I shall begin this brief sketch of my life by giving some account of my ancestry. My grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Newton, was for more than fifty years a minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church. I do not know where he was born, nor where he was educated, but so far as I have been able to learn, his entire ministry was spent in the states of Georgia and Alabama. He died in the latter state in St. Clair County, the 26th of October, 1843. My grandmother's maiden name was Anne Martin. She was born in Ireland and came to America when she was quite young. She lived to a good old age and after having reared ten children, seven sons and three daughters, her mind lost its balance and she died by her own hands in the month of August, about 1832 or 1833.
My father's name was James Newton. He was born in the state of Georgia, Nov. 15th, 1798, and died near New Albany in Union County, Miss., Nov. 13th, 1851, lacking two days of being 53 years old. He was tall and slender, had very black hair, a high and prominent fore head, and piercing brown eyes. He was always moral and upright in his life, but did not make a public profession of faith in Christ and unite with the church until three or four years before his death. I can recollect him very well, being a little past 8 years old when he died. He was the first person I ever saw die, and it made a very pro found impression on my mind. I well remember the bitter anguish of my mother and of my elder brothers and sisters. There was no outburst of weeping, but a quiet, subdued and bitter sorrow. The awful stillness and solemnity of that moment can never be effaced from my mind.
My mother's maiden name was Mary Walker. She was a daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Walker. She was born in Chester district, South Carolina, in the month of April, 1808, and died in Union County, Miss., July 9th, 1883, in the 76th year of her age. She and my father married the 4th day of February, 1830. Ten children, six sons and four daughters, were born unto them. All these lived to years of maturity, but are all now dead except myself and one brother. They are all sleeping side by side in the family grave yard awaiting the resurrection of the dead. Six of them died in the house where they were reared, and received in their last moments the kind attentions of a loving mother and dear friends, one died near home and another far away among strangers. Only three of them had made an open profession of faith in Christ and united with the church, but I can not but hope that God by His Spirit led them all to the Savior before they died and that I shall yet meet them all in heaven. I shall now proceed to give some account of myself: My life has not been altogether uneventful, and some things in it may be instructive to others. I was born in St. Clair County, Ala., Sept. 26th, 1843. When I was a little more than a year old, my father sold out his farm and moved to North Mississippi, settling near New Albany, in Union County. There I was raised to manhood. The country at first was thinly settled, and possessed very few facilities for culture and refinement. There were no churches in the immediate neighborhood, and but few school houses scattered over a large district of country, and these were of the most primitive kind, being log cabins covered with long boards rived from the huge forest oaks. There was commonly just one door at the side of the building, a large fireplace at the end with a "stick and dirt" chimney. There were no windows for the ad mission of light, and "the cracks" were closed by means of clap boards. The benches were made of large logs split in the middle, the "feet" or "legs" being inserted on the round side. On these rude benches the pupils were seated, crowding as many as possible together. Over this embryonic seminary the sturdy old pedagogue, with switch or ferale in hand, presided with as much dignity as a college professor.
To just such a school as this I was sent for several sessions being accompanied by some of my older brothers and sisters. I made reasonably good progress in spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic. Our teachers at that early day did not give instruction in any higher branches. As time passed away there was some improvement in the qualifications of those called to handle the "birch," and there very soon appeared a succession of pedagogues whose superior learning in geography, English grammar, algebra and Latin made them look with scorn on the attainments of their humble predecessors. They began to introduce new methods of teaching, and under their tuition my mind commenced unfolding, and I very soon possessed a genuine love for learning, and was inspired with the noble ambition to be a good scholar. I studied faithfully at school, and when there was no school, I put in every spare hour in reading and study. I laid the foundation of ray knowledge of both the English and Latin grammars as I followed the plow. I would often carry my textbook to the field and there as I worked I grounded the leading principles of these grammars in my mind. I have many times wept because I could not go to school as many other boys were going. The thought that I had no father to send me to school, as the other boys had, would at times almost break my heart, and I then thought that my lot was indeed a hard, bitter one. Thus matters went on until the breaking out of the great civil war in 1861. The whole country was speedily thrown into great commotion. War was the all absorbing topic. Excitement ran exceedingly high. Fathers and mothers gave up their sons, and wives yielded up their husbands as willing victims to be sacrificed upon the altar of their country.
