OBITUARY OF ABNER HILL
(An autobiography written in 1861 at the age of
73. This abbreviated autobiography of Rev. Abner Hill
was furnished Judge Joe M. Hill, of Dallas, Texas, by Atty. Frank Y.
Hill, of Laredo, Texas, and was said to have been discovered by James Britt Hill, President of the L&N
RR, when James B. Hill was tracing his genealogy for membership in Sons of the
American Revolution. Thomas Hill, father
of Abner Hill, Revolutionary soldier from North Carolina, is buried in Anderson Cemetery, Doyle, Tenn., as are many other
members of the Hill Family).
He being dead, yet speaketh. - Hebrews 11-4.
now a little over 73 years of age (born 8-20-1788) my time in this life cannot
be long, and being influenced by the above passage of scripture, I write,
hoping that it may be with me as it was with the righteous Abel, that after I
am dead I may still speak.
Chapter 1. On Childhood
I was born in Rockingham County, North Carolina, on the 20th day of
August 1788. My father's name was Thomas
Hill. He was the son of Wm. Hill, of what county I am not advised, only I have
heard of my father that he was of Welsh extraction. My mother's name was
Katherine Shropshire, daughter of Winkfield
Shropshire from England. He lived to be very old, I reckon over 100
years. He had 13 children by his first
wife. She died. He lived awhile with his
daughter, who was married and had a family.
Living with her was a girl by the name of Jane Jones of Virginia. My grandfather married her, she being 15 years
old. By her he had 13 children, making
in all 26 children by his two wives. My
mother, I think, was the 7th child of his second marriage. I was my mother's third child. When I was old enough to go to school, my
grandfather was the teacher. He was able to walk home, 6 miles on Sundays.
While I was too young to remember, my
father moved from the State of North Carolina to the State of Georgia. My mother's people, the Shropshires,
moved to Georgia and my father went
along with them. Georgia was then a new
country. My father sold his land in N.
C. for horses and cattle and drove them to Georgia. His horses and mares all died except one bay
filly, and the cattle all died except one heifer. This left us very poor, father having enough
to buy only 70 acres of land. Elijah,
James, I and William were born in N. C.
Jane, Winkfield, Hannah, Thomas and Cynthia
came in close succession, so that father and mother were much crowded with children. In consequence of this I was raised
poor. I am of the opinion that this was
a good thing for me as this qualified me to bear adversities of life with
patience. This with regular honest labor
gave me a good constitution.
My father was a member of the Baptist Church and a believer in the
Baptist doctrine. My mother was a
faithful teacher, teaching me that there was a heaven, a place of everlasting
happiness, and a hell a place for punishment where we would be sent if we lived
wicked and did so. She taught us if we
were good God would take us to heaven, where we would be forever happy. She taught us if we were wicked, to tell a
lie, to steal, to get mad and fight, to curse and swear and use profane
language. I believed my mother. I
understood that she was righteous and knew all about it. I was deterred from
doing wrong by what mother had taught us. I had never heard any one pray. I was desirous of knowledge of how to pray,
but I was ashamed to ask mother to teach me
pray. We lived on the frontier; there
were some alarming reports of Indians.
Mother was afraid of Indians. This caused me to be much afraid too. There were also considerable negroes in the country.
It was feared that they would mutiny.
My mother was very much afraid of this.
This alarmed me and one night I dreamed that the negroes
had risen and surrounded our house. I
dreamed that I broke and ran but a large negro caught
me. I told him I was in fun, that I
would join them. I thought he believed
me, until as we went along I broke and ran again. The negro caught me
again. I told them again I was in fun, but he drew a large butcher knife,
saying that he had better kill me than be betrayed. I dreamed he raised the
knife to kill me, but I screamed so loud that I woke myself up. I was in a perfect tremor. I truly suffered
fear. In all cases where it was reported
that the negroes were going to rise and kill the
whites, women and children, seemed to frighten me more than any other
subject. I have long thought that it
would be good national policy to get rid of our negro
In the State of Georgia, in the summer, there
arises many thunderstorms; it roars and dark clouds gather very much. This
would alarm me. When a large thunder
cloud arose I would run down in the orchard, fall on my knees and pray. Although I never heard anyone pray, it now
seems to me that I prayed a pretty good prayer.
I confessed my sins to the Lord, I asked the Lord to forgive me, and I
promised to be better if he would save me from the storms.
The influence that a mother has over a
child is most wonderful. Therefore
females who expect to become mothers should become qualified in early life to
teach and influence their children to righteousness. Mothers have no desire to teach their
children anything but what is right.
Mothers should be qualified to bring up their children in the nurture of
My uncles, Shropshire were very wicked. They fell into the opinion that there was no
hell. I still believed what my mother
had taught me, that there was a hell of fire.
