[Mrs. Anna Davis; Rev. Hugh R. Smith; Banner of Peace; Memphis Bulletin; Memphis Avalanche; Memphis Christian Advocate.]
CLAIBORNE ALBERT DAVIS was born in Hardin county, Tennessee, November 8, 1825. He was the son of Chesley B. and Hannah Davis, and the youngest of seven children, four daughters and three sons. When he was quite young his parents moved to Illinois. A short time after reaching Illinois his father died, and the mother with her children moved to St. Louis county, Missouri, where they lived until 1841. The sisters all having married, and three of them having settled in Platte county, the mother with her two youngest children, Claiborne and William, followed them.
It was while Mr. Davis, then a youth of sixteen years, was living with her brother-in-law, Mr. John Stokes, that he was first brought in contact with Cumberland Presbyterians. He professed religion at one of their camp-meetings held in the neighborhood. This occurred in September of 1842. In August of the following year he united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. In October of 1845, he was received as a candidate for the ministry by the Platte Presbytery. By the same Presbytery, in April of 1846, he was licensed as a probationer for the holy ministry. At a meeting of the Presbytery in the fall of the same year, an order was passed directing him to prepare for ordination at the next regular meeting of the Presbytery. At the next meeting, which embraced the first Sabbath in April, 1847, after the customary examination, he was set apart to the whole work of the ministry. The occasion is said to have been one of peculiar interest and solemnity. The late Rev. Hugh R. Smith seems to have been his principal instructor in his studies preparatory to the ministry. Mr. Smith gave direction to his English studies and also to his studies in theology. He made in addition some progress in the study of Latin.
The first six months after his ordination he devoted to missionary work, chiefly in the cities of St. Joseph and Platte. In the fall, however, of 1847, he took up his residence in Platte City, and this became his first permanent charge. While there he determined to spend some time in Chapel Hill College, an institution of learning at that time under the direction and control of Missouri Synod. He felt the necessity of an extension of his education, but the experiment did not work well. His health failed, and he went back to Platte City.
In 1850, Mr. Davis was married to Miss Rebecca Robinson, of Clay county, Missouri. She lived, however, but a few months. In 1851, he was called to the charge of Lexington Congregation, also in Missouri. His labors there are said to have been very great. In addition to his principal work in the city, he was instrumental in building up a good congregation at Mount Hebron, twelve miles from Lexington, where he preached once a month. He performed a great deal of labor in holding protracted-meetings in the country around. Says my informant: "I can give you no idea of how much labor he performed. He went through heat and cold, and was sent for from places far and near to hold meetings, and raise funds for other congregations."
In December of 1852, he was married a second time, to Mrs. Anna Digges, of Lexington. She still lives a respected widow, struggling with a meek and quiet spirit, and as a "widow indeed" under the burden which God in his mysterious providence has caused to be left upon her solitary hands. Mr. Davis remained in Lexington till 1859. In the fall or early winter of that year he was called to the pastoral care of the Memphis Congregation, as the successor of Rev. Dr. A. M. Bryan. Previous to his call to Memphis he had been called by the congregation of Lebanon, Tennessee. A deep interest was felt by the Lebanon Congregation in procuring his services. This call, however, he had declined.
Mr. Davis had from the beginning of his ministerial work been regarded as a man of unusual interest and promise, but he never developed himself fully until he came to Memphis. He found himself there in a situation well calculated to bring out his whole strength, intellectual and spiritual, and he seemed at once to expand forth to the fullness of the demands of his new circumstances. He soon stood in public estimation in the front rank of an able ministry of a great and growing city. The congregation had four years previously lost a pastor by death, whom they loved almost to idolatry, and who was certainly one of the most promising young men in the Church, or in any of the Churches of the country; they had just previously lost a pastor of eminent worth and ability by his removal to a former charge; but now their losses all seemed made up to them. As an evidence of the promising condition of things, the house of worship was soon found to be too small for the accommodation of the large assemblages that attended on the customary ministrations of the new pastor. The necessity of enlargement was forced upon the attention of the congregation. Steps were taken in that direction, but the war came on, and everything was thrown into confusion. The walls of the building, however, were put up and roofed, and the lecture-room finished for use. The whole work was consummated in the spring of 1867. It is a magnificent building, and a monument of his energy, perseverance, and influence with his people.
In the course of the war and toward its close, he received a call to the pastorate of the Pine Street Presbyterian Congregation in St. Louis, as the successor of Rev. Dr. McPheeters. He visited the congregation, and preached a few times, but the call was declined.
