Reminiscences of a Long Life
By James M. Pendleton
My father died in January, 1838. He had suffered for weary months with inflammatory rheumatism. I had seen him several times during his illness, and on one occasion had a special conversation with him. I asked him what were his feelings in prospect of death? I well remember his answer: He said, “I am like Abraham, going into a country I know not, but willing to trust my Leader.” He spoke of the plan of salvation through Christ as the only conceivable plan suited to the necessities of lost sinners. Referring to the Cross as his refuge, he repeated, amid tears and in broken accents, the stanza of Dr. Watts:
“Should worlds conspire to drive me thence,
Moveless and firm this heart should lie;
Resolved, for that’s my last defense,
If I must perish, there to die.”
He died trusting in Christ, and the family withdrew, leaving kind friends to prepare the body for burial. I remember the countenance of my mother. Oh, what sadness! What bitter tears were hers! I made a great effort to suppress my feelings that I might comfort her, and when duty required me to return to my field of labor, then sixty miles distant, no language can describe my grief in leaving my mother in the desolateness of widowhood. I rode alone, leaving my horse oftentimes to proceed in a way perfectly familiar to me, but which tears did not then permit me distinctly to see. Years have fled since then, the duties of a life not inactive have engrossed my thoughts, and yet the feelings of that sad morning return in a measure to-day, and my eyes not much accustomed to tears, will weep again.
I stood by the grave of my father and prayed that I might follow him as he followed Christ, and hear at last those words of commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Years after, I saw by my father’s resting place the grave of my eldest sister, in whose piety I had the fullest confidence. With more than telegraphic rapidity my thoughts ran back to the days of our childhood and youth, the time of our union with the church, the period of her last affliction, etc., etc. In looking at the grave of my father and that of my sister, one thing deeply touched my heart. I saw between the two a space reserved for another grave. How suggestive! It was not necessary to inquire why that space was left. I knew my mother wished it so; and after thirty-five years of widowhood she was laid to rest between the husband of her love and her first-born.
My father was a man of vigorous intellect, the distinctive peculiarity of which was its logical strength. He had read much and possessed large information. He was distinguished for an ample share of common sense, a very sound judgment, and often expressed himself in sentences so remarkable for their wisdom as to remind me of the Proverbs of Solomon. I give but one of his utterances: “If a man has done you an injury he will be your enemy.” In pondering these words I think I have seen the philosophy of the matter. He who has done you an injury will ordinarily have feelings of shame and mortification, and it is some relief to him for these feelings to be supplanted by those of positive hostility.
Miss Garnett having considered my proposal of marriage, was kind enough by the end of the year to give me a favorable answer, and it was arranged that we should be married during the month of March. It is proper for me to say something of her parents. Her father was one of the most respected citizens of Glasgow, and for many years filled the office of Clerk of the Barren County Circuit Court. When he became a Christian his predilections were in favor of the Presbyterian Church. His mind, however, was not settled on the subject of baptism, and it was arranged for Dr. Lapsley, of Bowling Green, to visit Glasgow and preach a sermon on Baptism. The effect of the sermon was not according to expectation. Dr. Lapsley was a learned man and the ablest Presbyterian preacher in the Green River country. He was unfortunate, or rather fortunate, in saying in the early part of his sermon that he believed Jesus was immersed in the Jordan; but he went on to say that sprinkling would do as well, that it was more convenient, etc. Mr. Garnett took hold of the fact that Christ was immersed and said to himself, “I ought to copy His example. Why should I do what he did not do?” The question was settled at once and forever. He joined the Baptist Church in Glasgow, of which he remained a member till his death, which occurred when he was ninety-seven years of age. He was baptized by Rev. William Warder, and was the most influential member of the church as long as he lived. Dr. Lapsley, in conceding that Jesus was immersed, laid the Baptists under many obligations.
Mr. Garnett some years before had married Miss Theodosia Stockton, daughter of Elder Robert Stockton, a Baptist minister, who had been imprisoned in Virginia for preaching the gospel without Episcopal orders.” His imprisonment for such a reason was a greater honor than to wear a monarch’s crown and sway a monarch’s sceptre. Peace to the memory of Robert Stockton. His daughter was a lovely woman with a heart full of unselfish love. She died at sixty years of age and was the mother of twelve children, only two of whom are now living. William Garnett, Esq., deacon of the First Baptist Church, Chicago, is one of the two, and she whom I proudly call my wife is the other. The ten children whose names were John, Robert, Reuben, Joseph, Benjamin, James, Richard, Fanny, Elizabeth, and Maria, have all passed away. Children as well as parents must die. It was on the 13th of March, 1838, that Miss Catherine S. Garnett and I were united in marriage. The ceremony was performed by Elder Jacob Locke, who was a kind of patriarch among the Baptists in his wide sphere of labor. I was very slightly acquainted with him, but he must have been a remarkable man. It is said that his wife taught him to read, but he rose to eminence in the ministry. In proof of this I need only say that Judge Christopher Tompkins and Joseph R. Underwood, after being in Congress for years, in its palmy days, said that Jacob Locke was the most eloquent man they ever heard. It was untutored eloquence, the outburst of love to God and to the souls of men. “The fathers, where are they?”