One night, father being away from home we got to talking with mother and
she admitted that she did not believe there was a hell of real fire, that it
was figurative language, that hell was a place of banishment and darkness, away
from God, and therefore compared to fire. I reasoned that if there was no real fire,
there would be no real suffering nor misery in hell. There were many wicked there and there would
be plenty of company and it would not be lonesome. Our neighbor John Jackson had four children
about our size and we played hide and seek in the dark in the new house and it
was rare fun. Mother said the saved were always singing and happy in heaven. I
thought that I would get tired of singing but I never had gotten tired of
playing in the dark. So I concluded on the
whole that I would as soon go to hell as to heaven. I found that this state of mind had a
powerful influence on me.
swear without remorse when absent from my father and mother. I felt that I would as soon be wicked as not.
This had a bad effect upon me. It made
me feel that some-times I was wrong. One
night I dreamed that I had to go to hell.
It was right there before me, a large pile of firey
coals, some three rods broad and about three feet high, and in the middle a
round blue blaze which glimmered all over it. In a short time I was to be put
into the fire. I thought I was engaged
in raking up some wet leaves with my bare hands. I had a large body of leaves
and trash ready. The time came for them
to seize me so I gathered up an armload of wet leaves and trash; when they
brought me to the edge of the fire I threw on my wet load and it instantly
caught in a great blaze. I struggled and screamed and woke myself up. I never was so scared. I lay and reflected that my Heavenly Father
had caused me to dream this dream, to show me that I was wrong in my idea about
hell. I have never since considered it
safe not to take the inspired word just as it reads. If Universalism, if Deism, if Swedenburgism, if Shakerism, if
Mormonism, if immediate Spiritualism -- if any of them are true, he that
believes what God's inspired word says and faithfully and humbly obeys it, he
About this time father joined the Baptist
Church and was baptized in Ocona River, Ga., Greene
County, about 2 miles south of the skull shoals. This was the first immersion I ever saw. They sung this song at the water:
"What think ye friends
of the preaching of John?
Was it from Heaven or was
it from Man?
That night after my father was baptized, my
brother and I were at play as usual.
Mother called us into the house.
She said "Take off your hats and sit down, your father is going to
duty." I thought what can that
mean? I will wait and see. Father was sitting at the table with a
lighted candle and had a hymn book in hand.
Presently he read over a hymn, then he and mother sang it. Then he knelt down in vocal prayer. I listened carefully to the words as I was
desirous of learning to pray. Father kept up this practice of family
prayer. It has a powerful influence on
me. The words, the language, the ideas
and the form of the prayer would often run through my mind. I seemed to become sensible of the frailty of
man, that the flesh and the blood were temporary and that the spirit must soon
leave the body.
The Baptist preacher would now come home
with mother and father from the church meetings at night and have meetings at our
house. There was a report prevailing one
Sunday morning when there was a meeting at our house that the world was coming
to an end. After the preaching, I was
much disturbed, thinking that the world was coming to an end and I was not prepared.
After everyone had gone to sleep, I lay on the floor and prayed and
vowed to the Lord that I would do better and serve the Lord. Suddenly it seemed to me that I was raised up
about 6 feet high. I was filled with
gladness. I felt like praising the Lord.
I wondered. Is this religion?
Is this an expression of grace? I had heard some experiences given in church
but I did not remember any like this.
will conclude this chapter on some thoughts on training of children.
Chapter 2. On the Period
I grew up to be a lad, perhaps l4, there were 4 boys of usable to do good work. A man in the neighborhood by the name of Mr.
Pears wanted a plowhand and I hired to plow for him
at $5.00 a month. I performed to full
satisfaction. In the summer I was hired
to gather fodder. I got praised for
faithful work. When done I went home and
mother praised me and said that I had got a good name. This made me feel like I was better than the
other boys. I was insolent and father
gave me a small whipping. This made me
mad as fury and I went muttering to the kitchen, saying to myself, "I can
live without him; I am not going to be whipped like a dog; I will run away the
first chance." Father overheard me
and came in with a large switch. He fell
to whipping me so hard that I finally thought that he was going to kill me. I
thought he was never going to quit and he did not let me go until I was fully a
sound boy -- I had no intention of running away and I never got the notion
again. I thought that if I was to try it
again, my father would follow me and whale me to death. This, I think was a great favor bestowed on
me by my father, though rough; if I had been tampered with lightly I might have run away to my ruin.
When I was young and in young company, I
would indulge in wickedness, then when I was alone I would have great remorse
of conscience. One Saturday I was going
on a visit to be among wicked company. I
was thinking about what was before me that I should likely do wrong and my
conscience would task me for it. I felt
dissatisfied for it. I wished that it
wasn't so, but I went on and had a good deal of fun doing and saying a lot of
things that I knew were wrong. I did not
feel any sense of remorse of conscience.
