THE CHURCHES OF WARRENTON-CONTINUED
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The first church building of this denomination was situated on Front Street, that is, on the street running from Ridgeway Street, between the home of Mrs. Kate Arrington and the Methodist parsonage, straight south to the blacksmith shop on Franklin Street, formerly used by Lafayette Harris. This church building fronted and looked down the cross street which runs eastward, and is now called Fifth Avenue. It stood very near the spot where now stands the home of Mrs. John Henderson. It was a plain wooden structure some seventy feet long and about the same broad, nearly square. As I have written in connection with the Warrenton Female College this church building was taken down, removed and rebuilt on the property bought from Mrs. Kemp Plummer, for the College grounds.
The church was organized in 1827 and the church building was erected by the Rev. William Swann Plummer, D.D., its first minister. Dr. Plummer, although only twenty-five years old, was a most distinguished figure in the Presbyterian denomination when he commenced his pastorate at Warrenton, and he afterwards became a minister and author of national reputation. He was born at Griersburg, (now  Darlington) Pennsylvania, July 26, 1802. He was graduated at Washington College, Virginia, in 1822, and at the Princeton Theological Seminary in 1825; licensed by the Presbytery of New Brunswick, June, 2826, and ordained an evangelist by the Orange Presbytery, May, 1827. In the years 1826-29 he was an evangelist in southern Virginia, and in North Carolina, during which time he organized a Presbyterian Church at Danville, Virginia, and the one at Warrenton.
Subsequently Dr. Plummer preached at Raleigh, Washington and New Bern, North Carolina. He was pastor of Tabb Street Church, Petersburg, Virginia, from 1831 to 1834, and of the First Presbyterian Church in Richmond from 1834 to 1846. He founded in Richmond The Watchman o f the South of which he was editor and sole proprietor for eight years. His next pastorate was in Baltimore where he ministered to the Fourth Street Church from 1847 to 1854. From 1854 to 1862 he was Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in Western Theological Seminary, at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and pastor of Central Church in that place. In 1865 and '66 he was pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In January 1867 he went to South Carolina to become Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in the Theological Seminary of Columbia, and he occupied that chair until 1875, when, at his own request he was transferred to the chair of Historic Casuistic Theology, which he held until 1880, a few months before his death.
The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on Dr. Plummer by Princeton University and by Lafayette and Washington Colleges in 1838, and that of Doctor of Laws by the University of Mississippi in 1857. He was moderator of the Old School Presbyterian General Assembly in 1838, and of the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly in 1871.
Dr. Plummer was an impressive and at times an impassioned preacher, and exercised a strong personal influence over his hearers, his deep and sonorous voice contributing to the effect. He was scholarly, and a great student and lover of literature, and a voluminous author. He published a number of books on theological, ethical, and pastoral themes. Dr. Plummer died in Baltimore on the 22d of October, 1880. (The National Cyclopedia of American Biography.)
The outward appearance of a man so impressive is of interest. Dr. Plummer’s portrait, as given in the article quoted, shows an extraordinarily handsome and intellectual man, with a shock of hair, very high brow, very regular features, brilliant eye, straight and long nose, firm and clear cut mouth and chin, with the traditional clerical side whiskers of that day. His dress shows the high white choker collar and band tie made so familiar by the famous picture of J John Wesley.
I think that between the time Dr. Plummer gave up his charge of the Warrenton Church in 1831 and the year 1855, the church had no regular minister. In that interval services were held by visiting ministers, but I do not know in what building the services were held.
In 1855 the present brick church, opposite Mr. Tasker Polk's residence, was built through a bequest of $4,000 by Mrs. Martha Goodrum. Her husband, Colonel John Goodrum, (both Colonel and Mrs. Goodrum were from Greenesville County, Virginia) had died three years earlier and was interred in the church lot of the Baptist Church. In her will Mrs. Goodrum wished her executors, John White and Dr. Nelson Graves, to make an effort to buy the Baptist Church and the lot on which her husband was buried, but if their efforts failed to build a brick church with the bequest she was leaving for that purpose, and to bury her by the side of her husband underneath the building, placing the slabs of marble bearing their inscriptions on either side of the pulpit. This was afterwards arranged. I was told by J. C. Mc Craw, an old time resident whose memory went back to the middle of the century, that when the tablets were placed in the wall, as we now see them, a mistake was made and Colonel Goodrum's was put over his wife and hers over the Colonel.
As soon as the building was completed Dr. Nelson Graves gave regular services and at the same time continued to teach at The Collegiate Institute.
