had been formed."
It seems that when Elder Parker in reading his Bible found such expressions
as, "Your father, the devil," or "Child of the devil,"
it set him to thinking, as did the falling of that famous apple Sir Isaac
Newton,-which was, in his case, too, attended with important results.
He decided ... that without any figure of speech Satan had a host of lineal descendants in the world. And when we look around us and see how enormously wicked people sometimes become, this fancy of Elder Parker does not seem so absurd after all.
Finally, in the sketch of Elder Garner McConnico, we get the story of a man who at first (back in Virginia) tried to be a preacher; felt humiliated as a failure, and gave it up until he had a sort of rebirth in the wilderness, and was found to have "talents of the first order", and "a voice like a trumpet".
SKETCHES OF EARLY MINISTERS.
ELDER Isaac Todevine emigrated
from Virginia about the year 1785. He was an ordained minister belonging
to the church of London Bridge, Princess Anne County. He lived six or eight
miles north of Clarksville when I first knew him.
to my recollection of him he was short of stature, rather thick set, with
a full round face, large black eyes, and olive complexion. He was, no doubt,
of Italian extraction. He wore what was called a round breasted coat and
waistcoat, short kneebreeches, and stockings. His shoes, instead of
strings, were fastened with large buckles nearly covering the front. This
costume was quite common among elderly gentlemen in the early part of the
present century. On the whole, his appearance was rather respectable, though
his motions were too brisk and quick to be graceful and dignified.
He was never at a loss for
subjects of conversation. I used when a boy to think his talk very amusing.
His utterance was distinct though rapid, and his sentences short and abrupt.
He would often, when no one was expecting it, commence singing one of the
fine old hymns of Newton, Watts, or Cowper. It was useless for any one
to join in with him, for no other person could sing a hymn of the same
length in the same time. He would finish it by the time another would get
fairly started. Many times late at night, while in bed, he would break
out and sing one of these hymns.
in a solitary cabin on the bank of a pretty stream called Spring Creek,
on account of the number of fine springs whose waters unite to form it.
Some of these in classic times would have been thought favorite abodes
of the nymphs, "domus nympharum," on account of their
romantic beauty. The maple, poplar, beech trees, and wild flowers that
once grew around them nave mostly disappeared, but their sparkling waters
still flow on as when first seen by the pioneer hunter When at home, the
only companions the old solitary had were his horse Snip and his do; Pup.
The farmers of the neighborhood gratuitously supplied food for himself
and his two companions. Your mother's father, a very kindhearted gentleman,
often filled Snip's little crib with corn during the old man's absence.
On returning home he would be very much pleased, and if asked who had been
so kind would say," Either Charles Barker or the Lord, he didn't know
his simple meals himself: His lady friends, kindhearted and good as
they ever will be, supplied him with clothes. Mrs. Rebecca Dudley, who
lived near this old hermit, told me not long since that she and the Misses
White, sisters of Willie White, Esq., all of whom you have seen when a
little girl, often made up clothing for him. I do not remember to have
heard any one say in what way he spent his solitary hours. I think, though,
he was fond of reading; have heard him speak of Flavel, Toplady, Bunyan,
Booth, and Gill, as if he were familiar with those fine old writers. He
read his Bible much, lingering no doubt with special delight on the passages
which to his mind established his favorite doctrinal views.
tired of home he would saddle up Snip, lock the door of his cabin, and,
together with Pup, set out on a circuit among the churches of the Association
to which he belonged, and they were all kindly received wherever they went.