I had to ride home alone. Sunday
evening, six miles, I still could not feel any remorse. I recollected the thoughts and desires that I
had had on Saturday and it alarmed me. I
feared that I was grieving the spirit of God, that Paul had taught at Athens;
that we receive God life, breath and all things, so it seems that the Conscious
impression made upon us by the spirit of truth, of which Christ says it is the
Holy Ghost (or Spirit) which shall reprove the world of sin, etc., are
connected with the agency of God and he will withhold them at pleasure.
We removed from the State of Georgia into the State of Tennessee, Claiborne County, in 1805, and stopped
among our relations, the Hill connections.
There was a Baptist Church some 3 miles from us,
father and mother joined the church. I attended pretty regularly at their
monthly meetings. A few years before
there had been a great revival of religion and nearly all of the young people
in the region had joined the Baptist church.
The old men, wore round-top flat hats, straight-breasted coats, long
jackets and round-toed shoes. Old women
wore long-waisted habits. The above described dress had been pretty
much the fashion of dress worn by the old and the young. The young people now began to follow the new
fashion. The young men wore bell round
hats, galluses and coats with lapels and sharp-toed
shoes. The young women wore the chemees(chemise) a
dress bound just under the arms with a draw string. The revival had ceased. The brethern
seemed cold. Some of the old members attributed it to
jealousy and coldness of the old members; toward the young members. Others thought it was caused by pride of the
young people. The matter was introduced
into the church. The members were
divided. They disputed about dress at every meeting for about 6 months; and
finally the part that was in favor of the young people had the majority; they
then excluded the old members that had complained. They stayed out about a year, finally came
back, made acknowledgement and joined the church, except an old Grand Uncle of
mine, Thomas Bridges, a brother of my grandmother, he obstinately stayed out
and died so. When I reflect on it now I
think how foolish they were to fall out about nothing. But we cannot expect better things from
people who pay so little attention to the word of God. While plowing one day I came unexpectedly
upon the subject of my religious condition. I had often vowed to serve the Lord
and had failed to do so so long that I had become
discouraged. I feared that I had
committed the unpardonable sin. I felt
very bad, my mind was gloomy. After
awhile I concluded, to pray for pardon, that the Lord might show me whether
there was a chance for me. While
kneeling down in prayer, I thought that I felt relief and comfort; I thought at
the time that I would certainly join the church. But I had no experience of grace. Uncle Thomas
Gibbons who had married Aunt Polly Hill, father's youngest sister. They lived out on Roaring River in what afterwards
became Overton County. He had fallen off a cliff and dislocated his
hip, driving the thigh bone up to his back-bone. He sent James Isham
out to father's in the fall to get one of his boys to go out and attend to his
business during the winter. I was chosen
to go. The distance was about 100 miles. After I got out to Uncle Thomas Gibbons, I
went one night to a corn husking. There
was quite a company of young men and boys present. To pass away the time it was proposed at the
end of the corn pile the one there would sing a song, then the next and go
around till all had sung. I thought it
was wicked to sing a carnal song and that I would not sing. So when it came my
turn I asked to be excused and they asked, "Can't you sing at all?" I would not tell a lie, so they asked,
"Do you know any funny songs?"
I was tempted and sang a funny lying hunting song, one that I had heard
from my Uncles Shropshire. I had a melodious voice and while I was singing
there were frequent outbursts of laughter. That was the greatest song yet. My consciountious
feeling left me and I sang several of the funniest songs I knew. I became a high fellow with the boys. But that night I could not go to sleep soon. I felt that I deserved to die. I could not complain if the Lord killed
me. I could only trust in the Lord for
mercy. Then a feeling of happiness and
comfort sprung up, then I felt like praising the Lord. I felt so relieved and this to me was
evidence of the Lord's pardoning me.
Next spring, my father, my brother James came out and the three of us
went about 40 miles south on the Caney Fork River, to a place that afterwards
became White County, Tennessee, and there my father selected a place to
live. Brother James and I went down to
build the improvements, so that the family could move the next fall. That spring I bet on my shooting, and on
reflection on it I knew it was wrong. I
concluded that the only way for me to live right was for me to join the church,
but I had had no experience of grace, like I had heard the Baptist preachers
and others tell about. But it seemed
that I could not live right out of the church, so I decided to try it. I borrowed my brother James' pony and rode 40
miles to Uncle Thomas Gibbons, there being no Baptist Church nearer. He and Aunt Polly were members, father was there
at the church meeting on Saturday, when the door was opened for anyone to come
forward and join by telling an ex- perience of grace. I
went forward immediately. The going forward
was such a cross that I hardly knew what I was doing. I told what I had to
tell. Only one question was asked me by
Nimrod Dodson, who was the leading member of the church, namely, "Did you
ever see that it was just in God to send you to hell?" I answered "yes" for I knew it
would not do to say "no,"
although I knew at the time I had not any extraordinary view. I only knew that I believe the general
system of the Bible. If I could have said that I was
hell-deserving or that I was hair-hung over hell, those sage Baptists would have
liked it better. But I could not in truth
say such things. I was unanimously received
and the right-hand of fellowship was given me.
