Early Times in Middle Tennessee
Early Times in Middle Tennessee
Chapter 16

By John Carr, 1857

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne, 2002

Chapter 16

It is not proposed in these sketches to notice living preachers; but, in justice to my own feelings, I cannot pass by

John Page

He was among the early pioneers of the West, and was admitted on trial as a traveling preacher in 1792, and stationed on the Lexington Circuit, Kentucky. He traveled various circuits in Kentucky; for those were days of real itinerancy, preachers seldom remaining on one station more than three or six months. He then had to learn how to endure hardships, suffer afflictions, and brave the dangers of the wilderness; to traverse the frontiers, follow the by-paths along which the Indians frequently skulked, or lay in ambush, to bear privations, and labor with no other prospect of notice or reward than that promised by his Divine Master, who had sent him, and who himself had not where to lay his head. He continued to travel in Kentucky and Tennessee until the great revival of religion in 1800, in which he acted a conspicuous and useful part. I was an eye witness to the labors and usefulness of John Page; he was ranked among the first order of preachers of his day. The Church was under stronger obligations to John Page than to any man I knew of his day. He was a strong defender of the doctrines held by the Methodist Church; he possessed a great deal of originality, and was devoted to the itinerant system, and continued to travel and preach as long as he was able. At the Conference of 1802, which I have noticed in a former chapter, a new district was laid off, called the Cumberland district. John Page was appointed presiding elder, which appointment he filled with a great deal of usefulness. The district was very large; if I am not mistaken, it embraced all Middle Tennessee and the southern part of Kentucky. I believe that Lewis Garret followed him as presiding elder; and after Garret, William McKendree-afterwards Bishop McKendree. John Page was such a lover of the itinerant system, that after he became worn out with age and hard labor, he still held a supernumerary relation to the Conference, and attended, I believe, the Annual Conferences, as long as he was able to get to them. He was living, a few weeks ago, in Smith County, at the advanced age of near ninety, I think; and, I am told, so entirely super- annuated that there is a guardian appointed to take care of him and his property. I am not capable of portraying the worth of this excellent man of God. I knew him long and well-our wives being pretty nearly related. He raised a pretty large and, I am told, a very respectable family of children, who are all grown; and he is in possession of a handsome property enough to make him entirely comfortable through life. I pray God that, when he comes to die, he may leave the world in the triumphs of a living faith.

James Gwin
James Gwin was a preacher whose talents and usefulness were well known to a good many yet living in Middle Tennessee. We were associated when we were but young men. He was a native of North Carolina, embraced religion and married there. Shortly after his marriage, he emigrated to Cumberland, which was in the year 1791; stopped at Hamilton station, Sumner County; attached himself to the society I belonged to, on Drake's Creek, a few miles from the station. He was an active, sprightly young man, a fine soldier, and rendered excellent service in fighting the Indians. There was no man among us more brave than James Gwin. He was with Lieut. Snoddy at the memorable battle fought with the Indians at Rock Island, on Caney Fork. He was out on various scouting-parties, and at the taking of Nickajack, in 1794; and at the close of the Indian war, he settled on Long Creek. Throughout all of his scouting and Indian scrapes he held firm to his religious profession; and in 1800, when the great revival took place, he became greatly stirred up; commenced exhorting and holding prayer-meetings throughout the neighborhood. Many a happy hour have I spent with him at prayer meetings, for the Lord powerfully converted many precious souls. He soon afterwards commenced preaching. He was one of the sweet singers of Israel, and was remarkably gifted in prayer. He had the most extraordinary preaching talents from the time he commenced, and soon became a great favorite with the people, and crowds flocked to hear him, and his labors were greatly blessed. Many were added to the Church; and, in 1802, at the Annual Conference held in Sumner county, he joined the Conference, at the same time that Jesse Walker did, whom I have before spoken of. He filled many very important stations in the Church. He was presiding elder. He formed the Barren Circuit, and, in 1807, he went, in company with William McKendree, who was then presiding elder in this country, to cultivate the gospel seed sown by Jesse Walker and Benjamin Young in Illinois and Missouri, and held camp meetings in that country, which was but thinly settled.

Their visit to that country was kindly received and their labors greatly blessed, and many were added to the Church. He resided a while in Nashville and then went to Mississippi, and was in the traveling connection there. The exact date 0£ his death I do not know, but I believe it was in 1839 or 1840. Thus ended the life and labors of a great man of God. He had brought up a family, and, I believe, one of his sons, Dr. William Gwin, is now living in California. I have noticed in the papers that he has been a member of Congress from that State. His wife was living a few years after his death, but I believe she is now dead. She was an excellent woman.

John Sewell

John Sewell was a native of North Carolina; embraced religion when quite young, as I have understood. He was from one of the first families in that country-a son of old Col. Benjamin Sewell. He moved to this country, and I knew him well. At what time John Sewell joined the traveling connection I do not know, but I should judge it must have been as early as 1787, or 1788, for he had traveled in North Carolina and East Tennessee, as I have been informed; and he accompanied Bishop Asbury in 1790, on his first visit to Kentucky, in company with that noted preacher, Hope Hull. Brother Sewell was a man of the first order of talents. Not having the minutes of Conference to guide me, I cannot state the different circuits that he rode. He emigrated to Tennessee about 1797 or 1798, and settled in Cage's Bend, in Sumner County. He was literally worn down by excessive preaching, and was predisposed to consumption. He labored among us £faithfully as a local preacher, and took an active part according to his strength in the great revival of 1800. In fact, he was such a favorite of mine that I named one of my sons alter him. Whether he is any better man by that I cannot tell; but I trust he is none the worse for the name. I have a hope that John Sewell Carr may meet John Sewell in heaven. About 1801, or 1802, Brother Sewell's health so £ailed him that he was able to preach but seldom. The exact date of his death I do not recollect, but I believe that he died in 1804, or 1805-it might have been later than that. There is one circumstance that occurred on the day of his death that is worthy of notice. His physician was Dr. Hamilton. It was said that Dr. Hamilton was a Deist. He paid Brother Sewell a visit. When he got there, he evidently saw that he was dying, and was for hastening off immediately. Brother Sewell, like a Christian philosopher, said to him, "Stay, Doctor, and see a Christian die." It struck Dr. Hamilton with such terror that he became dejected, and had scarcely any thing to say to anybody. The Doctor was inquired of by his friends what was the matter; his answer was that the words of that good man, Mr. Sewell, were continually ringing in his ears, and pierced his heart: "Stay, Doctor, and see a Christian die!" Dr. Hamilton died himself some few years afterwards. Brother Sewell left a wife and a few children. One of his sons, Benjamin Sewell, was a Methodist preacher; he also died with the consumption some twelve or fifteen years ago


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