Nelson Patterson Modrall

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1811 - 1880


Memorial services on the life and labors of Rev. N. P. Modrall, D.D., were held at the Cumberland Presbyterian church, in Jefferson, Texas, on Sabbath, June 20, 1880, at 11 o'clock, A.M. The church was suitably and tastefully draped, and beautifully ornamented with white flowers. As the hour approached for the services to begin, the pews were quietly taken by the large concourse of bereaved friends.

The services were commenced by singing, "One by one our friends are falling." Then the people solemnly engaged in prayer, which was followed by singing, "I would not live always." An appropriate selection of scripture was read responsively, and the congregation was led in prayer by Rev. W. B. Preston, of Gainesville, Texas, a young minister who was raised in Jefferson, and grew up under the ministry of Rev. Dr. Modrall. An exegesis of Psalms XXXVII. 37, was then given by the pastor, Rev. W. C. Denson, showing the practical exemplification of this scripture in the life and death of Dr. Modrall. The remarks of our pastor were noticeable for that appropriateness which was a distinguishing characteristic of the truly great and good man in memory of whom these services were held; and it was most gratifying to our people to see the Christian spirit and brotherly love manifested by brother Denson toward our former pastor. The congregation then joined in singing, "Home of the soul."

A committee, appointed for that purpose, presented the following paper, which was read and adopted by a rising vote, viz.:

Rev. N. P. Modrall, D.D., became pastor of the Cumberland Presbyterian church at Jefferson, Texas, in March, 1868. His purity of heart, righteousness of life, and Christian integrity won for him at once the respect and esteem of his congregation; and his untiring efforts in behalf of the spiritual welfare of his people awakened an affection for him which increased with the continuation of his sacred relation to them. For more than eleven years Dr. Modrall sustained the relation of pastor to this people; and it may be safely and truthfully said that under all the varied circumstances of that number of years the closest intimacy and purest affection subsisted between the shepherd and his flock. Not a sheep of the flock but received his faithful care, and not a lamb but was tenderly borne in his bosom. The pastoral labors of Dr. Modrall were begun in this community with quite an ordinary church edifice and a small membership. But, by the grace of God, he was permitted to see grow up under his ministry a church-membership of two hundred persons, and to dedicate to the God whom he served the beautiful edifice in which this people worship to-day. To be sure, the membership very largely decreased, but this was owing to the partial depopulation of the city of Jefferson.

As a preacher, Dr. Modrall had few equals. He was, indeed, a preacher of God's own election. The inspiration of his heart found sweet expression from his eloquent tongue. Though that tongue to-day lies silent in the grave, its silvery-toned utterances will live on forever in the memory and affections of this people. During the last two or three years of Dr. Modrall's pastorate at this place, he suffered greatly from bodily affliction. The weight of years, too, was bearing heavily upon his enfeebled frame. Under the pressure of these circumstances he was compelled, greatly to the sorrow of his people, to resign his pastoral charge here in December, 1879, and to give up the active labors of the ministry. Sad, indeed, to this people was the announcement that Dr. Modrall was to live with them no more as their pastor. It was the breaking of strongest ties; the dissolving of associations that were knit together in Christian fellowship. But as a Christian people, properly instructed in God's truth, they must bow in submission, and say, "Thy will be done."

The life of the beloved former pastor of this church was fully ready for the change, and from his faithful, trustworthy heart he could say with the poet,--

"Only waiting till the reapers
Have the last sheaf gathered home;
For the summer time is faded,
And the autumn winds have come:
Quickly, reapers, quickly gather
The last ripe hours of my heart;
For the bloom of life is withered,
And I hasten to depart."

And looking, with the utmost confidence in Jesus, to life's speedy close, he could triumphantly exclaim with Bonar,--

"Beyond the smiling and the weeping,
I shall be soon;
Beyond the waking and the sleeping,
Beyond the sowing and the reaping,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home, sweet home!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

"Beyond the blooming and the fading,
I shall be soon;
Beyond the shining and the shading,
Beyond the hoping and the dreading,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home, sweet home!
Lord, tarry not, but come

"Beyond the rising and the setting,
I shall be soon;
Beyond the calming and the fretting,
Beyond remembering and forgetting,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home, sweet home!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

"Beyond the parting and the meeting,
I shall be soon:
Beyond the farewell and the greeting,
Beyond the pulse's fever beating,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home, sweet home!
Lord, tarry not, but come.