Pup was permitted by the kind sisters to take his place at meal time near
his master, who would from time to time give him a part of whatever he
had on his plate. The young darkies waiting, round the table thought Pup
got a greater number of good things than a dog was entitled to, were quite
unfriendly to him, and often gave him a kick when they could do so on the
sly. He was a goodnatured, lazy, worthless fellow, but none the less
beloved by his master on that account. Pup used to have a gay time at the
big meetings playing and romping with the other dogs while his master was
preaching. The old man was quite uneasy at times for fear he would leave
him. It was said on one occasion, while preaching, he looked out from the
window and seeing Pup, as he thought, going off with a stranger, stopped
short in his discourse and requested one of the brethren to please go and
brie, Pup back, as he feared he might lose him, and then went on with his
discourse again. This reminds one of the anecdote told of the venerable
Elder Craig of Kentucky, who, while preaching, happening to see from a
window the limb of a tree that had a crook exactly suitable for the frame
of a packsaddle, stopped immediately, told his audience the discovery
he had made, informed them that he claimed the crooked limb by the right
of discovery, and, then went on with his sermon. Such crooked limbs were
hard to find and highly prized in those days when pack saddles were in
great demand. These two preachers, from what I have heard, seem to have
resembled each other very much in their eccentricities.
Every morning after
breakfast, with a biscuit or two in his pocket for Snip, the old man would
go out to the stable or lot. Snip, so soon as he saw his master, would
go up to him. He would then ask him how he was getting on, and whether
they gave him enough to eat and drink. At this the horse would lay back
his ears, indulge in a low whine, and paw the ground slightly. I used to
think this was carrying things a little too far, that it looked like a
sort of witchcraft, and could not help feeling somewhat afraid aid of them.
Snip seemed to expect something to eat, and would smell about his master's
pockets for it, which amused the old man greatly.
Elder Todevine was quite fluent, and on that account would be requested
to conduct family worship when visiting the brethren. He would commence
by involving the choicest blessings on the family under whose roof he then
was, then on the surrounding community, then on the nation and its rulers,
then on all men everywhere; and finally on the church, that she might awake
and put on her beautiful garments, and that her glory might fill the whole
He and the
darkies were far from being on good terms. When preaching on the duties
of master and servant, he would take great pains to convince the latter
they ought to be very thankful they had some one to whip them when they
needed it, adding at the same time, very shrewdly, that it would be a good
thing if some white people had some one to do the same for them. He would
tell them that a good whipping, when they needed it, was worth more to
them than a suit of new clothes. They were highly offended at this kind
of preaching and called him all sorts of ugly names. Neither was he very
popular among the boys, as he would sometimes cut them up pretty sharply.
His belief in election and
predestination was unwavering. According to his theology the condition
of one not elected from the foundation of the world was as changeless and
as hopeless as if he were already in the bottomless pit. On the other hand,
if he were one of the elect, neither his own wrong doings nor all the powers
of darkness could prevent his salvation. Strange that so many great and
good men should have believed a doctrine so terrible! And when Elder Moore
or others would preach one of their powerful discourses advocating it,
the old man's countenance would beam with delight and he would say, "Glorious
day for my soul."
Elder Todevine when preaching
always divided his discourses into a number of heads, or topics, often
into half a dozen or more. These he would take up and discuss in order.
Sometimes, however, in his more advanced age, he would forget some of them.
Might not his method prove useful if adopted by some preachers of the present
day, many of whom have but little method in their sermons?
Many years before his
death he told his friends he had had a dream in which it was shown to him
at what age or at what date he would die. This dream had been so strongly
impressed on his mind that he often made it the subject of conversation.
According to it he was to die in the year 1821. Early in the month of March
of that year he left home for Blooming Grove Church in the western part
of the county. On his way he stayed all night his friend and neighbor Mr.
Bryan Whitfield, who told him he was too old and infirm to ride so far
by himself, and tried to persuade him not to go. He replied there were
two souls there he was to be instrumental in awakening before his departure
which was near at hand, and Mr. Whitfield, supposing, it to be one of his
fancies, said nothing more. He went on to the church, preached to the people,
and returned home. Some days after he rode over to Mr. Whitfield's, called
him to the gate, told him his time to die had come, and as he would rather
not die at home by himself, he would be very thankful if he would permit
him to die at his house. Mr. Whitfield, after joking him a little, invited
him to get down and go in. He did so, took his bed, and, as one account
says, died the next day; another, a few days afterwards, on the 23d of
March, 1821 One hardly knows what to think of such cases of presentiment
as this; but, as there are so many on record that seem to be well authenticated,
it is, perhaps, best simply to state the facts and leave each one to form
his own conclusions regarding them.