In the autumn of this year our family was very sorely bereaved. My two brothers older than myself had joined the Confederate Army. One of them was serving in Virginia and the other in Tennessee. They both sickened and died, the one on the 25th of October and the other one the 26th. We buried them both side by side in the same grave.
It was a great and a very sore bereavement. My mother was almost borne down by this sudden and overwhelming affliction, but I never heard her murmur or complain. It was a subdued and chastened sorrow which was borne in meekness and faith. She seemed to regret most of all that she was not permitted to bestow upon the one of these Sons her kind and loving attentions in his last hours upon earth. The thought that he died away from home and among strangers, where there were no friends to speak to him cheering words, and no loving hands to minister to his last wants, and no eager, listful ears to catch his faint, dying words, seemed always to give her peculiar anguish of spirit. Strange to say it, but as I thought on our loss, my martial spirit became stirred within me, and I longed at once to hasten into the army that I might avenge their death. Against this wicked and reckless impulse, my mother interposed her own authority and said I must stay at home for a while, at least.
The next spring there was another call for troops and I resolved at all hazards to go into the army. Accordingly I joined a company which was raised in our neighborhood by Capt. Moses McCasley, and on the 11th day of May, 1862, I bade good bye to all who were dear to me on earth, and started to Holly Springs, the appointed place of rendezvous. Our company of 109 men was placed in the 10th Regiment of Mississippi Infantry under the command of Col. T. W. Harris. In a few days we were ordered to Corinth. Here there were two great armies confronting each other in daily expectation of an engagement. It was here that I saw for the last time Col. John H. Miller, who was a Presbyterian minister and a gallant soldier. I had known him in my childhood and from his warm attentions to little children, he had won my childish love. I met him just where the two railroads cross in Corinth. He talked to me in a very kind arid tender manner, telling me how to conduct myself, and impressing upon me the importance of becoming a Christian. He was captured and killed before the war closed. I have always held him in an affectionate remembrance, and I trust that his last advice to me was not given in vain.
About the 20th of June our army evacuated Corinth and retired to Tupelo. On the retreat I was stricken down with a raging fever. I succeeded in reaching home two days afterward, and I was confined to my bed for more than forty days before I was able to sit up. I recovered very slowly and the following Christmas I was captured by a raid of Yankees and was carried to Holly Springs, where after a short imprisonment I was paroled and permitted to return home. In the month of April, 1863, the Federals under command of Gen. Ginson made a raid through Mississippi. They made a halt at our home and robbed us of all we had in the way of provisions. The next day I tore up my parole arid set out to join Forrest's Cavalry. Our Battalion was consolidated with the 15th Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry. With this regiment I served until the 1st of March, 1865, when I was transferred to the 2nd Mississippi Cavalry. I was with Gen. Forrest in all his campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. I was engaged in numerous battles and skirmishes and ran several hair breadth escapes. At Yazoo City I would have been killed by a minnie ball had it not been for a sharp board around which I was peering at the enemy. A ball fired by one of their sharpshooters struck the board just in front of my eyes and glanced to one side. At Selma, Ala., the last fight in which I was engaged, I received a wound in the left side which would certainly have proved fatal had it not been for the circumstance that just as the shot was fired I turned slightly around, and it glanced upon my side, passing along about four inches under the skin but hot entering the abdominal cavity. I have ever since been perfectly satisfied that had I not turned just at the moment I did, I would have been killed. On the Obion River in Tennessee, being with a scouting party of 80 men, we were suddenly hemmed in a horseshoe bend by 150 mounted Yankee Cavalry. They killed and captured 32 of our men. I escaped unhurt under a shower of leaden bullets. That night myself and two other of our men, being entirely cut off from our scattered company, fell into the hands of a party of Tories. We resorted to strategy to make our escape. Myself and one of the others succeeded, but poor George Benson was never more heard from. The next day we rejoined our scouting party, and in less than a week we were again surprised and this time 17 of our men were killed and captured. When I mounted my horse the Yankees were in ten paces of me, and with their guns leveled upon me, they commanded me to surrender. I at once used spurs and sped away like an arrow, closely pursued by the enemy's advance, who hurled after me their leaden missiles and horrid imprecations. Their pursuit was all in vain, for I quickly eluded them and put myself out of all reach of dan ger. In all of these hairbreadth escapes, and others that I could narrate, I clearly recognize an overruling Providence, and I feel that this same good Providence has followed me at every step in life.
