One of Columbus’ historic homes needs a friend.
The Rev. Thomas C. Teasdale, who served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbus from 1858 to 1863, cared about children, so he accomplished the near impossible during the Civil War.
He was able to get both Confederate President Jefferson Davis and U S President Abraham Lincoln to sign the same document allowing him to carry needed supplies to the Mississippi Orphans Home. Now, the Columbus home, purchased for him by the First Baptist Church in 1858, is in need of some tender loving care.
Today Teasdale is best known, not for his accomplishments, but for the marker at his grave site in Columbus’ Friendship Cemetery. The story I always heard was that he was such a good man that when he died even the angels cried. His square in the cemetery is marked by the statue of an angel draped weeping over an alter. It is Friendship Cemetery’s famous crying angel. Teasdale actually was one of America’s leading religious figures of the mid-1800s.
Teasdale’s assistance from both Davis and Lincoln was not a matter of luck. He knew both of them. He had already established a national reputation before coming to the First Baptist Church in Columbus. Born in New Jersey, he attended the Hamilton, New York Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1830. His ministry carried him across America from there.
The first church served by Teasdale was in East Bennington, Vermont. He then moved to a church in Philadelphia followed by both heading a high school and a church in Newton, New Jersey and a church in Lafayette, New Jersey. From there, he went to the First Baptist Church of New Haven, Connecticut. Then he went to Pittsburgh and to Springfield, Illinois, where he got to know a lawyer named Abraham Lincoln.
About 1851, he became pastor of E Street Baptist Church in Washington, D C. and became influential in Washington theological circles. In 1853, he was one of 13 ministers nominated to be the chaplain for the U.S. House of Representatives. He finished third in the voting. It was while he was in Washington that Union College in New York awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
In February 1858, Teasdale held services in Mobile and then proceeded to Columbus for a four-week revival at First Baptist Church. The church had been without a full-time pastor for over a year. The revival was an unexpected success with over 400 people coming forward to profess their faith. He then held revivals in Aberdeen, Starkville, Crawford, Macon and a small church in Columbus that was one and a half miles from First Baptist. He was then offered the position as pastor of First Baptist in Columbus.
Though the church had never paid its pastor more than a $1,500 yearly salary, Teasdale insisted on $2,500 and a house. The church agreed, but it was not to be just any old house as Teasdale had specified he wanted only a certain “excellent house” near the church. The house now known as Taynore was purchased by the church for $7,000 and became the parsonage as requested by Teasdale.
Teasdale fondly recalled in his autobiography the home that had been built in 1852.
“The house is well located, and is only two sides of a square from the meeting-house…and it then contained about thirty bearing fruit trees. The house embraces four large rooms, and a little bed-room for children, besides a commodious dining-room. The kitchen was then separate from the main building…There is a spacious hall running through the center of the building, and a porch in front extending the whole length of the building. There were also then on the place good out buildings, and an excellent garden spot. Altogether it was a very desirable parsonage.”
Teasdale left his position as pastor in 1863 to become an evangelist for the Confederate army. He became the Financial Agent for the Mississippi Orphans Home toward the end of the war. It was in that capacity in February 1865 that he traveled to Richmond and Washington to get permission to sell cotton and tobacco in order to purchase food, clothing and medicine in the North for the Mississippi Orphans Home.
Though he attempted to keep the plan and trip quiet, Teasdale was too famous a minister to go unnoticed. His arrival in Washington and mission was reported by that city’s press, including the March 16, 1865 Washington Evening Star that reported, “Rev. Dr. Teasdale, for many years a prominent divine in Washington…(was) on a mission to obtain food for the starving women and children.”
The press gave him little chance of success.
He continued to work with the Orphan’s Home and to preach across the South after the war ended. In 1870, he was corresponding secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and in 1873, he accepted a position as chair of rhetoric and elocution at the University of Tennessee. He was one of the South’s leading revivalists during the 1870s and 1880s. Teasdale is credited with baptizing over 3,000 people and witnessing a profession of faith by some 15,000 others. The Knoxville (Tennessee) Daily Chronicle in 1880 referred to him simply as “the great evangelist,” and in 1881, the Memphis Public Ledger called him “one of the most eminent divines of the Baptist Church.”
He died in Columbus in 1891 at the age of 82.
While Teasdale’s weeping angel at Friendship Cemetery has become an iconic Columbus image, his home, Taynore, has fallen onto hard times. It is a home that, though now overlooked, was pictured in The Pelican Guide to Old Homes of Mississippi in 1977 as one of the most significant historic homes in Columbus. Just as Teasdale cared for and befriended so many during his life, someone now needs to befriend his historic home.
Rufus Ward is a local historian. Email your questions about local history to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rufus Ward is a Columbus native a local historian. E-mail your questions about local history to Rufus at email@example.com.
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