September 1, 1904
Alexander McDonald, one of the earliest settlers of this place, was a local Methodist preacher and surveyor. He was a large landholder and a man of varied attainments. He was prominently connected with the founding of the church at this place. Services were held at his home before a house was built. He owned the R. C. Smith farm and the Burt place. His house was used as a fort for the people of this section, against Indian attacks, until the Red Men were driven from this country. He was a learned man and was the author of a book on baptism. Bishop E. M. Marvin was clouded in his views on this much controverted subject until he read Reverend McDonald's book, which attests the merits of the volume. This preacher settler went on his preaching tours with his rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other and a hunting knife placed in his belt, ready to combat either Indian or Satan. Frequently he encountered both of these formidable enemies. It is related of him that he had a habit of going to sleep during preaching, and one night at a campmeeting service an amusing incident riccured. He had a stentorian voice. A tedious preacher was delivering a prolic sermon on some dry subject and Reverend McDonald fell a victim to the wooing of Morphaus as usual. The preacher finishing, called upon McDonald to conclude. McDonald, suddenly awakening at the call of his name, thinking he was surveying, in a voice that could be heard more than a mile, called out: "One time out; count your pins". He had several children. Elihu McDonald was the father of Mrs. George Dismukes and Mrs. S. A. R. Swann, of Pulaski. Levi McDonald was the grandfather of Mrs. Newton H. White, of Wales. Levi had three daughters and one son. The son died a prisoner of war at Camp Douglas.
The descendants of this remarkable man request information in regard to the book Reverend McDonald wrote that they may procure a copy for a souvenir. Any trace of a copy of the book will be appreciated. Two sons were preachers. Charles McDonald was a local preacher. Learner Blackman McDonald was a member of the Alabama Conference. Elizabeth McDonald, a sister, married Reverend Lewis Garrett, a noted Methodist divine in 1820. John, Robert, Joseph and James McDonald, were relations of Alexander McDonald but what relation I did not learn. They were campers here in campmeetings and moved to Mississippi. Mr. McDonald, through reverses, lost his fortune. He moved to Mississippi and died, after an eventful life, in reduced circumstances.
Thomas L. Douglass, the presiding elder of this district three or four years, was one of the most distinguished preachers in the Tennessee Conference. Re was secretary of that conference for fourteen turns and was president of the conference twice - the last time in Pulaski, November 1833. Bishop McKendree was present but did not officiate.
T. L. Douglass was a native of Person County, North Carolina, and was born in 1781. He was licensed to preach in 1800 and joined the Virginia Conference in 1801, and made quite a reputation as a forcible preacher. He transferred to Tennessee in 1813, and was appointed to the town of Nashville. The second year he was appointed Presiding Elder of the Nashville District. He was in the campmeeting of 1820 at this place and wrote of the meeting in his journal. There were seventy two conversions and sixty five accessions to the church. He introduced Robert Paine into the ministry.
Samuel Sansom came to this work in 1818 and remained two years. He was an able man. He was followed by Joseph Boucher, who stayed one year. Mention has been made of him. In 1821 Elijah Kirkman was here for one year. He was a prominent minister. In 1822 Coleman Harwell, Sr., and John M. Holland served Richland Circuit. This was Harwell's home. That year was Holland's first year. There were- thirty nine in the class of Holland. Ten went to Virginia and only eighteen remained in Tennessee until received in full connection. Holland was talented and filled many places of honor. This was the Huntsville district that year and was changed back to Nashville district in 1824.
Lewis Garrett, Jr., and Ambrose F. Driskill cane in 1823. Driskill afterwards became a well known preacher and was Presiding Elder of this district. Lewis Garrett, Sr., father of the circuit rider of that year, married Elizabeth McDonald of this place in 1820 and settled in Giles County in 1824. He was born in Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1793. In 1822 he was Presiding Elder and Superintendent of Missions of Jackson's Purchase in Kentucky and Tennessee and located in 1824. He moved to Arkansas and joined the conference in 1859, and died in 1869.
German Baker was the next preacher. William B. Carpenter was his associate. Baker was secretary-of the Conference in 1825 and 1826, and was a celebrated dispenser of the Word.