It is said when his remains were carried
to the grave, his dog followed them, and after it was filled up laid down
beside it, and remained shore several days, until Mr. William Watwood,
an old friend of his master, tied a handkerchief round his neck and led
him away. Thus ended the life of this singular but interesting old preacher.
His name has nearly passed into oblivion, but brings back to my mind 'the
memory of the days of' other years." He was buried on the hill to
the right of the road leading from Clarksville to Trenton, Kentucky, just
before crossing the creek on which his cabin once stood; and far away from
the home of his childhood.
Elder Sugg Fort, fourth in
order of the preachers mentioned above, was highly esteemed and popular
in his day. He was below the medium height, a good deal disabled by rheumatism,
of a pleasant and engaging countenance and always neat in his dress and
person. He was much beloved by all who knew him, the young especially,
on account of his affectionate, cheerful, and affable manner; and of all
the preachers who visited your grandfather your two aunts and I loved him
Children and young people generally
used to stand in much greater awe of preachers than at present, and kept
out of their way, if possible, fearing they might be questioned and lectured
by them. When they did take us in hand, though, we were pitiablelooking
objects, and almost as happy when released as birds out of a cage or criminals
when reprieved. This was not the case when Uncle Sugg, as we familiarly
called him, talked to us about being religious. On the contrary, his manner
was such that we liked to listen to him, and generally felt like trying
to improve in consequence of what he would say. This was because he divested
himself of that stiff and solemn manner which others were apt to assume
on such occasions. He would tell me sometimes, that he intended to make
a preacher of me, that I might take my father's place when he was gone;
but I must first become a good Christian.
He and your grandfather
loved each other as men not related seldom do. They were both born the
same year-1776-both from the old North State, and from adjoining counties,
Martin and Edgecombe. When a free salvation to all who would accept it
began to be preached by your our grandfather, which, as will be related
hereafter, resulted in his separation from his high Calvinistic brethren,
Elder Fort was the first, or among the first, to enlist in the same cause.
And side by side, they passed through all the troubles that agitated the
Baptist churches previous to the organization of the Bethel Association.
They travelled and preached together, not only in their respective counties,-Montgomery
and Robertson,-but also in distant localities where the people were destitute
of Christian religious instruction. On these tours they were always received
with the greatest kindness and respect, and the attention paid to their
preaching showed that the religious feeling among those early settlers
was much greater than is generally supposed.
retain a very pleasant recollection of a trip I made with them among the
hills and valleys of Stewart County east of the Cumberland. The people
among whom we went were thinly settled along the pretty streams bordered
by the rich narrow bottoms already mentioned. The ridges dividing these
streams were often high and steep, and covered with heavy timber in many
places affording wild and romantic scenery. Uncle Sugg and I had a great
deal of pleasant chat riding along together over these hills and across
the streams, while your grandfather would often ride on before studying,
as we would say, upon his sermons.
usually left home early in the morning for some place where an appointment
for them to preach had been made some time before. This was generally the
residence of some welltodo settler or some rude meetinghouse
made of round logs covered with boards kept in place by poles laid upon
them near a spring or on the margin of some pretty stream. Here two sermons
would be preached, one immediately after the other by day, and another
somewhere in the vicinity at night, and this would be the order until they
returned home again.
In the neighborhood where these meetings were held all business was
suspended, and the most marked attention was given by the audiences, many
coming from a distance guided to the place by trees, from which the bark
had been chipped off. On these occasions the hospitality of these people
knew no limits. You were welcome to all they had, and to see that you enjoyed
it and were satisfied with it seemed to afford them the liveliest pleasure.
