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Elder R.L. Piles

According to my mother’s record I was born March 28, 1855, in Benton County, Tennessee, two miles north of Camden. My mother’s people were Scotch. My grandmother was a sister of Alexander Campbell. Their home was Bowling Green, Kentucky. My grandfather was from England. Two brothers, John and William, got shipwrecked and were lost from each other. My grandfather landed at Charleston, South Carolina. My father’s name was John Piles. My mother’s name was Susan Dowell. To this union were born nine children, six boys and three girls. Only three of us are living.

My father served in the southern army with General Forrest. He stayed in Tennessee until 1869. We left there November 9, 1869, and came to Arkansas; crossed the Arkansas River at Ozark on New Year’s morning, 1870. We lived one year in Logan County, where Paris now is. In 1871 my father moved to Scott County. I am living in sight of the place to which my father moved 62 years ago. Father died in 1873, leaving me with Mother, two sisters and two brothers. This was the beginning of the hardest struggle of my life. I was in a wild rough country; was young and loved the ways of the world. I worked for Mother and cleared up a pretty good home. As I grew older I began to think of rambling, but I met with a young lady and thought she was the finest woman I ever saw. So my mind changed and we were married on October 7, 1875. On the 14th day of October I went to a land office and entered 160 acres of land. I started to make a fortune, the happiest boy in the world, without a wave of trouble across my peaceful breast.

Now I will try to tell what I hope and trust the Lord has done for me. One cold morning in 1879, I took my maul and wedge and went across the field as happy as any man could be. I had some timber cut. I rived the top cut and began to maul on that, but while at work a feeling came over me that I cannot express. The sound of that maul seemed as darkness. Death overshadowed my life. I was the most unworthy being of all God’s creation. I had been so unmindful of God and His goodness and He had been good to me; had blessed me with good health all my life. The ingratitude of my life had rendered me unworthy of the least of His favors. How God could remain just and the justifier of so vile a sinner as I was I could not see. I would have exchanged conditions with the beasts of the fields. But when I had given up all hope of a better life my burden was gone. I was made to rejoice in hope of a better world. My soul was set on fire. I know of no other way to express it. I was made to feel that Jesus had died for my sins and I stood justified for what He had done for me. I wanted to be baptized. I would study about it in the day and dream of being baptized at night.

On the Saturday before the 3rd Sunday in March I went to the church and tried to tell them my trouble and was received into the fellowship of the church for baptism; was baptized on the third Sunday in April. I thought my troubles were over but was mistaken. I went to our next conference meeting on Saturday before the third Sunday, and after preaching, the church went into conference. After going through with the usual form of business the old deacon called the attention of the church; said he thought the church had a young gift and he would make a motion to liberate him to exercise his gift anywhere God in His providence cast his lot. He called my name. I was all undone. I called that good old deacon a bushwhacker, and told him if he would go to the front and fight like a soldier and let a boy alone, it would be more becoming. He turned to me and said, "I don’t want you to do as I have." I told the church they could never make me try to preach. I went home thinking I would never go back again. But when I awoke next morning I felt better. I saw I was to blame for all this. I had done something that had caused them to make this mistake. I would fix it all up. I would tell them I was no preacher. That day I was asked if I wanted to say anything. I told them I did. When I went into the stand I never thought of what I intended to say. It was the happiest day of my life. If the windows of heaven had opened to me I could not have enjoyed it better. I thought my troubles were all over but I was mistaken. I went to preaching to everybody. I hit the ground running and have never quit. I have never set an appointment where I was not invited. I was called to serve churches before I was ordained. The churches called for my ordination and they called presbytery on the third Sunday in July, 1881. I was ordained to the work of the ministry by Elders J. B. Donathan and John T. Blanchard and Deacon Sam Russell, the man whom I called a bushwhacker.

I am the only one in the country that was reared here. I have served from one to four churches, I had to go on horseback. I have no idea how many miles I have traveled. I do not know how many couples I have married. I remember that the first couple I married was Elder O. Strickland’s father and mother. I am now marrying them in the third generation. I have lived with one church, Fellowship, 53 years. I have never had a charge against any member. I have been pastor of the church 50 years. I felt like I owed a just and honest debt. I have preached 53 years and have not paid the interest, I expect to die in debt. The Old Baptists do not owe me anything. If they are satisfied with my efforts in the way of preaching, the books will be squared when I am done with this world. I want to live in their confidence. I could tell all the trouble I have had with them in a few minutes, but I could not tell the pleasures I have had with them in another lifetime. If all the rest of my days are dark, there is not anything that can rob me of the pleasure that I have had with them for 53 years.

I was married in my 20th year to Miss Martha Richardson. She was reared at Dechard, Tennessee. We had five children born to us, two girls and three boys. Four are living, two girls and two boys. The oldest, Mrs. Corda Wilson, is with us. Our other daughter is Mrs. Minnie McMillon, of Lawn, Texas. W. B. Piles is living in Waldron, Arkansas; has been President of the bank there for 26 years. Lee Piles is in Fort Smith, working for the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. My wife and I have lived together for 57 years and I have never heard her murmur nor complain. Now to all the Baptists whom it has been my pleasure to meet; May God’s richest blessings be upon you all. When it goes well for you, remember me.

R. L. Piles

Hon, Arkansas


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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.