This startling announcement came to us by telephone at 7 a.m. Monday, Feb. 3. We hastened to his bedside and found the message sadly true. At noon of the same day--the hour of this writing--the situation is unchanged, and the physicians declare that there is absolutely no hope that T. C. Blake, D.D., can live through the day. For two weeks Dr. Blake has been ill at his home, four miles from Nashville, on the Dickerson turnpike; but it was not known until a few days ago that his condition was critical. For years his closest friends have known that he has almost constantly suffered from a chronic ailment, which resulted from a severe fall received in 1879. On Saturday of last week a surgical operation was performed, but uraemic poison developed the next day, and fatal results are inevitable unless God rules otherwise. The editor of this paper last week visited Dr. Blake and found him fully aware of his dangerous condition. We together talked at length about the church and Dr. Blake's relations thereto and labors therein. At parting, the sick man said: "If it be the Lord's will, I want to live. Next to the power of God, prayer is the mightiest influence in the universe. Please ask my friends throughout the church to pray for my recovery." On Sunday special prayers were offered in his behalf in the local churches. But God knows best, and does best.
Limited space and time preclude extended notice this week of Dr. Blake's life and labors. He was seventy years of age March 17, 1895. His wife, son, and one granddaughter are at his bedside. His only daughter, Mrs. Maggie B. Lindsay, of Shreveport, La., has been telegraphed for, and every effort is being made to prolong his life until she arrives.
The whole church will be shocked and saddened by this distressing affliction, and all will join us in a prayer for God's sustaining grace to help the loved ones to whom the grief is greatest.
LATER.-We delay the press to state, upon the authority of the physicians, that at this hour, 7 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 4, Dr. Blake is slightly better with a remote possibility that he may recover.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 6, 1896, page 1]
By the announcement which appeared in this paper last week, our readers were prepared for the sad news which serves as the headline of this article. T. C. Blake, D.D., the venerable and honored Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, died at his home near Nashville, at 11:10 o'clock Sunday night, February 9th.
When THE CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN went to press last week, Dr. Blake, whose life for the forty-eight hours before had been despaired of, seemed to have rallied slightly, and the loving watchers at his bedside grasped the slender hope that he, who had made so many successful fights for life, when men less resolute and life-loving, would have succumbed to disease, would be again victorious. All that medical and surgical skill could suggest was done, and through last week careful and intelligent attention was given by tender nurses and the faithful physician, Dr. J. H. Enloe; But beyond the consolation of doing all that could be done, all was vain. For days the end, which finally came as calmly as does sleep to a tired child, was hourly expected to follow some one of many terrible paroxysms of pain. Dr. Blake's wife, son, daughter, daughter-in-law and one granddaughter were all with him for the last fond farewell, which to such Christians is a promise of any early and unending glad reunion. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. J. M. Hubbert and Rev. I. D. Steele, assisted by W. J. Darby, D.D., and Rev. Ira Landrith, at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Nashville, 11 a.m., Feb. 11.
As has already been stated in these columns Dr. Blake would have been seventy-one years old had he lived to celebrate his next birthday, March 17. Born on his father's farm near Petersburg, Tenn., he was one of fifteen children. In the intervals of farm labor he gained enough education in the primitive country schools to create in him the longing for the higher training which he subsequently obtained in Cumberland University, in which institution he later filled positions as teacher of mathematics and financial agent. Dr. Blake has served the church in many other positions of trust and dignity. He was in 1857 elected secretary of the Board of Missions, serving successfully for several years. He was the founder and long-time editor of the Sunday School Gem, the very popular paper which has gladdened and blessed so many thousands of young readers. Editor at one time of the Banner of Peace and of the Theological Medium, and for four years, 1874-78, agent, or manager, of the Publishing House, Dr. Blake had much to do with making possible and prosperous the publishing work of the denomination. To the permanent literature of the denomination he has contributed four well-known volumes, "Theology Condensed," "Pulpit and Pew," "The Old Log House" and "Preacher's Hand-Book."
In 1883, upon the resignation of the late Judge John Frizzell, Dr. Blake was elected Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, in which office he has since remained. He was personally one of the best-known and best-informed men in the church. About six feet seven inches tall, his figure was as striking as it was familiar in the meetings of our highest church court. Members of his family who are thoroughly familiar with the details of the work of his clerkship, will, under the supervision of his assistant, Rev. J. M. Hubbert, continue to work until the next General Assembly shall name Dr. Blake's successor.
Most fitly and in detail a worthier pen will doubtless hereafter pay tribute to Dr. Blake's life and work. Our own duty is done now that we have thus borne to the church which he lived the melancholy message that he is dead. The promptings of gratitude, however, impel the recognition here of unnumbered wise and generous words and deeds of friendly helpfulness, volunteered to the writer by Dr. Blake, when kindly counsel and capable aid were most needed.
At a meeting of the Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Feb. 10, 10 a.m., the following was adopted:
"The members of the Board of Publication and the workers in the Publishing House, have learned with deep grief that Dr. Blake, so long a capable toiler for the church in the field we now occupy, died at his home last night. Recognizing with due and sincere gratitude the services he has rendered the church through the printed page and by effective effort for the establishing of the publishing work of the denomination; and mindful of his other varied labors as a teacher, preacher, and efficient officer of our General Assembly; we desire to assure Dr. Blake's wife and the other sorrowing members of his family, that they have our prayerful sympathy in their great loss, a loss which, while it saddens the home most, is a personal bereavement to us, and a sad affliction to the whole denomination."
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 13, 1896, page 488]
Thaddeus Constantine Blake, D.D., born in Lincoln County, Tennessee, Thursday March 17, 1825, died at his home (on the Dickerson Pike) near Nashville, Tennessee, Sunday night, February 9, 1896.
About fifty years ago there appeared in Lebanon, Tenn., a tall, awkward young man, clad in home-made clothes, a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He felt it his duty to preach the gospel. The necessity of an education, to fit him for this grandest of all occupations, caused his appearance in Lebanon with a view of obtaining an entrance into Cumberland University. An entire stranger, almost without means to board and clothe himself, the mighty problem of a home during the years that would intervene before he graduated forced itself on him. By meeting Judge Robert L. Caruthers, who took him to his hospitable home, this problem was solved. There he remained, and was treated as a member of the family during his whole college course.
Judge Caruthers must have foreseen that there was an outcome in this earnest young man. That great and philanthropic man well knew what struggles and trials were before one who had to make his won way in the world, having himself traveled that weary and hope-deferred, heart-sickening road, over which, unassisted, he had himself arrived at the highest eminence, leaving a name and record of good deeds which do honor to his native Tennessee and living an exemplary life that every young man can safely follow.
Dr. Blake never tired of telling of the beneficial influence exerted on his own career by the wise counsel and example of his benefactor, and cherished for him true and heartfelt gratitude and love all his life. In dedicating one of his book ("The Preachers' Hand Book") to Judge Caruthers, he paid a beautiful tribute to his life-long friend.
Dr. Blake's interest in, and love for, Cumberland University induced him to accept an agency for the soliciting of funds for its endowment, in the prosecution of which he was successful in obtaining a considerable sum. He was at one time professor of Mathematics in his alma mater.
He was once the pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, justly considered one of our most prominent churches, in view of the great number of students from all parts of the country who attend the University. A throat trouble compelled him to give up being a regular pastor, but he never abandoned the pulpit. He did a great deal of preaching every year, although otherwise engaged in work for his church, editing the church paper, managing the Board of Publication, acting as stated clerk of the General Assembly-in fact, his whole life was spent in work for the church except a short time during the late war, when it was "do something to make bread or starve." Even during this time, when so many were demoralized, he never forgot that he was a preacher of the gospel, and he carried his religion into his business. Each transaction was governed by the "Golden Rule."
If he had been a business man instead of a preacher, he would have been eminently successful, and would have accumulated a large fortune. His good judgment, his intuitive knowledge of men, his energy, economy, industry, absolute honesty and sacred regard for truth would have led to success in any occupation.
Dr. Blake, while not in the least a fanatic, or a bigot, loved his church with intensity. He believed that its origin was a direct interposition of Providence for the good of mankind. He was a strong believer in doctrinal preaching, because he wanted the rising generation thoroughly educated in the doctrines of our church. That he was entirely free from bigotry and intolerance is fully explained in one of his books ("The Old Log House"), in his catholic and liberal criticism of the different denominations.
Dr. Blake was a believer in a special as well as general providence. He has related to me several instances in his own experience. One, his meeting Judge Caruthers so soon after he arrived in Lebanon, and the result of that meeting. Another: While in Lebanon, his stock of ready cash was reduced to one "four pence," a name by which a small Spanish coin was known, the value of which was six and a quarter cents. He went to church on Sunday, where a collection was taken (the purpose of which I have forgotten). When the hats were started around he put his hand on his lonesome little coin, and debated the question whether to give it up or keep it for the purpose of paying postage on a letter he expected to receive from home next morning. Postage was then paid at the place of delivery, and was rated according to the distance. The rate from his home to Lebanon was exactly six and a quarter cents. When the hat came within his reach he dropped his little coin into it, and felt greatly relieved. As he went to college next morning he did not stop at the postoffice, as he had no money with which to get his letter. A few steps beyond the postoffice, as he passed the residence of the Rev. Robert Donnell, who was at that time pastor of the church, Mrs. Donnell called him in, and remarked to him that she was impressed with the belief that he needed some money, and handed him a ten dollar bill. He told me that he had never forgotten the appearance of that bill. Every figure and picture on it was visible to him then, nor did he ever cease to cherish gratitude to the giver, a loved and honored mother in Israel whose life was full of such deeds, and whose acts of kindness and unstinted benevolence are remembered by hundreds of living persons. Another instance Dr. Blake always looked upon as providential. Soon after his first marriage, he was living in Maury County, Tenn. He was preparing to make a visit with his wife to East Tennessee. A day or two before leaving, an old friend, an elder in our church, came to see him, remarking to him that, as he was going to East Tennessee he would have to cross Cumberland Mountain, which was a wilderness and in which there were some reckless and dangerous men, who would kill a man for a very small amount of money. To Dr. Blake's astonishment, his visitor handed him a loaded pistol, and told him to put it in his carpet-bag and put the bag at his feet in the buggy all the way across the mountain. Dr. Blake told him he had never carried a pistol in his life, never owned one, and didn't know how to shoot it. His old friend was so earnest and persistent, and seemed so fully impressed that it would be needed that Dr. Blake consented to take it, and promised his old friend to comply with his request. After spending a night on the mountain, near the house where they staid, Dr. Blake saw a man ahead on the road, with a gun on his shoulder. Supposing him to be a deer hunter, he paid no particular attention to him. Coming to the summit of a hill, the man with the gun was nowhere to be seen. This aroused the Doctor's suspicion. Giving the lines to his wife and requesting her to drive, he got out the pistol. Leaning forward with it in his hand, he saw a man's head behind a log near the road. The man must have seen the pistol, and did not molest the travelers. Dr. Blake always believed his old friend's premonition saved his life.
