Alexander J. Baird

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1820 - 1884




Cover of The Cumberland Presbyterian, October 14, 1897

Deceased Ministers

Lebanon Presbytery     A. J. Baird     June, 1884

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1885, page 44]




Death chose a shining mark when, in the city of New York, June 15, 1884, he struck down that noble man and faithful minister, Alexander J. Baird, D.D. Though hundreds of miles intervened between the much beloved brother and myself, the shafts which pierced him seemed to fall at my very feet, startling me as seldom before. But I err; he did not fall; he rose. The hour of last conflict was the hour of his grandest victory. Never did conqueror utter more triumphant words than Dr. Baird's farewell to his comrades on the way to the great ecclesiastical council: "It is all right. It is no more for me to say farewell than it would be to say good by until we meet down at the ship in the morning. I long since committed my whole life to God, and I have no desire now to order otherwise than as he directs. Go, my dear young men, do all you can for your Church and the world."

Born within two miles of the birthplace of Dr. Baird, my childhood and his were largely conversant with the same hills and valleys, fields and forests, sports and labors, walks and ways of living men. When first I knew him, memory will not now testify--it may have been when a child I sat upon his knee. But that which now brings him, farthest back along the line of life's recollections, distinctly before the mind's eye, is when, as an apprentice, he was erecting a foundation for a shed about to be built by my father, and had occasion to teach me that the trowel, so useful to a mason, may be successfully applied to the chastisement of a lad who interferes with a mason's lines.

At twelve, it was my good fortune to have Dr. Baird for my Sunday-school teacher. Our class of eight boys sat on a front seat in Hopewell church, and "it seems to me but yesterday" that Dr. Baird stood before us to hear us read the verses alternately, question and instruct us, and make record of the number of verses each one of us had memorized during the preceding week. At the opening of the school that spring he offered a Bible as a reward to be given to the member of his class who should by autumn have "committed" the largest number of verses. In that race we all ran, but one received the prize, James Brookhart. When Dr. Baird--then only "Elic" Baird, as all called him--presented a beautiful Bible to young Brookhart, he most agreeably surprised the rest of the class by presenting each one a handsome little Testament bound in leather. At once a purpose seized me to read my new Testament entirely through--a purpose soon executed, a small slip of paper marking the daily progress from Matthew to Revelation.

Here I desire to record parenthetically my deep conviction of the great value of having youth memorize large portions of the Bible, and my deep conviction of the incalculable amount of good a faithful religious teacher may bestow on his pupils.

My mother was an ardent admirer of Dr. Baird, when as a young man he became conspicuous among the young men of the community by his active efforts in the cause of good. Returning from the church one Sunday, where a collection had been taken to aid young Baird in his studies in Greene Academy, she explained to me what had been done, adding, "Now, if you will try to become as good a young man as 'Elic' Baird you may also receive help when you are going to school;" and at this point also an inspiration came to me from the career of the man who, next to my parents, has most largely shaped my life.

On entering Greene Academy as a pupil, I found Dr. Baird spending his last term in that once noted school, and, to my great satisfaction, fell under his instruction in grammar and philosophy. I remember him as a very superior teacher, but his requirements as to behavior, preparation, and punctuality were a little above what is popular with the average student. In grammar our exercise book was Young's "Night Thoughts," a circumstance for which I can to-day still feel devoutly thankful. Of this poem Dr. Baird was passionately fond. In the class-room we analyzed it sentence by sentence, phrase by phrase, word by word; an exercise that proved of incalculable benefit. Nor did our study of it stop with the class-room, for often of a Sunday, dinner and the morning sermon over, my teacher would say, "Let us take a walk--bring your 'Night Thoughts,'" and then repairing to the woods near by, seated on a log or at the base of a tree, we would real aloud by turns for hours, my teacher sandwiching the paragraphs with questions, criticisms, and sentiments of his own. Thus did we devour this now but little read poem, digest it, assimilate it. To me it was the source of a spiritual inspiration, and I doubt not that it was to Dr. Baird, for in after years his prayers and sermons not unfrequently were threaded with its sentiments, thoughts, and phrases. So inseparably were linked the man and book, in my thoughts of him, that when the report of his death came to me, enexpected and appalling as a thunder-bolt from a clear sky, instantaneously there rushed through my mind some of the favorite passages he had oft recited in my hearing, conspicuously the sublime apostrophe to Death, beginning with the lines,

