Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
SAMUEL J. BLAIR
Samuel J., son of Thomas and Hannah Blair, was born June 9, 1823, near Madisonville, Monroe County, Tennessee. His father was a farmer in moderate circumstances, and a Baptist deacon. He was ambitious to give his children educational advantages, and young Blair had an ambition to make out of himself a scholar and a worth-while man. So, he provided himself with books and "burned the midnight" pineknot in pursuit of knowledge. He also organized a neighborhood debating society, for self-culture and practice in speaking.
November 13, 1842, he professed faith in Christ, and on Christmas day, the month following, he was baptized by one of the Taliaferros into the fellowship of the Madisonville Church. On the same day, he said, "standing at the water's edge, in the midst of my associates and surrounded by the fathers in Israel, and looking upon the clear, sparkling stream as it gushed from its fountain and wended its way so beautifully through the green meadows, I felt the first impressions to preach the gospel to a perishing world.
But he felt he must make preparation for so great a work. His father sent him one term to the Madisonville Academy, which enabled him to teach in the public schools. Alternating between teaching and going to school for four years, by diligent study he prepared himself for an effective ministry of the gospel, to which office he was publicly ordained, September 27, 1847, by a council composed of Daniel Buckner, John Scruggs, a Brother Wilson and a Brother Chapman.
November 11, 1847, he was married to a Miss Nancy Walker, and settled on a farm near Shepherd Hill, James County. Here shortly afterwards he organized a church, which he served as pastor for many years, where also he had many seals to his ministry. He also organized Hopewell Church, serving it as pastor for many years. He was also pastor of Pleasant Grove, Antioch, Kandis Creek, Phillippi, Salem, Blue Spring, and Georgetown churches. In all these localities he had a successful ministry, and left a fragrant memory. His last pastorate was in East Chattanooga, where he succumbed to what had become a chronic brain trouble - falling "gently to sleep" August 5, 1897, to wake up in the Father's house on high.
Brother Blair was a man of positive convictions, and was ever ready to take a stand for the right; he was at the same time conservative and conciliatory, having a sweet and tender spirit and a disposition to "keep the peace" and to harmonize churches and communities. This made him a safe counselor. On one occasion, it was said, he was moderator of what threatened to be a very stormy council. Some delicate matter had been brought before it for adjustment. At one stage of the procedure it seemed that an unpleasant division of the council was certain, when the moderator, by tact, wise counsel, and the exhibition of a tender, sympathetic spirit, saved the day, and united all parties in loving fellowship. "Blessed are the peacemakers."
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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