Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rev. Lemuel C. Ransom, Licensed to Preach

Lemuel "Lem" C. Ransom was born in Williamson County Tennessee in 1831 to Athelston Ransom and Elizabeth Clark.  At a young age he professed his religion, joining the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1844.  The next year he was baptized.  In the following years he found his calling to preach but being from a poor family he didn't have the education that he felt was necessary to become a preacher.  In order to achieve his goal he continued working along side his father in the fields and at night would study by candlelight.  In 1849 he entered Motley Academy and in October 1850 he received his license to preach. He next entered Cumberland University at Lebanon.  In April 1855 he was ordained and in June 1855 he graduated from Cumberland.   His first preaching assignment was in Selma Alabama where he spent several years.  He didn't neglect his personal life and in 1858 married Priscilla Mayes Ridgeway.  The couple were blessed with several children.  

In 1860 he took charge of the St Louis Cumberland Presbyterian Church and that's where he was preaching when the Civil War broke out.  He left St. Louis and went south where he joined the 20th Ala Inf, Confederate States Army, as their Chaplain.  In 1863, he resigned from the army and went back to Alabama to preach.  In 1866 he was assigned to the church at Murfreesboro, Tennessee and just two years later he became the preacher at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Memphis where he stayed until his death in 1874.  He ministered to many during that time and was of great service during the 1873 yellow fever epidemic.  Rev. George Tucker Stainback said during Ransom's time in Memphis "he had preached 642 sermons, attended 132 funerals, baptized 154 persons, married 64 couples and made 3987 pastoral visits having made over 1000 in 1870."  

It is a tribute to Rev. Ransom that so many distinguished preachers in their own right and from their own denominations participated in his funeral service.  Rev. Stainback, mispelled Steinback in the obituary, would become well known as the man who brought Nathan Bedford Forrest to God and preached his funeral. Rev. Sylvanus Landrum of the Central Baptist Church was well known for his service to the city during the yellow fever epidemics, losing two sons to yellow fever in 1878.   Rev. E.C. Slater was the minister of the Central Methodist Church and was considered a martyr during the yellow fever epidemics, succumbing to the fever in 1878.  Several other preachers occupied seats near the pulpit.

Rev. Ransom was interred at Elmwood Cemetery.  After his death, his wife Priscilla, moved to Nashville where she died in 1909.  It says a lot about her devotion to her husband that on her death certificate her occupation was listed as "Pastor's Wife" even though Lemuel Ransom had been dead for 25 years.  Priscilla is buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

Memphis Daily Appeal
October 24 1874
Yesterday morning the funeral of Rev. L.C. Ransom, the lamented pastor of the First Cumberland Presbyterian church, whose death has filled the hearts of the entire community with grief and regret, took lace.  The whole congregation, besides many persons of other churches and ministers of other denominations, assembled at the Cumberland church to testify their sorrow and their lament for the loved pastor, who had been called from earth in the prime of life and in the midst of a ministerial labor no less splendid in earnest faith and beautiful christianity than in the good results and great triumphs that characterized his efforts.  The interior of the church was draped in mourning, as was also the pulpit, in front of which the coffin was placed.  Rev. Dr. Sylvanus Landrum, of the Central Baptist church, Rev. Dr. E.C. Slater, of the Central Methodist church, Rev. W.E. Boggs, of the Second Presbyterian church, Rev. E. B. Surratt, of the First Methodist church, Rev. L.C. Taylor, of the Chelsea Cumberland Presbyterian church, Rev. J.C. Hook, Rev. G.A. Lofton, of the First Baptist church, Rev. Dr. J.O. Steadman, of the Alabama street Presbyterian church, Rev. W.D. Mayfield and Rev. Dr. George Tucker Steinback occupied seats in the pulpit.  