In May of 1866, Mr. Davis was appointed by the General Assembly of his own Church as a delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, South, which was to meet in Memphis in the following December. He accordingly attended the meeting of the Assembly to which he was appointed, and in the course of his address on that occasion he brought up the subject of a union of the Presbyterian Church, South, and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The suggestion seemed to be, and no doubt was, received with great favor by the Presbyterian Assembly, and a committee was appointed by that body to meet a similar committee which it was supposed would be appointed by the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, that they might jointly consider the question of a union of the two denominations. A committee was appointed by the Cumberland Presbyterian Assembly at its meeting also in Memphis, in May of 1867. The joint-committee met in August of the same year, in Memphis. The subject was very frankly and kindly discussed during a meeting continued by adjournment from day to day for several days, but the union was not consummated. The spirit which prevailed, however, throughout the consideration of the delicate question, was creditable to both parties.
In 1866, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon Mr. Davis by the Trustees and Faculty of Cumberland University. Rev. A. J. Baird, pastor of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Nashville, received the degree at the same time.
I have in possession some memoranda of the early religious life and ministerial labors of Dr. Davis, furnished by the Rev. Hugh R. Smith, who, it will have been observed, was his early religious counselor and instructor. I introduce these substantially in the words of the writer. They give the best insight into his early and true character:
"RECOLLECTIONS OF REV. C. A. DAVIS, D.D., BY REV. H. R. SMITH.
"Rev. Claiborne A. Davis, D.D., professed religion at a camp-meeting held by Cumberland Presbyterians at the Bee Creek Camp-ground, in Platte county, Missouri. The meeting embraced the second Sabbath in September, 1842. At that time he was living with his brother-in-law, Mr. John Stokes, in Platte county, near the little town of Barry, situated on the line between Platte and Clay counties. I learned his name, and that he had professed religion, from some friends with whom I was intimately associated, and who also were acquainted with him, and had knowledge of the interesting step which he had taken. In the course of the spring and summer of 1843, my ministerial duties required me to pass frequently through the neighborhood of Mr. Stokes, with whom he, his mother, and two brother, made their home. Sometimes I stopped at Mr. Stokes's house. These visits, and my meeting with Claiborne at some of my appointments for preaching, afforded me an opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with him, and laid the foundation of that strong attachment which ever existed between us, and of the high estimate which I placed upon his piety, zeal, and ability for usefulness. This estimate I continued to entertain to the end of his life. It increased with his increasing years.
"At a camp-meeting at Lebanon Meeting-house, in the western part of clay county, embracing the fourth Sabbath in August, 1843, Claiborne united with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. I was invited by the Church session to assist them in conducting the meeting, and to officiate as their Moderator during the occasion. Of course I was present when he made application for membership, and attended to the examination on experimental religion. It occurred on Sabbath-morning of the meeting. The examination being approved on the same morning at the commencement of the public service, he stood up in the presence of the large congregation and received the ordinance of baptism. Never shall I forget the deep and solemn impression made upon my mind when the tall and slender figure of youthful manhood arose and stood before me, receiving the seal of God's covenant and making the vow of unceasing devotion to his service-a vow which he so faithfully kept to the end of his life.
"After that meeting I occasionally met with Brother Davis as I passed through the neighborhood, or at some of the meetings which I held in it, and he always met me with indication of regard and esteem which I fully reciprocated as long as he lived. Our mutual attachment seemed to strengthen with each meeting. This was at least my own experience toward him. At one of my meetings Brother Stokes observed to me that something unusual was evidently resting with great weight upon Claiborne's mind; that he never participated in the amusements of the young people with whom he associated; that, on the other hand, he was commonly silent, and rather sought solitude; that when at work he often appeared so absorbed in subjects of thought, that he was scarcely capable of attending to business; and that every moment of respite from business he devoted to reading his Bible. I suggested to his brother-in-law that perhaps Claiborne was laboring under the impression of a call to the ministry; that the matter ought to be inquired into; and if that was the burden which was resting on his heart, he ought to be encouraged to go forward, and that himself and his other friends must afford him assistance.
"In the month of June, 1845, while I was sitting in my study at home one day, Brother Davis unexpectedly called on me. He appeared to be agitated, and in a great hurry. I asked him for an explanation. He replied that his mind was deeply impressed with the conviction that it was his duty to preach, and he had come to me for counsel; that he had no education, and had not the means of obtaining it; that his friends were poor and unable to help him, and he knew not what to do. As he uttered these words his countenance and manner indicated intense agitation of mind, and a deep sense of the responsibility of the work toward which his attention was directed. I told him he must content himself and remain with me till morning, and then I would give him such counsel as I should consider adapted to his case. He consented to do so. I then entered into conversation with him upon the exercises of his mind. He gave me a clear, and what seemed to be, a candid account of his thoughts, and feelings, and discouragements, in relation to the subject which was before his mind. I felt perfectly satisfied of the line of duty to which the Spirit and providence of God were calling him.
