From: Autobiography of H. P. Lewis: A superannuate member of the
Mississippi Conference, having been fifty-six years in the Itinerant Ministry
of the Methodist E. Church, South, December, 1913
An original copy of the published book was given to me by H P's
grandson, Rev. Floyd Lewis of Jackson, MS.
First Lewis ancestor arrives:
…A man by the name of Lewis came from Wales to this country, some two hundred years ago, more or less, and settled in Virginia. Here my grandfather, Benjamin Lewis, was born in 1760 or '62. His parents died when he was quite young, and he was reared by a Mrs. Hill.*
English oppression in the colonies:
One of his earliest recollections was that of hearing his elders discuss English oppression of the Colonies. The Stamp Act, which caused such a blaze of indignation throughout the Colonies, was repealed when he
was but two years old; and before the country had quieted down, duty was imposed on glass, paper, tea and paints. This added fuel to the smoldering flames, and when a few years later a ship load of tea landed at Boston Harbor, the famous Boston Teas Party was held. The blood of young
Lewis, my grandfather, boiled with indignation against England and his soul was fired with zeal for America's independence. When war was
declared he at once offered himself for service; but on account of his youth and smallness of stature, he was refused enlistment.
A few months later a troop of British calvary encamped near the home of his guardian; and the officer promised amnesty and protection to all who would take the oath of allegiance to Great Britain. Mr. Hill at once proposed to accept the offered amnesty, but grandfather stoutly refused.
Finally, irritated at the persistency of the boy, Mr. Hill decided to compel him to take the oath. Learning of his purpose, young Lewis left him, made his way to the army, and was sworn in and equipped for service.
Battle of Eutaw Springs—family story:
One incident in his life during his service as a soldier made a
profound impression upon him and became a factor in the molding of his character. It was the Battle of Eutaw Springs, S.C. Generals Green, Marion, Sumpter and Pickens had throughout the summer of 1781 fought a
splendid series of battles, ending with that of Eutaw Springs. Wednesday, Sep. 8th, the company to which young Lewis belonged was stubbornly engaged with that immediately opposing it. Many were killed and wounded
on both sides. Lewis, though unharmed, had many narrow escapes. A bullet cut the hair from his right temple and killed the man just behind him. Another bullet passed through his trousers and broke a man's leg behind him. The man cursed and asked him why he did not stop that ball.
By the splendid charge the British were swept from that part of the field and pursued by the victorious Colonists. Young Lewis, because of his youth and smallness of stature, was unable to keep up with the company and was soon left behind. While picking his way through the dead and
wounded, he was startled to see a troop of calvary dash up out of a nearby wood and charge down upon him. Halting, the captain demanded who he was. Young Lewis could not tell from the uniform of the soldier whether they were English or Americans, while debating in his mind what was best to do, the officer reined up his horse close to the now thoroughly frightened boy, drew his sword and demanded in fierce tones that he answer the question.
Looking the Captain full in the face, he said: "Sir, I do not know to what army you belong. If I say I am a Briton and you are an American, you will kill me. If I say I am an American and you are British, you will kill me. Sir, if I die, I will die with the truth on my lips. I belong to Gen. Green's army, and could not keep up with them when the order was given to charge." Sheathing his sword, putting his foot out and extending his hand, the officer said: "Jump up behind me, my little man; I am going to Gen. Green now."
In after years, in relating this incident to his children and
grandchildren he always closed with this statement: "Children, it pays always to tell the truth. It saved my life once."
Private Benjamin marries:
A few years after the war closed, young Lewis married a Miss Celia Martin of Robeson Co, N.C., and settled down on a farm. Six children were born unto them, my father being the third son. His name was Quinnea. When in his 22nd year he was married to Martha Spier, who was only 16 years old. About the year 1820 they moved to Mississippi and settled on or near Pearl River in Marion County.
Henry Lewis' parents—Quinnea and Martha Spier:
My father was at one time Sheriff of Marion County, Miss. He was perhaps the most conscientious Christian man that ever served as Sheriff of that County.
...my father, who in former years had killed deer and turkeys in the bounds of my work, in and around where Baxterville now is, and who knew many of the officials of my charge, gave me much information about the people and places where I would preach.
Henry begins his preaching career:
Father fixed me up with a good horse, bridle and saddle, and on Monday, December 14, 1857, I mounted my pony and started to my work, followed by the prayers of as good mother and father as any boy ever had.
My parents were reared by Baptist parents. About the year 1822 both of them were happily converted and joined the Methodist Church. My father was steward, class leader and exhorter. For more than 50 years he and mother were among the most zealous workers in the Methodist Church
in Marion and Pike Counties.
Books and conversion:
My father had some valuable books. Among them was Clarkes' Commentary on the Old Testament which he read often. He also had Fletcher's Check to Antinomianism which helped to get predestinarianism and antinomianism out of him...By the time he had read these books...he was a Methodist of the purest type. I mention this because my parents were brought up under the influence of Primitive Baptists. (p.14)
Preachers of all denominations known in our country found a welcome shelter under my father's roof. My father's home was called a preacher's den. I learned to love ministers of the gospel when I was a boy.
