Hiram Douglass was born in Spartanburg, District, South Carolina. His parents were Jesse and Sarah Ann Douglass. While Hiram was quite a small boy, his father, Jesse Douglass, with his family emigrated from South Carolina and settled in McMinn County, Tennessee, being one of the pioneers of that country. At that time the facilities for obtaining an education were very meagre. Jesse Douglass was never the possessor of much of this world's goods, hence his children could not be sent away from home to attend school. Hiram's boyhood days were spent on the farm amidst the hills and valleys of East Tennessee aiding his father to fell the timber and cultivate the soil. Although the Douglass family was poor in this world's goods, the children were greatly blessed with having devout and Christian parents, who taught them to shun the paths of sin, and to "lay hold on eternal life." They were given the advantages of such schools as the country afforded.
From early childhood Hiram loved music; he cultivated his voice, and all through his life he was one of Israel's sweet singers. When he was about 18 years old he attended the bedside and witnessed the death scenes and heard the last words of one of his comrades, who departed this life with full assurance of a home in heaven. The experience so deeply impressed young Douglass with his own lost condition that he then and there resolved to flee to the world's Redeemer for relief for his sad, troubled heart. Time passed on but no peace, no joy came, all was sadness and condemnation. In the meantime, he attended the camp-meeting annually held at Corn-Tassel in Monroe County, Tennessee. There under the ministry of those godly men, Small, Peeler and perhaps also the Tates, he gave himself, a poor helpless sinner, into the hands of Jesus, the sinner's friend. Then and there joy and gladness came into his heart; he made a public profession of religion and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. When he was about 19 years old he was married to Miss Caroline Warnock, of McMinn County, Tennessee. Oct. 9, 1832, he was received a candidate for the ministry under the care of the Knoxville Presbytery in session at Jerusalem camp-ground, McMinn County, Tennessee. He was licensed to preach the gospel at Cumberland camp-ground in Washington County, Tennessee, April 10, 1836. I quote the following from Dr. J. B. Logan in the "Ladies' Pearl" of 1870: "The first time I remember seeing Mr. Douglass was in the county of McMinn, East Tennessee, about the year 1833 or 1834. I was not more than 13 or 14 years old. He held a meeting one Sunday in my father's neighborhood at the house of Elias Hutchinson, about eight miles South of Athens, Tennessee. He had just been received a candidate for the ministry by the Knoxville Presbytery. As I now remember he had a wife and one child. He was very poor, and in that country, at that day, to be poor meant something. He held meeting in a short, round-about gingham coat, which scarcely came to his waist. He could scarcely read his hymns intelligibly enough to be understood. It was his first attempt to speak in public in that neighborhood. He 'lined' his hymns as was the universal custom in those days, sang and then bowed down to pray. Before he was done praying everybody in the house became interested in the new preacher. He prayed with such humility, such fervor and seemingly such eloquence and power that every person present was deeply impressed with his spirit. He then read his text and went on to speak. There was some inexplicable influence about his tone and manner, voice, everything which riveted all to their seats. Some year or two after this Brother Douglass had been licensed to preach and was on his first circuit among the Cherokee Indians. His circuit when formed embraced the whole of what was then known as the "Ocoee purchase.' It embraced about the present boundary of the Georgia Presbytery, with a large share of the Ocoee besides. It embraced at least six counties in Georgia and as many in Tennessee. In all this boundary there was not then a single Cumberland Presbyterian congregation organized nor did we have fifty members all told. The first congregation organized on his circuit was on the ground where Cleveland, in Bradley County, Tennessee, now stands, but there was nothing like a town there then. The thicket of saplings had been cut down for the public square, a large log courthouse had been reared on the ground. The house had no shutters or doors or windows. In this building was organized the first Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in that entire country. The members were gathered from Springplace, Ga., to Charleston and Chattanooga, Tenn. The Rev. Christopher C. Porter attended that meeting and officiated in the organization, Brother Douglass not being an ordained preacher. When he reported his work to his presbytery, he had received but five dollars, and his expenses for ferriage and horseshoeing exceeded his salary, while his wife and child had not received one cent on which to live. And at least part of the time they were at the house of some relative or friend living off his family's kindness. After making