Sketch Of Elder Washington Bacon
In the state of Virginia, county of Lunenburg, near a village called Hungary, was born, on the 8th of November 1799, to Captain Richard Bacon a son.
Our country had just passed through troublous times, but a bright future opened before her; and what more could the patriotic father do than name his child for the chief man in America? So Washington he was called, and Washington bacon was inscribed on the family register.
The Elder Bacon was an irreligious man, but one who possessed a warm and generous heart, always espousing the cause of the distressed and persecuted. And as the Baptists were suffering much persecution at that time, being arraigned before the courts for their faith and practices, it was in accordance with his nature to turn from the Church of England, in which he had been reared and take the part of the Baptists. Mrs. Bacon became a member of the Baptist church and the first religious teaching of her son Washington was from that people. As he grew older and began to reason for himself their doctrine had one great objection to him: That God had decreed from all eternity that a certain part of his creatures should be saved, while others were doomed to endless woe, was a doctrine as revolting to his mind that he rejected it with horror. And he resolved while yet a child to some day be a Christian, believing that God's mercy was vast enough for all.
In the year 1816 Capt. Bacon removed to Madison county Alabama, then called Mississippi Territory, and there the subject of our sketch resided until the year 1820.
During that time he became deeply concerned on the subject of religion, but on locating in Tuscaloosa, Ala., he was thrown among wicked associates and lost those good impressions, though in serious moments they often returned and-to use his own expressions-as Paul's thorn in the flesh.
In July 1823 he was prostrated by fever at Mobile, Ala., and then the thought of eternity pressed, with redoubted force, upon his soul. Upon recovery he returned to Tuscaloosa, and on reaching his boarding place relapsed and came near dying.
When the doctor came the sick man begged for prayer instead of medicine, and his last sane thought chafed itself into a cry for mercy. Slowly reason and health returned, and purchasing a horse he made his way back to Virginia, but after remaining there one year took stage for Alabama, but stopped in Roane county, Tennessee, finding a great attraction there in the person of Miss Maria Miller, a young lady who was a Methodist to the backbone.
They were happily married, and her pious conversation so worked upon the emotions of her husband that in August, 1825 he united with the Methodist church, although some of their doctrines he could not endorse, such as their mystical theories of the trinity and total depravity. He failed to experience that miraculous change, for which he so ardently prayed, and which he had been taught was necessary to salvation, but joined the church still hoping for it.
Afterwards, at a camp meeting he presented himself at the alter for prayer, and the preacher said to him: "Bro. Bacon I was surprised to see you at the mourner's bench, for I thought you had religion."
He replied "Bro. Crawford there is no man living who has firmer faith in God the Father than I have, or in our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ; and I believe with all my heart that the Bible is the word of God. Beyond that I cannot go."
The preacher said no more, neither did Bro. Bacon, but he stayed away from the mourner's bench, though greatly perplexed and distressed in mind. He was at this time engaged in teaching a county school and as he went back and forth, often carrying in his arms his little weakly daughter, his constant prayer to God was if his sins were really pardoned he would make it known to him, but no light, nor dream, nor vision burst upon his struggling soul.
His Methodist brethren understood his doubts and perplexities, and the preachers sometimes tried to help him out of his troubles and usually ended by calling him a fool.
That God and Christ were one and the same person he could not understand and never did believe. He believed that Christ did exist from all eternity, but not as God. That there was a time when the Son of God did not exist as the Son of God, but as the word of God he existed from eternity.
The Union of divinity and humanity, he had to say, was more than mortal mind could understand, and was really what mortal mind had no business to investigate.
"What is Faith," was a question which troubled him greatly. Had he the right kind of faith? His brethren taught historical faith, evangelical faith, divine faith, etc., and he feared he had no faith that they called saving faith.
About this time he read a treatise on faith by Alexander Campbell in which the subject was discussed thus: A killed B, C saw him do it, C told D and D believed it, and that is faith. To Bacon's logical mind it was plain. He said "we must believe that Christ is the Son of God. he performed miracles, God the father bore them witness. The apostles have told me and I believe with all my heart, and I know I have faith."