On Sunday I was baptised by Thomas McBride in
Blackberry Fork of Roaring River, in the presence of quite a gathering. That night I felt serene and comfortable. The next morning when I started back to Caney Fork, my father went a piece with me and counseled
me to be watchful and do no wrong.
In the fall I went with my brother James to Claiborne County, East Tennessee, to move the family
out. Three young people, James, John and
Sarah Bartlett moved out with us. They were two brothers and a sister. Their mother had died when they were
children, their father had married again and they had been raised by their
grandmother. In moving to Caney Fork, Sally Bartlett and I
became attached to each other and in December we were married. Some time next November our son Joshua B. Hill
was born. The next December, my dearwife, Sally, died.
She took cold and in vain did Old Aunt Lucy Chisholm, my mother and old
Molly Fitzgerald use their best efforts to relieve her. She died Dec. 8, l808. Joshua, our little son, was a little over a year
old when she died. I had hopes that although she had never been baptised she went to Paradise. She was an humble, upright loving woman,
raised by her ignorant old grandmother. She could only read a little and write
a little, but she believed in the Baptist teaching. According to her honest
belief, she might be ever so humble, honest and upright and spiritually minded,
still she had to wait for an experience of grace, before she could be correctly
Baptists at that time did not have any belief in the gospels testimony. Mark
l6-l6, "He that believeth and is baptised is
saved." Although my dear wife Sally
could read she was ignorant of the gospel truths as though they had not been in
the Bible caused by Baptist tradition.
Her unavoidable ignorance justified her.
Romans 5-13, "Sin is not im-puted where
there is no law." Sally did not
know the gospel's requirement for her to be baptised,
hence she did not sin in neglecting it.
I was so anxious to see her after death that I went to her grave in the
dusk of the evening in the hope of seeing her in the spirit. I entirely failed at that and began to doubt
the reports that the spirits of the dead could be frequently seen at the
grave. Since that time I have been
making inquiry for haunted graveyards and haunted houses and I have never been
able to find one. I am of the opinion
that there is no such thing for us in the body to see the spirit of a dead person. It has all come from the imagination of poor
weak creatures. Neither have I evidence
of there being witches, such as those spoken of when I was a boy. It was
thought that they could be with people and ride them after night when
they were asleep, shoot their balls into cattle
and kill them without breaking the skin.
This I now think is all false imagination.
I remained single until September
when I was married to Katherine Cotton.
She was a zealous, fasting, shouting, jerking Methodist. It was common in those days for people to
have the jerks. Both religious and
irreligious persons had it. The first
time I ever saw any person with the jerks was when I lived with Uncle Thomas
Gibbons. He had a negro
girl called Pat. She had the jerks one
day while Uncle Thomas and Aunt Polly were away from home. I wanted to see her jerk. She was at the spinning wheel and I kept teasing
her to jerk, and when she commenced she scared me awfully. She flew around the floor jerking forward and
backward, making her head nearly touch the floor. Every jerk she gave a grunt that might be
heard 50 yards or more. It seemed to me
that she might kill herself. The time
seemed long before she quit. She at last
fell down on the floor, drawing her face and her knees together and lay still
some time before she seemed to come to.
It scared me so that I never tried to get Pat to jerk again. At that time the jerks were common. The exercise was pretty much the same. They said they could not help it. I suppose it must have been some uncommon
excitement. I thought it strange that jerks
never hurt anyone.
I became acquainted with a Baptist Minister
named John Mulkey.
He had been Moderator for the Baptist Association. He was a rigid Calvinist. He became on
friendly terms with a Christian preacher named Lewis Byron. They agreed to have a friendly talk on their
differences of belief. When they met it
was at night, Byron said to Mulkey, "Let us pray
for the blessing of God to be upon us in our convention. Brother Mulkey, please lead us in prayer." When Byron prayed
he expressed the clear advantage of believing the truth of God and the great
evil of failing to believe and do right according to the revealed truth of God.
Byron so prayed that he removed the prejudices of Mulkey.
The result was that Mulkey became doubtful of the
truth of Calvinism, examined, became convinced and threw the hard system away,
took the word of God as his guide, took the name of Christian as the inspired
name and so lived and died.
After Mulkey had
reformed but before he left the Baptist Church, I was at a Baptist
Association, Mulkey was the moderator, and as he read
the church letters tears ran down his cheeks; his voice seemed full of humility
and love; his countenance seemed to beam with the spirit. It formed in my heart a love for him that I
had not felt for any other man but Jesus.
I have often thanked my heavenly father for Mulkey's
influence upon me that day, believing that it was the first thing that had removed
my Baptist prejudice. Before the next Association we got news that Brother Mulkey had left the Baptists. It hurt me more than if 10 other preachers
had left. I wanted to see him; I thought I could convince him that he was
wrong. For the next Association, I was
appointed a delegate from our church to the Association to be held in Stockton Valley, Kentucky. I was disappointed in seeing Mulkey there. Several
things took place on the trip that had an influence to cool me toward some of
the leading members and Baptist preachers.
