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The Life of Wilson Thompson PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   

In these pages is presented a brief outline of the life of that eminent saint and gospel laborer, Elder WILSON THOMPSON, whose praise is in many churches.

Preface to First Edition

The work is the product of the elder’s own pen, and the following is a statement of its Contents as given in his own peculiar style: “A biographical sketch of the life and travels of Wilson Thompson, containing his views of many texts of Scripture, points of doctrine thought to be mysterious, and some matters of controversy, together with a very concise history of the old order of regular Baptist churches in the West, especially those of which he has been a member, or of which he had the privilege, from time to time, to serve as their pastor or called minister.”

The reader will not look upon this volume as “a literary production of great merit”, for the writer never had the advantage of a scholastic education. It is simply an unpretending narrative of ministerial labors by one whose only learning was to know his Bible through.

Born of humble parents, at a time when schools were few, especially in country districts, it was not to be expected that the son of a poor backwoodsman could acquire the learning of the schools, whether literary or theological.

He was, however, early introduced into the school of Christ, where both head and heart were taught and trained in the best of all knowledge, and himself fitted, in an extraordinary degree, for future usefulness.

In this school he continued to his dying day, an humble yet earnest scholar. He shrank not from a personal application of the rule of discipleship as laid down by our divine Master: “Whosoever will come after me let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” He was ever more anxious to know his Lord’s will, however painful, that he might do it, than to listen to the suggestions of the natural feelings when they would incline him to seek ease and comfort.

Without pledging the reader to a belief in all the theological views of our deceased parent, we will be excused this humble eulogium on one whose memory is sacred to our hearts. “Few in any age of the church, since the days of the apostles, have labored more unselfishly to promote the cause of true and undefiled religion than has our father—Elder Wilson Thompson.”

Commending this little volume to the candid and indulgent consideration of the friends of the deceased, among whom it will chiefly be circulated, we feel no hesitation in saying, that to them as well as to us— “He being dead yet speaketh.”-- HIS CHILDREN, 1867 


When the memoirs of a man are preserved in book form, the reader is very apt to inquire, “Of what stock or blood was he? To gratify this solicitude, I answer: I have learned that my great-grandmother was an English lady, and that she married a Welshman, whose name was Jones.

Whether this marriage took place before they came to America or after, I have not learned; but all their children were born in America. I have no knowledge of any more than five of them; and, most likely, there were no more. At all events, of those who lived to maturity, two were sons, and three were daughters.

James, the eldest son, lived to old age. Although poor, he was, nevertheless, comfortable and respectable, and was a beloved member of the regular Baptist church for many years before his death.

Thomas, the other son, became somewhat wealthy; he raised a large family, and died in a good old age. He also was an esteemed member of the Baptist church.

Nancy, one of the daughters, was remarkable for being a good singer and poetess and for her knowledge in the Scriptures and divine things. As a sister in the church she was highly esteemed. She married a man by the name of Whitaker, raised a respectable family, and died in old age.

The other two daughters, Mary and Jane, were my grand-mothers, my father and mother being cousins. Mary, the elder of these two, married a man by the name of McDonnell, by whom she had one son. Her husband died, and she then married a raw Irish Presbyterian by the name of James Wilson, by whom she raised a family of girls. These all married. Elizabeth, the oldest, married Joseph Holman; Nancy married Charles Reynolds; Mary married William Wilson; and Rebecca, the youngest, married Gloss Thompson, my father.

Jane Jones, my other grandmother, (my father’s mother) first married a man by the name of Lee, by whom she had a son and a daughter. The son became the celebrated Baptist minister whose praise was in many of the churches, and who was known as Elder James Lee. The daughter married Bethuel Riggs, who also became a Baptist minister of note. After the birth of these two children Elder Lee died, and Jane, the widow, married Gloss Thompson, a cross-blood of Scotch and German, and my father was the first child of this marriage.

So, friendly reader, you see the blood of England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany mingles in my veins, yet I myself, and parents, and grandparents, except my mother’s father, were natives of America. All of them stood firm in the American cause during the Revolutionary struggle.

