Thursday, August 24, 2017

Rev. Silas Woodbury - Presbyterian Minister and Teacher

In a letter written from Smithland, Kentucky on the 24th of November 1843, the Rev. A.W. Campbell stated:  "We are in the midst of a most interesting state of things. You remember I organized a Presbyterian Church in this place some time in last March. There were but 8 persons who united with it in the congregation. There was an Episcopal Church, few in number, but raised and sustained by the patience and untiring labors of its clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Ash, and a Methodist Church, revived and enlarged by the piety and zeal of the stationed minister, the Rev. Mr. Temple. From all the information I could obtain, I suppose there were not a hundred professors of religion in all the place. Since that period all the churches have increased. The Presbyterian now numbers 23 members."[1]

The Rev. Campbell went on to say that the Rev. Silas Woodbury of Michigan was willing to accept the charge of the Presbyterian Church in Smithland and had "arrived a day or two since."

Silas Woodbury was born 20 March 1798[2] in Massachusetts, educated at Middlebury College and after graduating about 1822, settled in New York City as a teacher. Later he entered Lane Seminary and was licensed to preach in 1833. He entered upon home missionary work in Michigan before moving to Smithland.[3]   A member of the Green River Presbytery reported, "The Rev. Silas Woodbury, from the State of Michigan, was received into the Presbytery."[4]

Woodbury's  stay in Smithland was of short duration, arriving in late 1843 and leaving after September 1849.  During that time, he officiated at nine weddings in Smithland after receiving a license to "perform the rites of matrimony" from the county court on 7 October 1844.[5]

In addition to his duties as a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Woodbury continued to teach. During his tenure in Smithland, he rented the "tavern house"  and conducted a "female school " there.[6]  Located in the old Bell Tavern, it was more commonly known as the Gower House. This may have been the earliest recorded established school in Smithland.

In 1847, The Ladies Association of Smithland provided the funds for the purchase of the eastern part of lot #83 at the corner of Court and Charlotte Streets for the purpose of erecting a house of worship for the Presbyterian Church.  The Rev. Woodbury was to hold the lot until trustees of the church were chosen and then he was to transfer the lot to them.[7] 

Two  years later, lot #83 was conveyed to Peter H. Conant, Robert T. Leeper, Woolington Robinson, Thomas Leeper and Wm. Yoncom, trustees of the Presbyterian Church. No record has been found to indicate how long the Presbyterian Church was in operation in Smithland, but today lot #83 does not have a structure on it.

The Rev. Woodbury left Smithland  by the 23rd of September 1850, when he was enumerated on the Bedford County, Tennessee census. His occupation was given as "principal F. Academy." [8]

Silas Woodbury died  11 February 1873 and was buried at Willow Mount Cemetery, Shelbyville, Tennessee. [9] His will was dated 1 October 1868 and probated in April 1873. Named in the will are his wife, Sarah K., son S. Henry Woodbury and daughter Mary E. Woodbury.  [10]   Sarah King Woodbury died 15 April 1886 and was also buried at Willow Mount Cemetery.[11]

[1] "Revival in Smithland, Ky.," Christian Observer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Vol. XXII, No. 50, Friday, 15 December 1843, p. 1.
[2]  Silas Woodbury, Find A Grave Memorial #82319359,  accessed 28 July 2017.
[3] :Eminent Educators Deceased in 1873,"  The American Educational Monthly, Vol. XI, (New York: J.W. Schermerhorn & Co., 1874), 100, Google Books, accessed 2 August 2017.
[4] "The Green River Presbytery," Christian Observer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Vol. XXIII, No. 27, Friday, 5 July 1844
[5] Livingston County, Kentucky Court Order Book I:461.
[6] Letter  from Benjamin Barner of Smithland to Jehu Wells of Spartanburg Dist., South Carolina, who had inherited the Gower House from Henry Wells, dated 10 October 1844.
[7] Livingston County, Kentucky Deed Book HH:477.
[8] 1850 Bedford County, Tennessee census, Dist. 7, dwelling 42, household 42, Silas Woodbury and Mary [sic] Woodbury,, accessed 2 August 2017. No ages are given for either of them.
[9] Find A Grave Memorial #82319359, Silas Woodbury.
[10] Helen C. and Timothy R. Marsh. Bedford County, Tennessee Wills & Vital Records from Newspapers, (Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1996) 21.
[11] Find A Grave Memorial #82319506, Sarah King Woodbury, accessed 28 July 2017.

Published 24 August 2017, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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