Among The Baptist
BRIEF ACCOUNT OF MY EARLY EFFORTS FOR THE COLLECTION OF MATERIALS FOR A
GENERAL HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS IN ALL AGES AND COUNTRIES. — BAPTIST MINISTERS
OF DISTINCTION IN THE DIFFERENT STATES.
IN 1802, as near as I can recollect, while I was engaged in
classical studies, I first entertained the idea of becoming a Baptist historian;
but my youth, inexperience and want of pecuniary means, for some time, stood in
the way of all my desires in the business. While meditating on this new project,
I examined the histories of Crosby and Ivimey, four volumes each, Rippon's
Register, Robinson's Ecclesiastical Researches and History of
Baptism, with some minor publications from the pens of our British brethren.
On the American side, I found Backus stood almost alone, as a standard author in
Baptist history, of any considerable magnitude. Beside his work, we had, indeed,
Callender's Century Sermon, which was confined to the early history of
Rhode Island, and a few other productions of a local character. The writings of
Morgan Edwards being in MSS., were then but little known. I have now enumerated
the historical works which constituted the main dependence of our people, in
both the mother country and at home, for information concerning their
denominational concerns in all ages and conditions. But most of these works were
hard to be obtained at any price, and beside, they abound in matter in which
common readers of this age will take but little interest.
All these researches convinced me more and more of the need
of a work which should be wholly Baptistical in its character, which would
embrace the substance of all those above referred to, and most of all, bring
down our history to the present time, and in such a condensed form, that all
classes of readers might be able to procure it. And as the Baptist churches in
America, in which were found more members of the denomination than all other
parts of the world, were generally of a comparatively late formation, and as our
people in all times had been exceedingly neglectful in preserving the records of
their doings, whether ancestral or modern, I soon became convinced that if I
pursued my undertaking to any considerable extent, I must travel, for it, and at
the firesides of aged people, and all from whom I could obtain oral testimony,
gather up the facts which were needful for the accomplishment of my plan.
Accordingly, in the autumn of 1809, I commenced my historical explorations, in
which, in the end, I traveled about seven thousand miles, in seventeen States,
the number then of the American Union. With very few exceptions, the journeys
now had in view were performed on horseback, and alone. So new were many of the
regions which I visited, and so circuitous were many of the routes which I had
to pursue to visit the persons and places needful for my designs, that this was
the only mode of traveling for me then. Indeed, I thought of no other, and never
complained of this part of my labor. It was the way in which nearly all our
ministers traveled in that age, in all parts of the country, except some few of
the abler class in a few locations in the old States.
I do not pretend to be much of a backwoodsman, nor to have
been much of a pioneer in frontier regions, nor yet to have been exposed to many
perils in the wilderness; but still I obtained some glimpses of what is meant by
these terms, in the limited travels and the scanty explorations, which, in my
early historical researches, I was compelled to perform.
In the journeying thus referred to, I crossed the whole range
of the Alleghany mountains, first in Pennsylvania, and in the next place in
North Carolina, on my way from Tennessee to the southern Atlantic States. On
some parts of my route large tracts of country were then in their native
condition, where wild animals were often to be seen. In one large tract through
which I passed, in the mountainous regions of Tennessee, the Indian title had
but lately been extinguished, and a few of the natives, in their peculiar dress,
still lingered on the soil. For the most part the roads, even in the wildest
regions through which my lonely travels were performed, were so far designated,
according to the custom of new countries, that I had but little trouble in
finding them. The custom here alluded to, is to mark a sufficient number of the
trees on the route which is ultimately designed for a highway, to guide the
traveler in his course. In this state of nature, the marks are generally a
blaze and a notch, to use the language of the forest. A blaze
is made by a stroke of the ax, by which a slice is taken from the tree. The
nature of a notch all will understand. Two or more notches I sometimes
found answered the same purpose as guide boards in older regions. These mere
bridle-paths, in time, became the thoroughfares of the country. When there was
danger of embarrassments, by the aid of friends, I would make a rough drawing of
my road for the day, in regions where settlements were not often met with, to
guard against mistakes in turn-outs where no dwellings were near.
I generally found some of the black people near the roads,
both able and willing to give me the needful information, for greater or less
distances ahead. "Me go wid you, massa," was their common reply, if
the turn-out was not far off, and a little change never came amiss to them. This
part of the business I was careful not to forget, as a matter of encouragement
for their useful officiousness. Log cabins of rude construction and appearance,
in almost all cases, are the first edition of human abodes in new countries.
Buildings, of the same materials, but more capacious and better made, or small
frame houses, at length take the place of the first hastily-formed shanties; and
finally, more spacious and well-formed mansions arise as permanent fixtures of
the premises. But to log houses, of the real primitive model, was I indebted for
shelter and comfort in many of my early journeying in newly-settled regions, and
soon I became so accustomed to their scanty accommodations, and was so well
pleased with the hospitality of the people, as to feel quite at home among them.
