Sketches Of

Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers


(pages 81 - 86)

Daniel Buckner was born in South Carolina, September 30, 1801.  His father, Henry Buckner, was a personal friend and great admirer of Daniel Boone, and named his son for that rugged and distinguished pioneer.

The family moved to Tennessee, settling in Cocke County, when Daniel was quite a lad.  Here he was brought up on a farm, and here, in his 15th year, he was converted, "walking twelve miles," we are told, to join the nearest Baptist church the old Lick Creek (now the Warrensburg) Church, Greene County.  He was immersed by Caleb Witt in the Nolachucky River.

In 1817 he was married to Miss Mary Hampton, of Cocke County, a granddaughter of Elder William Dodson, of North Carolina, and a near relative of General Wade Hampton.  She was a woman of vigorous mind and strong character.  To this union were born five children, three sons and two daughters.  The eldest son, Dr. H. F. Buckner, was thirty-five years a missionary to the Creek Indians.  He translated into the Creek tongue the gospel of John and made and published a grammar of the Creek language.  The second son, B. B. Buckner, was in the Mexican War, went safely through it, but died of sickness the day after peace was proclaimed, and was buried in the City of Mexico.  The third child, Miriam Isbel, was the mother of Dr. A. J. Holt, formerly of Texas, later of Tennessee, now of Florida.  The fourth is Dr. R. C. Buckner, founder of the "Buckner Orphans' Home" (Texas), the largest orphanage, I believe, in the Southwest; also: former editor and proprietor of the Texas Baptist and President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  The fifth, Ann Hasseltine, is a widowed daughter, living with her brother in Dallas, Texas.  We may also add, that Burrow Buckner, a brother of Daniel, was a preacher of no mean ability, and that there are in the Buckner family fifteen Baptist preachers, many of them able and noted men in the denomination.

Elder Buckner was licensed to preach in his twenty-second, year. He was ordained (1827) by Chestua Church, Monroe County, Elders George Snider and James D. Sewell acting as a presbytery.  This church was greatly blessed by the labors of Elder Buckner, who baptized large numbers into its fellowship.  He was the first Baptist to preach in Madisonville, the county seat of Monroe County, preaching at first in the Methodist Church, then in the Academy. 'Many people of the place turned to the Lord and to the Baptists, and a Baptist church was organized, "March, fourth Saturday, 1828."  In a little while a house of worship was erected, and Elders Snider and Buckner were co-pastors for five years.  The first fruits of the Madisonville harvest were twenty-five converts, baptized by Elder Buckner in one day, five of whom became ministers of the gospel.  One of them was Bradley Kimbrough, D.D., then a young lawyer; another was Dr. Samuel Henderson, a distinguished editor of Alabama; and a third was Dr. H. F. Buckner, missionary to the Indians.

Other fruits of his labor in Monroe County were the organization of Ebenezer Church, which he served as pastor for seven years, and the establishment of the Baptist cause at Tellico Plains.

In 1831 he was called to the pastoral care of Zion Hill Church, McMinn County.  His pastorate here was a perpetual revival, resulting in about 100 conversions and baptisms.  In appreciation of his services the church made him a present of a home, consisting of a house and small farm also a fine saddle horse.

He then made a settlement with Big Spring Church on Mouse Creek, moving his membership to that place.  While living here and at Maryville, he sent his oldest son, H. F. Buckner, to Maryville College, there being no Baptist college or high school at that time in the State.  About this time the foundation of the Maryville Baptist Church was laid chiefly through the instrumentality of Daniel Buckner.

In the early "thirties" he was appointed "missionary" by the State Convention (not our present State Convention, to be sure) to travel in East Tennessee in the interest of missions.  At that time there was strong opposition to missions, and church doors, in many places, were closed to the missionary.

For the most part Elder Buckner had to, preach in the grove, the schoolhouse, or in private dwellings. Wherever he preached he took a collection for missions.  If he couldn't get some one to pass around the hat, he would pass it himself.  The gospel of missions was preached by him in well-nigh every county in East Tennessee.  He spent a year and a half in Washington County, preaching to some of the oldest churches in the State, indoctrinating them on the subject of missions, and influencing the Jonesboro saints, it is said, to move their interest in from the country and undertake to build up an interest in town.