Then his mind, over seeking after the truth, became concerned over the remission of sins, or rather the how of the matters, and his perplexities increased.
He knew from a careful reading of God's word that sins must be remitted. He knew also that pardoned souls could fall again into sin for the Bible taught it and observation taught it, but there was a mystery about it he could not unravel.
A Presbyterian minister named Russel used to upset him every time he heard him, for his arguments were unanswerable.
Rev. Russel argued in this way, "if it takes a special and miraculous operation of the spirit to make one a child of God, nothing short of a special and miraculous operation of the spirit can undo that work."
"There is something wrong brethren," Bro. Bacon would say. "His logic is unanswerable, but I know the Bible teaches that we can fall away," never occurred to him to doubt the premise, and if the premise were true the conclusion must be correct.
In the year 1846 he had a chance invitation one Saturday to come eat and hear a New Light that evening. Partly through curiosity, partly through hoping to be instructed he went and for the first time listened to Andrew P. Davis. His text was 2d chapter of Daniel, 44th verse, and that discourse remained fresh in Bro. Bacon's mind until the day of his death.
The preacher in his explanation of what it takes to constitute a kingdom said:
"First there must be territory, second subjects to govern, third, a king to rule, fourth, laws to govern it, and fifth a way to enter it."
As the speaker went on explaining and simplifying light flashed into one troubled mind, and Bro. Bacon fully realized that he had never been born of water, and consequently had never entered the kingdom of God on earth, arose and went forward not waiting for an invitation.
As he had been for some time a class leader in the Methodist church and a rested leader among them he thought it but right that he should give his reasons for his most startling move. He told them of the doubts and perplexities which had long beset his way, of his dissatisfaction with the tenets of the church to which he belonged, and his firm belief that these stumbling block were the words of men, and not of God and finally said he with a stamp of his foot, "this day I plant myself upon the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible."
"Amen," said Bro. Davis, and went on with his discourse, as Mr. Bacon resumed his seat. Of course in a Methodist community the fact of the "class leader," going over to the "New Lights" created some excitement and no little indignation, and Mr. Bacon went home with some misgivings as to what his wife would say.
"When he reached him he found her busily knitting, and drawing a chair close to her he sat down, and gently took her work from her hands. She looked up in silent wonder for there was a new expression on his face.
"Maria," he said, "Get my clothes ready for I shall be baptized in the morning."
If he had told here that the evil one had appeared in a flaming oar, and he was going to take passage on the same, she would not have been more surprised. Anger and grief struggled together in her countenance and her husband said playfully, "do not be overstressed, Maria, you will be baptized someday, too." Folding her hands together, and speaking with solemn emphasis, she said, "never, never, never." Beyond that she said nothing. Perhaps, knowing as she did, of his religious troubles she was glad to se him satisfied, at last. At any rate she prepared his clothes and the next morning he was immersed upon a confession of his faith in Christ. Those two who stood together in the water that day saw each other's faces no more until they met in the courts of glory.
Bro. Bacon had espoused a very unpopular cause, and was considered a heretic by most of his neighbors, but satisfied at last, he applied himself diligently to the study of the scriptures and was able to maintain and defend his position. He always said that necessity drove him to preaching, nor he was assailed so often that he was compelled to defend himself, and do battle for the cause.
On one occasion he went to a Baptist meeting and heard two ministers air their views. To his clear and logical mind those views did not agree at all, and with his usual impetuosity he arose and said: "You have contradicted each other flatly. Brethren, you must do better or I shall be obliged to go to preaching myself."
"Go ahead," said one of the ministers. "I should like to hear you," and go ahead he did, for about fifteen minutes, in a way that astonished all his hearers.
In about a year his wife took her stand with him, and greatly encouraged, he went on reading and preaching, until the ward coming up broke up his happy family. Six stalwart sons enlisted in the southern army, two of whom never returned.