It was early in the War Between the States that Dr. Drury Lacy, with his family, came to Warrenton and boarded at Mrs. Wilcox's school. For several years he gave the Presbyterian Church regular services. He was one of the most distinguished ministers of that denomination in the State, a fine preacher and a man of great learning. He was of noble appearance, very handsome, and was most highly esteemed by the people of Warrenton.
After Dr. Lacy left, the church was occasionally served by John Primrose, afterwards Dr. Primrose, who was then in charge of the church at Oxford, North Carolina. From that period until 1888 there was no regular pastor and few, if any, services were held for the members, always a small band.
In 1888 Dr. Sprunt of Henderson came to Warrenton and organized the church, and John Graham and William Crinkley were elected elders, and the Rev. Charles Price, from Richmond, was called to the pastorate. Mr. Price was a young man, very handsome and attractive. He was in Warrenton when Captain Dugger died suddenly, in the middle of the school term, and taught some of his advanced pupils Greek and Latin. At the end of a year Mr. Price left Warrenton for Hampton, Virginia, where he died in a few months. While in Warrenton Mr. Price married Miss Bocock, from West Virginia, a very charming woman, who after his early death married the Reverend Dr. James Cary Johnston, a distinguished divine of the Southern Presbyterian Church.
Mr. Price was succeeded by Dr. Joseph Mayo A Atkinson, who resided in Raleigh and came over once a month for services, until the spring of 1890, when be, with his family, came to the manse in Warrenton to live. During the time he made his monthly visits to the church he was often a guest in our home and we all learned to know him well and appreciate him highly. Before coming to Warrenton he had been in charge of the First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh for twenty years. As he advanced in years that church felt that it needed a younger man and Dr. Atkinson was called to the Second Church in that city, composed of a small membership of his close friends, who were reluctant to sever their connection with him. While in charge of the Second Church he gave one Sunday to Geneva Church, in Vance County, and one to the church in Warrenton.
Dr. Atkinson was of a distinguished family of preachers, one brother was the Right Rev. Thomas Atkinson, Bishop of North Carolina; another was Dr. John Mayo Pleasants Atkinson, President of Hampden-Sidney College. It was thought by many that in theological learning purely, Joseph Mayo Atkinson was superior to his brothers. He was not an orator, as was his brother, the bishop, but his sermons were always written in the most ornate style and forcibly-delivered. As a pastor he was as much beloved as any minister of any denomination ever was. His manners were most courtly, he was affable in his relations with people, and his disposition was most kindly and sympathetic. He died suddenly in Warrenton on March 6, 1892. The death of Dr. Joseph Atkinson reminds one of the translations of God's servants that we are familiar with in His Holy Word. He was here and God took him. His daughter, Mrs. Scott, was living in Warrenton some little distance from his home. A snow was falling and he concluded to go and see if she was provided with fuel, knowing that her husband was out of town. When he reached her home he took one of her little boys to the woodshed to assist him in bringing in the cut wood, and just as they reached the steps leading up into the porch he said:. "I can go no farther," and sank on the ground.
Not very long before he died he told Mrs. Atkinson that as the Warrenton people had been so kind and so considerate of him in life he would like to lie among them in death, and he was therefore buried in the old town cemetery.
Following Dr. Atkinson the Rev. Charles Wharton came from the seminary to take charge of the Warrenton Church and was the pastor for twenty years. He was succeeded by the Rev. Carr Moore, who died in Warrenton much liked and respected.
The Rev. J. M. Millard is now pastor. The membership has always been small, quite half of it being from the county.
I have learned that Judge John Hall, of the Supreme Court, was a member of this denomination, but several years before his death he became a communicant of the Episcopal Church, which was the church of his wife and children. Judge Hall was also a student of William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia.
THE BAPTIST CHURCH
The church in Warrenton was not the first Baptist Church that was organized in the county. Reedy Creek Church, eight miles southeast of Warrenton (then in Bute County), was constituted in 1745; Tanner's Creek Church, three miles northwest of Warrenton, probably ten years later; Gardner's and Brown's still later, but before 1800.
For years the Baptist people of the town worshiped at Tanner's. In the early forties the town of Warrenton began to improve in business and in numbers ; new citizens moved in, and a colony of skilled mechanics and their families from Prince Edward County, Virginia, and adjoining counties, all Baptists, came there to reside. Soon building interests increased. No community ever received a more valuable acquisition than did Warrenton in the settlement of that colony as her citizens. It embraced the callings of architecture, carpentry, brick-laying, lathing and plastering. They were all experienced and capable managers or workers. The individuals, without exception, were religious, sober, honest, truthful, orderly, and industrious. They were all intelligent, well informed, and possessed of sufficient education to meet the demands of their several callings.
