Allison A. Templeton

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1820 - 1882



Rev. Dr. Templeton was born in Meigs county, Tenn., May 7, 1820, and died of jaundice, at his home in Corsicana, Texas, June 28, 1882. His father's house was a place of preaching for Robert Baker, Daniel Aston, John and Robert Tate, and others. His first religious impressions occurred when he was about ten years of age, and he was an "earnest seeker" until he made an open profession of religion, which event took place in the fall of 1835 or '36, at a camp-meeting held near Madisonville, Tenn. The ministers who conducted this meeting were Robert Frazier, William Smith, and John and Robert Tate.

Living in a new country, and being compelled to aid in the support of a large family, his education was quite limited until he was about twenty years of age. At that time he and his brother Gordon, four years older than himself (and who also became an eminent minister), determined to go to Holston college, Jefferson county, Tenn. After having spent some time at college, he taught school for a while near Charleston, Tenn. While thus engaged, he joined __________ Presbytery, which convened in the town of Charleston in the fall of 1842. Immediately after joining Presbytery he returned to college, but he did not remain long enough in that institution to take a thorough course, a fact which he always regretted in after life.

In the fall of 1843 he was ordained to the whole work of the ministry, in the village of Philadelphia, Tenn. He was placed upon a circuit which embraced McMinn, Polk, and perhaps other counties. In the fall of 1844 his labors were signally blessed with many precious revivals--some of them numbering from seventy-five to one hundred conversions. In 1845 he was married to a Miss Cunningham, a devoted Christian woman. In the fall of the same year he moved to Polk country, Tenn., where he remained four years, preaching and teaching with success. In 1849 he located near Cleveland, Tenn., and his preaching places were Flint Springs, Cleveland, New Prospect and Ewing Grove. In November, 1855, he accepted an appointment from the Board of Missions as missionary at Chattanooga, Tenn. He remained at this place about seven years. The late civil war then came on, and as the Board of Missions could no longer supply his necessities, he sold his property and moved to Gordon country, Ga., where he spent his time preaching and teaching. Great revivals resulted from his labors, and during the five years which he spent in this State it is estimated that there were more than five hundred professions of religion at the meetings which he held. In 1868 he went to Charleston, Tenn., having taken charge of the church at that place a year or two previous. During his connection with this congregation, which was about six years, there were three hundred and fifty professions of religion and two hundred accessions. While there he frequently preached at Concord, and a part of his time at Benton. There were over fifty conversions at each place. In 1872 he was called to the pastorate of the church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. While filling that pastorate he generally spent two or three months in the summer and fall assisting other brethren. The professions of religion at these meetings averaged over one hundred per year. In the fall of 1875 he accepted a call to Pittsburgh, Pa. The climate did not suit his family, and he felt compelled to return South. Hence he accepted the pastorate at Columbia, Tenn., in the spring of 1877. He remained at this place two years, and had about fifty accessions to his church. In June, 1879, he went to Corsicana, Texas. He did not leave Columbia from choice, but simply from a sense of duty. He went to Texas because he felt that it was God's will that he should go. He had a young family to support, and he hoped that by going to Texas he would secure a home and leave his children in a new and growing country, where they could more likely succeed in the world. He found the church in Corsicana in a divided, excited condition, but he soon restored it to harmony and prosperity.

The foregoing gives but an outline of the ministerial career of Dr. Templeton. No man, perhaps, in the ministry of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, during the time in which he lived, accomplished greater results. Like Paul, he "magnified his office." With Dr. Templeton everything was subordinated to his high and holy calling. In his death, therefore, not only the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, but our common Christianity sustains an irreparable loss. The difficulties with which he had to contend in early life, would have crushed an ordinary spirit; but by persevering industry, and untiring effort, the unlettered youth arose from one position to another, until he became one of the leading men of the Church.

Dr. Templeton was a hard student, a fine writer, and an excellent preacher. 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 everything before it. How mysterious, therefore, to short-sighted mortals, are the ways of Providence in permitting such a man to be taken from the work which he so dearly loved while yet in the vigor of manhood!