You were sure to have plenty to eat, a big fire to sit by, your horse well
cared for, and the best accommodations for sleeping they had.
The flattering attentions I received on your grandfather's account showed
plainly how much children are indebted to the good name and respectability
of their parents. Yet how few ever think of this! The child of honored
and respected parents has, on the day of its birth, what the child of the
poor outcast can hardly obtain after a long life of good and virtuous conduct.
I imagined the preachers were abler in their discourses among these
people than when nearer home. Perhaps I was not mistaken, and the idea
of carrying the gospel where it was seldom heard, and to people who listened
with so much interest kindled unusual zeal.
Your grandfather on this tour preached a sermon, by which the audience
was greatly moved, and which seemed to sound in our ears for many days
afterwards. It was from these words: "Thus it is written, and thus
it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day."
Although Elder Fort was an interesting
preacher at all times, he was particularly so, as I thought, when he adopted
the style called spiritualizing, he sometimes did. At the house
of my uncle, Nathan Ross, who then lived on Saline Creek, in Stewart County
he preached a sermon of this kind which all very much admired, and I think
I can give you some idea of it even now.
But I will
first remark that it is believed by many that much of the sacred writings
has a twofold meaning, one plain or obvious, the other more recondite or
hidden, and that he who sees the former only has but little or no conception
of all their marvellous beauty. Those who had fine imaginations and could
perceive and elaborate to advantage these hidden beauties and relations,
were considered as little less than inspired. How strange that a text they
had read again and again and never supposed meant anything more than just
what it said, should have concealed in it, as the rough ordinary looking
stone sometimes has, a gem so rich and beautiful. People would go far to
hear one of these gifted preachers and consider themselves well repaid
for their trouble. When characterized by good sense and taste this preaching
was very pleasing, as, beside the religious element, it had all the charm
that ins ention and novelty throw around a subject.
the time alluded to Elder Fort took for his text Exodus 15:27." And
they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and
ten palm trees; and they encamped there by the waters."
"The ordinary reader of the Bible," he said,
"will only see in this text the simple statement of the fact that
the Jews, after leaving the land of Egypt, while journeying on encamped
at a place called Elim, where were twelve wells of water and threescore
and ten palmtrees; and could find nothing more. But in the first place
observe, my friends this journey of the Jews through the wilderness to
the land of Canaan, lying far away beyond the distant Jordan, is beautifully
typical of the. Christian's journey through the wilderness of this world
before he reaches the Jordan of death, after crossing which it will be
his unspeakable happiness to enter the heavenly Canaan, where will be found
"You will observe, also, that the Jews, just before
reaching Elim, had been encamped at a place called Marah, whose waters
were bitter, unfit for use, tending to produce disease and death. Need
I tell you that Marah and its bitter waters are typical of a sinful and
wicked state or course of life, which, if we do not abandon it, will result
not only in temporal, but also in spiritual or eternal death. Let me therefore
entreat you, as you would enjoy eternal happiness beyond the grave, to
leave these bitter waters of Marah and journey with us to Elim, and with
US refresh your spirits at these delicious fountains.
"The twelve wells of water at Elim are typical of
the twelve holy apostles, whose writings contain the waters of eternal
life of which he that drinks shall never die. The doctrines and blessed
promises to be found in them are more refreshing to the Christian while
on his journey, than all the fountains that ever gushed from Carmel or
Lebanon to travellers from the desert. They contain treasures hidden from
the careless eye. Search them diligently. They will make you wise unto
salvation, and enable you to obtain an inheritance among them that are
" And should we not bless and magnify the name of
our Heavenly Father who has given us these living oracles, these writings
of the twelve holy apostles, these wells of water at Elim to refresh us
on our journey, as they did the Jews when journeying to the beautiful land
promised their fathers long years before?
