Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
(pages 498 - 501)
The Taliaferros, as the name indicates, are of Italian descent. According to a family tradition, the first Taliaferro who came from Italy to England (in the time of William the Conqueror) was a soldier. This brave Italian saved the life of his commanding officer, and as a reward was "knighted," so to speak, or given a nickname which stuck and became the family name, "(I)talia-ferro," two Italian, or Latin, words, which, liberally translated, mean, "Sword-bearer of Italy." Three brothers, descendants of this first Taliaferro, came from England to this country in early colonial times. From these have sprung the different branches of the large Taliaferro family.
Charles Taliaferro was born in North Carolina, March 5. 1799. He was a son of Charles and Sallie (Burrows) Taliaferro. His grandfather's name was John, of Albemarle County, Virginia. The subject of our sketch was one of six brothers, three of whom - Charles, Richard and Hardin - became Baptist preachers. Charles was married to Miss Jennie Whitlock, of his native State, about the year 1820, and soon after their marriage, groom and bride, enamored of the "west country," as of each other, "rode horseback" from Surry County. North Carolina, to McMinn County, Tennessee, several miles west of Knoxville, when there was practically no roads and the country through which they traveled was much of a wilderness. To this marriage were born three sons and two daughters. He was married a second time, October 22, 1839, to Elizabeth Eldridge, to which union were born six children. four sons and two daughters.
As to his conversion, baptism, call to the ministry, or ordination, the writer, has no definite information; but at the organization of the Hiwassee Association (1823), Charles Taliaferro was present as a delegate from the Tennessee church, from which time he was a prominent figure in the Association for a third of a century. He began his ministry, it is thought, with Prospect Church (near Loudon), which he founded and built up to be "some three hundred strong in membership," and was his "home church" as long as he lived. When the Association divided (1836) over the question of the State Convention, etc., Charles Taliaferro stood with the more liberal and progressive element, though only four churches, out of a hitherto large body, stood with him.
In 1836 he was chosen clerk of the Association, and served in this capacity for a number of years, not only keeping the records of the body, but doing a vast amount of clerical work besides - writing "protests," letters of "correspondence," "circular letters," etc. In 1847 he was elected Moderator of the Association, and was reelected to that position annually for several years. In 1848 he preached the introductory sermon from II Tim. 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God. a workman," etc. In, 1850 his text for the introductory sermon was Daniel 2:44, "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom," etc. In the following year his text was, "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine." etc. (I Tim. 4:16). The Association had been fostering a weak interest in Chattanooga, with more or less failure and discouragement, and in 1851 appointed Charles Taliaferro, with others, to look after that interest and "reorganize" the church, if possible. In 1853 the Association "was organized by choosing Elder Charles Taliaferro, Moderator, and Wm. Wall, clerk. On motion, appointed C. Taliaferro to preach a missionary sermon on Sabbath of our next Association." 1842, "On Sabbath, Archibald Fitzgerald and C. Taliaferro preached to a large and well-ordered congregation." Almost every year Charles Taliaferro was appointed by his Association to go as a corresponding messenger or to write a letter of correspondence to some "sister Association." He was particularly fond of the Sweetwater Association, and nearly always attended the anniversary meetings of that body.
Relative to the division of the Hiwassee Association, above referred to, is a reference in the records worth noting. The Association minutes of that year (1836) are headed after this style: "Minutes of the minority of the Hiwassee Association of United Baptists: Opened and held in the woods near Concord meeting-house, Meigs County, the third Saturday in September, 1836. Whereas, we, a part of the Hiwassee Association, believe that the majority have left the ground upon which we were constituted, etc.; we, the undersigned churches, consider ourselves properly the Hiwassee Association, upon constitutional principles. Therefore, resolved, that we have no more correspondence with those that have departed from the United Baptist principles," etc. John Farmer, Moderator, C. Taliaferro, clerk. Then follows the "reasons" for their action, "set forth in circular form," with the "circular" appended to the Minutes.
Elder C. B. Martin says of Charles Taliaferro: "He was an able and earnest minister, a great and good man." His only living son, now of Oklahoma, writes: "Father spent nearly his entire life away from home, preaching. He was the means of organizing Providence Church, near which he lived and reared his large family. He also organized New Providence Church in a log house, the old Hotchkiss home. The first man received into this church by baptism became a deacon. He preached his last sermon in this church from a favorite text, characteristic of the spirit of his ministry, "Let brotherly love continue." Just a few days later he took pneumonia fever and died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Albert Eldridge. His death occurred May 23, 1856. In the Hiwassee Association Minutes for this year he is memorialized by report of committee on deceased ministers as follows: "With emotions of inexpressible grief we present you as our only ministerial bereavement this Associational year the name of our much lamented and fondly cherished brother, Charles Taliaferro. In this bereavement we bow to the high behest of heaven, mingle our tears with those of the afflicted widow and orphaned children, and proclaim to the world that a faithful and devoted watchman has been stricken from the walls of Zion. He died about the 57th year of his age."
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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