ELDER JOHN SEIBER, PIONEER BAPTIST PREACHER
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.
The following account is taken from J.J. Burnett‘s, “Sketches of Tennessee's Pioneer Baptist Preachers“ by J.J. Burnett, dated 1919.
The following interesting sketch is condensed from the author's manuscript, entitled "The Autobiography of Elder John Seiber." I preserve the author's words and original style, as far as possible, which will add interest to the sketch.
"I was born April 28, 1816, in Anderson County, Tenn., on the headwaters of Poplar Creek. Was married January 28, 1840, to Alvina Kincaid. We have raised a family of seven girls. To keep a supply for my family I have had to work every day, when at home, and every hour of the day, either on the farm or in the blacksmith's shop. This necessity was a great hindrance to my ministry. I professed faith in Christ September 4, 1848, and was baptized the second Sabbath of the same month. The following month, at the "Arm" of Zion church, Elder Joshua Frost called on me to pray in public, which was the beginning of my public life. This "Arm" was in the midst of destitution of some 15 or 30 miles' extent. I met with this little band monthly and held prayer meetings. In 1849 I was liberated by the "Arm" to exercise my gift. At a night meeting in the neighborhood my mind was impressed with a text and the Lord helped me to preach my first sermon, which was blessed to the salvation of four souls. The revival continued, there were other converts, and we sent for an ordained minister to do the baptizing. The next year we were constituted a church, known as New Bethel (Roane County), W. DeRossett and S. Hendrickson acting as a presbytery. I was then invited to the Robertson schoolhouse, a small house made of round logs, where Mt. Zion church and Roane College now stand. On Sunday Brother Agee came, and later Brother E. B. Walker. A revival started, and Mt. Zion church was the result. A little afterwards I went to another log schoolhouse, three miles north of Kingston. The Lord, was with me, and we had a revival that was the beginning of Sugar Grove church. Meanwhile I had again been licensed to preach, this time by Zion church.
In February, 1852, I was ordained; in 1855 I was called to the care of New Bethel and Mt. Zion churches. In March of 1856 I was invited to Poplar Creek, three miles below Oliver Springs, where I had the privilege of preaching to the companions of my youth. Here I labored and was pastor once and again, baptizing nearly all the people in the neighborhood.
In 1866 I went to the X-Roads, near Lea's Ferry, and preached in a schoolhouse. Ten converts were baptized. Mt. Zion extended an ".arm" here, and in a short time New Hope church was constituted. In 1867 1 bought land in East Fork Valley, where I now live. There was no house of worship in the neighborhood. I commenced to hold meetings in my dwelling house, and in 1869 we built a log-house where East Fork Church now stands, and a church was constituted. In 1857 I was chiefly instrumental in rebuilding the old church at Robertsville, constituting that church anew (by permission of the East Fork Church), in May, 1888.
As pastor I preached several years at Zion and several years at Poplar Creek. Have preached some in Clinton and some in Kingston. I do not know how many persons I have baptized. I have baptized in every stream of note from Morgan County to Knox County, in the lower end of Anderson and the upper end of Roane, not only in creeks but in branches, and in Clinch River from Lea's Ferry to Kingston, and across the river, in Beaver Creek and in Bull Run. I have baptized all my children, except one, and several of my grandchildren. I have been instrumental in establishing seven churches, and have had more destitution right at my door than I could possibly supply. I have helped ordain several ministers and deacons. As pastor I have received very little for my work. I did not justify the churches in this, but did the best I could. I had the anti-mission spirit to contend with and was called "money-hunter," without getting the money. In my labors as a missionary on destitute fields I have never received more than 25 cents a day. I have been in many close places and have had to endure hardships, but the Lord has been with me.
I have now passed the seventy-third milestone in my pilgrimage. I am admonished by the state of my health that the time of my departure is near at hand. In the language of another, I expect soon to pass through the valley of the shadow of death upon the "car of salvation, which runs upon the iron track of God's predestination, with the Holy Spirit as the engineer and Jesus Christ as the conductor who has never missed connection."
May 25, 1891, Elder Seiber died as he had lived, in the triumphs of a living faith.
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