The battle of Selma was fought just before sundown on Sabbath the 2nd day of April, 1865. Our brigade had been dismounted and stationed along the breastworks north of the city. The Yankees here massed their forces and made a spirited charge and carried our works at the first outset. The result was a general stampede. I had gone about half a mile when I received the wound alluded to above. I mounted the third horse before I succeeded in getting beyond the reach of the enemy's fire. I then swam a small creek, and having bled profusely, a chill came on, followed by a high fever, and I there for the first time in life realized that I did not fully know what I was about. Night came on and I, or rather my horse, kept the main road. Straggling bands of soldiers would occasionally pass me. My thirst was intolerable and I distinctly recollect dismounting three or four times to drink water in the road where there was nothing but a sand bed. Some time during the night I stopped, hitched my horse, lay down and fell into a profound sleep. When I awoke the sun was at least an hour high. I mounted and pursued my course, feeling greatly refreshed and being perfectly at myself. By 12 o'clock I arrived at Autangaville, 40 miles from Selma. There I found one of my company, Tap Patterson. We traveled on together until late in the evening my fever returned and it was soon apparent to my comrade that I was again "beside myself." The same thing occurred the next evening and I told Tap that I would travel no farther. We then tried to find a place for me to stay, but did not succeed until the next day. I was lodged in the family of a Mr. Lee near Kingston. Tap left me there and it was a very sad parting to me, for I expected to die. I told Mr. Lee where I lived and gave him my mother's name and ad dress so that he could write to her in case I should die. I lay there eight days and knew but little that passed in that time. I was kindly treated and had the attention of a physician. The ninth day I left there, being unable to mount to my saddle from the ground. Mr. Lee entered his protest against my starting, but I was determined to make a trial of strength. I rode 40 miles that day and swam the Cahawba River. A little after sunset, I appeared before the gate of a wealthy farmer. I thought my wretched plight would commend me to the sympathy of any human being, but in this I found myself sadly mis taken. I made a call at the gate, to which a gentleman, or I should rather say a something in human form, responded. I asked him if I could stay with him during the night. He said no. I told him if he would give me a few bites to eat and something for my horse I would lie under the trees. He said he did not want me to stay about him. I then told him that I had been sick, that I was unacquainted with the country and roads, that night was rapidly corning on and that I was very tired. His reply to this was: "I can't help that, Sir, but you just can't stay about my house." I left him without another word and rode three miles before I came to a house where I was very kindly entertained. In four days from that time I overtook the shattered remains of our brigade near Macon, Mississippi. We were all furloughed ten days to go home and procure horses and clothing. Before the expiration of this time our armies surrendered, and thus ended my service in the Confederate cause.
This is not the place for me to ventilate my views of the origin of the war nor to vindicate the honor of those who fought and fell in that mighty conflict. Fair history will yet do this, and posterity will do justice to the memory of the valiant dead. It is enough for me to say that the South believed that she was engaged in a holy cause and that it was a mighty struggle on her part to maintain the freedom of thought and action which was bequeathed to her by Revolutionary sires. Believing this and being unable to peacefully avert the dangers which threatened her, she appealed to the arbitrament of the sword, and the cause was decided against her. She staked everything upon the final issue and lost everything save the honor of her sons and the virtue of her daughters. After a four-year war, entailing upon her people incredible hardships and sufferings, she was forced to yield to overwhelming numbers and superior resources, and whether right or wrong, she has left to posterity an example of patriotic heroism which must compel the admiration of all succeeding ages. Twenty years have now nearly passed away since the conflict closed. Many wounds then made have not been entirely healed, and many losses incurred have not been, and never can be repaid, but much of the rancor of passion and the bitterness of feeling have passed away. The people North and South are being drawn together in true friendship, and mutual confidence between the two great sections is being fast re stored, and all the indications are favorable to future prosperity and national greatness.
