Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
Dr. Thomas Hill, physician and preacher, was one of the most brilliant, able and influential men among the Baptists of East Tennessee during the first quarter of the last century. He was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, about the year 1770 or a little later. He was first a member of the Forks of Little Pigeon (now the Sevierville) Church, baptized, most likely, by Elder Richard Wood, the first pastor of that church. July, 1801, the Dandridge Church "appointed their pastor, Elder Duke Kimbrough, to attend a presbytery at the Fork of Little Pigeon, for the purpose of ordaining Thomas Hill to the ministry" (Church records). The following year (December 25, 1802) he represented his church (Forks of Little Pigeon) at the organization of the Tennessee Association. August, fourth Saturday, 1803, he was appointed by the Tennessee Association as a fraternal messenger to the mother Association, the Holston, meeting with the old Cherokee Church (1804) . At this time, 1803, he appears on the minutes as a member of the Fork of French Broad and Holston Church. In 1807 he preached the introductory sermon, from Eph. 2:10: "For we are his workmanship," etc. He was elected Moderator of the body the same year. He also preached the introductory sermon in the year 1813, his text being I John 1:3. At the formation of the Hiwassee Association (1823) , Thomas Hill was moderator and Micah Sellers clerk. The two or three preceding years he had been a messenger of Big Pigeon Church, Cocke County, to the Holston Association. The minutes of that body for 1825 say, Item 9th: "The churches composing this Association declare against Big Pigeon Church for restoring Thomas Hill over the heads of distressed brethren, and appoint a committee of six brethren to wait on Big Pigeon Church the first Saturday in September."' The church protests against the action of the Association, and the following year gets from the Association this message: "We only act as
an advisory council, and as such request the churches to receive or remonstrate against our proceedings, and record it on their church books." There is no intimation as to what the offense or "distress" was.
At the organization of the Nolachucky Association, at the Bent Creek meeting-house, "the first Friday in November. 1828," Dr. Thomas Hill was elected Moderator, and was re-elected Moderator the two succeeding years. In 1839, when the Nolachucky divided over the question of missions and methods, societies and what not, Thomas Hill went out with the seceding minority, declaring a "non-fellowship" for all extra-Biblical movements and all the societies and "institutions of the day."
Thomas Hill is said to have been a strong doctrinal and historical preacher. He preached a great deal from the Old Testament prophecies. His nose and mouth were drawn considerably to one side, disfiguring his face in a measure. But he had a brilliant mind, was resourceful, ambitious, strong, had unusual gifts of leadership, and was prominent in denominational affairs throughout his ministerial life. He was a doctor, and a "good" one, I am told; but he rarely made out a "bill" against a patient, especially against a poor man. In explanation of his practice he would say: "I have a clear conscience, if I do have an empty pocket. I can live without the fee." Many in his day were like him. They thought "doctors' medicine" and religion ought to be free.
A. O. P. Hill, one of the oldest members of Buffalo Grove Church, near Jefferson City, a thorough Baptist and a good citizen, is a grandson of Dr. Thomas Hill.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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