Pleased or not, however, the traveler had no alternative in
the ease; since for long distances no other houses could be found.
As to public houses, there were none, in the common sense of
the term. The Wagoner's camped out at night, near some spring or dwelling, and
with their camp-fires and their bustle about their teams, they made quite a
Amidst all these inconveniences, I found the people generally
happy and contented, and enjoying themselves, probably, as well as at any
subsequent period of their lives.
Baptist Ministers of Distinction in their Various
in the Early Part of the Century
Then we had but few men of eminence for their literary
acquirements or learned labors. We had no literary works of our own in progress,
to be supplied with the productions of Baptist pens, and other societies did not
look to our ranks for aid. The number of our able pastors was considerably
large, while that of our zealous evangelists and gospel pioneers was larger
About this period, but more especially at a somewhat earlier
age, the Baptists had a running fight in many locations with almost all the
sects in the land, for their life, on gospel ground, and for their Claims to
belong to the brotherhood of respectable Christians. A few of their ministers,
in the principal cities and towns, were admitted to be men of some decency, but
the sect as a whole was denounced as the dregs of Christendom, and was
reproached with a wild and fanatical pedigree, or, in other words, as being
descendants of the madmen of Munster, and as being in their terms of
communion the most rigid and uncharitable sect in the land. And so incessant
were the publications against our people, that most of the writings of those who
wrote at all were in self-defense. Fifty years ago, or about that time,
amongst the ministers of our order, who were more or less distinguished for
their talents, their locations, or their various services in the denomination,
the following names may be recorded:
In Boston and vicinity, were Stillman, Baldwin, Blood, Paul,
Collier, Grafton, Peckens, Boiles, Chaplin, E. Nelson, E. Williams, Peak,
To the north and west of Boston, were Robinson, Andrews,
Leonard, Rand, Hartwell, Werden, J. Leland.
In a southerly direction, in the same State, were W.
Williams, Read, Backus, Rathbun, Abbot, Coombs, Lovel, S. Nelson, the Briggses,
Kendal, Glover, Bates, Lewis.
In New Hampshire and Maine, were Robinson, Hooper, Shepherd,
Seamans, Crocket, Boardman, Wilmarth, Haines, Green, Tripp, Titcomb, Stearns,
Case, Snow, Macomber, Pillsbury, Merrill, Roundy, Allen, Baker, Fuller.
In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, were Burton, Ainsley, the
Mannings, the Chipmans, the Dimocks, the Hardings, the Crandalls.
In Providence and other parts of Rhode Island, were Gano,
Messer, Pitman, Cornell, Baker, Bradley, Eddy, Curtis, Northup, Allen, Babcock,
the Palmers, Steadman, the Manchesters, and the author.
In Connecticut, were Babcock, Hastings, Cushman, Bulkley,
Miller, S. Higbee, Wilcox, Phippen, Goodwin, Grow, Dodge, Crosby, Wells, Morse,
Ferris, Miner, Brown, Cheesbro, the Bollses, the Wightmans, the Darrows, the
Palmers, the Reeds, the Randalls.
In Vermont, were the Hendricks, the Sawyers, A. Leland,
Howard, Butler, Going, Green, Mattison, J. Higbee, Haynes, Rowley, Hurlburt,
In New York city and Long Island, were Parkinson, Williams,
Stanford, Maclay, Hall, M. Earle.
On each side of the Hudson river, and at no great distance
from it, to the northern boundary of the State, was a long space of country
where Baptist churches were few and feeble at the date of these recollections.
In traveling up this extended region, often remotely situated from each other,
might then be found S S. Nelson, Fountain, Cole, Lathrop, Montanye, E. Ferris,
Perkins, Davis, J. M. Peck, before he went to the West, Jenks, Henrick, Hull,
Olmstead, Warren, Webb, Covel, Lahat, Sommers, A. Peck, Lee, Langworthy, Fox.
In the new and extended settlements of the State in a western
direction, was found a large number of active ministers of our order, among whom
we may name Douglass, Hosmer, Lawton, J. Peck, Bennett,
Furman, Bostick, Hurlburt, Vining, Brown, Lake, Robinson, Osgood, Card, Parsons,
Eastman, Baker, the Butlers, Taylor, the Holcombs, Roots, Bacon, Spencer, Eddy,
Handy, Holmes, Camp, Lamb.
These ministers all belonged to the Otsego Association, so
called from a lake of that name, in 1806, and onward, for a few years, or until
some of the number were embraced in kindred institutions, which were formed from
the mother body, whose boundaries soon became widely extended.
Still further into the interior of this State, in different
directions, about this period, were to be found Robertson, Cooley, Morton,
Upfold, Freeman, Furman, Irish, Irons, Comstock, Rathbun, Lamb, Finch, Starr.
