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Autobiography: The Decision to Leave Missouri and Labor in Ohio PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   



BEING advised by the doctor and my friends to travel with my wife, I resolved to try it, and prepared for it as well as I could. On the last day of July we started, in company with a Brother Hale and wife, for the Red River Association in the southwestern part of Kentucky, resolving that if she seemed to mend by traveling, I would still go on as far as to her father’s. We came through Illinois and crossed the Ohio River above the mouth of the Cumberland, and from thence to the association in Christian County, near Knoxville, Kentucky. We had meetings frequently on the way, at which I preached, and also at the association.

After the close of the association I had an appointment at a Mr. McKinney’s, on my way. The house would not hold the people, so we repaired to a large horse-mill where I spoke to them. The meeting was solemn, but I know of nothing particular, save one event which I will relate hereafter. My wife and I still traveled on, for she was improving fast. I had many meetings on the way and enjoyed the trip, without much trouble, until near Bardstown. Here my horse took the colic and died. I was then left to go on foot. I was lame with the rheumatism and had no money to buy a horse, and was an entire stranger. I placed my portmanteau on my wife’s saddle, and took my blanket and saddle on my shoulder and walked on. We passed Bardstown and stopped at Elder James P. Edwards’, son of the old elder, the same young preacher before mentioned as living at Bethel in Missouri. He had left there and returned to his father’s. He owed a man in Missouri fifty-five dollars, so I assumed that debt and bought a mare of him. After holding several meetings there, we went on our way. Finally, we reached my wife’s father’s, in the vicinity of the old Licking Church, where we both had been baptized, and where I was first licensed to preach. My wife’s health and mind had again become good, and I felt happy.

I had many meetings at this church and at Four-mile, Twelve-mile Church, and at Newport, and in September I attended the North-Bend Association at the Dry Run Church. Here I met Elder James Lee, whom I have before mentioned in this narrative. He seemed like a father to me. I thought I could perceive a tincture of Arminianism in some of the preaching that I had never before noticed. After this association was ended I traveled with Elder Lee and wife up Licking to Falmouth, and through Paris, Cynthiana, and then to Rockbridge, holding meetings all the way. Here we had many relatives, and we held meetings almost daily from house to house and from church to church, at Rockbridge, Bald Eagle, Sharpsburg, and then over in Fleming County at Fox, Poplar Plains; then at Stone Lick, Washington, Lee’s Creek, and Germantown; then down the ridge to the Flag Spring, Brush Creek, Twelve-mile, Four-mile, and then at Licking Church.

After spending some days here, I took my wife, and we all crossed the Ohio at Columbia, and visited the churches at Clough Creek, Duck Creek, Carpenter’s Run, and then went to Brother Jacob White’s, on Mill Creek, near where Carthage now stands. Elder Lee had been persuading me to settle in Ohio, but my mind was fixed on Missouri, where God had so wonderfully displayed His power and grace. But now, he and Bro. White both set in to persuading me, and they changed my mind some. Bro. White named two churches, Pleasant Run and West Fork of Mill Creek, both of which were destitute of a preacher. They insisted that I should give them an appointment for these churches on my return, which I did. We went on to near Princetown, Fairfield, then to Middletown, on the Big Miami, then to Post Town, and up to the mouth of Twin Creek, to where Elder Lee then resided. From here we had meetings daily around, from Twin Creek to Cotton Run, and Elk Creek Church, and so filled the time very pleasantly. The congregations were large and attentive, and solemnly affected. The church seemed to be in a travailing spirit.

When my time was filled here, I left and filled an appointment in Hamilton, and then went to Pleasant Run. Here I met a large assembly of people, and had a very interesting meeting. The next day and night we met large and attentive congregations at West Mill Creek. At these churches the interest became general, and the people were urgent for me to settle with them. My mind became deeply burdened and in suspense, for I felt so strongly attached to the Baptists in Missouri that I could not get consent of my mind to leave them; and yet the thought occurred that the Lord had a work for me here in Ohio.

In this state of suspense I remained, unable to decide. The mind of the Lord was all I desired to know. The little property I had was in Missouri, and if I stayed here it must be lost; for it would cost it all to go and get it. To stay in Ohio, I would have nothing to keep house with, neither bed, dish, nor spoon, and nothing to farm with, except the two horses. We had but few clothes, for we traveled on horseback and could bring clothing only to do us until our return. Having worn them from July to October they were now unsuitable for winter. How to manage I could not tell; yet to know the will of the Lord was my great concern. I could not decide where to go, for two fields were now before me. I promised these two churches that if I did not start to Missouri, I would visit them again; but if I did go, I would write to let them know.

