History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
When I started this series of historical articles, I ask the congregation that if anyone had a circuit riding preacher in their family tree to let me know and I would attempt to research that individual. I was given a couple of candidates but they were local preachers who served the church and community when the circuit rider was not available. Circuit riders served a large number of churches and was impossible for them to attend every church every week. My great-great-great grandfather was a local preacher in this community but was not a circuit rider. His son was a local preacher at Henniger’s Chapel but he was not a circuit rider. A circuit rider was an itinerant (traveling from place to place) preacher who received a small monetary stipend from the conference. The circuit rider would serve an area that was assigned to him by the conference.
For many years my brother-in-law Curtis Smith has conducted extensive genealogical research and discovered recently that he and my wife Sharon’s great-great grandfather was a circuit rider from 1865 until 1897. His name was Daniel Richardson and this information is from the conference archives of the 1897 Journal of the Holston Annual Conference as follows: Another of the dear old heroes of the Holston Conference has fallen. A veteran of sixty-five years. Twenty-nine of which were spent as a loyal, faithful and humble itinerant of the Methodist Episcopal Church, has laid down his armor to take up his crown of rejoicing with the Saints in light. Rev Daniel Richardson was born near Jacksboro, Campbell County, Tennessee, September 11, 1832. Professed saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in 1854; was licensed to preach September 27, 1856; joined the Holston Conference at Chattanooga, October 12, 1868, and was ordained a deacon by Bishop Clark the same day.
His first work was the Lebanon circuit, in Russell County, Virginia, which he traveled two years, and when the Virginia Conference was organized he was transferred to that conference where he remained till 1873 when he was transferred back to the Holston Conference where he served the following charges: Sneedville, four years and six months; Rogersville, two years; Newport one year; Hamilton, three years; Dayton, two years; Jasper, three years; Tazewell, one year; Big Valley, three years. Beginning and ending his work since the transfer to this conference, on the Sneedville circuit, where he was honored and loved by old and young.
On May 10, 1845, he married Martha Jane Phillips, who shared with him the trials and triumphs of life for nearly forty-five years and then went to heaven to live with the angels, March 1, 1889. In 1890 he married M. C. Henniger, who was so thoroughly in sympathy with his life work as to be well qualified for a real helpmeet in deed and in truth. Being a true, loyal Methodist of the pure type, she was prepared for the privations and sacrifices incident to the life of an itinerant Methodist preacher’s wife. And right royally, faithfully and patiently did she discharge her duties. Now, without husband, father, mother or children, she weeps in loneliness for departed loved ones and silently waits for the summons to join them in the better world.
As a preacher Brother Richardson was clear, earnest and forcible; and being full of the old-time fire, he was very acceptable and popular wherever he preached. The six years of his ministry in Virginia were years of great opposition and persecution; but he often remarked that they were years of great triumphs and victories. He had la grippe in the winter and never fully recovered. Early in the spring he gave up his work, came down to his little home near Lone Mountain, Claiborne County, Tennessee, where he lingered until the 30th day of June, 1897. In the language of his devoted wife, “he died in the fullest triumphs of a living faith.” It was a real inspiration to hear the grand old warrior speak of his hopes and prospects. He said, “he told the Lord he would preach as long as he was able, and he kept his part of the contract, and now he was ready for anything the Lord wanted. Ready to work ready to depart.” He was buried near his home with masonic honors. “Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his.”
*Compilers note: Reverend Daniel Richardson served in the southern area of Sequatchie Valley from 1884-1886 and I believe he had an indirect connection to this community when he married his second wife who was M. C. Henniger. I am convinced she was a relative of John Henniger who was a circuit rider in this valley and namesake of Henniger’s Chapel (Chapel Hill). Additional documentation is needed in this area.
Last month’s question: Why was the University of Chattanooga Student Center a line item in the 1957 church budget? Chattanooga University was established in 1886. In 1889 merged with Tennessee Wesleyan University at Athens under the name of Grant University. In 1907, University of Chattanooga became the name, and was affiliated with the Methodist Church until 1969 when it became University of Chattanooga (UTC) as part the public Tennessee University system. Chapel Hill Methodist Church along with other Methodist Churches supported the University of Chattanooga for many years.
Next month’s question: A bit of historical trivia in the age of Star Wars. What was the maiden name of Rev. Bob Powers’ wife Carol?