WILLIAM HENRY CRUTCHER was born December 9, 1817, in Lebanon, Tenn. His parents, Edmund and Jane Crutcher, were among the early settlers of that place. The family also, were among those who composed the organization of the Cumberland Presbyterian church there. Of his early life and education we have no information. It is well known, however, that he had a liberal English education. He also studied law, choosing that as his profession for life, and practicing it until the time of his conversion. When quite a young man, only twenty-three years of age, he came to Texas with his sister and brother-in-law, Gen. James S. Mayfield, and settled at LaGrange, Fayette county. With the latter he was a partner in the practice of law, and it is said to have been one of the ablest firms in the State at that time.
At a camp-meeting held by the Methodist brethren, near LaGrange, in September, 1847, Bro. Crutcher heard a sermon by Rev. Mr. Larraman, then a Cumberland Presbyterian minister, from the text, "God is love," which was the means of his conviction. From time to time he was at the anxious seat until the last night of the meeting, when he found peace with God. Soon after this Rev. A. H. Walker organized the church at LaGrange, and Bro. Crutcher was among the first to join the church after the organization was effected.
It is worthy of remark, that at the time of his conversion our brother was a candidate to represent Fayette county in the legislature. Bro. Walker writes: "It was evident from the very moment that he commenced to seek religion and join the church, that he would lose, on that account, a great many votes; and it was believed by numerous friends such a course would defeat his election. But he said that he would rather be a Christian and a church member than to be a legislator. However, he was elected, and served with great credit to himself and profit to the people. It was said of him that he was never absent at roll call; was always at his post."
Not long after uniting with the church, it became evident to his friends that he was called to the ministry. Bro. Walker encouraged him; and in the spring of 1850, he placed himself under the care of Colorado Presbytery as a candidate for the ministry. In September of that year he was licensed to preach, and in September, 1854, he was ordained. The greater portion of his ministerial life was spent in the bounds of the Guadalupe Presbytery, of which he became a member in April, 1857, laboring in Gonzales, DeWitt, Lavacca, and Fayette counties, having charge at one time or another of most of the congregations in those counties, and being the founder of some of them. During these years there were many revivals, and many souls converted under his ministry. His successor in this field, Rev. S. L. Bradley, says: "Not many on earth may know him, but in heaven many a happy spirit will rise up and call him blessed. Bro. Crutcher may not have received the evidence of the appreciation of the people for him as a minister, but I travel over the territory in which he labored, and I know that he is in the hearts of the people." He was devoted to his work. A complete revolution came over him as to his life work. A lucrative profession was given up for the privations and hardships of a self-sacrificing minister, and it is well known that he had his share of them, but he never faltered. He has been known to walk thirty-five or forty miles to his appointments, because he had no horse to ride. It may be truly said that during all these years no man could be more consecrated to his work than Bro. Crutcher, and the evidence could be seen in his churches and in his pulpit efforts. It was said that he went on improving in preaching ability continually. Whenever he went among those people he was welcome. They had learned to understand his peculiarities, and to appreciate him. He was a great lover of the children, and they loved him in return, meeting him always at the gate and assisting him into the house with his baggage. Bro. Walker says: "He made my house his home for about two years, and I must say a more agreeable and better man I never entertained. I loved him better the last day than I did the first. My children were all devoted to him, and loved him most tenderly, and feel themselves indebted to him for many useful lessons."
With the exception of a few sessions, Bro. Crutcher was Stated Clerk of Guadalupe Presbytery for sixteen years, and for a good portion of that time was Stated Clerk of Synod also. The writer must say that a better clerk he never saw.
On the 27th of October, 1867, Bro. Crutcher, being then in his fiftieth year, and having devoted himself untrammeled to his ministry for a number of years, was married to Mrs. Mary D. Yancey, a sister of Rev. M. B. DeWitt. But a year or two after this event Bro. Crutcher's health became poor, and continued to decline until it was thought necessary to seek a higher atmosphere, which he did, and spent a year in the mountainous region, including Kerr county, Texas, without avail. After having organized a church there he was obliged to return; and finally stopped at Round Rock, which was his last earthly home. During several years he has lingered and suffered, both in body from disease, and in mind from privation. The writer saw him last in October, 1876, at the meeting of Synod. He was very feeble, but true to his character was at his post as Stated Clerk of Synod. His sufferings were ended, and his liberated spirit was permitted to be with Christ on the 30th of December, 1876.
His companion says of his last hours: "His soul rested in a Saviour's love and mediation, and how calmly and sweetly he went to sleep in Jesus. Bro. Davis was with us all day of the 30th of December, and sang some precious songs for him, and throughout the day (when not suffering) he seemed in happy anticipation of the blessed hour of release from all pain and suffering. To one brother, who came in and inquired of him his condition, he answered, with light on his countenance, 'My brother, I am nearing the port.' He fell asleep in Jesus at 10 o'clock at night."
He had four children. One was waiting to welcome him on the other shore, and three little daughters are left to the buffetings of this dreary world.
We do not pretend to say that our brother was without faults. No woman could have a finer sense of propriety, and consequently the world all around him was full of that which would shock his sense. Meanness, wrong, impropriety of any kind was an offense to him. It was a struggle for him to bear them, and this was the source of his greatest trials.
Besides his devotion to the work of the ministry, which has been mentioned, his punctuality was worthy of note. He could seldom be charged with wasting other people's time. We could always depend on his being at Presbytery and Synod. "he always specifies an hour at which he would preach," says Bro. Walker, "and I have known him often to commence at that hour, if there were but two or three persons present."
His promptness was no less remarkable. It was a rule from which he did not deviate, to preach or perform any religious service when requested to do so, without trying to excuse himself. He took no duty imposed upon him by his Presbytery as a hardship: he would acquiesce without a murmur.
It was his rule to preach short sermons, and in order to this they were to the point. There was no waste of words. His sermons were clear, forcible presentations of divine truth, and he would often close them up before inattentive hearers would be looking for it. I never heard any one say his sermons were too long. If they complained at all, it was that they were so short.
But he is gone, and we believe that his soul is at rest, that he dies in the Lord, and that his end is everlasting life. We miss him in the pulpit and in the judicatories of the Church. May his mantle fall on some one else as useful, and may God raise up friends to care for his wife and little children.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, June 21, 1877, page 2]
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1877, page 107]