his report he was asked if he would consent to ride again; he said yes, and he wanted to go on same circuit. He rode this circuit for years. Glorious revivals were the result. Thousands of the unconverted were brought into the fold. Church after church was organized and started on its career of prosperity. I think I do not exaggerate when I say that the churches in the Georgia and the Ocoee (now the Chattanooga) presbyteries owe their present growth and prosperity under God more to this beloved, devoted man than to any other." Brother Douglass, having been deprived of the advantages of an early education, felt deeply the importance of a better preparation for his work in the ministry. In the year 1838 he attended a literary school a few months in the town of Cleveland, Tenn., and then entered fully on his life work again, "not conferring with flesh and blood." On a certain occasion he was preaching a series of sermons at some town in Georgia. While there, was asked by a minister who belonged to another denomination, at what university he studied theology. He replied, I studied theology while on horseback riding over the hills of East Tennessee and Georgia. The writer has not been able to learn the exact date of his ordination as a portion of the records of the Hiwassee Presbytery were destroyed by fire some years ago. the synodical records show that he attended the first meeting of the East Tennessee Synod, which met at Concord, Knox County, Tennessee, 1843, as an ordained preacher from the Ocoee Presbytery. His field of labor extended from Greeneville, Tennessee, to Cassville, Georgia, and in all that section of country east of the Cumberland Mountains parallel with the above named points, and embracing a section of country far out into Northeast Georgia. He kept a memorandum of the professions made at his home church, Union Campground (near Ootewah, Tenn.). After a term of years the memoranda was lost; up to that time there had been more than 1,100 professions made at that church. Brother Douglass was blessed with a good physical constitution. He was portly and commanding in his general bearing though tempered with that gentleness and sweetness of spirit which greatly drew the masses of the people to him. He was endowed with superior native ability. He studied and familiarized himself with natural as well as revealed theology. He also possessed the tact in a high degree of subordinating the most common events of life to his profession as a minister of the gospel. At the same time he admired the sublime in nature, the good and the great among men. The Apostle Paul was his ideal preacher, but his sympathetic nature would as readily lead him down into the lowly valley of humility with the Virgin Mary or any of the down trodden of earth. He was faithful in his attendance at all the church courts. His presbytery frequently honored him as her commissioner to the meeting of General Assembly. In the year 1865 at Evansville, Ind., he was elected moderator of the General Assembly by a large majority. And he filled that office with honor to himself and to the satisfaction of the Assembly. I quote from one of his co-laborers who says: "It has been my fortune to become acquainted more or less with a large number of the prominent ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and I know not one living or dead that has risen to such eminence and usefulness through such difficulties and from such a beginning." He very seldom wrote anything for the public press. A short time before his death he reported to one of his brethren, that he had a memorandum of some of the important events in his life, but the writer does not know where that record is. The degree of D.D. was conferred on Brother Douglass about the year 1864, but we have not been able to learn what university conferred that honor. His tower of strength was in his devoted and godly living, and his eloquence as a pulpit orator. It was said on good authority that Andrew Johnson, the president, after hearing him preach, said that "Douglass was nearer his ideal of a preacher than any man he had ever heard preach." His name remains a household word throughout this whole country. There are many people yet living who well remember not only the many gracious revivals held by him, but they remember the subjects and the texts he used. Such as, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones of the valley, the new birth, the resurrection, the heavenly country. The church put the following inscription on the marble shaft of his tombstone at Charleston Tenn:
EAST SIDE.--Gone to heaven. In memory of Rev. Hiram Douglass, minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, born May 10, 1813, died June 24, 1865, aged 52 years, one month and 14 days.
SOUTH SIDE.--He was the pioneer of his beloved church indefatigable in his labors and most successful in winning souls to Christ. Then having fought the good fight, having finished his course full of honors and strong in faith, he hastily descended from the pulpit to the grave, while his pure spirit ascended to its reward in heaven, where a crown thick with redeemed souls awaited him and harps and palms were given him.