I wish now to turn back and present a different phase of my life--the moral or religious side. As far back as I can recollect I sometimes had serious thoughts of death and eternity. When about five years of age I had a little cousin whom I loved with all my child ish affection. He and I were both smitted with scarlet fever, and in a few days little Johny died. I recollect seeing my mother place him in his little coffin and fold his winding sheet close around his lifeless body. He was then carried to a lonely spot, and was buried under the spreading branches of a forest oak. I loved to think about him and talk about him to my mother. She would tell me that his body was only dead, and that his spirit had gone to heaven. I often wondered how he looked there, and whether he could play and talk there as he was wont to play and talk with me here. I often wished that I could go to heaven too, and see all the little children there and hear their songs of praise. From this time on my thoughts were frequently set on heaven. I thought it would be a delightful place and I wanted to be a good boy and go there. One day when out at play with a little sister and brother, the thought came into my mind all at once that I would like to be a preacher. I know not whence came this thought nor whence arose this desire, but it was there. I told them of my de sire, and we hastily constructed a rude pulpit of some boards. I arose and began trying to talk to them of heaven, but my feelings overcame me and I sobbed and wept aloud. My little auditors, one older and one younger than myself, seemed seriously impressed. To me even at this day, that is one of the sweetest recollections of my past life. I verily believe that God was with us at that moment, and that His holy spirit was moving upon our hearts. Who can say that the call to the ministry was not then addressed to me as it was to Samuel of old when a little child? Not long after this my eldest brother, who was in his 20th year, sickened and died, and then in just one month and two days after this sad event, my father was taken away from us. My thoughts were again turned to heaven afresh. My religious instruction now devolved entirely upon my mother. She seemed deeply sensible to the solemn responsibility that rested upon her. She was careful to have us attend church and Sabbath school as opportunity offered. She was rigid in the regulations of her household on the Sabbath. We were required to read with her in the Scriptures, and memorize and recite portions of the Shorter Catechism every Sabbath. When I was 12 years old, I could stand with closed book, and without any prompting, ask and answer in regular order every question in that Catechism. Thus matters went on, my mind alternating from deep seriousness to comparative indifference. When about 15 years of age, a protracted meeting was conducted by the Methodists in our church at New Albany. At the earnest solicitation of my mother, I attended this meeting, though at first it was somewhat against my inclination to do so. My heart was affected by the earnest appeals which were made to the unconverted, and when the "mourners," as they called them, were invited to come forward and "kneel down at the altar," I felt that I ought to go, but the fear of being laughed at by some of my associates prevented my doing so. On leaving the church I felt many compunctions of conscience for this piece of moral cowardice, and I resolved that I would go forward the next opportunity. The next night this opportunity was afforded and I went to the "mourner's bench" for the first time. I left the church with a conscience somewhat eased, simply because I felt that I had done something in the way of effecting my salvation. Here lay my great danger, but I was not then aware of it. The meeting continued for several days and I attended to the close. I continued going to the "mourner's bench." There was a good deal of talking to the "mourners" by the brethren and sisters, but there was not one word of positive instruction given as to how they were to be saved. Everything tended to build up self-righteous hopes in the minds of the anxious inquirers. I wish just here to leave it on record that after a good many years of study and reflection and some experience in dealing with anxious ones, it is my solemn conviction that much positive injury may be done, and especially to the young, by the unscriptural methods in the conduct of a meeting. I know that I was for years misled by them. Man is naturally proud and self righteous. He craves to do something which shall at least help to merit salvation. This is the one point to be carefully guarding in dealing with every inquirer. He must not be allowed to trust at all in anything he can do, but he must be required simply to receive salvation by faith as the free gift of God. At this point I blundered for a long time. I failed to see clearly that salvation rested upon the ground of what Christ had done for us, and not upon what we could do for ourselves. Somehow I felt that He had done a part only and left the rest for me to do, and that what He had done would be of no avail unless supplemented by my doing something. I thus looked at Him as a half Savior only. I did not see that He had done it all for me, and that what was required of me was the simple reception of a gift. I constantly placed my DOING ABOVE and BEFORE, a simple trust in Christ. I had not then learned