We then returned to Kentucky to my wife’s father’s. She was then taken sick and was unable to travel, and winter was coming on, so I was compelled to give up all ideas of returning home until spring. I therefore attended Mill Creek and Pleasant Run churches monthly through the winter. This was the winter of 1814. That winter was a season of great mental trials to me, from conflicting views of duty. I traveled and preached regularly through Kentucky and Ohio until spring, and still the same restless suspense harrassed me.

I visited Mill Creek and Pleasant Run Churches, but was still unprepared to give them an answer. I told them that I would visit them in April, and then I would decide. So I left them, but April came and found my mind as undecided as ever. As I went to visit them, the thought came to my mind to look at the events as they occurred. I had no place there to make my home, nor anything to work with if I had. So I concluded to give no answer until the very last hour, and if Providence opened the way, without me or my friends seeking for it, that I would stay there, but if not, I would return to Missouri. This conclusion eased my mind, for it was followed by many Scripture texts such as these: “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps”; “He sets the bounds of their habitation.” I was much better satisfied than I had been since the fall before, for I felt that God in His providence would in some way make my duty known if I would look for it, and passively submit the case to Him. I visited Pleasant Run, but nothing special presented. I refused to answer them, but told them that I would leave an answer with Brother Sorter, one of their members, before I left. I went on to Mill Creek; still nothing took place to satisfy my mind. I left them in the same way, promising them also that I would give an answer to Brother Sorter, as I was going to spend the last night with him, near Springfield, now called Spring-dale.

As Brother Sorter and I were riding along the road between New Burlington and Springfield, we heard the clattering of horses’ hoofs behind us, and on turning round we saw a man on full gallop pursuing us, who motioned us to stop. He came up and inquired if we knew any one that wished to rent a farm, stating that he had one for rent if he could rent it now. He had intended to cultivate it himself, but he now had a school offered him. It was so late in the season he feared that all renters were supplied; yet he could not take the school unless he could rent out his farm, as the next day he must give an answer whether he would take the school or not. I told him that I had been talking some of moving into that vicinity, but I had no plows to tend his farm with. He replied that he owned a good plow, and that I could have it, or if I wished to buy it, he would take five dollars for it. We went a short distance to see the place and found eighteen acres of good ground for corn, to be rented for one-third the crop, besides a good garden free, and a good plow cheap, if I chose to buy it, or I might borrow it. I looked at this as deciding the case, so I took the farm and decided to settle with these churches. The farm was nearly central between them. I set a day to be on with my family. A wagon was to meet me in Cincinnati and move me out. I returned to Kentucky and at the time appointed moved to my farm. The man that I rented of was an Irishman and an entire stranger to me, and had no knowledge of me or my situation. I have ever believed that this was providential.

When I moved to this place a disease called “cold plague” was raging with mortal effect. Deaths were occurring around us daily, and I attended funerals almost every day for some weeks. I attended these two churches, and they were kind and supplied me with provisions. I made harness from ropes and bark and hickory withs, and made a cornhusk collar, and borrowed an ax and hoe, and so went to work and raised a fine crop of corn and potatoes.

The churches prospered well; a gradual work of grace prevailed in both these churches. I baptized a goodly number and visited most of the bounds. I visited several of the churches in Kentucky as well as in Ohio.

After my crop was cultivated I started for Missouri. I crossed the Ohio river at Cincinnati and went up the dry ridge, and so on to Frankfort. Here I spent one or two days preaching, mostly at a church under the care of Elder William Hickman. Then I went to Elder Edwards’s, and James P. Edwards concluded to go with me to Missouri. I waited a few days for him to prepare for the journey; during the time I preached daily in the vicinity. We then went on our way. The weather being very warm my horse’s back became so swollen that I found he could not perform the journey. One evening after I held a meeting, I stated to the people that if any one had a horse that they would exchange for mine, they might make their own bargain, and that mine was a good, large, young horse. A man came forward and said he had a young gray horse that would suit me well, but he was out in the commons; if he could be found he thought we could trade. The next morning we all turned out to hunt him, and succeeded in finding him, and we traded even.