God surely moves in a mysterious way his wonders "to perform," but he is his own interpreter. It is our duty to acquiesce and submit to his will. It is not for us to know now why he removes from amongst us such men as Dr. Blake; let us be thankful that he permitted him to stay with us three-score and ten years, and make the world better because he was in it. Let us be thankful that he has left the record of a well-spent life, and an example for all struggling young preachers. Let his family, whose hearths and hearts are so desolate to-day, be consoled with the knowledge that he has left them the inestimable legacy of a good name, and a life of good deeds, which bless the world and make it better until time shall be no more.
Dr. Blake was a remarkable man in many respects. His perceptions of wit and his social qualities were very attractive. He enjoyed pure anecdotes intensely, and told them well. He often told me that he attributed his sacred regard for truth, and his adherence to it through life, to the teaching of his mother, who was a consistent, earnest Christian. One lesson she gave him on that subject made an indelible impression on him. On one occasion when the annual time for "picking geese" arrived, she sent him and a negro boy to drive the geese to the house where the picking was to take place. When the flock got near the door they were reluctant to enter. Dr. Blake, becoming impatient, threw a stone at them, which struck one on the head and killed it. His horror and regret for the unintentional fatality was aggravated by the nagging of the negro boy, who took delight in telling him he would "git a good whipping for killing dat goose." To forestall the negro's report to his mother, the Doctor took the goose to her. She asked him how it got killed. His reply was, "Now, mother, I am going to tell the exact truth. When we got the geese near the house they didn't want to go in, and kept scrouging up in a bunch and running every which way, and one great big, heavy goose knocked this one down and trod on its head and mashed it, and when we got them all in this poor goose was layin' there dead." His mother replied, "Very well, Thaddy, you can go now." The Doctor returned to the goose house and boasted to the negro boy how easily he had gotten "out of that scrape." Everything went well until after supper, when his mother invited hi to his bedroom, where, after giving him a long lecture on truth, and showing him the terrible consequences that always followed the awful habit of lying, told him to go to bed. Congratulating himself on another escape, he was soon ready for bed, but his mother had a corporal settlement to make with him, during which a solemn resolution was formed by the Doctor, that during his life he would tell the truth, let the consequences be what they might. He often thanked his mother for that night's experience long after he was a preacher, and the head of a family; it was a real treat to hear him give the details of this freak of his boyhood.
His knowledge and judgment of men were rarely at fault. His faith in our blessed Savior was immovable. His scrupulous fidelity and punctilious honesty in business affairs were conspicuous in every transaction. His courtesy and kind manners made friends wherever he went.
His death was a very sad personal loss to me. An acquaintance of a half a century, and a close intimacy two-thirds of that time, strengthened and cemented the friendship and confidence of our early years; but being within a few weeks of the eighty-second mile stone of my own earthly pilgrimage, there are very few now living who "started the race of life" with me. They are nearly all gone. It will not be long before I shall be called hence to join, as I hope, that long line of friends and kindred, whose home is in that "house not made with hands."
JOS. W. ALLEN.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 12, 1896, page 517]
BLAKE.-Dr. T. C. Blake was born in this, Lincoln, County, three miles from Petersburg on the Petersburg and Fayetteville turnpike, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and twenty-five. He was educated at Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tenn., where he took the degree D.D. His life and labors were spent in Tennessee and for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and for the uplifting of mankind. He has written some valuable books and edited excellent religious papers. He edited "The Banner of Peace" and "The Cumberland Presbyterian," both church papers. During the latter years of his life he owned and edited "The Youth's Treasury," a most excellent periodical for young people. For a number of years he was Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. A few weeks ago, surrounded by his family and friends, he laid down the Master's work and his noble spirit took its flight from earth. Be it
Resolved, 1. That in the death of Dr. Blake, the State has lost a noble citizen, society one of its most gifted members and the church one of its most efficient workers, and that we extend our sympathy to the bereaved family.
2. That these resolutions be spread on the minutes of this Sunday school and that copies of the same be sent to the Fayetteville "Observer" and "The Cumberland Presbyterian."
Committee Sulphur Springs Sunday School.
Oregon, Tenn., Feb. 28, 1896.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 26, 1896, page 591]
[Dr. T. C. Blake died, at his home, Nashville, Tenn., on February 9, 1896. A year before his death, he had prepared a sketch, or what he denominated "some historical data," of his life, a manuscript of sixty-four pages of legal copy matter, closely written. As will appear at the close of this sketch, he expressed his preference that, in case these "notes" should be published, I should "edit" them for that purpose; also that I should have liberty to use them in preparing a more extended memoir, in case that should be undertaken. After correspondence with the editor, who has examined the manuscript, it has been determined, upon his recommendation and request, that this autobiographical sketch shall be serially published in "The Cumberland Presbyterian." I think it best to let Dr. Blake tell his life story in his own words and way, hence I have attempted nothing more than the necessary literary editing of his sheets, believing that this method will give a narrative of more interest than anything I might be able to prepare in the way of an expanded biography. The task of dividing the sketch into chapters, and of supplying the headings therefor, it seems wiser to leave to the editor, since he can determine these things according to the available space afforded in his columns each week.-J. M. Hubbert.]
I was born on the banks of Cane Creek, Lincoln County, Tennessee, March 17, 1825. Hence, at this writing, I am nearly seventy years of age.
My father's name was John Wyatt Blake and my mother's maiden name was Mary Ann Morgan. Father was born in North Carolina, and mother in Petersburg, Virginia. My mother was left an orphan quite early in life, and her guardian was Peter Byser, her uncle. He and my father's father came to Davidson County, Tennessee, and settled on Mansker's Creek. Father and mother were married in said county, and soon thereafter they and John Blake, my father's father, moved to Lincoln County. They were among the early settlers of that county. My mother inherited from her parents several slaves, and they assisted my father in opening up the farm. The land which he purchased was exceedingly rich, and the whole country then abounded in wild game-bears, deer, wild turkeys, etc. The streams, too, were full of fine fish.
I am one of fifteen children by the same parents-six sons and nine daughters-all of whom, except a son who died in infancy, lived to be grown. My name is Thaddeus Constantine Blake. The name came from a celebrated historical word-Thaddeus of Warsaw-which my mother read a few months before I was born. The hero of the novel was a fine character-a great general who was an important factor in the wars of Poland. Still, from my earliest recollection., I have been rather sorry that my mother read that book prior to my birth, for I have never greatly admired the name that was given to me.
My father was a man of fine natural ability, and enjoyed the advantages of a good English education, for those times. He was a man of fine physique-was exactly six feet high and finely formed. He was a natural mechanic-could make anything he wished, from a hoe handle to a cotton gin. Indeed, he was the first one in the county who built a cotton gin, a wool-carding machine, and a wheat thresher. He was also quite an athlete-could outrun and outjump any one i the settlement.
My mother was a beautiful woman, and was well educated, for her day-was one of the finest readers I have ever listened to in my whole life. She was also a very domestic woman-could card, spin, weave, cut and make garments for her whole family, white and black. In a word, no son was ever blessed with a more worthy and honorable parentage than I, and no family in the county occupied a higher position socially.
I was the eighth child, four sons and three daughters having been born before me. The oldest child was a son. At this writing, all the children are dead except three-a sister, Mrs. C. B. Hays, Athens, Alabama; John T. Blake, Cornersville, Marshall County, Tennessee, and myself.
It was my father's intention to give all his children a thorough education; but, about the time I began to go to school, an epidemic came upon the negroes and the most of them died. This disaster put the other sons and me into the cotton-field. As previously stated, the family was a large one, and the only method left for support was by hard work. The most of the schooling I got was after the crops were "laid by." Hence, when I was quite along in my teens, my education was quite limited. But it was my ambition to obtain a thorough education. My first schooling was in an old field school, taught by a man by the name of Thos. K. Warren. What a house! What seats! What furniture! Every one in a class to himself. The teacher commenced at seven in the morning and taught until nearly sun down. What discipline! Nearly every one, big and little, was whipped two or three times a day! Oh, how I despised that teacher, and so did all the other pupils. Yet there was some fun, for when any one passed by and shouted "school butter!: the whole school (boys) were required to run him down, and duck him in the spring. How many, though I was only six years old, did I helps (?) To put into that old spring! How many time I was whipped for sticking pins in the boys! How many fights over our games-"Roly Hole," "Bull-pen," "Cat," "pull our hats," etc. How often, too, though but a little child, was I desperately in love with some one of the grown girls, and how many fights I had over them! What a joyful time to turn the teacher out. Never can I forget one of those scenes. The boys had the teacher down on his back, trying to make him agree to do two things-treat, and suspend the school. We said, in wrath, that he would do neither. I took my little canister that I had filled with water, held the neck of it to his nose and poured out the contents! Oh, how he snorted, and how he made me snort when he got up!
In my seventeenth year, after the crops were gathered, I hired to some parties who were going to take a large drove of hogs South. The compensation I was to receive was nine dollars per month. Those hogs were to be driven, on foot, more than two hundred miles. I, of course, went on foot and waded through mud and snow for about thirty days, until we reached our destination, South Alabama. During that trip an older brother, who had an interest in the hogs, was bitten on the leg by a wild boar, on Sand Mountain. He bled most profusely, and when I reached him I thought that he could live but a short time. We put him into a wagon to haul him back to a cabin that we passed some hours before. When the driver started back with him, I was almost heart-broken. I knew not what to do. Though irreligious at the time, I went to a sequestered place and got upon my knees to pray, and the only thing that I could say was, "O God of my mother, have mercy!" Short as that prayer was, and wicked as my life had been, God answered the prayer. We got the blood stanched, and I sent fifteen miles for a physician. I went on with the hogs that day, and, after they were put up for the night, I went back and stayed with my brother in that cabin. Soon after I arrived, the doctor came and bandaged the ugly wound. At daylight I went to the post of duty. When night came I went back again and found my brother resting quietly. The next morning I left him, feeling assured that he would recover. But I did not hear from him until the hogs had reached their destination, had been sold, and I had walked back to the cabin! Never can I forget that affair, I felt that I ought not to leave him, but he insisted that I must do so to look after his interest, for all that he had was in the fourth part of that lot of hogs, and my father was on his note for his part of the drove. I put my brother into a wagon and hauled him back home. I small boy drive, and I walked the whole trip, going and coming, a distance of 500 miles.
