Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Life and Times of a Circuit-Riding Preacher: The Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. (Part 1)

It has been said of the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr. (2/2/1814-8/23/1900), mountain preacher of the nineteenth century, that “few, if any, men have done more to extend the influence of the Gospel in North Georgia or have been the means of leading greater numbers to the Cross.” [in Hearthstones of Home, p. 107].

So far as opportunities went, his were accepted under the most stringent of circumstances and with a great deal of personal duress. He was a cripple and used a crutch to get about. What caused this disability is unknown to this writer.

He was born in Spartanburg County, SC on February 2, 1814. Only six years after his birth, in 1820, his father, died. His mother was the former Elizabeth Pinson, the second wife of Elisha Hedden, Sr. They had eight children. Seven had been born to his first wife. Elisha, Jr. was next to the youngest of his full siblings who were, in order of birth: George, Joel, Garet, Mariah, Cate, Doshe, Elisha, Jr., and Jeffrey.

Elisha Hedden, Sr. had served for seven years in the Revolutionary War, and was wounded several times. He received land grants for his service and settled on the Tyger River in Spartanburg, County, SC where he engaged in farming. His will was tied up in legal complications for 19 years after his death, and was never settled satisfactorily. Perhaps that is why, when his widow Elizabeth married again on October 19, 1821 to William Visage, she had him draw up a legal bond in Pendleton District, SC which assured that $1,000 be set aside for her two minor children and that he “shall carefully and handsomely bring up Elisha Headin, seven years old next February, and Jeffrey Headin, five years old, during their minority and nonage with necessary meat, drink, washing, lodging, apparel, and learning, according to their degree, and the said William Visage shall during the time be guardian and tutor unto the said Elisha and Jeffrey Headin...Defend them from hurt of body, loss of goods and lands, so far as in his power lieth.” [Hearthstones..., p. 106]. The legal bond further stipulated that the two Hedden boys duly receive whatever property was due them when they should come of age.

That legal action on the part of their mother with her new husband, William Visage, apparently was honored. The Visage/Hedden family moved to Rabun County, Georgia in 1823, as did Elizabeth Visage’s parents, Joseph and Margery Pinson. There the daughter, Mariah, married Joseph Eller. Ten years later they moved over the mountain to the Upper Hightower section of Old Union County in the area that became Towns County in 1856. There Elisha Hedden, Jr.’s step-father opened the Visage post office and became its postmaster. The boys received their early education in country schools in these North Georgia locations.

While they were still young lads, Elisha, Jr. and Jeffrey Hedden came in contact with a noted minister and missionary to the Cherokee Indians, the Rev. Humphrey Posey. It is possible that they heard him preach before they moved out of South Carolina, for he taught school and started churches there. Appointed by the Home Mission Board to minister to the Indians at Valley Town in the Murphy, NC area, Rev. Posey had begun a mission school for Indians there that lasted until the Removal on the Trail of Tears. Rev. Posey went on preaching tours into Georgia, western North Carolina, and South Carolina. He was instrumental in starting many Baptist churches in the area. He also was active in promoting the Mercer Institute (now Mercer University) organized in Penfield, Georgia in 1833. When the Rev. Posey spoke, people took notice. Colonel A. T. Davidson, writing of him, stated: “He was a man greatly endowed by nature to be a leader, of great physical force, singularly marked with a fine profile, a fine voice and manner, singularly simple and eloquent.” [quoted in Whitaker, Bruce, “Reverend Humphrey Posey” in the Fairview, NC Town Crier.]

Elisha, Jr., in his future preaching career, would emulate in his own sermon delivery style the bold characteristics of the Rev. Humphrey Posey.

Keeping his pre-marital contract to give the Hedden boys “the best education possible,” William Visage and their mother, Elizabeth Pinson Hedden Visage, sent Elisha, Jr. and Jeffery Hedden to middle Georgia to begin their advanced educational studies at Mercer Manual Labor School at Penfield. Unfortunately, Jeffrey, who was born in 1816, died while a student at Penfield in the spring of 1838. Elisha, Jr. finished his course of study there and was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1839.

[Next: Continuing the life and work of the Rev. Elisha Hedden, Jr.]

(Sources: Information for this article was derived from these sources: Hearthstones of Home: Foundations of Towns County, Georgia, Volume I, 1983. Pp. 106-108. The Fairview Town Crier, Fairview, NC, “Reverend Humphrey Posey,” Nov. 99. church and associational documents of Union, Towns and Fannin Counties, Georgia, and Viewpoints, a publication of the Georgia Baptist Historical Commission.]

c2004 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Jan. 15, 2004 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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