WEST SIDE.--From obscurity he ascended to honor and great usefulness. His feet were firmly planted on Christ and the great doctrines of salvation, his great soul was melted into tenderness before the cross. The benevolence of heaven moved his heart zeal for a lost world, inspired all his powers, while from behind the cross, he portrayed the glories of the redeemer and the despair of the damned, with that native eloquence which bore down all before it.
NORTH SIDE.--Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.
To Brother Douglass the sea of life was not all smooth and placid waters; he had mountains of difficulties to ascend, bereavements and heart-burning sorrows to bear peculiar to himself. Through faith he overcame them all. Any man possessing his ability and having his environments would be tempted and solicited to enter a field of worldly honors and profits. But his answer was, "I am a minister of the gospel." He had great faith in God's promises. "Lo I am with you, always." His family never suffered with hunger; his home comforts and property like the coral steadily increased up to his death. He reared a large family and gave each one of his children a fair education. He had the happy fortune to be united to a pious, devoted Christian wife. Much of his success may be attributed in part to her patient, contented and cross-bearing spirit. Nearly a third of a century has passed since his demise. Years ago the good wife and the children emigrated to the western countries--a number of them may be gone to their great rewards. Dr. Logan states that while Brother Douglass was attending a meeting at Charleston Church on the banks of the beautiful Hiwassee, he was attacked with flux and died after a few days' severe illness, in the full triumphs of a living faith, and hope of a glorious immortality. Right where he fell he preferred to sleep until his Master shall awake him to come up higher. In that beautiful valley close by the rushing mountain river, in sight of where he preached his first sermon, sang his last song and prayed his last prayer, lie his remains till the morning of the resurrection.
"Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep,
From which none ever wake to weep."
Day and night angels will keep their watchful vigils around
that dust until old time shall be no more.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, January 6, 1898, page 852-853]
The Rev. Hiram Douglass did more than any other Cumberland Presbyterian preacher in the early and mid nineteenth century to develop and expand the Who-So-Ever-Will doctrine of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in northwest Georgia and southeast Tennessee. Almost every early congregation organized along the Tennessee-Georgia state line owes its inception either directly or indirectly to the Rev. Hiram Douglass. He was the man who braved the elements, and sacrificed his own family's well being and security for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Hiram Douglass embodied all the virtues outlined in the poem "Circuit Ridin' Preacher." Douglass rode across the mountains of northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee with a rifle on his saddle and a Bible in his hand. "He told the people all about the promised land. . . (He) traveled through the mire and mud, told about the fiery furnace, and of Noah and the flood. He preached the way to heaven was by water and the blood, as he went riding. . . down the trail."
From the early 1830s until his death in 1865, The Reverend Hiram Douglass rode a circuit from Greeneville, Tennessee to Cassville, Georgia. According to the late Reverend Z. M. McGhee, Douglass "rode this circuit for years. Glorious revivals were the result, and thousands of the unconverted were brought into the fold," because of his efforts.
Born in Spartanburg, South Carolina on May 10, 1813, Hiram Douglass was the son of Jesse and Sarah Ann Douglass. His family later moved to McMinn County, Tennessee. Here his father purchased a small farm, and Hiram spent his childhood helping clear the land and cultivate the soil. Since his parents were pioneer settlers struggling to make a meager living on the frontier, they were unable to send their children back east to be educated. The limited educational training Hiram received was in the field schools of McMinn County. But while Hiram's educational background was very inadequate, his parents were able to instill within him a religious awareness and a gift for singing. Both of these attributes later aided him significantly in his ministry. After Hiram became a missionary, his parents later moved to Gilmer County, Georgia, where they lived the remainder of their lives.
At the age of 18, Hiram Douglass attended the bedside of one of his terminally ill friends, and witnessed his death. The experience so impressed him that he decided to devote his life and energies to the ministry. In 1831, he attended the annual camp meeting held at Corn Tassell in Monroe County, Tennessee. At this camp meeting, Hiram listened to the Rev. John Tate, the Rev. Joseph Peeler, and a Rev. Small, Cumberland Presbyterian missionaries, speak. During this camp meeting, he professed religion and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. During the year 1831, he also married Miss Mary Catherine (Caroline) Warnock of McMinn County. During their 34 year marriage, they had nine children.
