What My Great Aunt Said about the Frontier Traveling Baptist Preachers in Our Family – The 1800’s

My Family’s Ancest Revernd Milton J. Whitaker Was a Baptist Circuit Preacher

In a previous post, I shared What My Mother Said about our Baptist Preachers, the next account will be What My Great Aunt Said about those preachers.

First, allow me to clarify who was whom.

My mother is Laura Mae Dunscomb Baker.

Her grandmother was Lena Mayme Whitaker Dunscomb.

Lena Mayme Whitaker Dunscomb was married to my mother’s grandfather Kenley Liddell Dunscomb.

My mother’s aunt was Mildred Dunscomb Curry.

My mother’s grandmother was the final person by the name of Whitaker in my immediate family tree.

Whitaker Family Line

Her parents were the Circuit Baptist Preacher, the Reverend Milton J. Whitaker and Sarah Elizabeth Godsey

What my great aunt said about the Reverend Milton J. Whitaker and his wife:


Rev. Milton John Whitaker (1832-1908)

Reverend Milton J. Whitaker

“Mayme’s parents were the Rev. Milton J. Whitaker, who was born on September 15, 1832, in Mulberry, Tennessee; and Sarah Elizabeth Godsey, who was born on February 24, 1848, in Murray, Kentucky. She was reared in a small town, Wrightsville, Missouri, of Dunklin Country [which is also the county where Clarkton is–that was my grandparents’ homeplace]. The location was a rural area which was later named Oak Grove. A church stands there today and has stood the test of time. There is an oak tree which stands where a little log church was built in 1857. The Whitaker family made this area part of their home during the years.”

I am adding the following that I discovered on another website:

Whitaker, Milton John (Rev.) 1832-1908

Missouri Baptist Biography by J. C. Maple, A.M., D.D. & R. P. Rider, A.M.
Published by Schooley Stationery and Printing Co., Kansas City, MO 1918

Volume III
Pages 333-337
Rev. Milton John Whitaker (1832-1908)

Religious Activity in Missouri 1858-1908
J. C. M.

” Rev. M. J. Whitaker was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee, September 18, 1832. His grandfather, Rev. John Whitaker, was a Baptist preacher. The occupation of his father was that of a farmer. While yet a mere youth, the boy heard an old negro servant praying for him and this prayer was God’s chosen means of convicting the boy of his sin, and his need for a Savior. There are many instances recorded in the Southland where negro servants were the means of the conversion of their young masters.

“Some years after his conversion M. J. Whitaker united with the disciples and was baptized.

“In 1853 the family moved to Obion County, Tennessee, where the future Baptist preacher engaged in teaching. He had obtained large training in the English branches and was thoroughly competent to teach. For six years he devoted his life to the honorable calling of teaching school.

“In 1881 the father died at his home in Obion County. In 1858, when about 26 years of age, M. J. Whitaker changed his place of residence to Dunklin County, Missouri. Here he united with Oak Grove Baptist Church. He was elected deacon of this church in 1870 and was ordained to that office.

“When the war between the States broke forth in our land, he followed his convictions and joined the Confederate Army, and spent three years in the service of the South. He was a brave soldier and when the war was over became a good citizen of the reunited country and sought in every way to allay all bitterness and to live in peace with all the people, no matter what may have been past differences.

“Soon after Mr. Whitaker was “set apart” to the office of deacon the Oak Grove Church gave him a license to preach the Gospel. He now engaged with his pastor, Rev. M. V. Baird, in quite a number of protracted meetings and proved himself worthy of the confidence and esteem in which he was held by the church.

“The question of his ordination to the full work of the ministry was now considered. He had been received as a member of the Church without baptism by the authority of a Baptist Church, and he himself, with his best friends, saw that it would greatly hinder his usefulness and cause a refusal of many good brethren to recognize his good standing as a Baptist minister if he thus entered into the fraternity of Baptist preachers. After careful study he became convinced that there was but one way to forever settle this question and he resolved to settle it so that there could be no further controversy. Believing it to be his duty, he asked for baptism and received the ordinance at the hands of his pastor, Rev. M. V. Baird.

“It is mentioned by his pastor that when he entered the waters to receive the ordinance he did not remove his pocketbook and therefore was baptized “pocketbook and all.” And those who knew his after life say that if the same results would follow in every case then let all men take their pocketbooks with them into the baptismal waters.

“Mr. Whitaker owned a large and fertile farm. This was always cultivated with skill and diligence and his family was well cared for. And though he received some pay for his ministerial labors, he always gave to the Lord’s work much more than his salary. His promptness in response and liberality in aiding all the work of the churches were so full and cheerful that his example and teachings were in harmony. Because of his diligence as a farmer he was able to give far more than he received from the churches where he served as pastor.

At various times in the thirty-four years of his ministry he was pastor at Oak Grove, Shady Grove, Palestine, Holcomb, Little Vine, Friendship, Prairie Grove, Bible Grove, Four Mile and Varner River churches.

These churches are all in the southeast part of Missouri and most of them in Dunklin County.

“His ministry was among the people who knew him well. His everyday life was before those to whom he preached. They knew that he lived the same Gospel that he proclaimed from the pulpit.

“Mr. Whitaker was twice married. There were three children born of the first marriage and six by the second. One son of the second marriage, R. L. Whitaker, is an ordained minister.

“On March 3, 1908, in the seventy-sixth year of his age, he came to the end of his long life and was called to “enter the joy of the Lord.”

“His second wife survives him.

“That a man could continue among the same people, a ministry for thirty-four years, and for all these years hold the confidence and esteem of those with whom he lived and for whom he labored, proves not only an orderly Christian life, but intellectual gifts and faithful exposition of the word of the Living God.

In writing of him, one who knew well his record, said: “He was always first and foremost in supporting the pastor, in contributions to missions, schools and everything that was for the good of the Church and society.”

The influence of such a man cannot die. His work proclaimed his worth. And eternity only can reveal the good he accomplished.

The great work in Missouri, and in other states as well, by farmer-preachers has never been fully appreciated. Many of these men were profound thinkers and thorough in their investigations. They searched the Scriptures and with all the movements of their vigorous minds and the deepest affections of their hearts grasped the meaning and in powerful and simple language gave the people the pure word of the Gospel of Christ. They did not deal out technical terms, but they did see the force of any form of speech that did or did not convey the truth.

“While, either in person, or by others, cultivating the soil or marketing its products, they thought upon the great themes of the Gospel and their relation to human needs. They were not troubled as to the source of food and clothes for their families because they knew whence these would come.

“In the best sense of the word they were eloquent in preaching. Behind the message was an honest and consistent life. In many cases, as in that of the subject of this sketch, all that was paid them for their services as pastors went back into the treasury of the Lord, with no small increase.

“These men kept the country churches alive, and from among those, by them brought to the new life, come a large per cent of the most efficient ministers in all our city pulpits and many laymen who support the churches, both financially and spiritually, in all parts of our great country. Let us not forget the gratitude we owe these men and thank the Lord of the heavens that He gave them to His churches.”



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