The two Holts, Thomas and Jacob, architects, had more than a local reputation; and Edward T. Rice was held in much repute throughout his entire section as a contractor in brick building. Under the superintendence of those three contractors most of the handsome residences in the county, as well as those in the town, before the War Between the States, were built.
The Baptist people of Warrenton concluded to organize a church and to build a house of worship in the town. The church was organized on Saturday night, April 14, 1849, and the church building which had been erected, was dedicated the next day. The church building was a plain, frame structure, forty feet long, thirty-two feet wide, with a gallery across the front end, facing the pulpit.
The Rev. Willoughby Hudgins, who had charge of the country churches in Warren County, and who preached the sermon at the funeral of Nat Macon, declined to officiate at the dedicatory services, as he did not believe in such discourses; whereupon they called on the Rev. J. B. Solomon, just from college, to deliver the sermon of dedication. Mr. Hudgins preached that night.
The Rev. William Hill Jordan was the first regular pastor and served the church until the fall of 1852 when he resigned his charge and went to Oxford to live. He was distinguished for piety and great theological learning and fine literary accomplishments.
Soon after the church was dedicated a Sunday school was organized and Julius Wilcox, a Presbyterian, was the superintendent for years. The Union Question Book was used in the Sunday school.
The Rev. J. B. Solomon succeeded Doctor Jordan in November, 1852. Without being handsome, Mr. Solomon had a strikingly intellectual face. He was well educated, was possessed of much general and technical learning, was a strong reasoner, a logician of power, knew Hebrew and Latin and was especially proficient in Greek. At the beginning of Mr. Solomon's ministry the church consisted of about thirty members. In 1854 Mr. Solomon, with his family, moved from his home in the country to Warrenton to reside, and in that year the church building was added to (in the rear) twenty feet. In the following year Mr. Solomon baptized sixty-four persons and received them into his church. During his ministry, in the year 1853, a great revival was held in his church by the Rev. J. S. Reynoldson, an Englishman. Mr. Reynoldson was an orator of high order and gifted as an evangelist. During the revival the business houses and the schools of the town were closed at eleven o'clock in the morning so that the people might attend the meetings. The result was that the membership of the church was doubled. Mr. Reynoldson afterwards, to secure a legacy, sailed for England on the ill-fated steamship City of Glasgow. The ship was lost at sea (where, it was never known), and everybody on board perished. Mr. Solomon resigned the pastorate of the Warrenton Church in 1860 and went to the Leigh Street Church in Richmond. He served that church for several years. During the War Between the States he was most active in his attentions and services to the sick and wounded Confederate soldiers. His home during that time was seldom without a sick or wounded soldier. Mr. Solomon died at an advanced age in Louisville, Kentucky, in charge of a church in that city.
Mr. Solomon was succeeded by Rev. G. M. L. Finch, whose feeble health caused his resignation after only a year's pastorate.
Mr. Finch was succeeded by Rev. Henry Petty of Portsmouth, Virginia. He was highly nervous, a confirmed dyspeptic, and sometimes irritable; but he was a good preacher and his ministry was successful.
Mr. Petty was succeeded, in 1866, by Rev. T. B. Kingsbury, a former Methodist minister, who remained in charge of the church until 1870. Mr. Kingsbury was a graduate of the University of North Carolina. He was possessed of considerable literary culture, was a most pleasing speaker, but nervous and impetuous. He was a delightful person in social life and of a generous and kindly disposition. While he was at Warrenton he published a book entitled "What is Baptism," which his readers generally, as well as himself, thought an able compilation from the learning of others on the subject. Years afterwards, when he had left the Baptist communion and returned to his original church membership, in answer to a question put to him in a letter from my husband as to what disposition he should make of several hundred copies of "What is Baptism" left in his care by Dr. Kingsbury when he left Warrenton, Dr. Kingsbury wrote: "Burn 'em, burn 'em."
After the pastorate of Dr. Kingsbury the Rev. Mr. Petty returned and served the church a short while.
In the fall of 1871 the Rev. C. T. Bailey, a graduate of Richmond College, Virginia, became the pastor of the church. He came from Edenton, North Carolina, to Warrenton. He was a native of Williamsburg, Virginia, his family having been amongst the early settlers, and he was proud of his family and his State.
Mr. Bailey was a man of high order of talents accompanied by sparkling wit, and while his congregation thoroughly understood him, there was little congeniality between him and the more sedate and serious members. It was during Mr. Bailey's pastorate in Warrenton that a recess and two small rooms were added to the church, in the rear of the pulpit, under which was built the baptistery.