In 1825 Nathaniel R. Jarrett and Henry B. North were sent to this place. Jarrett was the son of a preacher and was a native of North Carolina. He came to Lebanon, Tennessee in early life. He was a tower of strength and widely known as a pulpit orator. He died in Mississippi in 1862, aged 61 years.
Before going further, it is better to give a sketch of Learner Blackman, of whom mention has already been made. He was one of the best educated and strongest early preachers. He was a son of David and Mary Blackman and was one of eleven children. He was a native of New Jersey. He joined the church when sixteen years old and joined the Philadelphia Conference when nineteen years old. The people on his first charge thought he was a negro before he arrived. He was a mere stripling and at his first appointment a local preacher was selected to preach and did so. Blackman concluded and the congregation were mortified at their mistake when they heard him. He was gifted as few are, and could hold large crowds spellbound with his preaching. In 1805 he was missionary to Natchez and was fourteen days getting there. He rode alone, horseback, through the wilderness. When night came he would tie his horse to a tree, take his saddle bags for a pillow and a blanket for cover, and would resing himself to the care of the God he served.
In 1806 he was Presiding Elder of the Mississippi District, and in 1808 he came to Tennessee and was appointed to Holston District, which he served until 1810. Then he came to the Cumberland District for two years. During the years 1812-13-14, he was on the Nashville District. He was at this place in campmeeting. He married the widow Elliott, nee Odum, of Sumner County, in 1815 and started north for a visit. At Cincinnati, while crossing the Ohio River in a ferryboat, his team became unmanageable and plunged into the water, dragging the preacher with them and drowning him. He was a brilliant man and in his day the most polished shaft in the work in the South. His Widow married Joseph T. Elliston, of Nashville. She died a few years ago at an advanced age. They entertained many preachers and had one room designated as ''The Bishop's Room".
Learner Blackman was a great favorite of General Andrew Jackson and was his Chaplin in the war of 1812. Once Blackman was praying during a rain shower. Jackson was making frequent "amens" but now and then would say, Sotto voice, "Boys, keep the powder dry".
Lorenzo D. Overall, John Brooks, associate, and Benjamin F. Clardy, Supernumerary, were the preachers for 1826 at this place. Overall was a splendid preacher. He labored for many years and died at a good old age.
Wilson L. Mr-Alister and Thomas Payne were the pastors in 1827. McAlister was a native Tennessean, and was an Itinerant thirty four years. He was secretary of the Conference in 1833. He went west and was Presiding Elder in the Indian Mission Conference. He died in Texas in 1859. Three of his sons were preachers.
In 1825 Gilbert D. Taylor was pastor, William M. McFerrin, Junior, and Coleman Harwell, Supernumerary. This District was Richland District from this year until 1834 when it was changed to Huntsville.
Dr. Taylor was born November 18, 1791, at Hare Forest on the Rapidan River, Orange County, Virginia, in the same house General Zachary Taylor, a relative, was afterwards born. He studied medicine in Philadelphia and came to Pulaski in 1811. In 1812 he was made surgeon to General Jackson's Army and served the whole campaign. He was very wicked when young. It is said that he came to campmeetings here to scoff and at night after preaching would gather all the rough men and boys at the shelter and would hold mock services, Taylor doing the preaching. In 1816 he was stricken down at a campmeeting at this place and was converted. He was licensed to preach in 1819 and offered himself to the Tennessee Conference but was refused on account of his views on slavery. Later he was admitted on trial in this Conference, and ably filled many important places, During the Civil War he lived in Pulaski and did a great many commendable deeds of charity. He died in that town August 6, 1870, aged 79 years.
John W. Jones and E. F. English in 1829 were the pastors of this church.
Elias Tidwell and Nathan S. Johnson, were here in 1830: Tidwell was returned with William A. Smith in 1831. Tidwell was a splendid preacher. Wilson L. McAlister was here again in 1832 with Samuel B. Harwell who served the work in 1833 with Henry Robinson as junior preacher.
James Tarrant was pastor in 1834 with Richmand Randle, junior, and G. D. Taylor, supernumerary. Tarrant was from Virginia. He traveled for ten years and quit on account of bad health. He was a talented preacher. He died January 1859. Two or three sons became preachers. Randle made a widely known minister. He was a member of one General Conference. He died while serving as Chaplin in the Southern Army and was a member of the Louisiana Conference at the time. His son, Robert, belonged to the same Conference.