When I reached home, I received for my labors thirteen dollars. I took the money and bought a mule colt. The price of the colt was fifteen dollars, but the old gentleman from whom I made the purchase agreed to credit me one year for the remaining two dollars. I raised that colt, and, when he was grown, I sold him for seventh-five dollars. Meantime I had made a profession of religion. This was at Union Grove camp ground, about two miles from where I was born, and about one mile and a half from Petersburg (Tennessee), at that time a small village. This was in September, 1843. My parents were camped on the ground. I became convicted under a sermon preached, Tuesday night, by Rev. Henry B. Warren, one of the most powerful preachers in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of that day. Just before midnight (Tuesday) I found the Savior. The joy of that hour will ever be a precious memory to me. I have not language to express my feelings; but my soul was unutterably filled with the glory of God. The remaining portion of the night was spent in rejoicing-yea, shouting. Surely heaven itself cannot give greater joy than I felt at that time. How can it? My soul had all that it could contain. The vessel may be enlarged, but it cannot be more completely filled. In the language of the half-inspired poet, I felt:
Oh, how often since, when doubts and fears arose, have I been quieted and comforted by the recollection of that hour! I know, as well as I know that I now exist, that something supernatural was then done for me, to me, and in me. Paul could not have been more certain of the light which came upon him when on his way to Damascus than I then was that light from the same source was poured into my soul.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 8, 1906, pages 168-169]
Soon after making profession of religion, I felt that it was my duty to preach the gospel. Many embarrassments, however, beset my pathway. I was poor and ignorant-had only a limited education, and could see but little prospect of acquiring one. But I resolved, God helping me, that I would make the effort to prepare myself for the work. Hence, the next year, in the month of September, 1844, I went to the Tennessee Presbytery, which met at Old Goshen Camp Ground, near Winchester, Tenn., and presented myself as a candidate for the ministry. Several others were there for the same purpose. The presbytery appointed a committee to meet the applicants. The chairman of that committee was the Rev. N. P. Modrall. Never can I forget the kindness of that grand man, nor the tender and encouraging words which he uttered. He is to-day, no doubt, in heaven, but I thank him for the hour's talk which he gave to me, along with others, on that occasion. Nor can I recall my personal appearance at that time without feelings of devout thankfulness that the committee seemed to care less for it than I cared. Still, as a matter of fact, the long and half-worn linen coat which I wore did not fit me very well, nor did it keep me uncomfortable warm during the cold blizzard which blew fro the adjacent mountain in the autumnal season. At that time, the Tennessee Presbytery was one of the strongest in the denomination. Donnell, Modrall, Bone, Gibson, Alexander and other strong men were members of it.
On my return home from presbytery, I took part of the money obtained from the sale of that mule, and bought another mule colt from the same old gentleman. This was a better animal than the first, and I paid twenty-five dollars in cash for it. I then entered what might be termed an old field school. It was taught by a man by the name of Mayhew, who was a very fair English scholar, but the house itself was a most dilapidated building, made of logs. There I studied English Grammar (Kirkham's) and Natural Philosophy (Comstock's). Though I say it myself, I mastered those books-learned, and thoroughly learned, everything in them. I had then gone in my education about as far as my teacher could carry me. This school was near Petersburg, Tenn.
About this time a man by the name of H. C. Worcell opened an academic school some six miles south of my father's house. This school was taught under an old-fashioned camp meeting shelter. Mr. Worcell was a fine scholar and a good instructor. I went to see him, with a view of entering his school. He kindly agreed to give me my tuition, which offer I accepted with a grateful heart. Under him I commenced the Latin language, and I also studied several English branches-Algebra, Logic, Mental Philosophy, etc. To reach that school I went and came daily on a young horse which my father let me have the use of for several months.
The scholarship of that man thoroughly aroused me. He did the most of his teaching by lectures, rarely ever asking his classes a question. The truth is, he did too much for his pupils. He did not require them to stand an examination on the lesson. I devoted the most of my time to Latin, and I thoroughly mastered the Latin Grammar. He was not a Greek scholar, nor did he understand the higher branches of mathematics-Analytical Geometry, Calculus, etc.
After remaining in that academy for more than a year, I felt that it was not exactly the school I wanted, for I had made up my mind that I would never stop until I had obtained a diploma from the best school in my Church. About that time I received a letter from Father Donnell, who was then pastor of our church at Lebanon, Tenn., the seat of Cumberland University. He urged me to come at once, for he said he had arranged for my board and that my tuition would cost me nothing. This was good news to me, and I at once commenced to make my arrangements to comply with his request. Meantime I had sold my other mule. After paying my debts, and furnishing myself with the books and clothing that I would be compelled to have, I had but thirty dollars left; nor had I the prospect of anything more. It was about one hundred miles to Lebanon, and the only method of getting there by public conveyance was by stage coach. So I took stage at Fayetteville, the county seat of my county, and in two nights and one day I landed in Lebanon-my money reduced to about fifteen dollars. On my arrival I called to see Father Donnell, and he conducted me to Mrs Martha Burton's, the widow of a prominent lawyer who for years was an elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The good woman gave me a hearty welcome, and had me conducted to a vacant office situated in a grove of cedars about a hundred yards from her dwelling. The room was quite comfortably furnished, and, after I had stored there my trunk and books, Father Donnell accompanied me to the University. He introduced me to the president, Rev. Dr. T. C. Anderson, one of the grandest men the Cumberland Presbyterian Church ever produced. He was quite cordial and fatherly, but said, as I would not for several years be in his department (the department of belles-lettres), he would introduce me to the professors to whom I would have to recite. He did so, but they were not so cordial by a great deal. The truth is, I thought they received me rather coldly. The president told them that I wished to take a regular course; and, after examining me pretty thoroughly and coldly, they said I would have to spend one session in the Preparatory Department. I was up to the Freshman Class in everything except Greek. They assigned me a lesson in the Greek Grammar, and a short lesson in a Greek Reader called "Detectus."
I left the building with a heavy heart, for I did not even know the Greek alphabet! When I got to my room I would have given all that I ever expected to possess, if I had never gone to college. But I went to work, learned the alphabet, and prepared the lesson in the reader before I slept that night. The reading lesson was a short one, composed of simple nouns, and the verb to be (understood) in each tense. No college student on earth, I suppose, ever had a worse case of the "blues." But in a few weeks I got over my home sickness, and my teacher complimented me by saying that I had done so well in the Greek that it might be the best for me to devote a part of my time to the Latin; not that he thought I needed to do so, but he was sure I could make a good leader for the class. I soon found that from the superior training which I had had in Latin, I knew more about it than any of my class, and about as much as the tutor himself.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 15, 1906, pages 200-201]
Time passed, and so did the small amount of money I had when I landed at Lebanon. At last, all that I had on earth was five cents. In those days letters were not prepaid, and postage was five cents on each letter. I was looking for a letter from my mother, and I was giving my last piece of money to get it out of the post office. A few days after my finances became so reduced, an agent of the American Bible Society came to Lebanon to present the claims of that institution. He preached a good sermon and made a most powerful appeal. When the collectors started through the audience I thought, "Well, I am a poor boy, away from home, and have but five cents on earth, with no prospect of getting any more. I can't give my five cents, for if I do I can't get my mother's letter when it comes." But when the collectors reached me I said within myself, "That five cents will buy a Testament, and as Christ gave himself for me I certainly ought to give everything I possess to him and his cause." Hence, I took my five cents and put it into the basket. After I did so, I felt peculiarly happy-had never felt so happy before but once, and that was when I made a profession of religion. The truth is, I felt like shouting-was so happy that I did not go to dinner that day, but remained in my room, praising God. In the audience that day I saw, but did not have a chance to speak to him, Hon. N. Green, father of the present chancellor of Cumberland University. He had a son in college, and the judge had left the supreme bench for a day or two (the court then sitting in Nashville) to visit him. I had seen the judge but once before, and was simply introduced to him at that time and had no conversation with him. The next morning (Monday) a colored boy brought a note to my room. It read about thus: "I go to Nashville this afternoon, but before I leave I wish to see you. Please come at once to my room at the hotel." To this note the name of N. Green was appended. I read the note again and again, wondering what it could mean. I had heard that he knew just how to lecture a young preacher when he had done wrong, and I commenced thinking over the past to see if I had done anything worthy of a lecture. But I decided to obey the summons and take the consequences. I went to his room, and, after a brief conversation with him, he said, "I cannot tell why, but I am strongly impressed-never felt anything of the kind before. But I am impressed with the idea that you are out of money, and that it is my duty to give you some." So saying, he went to his small valise, unlocked it, and took from his purse twenty dollars and handed the same to me, with the remark, "You will greatly oblige me by accepting this-indeed, you must do so, to relieve my mind and heart." With a choked utterance I tried to thank him; but the incident of the day before, of that five cents, at once came into my mind.
In a month or two I was again out of money, and one morning, as I went to recitation, passing by the house where Father Donnell boarded, I heard a voice calling me from the window, which I recognized as Aunt Donnell's, the wife of Father Donnell. She said, "Thaddeus, my son, please come in." I was weeping over my financial condition, and not wishing her to see me in that condition, I said, "I will call as I come from recitation." She answered, 'No, call right now; I will detain you but a moment." I brushed my tears away, and went back. She said, "I can't account for it, but I feel that it is my duty to give you some money, and until I do so, I shall be unhappy." She then took from her pocket ten dollars, and handing the same to me, she said, "My dear boy, take this, and may the God of all grace bless you as I am blessed in giving this to you." This amount carried me to the close of the session. During that session I was one day introduced to Judge R. L. Caruthers, but we had no conversation.
When I returned home for the vacation, my friends asked what I was going to do. My answer was, "I am going to take a regular course in Cumberland University--will never stop until I have a diploma from that institution." When they asked me how I was going to do that, I answered, "I know note, but a way will be provided." A few weeks before the opening of the next collegiate year, I called one day at the post office in Petersburg, near my old home, and the postmaster handed me a letter addressed to me in a handwriting which I had never seen before. I broke the seal, and read the first sentence. It was in these words: "I write to ask a special favor of you." I stopped the reading to see who it was that was writing. To the letter was appended the name of Robt. L. Caruthers. Before reading anything more, I paused and asked myself the question, "What can be the favor that he is asking?" But turning to the letter I read this: "God in his providence gave us a lovely daughter, and, just as she budded into womanhood, he took her to himself, leaving wife and me childless. With bleeding hearts we yielded up the sacred treasure; and the favor that we now ask is that you will come to our home and be unto us as a son. We will do for you and by you just as we would for our own son, until your education is completed. Please grant the favor which we ask, and be at our house on the day that the next session opens."
