Wilkinson C. Huffman
Sketch On The Life Of W.C. Huffman
Brother Wilkinson C. Huffman was born in
Central, Ky., on May 4, 1802. His parents were German. Circumstances were such
that he received only a moderate education, as public schools were not
maintained at that time. According to the custom of that age, he was apprenticed
to the trade of a blacksmith, and became very skillful in this trade. His early
days were spent in hard labor and with a class of people who gave no
encouragement to culture or literary pursuits. He formed the habit of working
hard and remaining cheerful, and was a jovial companion about his place of
business. He inherited a strong physical constitution and keen perceptive powers
Brother Huffman came on the stage of action at
the time of a great religious excitement. Religious
parties were engaged in heated discussions and were accomplishing very little,
save the strife which they augmented with each other.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church came into existence in 1810, when he
was eight years old. Religious parties were drifting to and fro without chart or
compass. The great question of doctrine between religious parties lay between
the extreme Calvinistic type, on the one hand, and Universalism, on the other,
and there was much discussion over questions which came between these two great
extremes. Young Huffman soon found
himself with the Universalists. He
decided that Universalism was nearer the truth than Calvinism, and he read the
Bible to justify his position.
In 1825 he moved from Kentucky to Tennessee and
settled in the little village of Cairo, in Sumner County, on the Cumberland
River. In 1827 he married Lucy A. Goodall, the daughter of Charles Goodall, a
very prominent man of Sumner County. She proved to be a faithful wife and a
great help to him through life. He
maintained his belief in Universalism until the autumn of 1836. At this time he
examined the teachings of the Bible on this point.
He found that Jesus said: "And these shall go away into everlasting
punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." He saw at once that the
Savior divided all into two classes and that he pointed out the destiny of these
two classes. He saw from this statement of the Savior that there would be a
future punishment for the wicked, as well as a future reward for the righteous.
He further saw that the duration of the punishment of the one class was as long
as the duration of the reward for the other class.
Promptly he gave up his belief in Universalism.
His wife's people were all devout members of
the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. When
the revival season came on, he sought religion after their custom. He went to
the mourner's bench and anxiously sought pardon for his sins in deep grief and
earnest prayer. He remained there
for four days and nights, scarcely eating or drinking anything during the time.
He received no comfort, saw no strange sight, and heard no voice which
gave him any evidence that he was pardoned.
He became discouraged and turned away from it in disgust. However, he was
not willing to abandon all hope; so he turned to the New Testament and began
reading the Bible, seeking to know more about what it taught on the redemption
of man. He read the prophecies of Jesus and traced their fulfillment in the New
Testament. He was convinced that Jesus had lived upon earth and that he was the
Savior of man. He concluded that surely God would teach poor mortals how to
obtain salvation in Christ. He read
earnestly and prayerfully to find the way of salvation.
He arose from an investigation of the Bible one afternoon and sought a
preacher to further instruct him. He
soon found the preacher, but he also found that the preacher did not know as
much about the New Testament as he himself had learned. This preacher instructed
him to go to the anxious seat and plead for salvation. He turned away from the
preacher somewhat discouraged, but still having some hope.
The next morning he determined to visit another preacher and obtain help.
This time he visited an old man by the name of "Wiseman," who
was a preacher in the Baptist Church. He
told this Baptist preacher that he wanted to be baptized; that he was penitent
of his sins and wanted to obey his Savior. The preacher told him that he was
glad of his conversion and that he would have him come before the church at its
next meeting and relate his experience as to how he had obtained pardon.
He told the preacher that he had not yet received the remission of sins,
but wanted to be baptized "for the remission of sins." This Baptist
preacher promptly refused to baptize him and soon dismissed him.
One day, in conversation with a gentleman, he
told the condition of his mind and what he wanted to do.
This man told him that a preacher by the name of "John
Mulkey" would preach at a certain place not far distant; and he told
him further that, from what he had learned of this man, he thought he would
baptize him. When the hour arrived
for the preaching, young Huffman was present, and he listened attentively
through the lesson. At the
conclusion be demanded baptism, and was baptized that afternoon by John Mulkey.
This was in April, 1837. From this time forward he worked faithfully and prayerfully
in the vineyard of the Lord. Soon after he became a Christian his brother was
killed by a neighbor. Some months
after this the man who had killed his brother obeyed the gospel at the same
place where Brother Huffman held his membership.
