Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Autobiography of Rev. Thomas S. Sheardown
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
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An Autobiography

By Thomas S. Sheardown



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Answers to Inquiries

The foregoing is the continuous narrative of Bro. Sheardown. In answer to points suggested, he has made the following additional statements;

How many believers have you baptized?—"Something over 1,400." It will be remembered that for eight years in England, and some time in America, he preached without ordination; and in protracted meetings, and on some missionary fields, the pastors generally attended to that ordinance.

How many sermons have you preached?—"I think, 12,000 sermons delivered by me during my ministry, would be quite a low estimate, and should not be surprised, if the exact number could be ascertained, if there were some thousands more. Between 1830 and 1836, while missionating, my sermons averaged nine a week—468 a year. In protracted meetings, I often preached three times a day for weeks in succession. In Penn Yan, during one meeting, I preached 79 sermons, (from two to three per day) there being but one sermon, by another brother, while I was preaching those 79—then, becoming somewhat exhausted, others preached alternately with me." As his public efforts cover half a century of time, and thirty years were most fruitful in varied labors, we should presume he may have made 20,000 religious addresses.

How many different meeting house, taverns, school and private houses, mills, &c. have you preached in?—"I could not undertake to say."

How much church have you been pastor of? "I was active in originating seven churches, and in resuscitating several others, of most of which I was regarded as pastor, for a longer or shorter period. But, excepting Troy (and perhaps Southport,) I never settled as pastor over a church formed by others."

Dates in the Life

1791—Born, near Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England

1805—Entered upon mercantile apprenticeship, aged 14

1809—Removed to London, aged 17

1812—Baptized in Hull, (Yorkshire), aged 21

1813—Commenced public religious efforts

1814—Married Miss Esther Grassam

1815—Received formal liberty to Itinerate

1818---Removed to Pontefract—Distress in England

1820---Spring. Visited France and Holland.

1820---Fall. Settled in America, at Covert, Seneca county, N.Y.

1821---May. My family reached me

1822---Attended the first Seneca Association

1824---United with the Covert Baptist Church

1826---Settled in the woods of Catlin, Chemung county

1827---Gathered a Baptist Conference

1828---Organized Catlin Baptist Church—was Licensed

1829---Ordained to the work of the Gospel ministry

1830---Commenced Mission work in Pennsylvania

1832---Caton Church formed (in "No. One.")

1834---Re-organized the present church in Reading

1844---Removed to Reading as the pastor

1848---Engaged in new interest at Jefferson (Watkins)

1852---Engaged in new interest at Hornellsville

1854---May. Removed to the Plank Road in Southport

1854---July. Death of Mrs. Esther G. Sheardown

1855---Married Mrs. Lorrin A. Soper

1860---Pastor at Troy, Bradford county, Pa.

Ordination Services

(From page 17 of the Catlin (now Catlin & Dix) Church Book—then kept by A. C. Mallory, Clerk—we extract the following proceedings of a Council held on the 11th of February, 1829)

Pastor Ordained

By request of the Baptist church in Catlin, a council convened in the log-house of Anthony Pierce, consisting of the following delegates from sister churches;

First Ithaca---Eld. John Sears, Bro. H. Wilson

First Covert---Dea. Lewis Porter, D. Wite

First Hector---Eld. J. Reynolds, S. Dolph

First Lodi---Eld. J. Fisk

First Elmira---S. Moore, Dea. J. Carpenter

The council organized by appointing Elder John Sears, Moderator, and J. Fisk, Clerk. After which the church presented Bro. Thomas S. Sheardown, for examination, relative to ordination. The council, after mature deliberation, unanimously

Resolved, That we are satisfied with the Christian experience of the candidate, his call to the ministry, and view of Christian doctrine and practice.

Resolved, That we proceed to the ordination of Bro. Thomas S. Sheardown.

Resolved, That Eld. Sears preach on the occasion.

Resolved, That Eld. Fisk give the right hand of fellowship.

Resolved, That Eld. Sears address the church and society.

