Samuel Madison Corley

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1809 - 1863

Source of Photograph: "A Paper on Early Cumberland Presbyterian History in Texas" by Rev. S. M. Templeton, 1931.


SAM CORLEY came to Clarksville from Rutherford County, Tenn., in 1840 to be the first pastor of the Shiloh and adjacent churches. He came by boat to Roland, on Red River, opposite to Clarksville, and through the country to the home of Rev. James Sampson and preached that night in this home to a congregation assembled by runners announcing the service during the afternoon. For two years he ministered to the Shiloh and Savanna churches. His wife dying in 1845, he for some years extended his labors in a wide circuit including Paris, Bonham, through the southern counties around to Bowie County, and afterward extensively through the Southern States. In 1847 he and his young son, A. P. Corley, went to the Mexican war. In 1848 he returned to Clarksville and took charge of the Clarksville Female Academy, meanwhile ministering to the Shiloh-Clarksville and the Paris churches. In 1843 he had been present at the organization of the First Synod, and preached with great power in the Camp Meeting where the Synod was organized. He was called the "Sweet Singer of Israel," and it was said that a hymn sung by Corley would put any congregation in a worshiping frame of mind. Dr. Crisman, in his Origin and Doctrines, accredits Corley with contributing largely to the rallying of the Texas Presbytery at the time when under discouragement it was about to disband or sever its connection with the General Assembly in the States. In 1850 he served for a time as military chaplain at old Fort Towson in the Indian Territory. Engaging in teaching and preaching until the Civil War, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, and as Major was leading his regiment in battle near Little Rock, was mortally wounded and made prisoner. The enemy officers gave him every courtesy and attention, and after his death, sent his servant, Carrol Corley, back to his people with his horses, sword, watch and other personal effects, and one of them wrote to the family that "Major Corley on September 11th, 1863, was wounded in battle at Bayou La Fouche, 3 1/2 miles below Little Rock, Arkansas, on south side of river, while in command of Col. A. Dobbins' Reg. C.S.A. He died September 11th, 1863, and was buried in a peach orchard on the battle field." His remains were later removed to Confederate Cemetery at Helena, Arkansas, by the Daughters of the Confederacy and a monument placed at his grave. Fourteen of his descendants are members of the Clarksville church.
[Source: "A Paper on Early Cumberland Presbyterian History in Texas Read in Part By Rev. S. M. Templeton In a Joint Session of the Synods of Texas U.S. and U.S.A. in Fort Worth, Texas, September 23, 1931," page 19]

Lebanon Presbytery - April 14, 1837 - Jerusalem Church, Rutherford County, Tennessee
Moderator: Rev. Henry F. Bone
Clerk: Rev. Samuel Corley
[Source: Microfilm of manuscript volume of minutes (1836-1850) in archives from Presbyterian Historical Society]

Lebanon Presbytery - June 2-3, 1837 - Thyatira Meeting House, Cannon County, Tennessee
Moderator: Rev. Henry F. Bone
Clerk: Rev. Samuel Corley
[Source: Microfilm of manuscript volume of minutes (1836-1850) in archives from Presbyterian Historical Society]

Lebanon Presbytery - June 30, 1837 - Moriah Meeting House, Wilson County, Tennessee
Moderator: Rev. A. A. Moore
Clerk: Rev. Samuel Corley
[Source: Microfilm of manuscript volume of minutes (1836-1850) in archives from Presbyterian Historical Society]

Lebanon Presbytery - October 16-17, 1839 - Copelands Meeting House, Wilson County, Tennessee
Presbytery adjourned to meet at Bethesda Church at three o'clock
Moderator: Rev. Samuel Corley
Clerk: Rev. Nathan M. Sparks
[Source: Microfilm of manuscript volume of minutes (1836-1850) in archives from Presbyterian Historical Society]

Your committee would recommend to your Revd. Body the importance of dividing said Presbytery of Texas into the following. First - Red River Presbytery: Bounded North and East by the United States line, South by Sabine River to the Cherokee Crossing, thence West indefinitely. And that the ministers composing said Presbytery be Mitchell Smith, Jas. McDonald, Robt. Gilkerson and Saml. Corley, and that Mitchell Smith be the first Moderator and in case of his failure Jas. McDonnald, and that the first session be held at Clarksville, Red River County, Republic of Texas on Thursday before the 1st Sabbath in March 1843.
[Source: Minutes of Mississippi Synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, October 20, 1842]

Red River Presbytery
December 1842 - Boone County, Texas
Moderator: Rev. James Sampson
Stated Clerk: Rev. Samuel Corley
[Source: have minutes on microfilm - Red River Presbytery]


I NOTICE in a late number of the CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN, an obituary notice of the death of Rev. James King Lansden. I knew him well. We were candidates for the ministry at the same time, standing side by side when we were licensed to preach the gospel, and also kneeled together when the Presbytery set us apart to the whole work of the ministry.

The writer of the obituary is, however, mistaken as to the Presbytery by whom he was ordained. He was both licensed and ordained by the Lebanon Presbytery. There were four of us licensed at the same time, viz.: J. K. Lansden, Samuel Corley, Edwin Corley, and the writer. It took place at Liberty church, two miles south of McMinnville, in the autumn of 1834. Then two years after--1836--Bro. Lansden, Samuel Corley, Henry F. Bone, and the writer, were set apart to the whole work of the ministry. Rev. P. Y. Davis preached the ordination sermon, and Rev. Samuel McSpeddin, presided and gave the charge.

I write this scrap of history because, so far as I know, I am the only man now living who took part in those exercises. All of the then members of the Lebanon Presbytery are gone. Lansden, Bone, and Corley are no more. The writer only survives, and he cannot remain long.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 8, 1877, page 1]

In 1854 David Lowry visited the Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Missions and appealed to its members for more help for the Indians. The board resolved to send him to the Indian country on a tour of inspection, clothing him with authority to appoint missionaries if he could find men suitable for the work. He made a very thorough investigation and submitted a report to the board. Some extracts from this report are here appended:

I traveled several hundred miles through the Choctaw Nation and preached wherever opportunity offered. The Rev. S. Corley, of Texas, was appointed to ride and preach in this country one half of his time. [329] His appointment and acceptance are herewith submitted. He is well known among the Indians, and no preacher could exert a stronger influence over them. He resides within thirty-miles of their country, and his Circuit will embrace a few congregations on the border of Texas, west of Red River. In preaching to the Indians he may have to employ occasionally an interpreter, and in view of such contingency his appointment permits him to draw on the board for a sum not exceeding fifty dollars.
[Source: McDonnold, Benjamin Wilburn. History of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville: Board of Publication of Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1899, pages 328-329.

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Updated March 25, 2014