Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 353 - 356)

A remarkable man was J. B. McCallon, of Meigs County. He was an "Old School" Baptist, for years a recognized leader of his association - the old Hiwassee. He was a great "commoner" among his people; and really there have lived and wrought among Tennessee Baptists few greater or better men than J. B. McCallon. In 1896 it was the writer's privilege to visit Brother McCallon at his home near Ten Mile, and stay all night with him, and engage him for hours, far into the night, in delightful conversation concerning the things of the kingdom and the history of his own life work.

My "note book" reveals the following: He was a son of John McCallon and was born at Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee, November 23, 1827. His father was a "merchant, a farmer, a stock-trader, a Democrat, and, in 1847 and 1848, a soldier in the Mexican War." His grandfather, Andrew McCallen, and his great-grandfather were soldiers in the "War of the Revolution." His great-grandfather lived to be 111 years old. His grandmother, on the paternal side, was a Carson, a near relative of Alexander Carson, of Baptist fame. His father was a Scotch Presbyterian - a sure-enough believer in the "hard doctrines." Missionary and Old School Baptists "don't know anything about predestination, as the Scotch Presbyterians believed and taught it." It is easy to believe that Brother McCallen's inheritance of Scotch blood and training had something to do with hardening his doctrinal beliefs and practices, possibly beyond the Scripture warrant.

September 28, 1848, he was married to Miss Sarah Butler, a daughter of Jacob M. Butler. October 19, 1853, be was converted. In September, 1858, he was baptized by Elder Micah H. Sellers, being the last person this "father in Israel" baptized, uniting with the Concord Church, Meigs County. In February, 1859, he made his "first public talk." and the following month was "liberated to exercise a public gift." In May, second Saturday, 1862, he was "ordained," Micah H. Sellers and Asa Newport acting as a presbytery. Brother Sellers was his spiritual father and his father in the ministry; his mantle, like that of Elijah falling upon Elisha, in a sense, fell upon Brother McCallen, who became his worthy successor in the prophetic office of the called and anointed man, who, in New Testament times, speaks for God, as well as the prophets of the olden times. The faithful pastor and teacher is a true prophet of God, and ought to be honored for his work's sake.

J. B. McCallon was Moderator of the Hiwassee Association a great many years, and sometimes was clerk of that body. He organized several of its churches, Caney Ford and Haley's Grove, for instance; and was pastor, at different times, of Concord, Zion, Town Creek, Yellow Creek, Shiloh, Decatur, Kingston, Good Hope, Old Friendship, Ten Mile, Pisgah, Fellowship, and other churches. He not only "fed the sheep" of his own charge, but he evangelized his Jerusalem, baptizing hundreds of people in Meigs and surrounding counties; he then carried the gospel to the regions beyond, "preaching all over the mountain section of Fast Tennessee and Kentucky, holding many successful revivals."

On the occasion of my visit to Brother McCallon, referred to above, I was shown a Minute of the Hiwassee Association representing thirteen churches, with a constituency of 769 members and five or six ordained preachers. Brother McCallon was very frank in his confessions and statements. Speaking of Brother Sellers, he said he had often heard him say, that if he had his ministerial life to live over again he would preach more on "giving"; he exhorted Brother McCallon to indoctrinate the churches on that subject. But Brother McCallon frankly acknowledged that he "never quite had the courage to do his full duty" in this respect. He had received little from the churches in the way of compensation for his services. But if be could "begin again" his program would be this "I would preach the gospel, and have me a good lot of deacons to serve tables - (1) a table for the poor of the church, (2) the table of the Lord's Supper, (3) the pastor's table."

The Hiwassee Association, by committee and resolutions, memorialized Brother McCallon as follows: "Our fallen brother and recognized leader was a remarkable man in many ways. He had a wonderful memory, able to quote readily any passage from God's Word, and knowing by heart the whole of the four gospels. He had a great intellect and matchless pulpit powers, being one of the greatest sermonizers of his day. He was rarely ever known to miss one of his appointments. Too much could not be said of his Christly walk, his faith and zeal as a Christian, his devotion to his family and friends. But he is no more with us. We shall no longer hear his matchless sermons and his earnest, eloquent prayers. His voice will no longer be heard in the councils of his brethren. His voice is hushed in death. September 11, 1914, at six o'clock, on Sunday evening, he departed this life. His funeral was held at Concord Church on Monday, Elders R. J. Gorbet and S. A. Waller officiating. His tired body was laid to rest in the old graveyard nearby, where it awaits the resurrection of the just. `A prince in Israel is fallen.'

" `Servant of God, well done;
Rest from thy loved employ."'


Burnett, J .J.  Sketches of  Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers.  Nashville, Tenn.:  Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.


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