He then moved to Bradley County and located in Cleveland when the first town lots were being sold.  Aided by his brother, Burrow Buckner, he soon established in the new town a Baptist church.  Dr. A. J. Holt remembers distinctly bearing his grandfather say that he "established the Madisonville, Tellico Plains, Maryville, and Cleveland churches."

His remuneration as missionary was the customary 50 cents a day; his reward was persecution, the reprobation of his brethren, such epithets as "hireling," "traitor," "booted apostle."  The church of which he was a member was not in sympathy with his work, and on his return from his first missionary tour called him to an account for his strange doings.  A charge was preferred against him for having been connected with the State Convention, and, refusing to sever his connection with that body, was excluded.  The accused was not permitted to say a word in his own defense.  The wife asked that she might be excluded with her husband, but was answered: "We have no charge against you."  She replied: "If I were a man I would preach missions, just as my husband has done, and as I hope and pray my sons may do."  But the church refused to exclude her and she refused to accept a letter of dismission.  Elder Buckner demanded a copy of the charges, and with that as his letter of recommendation, joined a missionary church - his wife and oldest son, and a few of the members of the excluding church, joining with him.  He was published in the minutes of two anti-mission associations as an "excluded minister"; but "the Word of God was not" and could not be "bound," and mightily grew the missionary spirit.

From 1839 to 1854 he was pastor at Somerset, Kentucky, adding 250 to the membership of the church by baptism; and was afterwards pastor at Lancaster, Rock Castle, Perryville, and Danville, Kentucky.

In the summer of 1861 he moved to Texas, whither his son, Robert C., and his daughter, Miriam, had preceded him.  His faithful wife died on the way, and was buried by loving hands in Clarksville, Texas.  He was pastor at Boston, DeKalb, and other places, in Texas; and in 1865 he was married a second time.

At the age of 70, his hearing having become impaired and being afflicted with vertigo, he began to retire from the active duties of the ministry and to give himself to reading, meditation and prayer.  While he was a "solid and uncompromising Baptist and preached a full gospel for more than sixty-three years, it is pleasing to note the fact, that as he advanced in years and ripened in grace, he became more charitable toward people of other denominations, and often spoke with great love and tenderness of those whom he regarded as in error."  In his long and useful ministry he baptized about 5,000 people, not less than twenty-five of whom became ministers of the gospel.  His ruling passion was devotion to the cause of Christ.

As to physique and mental characteristics, one who knew him well describes him as a man of "powerful physical frame, standing erect six feet and weighing 250 pounds; voice powerful; mind strong and active; energy unbounded."  In a reminiscence of Dr. Sam Henderson is this further description: "My father took me, when quite a lad, to a neighbor's house to hear a strange minister preach.  The occasion was a funeral service.  There was present a large concourse of people, attracted thither, in great part, by the fame of the preacher, who in due time arrived, and in an impressive way commenced the services.  The preacher was medium height, thickly set, with coal black hair, countenance slightly bronzed, and sparkling eyes that would have been brilliant but for a soft. dovelike benignity that at once awakened confidence and affection.  The matter of the discourse I did not fully understand, but the appearance and manner of the speaker greatly impressed me."

We may truly say of Elder Daniel Buckner, that he was a "good soldier of Jesus Christ," that he was a fearless veteran who fought many hard but successful battles for his Captain - laying his sword and armor by, at last , in his 84th year, to cross over and join the ranks of the church triumphant.

He bad been living for two years with his son in Dallas.  The night before his death he sat up till about 10  o'clock, conversing freely with the family and friends and discussing Bible questions with great "interest, clearness and force."  After the company had retired, he made disposition of his personal effects, affectionately bestowing presents here and there among his loved ones - then retired for the night.  The next morning, going out before breakfast for his "usual walk," he failed to return.  Anxious inquiry and search were made, and loved ones found him where he had fallen.  "His great heart had ceased to beat.  His great soul had gone to meet its Saviour.  Reverently we laid his body to rest and erected to his memory a plain marble slab, bearing, by request of the departed, the inscription of verse seven of the 116th Psalm: 'Return unto thy rest, 0 my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee."'


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


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