The following article was originally sent to Bobby Hunt by Jim Flaherty. Bobby contibuted it to our site.
Ashland Daily Independent
Ashland Ky Sunday May 22 1960
Abandoned Home Has Cache Of Books
One Volume By Rev Burchett
Tells History Of Methodism
By Estelle S. Rizk
Independent Staff Writer
Come look over my shoulder while I read and turn the pages of an old hand written manuscript written in black ink that has faded little with the years on a narrow unruled pad tied together with string and was written sometime after June of 1865.
This old manuscript written by Rev N T Burchett D D is an eloquent eulogy on the life and ministry of Phillip Strother who worked for long years to get the Methodist Church firmly established throughout these eastern states.
Perhaps it was fate that this fine old piece of writing - only a few pages of which are torn and faded - should not have been lost nor completely deteriorated with the passing of years. And one wonders about the circumstances under which it was written - perhaps at night by lamplight, maybe in the twilight years of Rev Burchett’s life.
Who knows now? We know only that it was found by the Great Granddaughter of this well known old Methodist minister, Phyllis Burchett Maddix and her husband James Maddix who is better known as Tommy.
In the Carter Caves State Park is an old log house belonging to Phyllis’s father Charlie Burchett that has been vacant for some time since the death of Joe Burchett who was the father of Charlie - and the Grandfather of Phyllis. And then one day during this past winter, the young Maddix couple, who live on Blueberry Ridge near Olive Hill, went over to the log house that was built so many years ago in the picturesque settings of the park.
As people are wont to do they went inside. The old house that had once known life and love was now empty, not only of life but of any furnishings that might have once graced its rooms. As happens when a house is empty, it was dusty, and the old floor boards creaked as the two young people looked about.
Up in the attic, or loft, there were a number of books laying about, and then they found the old manuscript of over seventy pages, written in a firm hand. As they
looked at it Phyllis Maddix saw that it had been written by an ancestor of hers.
She and her husband Tommy wondered if there would not be a number of people throughout the area that would find the contents of this writing interesting. Both the Burchetts and the Strothers were fine old families here and there are any number of descendants.
If there was originally a date on this manuscript, it probably would have been on the front page with the title - and that is one of the few pages that is torn and faded, with even part of the title gone. The old manuscript begins in this fashion - “Phillip Strother was born March 1780 in Culpepper County Virginia. His parents were respectable folks and belonged to the **********
They owned a good farm and had Negroes to work it.
“I think they belonged to the established Church of England. They , however joined the Baptist Church and freed their Negroes. His father was Anthony Strother and his mothers maiden name was Frances Eastham. She was raised in luxury and ease but when they set their Negroes free she went to work as though she had always been used to it.
“Phillip Strother was first cousin to Gen Zachariah Taylor’s mother and to the mother of Gen Gaines, so we see that he was descended from honorable stock. His father was a strong friend of King Charles, but when the fortunes of Charles began to wane he thought it best to emigrate to Virginia which he did and settled in Culpepper County. He was a man of tolerable, good education and of a strong but sedate mind he had but little to say, while his wife was of lively disposition and a great talker, and Phillip seemed to inherit her lively disposition and no doubt owed much of his renown as an orator to her.
“Phillip was raised among a wild set of boys on the south branch of the Potomac River till he was 12 or 15 years of age. He told the writer that he could beat any Negro in Virginia patting juber - and at one time he was in an adjoining room of a house where a religious meeting was going, patting juber for the boys and having a streak of fun.”
I wondered what “patting juber” meant. It was a term I had not heard - was it a game, a dance of some sort? Reference books that I have made no mention. Neither did old Mr Pete Brown nor Dr J Watts Stovall know - my two chief sources of interesting data, though it was thought that it was probably a jig dance with patting.
The old manuscript goes on telling in an interesting style of writing of Phillip’s life and of his move to Baltimore soon after they had freed their Negroes and the boys including Phillip had to go to work.
The boys - “followed hauling goods” and Phillip became quite adept to managing a team especially when fording the rivers and creeks that it was necessary to do as they hauled goods to various places. On at least one occasion, horses, wagon and all would have drowned in the swift current of the river, had it not been for Phillip’s quick thinking according to the old manuscript.
Phillip was called “South Branch” by his group of friends there as he lived in the south branch of the Potomac. And evidently Baltimore was at the time a great Methodist community as it is written that - “although he hated the Methodist like snakes he would not molest them”
Reading at random in the old manuscript, we find that young Phillip Strother left Virginia after his family had moved back ********************************************
*************** 1805 and went to Jackson Co Ohio where he engaged in making salt and trading in salt, either in partnership with or for his brother Robert Strother.
During the War of 1812, when Gen proctor, with his British and Indian troops were thought to be invading this country, Phillip volunteered his services. For his service he was given a land warrant of 160 acres of land which he later sold to Sam Parker Williams for $100.
He was married on the tenth day of September 1811 to Miss Sarah McNew Clemens, who was born in Bourbon County Kentucky on the 24th of March 1795. Her father had been one of the earliest settlers of Kentucky.
Young Phillip had met her much earlier, but waited until she was sixteen years old before they were married. She had joined the Methodist Church about two weeks before her marriage and - “Mr Strother, who was still wicked and still hated the Methodist said it would not take long to break her from that. But the sequel will show she did not break her worth a cent. He did everything in his power to break her off from the Methodist Church. But she was steadfast in her faith and immovable in her cause”.