Rev. Mr. Surratt opened the Funeral Service by reading the hymn "Asleep in Jesus," which was then sung by the choir.  Ref. Mr. Lofton next read passages of scripture from the fourth and fifth chapters of Second Corinthians, and was followed in prayer by Rev. Mr. Boggs.  The choir then sung the first, fourth, fifth and sixth stanzas of hymn 671, as follows:

Now let our mourning hearts revive,
  And all our tears be dry;
Why should those eyes be drowned in grief,
  That view a Saviour night?

The eternal shepherd still survives,
  New comfort to impart;
His eye still guides us, and His voice
  Still animates our heart.

"Lo! I am with you," saith the Lord,
  Your safeguard and your guide;
"Your Saviour still and happy they
  Who in My love confide!"

Through every scene of life and death
  This promise is our trust;
And this shall be our children's song
  When we are cold in dust.

Rev. Dr. Steinback then delivered the funeral sermon.  He said that never in all the duties of his life had he discharged a duty so sad as this one, when he was about to pronounce the funeral sermon of the dearest friend on earth.  He was afraid his feelings would run riot over his judgment in the attempted discharge of this melancholy duty, and that he would be unable to discharge the important trust satisfactorily to himself and profitably to the audience.  He asked the aid of their prayers of grace in his efforts, and that the solemnity of the services would be sanctified to God.  He then read as the text for his sermon forty-sixth verse, first chapter St. John: "And Nathaniel said unto him: Can there any good things come out of Nazareth?  Philip saith unto him: Come and see."  It was only when we would elimenate (sic) in the life of a man some great truth, some great principle that may be potential in forming our character and worthy of our emulation that a contemplation of their lives was of good to them.  He thought it better and more conducive of good and interest to sketch the character of the deceased brother than to preach a funeral sermon, in the common meaning of that term, upon such an occasion.  There was not perhaps any passage in the scriptutres more expressive of the deceased brother's character than the one he had quoted--"Come and see." 

