Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
William, son of Isaac Atchley, was born May 23, 1813, in Sevier County, Tennessee. His grandfather, Thomas Atchley, was a native of Middlesex County, New Jersey, but in early manhood moved to Virginia and served under Washington in the War of the Revolution. He was married to Lydia Richards, of Loudon County, Virginia. He afterwards emigrated to Tennessee, locating in Sevier County.
William Atchley was converted in early life, united with Providence Church. He was married to Anna Bowers, a daughter of Elder Augustus Bowers. He was ordained to the work of the ministry in 1860, taking the pastoral care of churches. He was pastor of Providence, Bethel, Red Bank, Henderson's Springs, Ellejoy, Millikan Grove, Jones' Chapel, Alder Branch, Sugar Loaf, and other churches. Brother Atchley was "considered a successful preacher" in his day - a preacher of the old type, "unlearned" in books, but a "missionary"; and "many were converted under his ministry." He was a member of the Alder Branch Church from its organization (1836) to his death, March 3, 1901. He was buried in the Alder Branch cemetery. His preacher-brother, R. S. Atchley, had "outstripped him in the lane of life," and gone on to his eternal reward. The praises of both these servants of the Lord are in the churches of Sevier County. His son, William D. Atchley, now in his 77th year, is one of the substantial Baptists of Sevier County; and his grandson M. C. Atchley, of Harriman, is one of our best preachers.
The following anecdote of William Atchley is vouched for by good authority; Brother Atchley was holding a revival service at Sugar Loaf Church, in which an old man 72 years of age was interested about his soul, having come forward for prayer a number of times. Brother Atchley was making the round of his inquirers, asking them how they felt and instructing them . Coming to the old man, who, apparently, had been very much concerned about himself, he asked him also "how he felt." Imagine the shock to the preacher's gravity and the amusement of the nearby youngsters, when the venerable mourner answered in perfect seriousness, "I feel like I had swallowed a large green pumpkin, and it right here in my breast."
Another incident: One dark night, at Alder Branch Church, a "hardshell" preacher was discoursing on the "two-seed" doctrine, and showing how non-elect infants were doomed to dark despair because of the decrees of God. There was only one light in the house, and that was in the pulpit for the use of the preacher. Lucifer matches had not been invented; the putting out of the only light, therefore, might prove to be a serious matter. Unfortunately for the preacher, in bringing his fist down with too great emphasis on the Bible, he put out the only light in the house. Brother Atchley took advantage of the circumstance, and told the preacher he not only put the people in spiritual darkness by his preaching, but plunged them in physical darkness as well.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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