After reading the letter several times, for it almost bewildered me, I went home, showed it to the family, and I need to say there was weeping for joy in that household. I then went tot eh orchard, got upon my knees, and asked God to show to me why such an unlooked-for blessing had come to me. Of course, no audible answer was given, but I arose from that prayer with the conviction that the five cents-my all-given to him on that ever-memorable Sabbath was the cause.
The letter was promptly answered, but there were many blotches on the sheet caused by falling tears as I attempted to thank my benefactors for their kind offer. And just here I will say that everything promised, and more too, was done by them. For four years their house was my home, and every want was supplied-board, books, clothing, money, etc.-and as I make this record I weep with gratitude at the remembrance of such favors. What a blessing that home was to me at that time and during subsequent life. The words of wisdom that fell daily from the lips of that grand man entered into the warp and woof of my life. Often, often, would he come to my room (a handsome office in his yard) and talk to me by the hour. Never in my life did I hear from hi a silly or a vindictive utterance. But more of him after a while.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 22, 1906, page 233]
When the session opened I was admitted to the freshman class. This was in the fall of 1847. It was in the second session of the scholastic year 1846-7 that I had entered the university. In the autmn of 1846 I had been licensed to preach, by the Tennessee Presbytery, the Rev. A. G. Gibson presiding. This was done against my will; for it had been my desire that I should not receive licensure until I was ready for the full work of the ministry. The autumn class of 1847 was a large one, and it contained some very fine material. My teachers were Professors A. P. Stewart and N. Lawrence Lindsley, the former in the mathematical department and the latter in the department of language. My preference was for mathematics, and I resolved that I would try for the head position in my class in that department. A few others had made the same resolve, and the competition was strong and fierce. I won the prize the first session, and held it during the whole four years' course. But it was done at the expense of most laborious effort. Among my competitors were S. T. Anderson and W. E. Ward, two as true and noble young men as ever lived. They both became eminent ministers and educators in the Cumberland Presbyterian church. At this writing they are both dead, but "their works do follow them." Dr. Anderson occupied important chairs in several of our colleges, and Dr. Ward was the founder of "Ward's Seminary," at Nashville, Tenn. He and I were as David and Jonathan, and I named my first-born son for him-William Ward Blake, one of the noblest sons that ever blessed a father.
Our class, as is usually the case with college classes, grew less and less as it grew in years; and only eight passed through the senior year. With the exception of myself and one other, all the others are dead at the time of making this record-January, 1895. During the four years' course nothing occurred out of the usual happenings. When I reached the senior year I was honored with the position of tutor in the preparatory department. I taught several classes in elementary Latin, Greek and mathematics. Most of those in these classes were extra fine students, and quite a number of them became prominent in their chosen vocations in after life. I still possess a token of their attachment to me in the form of a walking-stick. It is a very handsome staff, with a gold head, bearing the inscription: "Oblatum Reverendo T. C. Blake, a Suis Discipulis, MDCCCLI." While I taught these classes, I carried on the studies of the senior year. It was hard work to do both, but I was obliged to do so or lose my position in the class, for my competitors for the headship never surrendered until the last recitation was made. But while there was competition, there was no mean envy, and when the curriculum was finished I was unanimously chosen as valedictorian of the class. I neglected to mention the fact that during the latter part of my college course I was elected president, for one year, of the Amasagassian Society, one of the best literary societies in the university. I was further honored by the society in having my "Inaugural" speech published. But I have no copy of it, nor do I suppose there is one in existence.
During the summer following my junior year, I had made the acquaintance of Miss Nannie M. Johnson. We first met in Lincoln county, where we were both spending the vacation, and there our matrimonial engagement was made. We agreed to be married soon after our graduation, for she, too, was in her senior year in college. Hence, on October the 15, 1851, we were married, in a small village in east Tennessee, named Philadelphia, at the home of her brother-in-law, Dr. W. R. Harley. The ceremony was performed by Rev. T. H. Small, who then lived not far from Philadelphia, Tenn., but he soon after went to Oregon. Immediately after the marriage took place (about 10 o'clock in the morning) we started to my father's home, in Lincoln county, Tenn. We traveled in a buggy-both the horse and the vehicle were borrowed. The next day after the marriage my wife presented me with a purse containing three hundred dollars. This was more money than I had ever had at any one time in my life. This, too, was about all that came to my wife from the paternal estate. But she was a fortune in herself. As a wife she was content, entirely so, to occupy the position assigned to her by the best of all books-never desired to leave the proper sphere of women. For more than thirty years we walked the path of life together, and at all times and under all circumstances she was the same pure, chaste, devoted, loving wife.
In the interim between my graduation and my marriage, I had received ordination. This was at Gibson's Camp Ground, some four miles from my father's home, in the autumn of 1851. Soon after my marriage, I received a call to take charge of the Female Academy at Spring Hill, Maury county, Ten., at a guaranteed salary for myself and wife of one thousand dollars per annum. I accepted the call, and the school was to open in January, 1852. Spring Hill was the home of Rev. J. B. Porter, one of the fathers of the church. It was but a village, but it was surrounded by intelligent, wealthy, cultured people. Indeed, in these particulars it did not have an equal in the state. On the day appointed, first Monday in January, 1852, the school was opened. Three girls came! The weather was bad, and there was no income the first week. The next Monday four new ones came, making seven in all. For about three weeks this was all the patronage the school had. Indeed, the prospects were so gloomy that I called a meeting of the trustees and said to them, "You cannot afford to pay me a thousand dollars with a patronage so small; so I will release you from your obligation, and go elsewhere." They said, "No sir, we do not wish to be released-will give you the thousand dollars to go to that academy and sit there during school hours if you do not have a single pupil."
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 1, 1906, page 265]
In a few days six or eight new pupils came, and among them two girls that had broken up every school that had been opened in that village for several years. I had been warned against them; but for several days they were remarkably studious and docile. I thought surely they had been misrepresented. But on Monday of their second week, they threw off all restraint, and for a few minutes they made things "lively," to use their own words. I at once, in a stentorian voice, ordered them to leave the school. They looked at me with amazement. But I stamped my foot on the floor, and said, "Go at once, and never return!" They did so, but what a "hubbub" it created in the village! A day or two after, I called the trustees together, told them what I had done, and why I did it. I then said, "I suppose this will break up the school; and as I do not wish your money for naught, therefore I will release you from your pecuniary obligation, and I will go somewhere else." They said, "No sir. You have done exactly right-have done what no other teacher here had the moral courage to do." And the president of the board said, "Instead of letting you leave, we ill even increase your salary." The answer from all the others was, "Yes, yes, that is jut what we will do." Of course, I would not permit them to increase my salary.
In a few weeks new girls, from the very best families, entered school, and before the session closed my school numbered seventy-five girls. There were female school in Columbia, twelve miles south, the county seat of Maury county, and at Franklin, two miles north, the county seat of Williamson county, and from them my school drew quite a large patronage. For three years I remained in that school, and meantime a beautiful, imposing, new academy building had been erected for me. I had, too, built up a large and profitable school-a school that yielded about twenty-five hundred dollars clear profit, per annum. My success, I am sure, was due to the fact that my teaching was thorough-the whys and wherefores were demanded of the pupils. The truth is, my girls could go to the blackboard and demonstrate a proposition with as much self-composure and accuracy as could a senior in our most celebrated university for the male sex. Indeed, I had the satisfaction of seeing my girls sought after by many localities that wished to establish thorough schools, and many of them became eminent and successful teachers. I taught during the week, and preached every Sabbath to churches near the village-Mount Carmel and Lasting Hope, two excellent country congregations.
I trust it will be counted pardonable for me here to relate an incident in the way of a prank played upon me by my trustees:
A short time after the school got under full sway, and everything was prospering, the trustees held a meeting unknown to me to devise some plan to purchase a fine piano. Dr. J. W. Shorbed, an elder in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and a most estimable man, perpetrated quite a joke on me. I was boarding with him at the time. After supper, on the day that the trustees had met without my knowledge, he came into my room and said, "The trustees met this afternoon, and asked me to communicate to you their discussion in reference to yourself," He added, "I trust you will no be offended with me simply because I am made the bearer of their decision." I at once became somewhat excited, and said, "Well, what did they do?" He answered in a sort of stammering, hesitating way, "They discussed you and your methods of conducting a school, and after doing so, they unanimously agreed that they do not wish you any longer." I was thunderstruck, and after a moment's delay, I said, "I denounce such conduct as infamous-gentlemen would not do such a thing." I then added with emphasis, "I have contempt for a set of men that would act in such a way." Said I, "I have twice agreed to release them, and they refused my propositions. Now, it seems, they have met clandestinely, and in my absence have taken an action that will disgrace me." I noticed, as I talked, he would smile, which made me still more angry. He then added, "They also required me to give the reason why they do not wish you any longer." I said that I did not want to hear it, for I have no respect for such action nor for any reason which such men would give. But he added, "I must do so." I then replied, "Well, if it will do you any good you can give it, but I do not wish to hear it." He then said, "They do not wish you any longer, because they think that you are long enough!" How completely I had been made the victim of a joke. [Those who ever saw Dr. Blake, whose height was more than six feet, can relish this bit of jesting on the part of his trustees.]
While living at Spring Hill, Henry Clay, the great statesman of Kentucky, died. A committee of the most cultured men of the village and vicinity waited upon me, and asked me to deliver a funeral discourse of the grand commoner. I complied with the request, and never did I see such an audience assembled in a small village. A few days after the discourse was delivered the citizens presented to me the most handsome family Bible I ever saw. It cost fifty dollars. It was bound in Turkey Morocco, beautiful gilt edges, and clasp and bevel sides. The inscription in gold letters was,
Of course I have that Bible yet, and esteem it as one of my most valuable souvenirs.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 8, 1906, page 297]
In the year 1854, an incident occurred in my life which I feel compelled to relate. There lived in Spring Hill an old man by the name of Allen. He was a model Christian, belonged to the Methodist Church, and was beloved and respected by every one who knew him. He heard that it was my purpose to visit my wife's relatives in East Tennessee, and that I would take with me my wife and a sweet little daughter that had been born to us. He came to see me one day and asked me when I would leave. I told him of the day when I proposed to start. He looked at me tenderly and asked me if I had a pistol to carry with me on the trip. I laughed at him and said, "Brother Allen, I never owned, carried, or fired a pistol in my life, and I do not want one." He insisted that I should make an exception in that case and take one with me. I positively but kindly refused. The day before I started, he came to me and said, "Brother Blake, I will not consent to see you start on that trip without a pistol." I replied, "I have no pistol, and I am unwilling to buy one." He answered, "I know where there is a good one, and the owner has just promised me that he will lend it to you if you wish it." Seeing that nothing else would satisfy the dear, good man, I said, "If it will be for your comfort and happiness, I will take the pistol along with me, but really I do not know how to fire it." His countenance at once brightened up, and he said, "I will go at once and get it, and show you how to load and use it." He brought it, and it was indeed a fine one. After thoroughly instructing me in the use of it, he put it into a little hand satchel and said, "You can set this in the front part of your buggy, and if you have occasion to use it (and you will before you return), it will be convenient." I said, "All right, I will do as you say." When the day came for me to start, he was at my house early in the morning, and he would not leave until he saw that pistol in its place.