1. They drank too much; 2. They seemed entirely too unfriendly toward
anyone who doubted the truth of their hard system of doctrine; 3. As we
returned some of the leaders and preachers disagreed and had a hard quarrel.
Mulkey had sent on
a string of appointments for the next association at the sinking Rock Church, of which I was a
member, and a delegate. The day before
he was to preach at the Rocky River Meeting House, he passed father where I was
to join his company. Mulkey
was talking with a Baptist preacher named Green. I threw in a word and Mulkey
replied, then Green withdrew. I offered
the best argument I could. He did not
say much and we outrode the others. When we got
alone, Mulkey took up my arguments, showed me where
they were wrong and held forth the gospel teachings for Christians meeting
together. He said. it was his intention
to labor for the union of all Christians and remarked how happy he was for
this. Conviction seized his mind, it
must be right, and if so the Baptists must be wrong. To admit that the Baptists were wrong about
anything seemed to make my head swim. I
had always believed the Baptists right about everything. We went on to his appointment and I heard him
preach. It was most interesting. That night our pastor, Thomas McBride, was
supposed to preach but he could not. He
tried but he had to quit. Mulkey got up and, oh, how
he did preach. I thought it was the most
interesting thing I had ever heard.
the association the next day, Reuben Ellison preached the introductory
sermon. His text was Samuel 15-14.
"What means the bleating of sheep in my ear, and the lowing of oxen which
I hear?” An odd text on Saul's disobedience of God's command.
On Monday the people wanted to hear Mulkey. The association
would not give his leave and he did not preach.
A member from the Mill Creek Church, where Mulkey held, asked "What is to be done with Mulkey's credentials?
He is excluded but still holds credentials." He said that he had demanded them but Mulkey had refused to give them up. Mulkey stepped forward
and said, "You know, brother, that I told you I was willing to give up the
papers if you would make out your church record correctly. We have labored six months to agree and we
cannot agree, let us part in peace. This
was agreed upon but you made out your church record to read, 'Exclude John Mulkey for heresy. '
This was not correct for there was no act of exclusion but we agreed to
part in peace. "If you will make out the record correctly as to the facts,
you can have the papers, I do not care for them." A majority of the association said it was
correct but I did not give my vote.
About this time, it was l8l0, our pastor
Thomas McBride, introduced the question into the church, whether or not it was
right for all of God's children to sit down together at the Lord's Table. I said "No." I tried to argue against it but could find no
scriptures to condemn it. I thought by
next monthly meeting I would be able to lay it cold. I read the new testament through but did not
find any proof. I thought that I had read it too much in a hurry. I read it over again and still had not found
it. Then I commenced to read it to find
what the Book did say. I could not find
what I had always heard the Baptist preach that is that it was wrong for any
but Baptist to sit down to the Lord's Table.
By the next meeting I was prepared to sit and say nothing. The more I examined the more I was convinced
that all of God's people should sit down at the Lord's Table and none
else. The church investigated this
question for six months and half contended for Christian Union, the other half
to the Baptist doctrine of a closed communion.
We parted in peace and so made out the church record. About this time there were a number of Baptist
preachers who left the Baptist communion, namely, John Mulkey,
Philip Mulkey, Wm. Randolph, Thomas McBride, Thomas Stone, Cordo
Stone, Old Martin Trap and Young Martin
Trap. These were distinguished
preachers from the Baptist Church. They were from the Presbyterian Church,
Barton W. Stone and John Bowman. Other
preachers who stood connected with us were Benj. Linn, Lewis Byrom, Wm. Kincaid, David Moglia,
Daniel Travis, Ephriam D. Moore, John Davis, Elihu Randolph, Robt. Randolph, Abner Peeler, and others that I cannot now recollect. Brother Alexander Campbell was not among
us. He was first known among us as the
great champion of the Baptists by his debate with Walker, then by his debate
with McCauley. We had a great revival
and ingathering and many preachers arose among us, namely Joseph McBride,
Andrew McBride and Isaac McBride, all brothers of our old preacher Thomas
McBride, Wm. D. Jourdan, Benj. Hall, Asbery Stone, Livi Nichols, W. W.
Matthews, Sam'l Giles, Tolbert Fanning, all of whom
were workmen of whom no one should be ashamed.
Also Thatcher Griffin, Alonzo Griffin, Brother James Anderson, Wm. Hooten, son of the one-eyed Christian preacher, John Hooten. These all
arose and labored in the upper part of Middle Tennessee. I feel called upon to a tribute to Barton W.
Stone. I was intimately acquainted with
him, having traveled with him in preaching.
