Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 492 - 494)

James Bell, son of John and Elizabeth Stone, was horn in Grayson County, Virginia, September 2, 1814. His father moved to Tennessee and settled in Carter County, in the early settlement of the country. Here also he died when James was only eight years old. The family afterwards moved to Washington County.

April 1, 1833, he was married to Freelove Duggar.  In October of his twenty-fifth year he was converted and was baptized by Elder Rees Bayless, uniting with Buffalo Ridge Church. February following he was given verbal license to preach "within the bounds of the church." But breaking over the "bounds" prescribed by his license, by preaching at an Association, he came before his church and made his "acknowledgements" and was "liberated" to preach wherever he might leave opportunity. May, fourth Saturday, 1841, he was ordained to the full work of the ministry, Elders Rees Bayless and Peter Kuhn constituting the presbytery. His first ministerial work was as a missionary of the Holston Association, in Johnson County. At that time there were only three Baptist churches in the county, and they were very weak: Cob's Creek, with a membership of twenty-five; Pine Grove, with fifteen members, and Roane's Creek (Mountain City), with twenty members.  Of Cob's Creek Church he was pastor for sixteen years. He was also pastor, at different times, of the following churches: Taylorsville, Pleasant Grove. Little Doe, Crab Orchard, Storey Creek, Watauga, Antioch, Indian Creek (Erwin), Limestone, and Cherokee.

Brother Stone was the first "missionary" in Johnson County and had some tough experiences. The missionary Baptists were few and feeble; the "Antis" were strong and bitter in their opposition. As showing the temper and the absurdity of the opposition, for instance, an excluded deacon "presented" Bi-other Stone and three of his deacons to the "grand jury," on the charge of "breaking the Sabbath" by taking collections, receiving pay for preaching, etc. Nothing came of the action, however, and the Sabbath collections, in fact, were not for the preacher, but for meeting-House repairs and for missions.

Brother Stone's tactics, as a missionary among a people largely anti-missionary, was "first to get hold of the children, and through them to reach the parents." Only in this way could he make progress.

Brother Stone's advantages in his boyhood days and his  opportunities for getting an education were very poor indeed. He never attended school "as much as nine months" in his life. His literary course consisted, principally, of spelling and reading, in a twenty-four days' term - twelve Saturdays and twelve Sundays under a teacher whose ability to "pronounce" correctly was not extraordinary. The teacher gave assurance that, on Sundays, he would "keep the children out of mischief," but would have no "pay" for his work - on Saturdays he would expect "double pay."

One who knew Brother Stone well, and labored with him in the ministry, describes him as a "plain, unlettered, old-fashioned gospel preacher, a good reasoner, and a minister who could make the plan of salvation plain."

Brother Stone was also a good singer. He not only sung the gospel that he preached, but made himself useful by teaching "singing schools," as he had time and opportunity. His greatest sermon and sweetest song was a life above reproach.

We close our sketch of a good and faithful servant of the Lord with the following "tribute" of the Limestone Church, of which he was a member the greater part of his Christian life. "Our dearly beloved brother, James B. Stone, departed this life, June 24, 1897, having lived to the good age of 82 years ,end 9 months. He preached the gospel of missions and ministerial support in the midst of great opposition, when missionary Baptists were persecuted for preaching their doctrines. Nevertheless, he stood firm, true to his convictions of duty, and proclaimed the truth of the gospel, `as delivered once for all to the saints,' not fearing what man could do. He stands side by side with the worthy defenders of Baptist principles, his name untarnished, his integrity unimpeached." Done by order of the church, and signed by "the committee."


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


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