Kentucky has contributed much to Texas Cumberlandism, but I doubt if any contribution has enriched us more than the life and works of Brother Reid. The influence of this energetic life will continue to widen and increase till, like the waves on the sea, it reaches beyond time and breaks on the shores of an eternal future. Many, many in that great glad day will rise up and call him blessed, a great multitude will say: "You led me to Christ." Many a companion in the ministry can say: "You cheered me in times of despondency; you made a rough road easy to travel; you made a heavy burden lighter."
Joseph Williamson Reid was born on the 12th day of April, 1851, in Butler County, Kentucky. His parentage were of Scotch-Irish descent and of the Presbyterian faith. Grandmother Reid was a Ewing, and, very naturally when the Cumberland Church was organized they went into it. The family emigrated to Missouri in 1854, where Brother Reid was reared.
When a boy he became convicted of sin under the preaching of a Cumberland Presbyterian minister and while at an old-fashioned altar found the "pearl of great price." In Brother Reid's own language I give his experience: "The change was so great that I have never doubted the change, though I have at times asked myself is this religion? and comparing my experience with the blessed word of God I was made to exclaim: 'Truly this is religion.' At the age of fifteen I felt impressed to preach. I answered the Lord's call and at once entered upon the preparation for the work."
At that time the country was devastated by the Civil War. His parents broke up housekeeping and so could not help him in getting an education. With an heroic determination, a strong will and the good Lord, he began the preparation alone. No one contributed a cent to his education. He took the A.B. course and finally secured the degree of L.L.D. This should certainly be a stimulus to any young man preparing for the ministry.
He was licensed and ordained by St. Louis Presbytery and in the early seventies came to north Texas, and joined the old Guthrie Presbytery, and when Gregory Presbytery was organized he was one of the four ministers that constituted it.
When he came to Texas it was indeed a wilderness. Not only was its solitude disturbed by the settler, but the war whoop of the Indian and the scream of the panther were heard. He asked the presbytery to let him go west as a missionary, and they granted the request without the promise of financial aid. He came, and is still here. He has seen the wilderness blossom like the rose. Brother Reid is now preaching to churches that he organized nearly forty years ago. I dare say he would not exchange pastorates with any man in the church. During this long and fruitful ministry he has seen conversions by the hundreds and received multitudes into the church. I wish to relate an incident that will illustrate the character of the work of God's Holy Spirit in his ministry. It was at the old historic Cottonwood church in Montague county at an eleven o'clock service, during a summer revival. He was doing the preaching, but asked a young man by the name of Porter to preach for him at night. Porter said, "No, I will pray while you preach." At the beginning of the service Porter was not there, but as the service advanced he came in. He fell on his face and continued in earnest prayer. At the close of the sermon penitents were called and 38 came to the altar of prayer. At the close of the first song Christians began to fall like dead men, and in a few minutes they began to take the "jerks" as they did in the great revival of 1800. Soon the Christians were shouting the praises of God and sinners were being converted. That night there were two score conversions, and when the meeting closed 89 were safe in the Shepherd's fold.
When the cruel war on the Union question came up Brother Reid stood firm. With emphasis he said; "I will never go into the U.S.A. church." He voted against Union at the Dallas Assembly of 1904. In the Decatur Assembly in 1906, he was one of the immortal 106 that said, "By the grace of God we will perpetuate the dear old Cumberland Church." From his own words I quote again: "I am a Cumberland Presbyterian to stay while I live in this old world. I realize my stay here is short. When I leave the old Cumberland ship I expect to land on another shore where I can be at home in the General Assembly of the church of the first born in Heaven."
Brother and Sister Reid are spending the evening of life in the quiet little city of Bowie, Montague county, Texas. They have a pleasant suburban home which is also the home of all Cumberland Presbyterians visiting in Bowie.
[Source: Our Senior Soldiers: The Biographies and Autobiographies of Eighty Cumberland Presbyterian Preachers. Compiled by The Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication. The Assistance of Revs. J. L. Price and W. P. Kloster is Greatfully Acknowledged. Nashville, Tenn.: The Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1915, pages 253-256]