The married pair, after a day or two, left Glasgow for their home in Bowling Green and spent a night on the way with special friends, Edmund Hall and family, whose cordial hospitality was all it could be. We often shared their kindness in after years. When we reached Bowling Green we were heartily welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Curd, who had prepared for us an elegant dinner. We never had better friends than they, and we boarded with them for more than two years, until we were ready to go to “housekeeping.” We have never forgotten their many acts of kindness to us.
We of course visited my mother in Christian County, who received her daughter-in-law with much affection and continued to love her as long as she lived. My brothers and sisters were much pleased with the addition I had made to the family, and they thought me very fortunate in my choice. We visited Hopkinsville and I was delighted to see my friends there so favorably impressed with my bride. They thought I had reason to be a happy man.
We returned to Glasgow and then took our principal “bridal tour,” on horseback, to Louisville. This was our only way of traveling, till in a short time I bought a buggy. It will amuse young people now to hear that a bridal trip of several hundred miles was taken on horseback; but we were very happy and had much pleasant conversation. At Louisville we stopped with our friends, the Willson family, and were made to feel perfectly at home. We spent an evening with Rev. W. C. Buck, then pastor of the First Church, and heard him preach an evangelical sermon. He was a strong man in the pulpit, and some thought stronger on the platform. It was very inspiring to hear him in debate with “a foeman worthy of his steel.” His sermons were generally able presentations of divine truth, but at times his ideas were rather nebulous, and on one occasion they suffered so total an eclipse that he could say nothing, and he sat down. This I learned from Dr. Vaughan, who was present. The Baptists of Kentucky are greatly indebted to Mr. Buck for his arduous labors. He was for several years Editor of the Baptist Banner. He improved as a writer, though there was in some of his editorials a tendency to prolixity. When he left Kentucky he became Secretary, at Nashville, of the Bible Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. After two or three years he sojourned for a time in Alabama, editing a small paper which he called The Baptist Correspondent. He went from Alabama to Texas, where, after reaching his four-score years, he died of cancer and found a grave, where he had found a home, at Waco.
During the visit to Louisville, just referred to, I was invited to preach. My text was II Corinthians vi:2: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” I thought it a poor, inanimate sermon, but learned, years afterward, that a man in the congregation was convicted under it, who subsequently became a church member and a deacon. I mention this to emphasize the fact that we sometimes do good when we are not aware of it. Probably the revelations of eternity will develop many instances of this kind.
Returning to Bowling Green I gave myself to my work as pastor, preaching twice on Sunday and attending prayer-meeting during the week, visiting the people and especially the sick. My wife aided me in every suitable way and became a favorite with those who made her acquaintance. Nothing remarkable occurred during the year 1838, though the General Association met with us in October. It was not very well attended.
January 8th is celebrated in commemoration of the battle of New Orleans in 1815. The victory achieved there was decisive of General Jackson’s destiny. It made him President and was far-reaching in its influence. On this date in 1839 an event occurred which makes it impossible for us to forget the 8th of January. Our first child was born. We named her Letitia after a dear friend. She was a weakly child and we feared she would not live. The Lord preserved her life and in the days of her youth she became a Christian and received baptism at my hands. She did not go to school till she was fifteen years of age, but was taught by her father and mother at home. Here I may say, parenthetically, that her mother was very competent to teach, for she had been educated by Elder P. S. Fall at his “Female Eclectic Institute,” near Frankfort, Ky., and graduated with the highest honor. When Letitia was fifteen years old she entered the Mary Sharp College, at Winchester, Tenn., under the Presidency of Z. C. Graves, LL. D., and graduated at the expiration of four years. There was at that time, if there is now, no Woman’s College with a curriculum so extensive and so thorough.
Letitia returned to our home, which was then in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and remained with us till February, 1860, when she was married to Rev. James Waters. Their married life now embraces a period of more than thirty years and they have lived in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware. They are now (1891) in Denver, Colorado. Mr. Waters is an able, impressive preacher of the word, and I hope he will accomplish much good in his present field of labor.