Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
J. H. HYDER
(pages 258 - 262)
Jonathan Hampton Hyder was a son of Jonathan Hyder. He was born on Powder Branch, Carter County, Tenn., October 20, 1812. His grandfather, Michael T. Hyder, was of German descent, but a native of Virginia, and one of the earliest settlers of Carter County, Tenn. His mother was an Edens, also of German descent.
Elder Hyder was fairly educated for a preacher of his day. He attended the Jonesboro Academy, was also a student in Emory and Henry College, Va., and in Maryville College, Tennessee, but was not a graduate. He received the greater pain of his education in the school of life and experience. In 1843 he was married to Elizabeth Fletcher, a daughter of John Fletcher, of Carter County, a woman of sterling worth. This union was blessed with a family of fourteen children, one of them, A. J. F. Hyder, one of our best preachers; another, L. F. Hyder, a successful physician and farmer, and the entire family I believe, Baptists.
"Hamp Hyder was converted through the instrumentality of a tear." So said William A. Keen, in relating to me the circumstances of his conversion. He was attending a meeting at old Sinking Creek Baptist Church, where two missionaries were preaching. He was then in his twenty-fourth year, and a Methodist, but without religion, hard-hearted, and full of prejudice. The preaching of the missionaries had little effect upon him. He could easily resist their most powerful appeals. But when a "homely old preacher" went to him in the congregation where he was sitting, and in the earnestness of his affectionate pleading happened to let a hot tear fall on Hyder's hand, a change came over his spirit, his heart softened, and he gave himself in penitence and faith to the Lord. Uniting with Sinking Creek Church he was baptized by the pastor, Elder Rees Bayless. He was ordained by this church, May 18, 1849, Rees Bayless, James Edens and Peter Kuhn acting as a presbytery.
Among the churches served by him as pastor we mention the following: Watauga, Stoney Creek, Poplar Grove, Zion, Sinking Creek, Indian Creek (now Erwin), Cherokee, Chinquepin Grove, Elizabethton, which he helped to organize, and Taylorsville, which is now Mountain City.
With all his manifold duties and labors as preacher, farmer, missionary, and evangelist, he was for thirty years county surveyor for Carter County.
He was Moderator of the Watauga Association from its organization (1869) to his death (March 5, 1886), with the exception of only a few sessions. As a presiding officer he was popular, but not less so as a preacher. Though a firm, outspoken man and a pronounced Baptist, he was greatly beloved by his brethren and respected by people of all denominations. His labors in the ministry were greatly blessed of the Lord. It is thought that he was instrumental in the conversion of some 10,000 souls. Through his labors and sacrifices many waste places in Zion were built up and multitudes added to the churches.
Elder Hyder was a man of marked peculiarities and distinct originality. He never failed to attract attention or make a distinct impression. In the mountains of Johnson and Carter, where he was most familiarly known, "Hamp Hyder" is the synonym for original genius, good humor, and droll wit. He was distinctly, but in a good sense,. a sensational preacher. His quaintness, though bordering on eccentricity, was accompanied by an original freshness that secured the unfailing attention of his hearers, who felt that while the preacher was "odd" he was nevertheless interesting, and they wanted to hear more of him. As a speaker he was also highly emotional, possessing that pathos of voice and tears that gave to many of the early preachers their wonderful power over an audience.
As an example of Elder Hyder's wit and outspoken candor take the following incident, as told me by old Brother Routh and other witnesses. On one occasion he went to hear a Campbellite preach. In the sermon the preacher took occasion to ridicule what he called the "popular notions" of religion, grace and the so-called "Holy Spirit," saying that he "would not know religion if he were to meet it in the road." Brother Hyder believed in "answering a fool according to his folly." So, at the close of the service, he went forward with a grim smile on his face and in the hearing of all the congregation thus addressed the preacher: "Sir, I want to endorse a part of your discourse. You said you would not know religion if you met it in the road. We have no right to doubt that statement. It seems that you and religion are not acquainted. Of course we couldn't expect strangers to know each other."
For the following remarkable incident I am indebted to Brother A. Carter, the truthfulness of which is confirmed by many eyewitnesses. At one time Brother Hyder was very low with typhoid fever. His sweat had been cold and clammy for a week. At last his breathing stopped and his pulse ceased to beat. For several minutes he was thought to be dead; in fact, was pronounced "dead" by the attending physicians, one of whom, his own son, had closed his eyes. Everybody thought the end had come and the family were all crying, when suddenly, and to the utter astonishment of all present, he who was supposed to be dead opened his eyes, and with a firm. clear voice, spoke to his wife, telling her he was not dead, that he had been sent back on an errand, and was new-commissioned to preach the gospel. The doctors, ordinarily, would call this an instance of "suspended animation." But Brother Hyder thought it was a real "coming to life," and that the hand of the Lord was in it. The circumstance also deeply impressed the neighbors. The preacher lived sixteen other years, with the abiding impression that he had received from the Lord a new lease of life to preach the gospel more earnestly and to give himself wholly to the ministry. And this he did, the Lord working with him and greatly blessing his labors. He was away from home on the King's business, preaching the gospel, when he reached the end of his earthly journey, and was called to his home above. The summons came March 5, 1886.
From the marble slab above his grave I have copied these words:
"For more than forty years he fought,
As few beside can boast;
Then died as he had longed to die,
While standing at his post."
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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