Mary C. Thackston & Andrew M. Bailey of CA (Pt 2)

More biographical information about the family of Mary C. Thackston and Andrew M. Bailey, continued from Part 1:


From The American Pageant Revisited, by Thomas Andrew Bailey, Stanford University (1982):

My grandfather, Andrew McKenzie Bailey, was born in Overton County, Tennessee, in 1821, when James Monroe was president of the United States.  Grandpa moved north to Kentucky as an ill-educated, saddlebag minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.  This denomination had split off from that in the North in 1845, as a preliminary to the splitting of the Union in 1860-1861, although my grandfather, as a poor white, abhorred slavery.  He came to California in 1853 as a Methodist missionary (South) to the heathen, evidently arriving by way of disease-ridden Panama.  This new spiritual vineyard of California was a lush one indeed, for the rush of the forty-niners had brought in a horde of faithless men and fallen women.

Methodist ministers – “South or North of Heaven,” as the saying went – were supposed to be as poor as church mice.  But Grandpa Bailey, despite a large family of hungry children, managed somehow to become wealthy.  In 1863, the year of Gettysburg, he bought eighty acres of rich agricultural land, then overgrown with tall mustard, for pennies an acre.  This parcel, now a part of San Jose, is worth millions of dollars today.  Grandpa left a substantial portion of this fertile soil to each of his numerous children, including my father, and a considerable sum of money to the College of the Pacific, a Methodist institution in San Jose, subsequently moved to Stockton, California.  He was one of its early benefactors, for he wanted young people, especially Methodists, to receive the college education that had been denied him.  He must also have been something of a psychologist.  After marrying a couple, he would be asked by the groom what the charge was.  Instead of saying “five or ten dollars” – a considerable sum in those days – he would reply, “Whatever you think the bride is worth.”

The proverb tells us that where there’s a will there’s a way, but this saying sometimes can be read to say that where there’s a will there are disappointed relatives.  My father and his half dozen or so sisters seriously considered breaking the will, but were advised by a lawyer or lawyers that the prospects were hopeless.  After all, Grandpa Bailey had let each of his children about ten acres of prime agricultural land or enough on which a man, with luck and sweat, could make a living of sorts.  At all events, I was brought up hearing snide remarks about the College of the Pacific and Grandpa Bailey. . . .

My father, though not given to profanity in the home, was not a religious man.  On various occasions I heard him say that enough of the Bible had been rammed down his throat when he was young to last him a lifetime.  I also heard him explain why he thought so poorly of religious people.  Some time in the late 1880s or early 1890s he had taken up 160 acres of wheat-growing government land in south-central California near San Miguel, not far from present-day Paso Robles.  The Homestead Act required a residence of five years on this property, which had already been preempted by an unauthorized squatter.  The early comer had a shotgun, which he threatened to use on anyone who tried to take out a legal government claim on the same land.  My father, an authentic pioneer, wrote to his father asking for the loan of some money to buy off the would-be murderer.  But grandpa, although he probably had the funds, flatly refused to help out his son.  “If that’s religion,” my father declared emphatically, “I don’t want any part of it.”  At all events, my parent was undisputably part of the great westward movement and for years attended the annual “pioneer’s picnic” – until there were almost no pioneers left.


From Western Cavaliers: Embracing the History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Kentucky from 1832 to 1844, Albert Henry Redford, Southern Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, 1876, p. 337 (discussing happenings in the church in 1839):

William D. Matting and Andrew M. Bailey traveled the Salt River Circuit.  Although Mr. Matting only entered the Conference in 1837, he had considerable experience as a preacher of the gospel.  He came from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in which he had been a successful and popular preacher for several years.  Mr. Bailey was quite a youth, being only eighteen years of age, without education and without experience.  He had, however, been soundly converted to God, and could relate his Christian experience and recommend religion to others.  The Salt River circuit was one of the best in the Conference, and embraced several communities distinguished for their culture and refinement.  While Mr. Matting preached sermons that charmed the crowded audiences that heard him, young Bailey exhorted, and wept over the people, and pleaded with them to turn to God.  Success crowned their labors:  nearly three hundred persons were converted and added to the Church.  One hundred joined at a meeting held in June.


From The History of Southern Methodism on the Pacific Coast, John Collinsworth Simmons, Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1886:

Andrew M. Bailey was born in Overton County, Tenn., April 5, 1821; converted Aug. 28, 1837; joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in September of the same year. He was licensed to preach on the Burksville Circuit, Kentucky Conference, Aug. 29, 1839; was admitted on trial in the Kentucky Conference, Oct. 18,1839; and appointed to California, Oct. 13, 1851.  His early advantages were very limited.  He lost his father when he was quite small, and after the remarriage of his mother they moved to Cumberland County, Ky.  He says: “I had almost no educational advantages, so that when I was converted at the age of sixteen I could barely read in the Bible.  My mother was a most devout Christian, and a ‘shouting Methodist.’  But the family being poor, and the children numerous, I generally spent the spring and summer months working on farms as a hired hand.  At the age of fourteen I was hired to Mr. Benjamin Speer, who took an interest in my welfare, and impressed me deeply with the necessity of being a Christian while young. I lived with him four years, and if my life has ever been worth any thing to the Church, the teaching and example of that good man, more than any other human agency, were the cause.”

