Reminiscences of a Long Life
By James M. Pendleton
The General Association met in Shelbyville in October, 1839. There was a feeling of sadness in the hearts of the brethren, for Rev. Rockwood Giddings was on his dying bed. He was a short distance from the town at the home of his father-in-law, Mr. Hansborough. I visited him and saw him for the last time, and saw the power of Christianity in supporting while “flesh and heart failed.” Mr. Giddings was a young man full of promise. He was for a short time President of Georgetown College and infused new life and hope into the Institution. The friends of the College looked for a long and prosperous administration of its affairs. But he died October 29, 1839. From then till now his death has been to me one of the unsolved mysteries of Providence. A thousand times I have wondered why I was not taken and he left to fulfil what seemed so bright a destiny. But God is often pleased to remind us of what he said by His prophet long ago: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” (Isaiah iv: 8.) We must adjourn dark problems to the last day, and then they will receive a solution so bright as to call forth rapturous hallelujahs in heaven.
About the first of March, 1840, we began a protracted meeting in our church at Bowling Green, which continued for a month. Rev. J. L. Burrows was the preacher. He was at that time pastor in Ovensboro, and was in the full enjoyment of his young manhood. He exhibited pulpit talents of the first order, as he has continued to do. His sermons were profound in argument and persuasive in exhortation. He showed his sanctified common sense in preaching first to the church to reclaim it from its backslidden state and to inspire it with zeal for the glory of God in the salvation of sinners. Not till the church was revived did he preach to the impenitent. Then he earnestly urged on them the claims of the gospel, and the Holy Spirit made his sermons effective. Sinners were convicted and began to ask, “What must we do to be saved?” Conviction was followed by conversion, and the songs of rejoicing converts were heard. The meeting went on day and night until the church had sixty members added to its number. We had no “baptistery” then and the ordinance of baptism was administered in Big Barren River not very far above where the Louisville and Nashville Railroad now crosses the river. I remember one Sunday morning that Bro. Burrows and I were in the water together, alternately baptizing, as the candidates were presented. As we “went down into the water” and “came up out of the water” it seemed to me then, and it seems to me yet, that we did just what Philip and the eunuch did. (See Acts viii:38, 39.) There was a large crowd to witness the administration of baptism, and there was suitable solemnity, as there should be on such occasions. Bro. Burrows, I think, baptized more gracefully than I, for I have never had the talent to do things gracefully.
There were more than twenty sermons preached during the meeting, and not one of them was mediocre. Bro. B. was a fine specimen of a gospel preacher, and when the time of his departure came it was with sad hearts that brethren and sisters bade him adieu. It was not long after that he visited his friends in the East, and while there was called to the pastorate of the old Sansom Street Church, Philadelphia. After some years of ministerial labor in the city of “Brotherly Love” he was called to Richmond, Va., where he served the First Church for twenty years. After this he became pastor of Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky. He is now pastor in Norfolk, Va.* He is feeling the infirmities of age and the First Church, Richmond, has most gracefully offered him a home, promising to care for him the rest of his days. God bless him as the beneficiary of such a church!
In the early part of the year 1840 my wife and I went to Glasgow to be present at the marriage of her brother William to Miss Eugenia Tompkins, daughter of Judge Tompkins. The occasion was a pleasant one, and the two who became husband and wife were congenial spirits, and have enjoyed a happy life. Chicago has been their home for many years. I returned home soon after the wedding, but my wife, on account of her mother’s feeble health, and for other reasons, remained. Her mother had been the marked victim of consumption for some years, but the disease had not been rapid in its progress; but now it became evident that death was not fair distant. Mrs. Garnett died in the month of April and found her final resting-place in the family “burying ground.” Her memory is most fondly cherished by those who knew her best. My wife being with her sick mother, was not in the revival at Bowling Green, and before her return, that is, on the 5th of May, 1840, our second child was born. We named him John Malcom, after my father and our friend Rev. Howard Malcom. He was a bright, promising boy and, at a suitable age, became a student of Bethel College, Russellville, Ky. There he remained till my removal to Murfreesboro, Tenn., in 1857. He entered Union University at that place and graduated in 1860. It is was in the latter part of the year 1859 that he gave satisfactory evidence of conversion, and was baptized in what has since become the historic “Stone’s River.” I had baptized him before, when he was very young, but he and I were soon convinced that he labored under a mistake insupposing himself a Christian. I therefore did not hesitate to baptize him a second time, considering his first baptism, so-called, a nullity.