On October 9, 1832, Hiram Douglass presented himself before Knoxville Presbytery as a candidate for the ministry. This meeting of Knoxville Presbytery was held at Jerusalem Campground in Washington County, Tennessee. The Rev. Dr. J. B. Logan was in attendance for this meeting, and witnessed the candidacy of Douglass. He commented that Douglass, ". . . had just been received as a candidate for the ministry . . . As I now remember, he had a wife and one child. He was very poor. (During this time period) to be poor meant something. He (was dressed) in a short roundabout gingham coat, which scarcely came to his waist. He could scarcely read his hymns intelligibly enough to be understood. It was his first attempt to speak in public in that neighborhood. He 'lined' his hymns as was the universal custom in those days, sang and then bowed down to pray. Before he was done praying, everybody in the house became interested in the new preacher. He prayed with such humility, such fervor, and seemingly such eloquence and power that every person present was deeply impressed with his spirit. He then read his text and went on to speak. There was some inexplicable influence about his tone and manner which riveted all to their seats."
Three and one-half years later, on April 10, 1836, Douglass as licensed to preach the gospel at Cumberland Campground in Washington County, Tennessee. From 1836 to 1838, he was commissioned to preach within the bounds of the Cherokee Indian American Nation. For two years, he preached primarily to the Cherokees and the few white settlers who had migrated into the Cherokee held lands.
Since the early records of Hiwassee Presbytery were destroyed by fire, the exact date of the Rev. Hiram Douglass' ordination is unknown. The Ocoee Presbytery Minutes of 1842, however, list him as an ordained minister. It is believed that he was ordained sometime between 1839 and 1841.
In 1838, following the removal of the Cherokee Indian Americans from Georgia, Douglass was sent on his first circuit through territory which later became all of Georgia Presbytery, and a large portion of Ocoee Presbytery. His first circuit included at least six counties in Georgia and as many in Tennessee. According to the Rev. Z. M. McGhee, "In all this boundary, there was not then a single Cumberland Presbyterian congregation organized, nor did we have 50 members all told." This condition represented a challenge to the Rev. Douglass. He had never ridden such a circuit before, and saw an opportunity to spread the Cumberland Presbyterian doctrine into a new frontier region.
On his first circuit and the many other circuit rides that followed, Douglass exhibited an eloquent ability to speak and to move people toward accepting Jesus Christ. His prayers and sermons were full of inspiration and he became recognized by the time of his death as a great orator. He also enjoyed singing, and his voice was filled with joy and delightfulness. But even with this success, Douglass always believed his literary style and prose could be improved. He was also aware of the need for frontier ministers, like himself, to obtain a formal education. With these thoughts in mind, the Rev. Douglass enrolled, in 1838, in a literary school at Cleveland, Tennessee. For several months, he worked at improving his reading and writing skills. When the school term ended, the Rev. Douglass embarked on his circuit again.
During the nineteenth century, Cumberland Presbyterian preachers were often criticized by the Northern Presbyterians for lacking the necessary minimum educational qualifications for preaching the gospel. While Douglass recognized the need to improve his educational skills, he sometimes became quite irritated with better educated ministers who questioned his educational qualifications to be an ordained minister. Once when preaching a series of sermons in Georgia, Douglass was approached by a minister of another denomination, who inquired about where he had received his religious education. Douglass looked at his colleague and replied, "I studied theology while on horseback riding over the hills of east Tennessee and Georgia."
On his first circuit ride, Douglass organized the first Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in the Ocoee Purchase at Cleveland, Tennessee. According to the Rev. Z. M. McGhee, ". . . there was nothing like a town there then (referring to Cleveland). The thicket of saplings had been cut down for a public square. A large courthouse had been raised on the ground. The house had no shutters to the doors or to the windows. In this building was organized the first Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in that entire country. The members were gathered from Spring Place, Georgia to Charleston, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Rev. Christopher C. Porter attended that meeting and officiated in the organization, Brother Douglass not being an ordained minister."