He was then living in Dade county, Ga., and was so insulted and plundered by the federal troops that he sold his home for confederate money and refugees to south west Ga.
After the war he returned to Dade county, and there, in the year 1866, he was called upon to give up the partner of his joys and sorrows, his beloved wife.
On the 15th of October 1868 he was married to Miss Mary Borden, of Cleburne county, Alabama, and moved immediately to Jackson county, Ala., where he was actively engaged as evangelist until 1873 when he removed to Cleburne county, Ala. He continued preaching for about three years when failing strength compelled him to confine his preaching to the fireside.
Uncle Bacon, as he was familiarly called by every one, was a man who enjoyed life, having nothing morbid or gloomy in his nature. A man of strong faith and hope, social in his disposition, kind to all. He was of medium height, spare built, though in his latter years inclining to corpulence. Eyes blue, clear and expressive, fair rosy complexion. A great talker and singer.
Many who read this will remember his favorite song "Come Humble Sinner," which he invariably sung when extending the invitation with all the strength of his soul.
"Am I a soldier of the Cross?" was another hymn dear to his heart.
In preaching he was always logical and forcible, appealing to the reason rather than the feelings of his hearers, though sometimes carried away himself by strong emotion.
In April 1885 he had a stroke of paralysis, from which it was thought he could not recover, but his vigor of constitution, and great vitality won and he rallied. His strength of body had well high departed, but the mind remained great as ever.
Thenceforth it was his delight, while lying upon his bed, to talk of the great truths and promises of the Christian religion. What a help he was to the weak and weary! How he strengthened the feeble, and preached sermons that will never be forgotten! God bless the memory of the dear old man and may his hoody influence for good live on. All loved to hear him talk; even the irreligious were attracted by his good talks. Next to the Bible, "Halls problem of Human life" was his textbook, for he had a mind which lived to dive into the mysteries and intricacies of science, and he regarded that work as the greatest aid to Christianity.
Long years ago, he said, he took this for his rule:
"All science which contradicts the Bible is false," and following that he made no mistakes, and his faith knew no wavering.
For a year before his death his mind dwelt almost entirely upon the joys of the future state, and he ardently longed to be there.
He loved to talk about death, for to him it was no grim monster, but the gate of endless joy. "Mary," he would then say to his beloved wife, "when I am gone do grieve after me. It is wrong. Death is nothing. It is more than stepping out of this room into a larger one. A moment and I am going into heaven, and all that heaven means."
How well do I remember his talks to me, while I marveled at his faith and greatly hoped that when my time should come I might have a little of the same faith.
"Why, Cornelia," he would say, putting the tips of his fingers together, while his eyes beamed and his voice arose clear and ????, "there is no mystery about death, and we should not so regard it. Heaven is no shadowy land. I expect to see God, my father, face to face, and the Lord Jesus Christ just as plain as the hand before me. I have lived and labored to that end, and I try to wait patiently till I am called, but oh! I want to go.
He would feel his own pulse and note, it seems with satisfaction, the decay of his body, and with a smile would compare himself to a clock almost worn out and still ticking on, till the time to stop.
He was a student until about two months before his death, finding new truths in the Bible, and desiring to preach to the last. He taught me, and many others, to read the Bible by subjects and not merely for the sake of reading it through.
In February he had a stroke which paralyzed his tongue, and it was a difficult matter for him to make himself understood. After that his strength and mind gradually failed and on Sunday night April 17, 1887 his lamp of life went out.
The Thursday night before he died he sang "Since I can read my title clear," plain enough for the tune and words to be understood, showing that his mind clung to the one great theme.
Just before the breath left his body the palsied tongue uttered one name-the name he loved-the name he preached, "Jesus," he whispered and all was still.
A large crowd from the surrounding country assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to the good old man, and amidst tears of love and grief he was laid away in the Borden burial ground. N.J. Tumlin delivered a touching and impressive address at the grave, and for the benefit of the sainted dead, but that of the living.