In the fall of the year 1860, my son went to West Tennessee and opened a school at or near Brownsville, employing the intervals between school hours in studying Law. He was thus engaged till rumors of war in 1861 unsettled every thing. Young men were urged to enlist as soldiers in the Confederate cause, and my son yielded to the advice of his legal preceptor and exchanged civil for military life. He became a Confederate soldier. We were on opposite sides of the question that convulsed the nation. Why I was on the side of the United States will be shown in another chapter. The different views held by my son and me made no difference in our relations of love. We kept up a correspondence as long as we could, and there was not an unkind word in any of our letters. I refer to this because the supreme slander perpetrated against me in my long life had connection with my son. It was even published in a newspaper that I had pronounced a curse on him, expressing the hope that he might be killed in the first battle. Satan himself never instigated a more flagrant falsehood, though in so doing he availed himself of a professed Christian and a preacher, whose name I in mercy withhold. My son acted as commissary for some time and was never engaged in a battle, though he was a private in the ranks when General Bragg made his expedition into Kentucky in 1862. While Bragg was at Glasgow my son obtained leave to visit his mother, who was with her sister a few miles in the country. He spent a night with her and with two of his sisters and his younger brother. Nearly the whole night was spent in conversation, and when in the early morning he had to return to his regiment there was a very sad, but a most affectionate farewell. It was the last time his mother saw him and I had not seen him since he left Murfreesboro in 1860. The two armies (Bragg’s and Buell’s) made their way to Perryville, Ky., and while they were seeking favorable positions and my son was recliling on the grass, the fragment of a shell struck his classic forehead, and in a moment the bright hopes of his parents were extinguished forever. Language has no epithets to describe the calamitous event. It is a mournful satisfaction, however, that my son the day he was killed sent a message to his mother by one of his comrades. The message was this: “Tell my mother, if I die, that I have died trusting in the same Savior in whom I have trusted.” We therefore believe that his active spirit, escaping from the mutilated tabernacle of the body, ascended to the heavenly mansions where all is peace. This blessed assurance has been a balm to wounded hearts till now, and will be till these hearts cease to throb with the pulsations of life. My son died October 8, 1862.
It was in 1842 that I did what has always afforded me great satisfaction. My special friend, Rev. T. G. Keen was teaching a Female School in Russellville, and while so engaged was called to the pastoral charge of the Baptist church in Hopkinsville. He wrote to me informing me of the fact and adding: “I leave the matter entirely in your hands. You know the church and you know me. I shall be guided by your decision.” I wrote by return mail, “Accept the call by all means,” and thus I brought into active ministerial work one of the best sermonizers that has ever filled a Kentucky pulpit. After a comparatively long life of usefulness, Mr. Keen died at Evansville, Indiana, in the home of one of his daughters in September, 1887. He was buried in Hopkinsville by the side of the wife of his love. I with many others was at his funeral and thousands remember him with fond affection. On the 11th or March, 1844, our daughter Fannie was born. She was about perfect in bodily form and brought sunshine into the family circle. She grew up and was greatly beloved by her parents and and sister and brother. Her education began at home, and she did not go to school till we removed to Tennessee in 1857. She was for a time in Murfreesboro schools and was then sent to the Mary Sharp College, at Winchester, where she remained till the war disturbed everything in 1862. A diploma was subsequently given her. When we went to Ohio (an account of which will be given in another place) she went with us, but afterward returned to Kentucky and was employed by Mr. Charles Barker to teach his children. When through with her engagement she rejoined the family then at Upland, Va. June 27, 1867, she was married to Prof. Leslie Waggener, then connected with Bethel College, Russellville, Ky. She found in him a congenial spirit and theirs has been a happy married life. They have seven children, as bright as any that could be found in a long summer day.