It was customary for the members of the church to extend the right hand
of fellowship to those who obeyed the gospel. Brother Huffman refused to do this
that day. He went home and carefully searched the Bible as to his duty.
He went for three days and nights without eating or drinking, and finally
came to the conclusion that if God could forgive this man, it was his duty to do
so. So he went to the house of worship, and with trembling steps,
tearful eyes, and subdued spirit he went forward and gave the man his hand,
saying: "If God can forgive you, I can." He had conquered himself and was now ready to help others.
He soon began to take part in the worship of the church at his place and
gradually developed in the work. It was through his efforts that John
T. Johnson and G. W. Elley came to hold a meeting at what is now called
"Old Union," in Sumner County. The
meeting resulted in many additions to the church, and ever since that time there
has been a strong church at Old Union; even today it is numbered as one of the
strongest churches in the county. He
preached wherever opportunity was had in the surrounding country. He saved the
churches at Hartsville and Union from the confusion which resulted from the
speculative doctrine of Jesse Ferguson. He
was courageous in his defense of the truth. He did not hesitate to face any foe
that attacked the truth which he preached or the church of his Lord.
The War Between the States brought much trouble
to the churches. Many of them were
broken up entirely, others were greatly weakened.
After the war closed, Brother Huffman began to labor among the churches,
giving all of his time. There was much work to be done in setting the old
churches in order and establishing new ones. He did much work in Wilson County,
Tenn., laboring with the churches at Bethel, Bethlehem, Silver Springs, Berea,
and Bellwood. He also preached in many destitute places of that county.
It was through his efforts that the services of General
R.M. Gano were put
forth at Lebanon which resulted in building up a strong church in Lebanon.
He labored with the church at Lebanon for several years. His field of
labor gradually enlarged, and he traveled and preached much in the counties of
Smith, DeKalb, Jackson, and Macon, in Tennessee, and in the southern part of
Kentucky. Wherever he went he
strengthened the church, if one was there; and if no church, he usually
established one. He was patient and
earnest in his preaching and brought many to Christ. He seldom held a meeting
that there were not from fifteen to fifty additions. He knew only the Bible and preached that. The people were
anxious to hear him, and he was anxious to preach the gospel.
The last two years of his ministry were spent with the church at Union
City, in West Tennessee, and in the surrounding territory. He labored here, as
he had labored all his life, earnestly and faithfully, and he won many souls to
Christ in this field and made many friends. His fame as a preacher did not reach
as far as some other preachers of the pioneers, yet his labors were as hard and
his success as great. He is not known in the brotherhood as are some of the
other pioneer preachers, yet his work was as important, and he probably brought
more souls to Christ in his limited territory than did others whose praises have
been sung and whose memory has been cherished. Brother Huffman was truly a
servant of God and worthy of a high tribute from all who love the truth.
The churches in the counties of Sumner, Wilson, DeKalb, Smith, Macon, and
Jackson should know that it was largely through the sufferings, sacrifice, and
faithfulness of this man of God that they were established.
The younger generation should know that Brother Huffman labored more
abundantly in these counties than any other of the pioneer preachers.
Brother Huffman died on February 19, 1880, and was buried in the Goodall Cemetery in Sumner County. He had a large family of children, and many of his descendants are living today; and they have reason to thank God for such a hero of the faith which has blessed them with such an example in the service of God.
-From Biographical Sketches Of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo Boles, Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1932, pages 109-114
The above sketch reports that W.C. Huffman was buried in the Goodall Cemetery in Sumner County. Time has changed the County borders and name of the cemetery. The location of the cemetery is now in Trousdale County, and the name of the cemetery is the Huffman Cemetery, although the Goodall family is still buried there.
The Huffman Cemetery is located about 30 miles Northeast Of Nashville Tennessee in Trousdale County. Heading east from Gallatin on Highway 25, take Highway 231 North. Go 2.2 miles and turn (L) On Doodles Nest Lane/Crenshaw Road. Go to the first driveway on your left and the cemetery will be in the front yard.
W. C. Huffman
A Preacher Of
"Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord,
Special Thanks is extended to Dave Miller, descendant of W.C. Huffman. He supplied information about the location of the grave of W.C. Huffman, as well as the sketch scanned from Bole's book on Gospel Preachers.