HIRAM McDANIEL was born August 13, 1785, in Caswell county, North Carolina. His parents were William and Jane McDaniel. His father was a plain, unpretending man, a farmer, and a member of the Methodist Church. His mother, it seems, was not a professor of religion. They raised seven children, of whom Hiram was the fourth in age. His constitution was delicate from childhood; he was regarded with great tenderness by his parents, and was thought to possess promising talents. Under such impressions in relation to his promise, and taking into consideration also his delicate health, they determined to give him a liberal education. He was accordingly sent to one of the best schools in the country, and made rapid progress in the study of the ordinary branches of science, and also in Mathematics. His father and his teacher united in urging him to study the languages. He commenced the study of Latin, but made up his mind that he would never enter one of the learned professions, and that therefore such a course of studies would be useless. Of course he abandoned the course of education which had been urged upon him--a step which he regretted as long as he lived.
Soon after he left school, he engaged as a clerk with a Mr. McCain, a merchant who had some reputation as a book-keeper. It seems that one object of young Mr. McDaniel in this engagement was to acquire a knowledge of book-keeping. He remained in the employment of Mr. McCain until he was about twenty-one. He and his father then made a journey to Kentucky, with a view of buying land, and ultimately settling in that country. He remained in Kentucky, and his father returned to North Carolina, intending to move his family to the West. Something, however, occurred to derange the plan, and the father and family still remained in Carolina. Mr. McDaniel then took charge of a school, in what at that time was Centerville, the county-seat of Livingston county. After teaching a while, he again engaged as a clerk in a store.
On the second of April, 1807, he was married to Miss Catharine Leeper, of Livingston county. Soon after his marriage, the merchant with whom he was engaged dying, he purchased a farm and commenced the business of farming. He soon found himself, however, but poorly adapted to the drudgery of a farm, from his feeble health; and having no assistance, he moved back to Centerville, and engaged in merchandising, at the same time keeping a small tavern, mainly for the accommodation of travelers, as Centerville was situated on the great road leading from Kentucky and Tennessee to the North-west, and the tide of emigration in that direction as just setting in.
In process of time the seat of justice was removed from Centerville to Salem, and Mr. McDaniel fell back to the business of farming, with the assistance of some negroes that he acquired, perhaps through his wife. About this time Mr. McGready began to preach at what was afterward called "Livingston Church." A small congregation of Presbyterians had been organized there, of which old Mr. Leeper was a leading member and an elder. Mr. McDaniel and his wife became deeply concerned on the subject of religion, and in a short time the wife made profession of religion and joined the Presbyterian Church. Mr. McDaniel himself seems to have been a seeker a number of years, and to have professed religion at a Cumberland Presbyterian camp-meeting at Bethlehem, in Caldwell county--a place which God still honors with his presence and grace. Some time previous to his profession of religion, he commenced the practice of family prayer, which he kept up to his death. Very soon after he professed religion his mind began to be exercised on the subject of the ministry. But he had a family, was comparatively poor, and his education did not fill up the measure which he himself had prescribed as a necessary ministerial qualification. He endeavored, of course, to quiet his feelings and excuse himself from the work. He felt, however, that the vows of God were upon him; and after much hesitation, and seeking private counsel from his brethren, he placed himself, as a candidate for the ministry, under the care of the Logan Presbytery. This occurred on the 18th of November, 1819. The sessions of the Presbytery were held at Antioch, in Christian county, Kentucky. By the same Presbytery, at Red River Meeting-house, in Logan county, Kentucky, he was licensed on the 12th day of October, 1820. The discourse which he read was from Phil. ii. 12, 13. At the spring sessions of the Presbytery in 1821, he "was ordered to ride as a missionary in the Christian District. At the fall sessions he was ordered, in conjunction with James Y. Barnett." to ride as a missionary in the same district. In 1822 the Anderson Presbytery was constituted, and Mr. McDaniel, living within its bounds, was transferred to that Presbytery. At Henderson, Kentucky, on the 7th of April, 1824, he was ordained by the Anderson Presbytery. Rev. David Lowry preached the ordination-sermon, and Rev. John Barnett presided and gave the charge.
The winter after he was licensed, Mr. McDaniel visited his father, in North Carolina. He spent most of the winter there, and preached a great deal from house to house. His ministry seems to have been abundantly blessed. A good work commenced at his first appointment, and continued through the winter. My informant says, "He had reason to believe that there were many seals to his ministry," and that "numbers during the winter found peace and joy in believing." He often alluded to this winter as the most happy period of his life. On his return from North Carolina, he preached and attended camp-meetings according to the custom of his fellow-ministers, as he was able.
Two or three years after his licensure, he went as a missionary to Arkansas, and spent a winter there. According to his journal, he visited nearly all the white settlements in the territory, often preaching three times a day. The country was new; his hearers frequently attended preaching with their guns in their hands, and in their buckskin hunting-shirts. The winter was mild for some time, and traveling was agreeable, but suddenly a violent change occurred. He was compelled to cross the Arkansas River. There was no boat sufficient to convey his horse. He crossed, however, by some means, and swam his horse. When he reached the opposite bank the horse was covered with ice. He mounted and set off for his appointment, but soon found that the horse had the blind-staggers. Of course he stopped, and in a few minutes the horse fell in the road and died. He started for his destination with his saddle, saddle-bags, and bridle upon his shoulder. He soon, however, met with a stranger who assisted him forward. He reached his appointment; the people made up twenty-five dollars and bought him a pony, with which he was enabled to consummate his mission.