A good man has passed away having served his generation, and done all the good that lay in his power. He will long be remembered. May God bless the desolate widow and adopted daughter who are so lonely without him, and when our time comes to die,—"May we die the death of the righteous and may our last end be like his."
—S. Cornelia Alexander
-Gospel Advocate, Wednesday, Novemeber 9, 1887, pages 716-717
Brief On Washington Bacon
George Washington Bacon was born November 8, 1799. During the Civil War he preached in the NE, Alabama county of Jackson, and across the Tennessee River in the Dade County, Georgia town of Trenton. Washington Bacon was one of the unsung heroes of the years of struggle during the Civil War. He helped to keep churches alive and continuing when many men had to leave home and fight. In one letter he wrote to David Lipscomb in 1867, he made a report on the church at Rocky Springs saying, "A few days ago, I was in Jackson County, Ala., near Bridgeport where there is a congregation of brethren worshipping at Rocky Springs and their condition is truly distressing. There are ten widows with 35 children that are needing bread and meat, and also old bro. William Price and his wife's sister, who heretofore were the pillar and stay of Rocky Springs congregation, are now in a state of dependence. He walked all over the country to preach. He even reported in the Gospel Advocate that he did not know of anyone else doing as much walking he was doing and preaching. (October 3, 1867, p.800). He and his wife Mary spent their last years around Borden Springs, Cleburne County, Alabama. He died April 17, 1877. He was buried in the old Borden Family Cemetery. The grave is all but abandoned, however a few years ago, new markers were placed. Sadly, the stone was misread, and the marker says his name was Wallington Bacon.
-Source: Special thanks to C. Wayne Kilpatrick for finding information on Washington Bacon and sharing it with your web editor. He assisted me in finding the general location of his grave, and I was able to find it in July, 2012.
Brother Bacon's Report
Trenton, GA., January 18, 1868,
Brother Lipscomb: It has occurred to me that, although I have given you in scraps, the success of the Gospel in my field of labor for the year that has just passed and gone, that it would be nothing amiss to condense the whole. At the commencement of the year, my broken down circumstances was such that I thought I would confine my labors exclusively to my immediate neighborhood, and preach for and to the three congregations in this county as I had no horse to ride, and did so for a time. And having a little business on the west side of the Tennessee river, in the neighborhood of Rock Spring, Jackson county, Alabama, the brethren at that place earnestly solicited me to visit them and preach for them. I told them that I had no horse; Bro. William Hughes proposed to pay my fare on the railroad, if I would preach for them. I thanked him for his liberal proposition and told him, as we were all broken-down by the war, to keep his money for other purposes, and as soon as I could make it convenient, I would visit them. So I added that point to my field, a distance of twenty-three miles, walking all the while. But after my crop of corn was finished, I then extended my labors down as low as Calhoun county, Ala., the result of which has been on hundred and fifty-eight to the army of the faithful, and the organization of four congregations. To the Lord be all the praise.
And now for this present year, I have engaged to preach for seven congregations, scattered over a large extent of country, one hundred miles below this. It will occupy four weeks to accomplish one trip, leaving me only two days in each month to recuperate. I have been resting for some two weeks and shall not ride any more till the first of March, when I shall start for another year's labor.
My brother, hold out and hold on to the positions taken in the Gospel Advocate, and may God bless you, and long continue you at the helm of the little bark, for God is with you, and ere long you will get the ascendency, the good and the wise will take to heart. I am brother, yours in the hope of a glorious immortality.
-Gospel Advocate, January 18, 1868
Special thanks to C. Wayne Kilpatrick for providing the information above.
Scottsboro, Ala., July 13, 1868
Bro. Lipscomb—It has beens so long since I have written to you that I have forgotten the date of my last writing. I recollect, though, that I the reported the success of the Gospel in my filed of labor. But as it has not been published in the Gospel Advocate, I thought it would be nothing amiss to write to you this morning, and tie you a statement of the success of the truth of the Gospel to my field of labor, up to this writing.
