Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
"Andrew Coffman, born December 22, 1784; died September 1, 1864" (tombstone record, Bent Creek Cemetery). Elder Coffman was born and lived all of his life in a very old house, still standing, between Whitesburg and Russellville, where one of his sons, James Edward, lived for half a century, and where his grandson, John Coffman, now lives. January 16, 1812, Andrew Coffman was married to a Miss Nancy Legg.
This union gave to the country some of its best citizens, I make special mention of his oldest son, William H. Coffman, for a long while Baptist deacon of the Whitesburg Church, and who was a true friend and a father to the writer during. his first experience in teaching school.
In the record of Bent Creek Church for August, fourth Sunday, 1816, is this item: "Received Andrew Coffman by experience." The presumption is, he was baptized by Caleb Witt, who was pastor of the church at the time. July, second Saturday, 1819, he was made one of a committee appointed by his church to settle a difficulty between two prominent brethren. April, second Saturday, 1820, he was licensed, with two other brethren, to exercise his gift of preaching in the bounds of Bent Creek, Lick Creek and County Line churches. Later the bounds of his license were extended so as to take in "Bethel South (the Morristown First) and Robertson's Creek churches." He was ordained deacon the second Saturday in May, 1825, and was ordained to the work of the ministry the second Sunday in September, 1827, by a council composed of Caleb Witt, Daniel Howery, Wm. Senter, Hughes 0. Taylor, Jacob Coffman and Pleasant A. Witt.
He and Pleasant A. Witt were three times chosen co-pastors of the Bent Creek Church, the first and second time for a period of twelve months, the last time an indefinite call was made, to continue "till dissatisfaction should arise." He was a constituent member of the Nolachucky Association in its organization at Bent Creek Church (1828), and year after year, as long as he lived, attended that body as a messenger from Bent Creek (now Whitesburg) Church. He served on various committees, as the minutes show, preached two introductory sermons, and represented the body, almost every year, as a messenger to one or more "corresponding" associations.
Andrew Coffman was a solid, old-fashioned preacher, as he was a solid man, having the confidence of everybody who knew him.. He was not pastor of many churches but was a mainstay to his home church. His most intimate associate in the
ministry was Pleasant A. Witt till they parted company in the division of the association (1839), Witt going with the minority, or so-called "Primitive" party, Coffman remaining with the "missionaries." Another of his associates was Brother T. J. Lane, younger in the ministry, but a true yoke-fellow.
Elder Coffman farmed for a living and preached as he had opportunity. He was frequently called upon to go north of
Clinch Mountain into the Mulberry Gap and other associations, to preach "funeral" sermons. The "biggest thing"' he
ever got for preaching, I have been told, was a colt some brother north of the mountain gave him for being missionary enough
to "come over and preach where the people need the gospel and love to hear it." The colt "lived," it is said, and "made
a fine horse."
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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