"But did they find aught beside the twelve fountains
when they arrived at Elim? Yea verily! Three score and ten palmtrees
rising above the sands of the desert in matchless beauty, casting a delicious
shade from their long dark green leaves, where the Jewish host might rest
their toilworn limbs. What beautiful emblems these of the seventy
sent out by Christ, as recorded by Luke, to publish the glad tidings of
salvation to those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death."
Thus in a style of preaching both pleasing and instructive would Elder
Fort often delight his audiences.
another occasion he preached an interesting discourse of the same kind
from Proverbs 30:26. "The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they
their houses in the rock."
The coney, he told us, was a small animal of the rabbit kind, very weak
and unable to defend itself from its enemies, and for this reason was always
found near large masses of rock, in which it made its house, and to which
it would flee in times of danger. Here, protected by its stronghold, it
was safe from all its enemies, how powerful soever they might be. These
weak but sagacious little animals he considered typical of the Christians,
who have chosen a tower of strength-the Rock of Ages-to which they can
flee in the hour of danger, and where they can rest in safety while storms
and tempests are raging without.
It was delightful to sit and listen to him while running the parallel
between this little animal and his antitype, the Christian, and bringing
to view so many interesting points of resemblance between them.
Elder Sugg Fort was pastor of the Red River Baptist Church until his
death in 1829. It was organized by his father Elias Fort and other pioneer
Baptist brethren in 1791, and is the oldest church in the Bethel Association.
It worships in a handsome new house near Adams' Station, on the Nashville
& Henderson railroad.
Elder Fort and your grandfather lived in adjoining counties. Their fields
of labor were consequently nearly the same. I well remember how much they
seemed to enjoy each other's society, and how heavily the news of his fellowlaborer's
death fell on your grandfather. They were separated more than thirty years.
May we not suppose there was joy unspeakable when they met again on the
SKETCHES OF EARLY MINISTERS.
BESIDES Elders Moore, Brooks, Todevine, and Fort, there were two others
who occasionally visited us, viz., Elders Daniel Parker, and Garner McConnico,
the former a messenger sometimes sent from the Wabash Association, Indiana.
The latter was from the Cumberland Association, Tennessee, already mentioned.
They were very different from each other in many respects, but both were
men of note.
I think, I only saw and heard preach once which was during an Association
held at Spring Creek Church about the year 1820. He was a small, drylooking
man, of the gipsy type, with black eyes and hair and dark complexion.
On rising in the pulpit to
speak, he soon gave us to understand that he meant business,-pulled off
his coat and vest, laid them deliberately on the pulpit near him, and unbuttoned
his shirt collar. After this preparation it is almost incredible with what
ease and fluency he spoke. He seemed full of his subject, and went through
it in a way that was truly wonderful. He was an able man in his way, but
afterwards gave his Calvinistic brethren a great deal of trouble, from
which they have not vet fully recovered. The famous "two seed"
doctrine originated with him, which heresy shook the churches of the Old
Order to their foundations long after the Bethel Association had been formed.
It seems that when Elder Parker
in reading his Bible found such expressions as, "Your father, the
devil," or "Child of the devil," it set him to thinking,
as did the falling of that famous apple Sir Isaac Newton,-which was, in
his case, too, attended with important results.
He decided in his own mind that these texts were to be understood literally
and not figuratively, as they had been heretofore, and that without any
figure of speech Satan had a host of lineal descendants in the world. And
when we look around us and see how enormously wicked people sometimes become,
this fancy of Elder Parker does not seem so absurd after all.
