Marcus Bearden DeWitt

1835 - 1901

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister


October 23, 1852 - Chapman Presbytery - Candidate
Lebanon, Wilson County, Tennessee

"The committed appointed to converse with young men on the subject of a call to the ministry; reported, --in substance,--that they had held conferences with D. R. Patterson and _____ Dewitt, whom they recommended as candidates for the holy office of the Gospel Ministry, to be received under the care of this Presbytery; which report was adopted."

"Bro's. D. R. Patterson and _____ Dewitt having been received as candidates for the ministry, under the care of this Presbytery, were assigned texts of Scripture on which to prepare written discourses, as follows: Bro. Patterson--St. John, 10:9. Bro Dewitt--Rev. 3:20."

[Source: The Banner of Peace and Cumberland Presbyterian Advocate, November 19, 1852, page 3: "Extracts from the Minutes of Chapman Presbytery."]

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April 15, 1853 - Chapman Presbytery - Candidate
Lafayette, Macon County, Tennessee
"Candidates present--Rob Slate. Absent--R. Patterson, and ____ Dewitt."

[Source: The Banner of Peace and Cumberland Presbyterian Advocate, May 6, 1853, page 1: "Extract from the Minutes of Chapman Presbytery."]

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April 1855 - Chapman Presbytery - Licentiate
New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church - Wilson Co., Tennessee

[source: autobiography]

  * * *

June 1856 - Graduated from the Literary Department
Cumberland University
Lebanon, Wilson Co., Tennessee

* * *

Pastor - Dry Fork Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Bethpage, Sumner County, Tennessee [1856-1858]
Pastor - Oak Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Sumner County, Tennessee [1856-1858]

* * *

December 1856 - Chapman Presbytery - Ordained
Called Meeting
Oak Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church - Sumner County, Tennessee

* * *

Lebanon Presbytery - Middle Tennessee Synod
M. B. Dewitt, Castillian Spring
[Source: General Assembly Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1857, page 70]

finished theological course
Cumberland University

July 1859 - Pastor - Fayetteville Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tennessee [1859-1862]

Tennessee Presbytery - Columbia Synod
M. B. DeWitt, Fayetteville, Tenn.
[Source: General Assembly Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1860, page 101]

Pastor - Meridianville Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Meridianville, Madison County, Alabama

March 8 - Chaplain - 8th Tennessee (Infantry) Regiment of Volunteers

June 1865 - Pastor - Meridianville Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Meridianville, Madison County, Alabama

March 8, 1866 - Pastor - Huntsville Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama

Tennessee Presbytery - Columbia Synod
M. B. De Witt, S.C., Huntsville, Ala.
Commissioner to General Assembly
Lincoln, Illinois - May 21-29, 1868
Committee on Sunday Schools - Rev. M. B. Dewitt, Chairman
[Source: General Assembly Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1868, pages 6, 11, 22 & 108]

Tennessee Presbytery - Columbia Synod
M. B. Dewitt, St. Clerk, Huntsville, Ala.
[Source: General Assembly Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1869, page 89]

Tennessee Presbytery - Columbia Synod
M. B. DeWitt, St'd Clerk, Huntsville, Alabama
[Source: General Assembly Minutes of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1870, page 84]

Aug Soliciting Agent and sole Editor of the General Assembly's Board of Publication at Nashville, TN
Edited: The Theological Medium, Sunday School Gem, Sunday Morning, Our Lambs.

Fall resigned connection with the Board of Publication

January 1, 1880 - Pastor - McMinnville Cumberland Presbyterian Church
McMinnville, Warren County, Tennessee

Pastor - McKeesport Cumberland Presbyterian Church
McKeesport, Pennsylvania

November 15, 1884 - Pastor - Edgefield Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee
[for four years]

General Superintendent of Sunday Schools
Editor of Sunday School papers

April 6, 1894 - Pastor - First Cumberland Presbyterian Church

September 1896 - Springfield, Greene County, Missouri

September 1896 - returned to Nashville, Tennessee

Interim Pastor - Addison Avenue Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Nashville, Tennessee

January 19, 1898 - Pastor - Hopkinsville Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Hopkinsville, Christian County Kentucky

April 5-7, 1898 - Princeton Presbytery
"... Rev. M. B. DeWitt, D.D. ... were received"
"By order of the presbytery, M. B. DeWitt, D.D., will be installed at Hopkinsville, ,,,"
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, April 28, 1898, page 1368--Minutes of Princeton Presbytery]

Dr. DeWitt's Last Message to the Church.