"The next morning, after I had myself sought divine direction, I advised him to enter immediately upon a course of preparation for the ministry; if an opening should present itself for obtaining a classical education, to accept it without hesitation; but for the present to go and associate himself with Brother John A. Prather, who was at that time preaching as a missionary in the northern portion of Platte county; to exercise himself in exhortation as often as opportunity offered; to read the Bible every day; to study English Grammar under the guidance of Brother Prather, who I knew was capable of instructing him; to write a sermon on some text of Scripture which he might select; and at the next meeting of Platte Presbytery to offer himself as a candidate for the ministry, after which I would give him farther advice. He yielded to my counsels, and started immediately to join Brother Prather.
"In the course of the summer he visited me, in company with Brother Prather. Indeed, they considered my house their home. I examined him on English Grammar and theology, and found that he was making commendable progress. I also received many favorable reports concerning him from the different portions of the district in which he was laboring in connection with Brother Prather. All accounts were favorable in relation to his piety, zeal, and promise in every respect. He was with me at some protracted and camp-meetings at which I witnessed his performances in public prayer, exhortation, and instruction of mourners, which I thought fully justified the favorable reports which I had received concerning him.
"Before the close of the summer he had made so favorable an impression upon the minds of the people that he received considerable assistance in contributions of money and clothing. As the time for the meeting of Platte Presbytery drew on, and no opening presented itself for his entering a good school, having consulted my family and also his brother-in-law in relation to his case, I determined to take him to my own house, and give him such instruction as he needed, it being understood that his relatives and other friends should furnish some provisions in consideration of his boarding, and needful clothing, whilst otherwise his board and instruction should be gratuitous.
"At the meeting of the Platte Presbytery, embracing the first Sabbath in October, 1845, Brother Davis was received as a candidate for the ministry. At the close of the Presbyterial-meeting I made known to him the arrangement which had been made for his board and instruction, with which he seemed highly pleased. Soon after this, he and Brother Prather came to my house and entered upon a course of study. We fitted up a little room for them apart from my family-room, and furnished it with other conveniences in addition to my library. The plan of instruction was the following; Scripture readings in the morning, recitations in their scientific pursuits at noon, and again at night, and a lecture on theology one night in every week. On Sabbath the young men held religious meetings in the country around, sometimes together, and sometimes separately. The progress of Brother Davis in English Grammar was also greatly facilitated by attending a lecture on that subject from a competent teacher one day in each week during the winter.
"At the meeting of the Presbytery in the spring, embracing the first Sabbath in April, Brother Davis having read a discourse, and undergone the customary examinations with approval, was licensed to preach the gospel as a probationer, and appointed to preach in the southern portion of the Presbytery as a missionary. Before he commenced his labors I gave him some instructions on the subject of the proper method of pursuing his studies, both literary and theological, in connection with his itinerant preaching. In the course of the spring and summer he visited me every two weeks. I of course had an opportunity of ascertaining his progress, and adding such instruction and counsel as I thought he needed. He was often with me at protracted and camp-meetings. I heard him preach frequently, and always wondered at his soundness in doctrine, his correctness in the expositions of the Scriptures, and the power of his pulpit performances. He was greatly admired everywhere as a young man of unusual promise. He knew he was popular, but he seemed never to be puffed up with pride or self-conceit. Piety, zeal, humility, and devotion to his Master's cause appeared always to be the leading characteristics of his giant mind.
"At the fall session of the Presbytery, embracing the first Sabbath in October, an order was passed for his ordination, to take place at the next regular meeting of the Presbytery. He immediately returned to my house, and entered upon his studies preparatory to ordination. He prosecuted them with great interest and ardor, intent on coming fully up tot he requirements of the Form of Government. During the winter he also preached regularly at Platte City, and occasionally elsewhere, with increasing popularity.
"The Presbytery met on Thursday preceding the first Sabbath in April. Brother Davis was examined on the parts of trial preparatory to ordination, and the examinations being eminently satisfactory, he was set apart to the whole work of the ministry. It was one of the most solemn and impressive ordinations that I ever witnessed. The tall figure of the youthful probationer bowed low in the dust before God, with his head inclined downward to receive the imposition of the hands of the presbyters, and the weightier burden of the obligations which those hands imposed, was an impressive sight. The probationer wept. The voice of the presiding minister faltered as he offered the ordination-prayer. The ministers, while they stood around with hands imposed upon the head of the youthful candidate, in like manner-wept. It was evident that God was there, and we felt that the act was approved. He was again appointed to preach as a missionary in the southern portion of the Presbytery, as far north as St. Joseph, and, by the request of the members of our Church in that and Platte City, he agreed to preach one Sabbath in the month in each place. He visited me occasionally for the purpose of receiving additional instruction, particularly in some difficult points in theology.