in its true sense that Christ is the one solitary object of faith, and that the very moment we associated any other object with Him as any ground of trust or confidence, we lost our hold of Him entirely. Or, perhaps it would be better to express the same thought in a different form of words. If we seek to lay hold of Christ with one hand, and some other abject with the other hand, He will not take hold of us at all, and thus we will be left to our own feeble grasp which is not sufficiently strong to extricate us from our utter ruin; for we must remember that our salvation does not depend so much upon our hold of Christ as His hold on us. The truth is, our faith is not so much a laying hold upon Him as it is a resting in His hold upon us. Saving faith is a simple, conscious, and unreserved resting in Christ as the only Savior of the lost. Hence, the Apostle says: "For we which have believed do enter into rest," and "they to whom it (the gospel) was first preached, entered not in (the rest of faith) because of unbelief." And again he says: "For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, least any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Heb. 4:3, 3:6, 10, 11). Here it is clear that faith brings us into a resting in Christ, and this rest implies that there is no other object of trust before the mind, and that we receive Christ simply and absolutely and that we confide in Him to the fullest extent for everything.
These were the great truths which for a long time I failed to perceive, and thus I floated down the current of time doubting and hesitating at every step. I never wholly lost my interest in heavenly things, at times it became profound. My desire to become a Christian was always accompanied by the desire to be a preacher. The two desires were always associated together in my mind, and I felt that the one must follow the other. Here a great difficulty arose. I did not see how I was to obtain the education which was necessary for a minister to possess. I had not yet united with the church, as I was not yet satisfied with my spiritual condition. This difficulty and the one arising from a want of pecuniary means to prosecute my literary studies, were removed in a providential way. I had gone to Ripley on a business trip and hearing that Mrs. Gray, the wife of the late Rev. William A. Gray, was very sick, on my return I called a few moments to see her. I found her and Mr. Gray alone. Almost as soon as I had taken my seat, she said to me: "I have learned that you are thinking of studying for the ministry." I was very much surprised at her knowledge of the matter, and I told her that I was seriously thinking of doing so. She expressed herself as highly gratified at this candid statement of mine, and said: "You must start to school at once. We have a good school here in Ripley now, and if you will just come here and make our house your home and start to school at once, you are welcome to do so." Mr. Gray added that it would afford them pleasure to have me come to their house at once and attend the male academy presided over by Prof. Kimbrough. I thanked them both for their manifest interest in me, and for their kind offer, and stated that I would go home and consult my mother, and if she would consent for me to do so, I would accept their very kind offer. I was at that time 23 years old, but had all my life been subject to my mother's commands, and I felt that I must still obey her. I returned home and communicated to my mother the result of my interview with Mrs. Gray. She without any hesitation gave her consent and I was to go just as soon as the needful clothing could be procured for me. In a few days we learned that Mrs. Gray had died, an event which was not expected when I saw her. My bright hopes were all instantly dashed to the ground, but in a few days Mr. Gray sent me a message stating that he had secured Mrs. Hughey, his wife's widowed sister, to keep house for him and that I must come along and start at once to the school. Light had again fallen upon my path and I was made happy again. I went and staid at his house 5 months to the close of the session in June. At this school I began the study of Greek. I made commend able progress in all my studies, and at the close of the session Prof. Kimbrough bestowed high praise upon me, but I can not think that it was deserved. I remained at home a few weeks and then entered Zion Academy, presided over by Prof. James B. Anderson, assisted by Prof. P. F. Witherspoon. These were both very excellent instructors and I remained with them two sessions. During this time I heard a sermon preached by the Rev. James H. Gaillard, who was then the pastor of Zion Church, which dispelled from my mind all its doubt and uncertainty in regard to the sinner's acceptance with God. The subject of the discourse was "the substitution of Christ." As I listened to his words the truth of the gospel dawned clearly upon my mind. 1 saw at once that Jesus had taken the sinner's place and had completely satisfied all the claims of law and justice, and that con sequently, everything that I had to do was simply to be satisfied with His righteousness. I applied at once for admission into the church, and was received and baptized by the Rev. Mr. Gaillard. I boarded in his family during my last session at the academy, and I formed for himself, his wife and his children a very strong attachment which has lasted to this day.