Rev. L.C. Ransom was born in Williamson county, Tennessee, October 21, 1831, and died in this city at ten o'clock last Wednesday, October 21, 1874.  At a camp-meeting at Jackson Ridge, in his native county, October, 1844, he made a profession of religion and joined the Cumberland Presbyterian church; and in 1845 was baptized by Rev. W.N. Finney.  Shortly after that he was impressed with a desire to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He had a struggle between what he considered his duty (to preach the gospel) and the fear of trusting himself to the sacred position without being called by God.  The struggle with himself in his desire to serve God was a struggle which the servants of God often have and are prepared to appreciate. This struggle lasted three years, but in 1848 he settled the question by devoting himself to the gospel ministry. October 7, 1848, he was received as a probationer, under the care of the elder presbytery.  He, however, felt himself totally insufficient for the discharge of the important trust God had now put upon him.  He was poor, and his parents were unable to give him the education which he deemed necessary.  Not deterred by this, however, he worked side by side with his father, tilled the fields, assisted his parents, and when the evening shades would come, this young man, with his eye singled out to the important task to which his God had called him, lit his torch and studied the work assigned him by the presbytery.  In November 1849, he entered Motley Academy, Marshall County, Tennessee, under the tuition of Rev. N.B. Motley, for whom he ever cherished the deepest affection.  In his journal he speaks of this teacher in grateful terms, and to his pious teachings attributes all the good and noble qualities that he may possess.  On the seventh of October, 1850, he was licensed to preach, and was advised to enter the work immediately and devote himself fully to the work of the ministry.  They said to him:  "go!-preach Christ, never mind the school now."  This, however, he did not do, for he thought he must prepare himself.  He attempted to enter an academy in the neighborhood; he failed, but does not give the reason.  We are left to infer that he did not have the means. Not discouraged, however, but determined to go forward and acquire the literary knowledge he deemed necessary, he succeeded through the kindness of a friend in entering Cumberland university, at Lebanon, and was there graduated.  While a student there he had charge of two neighboring country churches.  In April, 1855, he was ordained, and in June, 1855, he was graduated with honor, and immediately went south on a missionary tour, preaching to the destitute churches in Alabama.  On February 6, 1856 we find him in his first charge at Selma, Alabama, where he remained two years as a faithful laborer.  In 1860 he took charge of the St. Louis Cumberland Presbyterian church, which, at that time, was involved, and the property subsequently lost to its congregation.  There he labored earnestly, with the prospects of final success, which was prevented by the war.  Leaving St. Louis, he became chaplain of the twentieth regiment of Alabama volunteers, Confederates States army.  In that connection they labored and preached together to those brave boys who went down to the grave in defense of what they deemed a righteous and sacred cause.  While in that capacity, his labors were abundantly blessed.  They should have seen him at Vicksburg standing fearless amid the hissing of shell and the roar of cannon, he preached to the soldiers, and through his instrumentality many brave men were brought from darkness to light, and from the powers of Satan to God.  In 1863 he resigned as chaplain, and went to Selma, where he took charge of a church, and at the same time edited the Southern Observer with zeal and ability.  In 1866 he took charge of the Presbyterian church at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and labored there two years with signal ability and success.  In January, 1868, he became pastor of this, the First Cumberland Presbyterian church of Memphis, whose pulpit was draped in mourning, and lamenting the death of the beloved Davis.  A laborer, a worker in all the important trusts, subserving the interests of his Master's kingdom in all the relations of life, Ref. L.C. Ransom was true and faithful, as a son, a brother, a father, a friend, a patriot.  In all these different relations of life he met the full measure of a man, and conducted himself nobly and faithfully.  Above all, he was faithful to his God and to the immortality of his soul.  In these, the nobler and higher attributes, must be seen the greatness of the man. Of exalted piety, full of christian zeal and of the holy ghost, he was one whose soul could not rest in form or ceremony, but sought rest in the spirituality of God.  Ritualism had no place for him; he had no use for ceremonies and form, but looked through them and sought communion with God.  Religion was to him a grand principle that had its source in God, and form and ceremony found no lodgment in his heart.  His spirit held sacred communion with God, and this was the secret of his success and his devotion.  He was never idle, but always stimulated with faith, and labored earnestly in the cause of Christ.  Meek and lowly like his Saviour, he had taken the yoke on his shoulder and found rest at the foot of the cross.  The congregation might that day be baptized in the same spirit.  Whilst meek and lowly in heart. he was brave and fearless in duty.  No craven heart was beating in his bosom, and he was ever ready to stand up for Jesus, to give his reasons for his hope in Him and to advocate his Master's cause, irrespective of any and all surroundings.  He was a true christian--of great faith, that never wilted, but soared above earth and took hold on God under all surroundings.  Dr. Steinback then spoke of the faith in God which he manifested during the yellow-fever of last year.  He was not astonished that he was dead; up to the time he came here he had preached 1801 sermons and baptized 105 persons.  During his pastorage in Memphis he had preached 642 sermons, attended 132 funerals, baptized 154 persons, married 64 couples and made 3987 pastoral visits having made over 1000 in 1870. This was exclusive of other work.  He had attended every prayer-meeting and Sunday-school, and association. What a remarkable worker was he, considering his frail constitution.  He was a man full of labor to have made these pastoral visits, to bestir himself so zealously for the good of his flock--what a laborious life has this man of God spent among you in Memphis--this work caused his death. One cold, cheerless night last winter a young man, who was on his supposed deathbed, sent for this man of God, who was then confined to his couch with a severe cold.  When the messenger came for him at the midnight he said "I must go."  She who mourns him now so deeply said he must not go.  But he went out into the dark and cheerless night, and since then he was never well.  The death of such a man is a public calamity. Memphis has in his death lost a valuable man.  He went about relieving the poor and the distressed.  This man of God endeavored by all within his power to teach the people of Memphis the highest principles of virtue, morality and religion--and would that Memphis had a thousand such men.  This church felt the loss most severely--surely did it seem that this church had been afflicted.  Did they remember Brother Donnell, who years ago organized that church--not the present building, but an old house?  Brother Donnell had long gone to a better land, and he saw present in the audience but one who was in that organization.  Then there was Porter, the erudite and his encourager, who was sacrificed by yellow fever.  Next there was the saintly, persuasive Bryan.  Then came that man of God, the peerless Davis, whose energy and zeal had built the house; and he, too, was sacrificed.  No wonder the church was draped in mourning, the pulpit festooned in crape, and the hearts of the congregation bowed down in sorrow, for she had suffered a great and another loss.  but these humble and faithful men of God had not died in vain.  In Brother Ransom's death the ministers have also sustained a loss, and they would miss him when they came together; they would miss his advice and his wisdom.  He has gone, but gone to his God, and they would there meet him.  Was the loss hopeless? Was it irreparable? God did all things wisely, and they should bow to his will. Let us emulate his noble, christian faith and life, and 