"In the fall of 1847, Brother Davis made Platte City his place of residence, and the people there made a contribution of means for his support at Chapel Hill College, with a view to enabling him to take a full collegiate course. He went to the institution, and spent some time there, but perceiving that his health was likely to fail, he returned to Platte City, and commenced preaching regularly there and at St. Joseph. He labored at these points and in the country around until the fall of 1850, when a portion of the Platte Presbytery was detached from it, and attached to the Barnett Presbytery. By this arrangement Brother Davis was thrown into the latter, and we were thus partially separated in our ministerial labors. In the fall of 1851, he was called to the charge of the congregation in Lexington. While he was there I assisted him at three sacramental-meetings, and in a protracted-meeting at Wellington, in Lafayette county. We met at the meetings of the Missouri Synod, and sometimes on other occasions. I found him at all times the same humble, earnest, devoted Christian minister that I had been accustomed to consider him from the beginning. He was always popular, and was fully aware of his popularity, yet the sanctifying grace of God seemed to keep in subjection his naturally lofty spirit and large heart, and to direct all to the promotion of one great object-the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom on earth."
In the autumn of 1867, the yellow fever visited Memphis. In the summer preceding, Dr. Davis's session had allowed him a short vacation, which he spent at one of the watering places in Kentucky. He returned to his charge greatly invigorate, and, as it would have seemed, prepared for the labors of a long life. The epidemic, however, soon developed itself. It appeared to be especially violent in the part of the city in which he resided. He girded himself for the responsibilities of the terrible visitation. He visited the sick; he stood as a comforter at the bedside of the dying; he followed the bodies of the dead to their last resting-places. He preached, and talked, and prayed. He was far from confining his labors to the members of his own immediate congregation. He went wherever the voice of suffering and sorrow called him. Many a sinking spirit was strengthened and comforted by the strong and earnest manner in which he presented the truths and promises of our holy religion. His presence was felt as an angel of mercy. On Sabbath, the 13th of October, he preached to his congregation on the following words, than which one could have been more appropriate to their circumstances: "Be careful for nothing, but in all things with prayer and supplication make your requests known unto God." His health still seemed to be good, but that night he had unfavorable symptoms. These, with slight alternations, grew more and more discouraging, until it became evident that the epidemic was upon him in a violent form, and that he must die. The circumstances attending his sickness and death were such as seldom fall to the lot of mortals. It was a triumph, something like a departure in a chariot of fire. Others, however, shall give the details of this afflicting, but nevertheless glorious occasion. I quote from the Banner of Peace the first announcement of his death to his friends at a distance. The number is under date of October 24, 1867:
"With a sad and sorrowful heart we announce the death of Rev. Dr. C. A. Davis, of Memphis, Tennessee. He died of yellow fever at his residence in that city on the 19th instant.
"Believing, as we sincerely do, that he was one of the most powerful pulpit orators in America, we consider his loss one of the saddest bereavements the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has ever been called upon to suffer. The melancholy intelligence did not reach us until our paper was ready to go to press, hence we defer a more extended notice for our next issue; besides, we feel that tears are more appropriate now than words, and with a stricken heart we weep for him whom we loved with all the tenderness of a brother."
From the Banner of Peace of October 31 I copy a more extended notice:
"With melancholy pleasure we yield our columns this week to the testimonials obtained from various sources in relation to the death of Rev. Dr. C. A. Davis, of Memphis, Tennessee, who died of yellow fever at his residence on the 19th instant, at twenty minutes past four o'clock P.M.
"Though we were in daily communication with him through mutual friends by telegraph, and notwithstanding each successive dispatch became more and more sad and alarming, thereby tending to prepare us for the worst, yet when the telegram came on Saturday afternoon, 'Dr. Davis is dying,' we in a moment felt that our mind and heart had not been adjusted to the dreadful stroke. And even now, though the sad event occurred several days ago, we find it exceedingly difficult to yield without a murmur to the afflictive dispensation. This, however, is wrong, and we would, though our very soul is smitten with grief, bow in humble submission, and say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'
"In the death of Dr. Davis not only the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, but the whole Christian world sustains a loss; for, without doubt, he was one of the brightest stars that adorned the firmament of the American pulpit. Deprived at an early age of his father, he was thrown upon his own efforts and resources. The difficulties with which he had to contend would have crushed an ordinary spirit, for he has often rehearsed them to us; but by persevering industry and untiring efforts, the unlettered youth arose from one position to another until he became one of the leading spirits of the age.