My thought would be that you say for me, The Cumberland Presbyterian Church believed in the beginning in giving the gospel to all the people in its simplicity, spirituality, and power, and it believes it still. I pray that it may persevere in this purpose, and that to this end it may develop to the utmost the ability of its men, sustain its educational institutions and its boards, and do whatever else may fit it to receive from God the power to give the gospel to the whole world. Ah, bless God!

At this hour, 3 p.m., Monday, February 25, Dr. DeWitt is understood to be dying. For the first time in his long illness he is entirely unconscious and his physicians declare that he will remain in a comatose condition until the end, which cannot be many hours away. The tenacity with which he has held on to life is exceeded alone by his resignation to the will of the Lord, and this has been sublime. Although he has suffered terribly and almost constantly, he has been rational at all times, and unmurmuring in his fortitude. His last audible utterance was a message of love to his wife; and the last but one of the sentences he spoke was, "Jesus is with me."

The message to the Church which we quote above was spoken by him to this writer on Thursday of last week, at a time when the physicians had told him that in all probability he could not live through the night. It was the last of a number of messages, in which members of his family and others were remembered, and in which he triumphantly declared his desire to depart and be with God. "No man ever had sweeter loved ones, or dearer friends, or a better church to preach to than I have," he said; "and if I might be able to preach again I would be willing to stay." "Isn't it wonderful," he added, "that, loving life as I do and having so much to live for as I have, I should still be anxious to go away? But if it is so beautiful here what must it be up yonder!? There was much more in this last sermon of the beloved preacher, but in this article it is our purpose merely to direct attention to the heart message which he bade us bear to Cumberland Presbyterians everywhere. It is most fitting that he who for forty-five years has found his own chief delight in preaching the gospel in its "simplicity, spirituality and power," should, when dying, commend to the Church, which has everywhere and always heard him gladly, continued consecration to our denominational mission, the preaching of this blessed gospel to the whole world.

At exactly 4.20 p.m., Monday, Dr. DeWitt's noble, white life peacefully ended here and joyfully began in Heaven.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 28, 1901, page 1]

The Late M. B. DeWitt, D.D.--A Presbyterian Minister's Tribute.

The death of the Rev. Dr. DeWitt removes a powerful moral and spiritual force from the activities of this life. He was not only a good man, but a great one, as measured by our Lord's standard, "Whosoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant." His life was a long, continuous, self-denying, patient, cheerful service. His highest ambition was to hear the Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Endowed by nature with rare abilities, which he had cultivated highly, he laid all at the feet of the Lord, to be used by him, when, and where and how he would.

It was my privilege to know Dr. DeWitt intimately for many years, and it may be that my testimony to his worth, coming from one of a sister church, may be acceptable to those of his own denomination. Our friendship was formed and welded amid the trying scenes of the Civil War, when we were chaplains in the Confederate army. I can testify to the readiness with which he endured hardships and braved dangers in ministering to his men. The Eighth Tennessee was a fighting regiment, and he went with it, always ready to care for the wounded and the dying. He won the love, the confidence and the respect of the men, by his true manhood in camp and on the field. They knew they could count on him. His ministry in the army was blessed to the conversion of many souls, and their upbuilding in the faith.

In my long pastorates in Nashville, covering more than thirty years, I have been associated with many ministers of all denominations in Christian work. Dr. DeWitt was one of my most trusted friends. I round him a perfect gentleman, an humble, catholic-spirited Christian, a wise, safe counselor, and an earnest worker in every good cause. He had great power to sin the love of others, and that because he had such capacity of loving them. He was so sincere, guileless, genuine that all trusted him. He was so cheerful, bright, companionable, that he was the life of the circle in which he moved. He united in himself characteristics seemingly opposite. He was intense, fervid, enthusiastic, yet gentle, patient, considerate. He was brave as a lion, yet as modest as a woman. He was strong to do so to suffer, yet very tender to the weak. He was stern in his integrity, yet pitiful to the erring. He loved this life and this bright world, yet was glad to give it up when God called. He was ready to enjoy the comic side of life; yet none ever felt more deeply its pathos. He was a many-sided man, who touched his fellow men at many points and knew how to enter into their lives, and whenever he entered he brought his Lord with him. He purified, sweetened, elevated the lives about him.

