John W. Lewis 1801 - 1865

The Cartersville American
Cartersville, Georgia
April 29, 1884, page 1
Transcribed by:  

Biographical Sketches.
No. 4.
John W. Lewis.
Born 1801 – Died 1865.

In Spartanburg district, South Carolina, on the first day of February, 1801, Rev. John W. Lewis was born. He died in Cherokee county, Georgia, during the month of June, 1865. His father, Joel Lewis, was a respectable planter, and his mother was a daughter of Henry Mechem, a man of high standing and a revolutionary soldier who fought bravely in the battle of Cowpens. His father died when he was quite young, leaving him and one daughter, afterwards the wife of Maj. John S. Rowland, of Bartow county, Georgia. She was a woman of many accomplishments and very fine common sense. The mother of John W. Lewis never married again, but devoted her life to the rearing of her children, and managed the estate left by her husband so well as to be able to educate them liberally and give each a handsome start in the world. She was an extraordinary woman, and, without the advantages of an early education, possessed a great deal more than usual native talent. With her devotion as a Christian, she combined eminent soundness of judgment, strong will and indomitable energy; and her son after remarked that he never failed to take her advice in a business transaction without afterward finding he had made a great mistake.

Mr. Lewis was educated at Cedar Spring academy, near Spartanburg court house, read medicine under Dr. Richard Harris, of Greenville, South Carolina, and, after the usual course, became a physician in Spartanburg. He was very skillful and soon acquired great popularity in his profession, and as long as he followed it, had an extensive practice. Early in his professional life he was converted and received as a member into Mt. Zion Baptist church, near his mother’s residence. In the years 1830 and 1831 he was a member of the legislature of South Carolina, and might have retained his seat in it, but higher interests had taken possession of his soul, and he retired from political life. About this time there was a great revival of religion in almost all the churches in that region, and under its influence he began preaching. He was the means of doing great good in building up the churches and in the conversion of sinners. Mt. Zion church, especially, grew from a membership of fifteen or twenty to over one hundred, including the strongest citizens of the country, among whom was Dr. Robert Young, father of Gen. Price M. B. Young, of Georgia. In 1832 he was ordained to the Christian ministry, and for some years he supplied Brush Creek church, Greenville district. He was married in 1844 to Miss Maria Earle, daughter of Hon. Samuel Earle, an ex-member of congress from South Carolina, and sister of the late Judge John Bayliss Earle, of that state.

Of the character and life of Dr. Lewis, prior to his removal from South Carolina, Rev. J. G. Landrum, pastor of the church where he held his membership, and a warm personal friend, says: “He was a man of strong mind, a deep original thinker, of fine practical sense. He had a warm, benevolent heart, a steadfast purity in all his friendships. At times he seemed melancholy and cast down in spirit; at other times he had a great flow of geniality, and was a pleasant companion. He had extraordinary forecast, and managed his business matters with great ability and success. His early ministry was enforced by a zeal and love for the master, which always gained for him very large and attentive congregations. In a word, the people loved both the man and his preaching. His removal from South Carolina was very much regretted. He was in every way useful. He was able in counsel in church conferences and in associations; and in all that related to the Kingdom of Christ he was truly a strong man, and used his strength well.”

About the year 1839 or 1840, he moved to Canton, Georgia, where he lived as pastor of the church for a number of years, serving also Petit’s creek church, near Cartersville then one of the largest and most influential in North Georgia. He often attended other country churches in Bartow county, preaching a great deal in revivals, and on all occasions when suitable opportunities were offered. He was a bold defender of the faith, an able expounder of the Word, and an eloquent advocate of the truth. Many of his sermons were very powerful and moving, and the effect produced on his congregations was of the most beneficial character.

Although diligently attending to his duties as a minister, Dr. Lewis yet found time to transact much secular business. He was in the best sense, a first rate business man, and did much to build up the country wherever he went. The western part of Bartow county was, when he came to Georgia, almost a wilderness. He purchased property there, built two or three iron furnaces, erected a large merchant mill, and, at his own expense, made good roads through that section, connecting it with the more popular parts of the county. In 1845, without his wish, he was unanimously nominated by the democrats to represent the forty-first senatorial district in the state legislature, and reluctantly accepted the position, but faithfully discharged its duties—on one occasion, securing by his vote the establishment of the Supreme court of Georgia. In 1857, he was appointed by Governor Joseph E. Brown, superintendent of the Western and Atlantic railroad –a position which he was with difficulty induced to assume. Prior to that time, the road had been paying almost nothing into the treasury of the state, but during the greater part of his administration it paid about $25,000 per month. About the beginning of the war he retired from that post of his own choice. At a later period, during the war, a vacancy occurring in the position of Confederate States Senator from Georgia, he was chosen by Governor Brown to fill that place till the meeting of the legislature. The time of his service was one of the most critical in the war; and he not only commanded the respect of that body of able men, but was regarded as one of the most practical and best business members of the senate. As he desired to retire from political life, he declined to be a candidate for election. He is thus one of the rare instances where a man of deep piety, unblemished Christian character and great ability as a minister of the Gospel, was able to attend to a large amount of secular business, and to serve the public and his state on various occasions with great credit to himself and profit to those whom he represented. Even his enemies never alleged that he in any instance abated his zeal or compromised his Christian character while engaged in any service pertaining to this life only, no matter how humble or how elevated it may have been. He was at all times, and under all circumstances, the same able, devoted soldier of the cross, winning to the fold many precious souls, who will ever shine as stars in the crown now worn by him in the New Jerusalem drove. He received that crown in the month of June, 1865 – the date, at which, after an illness of a few days, he departed this life in Cherokee county, Georgia.

One feature of the character of Dr. Lewis worthy of special note, is, the interest he took in young men, and the generous aid he often extended to them. This is seen in the case of Rev. J. G. Landrum, an orphan boy twenty years of age, for whom his influence secured an election to the pastorate of Mt. Zion church, which was the church of the doctor’s own membership, and which, having quintupled the names on its roll, largely through the doctor’s own ministration, would have gladly placed him in that position. It is seen, also, in the case of Senator Joseph E. Brown, to whom, when teaching school at Canton, Georgia, to obtain means for discharging the debts incurred in a hard struggle to secure a liberal education, he gave his board for the very inadequate compensation of the instruction rendered to the doctor’s children, and to whom he loaned money enough to carry him through Yale Law School before beginning the practice of the legal profession – a loan repaid, with legal interest, from the earliest profits of that practice. Such case, with the fruits which have ripened from them through long years of eminent usefulness in church and state, ought to incite a generous emulgation in those whom God has endowed with sufficient means for that form of service to His cause.

[We are indebted to the “Biographical Compendium of Georgia Baptists,” published by Jas. P. Harrison & Co., Atlanta, Georgia, for the greater part of the above sketch. – ED.]


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