"How mysterious to us are the ways of Providence in permitting such a man to be snatched from the work which he so dearly loved while yet in the prime and vigor of manhood! Truly his loss is a calamity to society, and we cannot avoid weeping when inexorable death places his extinguisher on lights so brilliant; especially when, to all human appearances, they have not burned half way down to their sockets.
"We have said, and we sincerely believe, that he was one of the most powerful pulpit orators of the age. The truth is, God made him great, a man of most commanding and graceful appearance, fine form, and piercing eye; yet he was a mild and gentle as a child. It is true he was not remarkable for what the world calls the graces of elocution; for he was above the formularies and trammels prescribed by the books. His was the eloquence of truth and earnestness-an eloquence bold, fervid, vigorous, like the great gospel he preached-an eloquence which, as a mighty tornado, prostrated every thing before it. But he is gone! His career was brief, but it was a success. He lived to some purpose, and the heritage of such a life consecrated to God is a rich legacy to the Church which will stimulate others to like deeds of Christian heroism.
"He was a model pastor as well as a powerful preacher. Vast multitudes, both of the living and the dead, can testify that 'Christ, and him crucified' was the Alpha and Omega of all his efforts. Never was a pastor more beloved by a people, and never a people more beloved by a pastor. As an evidence of this, his Church has resolved to continue his salary to his family until next May;and, aside from his wife and children, his flock lay next to his heart.
"We have stated before that his life was a success-a brilliant success. He entered the ministry at an early age, and with a singular unity of purpose he consecrated his whole life to the great work-never engaged for a single day in any secular avocation; yet no man was more liberally provided for. What a commentary on the truth of the Bible, and what a rebuke to his surviving brethren in the ministry who are holding to the cross with one hand and to the world with the other! And hear him, even in his last interview with his family; turning to them, he said: 'To God and the Church I commit you.' He leaves a wife and five children to mourn his loss; to mourn only as such a wife and children can mourn such a husband and father. May God's grace sustain them, and may the mantle of the father fall upon the sons that he leaves behind!
"We forbear farther comment on the dying scenes of this great and good man; for with us it is a matter of too much tenderness. With weeping eyes and a sorrowful heart, therefore, we leave the subject and present to our readers a brief account of the closing scenes of one of the most triumphant deaths which history records."
The following is from the Memphis Bulletin of October 20:
"The religious community were profoundly impressed yesterday by the announcement of the death of Rev. Dr. C. A. Davis, the beloved and regretted pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. At twenty minutes past four o'clock yesterday afternoon, full of faith, and with a hope of a glorious resurrection, his spotless spirit passed away from earth. Only a few days ago he was laid on a bed of sickness which ultimately proved a bed of death. His death-bed was, however, one of triumph, and made one ready to exclaim, 'O that I might die like the righteous, and that my last end might be like his!' During his last illness Dr. Davis had full possession of his mental faculties, and had for each one who approached his bedside a kind and cheering word. He frequently talked of all that the Saviour had done for him, and few that visited him in his last sickness will ever forget the angelic words which he uttered. Each day he lay languishing on the bed from which he was never to rise produced its series of sermons, so to speak; for he was ever full of good counsel, and spoke to his clerical and lay brethren almost like one inspired. He was perfectly calm and of tranquil mind on the morning of his death. He felt that his end was approaching; that he had fought the good fight; that he had completed his Master's work on earth, and was about to be called to receive his reward in those bright realms beyond the grave, and to hear the Master he had served so faithfully on earth say to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!' Death had no terrors for him, for he frequently expressed himself satisfied with the will of God in thus taking him away so early from the field of labor, and in the fervency of his joy he exclaimed, just before his spirit passed away, 'O, is it possible that in a short time I will be with Christ and his apostles?' He then called his beloved wife and children around his bedside and delivered to them a brief parting address, in which he told them to be of good cheer; that although he was about to be taken from them, the separation would soon come to an end, and that in a short time they would all be reunited in heaven, where there was no sin or sorrow, and where they would meet to part no more. As these heaven-like words passed from his lips, he gently closed his eyes and fell asleep in Jesus. Thus died a truly Christian minister, one who was not only honored and respected by the clergy and laity of his own denomination, but also by many Christian virtues had endeared himself to many of the citizens of Memphis. He leaves a widow and family to lament the loss of him who was the kindest of husbands and tenderest of fathers.
"During his last illness the deceased was daily attended by Rev. Dr. Steadman, Rev. Mr. Graves, Rev. Mr. McPherson, Rev. Mr. Johnson, Rev. T. D. Witherspoon, and other clergymen, with many of the members of his congregation, both male and female.
"The attending physicians were Drs. Snyder, Avent, Chandler, and Mallory, all of whom did everything in their power, or which medical skill could suggest, but it was unhappily of no avail."