He was great in humility, undeviating in honesty, of extensive learning,
with unabating zeal, and in piety, fearlessly plain and
independent, possessed of deep and quick penetration, he ever earnestly
contended for the faith. He was one of
the first and great pioneers of the great Christian Reformation of the 19th
century. His ways and manner reminded me
of what we read of Old Abraham, the father of the faithful.
My second dear wife, Kathy, resolving to
renounce the name of Methodist, and from henceforth to take the name of
Christian, and instead of being governed by the Methodist Discipline, to be
governed by the plain word of the lnspiration and
believing that the gospel taught immersion, was immersed. When she was going to be baptised
she had the phthisoc, her mother being fearful that
it would essentially injure her, but she was baptised
and no visible injury resulted. I have
often observed that where a sickly person was baptised
that they did not realize any harm.
I settled and improved a small domicile
and followed preaching. It was not since
the earthquakes had shaken the earth and alarmed the people, preaching and
exhortation had a powerful effect. I had
night meetings somewhere every night in the week. One evening the cows failed to come up, I had
to be changed before we went to meeting.
Late in the night we came home and were going to drive up the cows by
moonlight. I saw something like a chunky
person with a white sheet around
it. I thought it must be a spirit. With much alarm I went slowly 60 yards toward
the object, when lo and behold it was a white steer with its hind parts toward
me. Had I not gone toward it, I would surely have reported that I had seen a
I was young and did not understand language
and scripture but had a strong voice and great zeal, still I made a poor out at
preaching. My wife said that she was
ashamed of me and if I did not quit trying to preach she was going to quit
going to the meetings. This much
discomforted me, but as I thought I was divinely called of God to preach, I
prayed and looked to God and seemed to get the victory.
I concluded to ride the circuit. I fixed for my wife to stay with her sister
Sally, the wife of my brother, Wm. Hill, and I started on a circuit with Elihu Randolph, who was then a single man. He had been riding two or three years and was
a pretty good young preacher. In the
first round, we met with Brother Ephriam D. Moore,
who was one of our great young preachers.
He had come from East Tennessee to marry sister Polly Wardlow. This put my
comrade, Elihu Randolph, in the notion of
marrying. He married sister Polly
Garrett and did not go with me another round of the circuit. I continued to ride the circuit and get acquainted
with the brethren. I had the reading of
a variety of books. I had the smiles and
encouragement of brethren and I was of the age to improve. On that circuit I got acquainted with Bro.
Joseph Matthews, the father of my present wife. Nancy, and another brother W.
W. Matthews, when they were small children.
I went with brother Marshall D. Spain to look at North Alabama and concluded to move
there. I quit riding the circuit and
removed to North
while it was a new country. South of
Tennessee River I lost my pork hogs as we moved on. After we built a home, I went back to look
for the hogs, about 20 miles back. I
found some of the hogs the first day and lay alone on a caney
branch. I had a good gun and a stout and
resolute dog, and I was not at all afraid.
I hobbled my mare and hunted all day on foot but found no more
hogs. I went up on the point of a knob
to listen for turkeys. When I thought of
going down to the place where I had slept the night before, a sudden and very
uncommon chilly feeling struck me. It began
at the top of my head and ran slowly down to the tips of my fingers. It drew my attention decidedly as I had never
felt anything like it before. It is
nothing but imagination, I thought, I will not mind it. I got a piece of pine to make a light and
started again and the feeling came on with double force. It made me shiver all over. Surely, I thought, this is a warning that I
should not stay all night where I did the night before. Well, I thought, I will try, and if it leaves
me I will not stay here. I threw down my
pine and it entirely left me. So I went
down and got my mare and went to Big Nance Creek and stayed all night. I have regarded it a providential from my
heavenly father. This with some other
instances has taught me to look and trust in God for life, breath and all
things. Acts 17- 25.
After I had procured a good piece of land
with brother William, I was inclined to again follow preaching. I had a good farm, a good house, good water
and good health, good neighbors, some cattle and hogs, and good prospects for
living independently. I thought, after
awhile my house will decay, my fences rot down and I will grow old and die,
then what shall I do to lay up treasures in Heaven? I read Corinthians 5-8, "Every man shall
receive his own reward according to his
labor." And verse 11, "Christ
is the only foundation; if any man shall
build on this foundation, it can be com- pared with gold, silver and precious
stones," and verse 12, "He
shall receive a reward." Dan'1
12-3. "They that are wise shall
shine as the firmament; and they that turn away to righteousness, as the stars,
forever and forever." I determined
to give up my worldly prospect and to do all I could to turn men to
righteousness. I gave up the farm and
house to my brother William. He had a
sale and sold on credit my horses, cattle and hogs, saving only a horse for
myself and my wife to ride. My wife not
having any child, I followed traveling preaching through the prime of my
life. I have the comforting feeling that
many, through my instrumentality have turned to righteousness. This to me now in my old age is a greater
comfort than if I had, in the prime of my life, labored only for earthly
I was traveling, I preached at Old Brother Alford Wilson's on Duck River. The Lord blessed our labors, and many turned
to Him. At Cathey
Creek in Maurey County, Tenn. my labors were blessed. In Hickman County, these are counties in
Middle Tennessee, Southwest of Nashville, many professed faith in Christ and were
baptised in Mill Creek. If I were to relate all the particulars of my
preaching incidents, I would well be
writing a very large volume. But as He
who holds the rewards of faithful in
reverence, knows all things, I leave it
to Him to decide what good I was instrumental in doing, and I will record only a few
At Bethlehem in White County, Tennessee, I was at a protracted
meeting. Brother Elihu
Randolph was there. He opposed the
doctrine of baptism as being for the pardon of sins. The
same doctrine was preached by Bro. John Mulkey
and myself. It seemed strange any one
would oppose a doctrine set out so plainly in the scriptures. Father and mother and most of my brothers and
sisters were at this meeting. On Lord's
Day I was assigned to administer the Lord's Supper. I had an unusual solemn weight on my
shoulders. In my remarks I showed: 1.
