History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

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PRYOR A. MORTON, PIONEER BAPTIST PREACHER

By Dallas Bogan

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.

     Pryor A. Morton was born in Union County, Tennessee. March 26, 1833. His father was David Morton; his mother's maiden name was Nancy James . He was one of a family of ten children. He professed faith in Christ at the age of fourteen, and united with the Methodist Church, and was a "class leader" in that denomination. But he married a Baptist woman, Margaret Shipe, an intelligent, well-posted Bible leader, who could always beat her husband in argument on controverted doctrinal points. Mrs. Morton's pastor.

     Elder J. S. Coram. Brother C. and Brother M. had many good-natured arguments over the questions that divide the Methodists and the Baptists; and in their discussions they made an agreement that if Coram ever decided to join the Methodists, Morton should sprinkle him, and if Morton at any time should become convinced that he was wrong and decided ,join the Baptists Coram should immerse him. In due time Coram baptized him (at the age of 25) into the fellowship of the Milan Church, Union County. Dr. J. W. Jenkins, who elates the above incident; was baptized the same day and the same hands. Brother Morton soon entered the Baptist ministry, and subsequently served as pastor the following churches: Locust Grove, some twenty years; Milan, Texas Valley, Nave Hill, Maynardville, Bethany, Alder Springs, Big Valley, Big Sycamore, Providence, Powell's Valley, and a score of other churches. For years he was moderator of the Northern Association, and was one of the strongest and most influential preachers in that body. He was a good moderator and a good preacher. He was distinctly a doctrinal preacher, emphasizing doctrine on all occasions. He had the shepherd', heart, and was a real pastor, taking care of the flocks over which he was overseer, healing, restoring and feeding the sheep. During his ministry Elder Morton, it is said. baptized "ninety-nine" Methodists into Baptist churches.

     "Elder P. A. Morton departed this life on the 19th day of April, 1892, aged 59 years and 23 days. He served more than thirty of our churches as pastor, one of which he served twenty years and another one seventeen years. As a defender of Baptist principles he had no superior in the association. He was a deep preacher and endowed with extraordinary reasoning powers, but with all his logical force and ability as a preacher he had genuine meekness and humility. In his death our association has lost one of its brightest lights." (In Memoriam, as published in minutes of Northern Association.) He had money "laid away" with which to purchase a plain marble slab for his grave, on which were to be inscribed, according to his request, his name and dates of his birth and death. with the added words, "A sinner saved by grace."

     P. A. Morton had six children, two sons and four daughters. His oldest son, Elder J. W. Morton, is a Baptist preacher of standing in the Northern Association; his nephews, Elders G .W. and J. C. Shipe, are able ministers of the New Testament and among our best pastors.

     The following story is told of Elder Morton and a young man, a school teacher who was attending one of Brother M.'s meetings and was a "mourner." The young man was a little eccentric but thoroughly in earnest. The preacher happening upon the young teacher and wishing that he might help him in his search for light and relief from his burden, thus addressed him: "Well, my young friend, how are you getting along in your seeking?" and so forth. The answer was a little unexpected: "I'm not through yet, but I'm expecting to come through with flying colors." He made a profession and was urged to join the church. But he had been raised a Presbyterian, had heard a good deal about the "perseverance of the saints," and wanted to be sure he had a religion that would "hold out" to the end. He wanted to "try" his religion of what sort it was. He had a stumpy piece of "new ground" to plow; he would try "Jack and Eleck" in that, and if he kept his religion - didn't "swear" - he would be "all right" and would join the church."

     Elder Morton, coming down from the pulpit, after preaching on a certain occasion, was accosted by one of his hearers, who frankly said to the preacher: "I don't believe what you preached today," and was answered as follows: "The Lord didn't commission me to make you believe the gospel, but only to `preach the gospel' to you."

 

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