Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 409 - 411)

Jonathan Quarles., a son of Nathan and Priscilla Quarles, was born August 10, 1819, in Jefferson County, Tennessee. His parents were poor but hardworking people, and honest. His father, I have been told, was a professional "flax-breaker," in the days when Southern country folk made their own every-day summer wear of flax and cotton. He was mostly "raised as a bound boy" by one of the McGuires, and was sometimes taunted as a "flax-break" (Uncle Jere. Green) by his rude companions; but he had in him genuine stuff, and felt as Pope did, that

"'Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part-there all the honor lies."

July 20, 1837, he was married to Miss Mary Green, sister of the above Jere. Green, of Jefferson County. To this union were born nine children, five sons and four daughters. In a three days' meeting (August, second Saturday, 1843, and following days) he and his wife Mary were "received by experience" for membership in the Mossy Creek Baptist Church, and were baptized, most likely, by Elihu Millikan, the pastor. In December, 1848, he was dismissed by letter, to unite with the church at Mansfield Gap, where he kept his membership the rest of his life. 

He preached a good deal to Mansfield Gap, Friendship, Dandridge, Dumplin, Mossy Creek, and other nearby churches, and was pastor of most of theirs. He did considerable missionary and evangelistic work in the Cumberland Mountains and in western Forth Carolina. "He was spare-made, weighed 140 pounds, had a clear voice, was a close arguer, and had no foolishness about him, in the pulpit or out of it. In conversation, on all occasions, he was ready to propose some subject for serious discussion. I would go forty miles to hear him preach, if lie were alive" (Uncle Jacky Line).

He rarely failed to attend the annual meetings of his Association (the Nolachucky), representing his church in that body, and frequently volunteering, as a fraternal messenger to bear the greetings of his brethren to some "corresponding Association." He was a substantial, "straight-out" man, a safe and wise counselor. Having few advantages in his early life, his education was limited. He and his son "Wash" attended school together at Mossy Creek, and were "in the same class, ambitious to excel each other" - so said the President, Dr. Sam Anderson. He was a hard worker, a good railmaker, a hard student, and a good preacher. He attained a position of influence and usefulness in the community and in his denomination by energy, devotion and persistence. He was always a close Bible student and faithfully served his day and generation.

He fell in the harness before reaching the prime of life, and passed to his reward, July 22, 1858. He was buried in the old Branner graveyard at Mossy Creek. On behalf of the Association the clerk (G. G. Taylor) memorialized him on the records as a "strong man" fallen, "great" in industry and devotion and in "ability to confront opposition and demolish error," a brother "beloved."

I close the sketch with the following incident given me by Brother W. A. Bowers: Elders Jonathan Quarles and T. J. Lane were holding a meeting in the old brick meeting house at Mossy Creek, when Jefferson City was "Mossy Creek Iron Works." The two brethren were taking it "time about" preaching. One young man, who afterwards became a prominent lawyer, had beers converted. It was Quarles' turn to preach. He read the Scriptures and announced his text, but, overcome with emotion and turning deathly pale, he was not able to proceed. Unable to say a word of his sermon, he sat down, groaning out, that "God only could save the people and do the work needed to be done." It was the psychological moment. The appeal had been made. Seventy to eighty persons surged forward for prayer and instruction in the way of life, and there were mourners everywhere in the building.


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


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