Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
W. L. SMITH
(pages 477 - 480)
William Landrum, son of John and Cynthia (Wyatt) Smith, was born August 30, 1822, "on the Bend of Chucky" (Nolachucky River), Jefferson County, Tennessee. He was the oldest of a family of eleven children. His father was of Irish descent, his mother German. "Irish fire, Dutch patience," is the way he characterized himself. His father moved to Campbell County when William was 12 years old, and died about one year afterwards. The next move was to Claiborne County, where he lived for some years; his last move was to Anderson, locating three miles below Andersonville, where he lived the rest of his life.
He was converted in his twenty-second year at Blue Spring schoolhouse (now Blue Spring Church) in a meeting held by Chesley H. Bootright and William Hickle. Reading the New Testament through twice, he was converted from Methodist to Baptist views on the question of the church and its ordinances, and was baptized by Brother Bootright, the second Sunday in February, 1842, into the fellowship of Blue Spring Church, Union County. The second Saturday in November, 1847, his church licensed him to preach, and the second Saturday in April, 1849, ordained him, C. H. Bootright, Mark Monroe and Anderson Acuff acting as a presbytery. His first pastorate was the Blue Spring Church, beginning about the time of his ordination and continuing twenty odd years. He was also pastor of Milan, Providence, Liberty, Longfield, and other churches.
Brother Smith spent his life largely in missionary and evangelistic labors in Union, Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne and other counties in Tennessee; in Lee County, Virginia, and in southeastern Kentucky. He witnessed about 5,000 conversions and baptized about 2,000 persons into the fellowship of Baptist churches. In his evangelistic labors he was associated a good deal with Asa Routh, C. H. Bootright, William Hickle and the Acuff s.
February 19, 1856, he was married to Elizabeth Ann Sharp, a daughter of Isaac Sharp, of Claiborne County. Their home was blessed with ten children, nine of which they were permitted to "raise." Brother Smith never got a great deal of pay for his preaching: "Elizabeth" (his wife), he said, "is chairman of the mission board from which I have drawn my salary. I have gone to the war mostly at my own charges. and have never regretted that I enlisted."
Inquiring about his educational advantages and his schooling, I was told: "I am not a college graduate. They used to call me 'Pineknot Bill Smith,' from the fact that I had to do most of my studying by pineknot light, but I thought that was better than to be ignorant. However, I did go to the public school a little, and attended a good school at Clinton one summer, after I commenced preaching. I got far enough along to parse nouns and worry with verbs, and that, with my pineknots, has helped me a good deal in studying the Bible." "What about helping preacher-boys to get an education?" I asked. The answer was: "I believe in that. But there has been a great deal of money and time wasted in educating preachers. Some of them can't preach, and some of them won't. But when a man will preach, I believe in giving him a chance. It takes three things to make the best preacher: Good sense, God and the schools." Brother Smith helped to ordain "four preachers who turned out all right." He expressed regrets that he had not kept a diary or journal of his "travels and labors," as he ought.
W. L. Smith was a genius in many ways and had a wonderful constitution. He was not lacking in strength of mind or of body - was a diamond in the rough. I heard him tell a Mossy Creek audience once that there were men like himself that the "professors couldn't polish very well; that he was made of weavers' beams, handspikes and crowbars - made for endurance, not for polish."
Brother Smith had a number of bouts with the Methodists on the subjects of apostasy and the perseverance of saints, and "kept a standing challenge" for the Campbellites to debate with him in public their theories of "water salvation" and "falling from grace."
W. L. Smith was the fourth pastor of Longfield Church, was a member of Blue Spring Church until 1849, at which time he went into the organization of the Andersonville Church, of which he remained a member till his death, April 8, 1909, having been an ordained minister of the Baptist faith for sixty years.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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