The next evening my new horse became tender-footed, having no shoes on, so I stopped at a shop. The smith said if we would stay until morning he would shoe him, which we agreed to do. We found him to be a Methodist preacher. The next morning I arose early and we went to the shop. He soon began to inquire about a gentleman in Cincinnati. Then he asked if I had ever seen a small book published by the advice of the Conference. I told him I had read it. He then inquired if that book did not effectually refute the doctrine of predestination and election? I replied that I thought it misrepresented it. The book was entitled: “The Dagon of Calvinism; or, the Moloch of Decrees.” I had not told him that I was a professor, but I suppose that my answer about the book made him think that I was not a Methodist. So he began to abuse me as a predestinarian. He said that he supposed I believed Christ to be a hypocrite, pretending to love the world when He loved only a few favored chosen ones, and that the Holy Ghost was a Jack-o’-the-lantern, enlightening in spots here and there, wherever it could find one of the eternal elect. I told him I neither believed in such things, nor that it was becoming in any one to talk thus about these things. He then began a volley of abuse and ridicule.

When he came to a pause for breath, I said: “Sir, I will not talk on any subject, especially on religion, in such a manner; but if you will define your point intelligently, I will sustain any doctrine that I believe to be scriptural.”

He said he would do so, and quoted this text: “This is the true light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world, whereby he might be saved.”

I then asked him: “Sir, do you name that as a proposition for discussion, or as a text for explanation?”

Said he: “I named it as a text you cannot get around, over, nor under.”

I said: “I do not wish to go around, over, nor under any text in the Bible, but that one is not in the Bible; and unless you can show some valid credentials for making Scripture, I shall have nothing to do with your spurious text.”

He insisted that it was Scripture, and was to be found in the first chapter of St. John. I said it was not there. He said it was, and if he had his Bible he could show it. I replied: “There are several men now in the shop, and they have heard you quote the text, if one of them will step to the house and bring his Bible and show me the text, and if it is in the language he has given, I will yield the matter.”

He answered: “If I do not show you that whole text in the very words that I have mentioned, I will shoe your horse for nothing.”

“Sir,” said I, “it is a bargain.” The Book was soon brought; he took it and read the text, word for word, as he had quoted it.

“There it is,” said he, “now, will you give it up?”

“I will, sir, if it reads so, and you have not written there; allow me to see it.”

Said he: “Do you think I cannot read?”

“No, sir, far from it; I think you can read more than is written.”

“But,” said he, “every word that I have now read is written.”

“Let me see it,” said I.

He still refused. I told him he had said that he would show it to me, and I should hold him to his word. He then let me have the Book. I read it without finding the words “enlighteneth, whereby he might be saved.” I told him this was his own make; it was not in the Book. The other men read it as I did. He broke out again in a torrent of abuse. I remained silent until he paused again. I then said if he would give me candid answers, I wished to ask him some questions. He said I might ask him as many questions as I pleased, for, like Jeremiah and John the Baptist, he was sanctified from the womb, and had lived sinless, and understood all the Scriptures, and should be justified before God by his works. I asked him if he intended to shoe my horse for nothing, as he had failed to show me the text. He said unless I paid him he would do no more at it. I told him that I intended to pay him, but there was one text which said: “All liars shall have their portion in the lake.” This text I wished him to explain, and reconcile it with his saying he would shoe my horse for nothing, and then again that he would not. How did that agree with his claims to sanctification and a sinless state? Here he gave another blast of vile ridicule. I listened until he stopped.

I then said: “You have seen that I will not talk on religious subjects either in an angry manner or in a romance. Still, if you will be cool and candid, I will ask two or three questions.” He said he would. “I will ask, then,” said I, “Did Christ come into this world commissioned of God to save all Adam’s race?”

He answered: “Yes, every one of them, and this was the work the Father gave Him to do.”

“Then, will every one of Adam’s race be saved?” He said they would not.