The Rev. John Morgan Wooten's History of Bradley County, Tennessee records that the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Cleveland was organized on July 16, 1837 by the Rev. John Tate and the Rev. Christopher C. Porter with 104 members. Mr.Douglass is mentioned as a licentiate of the Hiwassee Presbytery who had been laboring as an evangelist in the Cherokee country for some time and that many people had been converted under his ministry. The History of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Tennessee, published in 1989, records that Douglass served as pastor of the Cleveland congregation in 1844 and again from April 1855 to August 1855. Wooten's History of Bradley County, Tennessee indicated that Douglass was also pastor of the Cleveland Church in 1856.
On April 7, 1838, the Rev. Douglass organized the Chickamauga (today Silverdale) Cumberland Presbyterian Church at the home of John Low. Douglass was assisted by the Rev. John Tate, and the church had a charter membership of 13. Douglass served as pastor of the Silverdale Church until February 11, 1850. At the time of his resignation, the Silverdale Church membership had grown to 109.
Hiwassee Presbytery was so impressed with Douglass' report from his first circuit ride that they requested he ride the same circuit again. This was a hard decision for Douglass to make. His salary was only $5.00 a month, and he had already exceeded that sum in expenses on his horse. His wife and child were living off the kindness of friends and relatives. After much thought, and with the consent and support of his wife, Douglass consented to ride the same circuit a second time. According to the Rev. Dr. J. B. Logan, "Glorious revivals were the result. Thousands of the unconverted were brought into the fold. Church after church was organized and started on its career of prosperity. I think I do not exaggerate when I say that the churches in Georgia and the Ocoee (later Chattanooga) Presbyteries owe their present growth and prosperity under God more to this beloved devoted man than to any other."
While riding this circuit, the Rev. Douglass organized several congregations. Among these congregations was the Ooltewah Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Organized on September 25, 1840, near the Union Campground near Ooltewah, this church became the home church of the Douglass family.
In 1842, Ocoee Presbytery was organized out of part of Hiwassee Presbytery. The Rev. Douglass was a charter minister in Ocoee Presbytery. The following year, he was appointed by Ocoee Presbytery to ride a circuit from "Greeneville, Tennessee to Cassville, Georgia, and in all that section of country east of the Cumberland Mountains parallel with the above named points, and embracing a section of country far out into northeast Georgia."
While riding on this circuit, the Rev. Douglass served, in 1842, as pastor of the Sale Creek Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and organized the first Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Georgia. The Georgia congregation was organized near Cohutta, Georgia in 1842 at the home of the Rev. James Johnson. Originally known as the Union Grove Church, the membership was composed of settlers living on both sides of the Georgia-Tennessee state line. In 1844, the congregation began holding religious services at Flint Springs in a brush arbor on the farm of Benjamin Hambright. Two years later, the Flint Springs Church was organized and this led to the disorganization of the Union Grove Church. In 1848, the remnants of this congregation were reorganized as the Pleasant Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church near Cohutta.
In 1846, the Rev. Douglass began preaching to a group of Cumberland Presbyterians in Murray County, Georgia at the Hall's Chapel School House. This group of Cumberland Presbyterians represented the forerunner to the Sumach Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was organized by the Rev. S. H. Henry in October 1851.
In 1847, the Rev. Douglass was one of the leaders in the organization of the Georgetown Academy of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Georgetown, Tennessee. This educational institution was sponsored by Ocoee Presbytery, and existed until 1870 as one of the most outstanding secondary schools of the region.
On October 10, 1855, the Rev. Douglass, and the Rev. Allison Templeton, reorganized the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Originally organized on May 2, 1841 by the Rev. William B. Dawson, and the Rev. Aaron Grigsby, the organization was not permanent lasting for only two or three years.
In 1856, the Rev. Douglass succeeded the Rev. Young L. McLemore as pastor of the Ewing Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Before the War for Southern Independence, this church organization was one of the most popular Cumberland Presbyterian Churches in Hamilton County, Tennessee, for conducting camp meetings. Many Cumberland Presbyterian ministers visited this church site and officiated at revivals being held there. Mr. Douglass had charge of most of the camp meetings at Ewing Grove. Of all the churches Douglass served, Ewing Grove was the one he supplied the most during his ministerial career.
