Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
(pages 476 - 477)
One of my earliest recollections is of old "Uncle Tommy" Smith, a preacher of the "old school" type, in Cocke County. He lived to be 102 years and 2 months old. He preached his "last sermon' on his one-hundredth birthday, at the old Slate Creek Church, near Parrottsville. It was an occasion of a lifetime. The people talked it for weeks before and after, with excited interest. The place of preaching was ten miles away from my boyhood home - too far for a small boy to go. The writer has often regretted that he was not old enough to join the horseback crowds of youngsters and older people that thronged the roads from every distant neighborhood. Many times I have heard my father and others speak of the occasion as something out of the ordinary. The preacher's text was from Judges, fifteenth chapter, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth verses - the record of Samson's feat in slaying "heaps upon heaps" of the Philistines with the "jawbone of an ass." A vast crowd had gathered in and about the old meeting-house, curious to hear the venerable patriarch preach, on the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. I have never heard anybody say how he treated his text, but "he preached in his way" to a crowd of people that never forgot the occasion, the preacher or the text.
Elder Smith, so far as family records are concerned, is like Melchizedek, "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life." But he was a noted preacher in his day, and a good man. He was a member of Slate Creek Church, and pastor of the church for many, many years. He was a representative of his church, along with other messengers, in the Holston Association, as far back as 1818. Slate Creek was one of the churches dismissed from the Holston to form the Nolachucky Association, and was represented in this body at its organization (Bent Creek, 1828) by her "messengers, Thomas Smith and Simon Smith." For the next ten years he was a regularly appointed messenger to the Nolachucky, rarely missing one of its annual meetings. In 1837 he preached the introductory sermon, magnifying, like most of the preachers of his day, the love and sovereign mercy of God. His text was Eph. 2:4, 5: "But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved)."
In 1839, Slate Creek and her pastor, with other churches and pastors, withdrew from the Nolachucky Association, meeting with Concord Church, Greene County, declaring "a nonfellowship" for State Conventions, missionary and secret societies and other "institutions" of the day. The church never came back, and I have no further record of her pastor, Brother Smith.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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