Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Bethesda Presbyterian Church History – Rev. Alexander, Martin, and Walker and the Battle of Kings Mountain

Bethesda0001The following article appeared in a series of articles written by A.M. Grist publisher and editor of the Yorkville Enquirer at York, S.C. This paper was established in 1855 by Mr. Grist’s father. After the death of his father, his brother took the helm and was a purported great writer. When the paper was ultimatley passed down to him, A. M. felt inadequate to fill his brother’s shoes. He worked energetically and worried so much that he suffered a nervous breakdown. The doctor told him to stay away from the newspaper office, get out in the country. Mr. Grist began taking long walks along the winding roads of York county, talking with the country folks–and writing a column of “Rolling Along” for his twice-a-week paper. This column became very popular, and was continued for years, building up a great circulation, as well as rebuilding the writer’s health and endearing him to everybody, old and young, in the whole county. The following was published Tuesday, March 26, 1935:

Tuesday, March 26, 1935
Just A-Rolling Along the Way
Log of Yorkville Enquirer’s Reporter as He
Journeys Here and There in York County
by A. M. Grist

If you will pardon me, just this once, I am going to “fudge” a bit, and take advantage of  Brother W. W. Pegram, editor of The Chester News, who is writing many interesting historical sketches very much along the same line as are the “Rolling Along” sketches in the Enquirer, and every now and then one of Editor Pegram’s stories has a York County angle, and the following taken from his issue of March l8, has this angle.  It appears that one of the readers of The News wants to question a statement concerning a certain thing in connection with the Battle of Kings Mountain and Editor Pegram sets him straight.  The following letter to The News from T. J. Robbins of Lowrys gets things going:

William Martin preached a sermon that inspired the men to the Kings Mountain Battle, which was the turning point in the Revolutionary War. “This certainly was a new thing to me. They should tell us where this sermon was preached and when. If the report is correct of this William Martin it would be well for them to examine his reputation.” The Presbyterian history of the Presbyterian church of South Carolina, tells us that Dr. Joseph Alexander of Bullocks Creek, S.C., made the patriotic talk that inspired the men of this section to gather and sent them on to Kings Mountain. I have ‘The Battle of Kings Mountain’,  the official record of the war department of the United States, which gives a full description of this battle.  This battle was made up of men from Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. “The North and South Carolinians” were commanded by Col. Williams, who was wounded and died the next day. Ferguson forgot to take into consideration that he was to battle with Scotch-Irish Presbyterians.

“Rev. Joseph Alexander was a great preacher and patriot, launched a classic school at Bullocks Creek and educated Andrew Jackson, president of the United States.   I am only writing to try to keep the record straight.”

American Forces at Kings Mountain
American Forces at Kings Mountain

“Our good friend Mr. Robbins, states that ‘he wants to keep the record straight’, and herein the writer thoroughly ‘agrees with him, says Mr. Pegram.   However, we feel sure that Mr. Robbins has not been studying enough of our local Revolutionary ‘history.  The History of the Presbyterian church, which he alludes to, is fine insofar as it goes, but it is confined mostly to Presbyterian history. Unfortunately not much of the Covenanter history of Chester County has been preserved, but the writer has delved into what records he could find during the past several years, compiling them into readability form, visiting various sections of Chester county and through historical documents and manuscripts of authentic nature, and has arrived at the conclusion that Rev. William Martin, Covenanter preacher, was an outstanding man of his day.

“Mr. Robbins says, ‘It would be well for them to examine his (Martin’s) reputation. The writer has done just that and is in a position to state that at times Rev. Martin was intemperate. Catholic Presbyterian church in Chester county let him go as pastor on account of having imbibed too freely of spirits. However, some of our old Presbyterian elders were also on the carpet from time to time answering like charges and the writer can place his hands on a record where a man was elected to an eldership in Bethesda Presbyterian church near McConnellsville, and some of the members objected to his election because he did not own his own still. In other words, one would infer from the record that “all substantial” church officers in that day were expected to own stills.

Whiskey still
Whiskey still

“Mr. Robbins wants to know when and where Rev. Martin preached his inspiring sermon to the men which sent them forward to Kings Mountain.   His war sermon was after Buford’s defeat, and its effects are graphically described in The Women of the American Revolution, Vol. 3, at page 124. The British put William Martin in chains in Winnsboro. They burned his church on Rocky Creek in Chester county in 1780 and they made things hot in general for Rev. Martin, but he was a patriot and up and down this section he went inspiring the men to go forth to battle. The writer, with the help of a fellow-townsman, has located the grave of Rev. William Martin, also his old home site and the spring nearby, and we could go right along with citations of his patriotism and we can name you numbers of old settlers in Chester county who had Rev. William Martin baptize their children and many a child was named for him, which would indicate that his personal acquaintances must have thought well of him, else they would not have tied his name onto their children.