I quote also from the Memphis Bulletin of October 21, in relation to the funeral-services:
"Few deaths have occurred in Memphis for a lengthened period which have caused so profound sorrow as that of Rev. Dr C. A. Davis, whose demise, after a short illness, on Saturday afternoon, was referred to in the Bulletin of yesterday. The funeral-services took place yesterday forenoon at eleven o'clock, in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and were largely attended, the sacred edifice being crowded to its utmost capacity. Eleven o'clock was announced as the hour at which the funeral-services would commence, but long before that hour the pews were occupied by the sorrowing members of the congregation who had come to pay the last mark of respect to the remains of him whom they had so much loved and respected, and under whose ministrations they had sat with so much profit while he preached to them the glad tidings of salvation. At the hour above mentioned the coffin, containing all that was mortal of the esteemed divine, was borne into the church and placed in front of the altar. As the coffin, on which were several wreaths of beautiful flowers, was borne up the aisle, audible sobs could be heard arising on every side, while many strong men were observed to shed tears at the great loss all have sustained. The church was appropriately draped in habiliments of mourning. Behind the pulpit festoons of black cloth were pendant from the pilasters. The pulpit, reading-desk, altar, chairs, and gasaliers, were all covered with the same material, while wreaths were pendant from the chandeliers, and from the front of the chair-gallery. On the pulpit platform were the following clergymen: Rev. Dr. Steadman, Rev. Dr. Ford, Rev. Dr. Guilford Jones, Rev. Mr. Graves, Rev. Mr. Sample, and Rev. Mr. McPherson."
The funeral-services were conducted by Rev. Mr. McPherson, of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and Rev. Drs. Steadman, of the Presbyterian, and Ford, of the Baptist Church. The two latter made appropriate and impressive addresses. I quote a passage from the address of Dr. Ford. It is an account of the exercises of Dr. Davis the last day, and a few of the last hours of his life:
"On Saturday morning," said Dr. Ford, "his physician called upon him. He asked him: 'Is there any hope for me? Do you think I am going to die?' The answer was silence, accompanied with tears. Rev. Dr. Steadman, Rev. Mr. Witherspoon, and Rev. Mr. Graves, had now arrived. He told them he was going to die, and repeated aloud the whole of the twenty-third Psalm. Prayer was then offered, and he joined in it with a calm resignation. This was about ten A.M. Through the lingering hours of the day he frequently asked the time, and to each one who entered addressed himself with calmness, recommending the religion he had preached to them, and exhorting them to meet him in heaven. 'Tell your people,' said he to Rev. Mr. Graves and myself, 'that I die in this faith-faith in Jesus.' 'It may seem singular,' said he, 'to some people, that a professor religion and a minister of the gospel, dying, should express himself as I feel, that I am a poor sinner deserving nothing; but this is a part of religion. Religion may be said to have two halves to it: one half to know and feel yourself a sinner, the other half to know that Christ is your Saviour.' He repeated with touching emphasis the fifty-first Psalm: 'Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy loving kindness;' and when his memory failed in repeating it, he called on me to read the remainder, while he made remarks most striking and affecting on almost every verse. I then turned to the twenty-seventh Psalm, and read down to the words, 'Wait upon the Lord and be of good courage,' when he interrupted me, saying, 'Now let us wait-wait upon the Lord. Lord, I wait for thee; I shall soon be in glory.' He requested, naming the page in a hymn-book from memory, that a favorite song with him should be sung. I asked him what tune. He answered, 'Mear;' and said, '
I will start it.' He did so, with a calm and steady voice, and we joined with him in singing it. In the course of the evening Rev. Mr. Graves read to him the eighth chapter of Romans. He anticipated the reading, repeating much of it himself. When the fifteenth verse was reached, 'For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father,' he exclaimed, 'I would not give that glorious doctrine for worlds!' He soon after complained of darkness; his sight and hearing began to fail; but he retained his memory and general consciousness clear until four o'clock P.M. At fifteen minutes after four he turned himself, and seemed to be in great agony. We all prayed in deep anguish that he might be relieved from the agony, and might be permitted to die without a struggle. Our prayer was answered; he breathed calmly, and evidently without pain, and in entire silence for about ten minutes, and then, without a struggle, and apparently without a pang, he sweetly fell asleep in Jesus. 'Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.'"