As is known to all, he was a prominent member of the Committee on "Revision," and nobly did he do his part. During the meeting of the last General Assembly, at which time the work of that Committee was rigidly scrutinized, he was taken ill, and was deprived of the privilege of active participation in the discussions which occurred, but his heart was with his brethren, and his soul poured forth most earnest prayer in that sick chamber for the guidance of the blessed Spirit in that responsible work. I called to see him often during that momentous discussion, and time and again when I would relate to him the progress the General Assembly was making, did I see the tears of gratitude and thanksgiving freely flow as he would grasp my hand and say, "Bless God for such a Church! Thank heaven that I have been permitted to preach its blessed doctrines!"

When we parted at Huntsville, he took me by the hand and said: "Blake, it is enough." He then asked, "What will the Presbyteries do?" My answer was, "I do not believe a single Presbytery out of the one hundred and seventeen will reject that book." With tremulous utterance he said, "Blake, if your prediction shall prove to be a true one, I shall feel like exclaiming in the language of good old Simeon, 'Now, Lord, letest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'" Would to God he could have been spared to see what we are permitted to behold--Presbytery after Presbytery endorsing, not in tones of thunder, but in that "still small voice," more powerful than the earthquake, the grandest system of doctrines ever formulated in the history of the world.

But he is gone. His work is done. He has crossed the river and is resting beneath the shades of the trees-- the trees of Paradise. True, death placed his extinguisher upon the flame before it had burned to the socket, but while it was permitted to burn it was "a shining light"--a light which could be seen from afar, for it was not under a bushel.

The last hours of Dr. Templeton were as grand as was his life. When told by his physicians that he must die, he said, "I am ready at any moment. I have done the best I could; and if I had my life to live over, I do not see how I could have done any better. True, I regret to heave my wife and children, yet there will be a joyous meeting on the other shore." After a brief pause he then added, and they were the last words he spoke, "I have fought a good fight."

God grant that the mantle of this earnest, efficient, consecrated man may fall upon his surviving brethren, and especially upon our young men who are striving to qualify themselves for the gospel ministry. And, in an especial manner, may God's benedictions rest upon the heart-broken widow and fatherless children, who mourn over an irreparable loss.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, September 14, 1882, page 2]

Our Dead Heroes.


By Rev. Z. M. McGhee.

Alison Templeton was born in Meigs County, Tennessee, May 7, 1820. His parents were Edward and Sarah Templeton. His father was of Scotch-Irish descent. Society in that day and place was in a rude state. Church houses and school houses were very scarce, and of the poorest kind. In a school taught in a small log cabin, when seven years old, Alison learned his letters. When the boy was about ten years old his father made an unfortunate trade which caused him to lose his home, and he never owned one afterward. From Meigs County the family moved to Tennessee Valley, where they remained two years. In 1834 they moved to Coker Creek gold mines in North Carolina. Remaining there but a short time they moved to Monroe County, Tennessee, near Madisonville. The family now was in great destitution. Alison's parents became religious about the time he was born, and began the custom of holding family prayers. Alison's first religious impressions were received while his mother was praying at the home altar. His father's house became a place for preaching by the pioneers of our church in that country. While he was a small, barefoot boy he was at one of Rev. John Tate's appointments; after the sermon, the preacher laid his hand on the lad's head and said a few words to him which were as "bread cast on the waters." It was at Bat Creek camp ground that he began to seek religion. So deep and pungent were his convictions that he covenanted with God that he never would cease his efforts to find salvation till death, or till he found peace. In the fall of 1835 or 1836 he attended a Cumberland Presbyterian camp meeting. The preachers present were Robert and John Tate, Robert Frazier, Joseph Peeler, and J. B. Dobson. It was at that meeting, that he gave himself fully into the hands of the Lord. His parents being Cumberland Presbyterians he joined that church. Shortly after his conversion he was sorely tempted, and the following night was passed by him in sleepless agony and prayer; but light and joy came at length, and all the remainder of his life he confided in that change of heart. In 1837 his father's family moved to Bradley County, Tennessee, near Charleston. Alison was then about 17 years old. Up to that time he could scarcely read. There he went to school a few months and learned the rudiments of arithmetic. The family was still very poor and the young man was hired out, first to learn the blacksmith's trade, and afterward he was put to hauling wood to Charleston. Again the Templeton family moved to a place on the Tennessee and Georgia railroad, near Charleston. The family had moved so much that they had had very poor church and school privileges; yet Alison had a great thirst for knowledge, and he employed all his extra time in reading such books as he could obtain, but the whole family library did not contain more than a dozen volumes. An older brother, Gordon, was at this time a student at Holston College. Through his influence and assistance Alison entered the same school. When he went to college he had only 60 cents in money. Gordon sold his horse and bought provisions. The two brothers rented a room and kept "bachelor's hall." Their principal diet was bacon and corn bread. The younger brother remained in school three sessions, spending his vacations cutting timber and splitting rails to get means to pay his expenses in school. About this time he became much exercised over his future occupation. One day he heard the Rev. Mr. Small preach a sermon which impressed him on a divine call to the ministry; but he hesitated to decide to preach in view of the great responsibility of the ministry. He finally decided the great question in the fall of 1842, when he was received as a candidate for the ministry under in care of Hiwassee Presbytery, at Charleston, Tenn. Returning to college he remained there one more session. In the fall of 1843 he was licensed to preach at Philadelphia, Tenn. He then took a circuit which embrace several vacant churches in McMinn and Polk Counties. Mr. John Camp gave him a Bible, and he borrowed a horse to ride, and thus, under trying circumstances, the young disciple began his work. That same year, on August 4, 1844, his mother died. From her dying lips he received another commission to preach. She exhorted him to preach the gospel and to be faithful and humble. February 27, 1845, he and Miss Mahala Cunningham were united in marriage. Soon after their marriage they moved into an old vacant cabin near Spring Creek camp ground. Sometimes they did not have one day's rations ahead, but he writes in his autobiography, "We were happy." There is no record in the hands of the writer showing either the place or date of Brother Templeton's ordination, though I know he was ordained. In 1845 Brother Templeton moved to Polk County, Tenn., where he bought forty acres of land, and where, with the help of friends, he built at home. He remained there four years, preaching and teaching school, with success. In 1849 he located near Cleveland, Tenn. He held many precious revivals, and had many accessions to the church, during his pastorate there. In November, 1855, he accepted an appointment from the Board of Missions to Chattanooga. When Brother Templeton took charge of that mission he found only a few scattered members and a little shanty for a church house. This was the first period of his life that he devoted all his time to preaching. A great revival soon resulted from his labors there. A good, brick church house was soon built, costing nearly $5,000. On February 22, 1861, his wife died.