Mr. Bailey seemed to be content with his pastorate in Warrenton and was faithful in the discharge of his duties, when, in 1876, the Baptists o£ the State called him to take charge of their paper, The Biblical Recorder, published at Raleigh, and he assumed the position of Editor-in-chief. In this position he accomplished a great deal in the way of intellectual and educational advancement for his people. Dr. Bailey showed an ability amounting almost to genius in the conduct of the Recorder, the style in which his editorials were couched, and the knowledge he displayed of the character of his readers. The Recorder, under his hand, reflected almost to perfection the characteristics, aims, and aspirations of the Baptists of the State.
His wife, formerly Miss Annie Bailey of Greensville County, Virginia, was gentle, pious, strong in character, of excellent judgment, and beloved by all communities where she lived; she was a stabilizer for her husband's career.
After Mr. Bailey became Editor of the Recorder be spent the week in Raleigh, returning to give the church in Warrenton a Sunday service; his family remained in the town until November, 1876, when they joined him in Raleigh. When Mr. and Mrs. Bailey came to reside in Warrenton, they had only two children, Sallie, now Mrs. Wesley Jones, and Tom, the father's namesake; J. W. Bailey and Lamar were born in the town. Josiah William Bailey is perhaps the most brilliant man of his generation in the State, and the old town is proud to be his birthplace.
After Mr. Bailey left, the church was without a pastor until the spring of 1877, when Rev. Dr. James A. Mundy, from Buckingham County, Virginia, accepted a call extended to him in January, and came to reside in the town. His family consisted of his wife and their adopted son, her nephew, quite a young boy.
Mr. Mundy became very popular, and was heartily liked by the entire community. He was a man of culture and marked ability. His sermons, always in manuscript, were scholarly, well arranged, and often eloquent and philosophic. So forcibly and clearly were they delivered that they were easily understood and appreciated by all his hearers. I think the following quotation from a letter to me from one of his ardent admirers will serve to give a true estimate of this admirable man and preacher.
The Rev. Mr. Mundy wore a title that fitted him exactly. He was a man of pleasing address and graceful figure, and had an attractive way of presenting, in a controversial spirit, his sermons and addresses. He was born under the shadow of Hampden-Sidney College and the Presbyterian Seminary, and that may have affected his approach to religious matters in his profession.
During Mr. Mundy's pastorate the church building was greatly improved. A vestibule was added, also a steeple, and the windows were changed to Gothic. Most of the work was done and supervised by Mr. Mundy himself. The parsonage on Ridgeway Street was purchased, and made very homelike and comfortable during Dr. Mundy's stay in Warrenton. After six years of successful labor there Dr. Mundy accepted a call to the Baptist Church in Reidsville, North Carolina. In a few years he went to take charge of the Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. His last pastorate was in Lynchburg, Virginia, near his old home, where he died.
After Mr. Mundy left Warrenton the Rev. C. A. G. Thomas, from Portsmouth, became pastor of the Baptist Church. Mr. Thomas was well equipped from Richmond College, a close student, very zealous and an excellent preacher. His sermons were examples of gospel simplicity, and fine literary culture punctuated with apt quotations and practical illustrations. His war upon modern customs and habits, especially that of the new dances, was unrelenting, and with those who engaged in the pastime and their sympathizers he became unpopular. He knew no compromise with what he regarded as sinful. His voice was soft and tender and sympathetic. He remained with the church only eleven months.
Mr. Thomas was succeeded by the present incumbent, Rev. Thomas Jerome Taylor, who came to take charge of the Baptist Church and to reside in Warrenton in March, 1885. Mr. Taylor was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and educated at Furman University. He was called to Warrenton from the church in Darlington, South Carolina, the only other charge of his whole ministry. During the thirty-nine years that Mr. Taylor has resided in Warrenton he has endeared himself to the members of his church, and to the community at large, as few men have done. His daily life has been simple, unselfish, faithful; his highest purpose has been to serve his fellow man, for his heart goes out in tender sympathy to all of God's children.
Mr. Taylor is a devoted Baptist without a narrow sectarianism. He is a practical, helpful, persuasive preacher, which is evidenced by the steady growth of his church year by year. In a letter from the oldest member of his Warrenton Church, she says:. "After these years of Mr. Taylor's faithful service to us, we are very grateful for his helpful sermons and his beautiful life."