At the risk of seeming tedious, I must be allowed to make two more extracts. In the Memphis Avalanche of October 22 we have the following, so truthful that it must not be overlooked:
"Death discloses the human estimate of character. The weeping crowd at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on Sunday last, the festoons of mourning, the sad pageant which wended its way through our streets, clad in the habiliments of grief, with the learned, the noble, and the good mingling in the train, were but the honest tribute of hearts that loved and respected the Rev. Dr. C. A. Davis. We have already announced in these columns the death of this eminent divine-a death which has spread a general gloom over the public mind. We join in the universal grief which pervades the community, and feel unwilling to let this good and talented citizen pass away without a brief but heart-felt expression of our appreciation and admiration of his character. The death of a private citizen, endowed largely with all the attributes which adorn life, and possessed of a pure and lofty nature, is regarded as a great loss; but when these qualities are united with useful talents, with experience in Christian labors, with a temper suited to successful execution, and an ardor of industry in promoting the welfare and happiness of the people, their possessor becomes a public property, and his death is a public as well as a private calamity. These were some of the elements of the character of Rev. C. A. Davis, and hence his funeral was one of the largest that has ever taken place in this city, and hence the general grief to which we have alluded. . . . It is almost useless for us to speak of the character of Mr. Davis. He was certainly an eloquent, learned, and upright Christian. He was beloved by all who knew him. His grave and stern dignity of character, his want of deceit and palaver, and his detestation of hypocrisy and humbuggery, did not make him a favorite on a casual acquaintance. But he had the nobility of character, the solid worth, the steadfastness of mind, which fixed the admiration and bound his friends to him with hooks of steel. The characteristic of his great mind was solidity. He cared nothing for the meteoric flashes of oratory, and there was more of strength and energy in his style of speaking than of eloquence. He had that energy which always indicated honest sincerity, and hence he forced the assent of his hearers, instead of stealing their admiration. There was no subject beyond the grasp of his powerful intellect, and no theme, however complicated, that he could not unravel by his analytical powers. He possessed the reasoning faculty, in its practical application, in an eminent degree. As he thundered great and eternal truths in the ears of sinners, his stern and solemn accents seemed tolling the knell of immortal souls. He talked plainly, like a fearless man, confident of the truth of what he was saying, and ready to stake his life on the issue. . . . In the moral qualities which constitute firmness and decision of character, he had no superior among all his contemporaries. He never sacrificed the true to the expedient, right to policy. . . . His name ought to be inscribed in the magnificent church which was erected through his energy and piety in letters as imperishable as his greatness is fadeless. Like a true soldier, Mr. Davis died at his post. His nodding plume never led a column into victorious battle, but he blazed out a hero in the vanguard of the world's grand march to eternity. If not mighty in arms, if not invincible in battle, he girded himself for a far nobler struggle, and won upon the vast field of religion and humanity the proudest triumphs. How appropriate to the sublime heroism of his glorious life the truthful language of Milton:
'Peace hath its victories,
No less renowned than war.'"
From the Memphis Christian Advocate:
"His dying hours were full of trust, peace, joy, and victory, and while with others we stood by his bed listening to his eloquent expressions of faith and hope, we felt the truth of what Dr. Steadman then said to the dying servant of God: 'You are to-day preaching the greatest sermon of your life.' That sermon will stir the souls of the preachers who heard it to their latest day. The funeral-services were held Sabbath-morning, in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church-Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists suspending services, and joining a sister Church in a sincere tribute of esteem, love, and tears, for a beloved pastor and able minister of Christ. The services were conducted chiefly by Dr. Steadman, of the Presbyterian Church, and Dr. Ford, of the Baptist Church, and the occasion was exceedingly impressive and mournful-a season of deep grief for the loss of a prince in Israel. As we write lying on a sick-bed, we cannot say all we would, and will only add, that in the death of Dr. Davis our city has lost a representative man, and the Church of Christ, a strong, noble, useful, and faithful preacher."
I have chosen to let others speak thus far of Dr. Davis rather than to speak myself. I add, however, a few words to what has preceded. My acquaintance with him was limited. Our fields of labor were distant from each other, and our ages were different by something more than a quarter of a century.
The first time I ever saw him was at the General Assembly of 1850, at Clarksville, Tennessee. He was a member of that Assembly from Platte Presbytery. Nothing unusual occurred to attract attention to him on that occasion. He had a youthful appearance; his bearing was rather lofty than otherwise-not, however, by means, offensively so. He was spoken of as a young man of promise. I met him at the Assembly of 1852, at Nashville. On that occasion he preached, perhaps more than once. In the course of the proceedings of the Assembly he made a short but appropriate speech in favor of the establishment of the Theological School which now exists at Lebanon. I saw him at the Assembly at Huntsville, Alabama, in 1858. His preaching there attracted unusual attention, and most probably led to his being called in the course of the following summer or fall both to Lebanon and Memphis, and to his settlement in Memphis in the fall or early winter of that year. He was a member of the Assembly of 1860, and had come to be considered one of the most prominent preachers in the denomination. On that occasion he preached on Sabbath in the First Presbyterian Church a strong, earnest sermon on the "witness of the Spirit." In the meantime he had assisted the pastor of the Lebanon Congregation in a protracted-meeting of several days' continuance. I was surprised at his pulpit performances. They were strong, spiritual, and powerful. His preaching was greatly admired. The war came up, and men from the Southern section of the Church were practically excluded from attendance upon the General Assembly.