Mr. Templeton wrote in his diary, "If I have ever done any good I owe it much to her encouragement and sacrifice." About a year afterward he was married again to Miss Jenette Russell, of Alabama. The civil war came on and in 1863 he moved to Gordon County, Georgia, where he spent his time preaching and teaching school. The Federal soldiers, soon after his arrival there, overran the country and took all the horses. Then Brother Templeton walked over that country and preached to the people. During the five years he lived in this county there were about 500 professions at his meetings. In the summer of 1865 he and his wife were both stricken down with typhoid fever, and on August 11, 1865, his wife died.

The following interesting paragraph is taken from a private letter to the writer, from his son, Col. Jerome Templeton, of Knoxville, Tenn.:

"I never heard father speak an unkind word of any human being! Never, in my recollection, did he ever fail to hold family prayers, morning and evening. I heard him say, until that spell of sickness in 1865, he had never missed preaching a Sabbath since he was licensed. During the war my father was conducting a revival meeting in Georgia; about a dozen Confederate soldiers came to the service, and also an entire company of Federal soldiers came to the same service. When mourners were called a number of soldiers, some in gray and some in blue, went to the mourner's bench, and sat side by side, their guns and sabers overlapping. After the service they said good-bye and rode off in different directions."

In 1866 he was married to Miss Mary J. King, a daughter of Judge D. G. King, of Georgia. In November, 1868, he moved to Charleston, Tenn. During the time of his connection with this church there were 350 professions and 200 accessions. At the same time he preached at Concord and Benton, where his labors were blessed. In 1872 he was called to the pastorate of the church at Murfreesboro, Tenn., where there were, under his ministry, more than 60 conversions and about 40 accessions. In the fall of 1875 he accepted a call to the church in Pittsburgh, Pa., laboring there with success a little more than a year. The climate being too severe for his family he felt compelled to return South. He accepted the pastorate at Columbia, Tenn., in the spring of 1877. During his connection as pastor of that church there were 50 professions and 42 accessions. In June, 1879, he took charge of the church at Corsicana, Texas. Brother Templeton was blessed with a good constitution, and excellent mental faculties. He was a close and painstaking student. He did much active labor, traveling and preaching. He was industrious, conscientious, and very punctual to fulfill all his promises. He was an earnest, eloquent, successful preacher, and was a safe councelor in all the judicatories of the church. He was frequently honored as a commissioner to the General Assembly. At Evansville, Ind., in 1880, he was elected moderator of the General Assembly, and he filled the place with honor to himself and to his denomination.