At the meeting of the Chickasaw Presbytery in the town of Pontotoc in the Autumn of 1867, I was received under their care as a candidate for the ministry, and after quitting Zion Academy, I entered the Sophomore class in the University of Mississippi at Oxford in September, 1868. At the Commencement in June, 1871, I graduated with the degree of A. B. and in September of that year I entered the Theological Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina. I remained in this institution until the month of May, 1872, and then returned home, and on the 4th day of June, 1872, I was married to Miss Ophelia A. Addison, who lived at Shannon. This union was a happy one, but the manner of its termination was sad beyond all my powers of description. She possessed a good mind, a cheerful, sweet disposition and ardent piety. She seemed always to be happy and her bright, sunny face and even temper made all others around her happy. I never saw a frown upon her face and never heard her utter an angry word. Toward the poor she always exercised a tender sympathy and was ever ready to do all she could to alleviate suffering. No cloud ever threw its shadow upon our home and no incident seemed to mar our happiness until the 9th day of July, 1874. That day a little daughter was born unto us, but it never breathed nor looked upon this world. From that time a deep melancholy settled upon her and hope seemed never again to beam upon her. She lingered until the morning of the 5th of November, and then while I was absent from home attending the meeting of our Synod at Bolivar, Tennessee, she procured poison, drank it and died in half an hour. The next day I returned home, being summoned by telegraph, and we buried her that afternoon in the Shannon cemetery. There she and our little babe are sleeping the same grave awaiting the resurrection morn.
This sudden and overwhelming affliction almost bore me down. I felt that the Lord's chastising rod lay heavily upon me. I was thrown into the greatest confusion of thought and perplexity of mind. All my earthly hopes of happiness seemed blasted forever, and I was driven at times to the verge of despair. I summoned all my resolution and by divine help, triumphed over this calamity and continued without any intermission to discharge my ministerial duties. I learned then that hard, faithful labor and close attention to duty very greatly tend to modify the ills of this life.
I shall now return again to the period of my marriage. After this event our Presbytery gave its consent that I should continue my theological studies under the direction of Dr. F. Patton, who lived at Tupelo. When I left the Seminary I felt somewhat dissatisfied with the course there. I had been very diligent in study and had not during the entire session missed a single recitation, lecture or conference meeting with the professors and students. I had given my whole time to study and yet I felt that I had not gained much in the way of pre paring to preach. I did not see how some of the branches of learning we are required to pursue, could be of any service to one preaching the gospel. This view of the matter, coupled with the fact that I was then in my 29th year, admonished me that I had no more time to spend in studying Geology, Logic, Mental Philosophy and such things and that the remainder of my days, which I had never thought would be many, had better be given to active work. These were the considerations which decided me not to return to the seminary, provided our Presbytery would grant its consent, which they did at their next meeting. I remained at home pursuing my theological studies under the direction of Dr. Patton until the month of April, 1873. I was examined on my literary and theological course by the Presbytery of Chickasaw, at Oxford, Miss. The circumstance under which the examination was conducted was very trying to me. It was conducted in open Presbytery, there being a full attendance of ministers and elders, and in addition a large number of students from the State University, which was located there, and some members of the Faculty. I was to some extent overawed, by their presence. The examination was very far from being satisfactory to myself. I felt that I had made a wretched failure and was deeply mortified. I had no thought that the Presbytery would license me, but they resolved to do so. If they had not been sitting in the solemn capacity of a court of Jesus Christ, I would have thought that they were influenced in their action more from pity for me than their own reason or judgment. Saturday at 11 o'clock was set as the hour to have my trial sermon.