Death! great proprietor of all! 't is thine
To tread out empires and to quench the stars;
The sun himself by thy permission shines,
And one day thou shalt pluck him from his sphere.

My first teacher in vocal music, Dr. Baird, impressed me as endowed with wonderful musical talent, to which he added a power, compass, flexibility, and sweetness of voice rarely possessed. Songs he sung in my boyhood come ringing through my ears to-day distinctly as if the echoes of the living voice had not died. He also played several instruments in masterly style, and of many an evening in the summer of our association in Greene Academy he would, at my request, usually on condition that I would bring him "a drink fresh from the pump," take up his clarionet and delight the boys for an hour, playing without sheet or book. Some of our sweetest hymns seemed to "come mended from his tongue," rendered with a pathos and emphasis peculiar to him, and with that rare excellence in singers, articulation scarcely less clear than that of good reading. But the sweet singer has swept through the pearly gates, and within the New Jerusalem, of which he sung so sweetly on earth, mingles his notes in the everlasting song.

It was as a public speaker, whether in the pulpit or on the platform, that Dr. Baird's gifts were best known to the Church and the world. To clear cut thought, ready command of language correct and elegant, happy illustration, graceful gesture, and forcible delivery, he added a pathos that at times rose to the sublime, and rendered his appeals almost irresistible. He could, with seemingly equal ease, melt his hearers to penitence and tenderness, and rouse them to stormy indignation against wrong as it grew hideous before their eyes. He could, in one short discourse, discuss philosophy, quote poetry, criticise art, expound the law, simplify the gospel, terrify the impenitent, and bring the joys of heaven to the overflowing hearts of the saints who were spell-bound by his words of consolation.

As a man for a great occasion, Dr. Baird seemed to me without a peer, a man equal to any occasion, and a semper paratus, come any demand. Any of my readers who were in the Assembly in Evansville when a lengthy and earnest discussion occurred on the question of our continuing in co-operation with the American Board, will doubtless remember the magnificent oration of Dr. Baird which practically closed the debate. The living can pardon me if I say that in the foreground of that Assembly's proceedings at this day stands, in my memory, distinct and solitary, the earnest, logical, eloquent oration of our deceased brother. Equally, if not more magnificent, was his oration at the laying of the corner-stone of the new building of Waynesburg College. Dr. George P. Hays--a speaker by no means easy to follow--had spoken an hour, when Dr. Baird arose and held spell-bound for an hour and a half the thousands who stood about him on the campus. I have heard Joseph Cook, and Gough, and Beecher at home, and Joseph Parker, and Spurgeon in London, but our own Dr. Baird seemed to me to surpass them all.

Really--and finally--my mind has been unconsciously drawn from the purpose of some "reminiscences," into what may seem to have been a premeditated eulogy. True, it has been all the while in my mind to discharge a sense of obligation, to bring, at a suitable time, my tribute to the memory of my teacher, brother, fellow-worker, once a toiler with us here below, now crowned evermore.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 9, 1886, page 1]

"The Late A. J. Baird, D.D."

By President A. B. Miller.

The likeness of Dr. A. J. Baird which fronted the issue of this journal under date of October 14 led me to turn the pages of the number, expecting and hoping to find at least a brief sketch of his life. As no sketch appeared, I have concluded to submit a few personal reminiscences in hope of interesting the reader and of bestowing a line of tribute to one to whom my obligations were very great.