In 1866, I met Mr. Davis for the first time after the meeting in 1860. The meeting at Owensboro was a memorable meeting. I have always since regarded it as the crisis of the Church. It was so regarded at the time by all serious men. Mr. Davis was one of the leading actors in the trying scenes of that occasion. There were honest and very decided differences of opinion upon one or two important questions, not only of ecclesiastical polity, but of moral principle. All those then present who may have survived, and may read this, will recollect his great speech upon these vexed questions. I have called it "his great speech." I so denominate it thoughtfully. It was one of the finest efforts of the kind that I ever witnessed in a deliberative assembly. The ability displayed would have been creditable to any man in any of the high places of the country. I should have so said, and felt, in relation to the merits of the production on whatever side of the troublesome questions under discussion I may have stood. It was afterward published, but the printed copy fell far short of the interest and power of the original.
I never saw Dr. Davis after that meeting. In a year and a few short months a mysterious Providence removed him under such circumstances as have been described from his post of great usefulness. He was great by nature, and greater by grace. In the prime of life; in the vigor of strong manhood; in the midst of a people regarding him with a feeling kindred to idolatry, the earnest pastor, the husband, the father, is cut down. Resolutions of condolence came up from all sides, but these, however well meant and proper in their place, were but a feeble and unsuccessful effort at filling up the terrible space which had been made vacant by his death. Our last and only true consolation in all such cases is, a trustful conviction that God reigns.
[Source: Brief Biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Second Series. By Richard Beard. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1874. Pages 380-408]
C. A. Davis
Minister - Platte Presbytery - Missouri Synod
Commissioner to General Assembly, May 21-27, 1850, in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Served on the Committee on the Minutes of Arkansas Synod.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1850, pages 3 &7]
C. A. Davis
Minister - Barnett Presbytery - Missouri Synod
Commissioner to General Assembly, May 18-25, 1852, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Served on the Committee on Missions.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1852, pages 5 & 8]
C. A. Davis, Lexington, Missouri
Minister - Lexington Presbytery - Missouri Synod
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1854, page 89]
C. A. Davis
Minister - Lexington Presbytery - Missouri Synod
Commissioner to General Assembly, May 20-28, 1858, in Huntsville, Alabama.
Served on the Committee on Missions.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1858, pages 5, 7]
C. A. Davis, Memphis, Tenn.
Minister - Memphis Presbytery - West Tennessee Synod
Commissioner to General Assembly, May 17-25, 1860 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Served on the Committee on Missions.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1860, pages 5, 7, 100]
C. A. Davis
Minister - Memphis Presbytery - West Tennessee Synod
Commissioner to General Assembly, May 17-26, 1866, in Owensboro, Kentucky
Served on the Committee on Publication.
On motion of Rev. C. A. Davis, the General Assembly proceeded to the selection of the place of their next meeting.
Rev. C. A. Davis placed in nomination the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and there being no other nomination, the same was selected, and on motion of Rev. C. A. Davis, the time fixed for the meting of the next General Assembly was the third Thursday in May, 1867, at 11 o'clock, A. M.
On motion of Rev. C. A. Davis, the Rev. T. C. Blake was added to the Committee on Publication.
On motion of Rev. R. H. Caldwell, the General Assembly proceeded to the selection of Delegates to those Bodies, with which this Body is in correspondence, whereupon the following Delegates were appointed:
To the Presbyterian General Assembly, at Memphis, Tenn., in November, 1866, Rev. C. A. Davis, principal, and Rev. G. T. Stainback, alternate.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1866, pages 6, 8, 10, 12, 21]
C. A. Davis, D.D., was a member of the Memphis Presbytery, and pastor of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Memphis. Dr. Davis was in the prime of life, and laboring in a very important field. He was greatly beloved by his congregation. A long and useful life seemed to be before him. Last fall, however, he was carried off by the terrible pestilence which visited Memphis. He no doubt fell a victim to his own fidelity in ministering to the sick and dying around him.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1868, page 38]
Davis, C. A. Speech of Rev. C. A. Davis, of Memphis, Tennessee, Before the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, In Owensboro, Kentucky, on Tuesday, May 22, 1866, On a Motion to Nullify Certain Political and Radical Deliverances of Previous Assemblies Upon Rebellion and Slavery. Memphis: Published in this form by request, 1866. [1 copy of pamphlet in archives]