Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 511 - 515)

Elika Adams, son of Hughes O. and Elizabeth Taylor, was in Grainger County, Tennessee, July 30, 1811. His father was born in what is now Henry County, Virginia. His grandfather, James Taylor, and his great-grandfather, William Taylor, were native Virginians. His grandfather moved to Tennessee and settled in Grainger County when that part of the country was entirely new.

March 20, 1830, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Mays. This union was crowned with a splendid family of eight children, five sons and three daughters. In his twentieth year, soon after his marriage, he made a profession of religion, but did not unite with the church until some years afterwards.

February 14, 1837, attracted by the newer and greater "west," he left Grainger County and moved to Sweetwater Valley, then a wilderness, bought land four miles west of the present town of Sweetwater, lived in a cabin for a year, burnt brick and built him a substantial dwelling house, where for sixty-five years he lived in peace and comfort, till in his ninety-second year he was welcomed to his home on high, "a house not made with hands, eternal and in the heavens."

Soon after settling in his new home, yielding to his convictions of duty, Brother Taylor decided to obey the Lord in the ordinance of baptism, and was baptized by Elder Robert Snead, uniting with the Pond Creek Church. With the new work of grace in his heart he recognized a "call" to preach the gospel and was "licensed" by his church to exercise his "gift," which hie proceeded to do. We might say in this connection that his church urged his ordination, but he never would give his consent to be ordained. He was, therefore, what might be called a "lay-preacher." He never accepted the care of a church, but gave a great deal of his time to preaching to weak and pastorless churches, settling church difficulties, helping his pastor, and ministering in many unofficial ways, as he had opportunity.

This "lay-preacher" superintended the building of the first church in Sweetwater, and also the first school house; he introduced the first two-horse wagons, the first threshing machines, and built the first machine shop, in this section. When he came the country was new, and farmers used the old-fashioned reap-hook to cut their wheat. But he has kept up with the times; in fact, has been a leader in all progressive movements. His memory goes back to the days before there was ever a railroad thought of, or a telegraph line, for this part of the country, or any modern improvement. It is very interesting to hear a man talk who has witnessed the introduction of so many new things, and note the keen interest he takes in them all."

Brother Taylor never enjoyed a classical or even a high school education. But he had a good mind and was thorough in the branches of study taught in the "old-field school." Most of his life, till upwards of sixty, he was a hard worker on the farm by day and a hard student by night. He burned the midnight pine-knot, instead of the "midnight oil," to get his stores off knowledge, especially in studying the Bible. He was always a great student of the Scriptures.

He believed in education, and tried to give his children better advantages in that respect than he himself had enjoyed, "emptying his purse in their heads," according to Benjamin Franklin's advice, where it could "not be stolen." He also gave liberally of his time and means for the promotion of Christian education and the upbuilding of Baptist schools. He worked hard and traveled for the Sweetwater Seminary, soliciting girls, and funds for that institution; and though the school could never be put firmly on its feet, he talked Christian education in many a home and church, sowed the good seed, and left an indelible mark for good upon many a young mind and heart. Though not educated in the broadest sense, yet he was a man of culture and refinement, was a high-toned Christian gentleman, a man of fine social qualities, always welcome to the best homes and the most refined circles.

He was given to hospitality. His home was always a home for preachers. The fireside talks and religious discussions in the presence of the family were always impressive and uplifting, and never to be forgotten. In his business transactions and his mixing with men he rarely failed to introduce the subject of religion. His character and life were above reproach, and his influence was a benediction wherever he went.

Brother Taylor kept himself thoroughly posted on all the current issues of the day, and was a fine conversationalist. He was a great advocate of temperance, and personally was a teetotaler. He never failed to take an interest in politics, Bolding that it was the duty of every citizen to cast an intelligent vote. He cast his first vote for William Henry Harrison and his last (at the age of ninety) for William Jennings Bryan. He was clerk of his church for fifteen years, for many year one of her active deacons, and always ready to serve as assistant or supply-pastor. He belonged to a family of preachers. His father, Hughes O. Taylor, was an influential preacher of the early days. His brother, Woodson, was a fine preacher and silver-tongued orator. Grant Taylor, another brother, "the best investigator of us all (E. A. T), was an able pulpit man. But Elika was second to none of them in ability as a thinker, in personal force and genuine worth, as a Christian and as a minister, though not a practiced and skilled speaker like his father and preacher-brothers.

At the time of his death-May 10, 1902, in his ninety-second year-he was a member of the First Baptist Church of Sweetwater, of which he had been a member (since September, 1842) when it was Pond Creek Church in the country, which he had been influential in moving to town, for its greater influence, and of which he had been a pillar for many years. His "faith in his Savior was unwavering" to the last, and upon the monument which marks his last resting place in the Sweetwater cemetery is this inscription: "In God is my trust."


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


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