Aaron James Parrish

1816 - 1888

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister



The Rev. A. J. Parrish was born October 29, 1816, in Dickson county, Tenn., where he lived, except two years in West Tennessee, until he passed away in great peace with God and men, December 22, 1888. His funeral sermon, preached by the writer, was attended by the largest audience ever assembled in that community on so short a notice. The church stands near his residence, built by the congregation to whom he had preached regularly for near half a century. As a mark of the high esteem and profound respect in which he was held, the great number who visited him during his protracted illness and witnessed his death-bed scenes, the vast concourse of both religious and irreligious people who attended his funeral, and his Masonic burial fully attest. Prominent among the number in attendance were five Methodist ministers, most of whom had called in their appointments, for the sole purpose, as they said, to attend the burial of "Uncle Jim."

A. J. Parrish professed religion in the year 1837 at one of the first camp-meetings ever held in Dickson county, Tenn., and not very far from the place where our church was organized, and was taken under the care of presbytery in the year 1842. He seemed at that early period of our church's history to have imbibed, in great measure, the spirit of the fathers, and his preaching, throughout his long life in the ministry, was of that primitive type. His was an active ministry, not occasionally, but habitually so, and at a time when ministers had to look to their own resources chiefly for a support. He attended his presbytery regularly until his health failed, and often the synod and the General Assembly. The writer was his bosom friend and companion in the ministry, in the family and social circles, and in the church courts for more than thirty years, and can here testify that in every sphere in which he moved he manifested the virtues of honesty of purpose, firm integrity under the hardest trials and heaviest responsibility, and charity for all men, which so gracefully adorn the character of the true Christian and the perfect gentleman.

Brother Parrish was not a highly educated man, in the application of that term of to-day, but was a learned and well-informed minister of the gospel, and eminently successful in his great life work. Nature endowed him with great strength of intellect and a gigantic frame, and within his expansive chest there was one of the most generous and sympathizing hearts that ever palpitated in a human bosom. And when kindled to excitement on occasions requiring it, there flashed forth from his commanding though persuasive countenance the mingled light of reason, sentiment, and gospel truth, the effulgent beamings of which to man ever beheld and afterward forgot. I have seen him on camp and protracted meeting occasions when I could think of him only as a king of human volcano, and in the moments of his happiest inspirations his voice exhibited a compass and a power almost superhuman. Hence, at his meetings a great number of penitents, of conversions, and additions to the church were among the usual results. In his early ministry he had as his associates John L. Smith, Uriah Smith, W. H. Guthrie, of precious memory, A.A. Wilson, still living, and others.

Brother Parrish was twice married. First to Miss R. C. Dickson, on February 1, 1838. The issue of this marriage was one son and three daughters. The wife, son, and two of the daughters have preceded him to the better land, leaving one daughter, the wife of W. H. Rice, Esq., with their three children. His second marriage was with Mrs. S. B. Bell, on February 2, 1865. Of this union there was no issue. It was my good fortune to be well acquainted with this happy couple, and here wish to bear public testimony to the untiring energy and devotion of this bereaved minister's wife, which she has shown during the long and serious illness of her now sainted husband. She is blessed with eminent social qualities, and possessed with highly entertaining and instructive conversational powers. She is polite to all, gifted with a keen sense of duty and of what to do in the proper time in a sick room. She gave her entire time and talents for six or seven years to the proper care of him whom she promised to love and "cherish in sickness and in health." and well has she performed her duty, and her reward is with his and other faithful servants of the Lord in heaven.

Brother Parrish enlisted and fought through the Florida war of 1836. He also acted as president of Cloverdale School, a school of eminent charcaater and usefulness, until his failing health forbade his continuance. Surely the blessings of the dead that die in the Lord are now his great reward.

[Source: Cumberland Presbyterian, January 17, 1889, page 2]

Mortuary List
A. J. Parrish - Charlotte Presbytery

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1889, page 167]

The Rev. A. J. Parrish

On this page will be found a cut of what the Rev. W. A. Johnson, of Clarksville Presbytery, who furnished it, and the data for this article, to us, says is a most perfect likeness of Brother Parrish as he remembers him. No exact date as to his birth can be found, but it is quite certain that he was born shortly after the organization of the parent Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and lived until 1888. In his data Brother Johnson quotes what others have written him concerning Brother Parrish, but to use it all would make this article too long, and we shall give a portion of Brother Johnson's own recollections. He says: "It was my privilege to live in the home of "Uncle Jim," as he was familiarly known, for several months, while teaching a school, and to sit as it were at his feet. Many of the incidents of his ministry, as he rlated them to me, were indelibly fixed upon my mind. In one of his horseback trips he fell in with a "mail rider" who carried the mail on horseback in saddle bags. The carrier had a cap that had been sent to some one by the immortal La Fayette and permitted Uncle Jim to wear it for a distance as they rode together. He told me that one year he missed making a crop on his farm and traveled and held meetings all the year. He would stop in a community and hold a meeting of two or three days and have seventy0five or more convertsand then move on. Though he traveled some six hundred miles each month and preached on an average of once a day and saw many hundreds of souls saved, his remuneration for the year, in money, was $36, with which he bought corn on his return home at one dollar a barrel. He said that it was one of the best years of his life. From figures given me by Brother Parrish I figure that he traveled a number a miles equal to seven times around the world during his ministry as a circuit rider. He established what is now Bethany congregation of the Clarksville Presbytery, about ten miles from Erin, Tenn., and erected its first meeting house. There has never been any misunderstanding as to when their annual revival meeting is to be held as, from the first of such meetings, they have always included the third Sunday in August. For a number of years Brother Parrish was President of Cloverdale Seminary, a good select school in Dickson County, Tenn. It was during this time that I sought his advice as to entering that school or Cumberland University, at Lebanon, and through president of Cloverdale he was disinterested enough to advise me to go to Lebanon and gave me a letter of introduction to the chancellor--Judge Green. Hero of the cross, well done; your battle was well fought and a great victory won."

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, March 21, 1918, page 1]

Parrish Family Information

Updated February 27, 2008

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