That the Lord required of all his children to witness for him in this Supper;
1. Cor. 11-23: "This do---." 2. We are to examine ourselves; Mat.
26-27-28; 3. If unworthy persons went to the Lord's Table, that did not excuse
us from our duty. Judas partook in the very first supper; 4. The
Lord's Supper was to divide the Lord's children from the children of the
devil. .When the way was open Mother
took her seat at the Lord's Table. She was a Baptist and as such she violated
Baptist rules. Some of the others wanted
to eat with the Christians but it was denied them. They said "Old Sister Hill took the
Lord's Supper with the Christians."
Mother was asked why she did it.
She said she thought that the Lord required it of her. They told her that they would bear with her
if she would promise never to do it again.
She said that she could not promise.
They said it was the Baptist rules. She said "I do not think it is
right." They said, "Paul says I will eat no meat while the world stands
rather than cause my brother to offend."
Mother said she did not think that by that Paul meant that we should not
go to the Lord's Table. They laid the matter over until the next meeting to
give her time to consider. Bat she could
not make any acknowledgement. After waiting a number of months and she could
not acknowledge that she had done anything wrong, they were about to turn mother
out, father arose and said: "The old woman and I have lived together in
the church for a long time and I don't like your rules either, and you can take
my name off too." They turned mother out and took father's name off the
books. They stayed out several years until Old Brother Simmons, a Free-Will
Baptist preacher, made up a church in the neighborhood and they joined and
lived and died in the Baptist Church. My pious old father and mother idolize the
name of Baptist. It is passing strange
to me that anyone with the Savior and professes to be married to the Christ
should prefer any other name than that of the name of Christ, the divinely
Inspired name of Christian.
The bride that her husband would honor
Delighted to be called by his name
And surely disgrace is upon her
The name of another to claim.
will relate an anecdote: Old Brother
Weaver, a Baptist, and Old Brother Philpot, a Christian, were together at a
meeting. Weaver said, "I am a
Baptist," Philpot said, "I am a Christian." Weaver said, "I have been over 40 years a
Baptist," Philpot said, "I have been over 40 years a Christian. Weaver said, "I glory in the Name of
Baptist," Philpot said, "I
glory in the name of Christian."
Weaver said, "I hope to die a Baptist," Philpot said, "I
hope to die a Christian, for that name is divinely inspired; the disciples were
first called Christian at Antioch."
Division is wrong; John 17-21; 1. Cor. 1-10. The Baptists
who glory in and call themselves Baptists are not reproached with any invidious
name. The Methodists of every standing
North and South, are suffered to wear the name of their choice. It is also the same with the ranks of the
Presbyterians and all other denominations who call them-selves by party
names. After we took the name Christians
directly we were called schismatics. Was it not enmity that invented it against
the name of Christian, and those who wore it?
Some 20 years later, our distinguished Brother Alexander Campbell,
joined us and soon they turned the tables and called us Campbellites. No intelligent Christian ever seriously
called himself Campbellite, because he knows that Alexander Campbell was not
crucified for us and we were not baptised in his name.
We esteem Brother Campbell as a
truly good and great man and a trust Christian,
but the greatest, except Jesus Christ, is only a poor imperfect human
being. Brother Campbell's indefatigable
labor and success in promoting pure, primitive gospel truth and practice will
waft his name to posterity as a great and
good man. Hence we consider the
name of Campbell when thrown on us in
malice, equally Invidious, equally reproachable as "Schismatics." It was not the spirit of Peter who wrote in I
Peter 4:14 "If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye for
the spirit of glory of God rested upon you.
On their part he is evil spoken but on your part he is
glorified." Yet if any man suffer
as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this behalf,
for the time is come that judgment must begin in the house of God.