When the hour arrived, there was a large audience present, perhaps as large as any to which I have ever yet preached. It being an idle day at the University, the students came out in crowds, and there were several of the grave Professors present. I am sure that I have never faced an audience since in which there was so much varied culture, refinement or solid learning. Dr. John N. Waddel, the Chancellor of the University and Moderator of the Presbytery, took a seat in the pulpit with me. With trembling hands and palpitating heart I siezed the Bible and hymn book. While finding the hymns, the thought came into my mind that I was already so deeply disgraced by my failures the clay before that nothing that I could do now would either add to it or diminish aught from it. I felt that no effort, however successful, could restore me to the respect of the Presbytery, and that no failure could add to my confusion. With these feelings I preached my first sermon. The text was Rom. 5:1. The subject was justification by faith. The sermon was better received than I had any thought it would be, and that afternoon I was duly licensed to preach the gospel. Returning home I supplied Providence and Unity Churches until October, when I was ordained and installed pastor of Providence Church. I gave this church half my time and the other half to Unity as stated supply. This pastoral relation continued 7 years and was then dissolved, and I have sustained to the church ever since the relation of stated supply. My entire ministry has been confined to these two churches with the exception of two years, during which I gave to each one Sabbath in the month, and the remaining Sabbaths to the churches at Tupelo and Baldwyn.
On the 17th of October, 1876, I was again married, this time to Miss Eliza J. Sisk of Salem, Tennessee. Our union has been a very happy one. We have mutually shared each others joys and sorrows, and every day reveals to me still more clearly her solid worth. If I did not fear that she might suspect me as slightly indulging in flattery, I would say once for all, that in my opinion there is not in all this world another woman that would make me such a kind, loving, and dutiful wife as she. She is industrious, sensible, and frugal. Her mind and hands are every day busy attending to the wants of myself and the children. She is kind hearted and generous, and forgetful of the faults and failings of others. She is patient in the midst of domestic turmoils, and her fingers are nimble in all kinds of household work. She is skillful in culinary matters, and her house always displays the tidiness of its keeper. In short, from the kitchen to the parlor, she can, and does, do all things well. As she and I grow older and see more of the vanities of earth and experience more of its sorrows, she grows more dear to me, and today I love her far more tenderly than when she stood as a beautiful bride at the marriage altar and plighted me her hand and heart. I am ready to apply to her the Biblicle description of a virtuous woman: "The heart of her husband doth safely trust her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of life. She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She stretcheth out her hands to the poor: Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and her tongue is the law of kindess. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all." (Prov. 37 chapter).
Five children have been born unto us, four of whom are still living. The eldest, a very sprightly little boy, died the 18th of October, 1880. He was just 3 years, 2 months and 12 days old. On the 22nd of September, he was seized with that terrible disease, diphtheria, and lingered with us 26 days and died. Sometimes he seemed to get better, but the changes for the better would not last long. From the beginning of the attack I never had any hope for his recovery, and felt conscious at the 'time of a lurking unbelief in my heart that the Lord would grant my request, and so he did not, but took him from us. I saw as soon as the Lord put His hand upon him, that I had idolized him. My will struggled with the Lord's will. I could not bear to give him up, but when I saw him struggling in the throes of death and then calmly breathe out his spirit, the Lord granted me resignation to his will, and I have never for a moment wished the child back in this world of sorrow and suffering. Many are the evils which he has happily escaped. Since his death I have regarded our other children in a very different light. I look upon them as belonging to the Lord and as being entrusted to us for a time to be trained for Him. While I love my children dearly, yet I have never since the death of our first born son allowed my affections to be set upon them. We buried our William at Providence Church. A little marble stone marks his last resting place. We planted no flowers about his grave, but set there two beautiful evergreen magnolias to overshadow the little mound, and when the springtime comes with its bright sunshine, balmy air, and song of birds, they will send forth their snowy white flowers as the emblems of his pure spirit!
