Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers
C. C. TIPTON
(pages 517 - 522)
Caswell Cobb Tipton was born in Blount County, Tennessee, in the year 1810. He was a son of John Tipton and a near relative of "Col. John Tipton," a prominent and resourceful politician, who, on the "third Friday in August, 1786," was elected Senator from Washington County, to represent that county in the "General Assembly of North Carolina," who was also a member of the Territorial Convention which met at Knoxville, January 11, 1796, and who, in the early struggles of some of the eastern counties for independence and statehood, was a conspicuous and spirited rival of John Sevier.
The subject of our sketch was converted April 26, 1833, and was baptized by Elder James Lankford into the fellowship of Ellijoy Church, Blount Count. This church "liberated" him, August 25, 1835, called him to ordination. July 1, 1838, aid in the following month (August 24) he was ordained, Elders William Billue, James Lankford and William Hodges acting as an advisory and ordaining council. January, 4th Saturday, 1841," Ellijoy Church voted to "solicit Brother Caswell C. Tipton to act as an assistant Moderator" to the pastor, Elder Billue.
In 1842 Elder Tipton was married to Miss Lucinda Brooks, to which union were born four sons and four daughters.
In the same year he came to Mossy Creek (now Jefferson City), studied grammar under a teacher at Black Oak Grove, and by private study at home acquired a working knowledge of the Greek language.
At the founding of the Mossy Creek Missionary Baptist Seminary (1851) Elder Tipton became financial agent, and raised some $4,000 for buildings, apparatus and library. In 1855 the seminary became a college by charter, and in 1856 Elder Tipton began a joint agency work for Mossy Creek College for boys and the Jonesboro Female College, raising nearly $7,000 for the two institutions. These were days of small beginnings, educationally, for Baptists in this part of the country, but it was a time of sowing for future harvests.
Among the churches of which Elder Tipton was pastor we might mention Mill Spring, Rocky Valley and Dumplin. But he was not built for the pastorate, so it would seem. His nervous energy and restless spirit made it necessary for him to be constantly on the go. His forte was agency and mission work. He would have been equally successful in evangelistic work, perhaps, if he had given himself more to that kind of work. Sixty years ago, when the Tennessee Association was in session at Alder Branch, Sevier County, William A. Keen, corresponding messenger from the Holston, in a speech on missions, made this statement: "When the Holston Association was doing little and many of her churches had closed their doors against the missionaries, two men from the Tennessee Association came into our borders and kindled a fire which burned like stubble. They were C. C. Tipton and Layman Jones."
Few men of his day were better posted on the distinctive doctrines of the Baptists than C. C. Tipton, or more fearless in preaching them. He was also familiar with the faith and practices of other denominations. Besides, he had a fondness for religious disputation, and was a skilled debater. He didn't hesitate in the least to cross swords with his own Baptist brethren, but nothing could please him better than to have an opportunity to try his good Damascus blade on some disputer of another denomination; and, from what I have heard said of him and from my youthful recollection and impressions of his appearance and voice and manner in fireside conversation, I am wont to feel very much, "Woe be to the hapless Pedo-Baptist opponent, exposed to his pitiless logic, biting sarcasm and withering denunciation of wrath upon the wanton perverters of the right ways of the Lord!" Speaking of the Tipton-Bogart debate at Sevierville old Uncle John Russell said to the writer: "The Methodist brother was completely demolished, if ever opponent was demolished in debate." Mixed with his constitutional penchant for debate was a bit of grim humor; he enjoyed a practical joke. To Elder Russell I am indebted for the following incident: C. C. Tipton, on his good saddle horse, was making his way through the mountains over into North Carolina, to have a public discussion with some Pedo-Baptist preacher, whose name I have forgotten. By chance he fell in with a certain family who told him about a "debate" which was to take place the next day in a distant neighborhood, and prevailed on him to stay over night with them, and go along with then to the debate the next day. He consented. With an early breakfast and a good start they were soon well on their way, and in due time reached the place appointed for the battle of the giants. Imagine the surprise of Elder Tipton's traveling companions to see him rise up before the vast crowd of people assembled and proceed to open the debate.
The so-called "Primitive" or "hard shell" brethren came in for their share of his knocks. I find in my "notes" this bit of history, one of Elder Tipton's favorite illustrations: The anti-mission brethren, he said, are like Wayland's mill, a noted old-fashioned community water-mill, which ground one grain at a time, especially when the water was low. One of the neighbors took a "turn" of corn to the mill and waited for his meal, another neighbor being ahead of him and the water being low as usual. As the mill proceeded with its work, grinding away, the "rattle-staff," turning slowly, seemed to say, "It is hard work, hardly worth while, this particular election, grinding all day a grain at a time, there are few that be saved - the sheep must be fed - the dogs take the goats - no missions in mine." The man (in the parable) passed on, attended to other business, but returning, later in the day, after a good shower of rain had fallen found the mill revived and in good spirits, humming with delight as it did its work, the "rattle-staff" fairly singing, 'Everybody, everybody, God loves the world, give everybody a chance, go into all the world, whosoever will may come." The parable was self-explanatory and struck home, doubtless, with good effect.
Elder Tipton was a faithful witness for the Baptists and the cause of truth, was a foundation-builder for our East Tennessee Zion, in education and missions and co-operative effort. He carried his campaign of Baptist education even to New York City and Charleston, South Carolina, and secured from both these places funds for our two schools, Mossy Creek College and the Jonesboro Female Institute. His labors were abundant throughout East Tennessee, covering a period of more than twenty-five years. He was a man of "fine personal appearance, thick set, heavy built, weighing about 180 pounds, of medium height, firm in manner and purpose, and thoroughly independent. He was a good speaker, and graced a pulpit handsomely." He was strong-minded, bright, energetic, ambitious. He worked best in the lead; didn't want to "take anybody's dust." He inherited his blood and passion and militant disposition, and could not well be anything other than his natural self. Far and near he was sought for in council, and few names are more prominent in the records of East Tennessee Baptists than that of C. C. Tipton.
At the close of the Civil War he moved to West Tennessee, and preached a year or two in that part of the State; then moved to Rolla, Missouri, where his death occurred in the year 1872. The writer is not aware that any of his immediate family are still living. He may have a son Joseph in St. Louis, and possibly another son and a daughter or two somewhere in the West. John T. Mullendore, of Texas, is a grandson, and Mrs. K. H. McNelly, Talladega, Alabama, Mrs. J. M. Catlett, Jefferson City, Tennessee, and Mrs. M. F. Nickols, Sevierville, Tennessee, are granddaughters - and were old enough to remember their grandfather when he was living. These, and many others, cherish the memory of a veteran soldier of the cross, who fought hard to win, and who, some day, we assuredly believe, shall wear the victor's crown.
Burnett, J .J. Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers. Nashville, Tenn.: Press of Marshall & Bruce Company, 1919.
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