Henry gets saved with prayers from his mother:
While Rev. Nicholson was preaching one of his characteristic
revival sermons from the text, "He is altogether lovely," he spoke of Christ's work, miracles, life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection, ... I experienced a great change in my heart and felt happy. I hardly knew what was the matter with me. When penitents were called, I went forward,
kneeled down, but was too happy to pray. I cried and shouted. I looked around and saw my precious mother, who had been so deeply concerned about her boy, Henry, and she was shouting aloud the praises of God. In an instant I was in her arms. Her prayer was heard; her boy was saved.
Mother Martha Spier dies:
My precious mother, ... died December 30, 1882, in her 87th year. Just before my mother passed away I said to her, "You are almost gone." She pressed my hand in hers and said, "Yes, but I am not afraid." Again, when almost across the river, I said, "Mother, how is it now?" She replied
in a faint whisper, "All bright and glorious." (p. 39)
I was born and reared on a farm in Marion County, Miss. ...After I was eight years old I went to school but little; seldom more than two or three months at a time. At the age of seven I was put to work on the farm. At ten I was taught to plow. I was in some respects a dull boy. Smith's Grammar was the only grammar I ever studied. My father saw that I had a talent for music and sent me to a singing school.
I was small and had the appearance of a beardless boy; and I felt mighty little. ...was young and I think teachable. I availed myself of every opportunity possible to hear my presiding elder preach. (p. 20)
I could not preach much. I knew that; but I had a good, clear
voice, which some people said was sweet and musical, and I could sing. I knew many songs that were new to the people of my charge.
Preacher brothers meditate:
Many hours were spent with my brother, W. B. Lewis, and
myself under a beautiful arbor of vines and branches of trees, under which we were completely hid from outside view. It was our place of prayer and meditation. We spent many happy hours together in that sacred spot.
Morning, noon, and evening we resorted when we could to our place of prayer. My heart is made tender--my eyes moisten while I write these lines as I think of the sweet seasons we had there together.
Riding a horse:
There were but few places where a preacher could have a room to himself to study, meditate and pray. Consequently I did most of my reading and meditation while riding from one appointment to another.
...I am a Methodist, warp and filling. Yet I am not a bigoted,
self-conceited, hidebound Methodist. I have but little patience with such. I know that all good people are not in the Methodist Church; yet I am a Methodist all the same. And I know that my friends of other denominations will not think less of me for being plain and outspoken on this subject.
I was converted, regenerated in the year 1855. ...I have no
knowledge of a time when I was concerned about my eternal salvation. I began to feel more concerned about my soul's salvation. A prayer meeting had been organized at old Pinegrove Church near my father's home, led by my father and others. As interest in the prayer meeting increased, interest in the public preaching service increased. All the truly religious people took an interest in the prayer meeting as well as in all the other church services. And it is my observation that the same thing is true today. (p.12)
I had a copy of the New Testament given me by an uncle, after whom I was named. Before my conversion, I really had no taste for reading my Bible. To me it was dry reading. After my conversion, I enjoyed reading my New Testament more than any other book. I bought a copy of our Methodist Discipline and Fletcher's Christian Perfection.
I was licensed to preach in July 1856. (p.16) I was admitted on trial into the Miss. Conference in the year 1857.
More on religion:
Religion, pure and undefiled, is a good thing. Why everybody is not religious I do not understand. All Methodists are not religious; neither are all Baptists and Presbyterians religious. Yet all who are truly so, live together in peace, love and unity, regardless of denomination lines or preferences. No truly saved man will deny that. (p. 12).
I gave offense at times...a man got very angry with me because of some perhaps unguarded expression I made and (he) threatened to "knock the devil" out of me. Really, I did not know the devil was in me. I did not want him there. Yet I often felt that he was near me. The threat, however,
was never executed.
The devil is still here. We see and hear of his dirty work on every side. He is in the halls of Congress; in the legislative halls; often in the house of God, and sometimes in the pulpit I fear. St. James says: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Then he adds, "Draw nigh to God and
He will draw nigh to you." (p. 22-23)
An (elder) preacher of our Conference said to me ..., "Brother Lewis the devil is not dead. He may be sulking but he is not dead. You give his old tail a twist, and you will hear him howl." The devil and my old self have given me more trouble during the 55 years of my ministry than all
the world besides.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit:
...Going from one appointment to another... On oneoccasion,
while on one of my long rides, I grew tired of reading, put my book away, and began to pray and meditate. So far as I knew, I was eight to ten miles from any human habitation. I thought of the goodness of God and the gift of His Son for the redemption of men I thought of the many, many people
that were without God and on their way to ruin. I thought of myself as one of Christ's messengers whose duty it was to call sinners to repentance and point them to Christ.