After the independence of the United States was achieved, my father and his next brother, Lawrence, left their native state, North Carolina, and spent one year (perhaps A. D. 1786) as pioneers in the dense forests of Kentucky, among the wild beasts and savage Indians. I have often sat spellbound while hearing my father relate the many dangers and hairbreadth escapes of his border life, and those of the Revolution.

After spending about one year in Kentucky, he returned to North Carolina and married Rebecca Wilson, and, shortly after, again moved to Kentucky. So, in the fall of 1787, he, and all his father’s family, and all my mother’s father’s family, also, came to dwell in the forests of what the Indians called “the bloody land”, where my parents passed through many of those thrilling alarms and trying privations incident to border warfare and to the settling of Kentucky in particular.

I was the first born of my parents, and my birth took place on the 17th day of August, A. D. 1788, in Woodford County, at Hillsborough, Clear Creek. But my first recollection of anything was of Madison County, not far from Richmond, on the waters of Silver Creek. The whole family of my race, down to my own parents, generally lived to an old age. They died at ages varying from seventy to eighty years, except my father’s mother, who lived to one hundred and four years.

This sketch may suffice as to my blood, parentage, and My ancestors were all of the old stock of regular Baptists, with but few exceptions.

One of my mother’s sisters was a Methodist, but her father, who came to America from “Emerald Isle” a Presbyterian, became a Baptist many ears before his death. My father was raised and christened (as sprinkling was called) in the Church of England, became Baptist before my recollection, and filled the office of a deacon from my first memory until his death, which occurred in fifty-fourth year of his age. My mother was about four ears younger, and died about four years after him.

Now I shall proceed more particularly to narrate my own history. As stated above, I was born on the 17th day of August, A. D. 1788, the first child of my parents. It was thought that both mother and child must immediately die. The friends were called in, and Elder James Lee, my father’s half-brother, being then a young preacher, was requested to engage in prayer. During his prayer, by some special impulse access at the throne of grace, he received such full assurance that, rising from his knees, he boldly said to all present that the child would be a man for God, to preach the gospel of His grace. He then gave special charge to my father respecting my education. This conviction of his never subsided, but continued undiminished, and he often spoke of it to various persons, and at different places, always with the same assurance.

All this, however, was kept from me until after I began to preach.

I was not sent to college, for I suppose my father did not feel able to send me from home and pay my board and tuition fees. As a further drawback to my education, I must add, that the country being new and thinly settled, the little schooling I received was obtained by walking morning and evening, over a very hilly pathway, a distance of about four miles. By the time I was able to walk this far to school, I was also able to work at home. Father having lost two tracts of land by the bad titles of Kentucky, and, about this time having bought new lands in the green woods, my labor was much needed in the opening of a farm. And so the little schooling I could get was only a few days at a time. Yet, in this scattering way, I picked up a little knowledge of spelling, reading, arithmetic, and English grammar. Nothing was perfected. I acquired only a mere smattering of either. In those days teachers had but little qualifications and were distinguished for bad habits in reading, and worse, if possible, in pronunciation. When I commenced preaching I could not read a chapter nor a hymn intelligently. The little learning I have, I got by myself without a teacher, except books; and, being poor, and having a family to support by the labor of my own hands, my opportunity for study and improvement was exceedingly limited, and, of course, my progress tardy.

I know but little of my childhood worth recording. Neither of my parents had made any profession of vital Christianity at the period of my birth. I grew up like other “backwoods” boys. In my infancy my father and mother both professed vital religion and became members of a regular Baptist church. My father, moreover, was a deacon of the church. Among the earliest events of my recollection was seeing him pass around the bread and wine at the Lord’s Supper. I have heard him and Mother relate one event that was truly strange to them. It was this: My father became deeply impressed on some point of Scriptural doctrine, which called up imperfectly to his memory some text in point, but the precise words and the connection of the text, he could not remember. He turned to his Bible, but after a long and fruitless search for the passage he gave it up, concluding that there was no such text. Having closed the book, he sat with it in his hands. When I came to his knees, I took the book and opened it, turning the leaves as it lay on his lap, and when I had placed my finger on a certain spot, he looked at the place and there the long-sought text. This was when I was a little infant and had no knowledge of the use of books or letters. These, with some other similar events, I have heard my parents and relate, but all occurred before my memory, and I nothing of them until after I began to preach.

Last Updated ( Friday, 27 July 2007 )
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