I remember a red-letter day with him ten years ago. Rev. S. M. Cherry, Sr., of the Methodist Church, was to celebrate his birthday, so he asked Dr. DeWitt and Elder R. Lin Cave, of the Christian Church and myself to spend the day with him. We had all been in the Confederate army to the last. We sat and walked and talked until the night fell; and as we recalled the scenes, humorous and sad, of those brave old days, he enjoyed it all with intense delight. The zest with which he told his experiences gave vividness to the story, and helped us to live over those eventful times.

Two weeks before his death I visited him, and again the talk drifted to the war times and our army experiences. He seemed to forget his sufferings as he recalled many a form long turned to dust and voices long silent; and he mentioned the grand deeds of many who sleep on distant battle fields, where his hands helped to lay them to rest. The old memories again stirred him to smiles and to tears.

But he has gone to join the great company to whom he ministered on earth, and as I think of the great work he wrought I thank God for such a work; and as I think of the great man he was, I thank God for such a friend.

In the presence of the Lord whom he loved and served he has fullness of joy for evermore.
    Nashville, Tenn.                                                           JAMES H. McNEILLY.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 7, 1901, page 298]


The esteem in which the late Dr. DeWitt, who died in Nashville at 4.20 p.m., Monday, Feb. 25, was held is well indicated by the following editorial which appeared in The Nashville Evening Banner, the next day:

M. B. DeWitt, D.D., whose death we chronicle, was widely known and wherever known was honored and beloved. He was a man of the quality that impressed a positive and permanent influence for good wherever he lived and worked. With a strong mentality, a keen perceptive faculty, logical force and courageous conviction of duty, backed by education and refinement, he was recognized in his church and outside of it as an able and effective champion of truth and righteousness. With these powers were combined the kindly and genial social elements, the warm-heartedness, the integrity, the sympathy and charity of a man whom to know was to trust and love. The minister and the man were one in the purpose and the life-example of right living. Stalwart in his loyalty and devotion to his own church organization, he was so earnest and genuine in his Christian fellowship other denominations were always ready and eager to welcome him and share his helpfulness and profit by his generous labors. His life was full of usefulness, his honored name will be a household word, his memory will remain a benediction."

Dr. DeWitt was born March 8, 1835, at Paris, Tenn., and was therefore nearly sixty-six years of age. His father, Dr. Washington John DeWitt, was a South Carolinian, his mother a Tennessean. In his childhood he was taught by Rev. J. C. [C. J.] Bradley, and was under the religious influence of Rev. Reuben Burrow and Rev. Robert Baker. His mother being a Presbyterian and his father a member of no church until 1842, Dr. DeWitt was baptized in infancy in the Presbyterian Church. When he was converted in 1849 he became a Cumberland Presbyterian, his father and mother having meanwhile joined our church. In 1852 he entered Cumberland University from the literary department of which he graduated in 1856. He completed the theological course in 1859 under Dr. Beard. His first charge was as pastor of the Oak Grove and Dry Fork churches in Sumner county. During his life he served, among others, in the following positions: Pastor at Fayetteville, Tenn., 1859-63; Chaplain of the Confederate army, 1863-5; pastor at Huntsville, Ala., 1866-72; soliciting agent and Sunday school editor of the Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1872-9; pastor at McMinnville, Tenn., 1880-2; McKeesport, Pa., 1883-4; Edgefield, now Russell Street Church, Nashville, 1885-8, Sunday school editor and general superintendent of Sunday schools, 1889-93; pastor at Springfield, Mo., 1894-6; acting pastor Addison Avenue, Nashville, 1897; pastor Hopkinsville, Ky., 1898-1900. It will thus be seen that his was a very full and busy life. From a biographical sketch of him prepared by this writer for the local columns of the Nashville Evening Banner, we copy the following:

