Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
CHESLEY H. BOATWRIGHT
(pages 59 - 60)
Chesley H. Boatwright was born in Cumberland County, Virginia, November 25, 1797. Thee are different ways of spelling the name. Heretofore I have spelled it "Bootwright" and sometimes "Bootright," having the impression that someone of this early ancestors was a maker of "boots" but the people, generally, have called him Boatwright, and doubtless he is connected, historically, with the Boatwrights of Virginia. So I have changed the spelling. In his twentieth or twenty-first year young Boatwright came to Grainger County, Tennessee, and married Louisa Taylor, a daughter of Elder Hughes Owen Taylor, one of the early settlers of the "new country of Grainger." About the year 1825 he moved to Anderson County. In 1830 he was "licensed" to preach by Mt. Hebron Church, in Knox County. The first Friday in November, 1833, he was ordained by authority of Bethel Church, Anderson County, which had just been constituted (March 29, 1833) of sixteen "constituent members," mostly from the Mt. Hebron Church, and recognized by a "presbytery" consisting of Elders Joshua Frost, Isaac Long, Noah Cate, Samuel Love. Doubtless some or all of these men officiated in the ordination of the subject of this sketch. Elder Boatwright served Bethel Church as pastor from 1840 to 1845, and from 1848 to 1851. In the fall of 1831 he engaged himself to teach a school of several months near Coal Creek. About the same time he began a meeting in the neighborhood, preaching of nights. Elders Joshua Frost and James Hickey joined him in the meeting, ably assisting in the work. "A revival broke out, and Clear Branch Church (now Longfield) was the result. Boatwright became the first pastor, and continued pastor and moderator of the church till he moved to Arkansas in October of 1849, a period of about fifteen years. He died in Arkansas, but the date of his death and the place of his burial are not known to this writer" (W. R. Riggs).
In 1846 Clear Branch Church (C. H. Boatwright, pastor) was the largest church in the Northern Association, reporting a membership of 228. This association "was formed in 1839; it came off from the Powell's Valley community, on account of its opposition to the cause of benevolence. This new and vigorous interest entered at once into the business of domestic missions, and employed Messrs. C. H. Bootright, J. Aldridge, and Wm. Hickle to travel and preach among their feeble churches, and in destitute regions around them. In 1842, their missionaries reported as follows: "Traveled upward of 3,000 miles and baptized 300, save one" (Benedict). This exhausts my "notes." It is a regrettable fact that so little definite information is obtainable in regard to a minister of so great prominence and of such ability and person force as Chesley H. Boatwright seems to have had. He was active in the ministry for twenty years, before leaving the State, and was widely known in several counties and associations. He was a strong man, and made an impression wherever he went. I have heard many of the old people of the country speak of him with profound respect, and, incidentally, have noted his name in connection with the founding of churches and the ordination of ministers not a few.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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