Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages  341 - 345)

David F., son of Absalom and Winnie C. Manly, was born in Grainger County, Tenn., September 7, 1841. He obtained the rudiments of an English education from the public school of his native county. Later he attended one term of a high school. His education, for the most part, was dug out of men and books, denominational papers and other literature from the religious press. He was a diligent student and always learning in the school of life and experience.

In the month of September, 1865, he was converted, and in March of the following year was baptized, uniting with the Sulphur Springs Church, near Powder Spring Gap, Grainger County. In August, 1866, he was made deacon and served his church in that capacity for ten years. February 1, 1876, he was ordained to the work of the ministry by the Oakland Church, Drs. Jesse Baker and N. B. Goforth, and Elder J. M. Carter constituting the presbytery.

He has served as pastor the following churches: Beaver Creek, Sulphur Spring, Big Valley, New Prospect, Sevierville, Alder Branch, Rocky Valley, Dumplin, Rogersville Junction, Concord, Union, Warwick's Chapel, Boyd's Creek, Pawpaw Hollow, Prospect, Knob Creek, Pleasant Grove, Piedmont, Oakland, Mill Spring, Poplar Spring, and possibly another church or two. As pastor he has trained his churches to support the ministry and to give to every good cause, has taught them their duty to support the gospel at home and abroad. As a result his churches not only supported him but gave liberally to missions and education. He is interested in Christian education, and is a member (1897) of the Board of Trustees of Carson and Newman College. 

In addition to his heavy pastoral work he has held meetings in almost every county in upper East Tennessee. From the date of his ordination to the date of this writing (June 30, '97), a period of twenty-one years, he has "carried," says the record, "four churches at a time, and sometimes five, has conducted 140 revival meetings, witnessed about 3,000 conversions, and has baptized 2,500 persons" into the fellowship of Baptist churches.

Few of our preachers have more calls to officiate at marriages and funerals, or to make public addresses on special occasions.

He is a hard student and a laborious worker, has a voice of great power and endurance, a strong native intellect, is gifted with the orator's temperament, and has an impetuous and forceful delivery.

Considering the amount of pulpit work he has done, especially his excessive labors, over-exertions and exposures in protracted meeting work, he would have been broken down long ago but for his wonderful constitution, his body of iron and nerves of steel. Years ago the doctors told him he would "kill himself preaching"; that unless he put on the brakes he would not "live twelve months." However, he is still alive anti well preserved, is also sobering down, as he grows older and wiser.

Speaking of Brother Manly's stormy delivery, I am reminded of an incident which illustrates a point, which also is a good joke on both the parties concerned. In the first year of my ministry I was helping Brother Manly in a meeting in Knoxville. It was with a congregation that afterwards became the Broadway Church: We were taking it "time about" preaching, but Brother Manly, being my senior in the ministry and more experienced, had charge of the meeting. One of the members, a good sister, who had been a regular attendant, dropped out of the meeting, and the preachers, hearing she had become suddenly ill, went to her home to see her. We found her in bed but not seriously ill. We were soon engaged in a triangular conversation, which centered upon the interests of the meeting, the good sister on the bed punctuating her remarks and ours with an occasional expression of pain. The conversation, at length, drifting a little from the main subject to other related matters, we discussed the different styles of preachers and preaching, the different fancies and the unaccountable tastes of people, some preferring sweetness and light in a preacher, others being partial to the loud and noisy preacher. The writer, using an illustration from nature, made the unfortunate remark, that it was the lightning, not the thunder, that killed. Brother Manly said, "Yes, that is so." Our good sister chimed in: "That's what they say. But I like to hear the thunder roar. Brother Manly, I like to hear you preach." We were both a little embarrassed but said nothing.

April 19, 1860, D. F. Manly and Katherine Hudson, daughter of James T. Hudson, of Jefferson County, were united in marriage. These thirty-seven years she has "tarried by the stuff," while her husband has continually "gone down to the battle."

He has been living at Dumplin for several years, is in his 37th year, and renewing his youth. At present he is pastor of Piedmont, Mill Spring and Knob Creek churches, and is considering calls to other fields.

The above sketch, written and published in 1897, is a partial and imperfect record of the active and useful life of one of our most successful preachers, who fell on sleep, January 28, 1913, and was buried at Piedmont, where he had wrought heroically for a number of years in building up the Master's cause.


Burnett, J .J.  Sketches of  Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers.  Nashville, Tenn.:  Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.


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