Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages  504 - 507)

Hughes Owen Taylor, son of James and Ann (Owen) Taylor, was born October 19, 1778, in what is now Henry County, Virginia. His grandfather, William Taylor, was also a Virginian. James Taylor purchased land in Virginia, Pittsylvania County, May 30, 1771, but September 2, 1797, sold out and came to the then new country, Tennessee, settling in Grainger County, one mile east of Crosby Station, on the K. & B. Railway. Here on the old Taylor homestead, a farm which has been owned by four generations of the Taylors, is a monument inscribed: "James Taylor, February 28, 1731- April 4, 1815. A private in the Revolutionary Army. See records of the Virginia House of Delegates, Document 44, page 47; and his wife, Ann Owen, September 25, 1733 - April 12, 1814. Erected, 1912, by the James Taylor Memorial Association."

Of the date, place and circumstances of the conversion and baptism of Hughes O. Taylor there are no preserved records. From the Minutes of the Holston and Nolachucky Associations he is shown to have been a member of Bethel South (now the Morristown First Church) from 1820 to 1837. Elika Taylor is very positive in the statement that his father was a member of Bethel South from its organization (1803), that he was baptized by Isaac Barton, the pastor; that he was also a co-laborer with him in the ministry for many years. He is also authority for the statement made elsewhere, that Hughes O. Taylor and Elihu Millikan were the same day "licensed" to preach by the Bethel South Church, and were afterwards (September 18, 1825) "ordained" to the full work of the ministry on the same day, Elders Isaac Barton, Caleb Witt and Henry Randolph acting as a presbytery. It is also likely that Hughes O. Taylor was pastor of the Morristown or Bethel South Church after the death of the old pastor, Isaac Barton, in 1831, but the church records have been lost and we can only conjecture.

Along with Elihu Millikan and the venerable Isaac Barton he represented Bethel South in the Nolachucky Association from its organization (1828) to the time of his death, March 10, 1837. In the Minutes of that body for the year 1838, the eighth item reads: `The biography of Hughes O. Taylor, presented to this Association by Bethel South, accompanied with five dollars to defray the expense of annexing said biography to our Minutes, which was ordered to be done." But the "order," for some reason, was not carried out, and the "biography" has been lost.

Elder Taylor preached to Richardson's Creek, War Creek, and other churches north of Clinch Mountain, where "Moses McGinnis, John Day and other ministers grew up under his preaching and influence." He began his active ministry rather late in life, but he was well posted in the Scriptures and on the theological issues of his day. He believed in human depravity, free will, free grace, general atonement and the obligation of the churches to give the gospel to every creature. He was a "peacemaker" in his neighborhood and church, and was "frequently called on to help settle church difficulties."

August 28, 1800, he was married to Elizabeth Kennon, of Jefferson County, a daughter of Thomas and Rachel (Walker) Kennon. To this union were born eleven children, three of them - Woodson, Grant and Elika - becoming Baptist preachers of note and ability. He was not a golden-mouthed preacher like Woodson, nor so able a sermonizer as Grant, nor so well read as Elika. He was an "arguer rather than an orator," and was able in debate. He was a "natural mechanic," it is said, and taught his boys all manner of practical mechanic arts, such as making plows, building houses, blacksmithing, tanning hides, shoemaking, etc. The girls were taught by their mother the domestic arts of the day; they knew how to cook, spin, weave, sew, milk the cow and make butter.

Among my scattered "notes" of reference to Hughes O. Taylor, I find the following: "The church appoint the third Sunday in May for a sacramental occasion and invite John Kidwell, James Kennon and Hughes O. Taylor" (records of Buffalo Church) ; "received a corresponding letter from the Holston Association by their delegates, Isaac Barton, Caleb Witt and Hughes O. Taylor" (Minutes, Tennessee Association, 1821), which date makes me doubt the accuracy of the date above given (1825) for Hughes O. Taylor's ordination. That lost and lamented "biography," if it could be found, would doubtless supply data for a more satisfactory sketch.

One other reference. Among the many polemical bouts of thie '30's and 40's, between the ultra-Calvinists, on the one hand, and the Fullerites, on the other, I find this record. vouched for by good authority, of a private debate between Caleb Witt and Hughes O. Taylor.  Witt: "Man in his natural state is helpless and desperately wicked; can the leopard change his spots?"  Taylor: "True, but he is responsible."  Witt: : "He has to be knocked down before he will submit or come to his senses."  Taylor: "Even so, but he is justly accountable to God."  Witt: "He is more to be pitied than blamed."  Taylor: "If not to be blamed, how can he be sent to hell?"  Echo answers, How?


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


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