Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 539 - 541)

Pleasant Alred Witt, son of Elder Caleb and Miriam (Horner) Witt, was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee, February 18, 1800. He was the sixth child and fifth son in a family of eleven children. He united with the Bent Creek Church, near Whitesburg, in the year 1817. He was married to Elizabeth Haun, daughter of Christopher Hann, of Jefferson County, October 13, 1818. To this union were born ten children. May, 2nd Saturday, 1823, Bent Creek Church "agreed that Brother Pleasant A. Witt should have license to go into all the world and to preach where God in his providence" might call him. In 1825 County Line Church "requested" his ordination. May, 2nd Saturday, 1826, his church ordained him - Daniel Howery, Henry Randolph, Elihu Millikan, Joseph White and Caleb Witt  (the pastor) acting as a presbytery.  April, 2nd Saturday, 1833, `church agrees to take Brethren Andrew Coffman and P. A. Witt jointly for their pastor for twelve months"; the following year the call is repeated; and the next following year they were continued co-pastors indefinitely, or "till a dissatisfaction arises."

Pleasant A. Witt was a messenger of Bent Creek (Whitesburg) Church to the Nolachucky Association from its organization (1828) to the year preceding the disruption (1839) of that body, without missing a single session. The Bent Creek record of "June, 2nd Saturday, 1839," is as follows: "Took up the Institution (s) named in our minutes, and decided we will not make them a test of fellowship: Vote, 38 to 27. The minority rent off from this church and hold their meetings on :a different day, claiming to be the old Bent Creek Church, but call themselves by the name of Primitive Baptists." Elder Witt went out with the "minority," or seceding party, declaring "a nonfellowship" for all societies, organizations and affiliations not expressly mentioned in the Scriptures. His name no longer appears on the church records. He had been preacher of the Introductory sermon before the Nolachucky body in 1835, and in '37 and '38 had been the body's Moderator. He became a leader in the anti-mission movement.

In personal appearance Pleasant A. Witt was a good deal like his father, Elder Caleb Witt - figure lean and lithe, weight 130 to 140 pounds, eyebrows heavy, eyes piercing, features sharp, voice high-keyed and shrill. He was a fluent and forceful speaker, of a fiery disposition, controversial, combative, and a little rasping - not so "smoothe and popular" as his father, I have been told. This last statement ought to be taken with a grain of salt, perhaps, inasmuch as Caleb Witt died before the war of missions and methods was fairly on and his son, Pleasant A., was in the hottest of the fight, giving and receiving blows. In a situation like that, to be "smoothe and popular" with both sides, or with all of either side, would doubtless have been an impossibility. That he was honest in his views, I have no doubt. That he advocated them ably, there is no question. That he was unduly biased by the hyper-Calvinism of his day - by extreme views of "foreknowledge absolute, election, predestination, and reprobation," is equally certain.

Pleasant A. Witt passed to his reward February 1, 1872, and was buried at old Friendship, "the mother of churches," near White Pine, and his wife, Elizabeth, by his side. The tombstone inscription tells us he was an "Elder of the Primitive Baptist Church for fifty-two years"- adding the sentiment which had doubtless animated and inspired him in many a struggle and conflict of life:

"Father, I give my spirit up;
I trust it in thy hand.
My dying flesh shall rest in hope.
And rise at thy command..

Elisha F. Witt, of near Talbott, one of the best pastors in the Nolachucky Association, is a grandson of Pleasant A. Witt, and a great-grandson of Caleb Witt, one of the first preachers to sow, "the good seed" in the virgin soil of the new State of Tennessee.


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


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