"So live, that when our summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan that moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
We go not, like the quarry slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon; but sustain'd and sooth'd
By an unfaltering trust, approach the grave 
Like one that draws the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams."

Dr. Steinback's sermon was eloquent, fervid and impressive, there being scarcely a dry eye in the audience when he concluded.

Rev. Dr. Slater, of the Central Methodist church, then made a short address, in which he spoke of the virtues, the faith, and the christian meekness and piety of the deceased.  He knew him in early life, when quite a boy.  A better man he never knew.  He was without pretension, and in five years he had never heard him utter anything but what was seasoned with grace.  His whole ambition seemed to glorify his God.  He had left a rich legacy to this church. All their ministers had gone to heaven.  He lives, and will forever in the hearts of all.

Dr. Slater was followed by 

Rev. Dr. Landrum, of the Central Baptist church, who said he as well as others had lost a friend--not only a friend, but a christian.  Three years acquaintance endeared him to his heart.  He was among the first he met in Memphis, and their friendship grew all the warmer.  He alluded to the meetings of the ministers, and the great work the deceased brother had done.  The ministers in the different associations owed much to this clear, practical man.  No better a representative was among them of the symbol Jesus gave when he said: "unless ye become as little children ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."  He longed for the salvation of the people and believed in revivals.  His long heart's desire was the salvation of the people of Memphis. They would at the winter evening meetings miss the form of him who, by song, prayer and exhortation contributed so much to their meetings.  A child once, seeing the wooden props removed from under a bridge, asked his father if it would not fall.  He told him no, but that the props were removed so as to let the bridge rest on its foundation of stone.  As the props were removed from under the church, he hoped the members, would come to rest it on the solid foundations of God's great stonework. He read of an island in the sea whose men ventured in little boats far out into the ocean.  But their return was not always safe and easy; for often the fog and mist would settle on the waters, and hide the land, yet their wives and children would come down to the shore and sing aloud, so that the wanderers could know in what direction to steer their boats.  And now glad songs were singing by the band on the shore of the other world to them enveloped in the cheerless midst of this world.  he hoped they would take courage and have faith to reach the land whose songs were heard in the darkness of grief and sorrow.

At the conclusion of Dr. Landrum's remarks, the many persons present ook a last look at the loved form of him whose death has caused general sorrow in this community.  A hymn was then sung, and the coffin, followed by a long train of mourning friends, was borne to Elmwood cemetery, where the burial services were concluded by Rev. L.C. Taylor, and then the remains were hid away in a quiet grave, and the clods rattled coldly above the lvoed form of the pure and the pious man.  A last prayer was made, and he was left to sleep the dreamless sleep of the grave, and sorrowing friends retired from the sacred spot with sad memories that will linger long in their hearts and blossom in the coming years with affection and gratitude for the lamented pastor.
Originally posted in the Memphis Daily Appeal October 24 1874

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