I continued to ride and preach through the
States of Alabama, Tennessee and some in Kentucky until I spent nearly
all my means. I ceased riding and took
up a common school in Russell's Valley in Alabama. I had two brothers-in-law there, who both had
large families. My object was to teach
their children and get means to keep house again. My brother-in-law, Gillington Chisholm, was raised a Methodist. He had long been convinced that it was right
to be governed by the Bible alone and to be called by the name of Christian,
but he could not see that it was right to be immersed. He and his sister Cynthia were at our home
Sunday and he was fasting. We talked and
I tried to persuade him that he should be immersed. Robert Bates, my other brother-in-law had a
mill down on the creek about 150 yards from the house. One Sunday evening Gillington,
Cynthia, Kathy, my wife and I, went down and sat on some hewn timbers in the
cool of the shade. While we were sitting
there he said, "Abner, you are older than I am
and you understand the Bible better than I do, and I believe you are honest and
I would sooner risk your faith than my own; if you say it will do me any good
to baptise me in that creek, I want you to do
it." I replied, "Gillingham, you can read. Does it not read that way to you?" I read from James: "Jesus went
straightway up out of the water."
Also "Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water, and he baptised him and coming straight-way up out of the
water." It also says "We are buried
with him in baptism." Does it not
read that way to you, Gillingham?" "No," he replied, "those
scriptures do not refer to the mode of baptism, but if you think they do and
that it will do me any good, I want you to baptise me
in the creek.”
"Gillingham, I said, "if you yourself have no faith in
it, it will not do you any good."
(I will here relate the two circumstances in relation to baptism. Omitted in this copy)
I will now relate some of the subject of
getting religion. Old Squire Durrett, an old Christian member, told me this: "When I was a young man I joined the Methodist Church as a seeker after religion. I had been seeking religion for some two
years but had not found it. I was at a large
camp meeting and the Altar was divided by poles, one side for the men and the
other side for the women. A man who had
a very fine voice was preaching. His
subject was very funny, being about a fox hunted by a dog. The spirit was the dog and the sinner was the
fox. He compared the shifting of the
sinner to the cunning windings of the fox. I was lying there in the straw on
the men's side of the altar. I thought I
have been long waiting and the spirit has not caught me. The fox is keeping out of the way of the
dog. If he falls into the strong jaws of
the dog he will fare badly. If the
spirit should not catch me, would I realize something better. But the sinner escaped the spirit. But, says
the preacher, he will overtake you in the day of judgment. Many of you are like the Irishman who stole
the pig. The Irishman said, "Man, I
did not do it." The man said,
"Yes you did and you will pay for it on the day of judgment." The Irishman said, "Begorra,
if it is that easy long credit, I'll take another one." I was about to laugh so I turned my face down
into the straw. A young woman who had
been eagerly waiting for me to get religion screamed out "He has got
religion - He has got religion."
They bounced the pole, drug me up and told me to shout. The Lord blessed you and we saw it from the
smile on your face. The Lord will damn
you if you are too stubborn to own up and praise Him. They made such a noise that they could not
hear me say I was smiling at the anecdote of the preacher. (This was followed by some other stories and
thoughts on the character of religion).
In swapping interest in the land I owned
in Tennessee for the land I bought
in Alabama, I got in debt and had
to go to work on the railroad as a contractor to raise the money to pay the
debt. I worked there for 3 years and
graded about one-fourth of the track from Tascumbia
to Decatur, some 40 miles north in
Alabama. If I would have kept whiskey and tobacco in
the commissary, I could have speculated greatly on my hired hands. But I could not conscientiously do so. Tobacco I believe to be injurious to the
users. Whiskey, I prohibited from being brought into the shanty where we
lived. Drinking spirituous liquors is
one of the great evils indulged in by unthoughted
mortals. In 1836 I moved to Texas. I first made arrangements to come on to look
at the country. Brother John Northrup traveled with me.
We traveled through the White River Swamp and saw a big black
bear coming toward us. He was about 200
yards away. John said, "I do not want to be any closer." But I said "lets get a good look at
him." The bear came to about 10
yards of us when one of our horses moved and the bear turned and ran away. We crossed White River, got to a man's house
on White River Prairie. We had to wait
till night to cross the Prairie, which was about 30 miles wide, because the
flies were so bad that our horses could not come through in the daytime. We went on and passed through Little Rock, a flourishing town,
the capital of Arkansas, located on the Arkansas River. The next day Brother John was sick. The next day he would be better, then the
next day sick again but he would not take any medicine. He said, "I know I will die and it
grieves me to be buried way out here in this hard-hearted country." But I said, "We are in the middle of the
King's Dominion. He has the heathen for
his inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for his possessions. Just
as well be buried here as any place on earth if it is His will."
(The story goes on into detail showing the many
wanderings and trials in Texas and between Texas and several trips back
to Illinois; the death of his wife
and his later marriage, etc., etc.)
***These are the parts of Abner’s
Autobiography that appeared in Judge Joe Meredith’s Hill’s family book, A
Family History: Hill, Meredith, Lowery, 1966.