During Mr. Taylor's pastorate the commodious brick church has been built. It stands on the corner of Main and Ridgeway streets, the lot having been donated to the church by Mrs. V. L. Pendleton. Her sister, Mrs. N. L. Shaw, now deceased, gave some town lots which were sold for $600 for the building fund. The congregation and their friends gave so liberally to build the church, and so promptly, that Mr. Taylor delights to tell that "We did not have a single fair, bazaar, or oyster-supper to raise the necessary funds. Whenever the building fund seemed to run low there would come contributions that would enable us to proceed with the work." A handsome pipe organ has been installed. The church was completed in 1901 and the dedication sermon was delivered by Rev. R. T. Vann on the first Sunday in October of that year.
Mr. Taylor has not confined his ministrations to the town Baptist Church but has served the church at Warren Plains, the church at Macon and the old church, at Brown's. On the thirty-fifth anniversary of his pastorate in these four churches a very appropriate celebration was held at Brown's, a notice of which appeared in the Warrenton Record, from which I make the following extracts
On Sunday, March 11, the several churches constituting the pastorate of Dr. T. J. Taylor of Warrenton met with the Brown's Baptist Church to celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of this pastorate thirty-five years ago. The original field was composed of the churches at Warrenton, Brown's and Warren Plains. Later a Baptist Church was organized at Macon and became a part of the same field.
The day was clear and beautiful, and the folks came from Halifax, Franklin, Vance and Warren counties to honor themselves in doing honor to this noble man of God. Superintendent Sam Bobbitt read and commented on the Sunday School lesson of the day, and Dr. R. T. Vann of Raleigh preached a great sermon in the morning. A bountiful dinner was served on the grounds after the old-time manner. In the afternoon each of the several churches bad its say with reference to its pastor and his work amongst them. The pastor himself gave reminiscences of his coming to this section and of his work among this people through the years. It was beautiful to see the tender response in the countenances of all who heard him.
Appropriate and helpful talks were made also by Brethren Harwell Scarborough, W. R. Cullom and W. B. Morton. A beautiful and tender communication was read from Judge Walter A. Montgomery of Raleigh, who was a member of the Warrenton Baptist Church at the beginning of this pastorate and who has been a close and intimate friend of Dr. Taylor through these years. In this communication Judge Montgomery says, among other things:
"Thirty-five years constitute a long pastorate indeed. But they have been years of devoted service on your part and of hearty and grateful appreciation on the part of the churches. May the same cordial relations continue for many years yet to come. I count it a great joy, as well as a great benefit and blessing, that for years I was under your ministerial charge and enjoyed your pastoral and social companionship; and I take my part and share in the benefits you have conferred on your fellow beings with thanksgiving. You have endeared yourself in the hearts of all who have gathered around my hearth-stone, and my good wife and each of my children share freely with me in my affectionate regards for you and yours."
It was easy to see that a hearty and spontaneous amen to Judge Montgomery's sentiments came from every heart present. Nor were these feelings confined to those present, for, as Dr. Morton observed, Dr. Taylor has in a very real sense been pastor of all Warren County.
Today he has passed his three score and ten, but his face is ever toward the sunrise. He finds great joy in his friendships with the young people of the congregation, and they in turn find fully as much joy in their fellowship with their pastor. He reads the new books and is as intensely interested in present-day conditions and movements as any of his younger brothers. He is an appreciative student of Southern literature and occasionally breaks forth into song himself. He has also interested himself greatly in local history. His historical sketches under the general caption, "Old Times in Warren," are rare and beautiful descriptions of persons, places, policies and movements in one of the most interesting counties in our state. His history of the Tar River Baptist Association is nearing completion and will be published in the near future.
Throughout his ministry Dr. Taylor has been very gifted as a pastor-evangelist, and has held many successful revival meetings throughout North Carolina and in other states. His acquaintance therefore, is wide and varied and wherever he is known his friends rise up with the members of his own congregation to call him blessed and to wish for 'him many, many years of increasing usefulness and happiness among the good people who have long since come to think of him in a very real sense as their own.
No account of the work of this pastorate would be complete without at least a reference to two who have been silent partners in all that has been brought to pass. One of these, the beloved wife, sleeps sweetly in the Warrenton cemetery. The other, a much loved niece, with her sister, is still filling in a most worthy manner a place in this work which none other could fill and which beggars description. When the books are opened and the contents of that Other Book which is the Book of Life, shall become known, it will then be seen that as his reward is that went forth to battle, so shall be also that of those who stood by the stuff. The value of such a ministry and of such a home to any community can never be valued in the coin of earth.
Montgomery, Lizzie Wilson; Sketches of old Warrenton, North Carolina; traditions and reminiscences of the town and people who made it, Raleigh, Edwards & Broughton printing company, 1924.