To reach East Tennessee I had to cross the Cumberland Mountains by way of Sparta, Tenn. In crossing the mountains we stayed one night at the Widow Kimmer's, a celebrated old tavern about midway of the Cumberland plateau. From that old lady we learned that we would the next day pass a place called the Cascade, where a large stream of water fell some hundred or more feet. We decided that we would stop and see the wonderful waterfall. The old lady said, "Be a leetle pertic'ler when you git thar, for they tell me a number of people has been robbed and kilt thar, and throwed down into the gulch." The next day, about 12 o'clock, we reached the place. There was an old, dilapidated cabin standing there, and it seemed to be uninhabited. We got out of the buggy to go to the cascade, and as we passed around the old building we saw two desperate-looking men. They were singularly dressed, and each wore a peculiar cap. They were very polite, and at once agreed to go with us to the "waterfall," as they called it. After we had gone a short distance I turned to my wife and said, "Let us go back." She was as pale as death, and at once agreed to my proposition, for she seemed to feel the same alarm and fear that had taken possession of me. The men begged, pleaded, that we should go on, telling us what a wonderful "sight" we would miss if we turned back. We, however, paid no attention to their entreaties, and at once returned to the cabin. When we reached that place, the men stepped behind the corner of the cabin and held a consultation. I saw one of them point in the direction we were traveling. One of them disappeared, and the other came back to us as we were getting into the buggy and insisted that we should rest a while. We heeded him not, but started. After we started, I said to my wife, "We are in for it, Nannie, but be brave, and it will come out all right." On each side of the road there was thick undergrowth, and a thousand places where a murderer could conceal himself close to the road. We both agreed to be on the lookout for the man that had left us at the old cabin. We had not gone more than a mile when I saw something like a human being lying behind a log which was lying angling to the road. As we drew nearer, we discovered that is was a man, and that it was the same man that had left us. I stopped the buggy, took the pistol out of the satchel, picked the touch-holes, and put on fresh caps. I handed the lines to my wife, and said, "Be brave, my darling; I will hold my pistol on that fellow, and, if he makes a move to get up, I will kill him." We went on, but he moved not, and the reason was that I had the "drop" on him. We passed in safety, and I felt devoutly thankful that I had that pistol, and that I was not compelled to kill a human being. As I have said, I had never fired a pistol, but I felt on that day that I could have cut a tape in two ten steps away! When I returned home and told my old friend of this affair, he wept like a child, and said, "I knew that pistol would save your life!" Never, of course, can I think of this affair without feeling grateful to our Heavenly Father for his merciful providence in sparing my life and that of my wife and sweet little babe.
When I reached my destination, I found a letter from Judge R. L. Caruthers, which had been forwarded to me from Spring Hill, my home. That letter revealed the fact that Prof. A. P. Stewart had resigned the chair of mathematics in Cumberland University, and that I had been unanimously chosen to fill the vacancy. The announcement was followed by just such appeals as he knew how to make to induce me to accept the position. To me the letter and the announcement were both unwelcome. I was doing well at Spring Hill, and did not wish to leave the place. I had built up a school that was quite profitable, and I had purchased a beautiful farm of one hundred and fifty acres, the payments on which could be easily met by the profits from my school. Besides, I was asked to fill the chair of my old professor-a man of national reputation as a teacher. Hence, I at once answered the letter, and begged that I be excused-made every point that I could think of as reasons for declining. In a few days I received a still stronger letter from Judge Caruthers, and, in addition, five or six letters from others-Judges Abraham Caruthers, Nathan Green, Sr., Nathan Green, Jr., President T. C. Anderson and others. The letters were most urgent-would have no denial. I read them all, and still insisted that I be excused. Answers came promptly, and with Judge R. L. Caruthers' letter came clippings from several leading papers stating that I had been elected to the chair of mathematics. Those clippings, too, contained most flattering statements of the qualifications of the "new professor." What should I do? What could I do? I was indebted to Judge Caruthers and to Cumberland University for everything that I was; and the announcements made in the papers had burned the ships behind me, so that there was no retreat. I went to my knees, with the question, and, after a great struggle, I decided to accept. This forced me back home to make preparations for the new position. Meantime the people of Spring Hill had heard the news, and they were greatly dissatisfied and disappointed. They begged me to reconsider, but I said, "No. It is a great sacrifice, it is true, but I have thoroughly made up my mind to endure it." I turned over my school to another, and sold my farm upon the same terms which I had bought it. The stock, growing crops, etc., I sold at public auction and at quite a loss. In other words, I gave up a school of twenty-five hundred dollars per annum for a professorship which then paid less than a thousand dollars. It gave me great pain to leave Spring Hill, for no man ever had more or better friends than I had at that place.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 15, 1906, pages 328-329]
For two years I occupied the chair of mathematics, and though I say it myself, I gave entire satisfaction to the trustees and to the students. Indeed, the chair in which I now sit, writing these incidents in my life, was given to me by one of the graduating classes taught by me. It was the most handsome chair they could buy, and on a silver plate are engraven the names of the donors. The work was laborious, and at the end of two years I resigned because of the failure of my health. After recuperating a while, I accepted an agency to raise money to erect additional buildings for the university. I traveled extensively, and in about one year I raised the money to put up the large and handsome wings to the university, making the remodeled building one of the most imposing college edifices in the country.
Meantime the Lebanon pulpit had become vacant. Yielding to the urgent solicitations of the church session, I accepted the pastorate of that church, and was duly installed by the action of the Lebanon Presbytery. Dr. A M. Bryan, who was at Lebanon on a visit at the time, preached the installation sermon, and Dr. Richard Beard gave the charge to both pastor and people. I accepted the position with great trepidation, knowing the high character of the ministers who preceded me. Besides, I had spent the most of my life in the schoolroom, and was comparatively destitute of pulpit resources-had not preached a great deal, and was by no means overstocked with sermons. My labors, therefore, were incessant and arduous. In a short time my voice failed; I could not speak above a whisper. This calamity, of course, ended my labors as pastor of that church. My family physician felt sure that I was passing into that most dreadful disease, consumption; and he urged me to go at once to Nashville, Tenn., and consult two of the most eminent physicians of that city. I did so, and they gave me a most thorough examination. They then went into a private room and held a consultation. When they came out, the older of the two said, "You, of course, wish our candid opinion, and we are certain you will not be alarmed by hearing it." I said, "Yes, I want your candid opinion." He then said, "This is October, and our opinion is, that, if you will go to Florida, you may live until next April or May," I asked, "Do you both so say?" And the answer from each was in the affirmative. My answer was, "Gentlemen, I thank you most sincerely for kindness; but I think you are mistaken. Anyway, if that is all the prospect I have for life, I will spend that brief time, not in Florida, but in Lebanon with my family." That was nearly forty years ago. I am, by the blessing of God, still here, and with no symptoms of consumption.
On my return home, after a rest of several months, and a decided improvement in health, I was elected corresponding secretary of the Board of Missions. When I took charge of the office, I found that the plan adopted by my predecessor, to raise money, was to send agents into the different states, to visit the churches and take public collections. I did not think that was the best way. Hence, I got rid of all these traveling agents, and then sent my letters and appeals to the ministers in charge of the churches. This whole thing is fully explained by Dr. McDonnold in his church history. (See page 313.) In brief, my method was successful, and in a short time the receipts were greatly more than doubled. I was delighted with this work, and every year witnessed quite an expansion. But the war came-the Civil War-the most calamitous of all evils, a war of brothers. On this subject, however, I have no disposition to dwell. Suffice it to say, it made four years of my life a blank. I spent those years in Lebanon with my family. To others I relegate the privilege and duty of "writing up" that war.
During the war, the grand building of Cumberland University was reduced to ashes. The Federal army had converted it into a recruiting barrack; and some Southern soldiers set it on fire because it was thus used. The act was a terrible piece of vandalism, and the perpetrators should have been severely punished. But while I thus say, it is my opinion that the Federal army, or authorities, had no right to endanger the property by converting it into a fortified barrack, or stockade.
At the close of the war, it was found that the seal of the university had been lost. J. S. McClain, who was the secretary of the board of trustees, asked me to select a new device for a seal. I did so, and it was adopted by the board. It was a Phoenix rising from ashes, with the inscription "E Cineribus Resurgam"-"From ashes I will rise." Hence, though I was not the alumnus who wrote on one of the fallen columns of the old building, "E cineribus resurgam," yet I am the alumnus who prepared that seal, two years before it was copied on the fallen shaft!
The war being over, the friends of the university determined to resuscitate the school. I took an agency to raise money to rebuild the grand structure that was in ruins. I raised quite an amount in the form of notes. But I became tired of travel and being from home; and, therefore, I gave up the agency. The presidency of the university was urged upon me, but I declined. And just here I will state, parenthetically, that the presidency of three of our other schools-Bethel College, Lincoln University, and Trinity University-have been tendered to me.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 22, 1906, page 361]
Soon after the war, Revs. Isaac Shook and J. C. Provine determined to revive the old Banner of Peace. These brethren paid Dr. Ward nothing for list and goodwill of the Banner of Peace. But as he had abandoned the paper, and had determined to devote his energies to building up a female school in Nashville, they, I suppose, felt at liberty to do what they did. Indeed, it may be that they got his consent to thus do. Brother Shook died, and Dr. Provine still published the paper. Subsequently Brother J. M. Halsell, who was publishing a church paper at Owensboro, Ky., made a proposition to unite the two papers. It was done, and the consolidated paper was called the Banner of Peace. For some time, these brethren owned and edited that paper. I bought the paper from them in the latter part of the year 1866, and was to get possession on the first day of January, 1867. The paper, when I bought it, had about eighteen hundred subscribers. I gave $6,300 for it. I got simply the list and "goodwill" of the paper, for they owned no type or press. After the purchase, I made preparation to move to Nashville, and on the first Thursday in January, 1867, I issued my first number. My previous extensive acquaintance with the ministry and laity was worth much to me in this undertaking. I at once commenced an extensive correspondence with my brethren and in a short time the list of subscribers grew very rapidly. The purchase was a profitable one, although I had paid a large price for the paper. I worked day and night on my enterprise-did heavy office work during the day and wrote editorials at night. Every mail brought new subscriptions, and strong endorsements of the paper. The great theme pressed in the paper was, a consecrated and a sustained ministry; and I had the satisfaction of seeing the fruits of my labors.
