Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
A name prominent in the records of the old Bent Creek (Whitesburg) Church, and in the minutes of the Nolachucky Association, is that of William Anderson. He was born in Southwest Virginia, January 4, 1801. He was of Scotch-Irish descent, his father being Scotch, his mother Irish. His parents coming from the old country at an early day, settled in Virginia. Young Anderson in early manhood came to East Tennessee and settled on Bent Creek, about three miles from Russellville. February, second Saturday, 1827, he was received "by experience" for membership in the Bent Creek Church. In the minutes of the church for the second Saturday, February, 1830, is this item; "The church unanimously calls Brother William Anderson to exercise his fit in preaching the gospel in the bounds of Bent Creek, Robertson's Creek, County line, Bethel South (now the Morristown First), Barton, Concord, and Warrensburg churches, and gives him written license." Second Saturday, in February, 1834, the church "calls him to ordination," and one month later he is ordained. Henry Randolph, Jere Hale, Noah Cate, Andrew Coffman and Pleasant A. Witt acted as presbytery. He attended the Nolachucky Association from 1831 to 1838 as a messenger of Bent Creek Church. In 1838 he preached the introductory sermon before that body, from the test: "Say ye to the righteous it shall be well with him. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him" (Isa. 3:10, 11).
The Nolachucky Association had asked the churches composing the body to give an expression of their sentiments on "the institutions of the day," such as State conventions, missionary societies, etc. Accordingly, Bent Creek Church (June second Saturday, 1839) "took up the institutions named in our minutes, and decided we will not make them a test of fellowship. Vote, 38 to 27. The minority rent off from this church, and hold their meetings on a different day, claiming to be the old Bent Creek Church, but call themselves by the name of Primitive Baptists." At the meeting of the association (Concord church, fourth Friday, September, 1839) several churches and part of others, "Numbering about one-third of our association, went off, declaring non-fellowship against us, and left the house." In this division William Anderson, and other strong men, went with the minority, claiming to be "old school" or "primitive," or "New Testament" Baptists. He was thoroughly conscientious in his convictions, and a most zealous advocate and defender of what he conceived to be new Testament principles and doctrines, and went everywhere preaching them as "the faith delivered once for all to the saints."
William Anderson had few advantages, in early life, for obtaining an education, but he studied his Bible and loved to preach. "He was devout and upright in all the relations of life; loved his people and the doctrines they held; would make any sacrifice to propagate them; and, though lacking the education and culture of the modern preacher, none of his descendant approach him in point of intellectual ability." This is saying a good deal, when it is remembered that Dr. J. M. Anderson, of Tennessee, and Dr. William Anderson, of Georgia, are his grandsons. Dr. Sam Anderson, President at one time of Mossy Creek College, and Lawyer P. M. Anderson, of Newport, and a large connection of Andersons in Jefferson County, Tennessee, are near relatives of William Anderson, of pioneer fame. He was a farmer and chair maker as well as a preacher, and so numerous were the Andersons of his neighborhood he was often designated, for the sake of distinction, "Chairmaker Billy Anderson." But he made honest chairs. One of them I have seen is made of sugar-tree wood, is a family relic about 100 years old, and I have just heard of another on Holston River.
In 1843 he sold his home on Bent Creek and moved to Jackson County, Kentucky. He preached pretty much "all over eastern and central Kentucky, and was considered the leader of his people in that part of the country. In his last years he made long tours on horseback, being away from hone for weeks or months, visiting and ministering to his scattered people. His spirit has greatly influenced my life. I think I preach a fuller gospel, but how much I wish I could be as noble a man!" In the year 1868 he fell on sleep and was buried in the old Flat Lick burying ground, in Jackson County, Kentucky, where his "flesh rests in hope".
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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