Some of the fruits of his pen are: "Concise View of the Doctrines of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church," "Nineteen Questions Answered," and "The Great Teacher." Four of Brother Templeton's children by his first wife are living, three sons and a daughter. Two of the sons are successful lawyers and one a useful minister in our church. At the time of his death Dr. Templeton left a wife and three children, who are now living in Galveston, Texas. Dr. Templeton had many noble traits of character. The world is surely better by him having lived in it. After a short sickness, on June 28, 1882, he called all his family around him and commended them to the care of his God. His last words were, "I have fought a good fight." His body sleeps in the cemetery at Corsicana, Texas. The church there, in honor of his memory, erected a large marble monument over his grave.

"The stream is calmest when it nears the tide,
And flowers are sweetest at the eventide;
And birds most musical at close of day,
And saints divinest when they pass away."

   Chattanooga, Tenn.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, August 12, 1897, pages 168-170]


In an autobiography, written to his children, Rev. A. Templeton says: "I was born on Agency Creek, Rhea county (now Meigs), Tenn., between the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers, May 7th, 1820. My father was Edward Templeton, of Scotch-Irish descent. My mother's maiden name was Sarah Howard. . . . They were both members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in which they lived and died. Father said he was a Cumberland Presbyterian before he knew there were any such people. . . . Our house was a place of preaching for Robert Baker, Samuel Aston and John and Robert Tate." Allison Templeton was the eighth child in a family of twelve children. He grew up on the farm, in a frontier country, almost without churches or schoolhouses, but he learned the ordinary branches taught by the common schools of that day, and then attended Holston College, at New Market, Tenn., for two years. He professed religion and joined the church of his parents in 1835.

He joined the Hiwassee Presbytery in 1842 and was licensed to preach in 1843. From then until 1855 he preached in McMinn, Polk and Bradley counties, Tennessee. From 1855 to 1863 he was pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in Chattanooga. He preached throughout northern Georgia, living in Gordon county, from 1863 to 1868, holding a great many protracted meetings in the churches of all Christian denominations. From 1868 to 1879 he was successively pastor of Cumberland Presbyterian churches at Charleston, Cleveland and Murfreesboro, Tenn., at Pittsburg, Pa., and at Columbia, Tenn. In 1879 he removed to Corsicana, Texas, and became pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian church in that city, where he died June __, 1882.

Five sons, two daughters and the three children of a deceased daughter survive him. He was devoted to the doctrines of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, but his preaching was not usually doctrinal. He believed in a spiritual religion which converted the heart and his preaching was more to the heart than to the head. His private records show more than five hundred conversions in his meetings in Georgia and this was his experience through life.

He was elected moderator of the General Assembly of his Church at Evansville, Ind., May, 1880. In 1881-82 he served as a member of the Committee on Revision of the Confession of Faith. He had this work very much at heart.

He attended the General Assembly at Huntsville, Ala., May, 1882, and saw the new Confession adopted, but this was his last work. He returned home sick, and died in a few weeks. He had served his God and his Church faithfully for thirty-nine years of continuous preaching. His life was tender, full of charity, self-sacrifice and toil. His death was peaceful, at his home, and was a triumph of Christian faith.                                       JEROME TEMPLETON.

Dr. Templeton is the author of a little volume, called "The Great Teacher."

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 3, 1902, page 711]


Templeton, Rev. A. A Concise View of the Doctrines of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1869. [1 copy in archives]

Templeton, Rev. A. A Concise View of the Doctrines of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Nashville, Tenn.: Board of Publication of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1870. [1 copy in archives]

Templeton, Rev. A. The Great Teacher. Gem Library, No. 4. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1872. [1 copy in archives]

Templeton, Rev. A. The Great Teacher. Gem Library, No. 4. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1873. [1 copy in archives]

Templeton, Rev. A. The Great Teacher. Gem Library, No. 4. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1876. [ copies in archives]

Templeton, Rev. A. Nineteen Questions Answered. Nashville, Tenn.: Board of Publication Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1880. [1 copy in archives]

Templeton, Rev. A. Nineteen Questions Answered. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1883.
[1 copy in archives]

Templeton Family Information

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Updated August 1, 2005