After getting the weekly well launched, I conceived the idea of starting a child's paper. I made the weekly the agent for that work. Soon after the matter was suggested, I saw from the responses received that the church was ripe for the enterprise. I therefore issued the first number of the Sabbath School Gem, the first child's paper ever published in the church, during the month of May, 1867, and dated it June, 1867. When I issued it I did not have a subscriber, but I published five thousand copies. Some of my friends told me that I was running great risk, but I did not think so, for I felt sure that there was a place for it in the church. In thirty days after the paper was issued, I did not have ten copies in the office. The second month I issued 7,500 copies, and soon they were gone. The next edition was 10,000 copies, and soon they were all called for. Thus it grew until at one time I had 22,000 subscribers.
Feeling sure that both papers were on a firm footing, I decided to launch a quarterly. Such a publication had been in the church before the war, but it had never been a financial success-would run a while and then stop for about as long a time. Indeed, it was largely supported by private donations. When I announced my purpose to start the quarterly, scores of my friends wrote letters, begging me to abandon the purpose. But I went ahead; and the first issue was 1,000 copies. As will be remembered by those who saw it, it was one of the most handsome quarterlies in America, superior in all respects as to the material-paper, type, binding, etc. The first year the list went to 1,800-the largest list, it was said at the time, that any quarterly in the country had.
These heavy and incessant labors broke me down physically, and I was compelled to get rid of a part of my work. At the expiration of about three years, I sold the Banner of Peace. I turned over to the purchaser, the Rev. S. P. Chesnut, a bona fide, counted list of 4,463 names, as clean a list as any paper ever had; and, though I say it myself, as satisfied a list as could be found anywhere. I then devoted my time to editing and publishing the quarterly and the child's paper-the Theological Medium and the Sabbath School gem. And all the time I edited them I had no trouble in keeping their lists of subscribers. After recruiting my health for a while, and not having all my time taken up with my two publications, I accepted a call from the Board of Publication to the position of book editor and financial agent, for the period of six months. During that time I edited and published five books, and raised in actual cash, as the report of the board for that year will show, about $8,000.
I then sold to the board my two publications, and accepted an agency from the trustees of Cumberland University to endow that institution through life insurance, called the "Ball Endowment Plan," in honor of the elder in our church at Memphis, Tenn., by the name of B. F. Ball, who was the originator of the plan. I went into the work with doubt as to its feasibility, but as it was endorsed by the trustees, and commended by the General Assembly, I waived my objections and undertook the work. I had remarkably good success for the first year; but those who had taken out policies were disappointed because the men whose lives they had insured did not die and thus release them from all subsequent payments! The great majority refused to make a second payment. I saw that the only way to succeed was to solicit not only the first payment but also all the subsequent ones; that is, the agent would have to be on the ground to secure renewals; and as I did not propose to do that work over and over every year, I decided that I would have nothing more to do with the chimerical method. Hence, I resigned the agency. This was just before the General Assembly which met at Springfield, Mo., in 1874. I attended that General Assembly, and was by acclamation made moderator, the first time, so Judge Frizzell told me, that such a thing had ever been done. As I never investigated the matter, I cannot personally vouch for the fact. At that General Assembly, Rev. Dr. Morrison and Rev. Dr. Ferguson were delegates from the Evangelical Union, of Scotland. It was a grand time. They made addresses, to which the moderator responded. (See Assembly Minutes of 1874.) As will be seen from said minutes, too, the foundation was laid at this General Assembly for the purchase, by the Board of Publication, of the weeklies of the church and the consolidation of the same into one paper for the whole church.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 29, 1906, page 393]
During this year (1874), the papers were bought--the Banner of Peace, from Rev. S. P. Chesnut, "The Cumberland Presbyterian," from Rev. Dr. J. R. Brown and T. H. Perrin, and the Texas Observer, from Rev. J. H. Wofford. As the records will show, the prices paid for these papers were, to say the least, very liberal. At the time the purchase was made the board had but little cash, hence they were bought on a credit, and the notes of the board were given at ten per cent. In buying the Banner of Peace a price ($10,000) was agreed upon for the list of subscribers and the "goodwill," also about $3,000 for unpaid accounts-advertising and subscriptions. (See the records.) The latter never yielded anything of consequence to the board.
The purchases having been made, the next thing was to consolidate the lists. In attempting to do this, it was found that a few persons were taking all three of the papers, and quite a large number took the Banner of Peace and "The Cumberland Presbyterian." In many cases, too, one of the papers went to the husband and the other to the wife. Never, perhaps, was such trouble encountered in adjusting the list for the consolidated paper. My opinion is, that each subscriber, after the list was "straightened out," cost the board between four and five dollars. In addition to all this trouble and heavy expense, a large element in the church opposed consolidation, and for a year or two there was quite a "war of words" on the subject.
About this time I was elected to the position of general financial agent of the board. When I went into the office, I found that the board owed over $30,000, and the whole debt was at ten per cent interest. It is not necessary to go into details concerning the ten thousand annoyances that confronted me in my work-a heavy debt, poor machinery, a subscription list, when purged, about half of what it should have been, and a large list of ecclesiastical "bushwhackers" fighting from ambush. Never in my whole life did I encounter a task so perplexing and annoying. How these debts pressed upon me daily, and how many hundred times I had to go to my personal friends-merchants-to get them to swap checks with me. That is, they would give me checks which I could have cashed in the bank, and I would give them checks which they would agree to hold as a personal favor to me for two or three days; that is, until I could get some one else to do the same things, that I might pay the first! We had obtained all the accommodation out of the bank that we could get, and I was obliged to resort to this method of "swapping checks" to save the credit of the church. In all the favors obtained from the bank, I signed the notes "T. C. Blake, Agent," and then endorsed them on the back "T. C. Blake," thereby binding myself personally for the debts of the church. Twice during my agency, I gave a mortgage on my property to protect the credit of the board. Day by day the machinery became more and more worthless-our press and our engine. I heard of an Adams press that could be rented. I secured it for a short time and printed a number of books that we were out of, also The Gem, Our Lambs, Sunday Morning, etc. This was a great help to the board. But we still needed another press. How to get it was the question. The board was heavily in debt, and it was a daily struggle to meet daily demands. One night as I lay in my bed thinking of our difficulties and embarrassments, a thought came into my mind as to how we might get a new press. The thought was this: Get some influential elder in the church to make a proposition that he would be one of thirty to give $100 each to buy a new press. I had previously learned by correspondence that a magnificent new stop-cylinder (Cottrell & Babcock) press could be had for about $3,000, which was really worth about $5,000. Being on intimate terms with Euclid Waterhouse, a liberal, substantial elder in our church, and a fast friend of the Board of Publication, I wrote him the next day a long letter, telling him of our condition, and asking him to lead off in a proposition to give $100 to buy a new press. He responded by return mail and made the proposition. I then selected about thirty others, to whom I wrote, urging them to respond to the "Waterhouse Proposition." The effort was crowned with success; but meantime, needing the press so badly and feeling sure that the proposition would eventually succeed, I drew up a note for the cost of the press, signed it "T. C. Blake, Agt.," and endorsed it "T. C. Blake." Brother J. M. Gaut also endorsed the note. The press was bought. It proved to be all that was claimed for it-the best press that I ever saw. It would "register" to a hair, and so perfect was it that it would do the very finest kind of printing-book work, cut work-any kind of work that we needed. The truth is, it was quite a show among printers and pressmen in the city. That was twenty years ago (at this writing), and that grand old press is to-day "holding the fort," and during the whole time has cost almost nothing in the way of repairs. Never will I forget the day and the incidents connected with the starting of that press. All hands, feeders, pressman, engineer and myself gathered around it. I gave the signal, and the grand machine at once commenced to throw off huge sheets of the finest cut work I ever saw fall from a press. The pressman shouted, "Three cheers for Cottrell and Babcock," and a faithful colored employee cried out, "My Lord, don't she tote!" The president of one of our banks came round to see it, and, after looking at it for some time, he said, "Doctor, that press would print government bonds and band notes in any shade or color."
The heavy and perplexing labors which devolved upon me broke down my health, and the result was that I was compelled to retire from the agency. During my connection with it, however, I secured, in addition to the donation for the press, several other considerable amounts, as the records will show.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 5, 1906, page 393]
The immediate cause of the breading down of my health was an injury which I received in jumping from a buggy. I had preached one Sunday at Mackeys Church, near Franklin, Tenn., and, after the service, Brother N. B. Brooks, one of the elders, came to me and said, "Go home with me and get your dinner, and I will take you to the train late this afternoon, so that you can get home to-night." I accepted the invitation, and about sundown we got into a buggy, drawn by a large mule, to go to the station, about a mile distant. The train was late, and while we were waiting there came up a most terrific storm. He said, "It will not do to remain here; we must get back home." My answer was, "We cannot go, for it is so dark we cannot see the road." He said, "It is true, we cannot see the road, but the mule can, and she will take us in safety." We started, but we could not see our hands before us. After going a short distance (our road being near and parallel to the railroad), we felt the buggy making such motions as satisfied us that the mule had left the dirt road and was on the cross-ties of the railroad. Just, then, too, we saw the head-light of the train, showing us that we were in most imminent danger of being crushed to death. We, however, succeeded in getting off the track, but the mule was so frightened that she jumped across a low fence, and when we succeeded in stopping her we found that the fore wheels were over the fence, and the coupling pole was resting on the top rail, and the hind wheels in a see-saw. He got out at once, and after examining the situation, my friend said, "Doctor, we are in a terrible position; jump out at once." I arose to my feet, and, drawing my overcoat around me, I made a leap in the darkness, but I lit astride one of the hind wheels of the buggy. Never did I experience such a shock and such pain. In a moment I was so sick that I fell to the ground. It was raining in torrents, and the peals of thunder were the most terrific I ever heard. My friend came to me and lifted me to my feet. After standing a while, I gained sufficient strength to walk, by leaning heavily upon him. We at last reached the house. Brother Brooks insisted that I should let him go for a physician, but I refused, because I preferred to risk my case with a certain surgeon in the city. The next morning, by Brother Brooks' help, but with great difficulty and suffering, I was enabled to reach the train. I need not enter into details; suffice it to say that the result of my injury was one of the worst cases of blood poison. For four months I was confined to my bed, and for the most of that time I was wholly unconscious as to the outer world-did not even recognize my own family. But my physician, Dr. W. T. Briggs, one of the finest surgeons in the whole land, clung to me, day and night, like a brother; and though other eminent consulting physicians said there was no possible chance for me to recover, he said there was a chance, and that he would never surrender as long as there was life in the body. He raised me up from that apparent bed of death, and as soon as I was able to walk across my room by the help of another, he said I should at once go South-could not spend the approaching winter in Tennessee. My only daughter was married and lived in Shreveport, La. I was so weak and emaciated that I was almost as helpless as a child. What suffering I endured on the journey! It was so great that I had to stop over for about a day at Little Rock, Ark. By time I reached Shreveport (accompanied on the whole trip by my daughter), I was perfectly prostrated. There I was confined to my bed and my room, under the treatment of two eminent physicians, for about three months. During that time an incident occurred which I must relate. One day my daughter brought to my bedside a letter from Rev. J. A. Ward, D.D., pastor of our church at Marshall, Texas, about forty miles from Shreveport, cordially inviting me to attend, if able to do so, the approaching meeting of Marshall Presbytery at that place. After she read it, I dictated an answer which she wrote. Two days before the presbytery met, I was seized with a violent attack of the most acute suffering I ever endured. The physicians did not leave my bedside. They gave me everything that they could think of to allay my suffering and to induce sleep, but with no effect. The day the presbytery met, my letter was read to the body. At the close of the meeting Dr. N. P. Modrall arose and said, "I cannot agree to have Brother Blake die yet, and I propose that we suspend business and pray for his recovery." The proposition was agreed to, and the moderator called upon Dr. Modrall to lead in the prayer. Brothers W. M. Allen and Dr. Ward told me afterward that they had never heard such a prayer fall from the lips of man. He arose from his knees and said, "Brethren, our prayers are answered." That was about 10 o'clock a.m., and at that hour I passed into a profound sleep, and slept as quietly as an infant for thirty-six hours. The long sleep alarmed my friends and physicians; but the latter said, "No effort must be made to awaken him, for such a sleep cannot possibly issue in bad results."