“The writer admits that Rev. Martin at times partook too freely of the spirits but that he was for all this a God-fearing man we quote from his will, we having seen the original: ‘ In the name of God Amen.  I, William Martin of Chester District and State of South Carolina, being in common health and of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God for all his mercies, calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament, that is to say, principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul unto the hands of Almighty God that gave it to me and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in a decent Christian manner, nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection.  I shall receive the same again by the Almighty power of Almighty God.’

With this information we trust our friend Mr. Robbins will realize that Rev. Martin, along with Rev. Alexander, was a God-fearing man as well as a patriot. The writer would not attempt to uphold Rev. Martin in his intemperance; nevertheless we would not detract from the noble things for which he manfully stood in trying days. Thus may the record be kept straight.
Rev. Alexander's grave at Bullocks Creek Pres. Church

Rev. Alexander's grave at Bullocks Creek Pres. Church

From the foregoing, it is probable that  Mr. Robbins is referring to the fact that Rev. Martin had somewhat of a reputation as a drinker of a little too much brandy on occasion, and for that reason suggests that “it would be well for them to examine his reputation.” As Editor Pegram explains fully, in that far day respectable and well-to-do people were expected to have their own stills, and everybody was expected to drink toddy more or less frequently, and neither preachers, elders, deacons, stewards or vestrymen refrained from partaking of whisky on any and all social occasions.  “Then such was considered seemly.   Dr. Maurice Moore, in his Reminiscences of York, tells this about Rev. Mr.  Walker, a one-time pastor of Bethesda Presbyterian church, and a son-in-law of Dr. Joseph Alexander of Bullocks Creek academy fame. In part Dr. Moore’s reference to Rev. Walker follows:

“I recall one Friday, when Rev.  Walker stopped at my father’s gate on his way to Chester. He refused the invitation to come in and take a social glass.  My father, ‘on hospitable intent’, proposed to bring out the decanter to him, as he sat on the horse. ‘No! no! as you insist, I’ll go in — not take a drink on horseback.’

“He was going to see a criminal who was to be hung on the following Friday – a man named Floyd who had killed the sheriff of Chester district, Colonel Nunn.  My step-mother was much interested in the man’s case and begged her preacher to call as he returned, and tell her if the man seemed penitent and to have laid hold on the precious promises held up for his acceptance. He kindly promised he would gratify her.”
“About an hour before sundown, I, with my father, was under the shade of a big chestnut tree which stood near the barn, he riving boards and I piling them, when Mr. Walker hove in sight at a full gallop. As the horse neared the gate, expecting to be checked up at the frequent stopping place, he fell into a long trot, which almost caused the rider to lose his perpendicular, but urged on he resumed the canter.  Mr. Walker righted himself; for with the smoother gait he could retain the proper equilibrium — and passed with a dignified ‘Good afternoon, ‘Squire’.

I lifted up my head, big with discernment for a lad of ten. Never stir! father, if Mr. Walker wasn’t drunk.  My father turned sternly: ‘Let me ever hear of you saying such a thing as that again, sir and I’ll give you such a whipping as you never had in your life!  Mum was the word after that.

Preacher on horseback
Preacher on horseback

“In a few moments my father threw down the frower and walked to the house. I followed, for my task was done when he stopped work. He walked thru the hall where my stepmother and sister were sitting, at their sewing, and went into his own room. “Katie,” he called, and his wife followed. I crept near the door. and heard him telling the mournful tale. How hard I felt it, I might not repeat my knowledge, gained too, thru my penetration, to the girls; but the interdict was too heavy, and when my stepmother came out with a face a yard long, I could only hug myself with sterile complacency that I knew, too.

“Day after the next being the Sabbath, in the pulpit the good old man confessed his fault with tears to the congregation, who wept with him in sympathy and love. Nor was there one to whom he was less dear or respected from the humiliating avowal; freely was his sin forgiven and forgotten, and not for one instant was his usefulness injured. I might, after this, tell the other urchins what I’d seen; but the information had lost its zest, and I wondered vainly why my father issued so stern a mandate, when after all, Mr. Walker told about it himself in the meeting house.”
Source: The Yorkville Enquirer, Tuesday March 26, 1935.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Bethesda Presbyterian Church History | , , , , , | Leave a comment