After a number of years devoted to the interests of Bethel College, of which Mr. Waggener was President, he was called to a professorship in the University of Texas, at Austin. He was recommended as suited to the position by scholars of distinction, one of whom was Dr. John A. Broadus. He has been for several years Chairman of the Faculty, and is recognized as having a special talent for the management of students. The University is prosperous and will, no doubt, be well endowed, as it owns two million acres of Texas lands. Mr. and Mrs. Waggener and their three eldest children are members of the Baptist church in Austin. On April 11, 1844, I started to Philadelphia to attend the old Triennial Convention for Foreign Missions. It was the last meeting of the body, as it was afterward superseded by the Baptist Missionary Union. This was my first visit to the east, and my leaving home to go such a distance was thought to be an important event. My wife therefore suggested, and she has made many good suggestions, that the deacons of the church be invited to our house (for we had been house-keeping since the Summer of 1840) to hold a little prayer-meeting. They accepted the invitation and were present, six in number, John Maxey, John Burnam, J. C. Wilkins, F. Vaughan, W. D. Helm and John L. Shower. They all prayed. So fraternal were their allusions to me, so eloquently did their voices falter when they mentioned my departure, so earnestly did they ask God that I might return in safety, the whole scene made an indelible impression on my mind. This was the night before I left, and the afternoon of the next day I called my family together, read the forty-sixth Psalm, called on God in prayer, commending ourselves to His care during our contemplated separation. Then taking leave of my wife, kissing our sweet children, and giving a word of religious advice to the servants, I took passage in the stage for Louisville and reached there in twenty-eight hours. The next day, which was Saturday, after calling on some friends, I took passage at 11 o’clock A. M. on the steamer “Pike” for Warsaw, where I was to preach on the morrow. I was met at the wharf at 8 P. m. by Mr. Hawkins and his sister Mildred, who conducted me to their mother’s residence to enjoy her hospitalities. She was the mother of Col. P. B. Hawkins, then and now of Bowling Green. I preached at 11 o’clock and at 4, then at 8 stepped on the steamer “Ben Franklin,” went to my state-room, committed myself, my family and friends to God in prayer, and slept sweetly till morning. When I awoke I found myself in Cincinnati and took passage on the boat “Clipper” for Pittsburg. I had as companions in travel Drs. Sherwood, Lynd, Cressy, Brisbane, and Robert. We of course talked and read on our way, but nothing impressed me so deeply as the fact that our steamer, instead of doing justice to its name, ran aground and remained stationary for some hours. We had need of patience, but bore the disappointment as well as we could.
When we reached Pittsburg we found that Dr. Lynd’s brother, living there, had secured seats in the stage for the Dr. and two others, but Dr. Sherwood, Robert, and myself were left to go by a canal boat. We had to stay in what was then the “smoky city” from 9 o’clock A. M. to 9 P. M. before the boat would start. Determined to utilize the day, we visited “glass works,” “coal mines,” and “iron works.” It is wonderful into what forms liquid glass can be blown. Bowls, tumblers and bottles are made sooner than some persons get money out of their pockets to throw into a contribution box. We went into a coal mine five hundred yards, stooping all the way. There is a railroad on a small scale, and the coal is hauled out in little cars drawn by mules. Dr. Sherwood gave the miners some good advice and expressed the hope that we all might meet above where there is no darkness, but unclouded light.
But to our boat. It was drawn by three horses and we went four miles an hour. It required some philosophy to bear this cheerfully. We went, I think, through thirty locks and one tunnel before we reached the foot of the Alleghany mountains. The railroad car was in readiness, we took our seats, and up and up we went. By means of five inclined planes we ascended to the summit, and the same number of planes took us down to the level again. The scenery on the mountain, some of it at least, is majestic. Tall cliffs raise their heads magnificently and straight pines point to the heavens. I enjoyed the descent from the mountain exceedingly. A strange exhilaration of spirit seized me and I thought of Longinus’ definition of the sublime. Descending from the mountain, at Hollidaysburg we took the canal again and we were well prepared to draw a contrast between its slow progress and the rapid descent of a car on an inclined plane. Sunday came and brethren Sherwood and Robert stopped on the way, but advised me to remain on the boat and preach. I did so and was heard with respect by most of the passengers, though some read papers. Monday morning I awoke at Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania, and had a welcome view of the railroad to Philadelphia. It was an exquisite pleasure to turn away from the canal with the firm belief that I would never travel on it again. Still canal traveling furnishes some good opportunities of learning something about human nature. It is soon seen that there are among men, and especially among women, different dispositions and different wishes. It is next to impossible to please all passengers. Elder Alfred Bennett told me this anecdote: There were two women on a boat, one of whom wished fresh air and the other did not. The name of the chambermaid was Tabitha. In the night the cry was heard, “Tabitha, raise the window; I shall be suffocated.” Tabitha obeyed, but in a little while the other woman cried, “Tabitha, let down that window or the fresh air will kill me.” Thus the thing went on with alternate demands that the widow be opened and shut, till an ungallant man, not willing longer to have his sleep disturbed, cried out, “Tabitha, close that window till one of those women dies, and then open it till the other dies, and let us have some peace.” We passed through so many locks between Pittsburg and Harrisburg that I will not mention the number, lest somebody may doubt my veracity. Leaving Harrisburg on the railroad it was not many hours before we reached Philadelphia. The city was beautiful to behold, but it is much more beautiful now and very much larger.