But in order to make out that Satan had children in the world directly
descended from him, he had to adopt the violent presumption that the souls
of one part of mother Eve's children were of celestial origin, as, for
instance, that of Abel, and those of another part, as that of Cain, were
supplied in some way by Satan. And thus came the two seeds, which
are now so mingled together that no being in the universe but the Omniscient
can tell one from the other-the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the
goats-with any degree of certainty. At the last day, however, a complete
and final separation will take place. Satan's seed will then be sent to
dwell with him forever in outer darkness, while the good seed will
be permitted to enter into the joy of their Lord. According to Elder Parker,
the devil's children were the nonelect, and their being such was a
sufficient reason for their being left out of the plan of salvation.
This doctrine was received with great favor by numbers of the Old Order
of Baptists, and it required all the learning and talent of those opposed
to it to prevent its general adoption. Any one who is anxious to look further
into this subject may consult the great argument of the late Dr. Watson
against this heresy in his work the "Old Baptist Test," before
referred to. He was a professor in the Medical Department of the University
of Nashville, and one of the luminaries of the hyperCalvinistic Baptists.
I am not able to tell you when or where Elder Parker died, but think,
when he used to come among us, he lived in Indiana, and belonged to the
Wabash Baptist Association in that State.
Elder Garner McConnico, who belonged
to the Cumberland Association, used to come down now and then and preach
among us. He was a large, handsome man. His voice was singularly rich and
powerful, and his talents of the first order.
On one occasion
he had an appointment to preach under some shade trees on the banks of
Big Harpeth River;. but there fell a heavy rain the night before, and when
he reached the river it was past fording, consequently, he could not join
his congregation. He spoke to them, however, from the opposite bank, and
told them if they would scat themselves and be quiet they should hear what
he had to say. This being done, he raised his voice a little above its
usual pitch, and preached a fine sermon, every word of which was distinctly
heard on the other side, notwithstanding the distance, and the dashing
of the swollen stream against its banks. Elder Todevine used to say when
speaking of him, "Brother McConnico has a voice like a trumpet."
The following sketch of him is condensed from an old record now before
Elder McConnico was
born in 1771, in Lunenburg County, Virginia, and was the youngest of three
brothers His mother was a woman of great piety, from whom he received when
young many kind admonitions. An old Baptist preacher who had belonged to
the British army, and remained in the United States after the Revolutionary
war was over, was instrumental in awakening him to a sense of his lost
This old soldier had an appointment to preach in his mother's neighborhood,
and she requested Garner to go with her to hear him. To this he objected.
The request was slightly modified so as to take the form of a command.
With this he thought it prudent to comply. He hated the very name of
Englishman, having when a youth been often compelled by the British and
Tories to leave his home, and lie out in the woods when they were in that
part of the country. And he determined, if he did go, not to listen to
a word the preacher had to say-his mother could not make him do that any
On reaching the place, however,
he concluded to go just near enough to look at the preacher. He proved
such a diminutive, unsightly dwarf of a man, that young McConnico felt
some curiosity to hear him talk a little. He did so, and never heard mortal
man speak with such power. To use his own expression, "He seemed to
bring the very heavens end Earth together," and when he came to himself
he was standing near the old man in tears. From this time he never rested
until he embraced religion, anal united with the Baptist Church at Tusekiah.
after this he was married to Miss Mary Walker, and commenced trying to
preach. He was however, so disgusted with his efforts, and annoyed by the
ridicule of his brother that he and his young wife left Virginia, crossed
the mountains, and in 1795 settled in Davidson County, Tennesee, hoping
to get rid of the impression that it was his duty to preach. Fully resolving
never to do so any more, he enjoined on his wife, when they should seek
their new home, not to let it be known he had ever presumed to be a minister
of the gospel. Here he resided two years after his removal, in a state
of great darkness, to use his words.
this he was in search of his horse that had strayed off in the spring of
the year. As he was walking along a narrow path cut through the tall cane,
in deep thought on the subject of preaching, he saw a small venerablelooking
man advancing towards him. The thought at once came into his mind that
this was just such a looking person as the apostle Paul, and when they
met after the usual salutations, the following dialogue ensued.