From that sleep I awoke feeling better than I had felt since I was first attacked. From that time, too, I commenced improving, and in a few days I could take short walks, by the help of a supporting companion. My physicians then agreed that I should take no more medicine; and that just as soon as I was able I should travel on the railroad, and after gaining sufficient strength should take a long trip over the prairies of Texas, "roughing it." How the trip on the railroad was to be made, I knew not, for my funds were exhausted, and there was a heavy mortgage on my home. But, to my surprise, there came to my room a message that Drs. Modrall and Ward were in the parlor and wished to see me. I went downstairs, and what a meeting we had! After a few hours' conversation, they then made known to me that passes on the railroads had been secured for myself and a traveling companion. That traveling companion was Rev. W. M. Allen. Arrangements were promptly made for starting, and when I reached Marshall, Brother Allen was ready to accompany me.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 12, 1906, page 425]
Our passes gave us stop-over privileges everywhere. The first stopping place was at Jefferson, and we were there met by Brother Modrall, who took us to his delightful home. After staying there two or three days we again started, stopping at Atlanta, Texarkana and at Paris. At the latter place we stayed several days in the hospitable home of Dr. Johnson, who was an elder in the church, and a most excellent man. While there we visited Rev. Dr. Felix Johnson. Never can I forget the reception that grand man gave me. He took me in his arms, and, while he thus held me, he offered up one of the sweetest and most touching prayers of thanksgiving I ever heard, that God had spared my life. After we were seated, he said, "Blake, I suppose you are short of funds. If so, I have fifty dollars in the bank, and every cent of it is at your disposal, not as a loan, but as a gift." I thanked him sincerely, but told him I did not need the money. How interesting was that man in conversation-how original-how forceful! One day we were discussing the subject of reading sermons in the pulpit. He said, "It won't do-won't do at all, Blake;" and then added, "I call all such preachers 'wood-pecker preachers.'" Said I, "I don't see the point?" He answered, "Did you never see a wood-pecker tapping on an old tree, and after striking about a dozen or so licks, raises up his head and looks all round?" I replied, "Yes, I see." I then entered into a conversation with him concerning the ministry in our church in Texas. His answer was, "We have three kinds of preachers in Texas, and these three classes are found in all countries. One class can't preach at all-not worth shucks; another class is spoon-victuals preachers-use baby material; and a third class is Boanerges-sons of thunder-preach like heaven and hell were realities-preach something that makes people think and act." The doctor was a natural mechanic-carried me through his shop. Never did I see a more handsome set of tools, yet he assured me that he made every one of them on his own anvil.
From Paris we went to Sherman. There we were met by Dr. J. W. Poindexter, one of the ablest and most cultured ministers in the church. Our stay there, though brief, was quite pleasant.
The next point was Dallas. On our way to that city, an hour or two after sundown, we saw something quite novel-a mirage by moonlight: the first thing of the kind I ever saw or ever heard of. I discovered it first, and I looked at it for some time before I spoke of it. I then called Brother Allen's attention to it. We looked at it for a half hour, and watched with the deepest interest the transformations which occurred-mountains, rivers, lakes, roadways, wagons, etc., etc. Scientific men may be incredulous, but that matters not. We both know that we saw these things; and we were "clothed and in our right minds" when we saw them. At Dallas we found a delightful stopping place in the home of Dr. D. W. Broughton.
From Dallas we returned home, and I had greatly improved in health-could walk without assistance. Never will I cease to be grateful to Brother Allen for his great kindness to me on that trip. He could not have been more kind and tender to a brother than he was to me. I also found him to be a most delightful companion-affable, sweet-spirited, intelligent. When I reached Shreveport every one noticed how much I had improved. The doctors said I must go again. But how I was to do so, I did not then see. A few days afterward, however, the problem was solved, for Dr. J. A. Ward wrote me that he had the tickets and money for us to go to Austin and return. The trip was made; and, as I expected, I found my traveling companion most genial, helpful and interesting. While in Austin we found a most delightful home in the family of Judge J. W. Smith, a most devoted elder in our church in that city. On my return my physicians said, "You must now abandon the cars-travel in a buggy-make a long journey and 'rough it,'" from one end of the state to the other. Think of it-from one end of Texas to the other! But arrangements were soon made by my friends, prominent among whom was Dr. E. P. M. Johnson, an elder in our church at Marshall, Texas. He was one of the grandest men I ever knew, and for weeks and weeks his house was my house during my sojourn in the South. He arranged for us to go to the commencement exercises of Trinity University, at Tehuacana, Texas, and he and Dr. Ward accompanied me. When we arrived there we were met by Rev. Dr. W. E. Beason, president of Trinity University. He was in Cumberland University when I was there as a student, but he was several years in advance of me in the course. An own brother could not have given me a more cordial welcome. He took me to his home and treated me with the utmost kindness. His dear, good wife, too, was equally cordial. At that university, too, I found my old friend and classmate, Dr. S. T. Anderson, who was professor of mathematics in that institution. He gave me a most brotherly reception; and so did Col. R. W. Pitman, professor of the natural sciences. I had made his acquaintance in other days. At the close of the week's exercises Dr. Beason proposed to take a two-horse buggy and give me a trip to "Sundown," as he called it. By order of the physicians I was to "rough it"-travel all day in a buggy, cook our own provisions and sleep in the open air at night, with no shelter but the sky. The good Dr. Beason said, "Blake, I am afraid to start on that long journey until your ability to stand such a thing has been tested." Hence, it was agreed that we would make one or two short trips. This was done. We then started on the long journey. How I dreaded it, for I am afraid of snakes, centipedes and tarantulas! I was told that these vile things would not cross a hair rope, and I insisted that as we were to sleep in the open air, on the ground, we should provide ourselves with this barrier. But Dr. Beason laughed at the idea. The day came, and we loaded up our two-horse buggy. This load consisted of ourselves, coffee-pot, breakfast bacon, frying-pan, sugar, coffee, salt, pepper, etc., etc. Our destination was a camp ground beyond the San Saba River, a place where the Little River Presbytery was to hold a camp meeting in connection with the meeting of the presbytery. On the way we passed the home of Rev. Willis Burgess. He was one of our strong men. In my early life I heard him preach often in Lincoln County, Tenn. And to-day I recall a most moving sermon preached by him in a grove, near Petersburg, in said county, from the text, "We ought to give the most earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb. 2: 2). That sermon made a wonderful impression on my mind and heart. Its results, too, were powerful; for with many it was a starting point of a better life. He met me at the gate and took me in his arms, saying, "Why, Thaddeus, God bless you, my son!" We spent a day or two with him, and what a feast it was to talk over other days-days when he, Modrall, Warren, Bone, Gibson and others held camp and protracted meetings in Lincoln, Marshall, Giles, and Bedford counties, in Tennessee.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 19, 1906, page 457]
The next stopping place was Waco. What a reception we received from Bros. Alpha Young and D. C. Kinnard. Feeble as I was, nothing would satisfy them but that I must preach the next day, which was the Sabbath. I had unusual liberty, and the results of the service were satisfactory. We spent several days in the delightful home of Brother Young. What a pleasure! Both these men of God were brought up near my home in Tennessee. And when I was living in Spring Hill, Tenn., I dedicated a church near the parental home of Brother Kinnard. One day while in conversation with Brother Young, I suggested that it was really embarrassing to me to be such a burden upon my brethren in Texas. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "Blake, never utter such a sentiment again." He then added, "You could spend ten years visiting your brethren in this state, and when the time expired we would all be delighted to see you start again on the same circuit." When the hour for separation came, Brother Young took me in his arms and helped me into the buggy, and with tears streaming down his face said, "God bless you, Blake, and restore you to health."
On our way to the camp meeting we stopped for several days at Lampassas, a neat little village. But the chief attraction of the place was the celebrated Lampassas Springs. This is the most wonderful watering place I ever saw. The main spring is about one hundred feet in diameter and about five feet deep, clear as crystal, and deeply impregnated with sulphur and salt. The truth is, the water smelt like rotten eggs. But there was no end to the supply.
Year by year, vast crowds gather there to drink and be healed. For hundreds of miles they came in buggies, in wagons, and on foot. What a pool of Bethesda! To the majority the water was distasteful, but to me it was not offensive. The truth is, I liked it, and I drank so much of it that I was quite a show, especially to the children; for when I would start tot he spring I could hear them say, "Yonder goes that tall sick man; let us go down and see him drink!" The water, I am sure, did me good. While at this place, the only pair of trousers I had showed unmistakable signs of being the "worse for wear." Dr. Beason saw my predicament, and said, "Blake, you must have some new trousers." He went out and bought the cloth-four yards! But the only tailor in town was a woman. We hunted her up, and when we found her, Dr. Beason asked her if she could cut and make a pair of trousers. Her reply was, "Certainly I can, for that is my business." She then added, "I am so used to cuttin' and makin' trousers, it is not worth while to take any measure; for I can guess at it." We left the goods, and the trousers were to be ready in two days. The next day, however, she sent us word that she did not have enough cloth. Another yard was furnished-making five yards! I dreaded to see the trousers, as badly as I needed them, for I was fearful they would not fit. But Brother Beason went for them, and we went into our room to try them on. My, my, my, what a fit! They were at least eight inches too long, and were large enough in the waist to go around me twice! We sent them back and requested to good lady to cut eight inches off the length, and to take them up in the waist about twenty inches! Never on earth, perhaps, was there such a fit; and never on earth before had I seen a pair of trousers too long for me! Still, no doubt, she had done the best she could, and I comforted myself with the reflection that she must have had that big spring in mind, and the quantity of water which she had seen me drink, and therefore made ample allowance for physical expansion!
