Elder John Wiseman

From History of Middle Tennessee Baptists
by J. H. Grime
Nashville, TN

Retyped for the page by Diane Payne & Danene Vincent, 1998.

Perhaps the name of no man is more cherished by the Baptists of Middle Tennessee than that of John Wiseman. He was born in Rowan County, North Carolina, January 24, 1780. His parents belonged to the Puritan stock, formerly of Pennsylvania, and consequently were very strick in their family discipline, as well as very tenacious for their religious views. So it goes without saying that young Wiseman was sprinkled in infancy. His parents were poor, and were pioneers, with little educational advantages; consequently he grew up with but little education except such as he gathered from the book of nature. But God was guiding, for his was destined to be a pioneer life. Hence to conquer the wilderness one must know the wilderness. He needed that strong muscular body that only children of nature can possess. The vigor of his body did outstrip the vigor of his mind. He was indeed nature's child, possessing a body capable of untold endurance, and a mind, though unpolished, capable of grappling with the most profound problems.

In the twentieth year of his age, he surrended his heart and life to God and united with the Baptists and was baptized by Elder Thomas Durham. This brought down upon him the abuse of an irate father, who would not bear the thought of his son joining the despised sect of Baptists. But he faltered not. The next year, April 20, 1800, he was married to Miss Annie Hunt, a lady every way worthy, and on who proved a true helpmeet to him in his struggles in the ministry.

It is said he began ministry in the State of North Carolina. If this be true it was in a limited degree. In 1805 he and his devoted wife, with two children, in the depth of poverty, turned their face westward and sought a home among the forests of what is now known as Middle Tennessee. This long distance traveled in a crude conveyance, consisting of a tar-wheel cart, drawn by one horse. In this, the wife and children, with the meager supply of household goods were placed, while the husband and father made the trip on foot. He first settled on the lands of Major Taylor, on Round Lick Creek, in Wilson County. He sought a Christian home with Round Lick Church, which, at that time, stood near Grant Smith County. He deposited his letter with this church, February 1806, and at this same meeting was licensed to preach. How long he remained a member of this church the records fail to show. The following is taken from the pen of the venerable Elder J. W. Bowen:

"The fist meeting he (John Wiseman) attended after reaching Tennessee, was at Brush Creek, in Smith County. It was the November meeting in the year 1804. (This according to other records should be 1805). He met there for the first time that wonderfully eloquent preacher, Rev. Cantrel Bethel. They were young then, and commenced that attachment which lasted through life, and has been renewed the "Bright summer land of bliss." An incident occurred at that meeting which led to the field of his misteral labors for the balance of his life. He had come to the Brush Creek meeting on horseback, but without a saddle for he had none. He used a piece of old bed quilt as a substitute. His shoes were nearly worn out. The long journey from North Carolina, the whole of which he traveled on foot, had left them so nearly worn out that they were only kept together by being tied with leather strings. As he was leaving the meeting a man by the name of Duncan, who was a member of Hickman Creek, which had been organized a short time before, took him aside and requested him to come to their next meeting, and told him if he would do so, and would let him have the measure of his foot, he would have him a pair of shoes made by that time."

It might be stated just here, by way of parenthesis, that only an arm of Brush Creek existed at Hickman Creek at that time, the church being fully organized in 1806. He complied with the above request and finally moved to Hickman, perhaps in 1806.

Elder Wiseman remained in the Hickman community about five years, during which time he endured many hardships. It is said he could frequently be seen, at the hour of midnight, cleaning up land and burning logs in order that his family might have bread while he preached the gospel to those pioneer settlers. At the close of five years he moved to Dixon's Springs at which place he remained till 1835 then he removed to Castalian Springs, Sumner County, where he remained until 1847; then moved to Wilson County, settling on Spring Creek some three miles east of Lebanon. The remainder of his days were spent here. During all these years, till he grew too old, he labored hard on the farm for support for this family, while he did more preaching than almost any of his time. In 1842 he lost the companion of his youth, and some years after he was married to Mrs. Sarah Penebaker, of Lebanon, with whom he lived until his death.

Among the points at which he preached we note the following: Hickman's Creek, Dixon's Creek, Bledsoe's Creek, Second Creek, East Station Camp, Hogan's Creek, Peyton's Creek, Round Lick, Lebanon, etc.; and wherever he went success attended his ministry. He laughed at difficulties and cried: "It must be done." His life was spent in poverty. The following incident will serve to illustrate the many hardships he had to encounter. He owned but one horse, which must remain at home through the summer season to make bread for the family, while his master would walk to his appointments. While pastor of Round Lick Church he had to travel a distance of more than thirty miles. While coming to one appointment at this church on foot his shoes gave out and were cast aside; putting his socks in his pocket, the reminder of the journey was made barefoot. He came to the church, went into the pulpit with his bare feet, and preached with the "power and demonstration of the spirit." The brethren took in the situation, and at the close of the conference a brother was detailed to go and purchase him a pair of shoes. These with a pair for his faithful horse and one dollar in money made up his salary for that year from his church.

For some time before he died, his voice so impaired from a paralytic stroke he could not preach. He finished his course upon earth March 14, 1864 and while the clash of arms could be heard on every side his spirit went home to the God of peace of whom he had so long preached. For a little more than eighty-four years he had fought the battles of life, till at last, in great peace of mind, the pendulum stood still, and it was said, "JOHN WISEMAN IS DEAD."

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