Never physically strong, Dr. DeWitt was from the first poorly prepared to do battle with the malignant disease which finally ended his life, but the fight against the inevitable was, nevertheless, a phenomenally long and gallant one. He faithfully tried various treatments, some of which appeared to give him much relief, but in the end the cancerous trouble from which he had been suffering for years became an internal malady, and death hastened to set him free from the most intense suffering, borne at all times with sublime Christian fortitude and unmurmuring resignation. Conscious to the very last day of his life, he had made every preparation for death, even to the details of his funeral, to officiate at which he selected Rev. J. L. Alexander, a lifelong co-worker in the ministry; J. M. Hubbert, D.D., a helpful and fond friend of his more recent ministry, and Rev. Ira Landrith, whom he regarded as his son in the ministry, and at whose ordination he officiated. The funeral service took place at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m., February 27. Dr. DeWitt's two sons, Hon. John H. DeWitt and Paul DeWitt, both of this city, and his daughters, Mrs. B. M. Settle, of Bowling Green, Ky., and Mrs. W. A. Skelton, of Nashville, were constantly with him during his last illness, sharing with Mrs. DeWitt the melancholy privilege of ministering to the noble sufferer. A host of friends and relatives, including Dr. DeWitt's brother, Rev. D. C. DeWitt, of Hillsboro, Texas, added all they were able to the cheer and comfort of his last days. Dr. DeWitt as a preacher was poetically elegant in diction and magnetic and fervid in delivery. In the pulpit, as out of it, he was universally popular. He held the highest office in his own church, that of Moderator of the General Assembly. Hundreds of persons professed faith in Christ in the meetings he held, and other hundreds testify to his influence in affording them spiritual strength and inspiration to usefulness. He was pre-eminently a pastor, and it was in this capacity that he won his warmest friendships. It is doubtful if there is in all the wide circle of his acquaintanceship an individual who thinks less than kindly of him, so lovable was he in disposition, so charitable in judgment and speech, and so unselfishly the friend and lover of his fellow men. His was a poet's soul, delicately sensitive and refined;and since unkindness would have wounded him most deeply he always studied how he might avoid making unnecessary wounds. Those who knew best how devoutly he had lived expected him to die triumphantly, and he did. He faced the future with unclouded faith, welcomed death as a blessed messenger of peace, and declared as one of his last two audible utterances, the other being a message of love to his faithful wife, "Jesus is with me."

The funeral service which was largely attended by the representative citizenship of Nashville, members of all churches and of no church at all, was conducted in the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church at 2 p.m., February 27. Practically all the details of the funeral, which was a simple service, were arranged by Dr. DeWitt himself. The ministers chosen by him to participate were Rev. J. L. Alexander, Rev. J. M. Hubbert, D.D., and Rev. Ira Landrith.

Dr. DeWitt's death was a glorious vindication of the truth of the gospel which he had so faithfully and effectually preached. There was no complaining, no impatience. He bore his sufferings with a fortitude that was almost cheerful, and with a submission to God's will which was absolutely so. Perfectly rational almost to the last he left messages of love for all his family and close friends. In the course of the interview in which he sent to the church the message we last week printed, he said among other things: "The precious old gospel is a strong stay to me now. As the Scriptures have been read to me these last few days they seem so glorious." Rapturously he exclaimed, "Just think, brethren! After awhile we shall all be together up yonder, a part of the family of God." At various times during the last days of his life he bore such testimony as this: "I have a clear, calm hope of heaven." "My hope of heaven is through God in Christ our Lord in his atonement." "This is joy inexpressible." "What an honor, what a privilege, what a delight it was always been to preach the blessed Gospel of Christ and him crucified!" "Jesus is with me and has been through it all." After an exhausting paroxysm of suffering, he said, "Nearer, nearer."
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 7, 1901, page 309]


DeWitt, M. B. The Centenary of Robert Raikes; or A Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the Sunday-School. Nashville, Tenn.: Printed for the author at the Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1881. Need 2 copies for archives

DeWitt, M. B. The Redemptive, Corrective and Conquering Gospel; or, Christianity the Ultimate Religion. The opening sermon of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, at Birmingham, Ala., May 21, 1896. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1896. [26 page pamphlet] Need 2 copies for archives

DeWitt Family Information

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July 15, 2010