I began to pray for help and strength, that I might do the work of a faithful preacher and come out right in the end. While I was thus occupied, it seemed to me that the heavens were opened, and I received such a baptism of the Holy Ghost as I had never experienced before. How, O how
my heart yearned over dying men! How I wanted to tell everybody about Jesus and His love! What was it? A reassurance of God's promise to be with me always? A new commission? Well, it matters not. God was with me and I was happy, oh, so happy, for many days. After that I could preach better. Let me urge my young brethren to get the baptism of the Holy Ghost, yea, of fire. Get everything impure and unclean burnt out of you, and live solely for God and His cause.
Thoughts of Marriage:
Being brought up in a pure, Christian home, where love
predominated—the right kind of parental love—where there were peace and happiness, with Jesus the Christ in the home, it is not at all surprising that I should contemplate a union with some good woman. Some women are not
good. Then not all good, pure women are adapted to the work of an itinerant life. In my young manhood, I was often told to "look before you leap."
If all young people, especially preachers and women
contemplating marrying preachers, would move cautiously, thoughtful and prayerfully on this subject by taking time to think seriously, and to talk often face to face with the good Lord about it, there would be more happiness, less jars, misunderstandings, etc. and fewer divorces. (p.28)
Rebecca Ann Tillery Lewis—their engagement:
It was in the latter part of 1858 that I heard of the young woman I afterwards married. I heard she was sensible, young, soundly converted, able in prayer and a good worker in the church. Without telling anybody, I said to myself, "I will marry her if I can, the Lord being willing." (p.28)
At conference it made it convenient to go by where she lived, in the home of Rev. C. A. McNeill, her uncle. I met her for the first time on Dec. 3, 1858. But, O, alas! She was engaged to another. Yet we saw each other, and I guess loved each other on first sight. I heard her sing one of J. Newton's grand hymns, "Though troubles assail and dangers affright." I sat and listened and thought it the sweetest sound I had ever heard. But my hopes and expectations were thwarted.
Early in the year I learned that the engagement between Miss Tillery and Mr. McFarland was broken off. Fortunately for me, Mr. McFarland got drunk; hence he was dismissed and I lost no time in getting into communication with Miss Tillery. We were l00 miles apart. There were no railroads near us. Mail facilities were scarce. Yet we soon got into
an interesting correspondence. It was three weeks after I had asked her to marry me before she gave me an answer. What was the trouble? She was praying over the matter. Finally the answer came. It read: "I have made up
my mind in your favor."
Another preacher seeks Rebecca:
Later in the year, a young preacher spent the night with me at the home of Dr. Blackborn near Fordsville. After retiring for the night, he said to me: "Brother Lewis, I am going to get married.""To whom?" I said.
He replied: "I am not engaged to anyone yet, but I know I can get her." I asked who she was and he replied: "Miss Rebecca Ann Tillery."I replied, "You are too late, my brother; we have been engaged for six months, and I am going to see her next week." He was shocked.
The Civil War years:
We had spent the year in a humble home near Tylertown,
Mississippi. Five months of the year I spent in teaching school. At the same time I served as junior preacher on Franklinton Circuit. The year had been one of great hardships. Many times during the year I had gone to bed
The War between the States was getting to be a serious matter. We had, including one negro woman and her child, seven mouths to feed. The precious woman I had the honor to call my wife never complained of hard times. The dry goods the merchants had on hand when the war was
declared were soon gone. Wearing apparel could not be bought for love or money. We had no money, but such as we had we were willing to give to feed and clothe those depending upon us. What did we have? Nothing but
health, strength and a willingness to work.
A Mrs. C who gave us milk occasionally to partly satisfy our
hunger, said one day, "Brother and Sister Lewis, you work like Turks." Yes, my good wife especially worked hard all day, and often into the night, carding, spinning, reeling, warping and weaving that we might have clothes
to put on. It put me to my wits end to look after the meat and bread question. My wife soon learned to work the treadles, throw the shuttles, handle the batten, beam the cloth and cut and make garments. Now, some of her children and grandchildren would not know a loom if they were to
meet one in the road.
Quinnea Lewis family reunion:
On the 28th of July, 1904, we had a family reunion. It was a great occasion. Nine children, twenty-five grandchildren all happy together for the last time, on earth. "It is the jolliest crowd I ever saw," said a photographer to me. The following morning at the proper time, we met in
the parlor for family worship. It was indeed a time of great
rejoicing. All five of our preacher-boys--together with Brother Terry, our son-in-law. The service lasted quite awhile. We all got happy, even the children, and rejoiced together. It was the last time. In less than a month ...
the grandmother was called home. It was on Friday, the 26th day of August, 1904, and partner of my bosom, the mother of my nine children, shared my joys and sorrows so patiently, surrounded by all her children, fell asleep in
Jesus. Her ambition was to live to see all of her children grown, saved from sin, and educated. She fully realized the desire of her heart. In less than three months after her last one got his diploma from Millsaps College, she went home to rest.
Walter and Lela Terry:
Rev. W. A. Terry, a graduate of Millsaps College was born in
1869, and joined the Mississippi Annual Conference in 1896. His second wife, whose picture is shown by his side, was Miss Lela E. Lewis. [H P Lewis' daughter]
Excerpts from Autobiography of H P Lewis