I shall here mention the fact, though it may seem a little abrupt just at this place, that I have twice been commissioned by our Presbytery to sit in the General Assembly of our church. The first time at St. Louis, Mo., and the second time at Atlanta, Ga. The St. Louis Assembly was remarkable in the fact that it contained so many of the distinguished ministers of our church. There were present such men as Drs. Palmer, Girardean, LeFevre, Hoge, Robinson, Plumer, Chapman, and Waddel, and many others who were widely known through out the church. Taken altogether, I doubt whether our church has ever yet convened an abler body of men. Some great and vital questions were discussed and settled by this Assembly. It was there decided that our church should send delegates to the Pan-Presbyterian Council which was to meet in Edinburgh. I voted against this action, and so did a good many others, but the project was carried through by Dr. Stuart Robinson. The personnel of the Atlanta Assembly was not near so distinguished as that at St. Louis. Its members were mostly young men, scarcely known in the church. One of the important measures adopted by this Assembly was the establishment of fraternal relations with the Northern Presbyterian Church. The scheme was bitterly opposed by a few members, but it was finally carried by an overwhelming majority. I voted most heartily for the measure, and have had no cause to regret it today. The Assembly of St. Louis met in the month of May, 1875, and was in session ten days, the Rev. M. D. Hoge, D. D., of Richmond, Va., being the Moderator. The Atlanta Assembly met also in the month of May, 1882, and was also in session ten days, the Rev. R. K. Smoot, D. D., of Austin, Texas, being the Moderator. At the former of these assemblies I was impressed with the greatness of some great men, but at the latter I was im pressed with the littleness of some great men.
On the 2nd day of October, 1883, I was suddenly attacked with heart disease, and since that time I have been almost a confirmed invalid. I have suffered no physical pain, but my depression of spirits has at times been almost more than I could bear. I have preached but little since the time I was first taken sick, being often in bed, or scarcely able to walk about. And now after the lapse of 16 months, I do not appeal' to be much better than when first at tacked. I have about surrendered all hope of ever being well again, or of ever being able to do much more in this world. Being thus situated, stand, and by the grace of God I expect here to die!
Regarding the future, I do not say that I have no fears. A deep sense of my utter unworthiness and of the exceeding vileness of my heart sometimes scatters dark clouds over my spiritual vision, but when I look up in faith, the clouds are sifted, their' shadows are speedily chased away, and the light of hope again beams upon me. No thoughtful man can contemplate death, so awful in its profound mysteriousness, without being deeply impressed with its solemnity. During my present illness, when several times I thought that I was perhaps treading upon the threshold of eternity, I sensibly realized my need of Divine support to enable me to meet the king of terrors with out fear or alarm. I felt that when the final struggle came, if God did not appear on my behalf, I might be seized with fear and over come. I therefore trust Him as much for strength to die, as I do for salvation, and I pray that when the time of my departure comes, that I may have the strong supports of Divine grace and know that Jesus is with me. And now I pray that my dear little children for whom these lines have been written may all be led by the Spirit of God into the knowledge of the truth, and be brought at last to heaven, and that they and I may sing with all the saints of God: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
February 12th, 1885.
1. Brothers buried in
the same grave in Concord Cemetery, Union Co., MS:
Charles Walker Newton, born 1 June 1839, died 25 Oct. 1861 Co. B 23rd Miss. Infantry
Thomas Alexander Newton, born 8 Feb. 1837, died 26 Oct 1861, Co. K 21st Miss. Infantry
Note: This autobiography
was submitted by Thomas H. Newton for private use only and he
retains the copyright. Permission to use this autobiography for any
other purpose must be
obtained from Thomas Newton
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