In 1857, with Ocoee Presbytery in session at the Sumach Church, Georgia Presbytery was organized out of Ocoee Presbytery. The Rev. Douglass was one of the charter members of Georgia Presbytery, and was elected as the first moderator of the new presbytery. This was quite an honor for the Rev. Douglass since he had been a prime mover in the establishment of a specific presbyterial organization for the state of Georgia.
In 1850, Mr. Douglass served as the first pastor of the newly created New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church near Charleston, Tennessee. This congregation had been in existence for a number of years prior to 1850, but had not been officially received under the care of Ocoee Presbytery. During the War for Southern Independence, the church house of the New Hope congregation was destroyed by fire, and the congregation became disorganized. In 1866, the congregation was disbanded.
At about the same time the War for Southern Independence began in 1861, it is believed the Rev. Douglass organized the Charleston (Tennessee) Cumberland Presbyterian Church. From 1861 until his death in 1865, the Rev. Douglass devoted much of his time to helping this congregation develop. In addition to organizing Cumberland Presbyterian churches, Douglass also assisted The Rev. Henry Gotcher organize the Flint Hill Baptist Church. This congregation was organized in 1840 in the home of Absalom Sivley, at Sivley Springs, east of Missionary Ridge in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
Throughout his ministerial career, the Rev. Douglass always supplied several churches at one time in Georgia and in Tennessee. He was able to do this because of his excellent physical condition and an understanding and devoted wife and family. The Rev. Z. M. McGhee described the Rev. Douglass as a portly man with a commanding figure. Although a huge man, Douglass, according to McGhee, was "well tempered with that gentleness and sweetness of spirit which greatly drew the masses of people to him." According to Eugene Lewis, "The Rev. Hiram Douglass was a capable organizer . . . a fine orator . . . (and) a man of wide influence . . ."
Douglass kept a record of the professions made at his home church in Ooltewah. This record was later lost, but according to the Rev. Z. M. McGhee there were "up to that time more than 1100 professions made at that church." There is no record of how many professions Douglass received during his ministry. Zella Armstrong noted, in her research about Chattanooga and Hamilton County, Tennessee, that during the 1840s, scores of couples were married by the Rev. Douglass.
Hiram Douglass was a great orator. People from all over the region would ride for miles to hear him speak. His revivals and camp meetings were always well attended and sometimes lasted sever weeks. Since he was a robust man with a strong constitution, these religious services did not pose any serious threat to his health or work. Wherever he spoke, people were captivated by his sermons. Andrew Johnson, an east Tennessean who later became President of the United States, commented after hearing Douglass deliver a sermon that the Cumberland Presbyterian minister "was nearer his idea of a preacher than any man he had every heard preach."
During the 1840s, the Rev. Douglass was able to purchase a small farm near Ooltewah in the beautiful Savannah Valley. Here he raised his family and steadily accumulated more property. By 1865, Douglass owned a 200 acre farm. As he acquired more and more property, he was forced to purchase slaves to work the land, while he traveled a preaching circuit. In 1852, he built a brick home near Ooltewah. The bricks used in constructing the home were handmade by African-American slaves owned by Douglass.
When the War for Southern Independence began in 1861, Douglass came out in support of the Confederacy. On January 20, 1861, Douglass preached his first political sermon in Cleveland, Tennessee. As one observer recorded, he "bemeaned the northern preacher and politicians generally." From 1861 to late 1863, Douglass was a firm champion of the Southern cause. All of Douglass' sons enlisted in the Confederate Army.
Following the Battle of Chickamauga, Mr. Douglass learned that all of his sons had been captured by federal forces. He made his way through the union lines to Chattanooga. Here he made arrangements to see General George H. (Rock of Chickamauga) Thomas. After a lengthy discussion with Douglass, General Thomas agreed to pardon Douglass' sons provided they never again engage in hostile activity against the United States. Douglass gave his word, his sons were freed, and they went home with their father. After his audience with General Thomas, Douglass, although a slave owner with a large farm, and knowing that support for the union might cost him everything he had, denounced slavery as wrong, and the Southern cause for States' Rights untenable. This position placed him in direct opposition with the views of his sons and his closest friend, George W. Arnett. Arnett was a slave owner who supported the Confederacy. Many times from late 1863 until the end of the war in 1865, Douglass' life was threatened by Southern sympathizers.
