Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
Joab Hill was the fifth son of William and Hannaniah Hill. He was born in North Carolina, but the date of his birth is not known. His father was a Virginian by birth and, after his conversion, became a Baptist and a Baptist Preacher.
His grandfather, William Hill, Sr., was a devout religionist after the Church of England, or Episcopal, order, and was greatly angered, it is believed, that his son should unite with the Baptists, a people everywhere spoken against. The unfriendly attitude of the father doubtless had much to do with his son's leaving his native state of, Virginia for North Carolina, where he lived and died. The elder William Hill was a patriot in Virginia, as was his son, Elder William Hill, in North Carolina. William Hill, Jr., father of Joab, was a member of the Provincial Congress at Hillsborough, N. C. (1775), was a "member of a committee of safety," after the battle of Lexington, when "congresses were formed in all the colonies and committees of safety were appointed to call out the troops and provide for any emergency," was lieutenant of a regiment of North Carolina Continental Troops, and, later, was chaplain in the American army at the battle of Guilford Courthouse (March 15, 1781), a battle "between the armies of Cornwallis and Greene, in which the former was repulsed with loss." Of the illustrious father of Joab Hill, Wheeler (Reminiscences, N . C. Hist.) says: "He was a Baptist minister, a sterling patriot, and an honest man; during the Revolution his stirring appeals stimulated the whigs in his section" of the state.
In 1802 Joab Hill married Elizabeth Lane, a daughter of Lieut. Isaac Lane and a granddaughter of Elder Tidence Lane, of pioneer fame. To this union were born nine children, seven sons and two daughters.
In the War of 1812 Joab Hill was Lieutenant Colonel in Colonel Booth's Regiment of Tennessee Militia, being in active service in 1814-15. According to records at Tazewell, as quoted by Mr. P. G. Fulkerson, Joab Hill represented Claiborne County in the Tennessee Legislature more than one term, it would seem, between the years 1803 and 1815. At Powell's Valley Association, held at Cedar Fork meeting-house, Claiborne County, the third Saturday in October, 1818, Joab Hill was one of three representatives of the Big Spring Church, and was appointed by the Association "assistant clerk." In 1832 we find him in the Sweetwater Association, and a messenger from Mt. Pleasant Church. He is appointed by the Association "to write a letter of correspondence to the Tennessee Association," and Daniel Buckner and George Long are appointed "bearers of the letter." The minutes for 1831 show him to be a "licentiate" of Mt. Pleasant Church. It is likely he was ordained the following year, but the minutes, by oversight, I take it, still carry his name as a "licensed" preacher. In 1836 his name stands on the minutes at the head of a committee of eight prominent and influential preachers appointed by the Association to frame and submit to the body a report on the vexed question of a "State Convention." The Convention was a new thing, and was bitterly opposed by some of the brethren. As a conciliatory measure it is "unanimously agreed," by the committee and the Association, "to abandon the Convention, if the churches and the Association will agree to unite in spreading the gospel."
I close this fragmentary sketch with quotations from two letters at hand. The first is from a note of Dr. I. C. Simmons, clerk of New Friendship Church, near Cleveland, who says "I find on the old church book that Elder Joab Hill was at our church in April, 1836. Alfred Cooper was ordained to preach on that day, and Brother Hill preached the ordination sermon. He preached at our church several times, but that is the only time I find it on record. He was never pastor of the church. I am now 72 years old, and he preached here nine years before I was born. I have heard my mother and Uncle Jackson Cate and Leroy Bates talk so much about Joab Hill that it seems I almost knew him. Brother Bates, who died last fall at the age of 96, knew him well. From what I have heard him and my mother, and other old people, say about Joab Hill, I know he was a prominent preacher." The other quotation is from a kinsman of Brother Hill, who, writing at the age of 82, says: "My grandfather, Thomas Hill, had a younger brother named Joab Hill, who lived in McMinn County, East Tennessee. He was a prominent divine in that part of the state. He moved to Missouri about the year 1841." He died in Clark County, Mo., in 1847.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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