Dr. Baird was a Pennsylvania, born and reared in Fayette County, about two miles from my father's residence. As memory now runs, my first knowledge of him came about when, quite a young man, he laid the foundation for a building for my father, being by trade a stone-mason, my recollection being definite that he interfered with boys who meddled with his "lines."

While I was yet quite a youth my mother was accustomed to point me to "Elic Baird" as one whose example I could safely follow, speaking of his efforts to get an education and of his purpose to be a minister. A little later it was my good fortune to have him for my Sunday school teacher, for two years, I believe. Besides being an instructor who could clearly and forcibly open up the meaning of the Scriptures, he was fruitful in methods for interesting his class. He encouraged us to memorize verses of the Bible during the week to be recited at the opening of the school on Sunday--an exercise that proved so very profitable to me, that I am constrained to believe that it could still be profitably observed. At the opening of the Sunday school one spring, Dr. Baird proposed to reward with a handsome Bible the pupil who would memorize the largest number of verses by the close in autumn; which pledge he faithfully kept, giving also to the other members of his class handsome Testaments, though these had not been promised. Thus I was led to memorize fully half the chapters of the four gospels--a thing for which I have a thousand times felt deeply thankful, for it has been alike a satisfaction and a great advantage.

When in my sixteenth year I entered Greene Academy, Carmichaels, Pa., I there found Dr. Baird in the capacity of a student and an assistant to the principal, the late Rev. Joshua Loughran, and regarded him a most competent and suggestive teacher--for pupils willing to study and anxious to learn. Idlers found little favor with him.

Then, as afterwards, Dr. Baird gave much attention to music, instructing classes in singing, and leading choirs in churches. The clarionet was his favorite instrument. Oft in the evenings of summer time I requested him to play for me, when he would reply, "Well, bring me a drink of fresh water and my clarionet." As a singer he had, if my ear was not at fault, few equals and scarcely a superior--a gift he often made eminently useful in protracted meetings and elsewhere.

Having heard Talmage, Spurgeon, Beecher and others esteemed great preachers, it seems to me that I do not err in saying that in some of the elements of effective preaching Dr. Baird quite equaled any of them. In the power to picture his ideas in "glowing colors," and to play with the feelings, he certainly displayed gifts enjoyed by few men. My knowledge of his pulpit power was limited, however, to the occasional discourses I heard him deliver.

Dr. Baird was in Pennsylvania at the time of the laying of the cornerstone of the new college building, and it occurred to me to suggest to the trustees that it would be a thing eminently suitable to invite him to deliver an address on the occasion. A pleasant autumn day witnessed one of the largest gatherings ever known in Waynesburg, before which, in the College campus, Dr. Baird delivered an address eminently suitable and in every respect, as to thought, language and delivery, wonderfully fine--so intensely interesting as to completely hold the attention of his vast audience for more than an hour.

Dr. Baird was an observer and a thinker more than a student of books, but by no means an uncultured man. In the academy to which reference has been made he pursued a large part of the usual classical course in the colleges; and I believe he subsequently graduated from our (then) college at Princeton, Ky., where he formed a strong attachment to Dr. Richard Beard, of whom he spoke to me in most laudatory terms as being a scholarly man and refined Christian minister and gentleman.

I can never think of Dr. Baird without thinking of Young's "Night Thoughts," a book of which he seemed passionately fond. When we were associated as teacher and pupil in the academy, he frequently invited me to accompany him to a grove on Sunday afternoons, and there by hours read aloud, and ask me to read in turn, from "Night Thoughts," his comments indicating the profound impression many passages of the work made on his mind. One of these passages--one on which he commented at length as being profound in thought and sublime in sentiment and style--at once flashed upon my mind on receiving intelligence of his death, the reason for which will be found in the grand apostrophe itself:

"Death! great proprietor of all! 'tis thine
To tread out empire and to quench the stars.
The sun himself by thy permission shines,
And one day thou shalt pluck him from his sphere.
Amid such mighty plunder, why exhaust
Thy partial quiver on a mark so mean?"