At a camp-meeting in July, 1837, the first he ever attended, he was powerfully convicted, and with all the ardor of his nature he began seeking religion.  He thought he must do something to merit it, and that when he “got religion a light would shine round about him, and that he would be overwhelmed with a sense of the Divine Presence.”  Under this impression he prayed and wept in the most intense agony of soul.  He got no relief.  The gloom of his soul was insupportable, and he began to believe he was one of the “reprobates,” and that he never could be saved.  This thought terrified him to such an extent that he neither ate nor slept for a whole day and night, when, while there was no excitement in the altar, his soul was impressed with the thought that Jesus loved him, and that he died to save even him. The thought thrilled him. In a moment his whole moral nature was changed. He had a love to Christ such as he had never experienced before, and, boy as he was, he rose and began to tell the people of the infinite goodness of God. He was appointed class-leader at once.

On August 24, 1839, he was licensed to preach, and the following October was admitted on trial in the Kentucky Conference. He was junior preacher the first year of his connection with the Conference, and that fall, under the presiding eldership of Jonathan Stamper, he witnessed a camp-meeting on his circuit the most powerful he ever saw. More than three hundred persons united with the Church on that circuit that year, and very many of them were converted at this meeting. Revivals blessed his labors wherever he went.

In 1850 he was appointed Presiding Elder on the Irvin District, and in the midst of the next year Bishop Paine sent him as a missionary to California. He arrived early in 1852, and on February 13 of that year he was sent by Dr. Boring to Stockton, where he found a new church with a crushing debt upon it, and very few members. At the Conference held the following April he was returned to this charge, but in the fall was sent to organize the Santa Clara Circuit.

This work was commenced in the town of Santa Clara, October 14, 1852, and was extended down south as far as San Juan Mission, some forty miles below San Jose, and north as far as the Lower Redwoods, some six miles west of where Redwood City now stands.  This work was continued through the winter and following spring.  At the next session of the Conference, in April, 1853, the circuit was divided, and he was appointed to the northern part, called Santa Clara Circuit, while J. T. Cox was put in charge of Gilrov and Santa Cruz.

In the fall, the first camp-meeting that was ever held in this region was held some six miles east of Watsonville, under the leadership of J. T. Cox. This, as related elsewhere, was a grand meeting.  A few weeks after this meeting another was held in the Santa Clara Circuit, at what was then known as the Tollgate Campground, eight miles west of San Jose.  At this the Rev. W. M. Winters was converted, and W. A. Finley and J. M. Lovell joined the Church, they both having been converted in Missouri. Old Brother Hicks, who stood so long and faithfully to our Church, and many of his family, were converted and brought into the Church, and a wonderful impulse was given to the cause of Christ at this meeting.

Brother Bailey was a sweet singer, with great power and compass of voice. Some of his songs, sung alone, were equal to his sermons.  When he stood in the pulpit at a camp-meeting, and sung one of his favorite hymns, it was like bugle notes calling to battle.  He was a man of great faith, and intensely earnest in his devotion to Christ and his cause.  He looked upon the Methodist Church, South, as his “mother,” and often in the glamour of success, when the power of God was upon him, would he exclaim,” I owe all that I am to the grace of God and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.”  His usefulness among us is unquestioned.  Soon after the war he began to despair of the success of our Church on this coast, and under convictions of what seemed to him duty, he united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, did a little work for a few years, and then ceased to travel.


From the book Sunset Views in Three Parts, by Bishop Oscar Penn Fitzgerald, published by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Nashville 1906).  (Note:  Bishop Fitzgerald knew the Baileys, and performed the services at Mary C. Thackston’s funeral.)

Some readers may be inclined to smile when they see here the name of Andrew M. Bailey among the names of the transfigured singers. The old Californians will call him to mind. He was a rugged, angular, self-assertive man, a wonder to those early Californians, and an aggravation to many of them. I never knew a man who knew more certainly whom and what he did not like. I never knew a man who had greater power of indicating his dislikes by facial expression. There is something comic in the notion of the transfiguration of this old California pioneer preacher, Brother Andrew M. Bailey. But I have seen that miracle wrought. By common consent he led the singing at the Santa Clara camp meetings held away back in the fifties and sixties. That wonderful voice of his! I seem to hear it as I write these words — clear as a bugle, sweet as a woman’s. Acres of the early settlers, with their families, gathered under the evergreen oaks and the sycamores on Sunday morning, would crowd around the preacher’s stand as closely as they could as, with eyes closed and swinging of the body, Brother Bailey sang of heaven. And as he sang of that “sun-bright clime,” with its larger life, its reunions, its sacred memories, and its unending glories, the rugged features relaxed and seemed to catch a touch of the light from above. There was a transfigured singer! Men and women who remembered Kavanaugh and Welburn and Deering and Browder and Morton and Linn, and the rest of the leaders and fathers of the Church in the old times and in their old homes “back in the States,” were melted into tenderness under the spell of Bailey’s song. Their children, seeing and hearing this transfigured singer, received gracious suggestions they can never lose. When Brother Bailey came to Nashville a few years ago he was an old man, worn and weary and scarred by the wounds received in life’s battles. But he was chastened in look and speech. When he told me that his object in coming to Nashville was to make a gift of ten thousand dollars to the cause of missions, placing the money in the hands of the officers of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Church of his first and his latest affection, I was listening to and looking upon a transfigured singer.



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