I met my friend Burrows at the Publication Rooms, 530 Arch Street, and he took me to his home to share his hospitalities. His other guests were men of mark, J. B. Jeter, Daniel Witt, and Cumberland George, all from Virginia. The anniversaries were held in Dr. Ide’s church, then, I think, about two squares from the Delaware River. The American and Foreign Bible Society held its meeting first, and Dr. Spencer H. Cone presided. He was a very competent presiding officer, familiar with parliamentary rules. I have seen no man in the North his superior in this respect, but do not think he was equal to Dr. Boyce or Dr. Mell. Dr. B. T. Welch, of Albany, New York, preached the Annual Sermon before the Bible Society. I was specially impressed with one thing in his sermon, namely, that his illustrations were drawn from the Bible. I wish some other preachers were like him. The Triennial Convention for Foreign Missions met April 24. Dr. W. B. Johnson, of South Carolina, was in the chair. He called the meeting to order and it was found that four hundred and fifty messengers were present – more than ever before. Nothing of special importance was done after the organization. The next day Dr. Francis Wayland was chosen President, and Dr. J. B. Taylor, of Virginia, and R. H. Neale, of Massachusetts, Secretaries.
Rev. Eugenio Kincaid, returned Missionary from Burmah, and Dr. Richard Fuller, of South Carolina, made interesting addresses. Kincaid made no effort to be eloquent, but gave a simple account of what he had seen in his missionary life. A plain statement of facts, as he gave them, brought tears to many eyes.
Dr. Fuller was one of the best looking men in the Convention and made a capital speech. He was tall and commanding in his person, graceful in his manner, and impressive in his elocution. Nature did much for him and education supplemented the work of nature, while piety placed its sanctifying impress on both.
The Home Mission Society met on the 26th, and it was the occasion of great excitement. Hon. Heman Lincoln, of Boston, was President, and he found much difficulty in maintaining order. The question of slavery was introduced and the Abolitionists urged that the Society should not appoint any slaveholder as a missionary. Dr. Colver was the leading speaker on this side of the question. He was a man of talent, but exceedingly discourteous and rough in his remarks. He utterly failed to exemplify the amenities of Christian debate. He used a number of ad captandun arguments, but did not meet the question with fairness and magnanimity. Dr. Welch said that he considered it inexpedient for slaveholders to be employed as missionaries. Dr. Jeter and Dr. Fuller were the principal speakers on the opposite side. Dr. Jeter stood up straight as an arrow and said, “Mr. President.” Attempts were made to interrupt him, but he stood immovable. Mr. Lincoln interposed, crying with his peculiar voice, “Order, brethren, Dr. Jeter, of Virginia, has the floor.” Some one replied, “He always has it. ” He made an able speech. Dr. Fuller spoke with great power and his gentlemanly bearing made its impression on every body. He was logical and eloquent.
The slavery discussion continued at times till the 29th. On this day the excitement and interest were so great that there was no adjournment at noon and Deacon Wattson had a barrel of “crackers” rolled in, that brethren might partially satisfy their appetites. The aisles of the church were pretty well filled by Friends (Quakers), who, being anti-slavery, were much interested in the discussion. I well remember the expression of their countenances. When the final decision came it was resolved that ministers in slave-holding States were eligible to appointment as missionaries. The vote stood a hundred and thirty-one to sixty-one. Thus was the matter disposed of for the time.
On Sunday most of the Protestant pulpits of the city were filled by Baptist ministers in attendance on the Anniversaries. To my surprise I was appointed to preach, at night, at the North Baptist Church. Dr. J. B. Taylor, of Virginia, having his lodgings near this church, and having been appointed to preach in the Presbyterian church on Tenth Street, kindly proposed an exchange with me. I therefore preached to a Presbyterian congregation, not a person in which did I know. I gave them sound doctrine, for I preached on the value of Christ’s sacrifice. The Elders were pleased to express their approval, and their courtesy led them to express a desire to hear me again. There was in the congregation a remarkable man, whose face was expressive of intelligence and studious habits. He was a voluminous writer, and some of his views in his “Notes on Romans” were not satisfactory to many of his brethren, and he was charged with heresy, but the Philadelphia Synod acquitted him. That man was Rev. Albert Barnes, who died suddenly more than twenty years afterward. Calling to see a family, he was invited to take a seat, and as he sat down his spirit left the pale clay and soared upward to its God.