I commenced my year's labor at Rocky Spring, Jackson county, Ala., the first Lord's Day in March; but the high waters in the months of April and May prevented me from visiting all the congregations that I visit this year. With the exception of two of the congregations, they are alive to the cause of their Lord and Master. They meet every Lord's Day to break the loaf and conduct their Sunday-schools, the Bible being the text-book in them all. In the congregation at this place, we have a brother of great promise, who is just beginning to speak to the brethren and neighbors who attend our meetings. I heard him on last Saturday night, and I would here take the opportunity to say to the brethren at Scottsboro, to encourage and hold up the hands of Bro. Virgil Wood; for, in my judgment, he is worth of all acceptation. And I would also sayto the brethren at Sorta Cave, with reference to Bro. James Daniel, and for his encouragement also, to persevere in the cause he has espoused, in speaking to his neighbors upon the subject of salvation. He, too, is doing a good service in the Master's cause. But, alas! Bro. Daniel is this morning in the city of Montgomery, working for Caesar, helping to make laws for his kingdom. Bro. Daniel, let me say to you in all kindness, my brother, your Lord and Master has told you that you cannot serve two master. Bro. Daniel, don't do so any more. And with reference to the two above exceptions, I hope that they will take the cause of the Lord and Master sufficiently to heart, to set the things that are wanting, in order that there be no schism in the body. I mean Rocky Spring and New Bethel, Ala.
And now, Bro. Lipscomb, I would say, through the pages of the Gospel Advcoate, that I have never witnessed as much patience and forbearance manifested by the different religious bodies in this section of country, as at this present time; and further, they themselves solicit me to come and preach in their houses of worship. May this spirit of quiet and peaceable investigation continue until all the lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be united upon the one foundation laid in Zion—the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. There haste been added to the army of the faithful in my bounds of labor, forty-three noble souls, and we trust much good seed sown, which will, through the blessing of God, bring forth fruit not many days hence. To the Lord be all praise and honor.
I am, my dear brother, yours in the hope of a glorious immortality.
-Gospel Advocate, July 13, 1868
Directions To The Grave of Washington Bacon
Washington Bacon is buried in a small and nearly abandoned cemetery in East Alabama called Borden Family Cemetery. Note: There is a Borden Springs Cemetery, but it is not the burial place of Washington Bacon. From I-20, take the last exit, Exit 210 and turn left.Then turn right on County Road 49. Go out Hwy. 49 for about 25 miles. Entering the community of Borden Springs, turn left on County Road 230. Then very quickly you will need to turn left again on Co. Road 225. NOTE: If you cross the bike trail you've gone too far. Head out Co. Rd. 225, and the road will dead into a gravel road, and continue until it becomes a trail. Go to your first right. You will know you are there because when you look to the left you will see a power-line row. But, turn right. Now, when I was there, I was in a car, and just parked there, and walked about 100 yards to where the cemetery is located on your right. But if you are in a 4-wheel drive or pickup, you should have no trouble driving in. When you get to the cutover, you will need to get out and go over into the opening on the right. This is where the cemetery is located. Some new markers have been placed in the Borden Family Cemetery, one of which is that of Washington and Mary Bacon.
Not much more than a path leading down about 100 yard to the cemetery which will be on the right
Coming up on the cut over should be very obvious as you draw nearer the cutover to the cemetery
Cutover from road to the cemetery
Photos Taken July 7, 2012
Page produced November 21, 2012
Courtesy of Scott Harp
Special thanks to C. Wayne Kilpatrick for assisting in the locating of the grave of Washington Bacon. Much of the information on this site was a result of his research and efforts to make it available to the general public. By reading the information on this site, it is easy to see how important it is to never forget what Washington Bacon meant to the people of Northwest Georgia and and Northeast Alabama.