"Beyond the frost-chain and the fever,
I shall be soon;
Beyond the rock-waste and the river,
Beyond the ever and the never,
I shall be soon.
Love, rest, and home, sweet home!
Lord, tarry not, but come."
W. B. Ward.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 22, 1880, page 2]



"Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?" Many will echo the sentiments of this question of David concerning Abner when they hear of the death of the man of God whose name heads this article. At 10 oclock P.M., June 11th, 1880, at the residence of his son-in-law, Dr. F. H. Johnson, Gainesville, Texas, he passed away to join the innumerable host who had preceded him, many of them saved through his instrumentality.

Few men have left in the hearts of others more grateful and enduring memories than has Dr. Modrall. For nearly fifty years a preacher of the gospel, he exerted an influence upon human affairs, and left an impress which time cannot destroy.

Born in Giles county, Tenn., April 13th, 1811, he did not quite reach his "three score years and ten," but while he lived it was to a great purpose. Sept. 24th, 1831, just opening into manhood, he professed religion and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. "Go preach" sounded in his heart, and in September, 1832, he applied to Presbytery for reception as a candidate for the sacred office. In September, 1833, he was licensed, and in March, 1835, was set apart to the whole work of the ministry. Shortly after his ordination, on May 12th, 1835, he was married to Miss Nancy Sharp, who was his faithful helper and sympathizer all through life, and who still survives him, waiting for the Master's call.

From his marriage until 1855, Dr. Modrall ministered to various churches in Tennessee; Winchester, Columbia, Salem, Mooresville, Spring Hill, and others. We get an idea of the record which he left there from the fact that a few years ago, when on a visit back to Tennessee, he was most enthusiastically received, great crowds attending his preaching. In September, 1855, Dr. Modrall started, with his family and some others, to Texas. Near the close of that year, he reached Hill county, where he settled and remained two years. He then removed to Corsicana, Navarro county, where he remained till 1868. During his whole life up to this period, he had charge, at various times, of a number of select schools, but always making his ministry foremost. In March, 1868, in compliance with a call, he took charge of the church at Jefferson, remaining there until August, 1879, when, with health completely broken down, he came to Gainesville to spend the remainder of his days with his children. All of these now living, four sons and one daughter, are in Gainesville, and have families. Here he lingered till his death, lovingly ministered to by his children and cheered by the visits of his friends, among them that intimate companion and co-laborer of his youth, Rev. Willis Burgess. On May 28th, he accidentally fell from a door step. From this shock, though he rallied a few days, he never recovered. Several days before his death he sank into a comatose condition, and thus passed away unconsciously. He had often prayed, so he told the writer, that he might die unconscious, and his prayer was answered. As McTyeire said of Marvin, "There were no last words; we must take his life for that."

As a preacher, Dr. Modrall was counted far above the ordinary; as a theologian, independent, yet sound; as a Christian and a citizen, upright and true; as a husband and father, loving and faithful, In every community where he lived, sinner as well as saint looked up to him as to a father. Some years ago Trinity University conferred upon him the well deserved title of Doctor of Divinity. Sunday, June 20th, the congregation at Jefferson, of which he was pastor for more than eleven years, held a memorial service, which was participated in by Rev. W. C. Denson, the present pastor of that church, and the writer. The church in which he had so long ministered handsomely decorated and draped in mourning, the appropriate music by a choir of voices and instruments, together with the other parts of the service, and the large and attentive congregation, all bore testimony to the esteem and affection with which the departed was remembered. "Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men."
Gainesville, Texas
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 29, 1880, page 2]

Modrall, N. P. - Marshall Presbytery
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1881, page 70]

Buried Fairview Cemetery - Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas

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Updated 27 July 2022