FROM REPORTED DEATHS,
THE NASHVILLE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE,
By Jonathan Kennon Thompson Smith
Copyright, Jonathan K. T. Smith, 1997
Special thanks to go Mr. Smith for allowing his work to be posted on the web
and to Laurel Baty who transcribed Mr. Smith's book, thus making these web pages possible.
The successful weekly newspaper of the Methodist Episcopal Church had its beginning in the United States in 1826 with the New York CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE which carried articles about church polity, its leadership, religious topics and as time passed, also carried were lists of marriages and deaths of members and others who paid the stated fee for publishing such information even among non-Methodists. The developed regional Methodist newspapers often bore in part in their titles, the generic "Christian Advocate." In 1833, the Nashville, Tennessee Methodist newspaper began as the WESTERN METHODIST, finally assuming the title of NASHVILLE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE in 1846 by which it would mostly be known for several generations. (THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD METHODISM, edited by Nolan B. Harmon, Nashville, 1974, volume one, page 57).
Marriages were just announced as to the parties involved and dates. However, death notices became "memoirs", full-scale obituaries; ordinary people were recognized at death by the presentation in print of their vital statistics, with a wide variety of offered biographical content; all too often these obituaries were panegyrical, effusive in praise of the deceased. From the extremity of total obscurity of ordinary people a few generations before there evolved the social custom of presenting in print lengthy obituaries that often flew in the face of good taste. A Georgia subscriber offered the protest in 1871, "As the name of the paper indicates, it is the advocate of Christianity. It is the advocate of Christianity in its entirety and in the minutest acts and particles which enter into its composition. . . . The thing against which I would raise an objection is, the use of absolute and unqualified superlative expressions in describing the social and Christian excellences of the subjects of memoirs and obituary notices. He who would write of the dead . . . let him do it truthfully. A writer should not impute excellences to the deceased that they never possessed . . . words are the signs of ideas, the vehicles of thought. If the writer of an obituary has regard for truth — exact truth — and propriety and will think, he will not use such absolute superlatives in writing of the dead." (NASHVILLE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, March 11, 1871)
In this mass of published over-sentimentality, however, is preserved essential biographical information about persons whose descendants often find interesting along with pertinent dates; information one would note that is usually not available for the long-dead in any other sources.
In the present publication the genealogical data from the death notices, in the regular obituaries or noted elsewhere in issues that appeared in the NASHVILLE CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, have been gleaned from existing issues. Deaths generally were reported from middle and east Tennessee, the lower South, Kentucky, Virginia and occasionally from the mid-West. Methodists living in west Tennessee generally reported their deaths in the MEMPHIS CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE or the WESTERN METHODIST which have been almost totally destroyed, leaving a regrettable genealogical void from that area. The first pages of this publication carry abstracts from church newspapers from miscellaneous collections in the Memphis Conference archives.
It should go without statement but for the sake of clarification, the writer has made an effort to glean data correctly but one hundred percent accuracy is probably unattainable in a work of this kind. Even so, these abstracts have a real value as an annotated index, making it easier for interested researchers to use the actual issues on microfilm.
The writer is grateful to Ann Robbins Phillips, official historian and archivist of the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church, for providing him the use of the CHRISTIAN ADVOCATES on microfilm and the, loose issues maintained in these archives located in the Lambuth University Library in Jackson, Tennessee.
Jonathan K. T. Smith February 1997
ABBREVIATIONS USED IN THIS PUBLICATION
b = born
d = died
md = married
d/o = daughter of
s/o = son of
w/o = wife of
MEC = Methodist Episcopal Church
(after 1845, Methodist Episcopal Church, South)
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