Rev Burchett relates many of the humiliations that Phillip Strother heaped upon his wife - before he was to embrace the Church of her faith and become one of its great ministers. He made her walk two or three miles to Church carrying a baby, though he had horses lazily grazing in the pastures. And he cut corn on Sundays, while she prayed for his soul.
It took the critical illness of one of his children to teach him to pray and to promise God that if he would heal the child he would join the church - “and serve Him faithfully. And strange to say (this is boldly outlined in the manuscript) the child was well and playing in the yard in a half an hour”.
Phillip Strother kept his word and joined the Methodist Church - “and was soundly converted while he was out behind an old log praying, and he made quite a noise about it”.
The beginning of his long ministry followed not long after his conversion. “Mrs Strother as true as steel, stood by him - she would exhort and pray for hours at a time, a truer woman never lived, she was full of faith and the Holy Ghost”.
The Kanawha Salines began to attract attention around 1822, and Phillip Strother moved to that area, settling about three miles from Charleston on Elk River. For the purpose of building boats, in which to ship salt. But his ship building suffered as he began holding meetings and *******.
“His fame as an orator began to spread over the country”. He was frequently urged to secure a licence to preach, but always refused, pleading incompetency.
However the years to come saw him converting many people to the Church, and he preached against and debated about the doctrines of Calvinism, Universalist, Lutherans and others. He really delivered his first sermon near Charleston, though unordained, and his success as a minister was immediate.
The writer of this old manuscript faithfully records the life of this man and his good wife, their travelings here and there, as Phillip Strother became a circuit minister and was sent to Nickolas County, Point Pleasant, to circuits in Ohio, and finally to Barboursville, Pikeville, and then to Prestonsburg - all in Kentucky.
Wherever he went the crowds were large. And Rev Burchett has painstakingly woven into this life long **************************************** the establishment of the Methodist Church in these states.
In the spring of 1838, the Strothers moved to Greenup County, where for a time, Phillip taught school, yet he still held meetings and never lost an opportunity of explaining the life hereafter and other teachings of the Bible to all that came to him for council.
The family lived in Grayson for eleven years, which were great years of spiritual activity for them, and even though he was appointed assessor of Carter County during the years that Grayson was their home his great physical and mental capacities enabled him to carry out the duties of this office along with his preaching all over the countryside.
In the year 1850., he moved to Tygarts Creek and settled near Pleasant Valley on a piece of land belonging to his son J H Strother and lived there until his death, still preaching.
He went to Frankfort and created a sensation in the capitol with his fine understanding of the Bible. He and his wife were the moving cause of the Methodist Church being established in that community. He preached his last public sermon in Olive Hill.
And then - “He was called over on Big Sinking Creek to preach the funeral sermon of a soldier who had died in the army of the Civil War”
The old manuscript records that he preached for two hours in the open air at this funeral, as the house was not large enough to hold the congregation. This was on the 4th of June 1865. He died before midnight of the next day, at the home of Judge Harvey Henderson, where he has stopped to spend the night. Phillip Strother long life had ended.
He was buried on June 7th 1865 in the old Rice Cemetery near Pleasant Valley, Carter County Kentucky, by the burial service of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Rev Burchett concluded his story of this great man with a touching eulogy and a poem which begins - “Rest here loved Saint till from His throne the morning break and pierce the shade”.
The last page of this manuscript, like the first, is torn and faded, but reading about the torn parts, one learned that it tells something of the immediate life of Mrs Strother after the death of her husband.
I had finished the old manuscript and then had gone back and re-read parts of it again. It not only is interesting and easy to read, but to me it seems a valuable document of the early founding of the Methodist Church throughout several of these eastern states and those devout and earnest ministers who worked long and earnestly to establish these Churches.
******************************* him mentions all throughout his record of other ministers with whom Phillip Strother came into contact .
I took the old manuscript back to Phyllis and Tommy Maddix, leaving the highway near Olive Hill to follow Blueberry Ridge road for two or three miles until we came to the attractive Maddix home there on top of the ridge with a magnificent view of the surrounding valleys. This home built by the young couple during the last five years, is highlighted by the beautiful field stone exterior of the living room.
We talked of the old manuscript, and looked at the old books found there in the loft of the log house that is falling into decay. The oldest book is - “Conversation on The Science of the Human Mind” written by Ezra Styles Ely D D , in 1819, with quaint old memorandums written in the front and back pages by Rev Burchett presumably.
One such notation reads - “David Kibbey commences board and room on Monday 24th of March 1838 and horse”,
There was an old Planters Almanac; a copy of “Everybody’s Lawyer and Counselor in Business”, by Frank Crosly, 1860; “Hard Times - What to Learn From Them”, by Professor Robert Ellis Thompson, University of Pennsylvania, written in 1877; the “Governor’s Message”of the state of Kentucky, dated December 30th 1887; and a full Common School Report of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, dated 1860.
Phyllis and Tommy Maddix who have one child, Debbie, who is of school age, both work at the Olive Hill Manufacturing Company, which operates under government contracts for army garments. At present, those who are employed there are making the white fireproof coveralls worn by the jet refuellers in the Air Force.
From the dim past of log houses and hand-written manuscripts to the age of the jet is the heritage of Phyllis and Tommy Maddix, and Tommy especially, enjoys the readings of these fine old writings and the counsel given by these books of another day and time.