“Then,” said I, “if the Father gave Him a work to do, and that work was to save every one of all Adam’s race, and they are not all saved, and never will be, did Christ speak the truth or not when He said to the Father, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gayest me to do?”’ He was at this time driving the nails in the third shoe. He paused a little, as if to prepare an answer, when, suddenly, he drew his hammer and hit the horse a full blow on the leg, between the knee and the fetlock. This bruised the skin and the blood flowed freely. He then struck the horse two or three blows with the hammer on the ribs; dropping the hammer he took up a large piece of split hickory timber, designed for ax-handles, and drawing it above his head with both hands, prepared to make a violent blow on the horse’s head, as I stood holding the horse by the bridle. I told him to stop: “My horse is my friend, and I am far from home, and I do not wish him injured any more.” He said he would kill him. I replied: “If you do you shall pay for him.” Then he turned at me, and declared, in a boisterous tone, that he would break my head— the stick still drawn.

He motioned several times to strike, and such threats and abuse as he uttered are seldom, if ever, heard. I stood holding the bridle, watching his eyes, to see if he should strike, to try to dodge the blow, but remained silent, while he went on with his abuse. He said that I was a horse-thief, and had stolen that horse, and he could tell by my looks. I said nothing until he became moderate. I then asked him to finish my horse’s shoes. He declared that he would not, for he knew him to be a stolen horse, and that I was a thief, and had escaped from the penitentiary and was a worthless wretch, and I must now pay him for he would do no more to the horse. I told him that he had commenced shoeing the third foot, and had the last foot trimmed; my horse was crippled, and I wanted him to finish his job. But he would not.

I then talked mildly to him, saying that as he professed to be a sanctified and sinless man, and so calculated to be justified before God by works, I would ask him how many such works as these would it take to justify him? Should I be a thief, villain, or deserter from the penitentiary or anything else that he had accused me of, he had no evidence of it. He had treated me badly as a stranger, and I had behaved myself civilly in his house and shop, and had given him no reason to accuse me of any such crime. But if he believed I was a horse-thief, why not now arrest me and bring me to justice, and let the true owner get his horse? If not, he would be held as my accomplice. “You have threatened my life,” said I, “and abused my horse, and you send me off with my horse bleeding, and one foot shaved down until it is tender. How will it sound to have it said that a poor traveler came on the road and, without any provocation, the Rev. Thomas Taylor drew a club and threatened his life, abused his horse, and accused him of the blackest of crimes without one shadow of testimony, and all the while this Rev. Thomas Taylor claims to have been sanctified from his birth, lives sinless, and expects to be justified before God by his works. What credit would accrue from all this conduct, either to the Christian or the reverend standing of this man of courage, with those who judge the tree by its fruits or the fountain by its stream? I am now about to leave you, and never expect to see you again in this life; but, although I have been so badly abused by you, yet I wish you may receive the gift of true repentance, if it be the will of God. I wish you no harm, but after I am gone I hope you may think, reflect, and be forgiven.” I then left him still raging.

We traveled on, and soon crossed Green River. I got the other shoes put on my horse, and finally we reached Red River Association and met the messengers from the Bethel Church, Thomas Bull and Isaac Shepherd. After the association was over we all traveled on in company.

As I traveled along a man by the name of Johnson overtook me. He was hunting horses, and said he would travel some miles on my way; he believed he had seen me before. He asked me if I did not preach about a year since at McClinner’s Horsemill, about a mile from where we were then. I told him I had done so. He said he was very glad that he had now seen me, as he was at that meeting, and had often thought since of one idea that he had understood me to advance. He might have been mistaken, but he had understood me to say that “Whatever is to be will be.” I replied: “I suppose you did not misunderstand me. I surely do believe that proposition as self-evident. You must either believe that what is to be will be, or the negative, that what is to be will not be. Now which position would you take?” He seemed confused, and soon after turned his horse into a by-path and left me.

We went on and crossed the Ohio near the mouth of the Cumberland River, and thence through a part of Illinois to Earthman’s Ferry, fifteen miles above Cape Girardeau, on the Mississippi River, and thence into Missouri.

I reached my father’s, and found all well. I had almost daily meetings around Bethel Church, and I visited Caldwell’s Settlement, on St. Francis. This church had been constituted during my absence, and they had built a meetinghouse near the residence of my old host, the deist that I have heretofore mentioned. From this place I returned to Bethel, and, after spending some days, I took leave of the church and friends, after obtaining a letter of dismission from the church. Father concluded to go home with me and view the country in eastern Indiana. We started and traveled daily, until we arrived at home, which we found deserted. By inquiry I ascertained that my wife’s sister, who was to stay with her during my absence, had gone home on a short visit and was taken dangerously ill; they had sent for my wife, and she was now in Kentucky. The next day I went to her father’s and found her young sister convalescent. After two days’ meeting we returned home.

