Abner Edwards Cooper

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1803 - 1891

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church - 1861

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The church has lost one of its oldest, most consecrated, and faithful ministers in the death of Rev. A. E. Cooper. He died at the home of his daughter, in McKenzie, Tenn., on December 8, 1891. He was a strong man physically and mentally. He had a most excellent voice that lasted him until the day of his death. No one ever more truly devoted his power and gifts to the cause of Christ and to the interests of the Cumberland Presbyterian church. He was born in Halifax county, North Carolina, Oct. 12, 1803; being in his eighty-ninth year when he died. In 1812 his widowed mother moved with him to Chester district, in South Carolina, where he lived during his youth and early manhood. Here he received such education as was obtainable in the country schools, there not being even any high school. His early religious training was in the faith of the Primitive Baptist church, of which his mother was a member. Hence, he was quieted into inactivity during his boyhood, and even into mature manhood, "Waiting for the Lord's good time." In the autumn of 1829 he was married to Mary H., daughter of Colonel Robert Clendenning, a prominent citizen of South Carolina, and at that time a member of the State legislature. Soon after his marriage he moved to Carroll county, in West Tennessee, and settled near McLemoresville, where he made his home until his death. His first religious convictions were felt under the preaching of Rev. Robert Baker, pastor of Bethel and Shiloh congregations in the bounds of Hopewell Presbytery. Under the preaching of this pastor, and that of Dr. Burrow, Revs. Bingham, Cribbs, Thomas, and Hickman, he was an earnest seeker of Christ from 1831 to 1833, at which time at a camp-meeting in Shiloh church he found peace by believing on Christ. He united with the Bethel congregation, of which, in 1835, he was made a ruling elder. He served as elder for ten years. His active usefulness began while he was yet a ruling elder. He held prayer-meetings, exhorted, and assisted in camp-meetings. He also worked alone in revival meetings. He was urged by Rev. Mr. Baker, Rev. Mr. Bigham, Rev. Robert Donnell, and others, to enter the work of the ministry; for he had confessed to impressions prompting him to preach from the day he united with the church. His Christian wife also plead with him to go forward. His work for the Master was greatly blessed. In a camp-meeting at Shiloh in 1843, when the meeting was about to be a failure, the pastor told Brother Cooper he must hold the next service. He retired to the grove for prayer, and then returned and held a service remarkable in its effects. When he called for penitents more than one hundred came forward; the meeting continued only a few days, but seventy were added to the congregation. This evidence of God's approval intensified his feelings on the question of preaching. So at a meeting of the Hopewell Presbytery, held at Shiloh church September 22, 1845, he was received as a candidate for the ministry.

He was licensed at Paris, in Henry county, April 27, 1846, and was then appointed to preach on the "Baker circuit," which he did until the next meeting of the presbytery. While thus employed he organized what is now the Greenfield congregation, then called Ebenezer.

He was ordained at Huntingdon, Carroll county, on March 22, 1847. Rev. C. J. Bradly preached the sermon, and Rev. S. Y. Thomas presided and gave the charge. He was never a member of any other presbytery. His name was never off the one congregational roll--Bethel. In the year of his ordination he was called to the charge of Huntingdon and Shiloh congregations. He served the first fifteen years, and the latter until called away by death--forty-four years. Has there ever been a longer pastorate in the church?

He professed religion at Shiloh, joined presbytery there, and served the congregation as pastor forty-four years, even from his ordination till his death.

He was often moderator of Hopewell Presbytery and of his synod, and served as moderator of the General Assembly which met in St. Louis, in the year 1861.

He was president of the Board of Trustees of Bethel College since it was first chartered at McLemoresville, Tenn., and filled that position at the time of his death. In fact the board has had no other president except for two or three years at one time.

Father Cooper was a very useful man. He was never an idle preacher. He usually had charge of four congregations. He served several congregations in connection with Shiloh, and never had an idle Sabbath. His term of service in most cases was lengthy. He preached a great number of funeral sermons.

Few men have done more preaching in forty-five years than he did. He preached his last sermon at Shiloh, the third Sunday in October, 1891, and one of his best. He was asking, in view of his age and failing strength, to be relieved of his pastoral work, and had appointed the third in December to preach his "farewell" sermon. But he never preached it. He died of old age and the effects of la grippe.

His wife had preceded him to the better world about three years. He leaves eight living children, all settled in life.

Truly one of our fathers has gone.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, January 14, 1892, page 521]

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Updated April 26, 2011