"Night Thoughts" is one of the many good books about pushed aside by the multitudinous fresher things teeming from the press. To the thoughtful it has rare interest, and Dr. Baird devoured it, digested it, assimilated it, and often exhibited the strength derived therefrom. Our departed brother was one of two men to whom, aside from my parents, I am most of all indebted for early good counsel, instruction and sympathetic interest in my welfare; and this little tribute is prompted by a keenly felt desire to add, even at this late hour, my "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Waynesburg College, Waynesburg, Pa.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, November 11, 1897]


A. J. Baird was born in Fayette county, Pa., March 16, 1820. Receiving a moderator education, he was at seventeen years old apprenticed to a stone mason. At twenty he became a Christian. He worked at his trade in Pennsylvania and Ohio during the winter and taught school in the summer. In Ohio he started a young people's prayer meeting, which resulted in over 300 conversions. In his twenty-first year he decided to become a preacher. He finished his education at Greene Academy, Carmichaels, Pa., and Cumberland College, Princeton, Ky., graduating in 1848. He was licensed to preach in the same year. His greatest work was as pastor of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Nashville, Tenn. He organized the fragments of that congregation after the close of the war in 1865, and built up a congregation of about 600 members. During his pastorate a new church edifice was erected by the congregation and its friends, costing, with its furnishings, about $40,000. He was rather small in stature, cheerful in appearance, and hopeful in disposition, a student of men and affairs rather than of books, genial and adaptable in social life, fertile in resources, persistent and untiring in purpose, even tempered, a clear thinker, an easy, fluent speaker, abounding in illustration and incidents, and a deeply consecrated Christian minister. It is not strange that his preaching was attractive and helpful, and that the conversions in his twenty-six years of ministerial life amounted to over 5,000. His writings, like his preaching, are practical, intensely interesting and abounding in wisdom and spirituality.  John M. Gaut.

Dr. Baird wrote "Two Prophets," "The World and How to Take It," "Mahlon's Letters," and aided in the compilation of "Bible Songs."
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 3, 1903, page 716]


Baird, A. J. Annual Address Delivered Before the M. W. Grand Lodge of Tennessee at Its Annual Session, October, 1857. Nashville: Bang, Walker & Co., Book and Job Printers, 1858. Need 2 copies for Archives

Baird, A. J. Bible Songs: A Collection of Standard Hymns and Tunes for All Occasions of Worship. Nashville: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1875. [7 copies in archives]

Baird, A. J. Bible Songs: A Collection of Standard Hymns and Tunes for All Occasions of Worship. Nashville: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1876 [1 copy in archives]

Baird, A. J. Bible Songs: A Collection of Standard Hymns and Tunes for All Occasions of Worship. Nashville: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1877 [1 copy in archives]

Baird, A. J. Mahlon's Letters To a Young Pastor, Session, Congregation and Presbytery. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, Printed by Paul, Tavel & Hanner, 1867. [6 copies in archives]

Baird, A. J. Mahlon's Letters To a Young Pastor, Session, Congregation and Presbytery. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, stereotyped at the Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1869. [4 copies in archives]

Baird, A. J. Mahlon's Letters To a Young Pastor, Session, Congregation and Presbytery. 3rd ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, W. E. Dunaway, Publishing Agent, 1872. [1 copy in archives]

Baird, A. J. Mahlon's Letters To a Young Pastor, Session, Congregation and Presbytery. 4th ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, T. C. Blake, D.D., Publishing Agent, 1875. [2 copies in archives]

Baird, A. J. The Preacher's Manual. Nashville, Tenn.: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1869. [2 copies in archives, 1 hardback and 1 paperback]

Baird, A. J. The Two Prophets, Daniel and Jonah. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1871. [3 copies in archives]

Baird, A. J. The Two Prophets, Daniel and Jonah. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Pub. House, 1876. Need 2 copies for archives

Baird, Alexander J. The World and How To Take It. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Pub. House, 1891. [8 copies in archives]

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Updated June 13, 2013