My father lived with us that winter. I gathered my corn, and then visited and preached around among the churches. My wife and I gave in our letters, and became members of the Pleasant Run Church. Then I went with Father to look at the country along White Water in Indiana. We traveled as far as the West Fork of White Water, and he finally entered one hundred and sixty acres of land, on the waters of Indian Creek, near Miller’s Mill. During this trip I had a number of meetings. This was my first preaching in Indiana. We returned home and bought a sixty-acre lot, on what was called the “Ministerial Section”, in Symmes’s Purchase between the two Miamis. The section so denominated was valued in eighty-acre lots, and leased for ninety-nine years, renewable forever, but subject to a revaluation at specified times. The principal was never to be paid, but the interest on the valuation of each lot was paid each year, and this interest was divided equally among all religious societies living within that congressional township. The lot we bought was one of this sort; it had been divided and but sixty acres were left in our lot. The interest to be paid annually was ten dollars and eighty cents. We gave one hundred and fifty dollars for the improvements, which included twenty acres cleared, a good cabin, log barn, and corn-crib. We divided the lot, and Father built a cabin on his part, cleared some more ground, and prepared to receive his family in the spring. My brothers were to move with Mother in the spring. I left my rented farm and moved on this lease. Here I lived about three years, during which time I cleared and fenced most of the lot. Father, about one year and a half after his family came, moved to his Indiana land, and I bought his part of the lot. I planted an orchard, and repaired and enlarged the house, cleared, and put up some out-buildings. During all this time I traveled and preached in Ohio and Kentucky, and the eastern part of Indiana.

I made one long journey of over three months, traveling in Kentucky, from Covington through Frankfort, Bardstown, and Dripping Spring; in Tennessee, to Nashville; and thence to Huntsville, in the Mississippi Territory, now the State of Alabama. We went on to Ditto Landing, on the Tennessee River, thence through the Cherokee towns, and, having crossed the mountains, reached the Black Warrior River. We followed that stream some distance, and then crossed a range of mountains to the Kehaba Valley, and thence down that valley to the falls of the Kehaba River. Here the settlements were very small and far between, and inhabited by very poor pioneers. This was the next year after the Creek Indians had been driven from the country. They had planted corn crops, and the whites had moved in and tended them. This was all that was raised that season, so the settlers had to depend principally on fish and wild game for sustenance, and on the forest and grass for their stock. My father traveled with me this trip. One of my sisters had married a man named Joshua Hale who was now settled at the falls of Kehaba. Elder Canterbury had moved there with him. When we got there we found him sick; he concluded to leave and move to Ohio. We waited ten days for him, during which time we lived in an Indian camp, and I preached to the few settlers there.

While on this journey I suffered more for food than at any other time in my life. We were forced to subsist three days and nights upon a piece of musty bread about the size of my two fingers, and a piece of jerked beef about the same size. Sometimes we had to do without fire of nights. While we were at Kehaba Falls we spent each night in an Indian corn-crib. These cribs are constructed differently from any others that I have ever seen. Three rows of posts, about two feet high, are fixed in the ground; on the top of these three small poles are fastened; on these large cane-stalks are laid thick, from end to end, on this a basket-work of split cane, and on this is built the crib, made of pine slabs, and covered with cypress bark. Many curiosities I saw here: There were large kettles made of a compound of shells and sand, and probably some other ingredients. They were as thick as common crockeryware, and much more durable. They were used for boiling sugar. Many of these kettles were left by the Indians, but they were all broken so as to be spoiled.

After spending ten days here we set out on our return, and my brother-in-law and family with us. We traveled in the trace made by General Jackson’s army up the valley, and then over the Cumberland Mountains to Fort Deposit, and near it we crossed the Tennessee River and came through Nashville, and stopped a few miles south of that town, and I preached several times. Then we went on to near the line between Tennessee and Kentucky to Wm. Hales’s. Hales was a brother to my brother-in-law. Joshua and family remained there, and Father and I went on again into Missouri, visited the old Bethel Church, and the church on St. Francis, and preached nearly every day for about two weeks. Then we started again, and returned to Wm. Hales’s, in Tennessee; and then with Joshua and family we started home. We had rough weather, for winter was now upon us. We reached home and found all well. I then resumed my regular course of preaching for the churches.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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