Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 395 - 397)

William C. Newell was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, October 15, 1813. He was the first-born of John and Sibyl C. (Gillett) Newell. At the age of twenty he professed faith in Christ, uniting with the Concord Church, in Greene County, Tennessee. By authority of this church he was ordained (March, 1848) to the work of the ministry, and soon afterwards was appointed as a general missionary to labor in the "destitute portions" of Greene and Hawkins counties. In 1857 he moved to Washington County, uniting with the Buffalo Ridge Church, where he kept his membership for fifteen years, serving the church as pastor most of that time.

He was married to Mary A. Price, November 23, 1847. To this union were born two daughters, Adelaide and Cordelia. Adelaide married Elbert H. Crouch, father of Dr. Austin Crouch, of Murfreeboro, Tenn. Losing his first wife he was married a second time, March 8, 1854, to Mary D. Kitzmiller, a daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Kitzmiller, and a sister of Elder Martin V. and Dr. R. C. Kitzmiller, who is still living and in his "nineties." In October, 1872, with his family (a wife and-five children), he moved to Mt. Vernon, Arkansas (Faulkner County), where he lived the rest of his life, doing ministerial work so far as his health would permit, but not venturing to undertake the pastoral oversight of churches on account of a "throat trouble," which would often annoy and sometimes disable him in his efforts to preach. Elder Newell died July 29, 1887, aged 73 years, 9 months, 14 days."

"W. C. Newell was a clear thinker, a sound Baptist and an instructive preacher. He was well posted on Baptist affairs, and was spiritual. There was not a blot on his character, and his conduct at all times was above reproach" (W. A. Keen.) He was a "good theologian, and a friend and wise counselor to young preachers. He was a fine conversationalist, rich in anecdote, and a splendid entertainer. In preaching he was generally deliberate and quiet, always clear-cut in his doctrinal statements, and never noisy. He was a good debater and gave at least one Campbellite preacher a genteel threshing in a public discussion. He was a strong force, and a valuable man, in any community or Association where he went. He was a saddle and harnessmaker when a young man" (W. K. Cox).

Elder Newell was a practiced writer, and as clerk of the East Tennessee and Holston Associations made splendid minutes of the proceedings of those bodies. He was "correspondent" to Benedict in preparing the revised edition (1846) of his great work, "A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America and Other Parts of the World," and as a colleague of the great historian he traveled over pretty much all of East Tennessee, investigating conditions and gathering materials for a history of our people, from written and unwritten sources, furnishing same to Benedict. In his history of Associations in Tennessee, Benedict makes many complimentary references to and frequent quotations from his "correspondent" and colleague," Mr. Newell, using, or carefully "preserving," original documents furnished him by his painstaking "coadjutor," for future reference. In a footnote to page 793 of this work is this statement by the author: "Mr. Newell has lately entered the ministry; he was a lay brother during most of his historical inquiries on account of my work. To use a term much employed in the South and West, in historical inquiries, lie is an `effort man' in full measure," meaning by that expression that his correspondent believed in world-wide missions, education, organization, and the use of all the machinery necessary to the successful execution of our Lord's command  to "go into all the world, and make disciples," and train them for kingdom service. At this time (1846) there was sore need of "effort" to bring about better conditions, especially home effort; for, according to Mr. Newell's reports, there was `'scarcely a Baptist Sunday school in all of East Tennessee the first Baptist Church of Knoxville had preaching every Sunday, the Baptist Church at Jonesboro had preaching .twice a month, while the other churches still held to the monthly system."

Some of the living descendants of Elder Newell are, Mrs. Etta Keathley, a daughter ; Mr. E. K. Newell, a son, and a number of grandsons, all of Arkansas. Another grandson is Dr. Austin Crouch, one of Tennessee's ablest preachers. These and others revere the memory of W. C. Newell.


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


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