Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 366 - 371)

Among the familiar names in the old church-book and Associational Minute-records of East Tennessee Baptists is that of Elihu Millikan - "kan," as he wrote it; "ken," "can," "kin," as variously spelled by others; and "gan," according to the preference of most of his descendants.

The subject of our sketch was the son of William and Eleanor Millikan, and was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, December 6, 1785. At the age of seven he came with his parents to Jefferson County, Tennessee, the year this county was "erected" (1792), locating near where Morristown now is. Here young Millikan grew to manhood. In his twenty-third year (September 29, 1808) he was married to a Miss Nancy Hurst, and February 20, 1838, he was married a second time, to Miss Cynthia Lea. His first marriage was blessed with fourteen children; the second with two, one of them, Mrs. William Marshall, of Knoxville, being the only child now living.

In the battle of New Orleans (1814) he fought under Andrew Jackson, sharing with that famous general and obstinate fighter a most brilliant victory over the British.

Of his religious life we have no particular account until he appears before the public as a minister of the gospel. We only know that his father was a Quaker and his mother a Baptist, and that when he was converted he searched the Scriptures for himself and became a Baptist. But as to the time, place and circumstances of his conversion and baptism there is no preserved record. The presumption is, however, that, living in the neighborhood of Bethel South (now the First Church of Morristown), he united with that church and was baptized by Isaac Barton, the pastor. This church licensed him and Hughes O. Taylor, at the same meeting, to exercise a "public gift," and by the authority of the same church they were ordained together (September 18, 1825), Elders Isaac Barton, Caleb Witt and Henry Randolph acting as a presbytery.

In 1830, Elihu Millikan and Hughes O. Taylor were delegates of Bethel South Church to the Nolachucky Association, in its "third" annual session. For several successive years he was an appointee of his church to attend the annual meetings of the Association, and his name is prominent in the records of that body, associated as it is with the familiar names of Isaac Barton, Andrew Coffman, Hughes O. Taylor, Woodson Taylor, Grant Taylor, T. J. Lane and other noted men.

He was Moderator of the Association for seven years. In 1839, the year of the split with the "anti" brethren, he was elected Moderator over Pleasant A. Witt, who was a popular and a strong man; and was continued Moderator through the reconstruction period that followed. He was active and influential in the Association, serving on important committees, and, in 1846; preaching the introductory sermon - a noteworthy sermon on the preacher's office as an "ambassador for Christ."

His first official work was as co-pastor with Woodson Taylor of Bethel South (Morristown). Later he moved his membership to Buffalo Creek (now Buffalo), Grainger County, and taking charge of the church, served it as pastor for about twenty-five years, resigning his charge the "third Saturday in October, 1859," on account of the infirmities of age. During this pastorate the church was visited with a great revival-a meeting in which Asa Routh did the preaching and Brother Sam Jones the exhorting, in which there were ninety-nine professed conversions, ninety-one being received into the Buffalo Church by "experience and baptism."

In the "thirties" of the last century, when Mossy Creek (now Jefferson City) was known as "Mossy Creek Iron Works," Elder Millikan began to lay the foundation of a church for this future Jerusalem of East Tennessee Baptists. Two and one-half miles northeast of Jefferson City he had charge of an "Arm" from Bethel South, at the old "Doctor Reese place,"' where one of the James brothers now lives. The building material gathered here he removed to Black Oak Grove, where (April 12, 1834) he was chiefly instrumental in founding a church. This church united with the Oakland Church, and together they constituted the Baptist Church at Mossy Creek, May 8, 1841. Elder Millikan was chosen pastor, and served the church efficiently for seven years.

He was also pastor. at one time or another, of Mouth of Richland, Head of Richland, Shady Grove, Blackwell's Branch, Indian Ridge, Powder Spring, Little Flat Creek, New Market, Bent Creek, Lick Creek, and other churches. Bent Creek and Lick Creek are now, respectively, the Whitesburg and Warrensburg churches.

Elder Millikan was frequently called in council in the ordination of ministers and deacons, in the settlement of church difficulties, the recognition of new churches, etc., as well as to attend, everywhere, "sacramental" and "protracted" meetings, and on "camp-meeting" occasions. In the records of the organization and recognition of the First Baptist Church of Knoxville (January 22, 1843), beside the well-known names of James Kennon, William Billue, Robert G. Kimbrough and J. S. Coram, is the no less familiar name of Elihu Millikan.

Twenty years ago Jethro Hill, of near Mossy Creek, bore this testimony: "I am in my 93rd year. I knew Elihu Millikan, and heard him preach, as far back as 1828. He was the principal preacher in this part of the country. He preached the missionary doctrine, and was an able man." The venerable brother, William Haynes, who was acquainted with Elder Millikan for years and from his boyhood heard him preach, said: "Brother Millikan was a strong doctrinal preacher, and was successful in revivals. Everybody had confidence in him. He lead a good influence, in the community, and few preachers, if any, built up the Baptist cause more than he."

Speaking of Elder Millikan's wonderful voice, "Uncle Sammy West," of Buffalo Church, assured me that he heard the sound of the preacher's voice, one night, from the church to his home, a distance of "two miles, air course." Winter had stripped the leaves from the intervening trees, the night was still, and the air frosty. Brother West lived on a ridge above the church. It is known that sound tends upward, and travels best at night. We may suppose, also, that a church door had been left open for a time. With these modifying conditions of the problem we may credit the seemingly incredible.

Brother Millikan was fervent and effective in prayer, and loved the old songs of Zion. It was his uniform custom, I have been told, to sing just before the benediction was pronounced

"Dismiss us with Thy blessing, Lord;
Help us to feast upon Thy Word;
All that has been amiss forgive,
And let Thy truth within us live."

Before the Civil War Elder Millikan had a good farm and owned a few negroes. Visiting the old Millikan homestead, near Lee's Springs, Grainger County, a few years ago, I found old "Uncle Jerry," the colored man, who in other years had been "waiting boy" to Elder Millikan, currying and saddling his horse, and "such like turns," to get his master off to his appointments. Uncle Jerry was a staunch Baptist, and this was his testimony to the all-rightness of his former master: "He fed and clothed well, and had reasons about him."

From a tombstone in the family graveyard I copied this inscription: "Rev. Elihu Millikan. Died December 21, 1864; aged 79 years and 15 days. `Them that sleep in Christ will God bring with him."

Just a little while before he breathed his last some friends were singing one of his favorite songs, "How Firm a Foundation." When they came to the words, "I'll never, no, never, forsake," he clapped his hands and said, "No, He never will'. He never will!" and passed in triumph to the skies, the day above noted.

There are no preachers, I believe, among the descendants of Elihu Milligan. Leslie N. Milligan, a great-grandson, comes nearest to being a preacher of any of the connections I happen to be acquainted with. He is a deacon of the First Baptist Church of Jefferson City, is a teacher of the men's Bible class in the Sunday school, is strongly Calvanistic in his views of Bible doctrine, like the elder Millikan, is one of the best-posted laymen on the doctrines and traditions of Baptists known to the writer, and enjoys the distinction of having been moderator of the Nolachucky Association.


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


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