We left the place, and the next stopping place of interest was at the camp ground. There we met the brethren of Little River Presbytery. The presbytery was held during the day under a brush arbor, and there was preaching at night. The men slept on the straw which was under the arbor, and the women slept in the few board tents that had been built and in wagons. Against my will I was selected to preach at 11 o'clock on Sabbath. But the blessed Spirit helped me, and the results were good-never before nor since so large an audience, all bathed in tears. My stay there was delightful, and never can I forget the kind reception given to me by the brethren. Indeed, ties were formed there which death itself cannot sever!
At the close of this meeting we turned right-about and started for home-Tehuacana. There I spent several days with Revs. S. T. Anderson, F. E. Foster, Col. R. W. Pitman and others. I then turned my face toward Shreveport, where my wife was still staying. I arrived there so much improved, that I commenced making arrangements to return to Nashville, Tenn. Before closing this part of my narrative, however, I feel that I would be most ungrateful if I did not express my deepest gratitude for all the kindnesses shown to me by the hundreds and hundreds of dear friends whom I met in my pilgrimage after health.
On my return to Nashville, one of the first things I did was to sell my home, which was done at a great sacrifice; and, after paying my debts, I had but little of this world's goods left.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 26, 1906, page 489]
While in the South I conceived the idea of writing two or three more books. I had some years before written one-"The Old Log House." No book written in the interest of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church ever had so large a sale, nor received such commendation.
The next book I wrote was "The Preacher's Handbook." As that was written for the ministry alone, it had a limited field; but it was promptly and eagerly sought by the class for whom it was written.
The year following, I wrote and published "Theology Condensed." This book had a very large sale throughout the church. Ministers and people eagerly purchased it.
The next year, I wrote "The Pulpit and Pew; or, Preacher and People." As this book was wholly undenominational, members of other Christian communions sought it with aridity. The Methodist Publishing House, of this city, through its book editor, Rev. Dr. T. A. Summers, asked the privilege of issuing the book, with its imprint, as a part of its Christian literature.
For some time I devoted my time to publishing and selling these books, and the income derived from their sales was sufficient to support me.
At the General Assembly which convened in Nashville, Tenn., 1883, I was elected to the office of stated clerk of that body. Before that court met, Judge John Frizzell had sought several interviews with me, urging me to accept the office, which he intended to vacate at the approaching meeting. At first, I positively declined to entertain the proposition, for I felt unwilling to attempt to occupy a position which he had so ably and so satisfactorily filled for a number of years. I did all in my power, too, in those interviews to induce him to continue in the office; for I felt that it would be a calamity to the whole church to lose his services in that important office. He, however, assured me that his mind was thoroughly made up to vacate the office. He also told me that the office demanded a great deal more work than he could bestow upon it; and that he was obliged to devote his time and energies to his profession (the law) for a support. Seeing that he had thoroughly made up his mind to do what he had said he was going to do at the next meeting of the General Assembly, I reluctantly consented to undertake the work, if that court should ask for my services. The time for the meeting came; he resigned, and I was chosen. I soon found, as the judge had said, that the office needed work and a great deal of it. A large number of the presbyteries were in arrears with the contingent tax, and quite a number of stated clerks were out of humor. Hundreds and thousands of copies of the minutes had accumulated-were not sent for want of payment of contingent tax. I mention these facts, not to cast the shadow of reflection upon Judge Frizzell, for he had done more than any other man in the church would have done, for the compensation which he received. At this writing, the judge has gone to the General Assembly and Church of the First-born (died a few weeks ago); and no man in the denomination could be more missed than he will be.
A year or two afterward, I commenced the publication of a monthly magazine, of 32 pages, called The Youth's Treasury. The magazine was very popular with its patrons; and although it more than met the expenses of publication from the first, yet it did not, as I thought, yield a sufficient sum above actual cost of publication to justify the immense amount of labor bestowed upon it. Hence, after meeting every obligation incurred, I discontinued the magazine. I am satisfied, however, that continued effort would have made it a perfect success, for it was exceedingly popular, and was growing year by year in its subscription list; but my health was rather precarious, and I deemed it best to discontinue it.
Next I come to speak of my great sorrow, the death of my wife. Never on earth before did a calamity so direful befall me. She was the wife of my early manhood, the mother of my children-the noble, true, self-sacrificing woman that had ever been a solace and comfort to me in all my trials and sorrows. Her death was a most triumphant one, and just before her noble heart ceased to beat she repeated, in a clear, distinct voice, the Twenty-third Psalm. Her funeral was a large one, for everybody loved her. It took place from the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Drs. J. P. Sprowls and W. E. Ward officiated. For weeks and months I was unfitted for anything, after losing such a treasure; for she had been, for more than a quarter of a century, the light of my home. Never can I forget the words of comfort which were almost daily repeated to me, during that season of sorrow, by Brother Y. B. Jones, an elder in our church. Since then he, too, has crossed the river, and I was called upon to officiate at his funeral.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 3, 1906, page 521]
On the 15th day of September, 1886, I was married to Mrs Lizzie N. Means, of Springfield, Mo. She was the widow of Dr. James T. Means, M.D., a very prominent physician and surgeon of that city. The marriage occurred at the residence of Dr. J. C. B. Ish, who lived some two or three miles from Springfield. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Dr. G. L. Mood, of Clinton, Mo. The woman I married had neither father, nor mother, nor brother, nor sister, nor child at the time the marriage took place. She was a noble, cultured lady, and was an efficient member of the Episcopal Church. But immediately after our marriage she joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She proved to be all that could be desired as a wife and as a stepmother. My children were remarkably fond of her, and she was as tenderly attached to them.
On the 27th day of July, 1887, my oldest son, William Ward Blake, was accidentally killed. He was the bookkeeper of a large lumber company in the city, and as he passed by the rear end of a street car, to enter the same, to go to the bank to transact some business, a careless driver of an express wagon made a sudden turn around the street corner, and the left shaft of the wagon struck my son in the breast with great violence and knocked him down. His head, in the fall, struck the iron rail of the track and fractured his skull. He died in a few hours. What a shock! What a loss! Never did a nobler son bless a father. He was one of the most popular young men in the city-was universally beloved, and his funeral was one of the largest that ever occurred over the remains of a young man. On that same day, Rev. Dr. W. E. Ward, for whom my son was named, was buried--a singular coincidence. Though eight years have passed since the death of my noble son, yet I can never think of that sad, sad day without weeping. The perpetrator of the cruel deed never had the manliness to call to see me; nor do I even know the name of the unfeeling monster whose carelessness produced the result. God have mercy upon him.
My son was a most consistent member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church when he was killed, and Rev. Dr. J. P. Sprowls, who officiated at the funeral, assisted by Rev. Dr. J. S. Grider, who was at that time on a visit to the city, stated that he had never witnessed such a growth in grace as he had seen in my son for several months past. Indeed, said he, "Ward acted and talked as if his end was rapidly approaching-seemed to have a presentiment that he would live but a short time." The lamentation of David over his son Absalom always seemed to be appropriate to me. With this great difference, however: his was a wicked, reckless son, and mine was one of the noblest sons that ever lived.
The foregoing embraces about all the items in my past life that I care to mention at this writing (January, 1895), except that I am blessed with a noble wife and with two of the four children whom God in kindness gave to me-a daughter, Mrs. R. H. Lindsay, and a son, John M. Blake, both of whom are all that I could ask for wish for. The former is the cultured mother of two sweet and charming daughters, now in their teens; and the latter one of the finest business young men in the city-a young man universally beloved and respected.
As has been previously stated, these items in my life were written in my seventieth year; hence I have lived the number of years allotted to man, and whether by "reason of strength," they shall be extended to four score, is for the all-wise and merciful God to determine. His will be done in that particular.
I cannot close, however, without adding that, die when I may, I shall ever be a debtor to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
I will also add, that I will place these hastily written notes in my box in the vault of the American National Bank, in this city; and in case they may ever be needed, they can be found there. In case my life is ever written, I greatly prefer that Rev. Dr. J. M. Hubbert shall perform that task. Should he consent to do so, he is a full liberty to use these notes, and to "edit" them just as he may see fit. If he should wish to make a larger book than these notes will make, he is at full liberty to use any of my editorials in the Banner of Peace (I have only two bound numbers-one is lost). He is also at liberty to use any part of any or all my books for the same purpose, or any articles I have written for the church papers.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, May 17, 1906, page 585]
Blake, T. C., ed. The Casket: Selections From the Sabbath School Gem. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1872. [1 copy in archives]
Blake, T. C., ed. The Casket: Selections From the Sabbath School Gem. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1873. [1 copy in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Old Log House, a History and Defense of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1878. [8 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Old Log House, a History and Defense of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1879. [1 copy in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Old Log House, a History and Defense of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1880. [3 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Old Log House, a History and Defense of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1897. [25 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Old Log House, a History and Defense of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Privately printed by Rev. Billy C. Allcock, c1977.; reprint, Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1897. [3 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Preacher's Hand-Book, A Guide in the Discharge of Ministerial Duties. Nashville, Tenn., 1880. [3 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. The Pulpit and Pew or Preacher and People. Nashville, Tenn.: Printed for the author by the Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1882. [6 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. Theology Condensed, Designed for Advanced Classes as a Sabbath-School Text-Book, and for Private Instruction. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1880. [10 copies in archives]
Blake, T. C. Theology Condensed, Designed for Advanced Classes as a Sabbath-School Text-Book, and for Private Instruction. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1881. [1 copy in archives]
Blake, T. C. Theology Condensed, Designed for Advanced Classes as a Sabbath-School Text-Book, and for Private Instruction. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1882. [1 copy in archives]
Blake, T. C. Theology Condensed, Designed for Advanced Classes as a Sabbath-School Text-Book, and for Private Instruction. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1883. [1 copy in archives]
Blake, T. C. Theology Condensed, Designed for Advanced Classes as a Sabbath-School Text-Book, and for Private Instruction. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1892. [1 copy in archives]