Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 503 - 504)

William Tarwater was born in Knox County, Tennessee, August 23, 1820. He was a son of Jacob Tarwater, a "full-blooded German." His mother's maiden name was Margaret Dozier. He received his education, for the most part, from the district schools of his native county. He was converted in the year 1843 under the ministry of Samuel Love, in one of his great meetings, and was baptized by him, with thirty-two other "candidates," in the French Broad River, eight miles above Knoxville. He was married April 24, 1845, to Miss Catherine King, a daughter of William and Elizabeth King, and to this union were born seven children. In regard to his married life he told the writer, some years ago, he and his wife had "lived together forty-four years and had never had a jar." He had been preaching in his "way," when these notes were taken, some thirty-five years, but as an "ordained preacher" only about ten years. He was pastor, or had been pastor, of Caney Ford and Hopewell churches. He was not called so much to be pastor of churches as to do missionary, and general evangelistic work.

Brother Tarwater was a thorough-going, uncomprising and enthusiastic Baptist. He "would be a Baptist, though all the world opposed." If there was just "one Baptist," he would be that "one"-and a "preacher," to make more and better Baptists. His line of reasoning was this: "The first preacher we read about in New Testament times was John the Baptist, a Baptist preacher. He had a commission from heaven to baptize, and baptized the Saviour. Christ and the apostles, and all the people baptized by John, were Baptists. The preachers sent out by Christ to preach and baptize were Baptist preachers. These preachers were commanded by their Lord to teach baptized disciples to observe all of Christ's commands. That is the way to make Baptists-and that is the church I belong to." The statement has in it truth and logic, though not put in categorical form or stated in the exact style in which the modern polemic would state it; and the common people, to whom he preached, would gladly hear an argument like that and feel the force of it.

Elder Tarwater died August 13, 1903, at Rockwood, Tennessee.


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


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