Douglass, however, continued to support the cause of the union, and favored the emancipation of the slaves. There is little doubt that had the war not ended slavery, Douglass would have eventually freed his slaves. Many of the African-Americans living in and around Ooltewah, in 1994, bear the last name of Douglass.
The Rev. Douglass' support for the federal government, after the Battle of Chickamauga, led to his appointment as an agent for the Hamilton County Court with complete power to receive and dispense supplies and money received from "the good people of the northern states to meet the demands of the people suffering in east Tennessee" from former Confederate military occupation. Douglass, appointed to this position on April 5, 1864, was charged by the Hamilton County Court, under the supervision of the federal army, to provide financial aid to anyone in Hamilton County thought to be deserving of assistance.
In 1864, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on the Rev. Douglass. The name of the college which awarded the degree is unknown. However it is known that the degree was awarded to Douglass because he represented the typical Cumberland Presbyterian minister laboring in the mountains of east Tennessee and northwest Georgia. Douglass, like so many of his ministerial contemporaries, was ". . . self-educated . . . Their preaching was original, with much feeling and great earnestness. They were men of great natural ability who understood human nature. They were in close touch with and understood the pioneer's feelings and nature, and they seldom failed to reach (the pioneer's) heart and move him to action. They believed in the Divine call to preach, and believed with all their hearts the message they delivered."
On May 18, 1865, the Rev. Douglass was honored by his colleagues when he was elected by a large majority as moderator of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. According to the Rev. Z. M. McGhee, Douglass "presided with great dignity and honor." During the war, a great deal of dissension almost permanently divided the Cumberland Presbyterian Church into a Northern and Southern faction. At this General Assembly meeting, however, the Cumberland Presbyterians resolved their differences, and became committed to reconciliation and progress.
The War for Southern Independence, however, had taken its physical roll on Douglass. His health had been weakened by the trauma of war. Upon his return from the General Assembly meeting in Evansville, Indiana, he began his usual circuit ride. His first stop was in Charleston, Tennessee. He preached there on Sunday June 11, 1865. The following day he suddenly became ill. His illness continued to worsen until June 24 when he died. It was later determined that Douglass died of typhoid fever. According to the Rev. John Morgan Wooten, Douglass had a premonition he was about to die. He made arrangements for his funeral and requested that he be buried in Charleston "in that beautiful valley close by the rushing mountain river, in sight of where he preached his first sermon, sang his last song and prayed his last prayer . . ." He also wrote his last will and testament in the presence of George W. Arnett. He left his entire estate to his wife and minor aged children. They later moved to the mid-west, settling in Minnesota and Michigan.
According to the Rev. Z. M. McGhee, Douglass "seemed to suffer but little during his sickness. When he was first taken sick, he told his brethren that he was going to die; he was anxious to live to see the churches here united, and peace and brotherly love once again restored; he regretted to leave his family in their helpless condition, further he had no anxiety, was resigned, willing yea, would rather depart and be with Christ--where he said, he would engage in a nobler work. His wife and two sons were there."
A monument was later erected at his grave commemorating the many accomplishments and successful work Douglass provided the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. One line on the tombstone best described the work of Hiram Douglass: "From obscurity to honor and great usefulness."
The late Rev. J. B. Logan best summarized the life of the Rev. Douglass. He stated that, "We consider Brother Douglass' life as as a standing monument to the truth that if God calls a man to preach he will sustain him in some bearable way, if that man will take God at His word and trust His promise."
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Shugart, Estelle Giddens. (1961). Presbyterianism in the Cohutta Community Whitfield County, Georgia. Cohutta, GA: First Presbyterian Church of Cohutta.
Williamson, J. C. (1956). History of the North Georgia Baptist Association. Dalton, GA: L. A. Lee Co., Inc.
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[Source: A Presbytery Called Chattanooga: Tracing the History of Chattanooga Presbytery, Cumberland Presbyterian Church From 1842 to 1989. By Conway Gregory, Jr. Alpharetta, GA: WH Wolfe Associates, 1994, pages 592-598 & 744-745.]