On his return from Arkansas he found his last negro man declining with the consumption. The man died, and Mr. McDaniel sold his farm in discouragement, intending to move to Mississippi. It seems that a rich relative had urged him to such a removal. He went so far in his preparation that he engaged a steam-boat to convey his family, but a reverse awaited him; the removal was declined; he engaged temporarily in teaching, and had charge for a few months of the Preparatory Department of Cumberland College.
The year in which he was ordained he paid a second visit to his parents, and spent some time with them. His preaching was acceptable, and a number of his relatives professed religion in connection with his ministerial labors, and amongst them his youngest sister.
Some time after this visit, his father purchased a farm for him in North Carolina, and three Presbyterian congregations agreed to employ him as their pastor, assuring him of a competent support; but yielding to other influences, he remained in Kentucky. He made a temporary settlement in Trigg county. Whilst there he engaged in the service of the American Sunday-school Union. In this service he continued three years. One of those years his family spent at Cumberland College, in charge of the boarding-house. This was the collegiate year which closed in September, 1831. In the latter part of his year at the College, he lost a negro boy under very afflicting circumstances. The poor fellow was carelessly playing about the mill while it was in operation, became entangled somehow in the machinery, and was crushed to death. The family felt it very seriously, as one of a series of adverse providences which seemed to be following them. From the College he moved again to Trigg county.
About this time Mr. McDaniel became involved in some difficulties with two or three of his ministerial brethren. A recital of these would be needless and painful. They grew up in some way from the connection of the parties with Cumberland College. The men concerned were all good men, but they misunderstood one another. There was an estrangement of feeling which continued, I suppose, during life, but the worthy men have passed away, and see things now in a different light. It is pleasant to believe, to be assured, that there is an oblivion of all such animosities in heaven.
Some years before his death he sold his farm in Trigg county, and settled in Todd, a few miles below Elkton. He had by this time become so enfeebled by age and infirmities, that he was able to preach but little. He had a pleasant home and lived quietly, preaching when he was able, and otherwise contributing to the interests of the Church in his neighborhood.
In 1848 he had an apoplectic stroke. He had been standing in the sun superintending some domestic matter. Returning to the house and being assisted to bed, he was confined several days. In about two weeks, however, he was restored to his usual health. While confined with his temporary illness, he expressed a wish to live a while longer, that he might preach a sermon which he had prepared on the call of Abraham "to go out to a place which he should afterward receive for an inheritance." He did survive, and it seems was enabled to preach the sermon. One of his last sermons was upon the "Trials of the Christian;" the text, "And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitations." About three weeks before his death, he preached in his own neighborhood, upon the "Beauties and Glories of Heaven." It seemed from the sermon as though he had received a foretaste. Thus says my informant.
Some time previous to his death, notwithstanding his infirmities, he took charge of McAdoo congregation. For this service he was to receive a small salary. In August of his last year he conducted their camp-meeting, and in its progress preached a sermon on the subject of "Faith." It seems to have been a spiritual and effective sermon. On the 26th of November following, 1850, he closed his earthly career. His death was sudden, and of course there were but few circumstances of interest connected with it. We judge of his Christian and ministerial character from his life.
In person, Mr. McDaniel was rather below the medium height. Until late in life his frame was slender; as he approached old age, however, there was a slight tendency to corpulency. His complexion was fair, his hair sandy; his eyes were blue. His carriage and bearing were those of a well-bred gentleman. His wife survived him nearly ten years, and died May 23, 1860. He left six children, all of whom are members of the Church.
My personal acquaintance with Mr. McDaniel extended through a number of years, but it was never intimate. I heard him preach a few times, and occasionally shared the hospitalities of his house. He was a good preacher--not noisy, rather otherwise, but distinct, sensible, and practical. His voice was weak, and his manner deliberate. From these circumstances he was not so well adapted to great popular occasions as some others. The truth is, he was underrated by the Church, as all men of his manner of preaching were in his day. He would have been more popular, and human judgment would have decided more useful, in the Presbyterian Church. Still, God in his providence cast his lot with us: we know that his providence never makes a mistake. He filled up the measure, and accomplished the work, which God appointed. It was creditable to him that, in the midst of many and protracted trials, he was contented with his lot, and devoted to the work which a wise Providence had assigned him.
I have said that he was not so well adapted to popular occasions as some others. Still, some of his sermons attracted a large share of public attention. They were supposed to be favorite sermons with himself, were frequently repeated, and became extensively known through the country in which he lived. One of these sermons was upon Naaman, the Syrian captain, and the Israelitish maid: "Wash and be clean." Another was upon the parable of the Prodigal Son; and still another was upon the parable of the Sower and his Seed. he seemed to have a genius, as he certainly had a taste, for such subjects. The first time I ever heard of him was in connection with a sermon upon the first-mentioned of these subjects, "Wash and be clean." The sermon was delivered soon after his licensure, when he was on his way to North Carolina, upon the occasion of his first visit to that country. He was spoken of as a methodical and correct young preacher. I suppose he preached the sermon occasionally as long as he lived.
He had a great fund of anecdotes for material in conversation, and was consequently a very agreeable companion. For every possible occasion an anecdote seemed to be at hand. They were always innocent, but sometimes very amusing. The wonder was, that with so large and helpless a family as he had through the greater portion of his ministerial life, and the trials which he was called to endure in the loss of property and otherwise, he could keep his spirits up so well, and be so uniformly cheerful and hopeful. He never allowed himself to be worn out and crushed with anxiety in relation to the future of life. It was a happy temperament. A good Providence knows what we need for bearing the burdens of life, and it is not too much to believe that he often endows by nature, and surely trains us by his grace, for the support of those burdens.
[Source: Beard, Richard. Brief Biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1867, pages 235-244]