A. Bennett, above named, and who for a long time before he
died was called Father Bennett, was licensed to preach in 1806.
All the men whose names are here recorded as active ministers
in this State, I believe are now, 1856, dead, except Sommers, Perkins, and J. M.
Peck, the pioneer of the West.
Dr. Peck has deceased since the above was written.
In New Jersey, belonging to the New York Association, were
Brown, Edwards, Randolph, Vanhorn, Ellis, D. Sharp, then in Newark. Belonging to
the Philadelphia Association, but in this State, were Allison, Smalley,
In Philadelphia, were Staughton, Rogers, Peckworth; near the
city were S. Jones, D. Jones, H. G. Jones, Montanye, Mathias, Hough, Fleeson,
Vaughn, Bennet, Carlile, Patten, Boswell, Sheppard, McGowan.
In the Redstone country, Pennsylvania, were Estep, Stone,
Skinner, Phillips, Spears, Luce, Martin, Frey, Patterson, Smith, Brownfield.
In Delaware, were Dodge, Ferrell, Johnson, Jones.
In Baltimore, were Richards and Healey. In other parts of
Maryland were Welch, Wilson, Green, Grice, Woodford.
In Washington city, was O. B. Brown.
In Richmond, Virginia, was J. Courtney. In other parts of the
State were Semple, Broaddus, Ford, Clopton, Brame, Brice, Toler, Noel, Fitchet,
Strauhgn [?], B. Watkins, Clay, Flourney, Richards, Dossey, Creath, Shelburne,
Browne, Ritter, Mitchell, Shearwood, Chambless, Layfield, the Wallers,
Pendleton, Purrington, Poindexter, Burghes, Dabbs, A. Watkins, Flowers, Jenkins,
Kerr, Lovelace, Atkinson, King, Howard, the Fristoes, the Moores, Gilmore,
Dawson, Munroe, Alderson, Osbourne, Lee, Wells, Patterson, Pritchard, Martin.
In North Carolina, were Burkett, Read, Bennett, Lawrence,
Spivey, the Biggses, Lancaster, Biddle, Goodman, Thigpen, Cooper, Poindexter,
Dossey, Wall, Ross, Daniel, Dobbins, Fuller, Purifoy, Gardnet,
Graves, Roberts, Brown, Moore, Pope, Slaughter, Culpepper, member of Congress,
Brantley, father of the late Dr. B. Murphy, Posey, the Morgans.
In Charleston, South Carolina, was Furman; and in other parts
of the State were Maxey, Botsford, Johnson, White, Ellis, McKellar, Reaves,
Roberts, Cook, Collins, Woods, Coleman, Moseley, Scott, Thigpen, Simmons, Boyd,
Youmans, Sweat, Landrum, Head, Marsh, Whatley, Greer, McCreary, Rooker,
Golightly, Ball, Davis, Grace, Barnett, Lancaster.
In Savannah, Georgia, were Holcombe and A. Marshall, lately
deceased at a very advanced age, and H. Cunningham. The two last were colored
men, and pastors of large churches of their own nation.
In the lower parts of this State were then Scriven, Clay,
Polhil, Goldwire, Wilson, Williams.
In the upper country, were A. Marshall, near Augusta, and in
that city W. T. Brantley, then a young man; and at different distances from the
older settlements, in southern and western directions, were Mercer, Sanders,
Davis, Matthews, Reeves, Shackelford. Thompson, Rhodes, Franklin, Robertson,
Hilman, Thornton, Goss, Baker, Williams.
Georgia was then a frontier State in a southern and western
direction, and as yet there were but two States in what is usually denominated
of the Mississippi, namely, Kentucky and Tennessee.
In Kentucky, were Dudley, Verdeman [Vardeman], Suggett,
Hickman, Barrow, Creath, Price, Redding, Graves, the Craigs, Waller, Taylor,
Scott, Noel, Tribble, Pierson, Stockton, Hodgen.
In Tennessee, near Nashville, were Whitsett, Wiseman and
Racks; in other parts of the State, were McConico, Mulky, Ross, Ford, Adams.
In the Mississippi Territory, were E. Courtney and T. Mercer.
In Ohio, were J. Clark, Stites, and T. G. Jones.
In the Indiana Territory, were Ferris and McCoy.
We have now arrived at the outskirts of the Baptists, West
and South-west, fifty years ago. These last accounts are not so full as
they might have been, had the late J. M. Peck been able to answer my last letter
to him, in which I sought information wherein I was deficient.
In the foregoing selections of names, I have had respect, in
part, to men with whom I became acquainted in my travels, and who afforded me
assistance in my historical pursuits. A large number of the letters of these
friends and helpers are preserved among my epistolary documents.