"What sort of a country is this we are in?" said McConnico.
"A very rich woody country," responded the old man.
"Any religion in it ?"
"A few scattered about here and there."
"Any Baptist preaching in it ?"
"There will be Baptist preaching in it next Lord's Day."
"And you are the preacher ?"
"I try to preach here sometimes for want of a better.
Here they parted. This old man afterwards proved to be Elder Dillahunty,
a pioneer Baptist preacher, well known in that part of the country in the
could hardly wait for the day of preaching to come round, so great was
his desire to hear the venerable old man preacher. Punctual to the time
he was there; and when Elder Dillahunty at the close of his sermon made
an appointment to preach on a certain Lord's Day at Richland Meeting House,
young McConnico in his excitement rose up and said:
"And I will be with you there."
"And who are you?" says Father Dillahunty.
"The man you met in the cane brake."
"And a preacher ?"
"Why, yes, I have tried to exercise a little in that way."
And now the great secret he and his wife were going to keep so close,
was out, and he was in great trouble on account of what he had done.
At the time and place appointed, he attended, but tried hard to beg
off from preaching; Father Dillahunty, however, held him to his promise.
He had not gotten more than half through his sermon before the good old
man rose from his seat, took him in his arms, wept aloud, and thanked God
for having found a young brother on the frontier troth able and willing
to assist him in spreading the glad tidings in the wilderness.
This Elder Dillahunty was a Baptist preacher belonging to the Neuse
River Association, North Carolina; before he came to the west. (See Burkitt
and Reed, page 309). Richland Meeting House where this took place was the
name of the first Baptist Church ever planted on the south side of Cumberland
River, in Davidson County.
the fall of 1797 Elder McConnico removed to the neighborhood of Franklin,
Williamson County. Here he built up the Big Harpeth Church, which was organized
in 1800. It was the third Baptist church planted south of Nashville. He
was ordained to the ministry by this church in 1800, and took the pastoral
charge of it the day he was ordained. He continued pastor until his death
in August 1833, in the sixtysecond year of his age. All his life after
he joined the church, about fortyfive years, was spent in preaching
the gospel. He loved this church to the last, and in the dying hour when
all else seemed forgotten often repeated its name.
thing in this connection strikes us as a very singular coincidence. It
so happened that he preached his first and his last sermon from the same
text. "Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith." Probably
such a thing never occurred before. It seems to have been purely accidental.
the organization of the Cumberland Baptist Association he was chosen its
Moderator, and remained in that honorable office till his death. This showed
the high estimation in which he was held by his brethren, and his ability
to preside. over their deliberations.
An extract from a notice
of his life says: "Elder McConnico was peculiarly commanding. He was
of a stout, robust person-his face intellectual-his eye penetrating -his
whole demeanor marked with perfect dignity, and his voice singularly powerful,
manly, and pleasing."
Such I remember him to have been more than fifty years ago, when in
the prime of his manhood and the vigor of his faculties, he would address
us while sitting under the trees during the pleasant days of summer.
happiness which those of the same faith felt when they happened to meet
in the wilderness is well illustrated by the account given above of the
interview between Elders Dillahunty and McConnico. And it is altogether
unlike what is felt in densely populated sections at the present day. Their
loneliness and isolation caused a thrill of joy at meeting more easily
imagined than described.
Who shall describe the deep feeling of brotherly dove among the few men and women who met in Severn's Valley, ninety years ago, under the branches of a primeval sugar maple, to organize the first Baptist church ever constituted in the state of Kentucky? The men were clothed in hunting shires, leggings, and moccasins all made of the skins of wild beasts, and wearing hats made of buffalo hair rolled round oaken splits. The women wore garments of the same materials. Their descendants who now worship in costly temples have little conception of the Christian affection that filled the hearts of these strangers meeting thus in a strange land.You can support this site at no cost if you make an Amazon purchase using this link to get to Amazon: Thanks