The Benediction by the candidate.

Tribute to Mrs. Esther G. Sheardown

By a Lady Who Knew Her Intimately

I rejoice to learn that God has spared the life of our revered father Sheardown, until he has completed the history of those labors which were so eminently successful in the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom. I hail its publication as a coveted heritage, which we shall delight to transmit to our children.

But I remember, while I think of those untiring labors and sacrifices, of ONE who shared them all for many long years—not, indeed, before the public gaze, but, in the seclusion of her own quiet home, enduring hardships and bearing burdens, which must otherwise have rested upon him, thereby preventing him from engaging in those labors. I feel that, as David of old required the spoil of battle to be divided with those who stayed by the stuff, making it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day, so some honor is due to her memory for those unostentatious labors.

It is impossible for us, at this day, to have an adequate conception of the privations endured by the early settlers of our country, even when most favorably situated. But when we think of her living in a log house in the wilderness, often with none but her little children around her—feeding the cattle with her own hands, because no child was old enough to do it—in case of sickness, doctoring and nursing and watching the children—yea, and in one instance, when sudden illness came upon one of them, and she expected it must die before the morning, not daring to leave it, and, none of the others being old enough to go far for assistance in the darkness, preparing to lay out that little one with its own mother’s fingers—then we have a faint conception of some of the trials, which she cheerfully endured, that her companion might break the bread of life to the famishing.

One point deserves particular notice. Let her sorrows and privations in his absence be what they might, they were kept from him as much as possible, so that his mind should not be over-burdened with care. His return was always hailed with joy, by the whole family. But, much as she enjoyed his society, and necessary as might be his presence and aid to her comfort, she ever bade him go when those earnest Macedonian calls came—as they so often did—and followed him with incessant prayers for the blessing of God upon his labors.

For many years, his salary or compensation for preaching, was very small, rendering it necessary for her to use all the economy and ingenuity which she possessed to meet the wants of an increasing family. She could remember when it was different with her; and doubtless there sometimes arose before her vision the scene of that bridal morning, when her husband conducted her to her new home, furnished, from garret to cellar, with everything essential to comfort, and where the wedding breakfast awaited her, prepared by her own servants. She could recall, too, succeeding days of prosperity. But, if the recollection of those by-gone days gave a keener edge to the privations she was enduring for Christ’s sake, it was borne without repining. I do not believe a member of the church ever heard her boast of what she once possessed, or murmur on account of present privations. Patiently she strove to discharge every duty. Her family were always comfortably clad, appearing in the house of God neat and tidy in their apparel.

While there were none of the family old enough to take charge of the rest, she was prevented from sharing her husband’s labors abroad. But the church at home always enjoyed her presence and her counsels, in all its meetings, when it was possible for her to be there; and although we were sad because our loved pastor was absent, yet we were cheered by her exhortations and faithfulness in the service of Christ. The younger members of the church where she so long lived, looked up to her as to a mother in Israel, and many are the tender recollections of her loving kindness and anxious solicitude for their spiritual welfare, which some of them still cherish. She also strove to lead her own family in the narrow way, gathering them around the family altar in his absence, and commending them to a covenant-keeping God. As they grew in years, they shewed their affection for her by relieving her, as much as possible, from the burdens she must otherwise have borne—at times, taking the whole charge of the family, that she might accompany him in his labors of love, (a privilege which she much enjoyed, and well improved.) In the later years of her life, she had less of earthly care, and her religious privileges were greater, until finally she sunk to rest, beloved by all who knew her. Truly it may be said of her, "The memory of the just is blessed."


From Rev. Benj. R. Swick

Adams’ Basin, NY June 19, 1865

My Dear Brother—I have been thinking of you this morning, and concluded to write to you of the days that are past.

On the 2d of January, 1831, I was buried in baptism, and, as I trust, came forth from that grave to walk in newness of life. From the first, I was impressed with the duty of preaching the Gospel, but was anxiously inquiring how one so unlearned, and so poor in the things of this world, as I was, could ever be put into the ministry, to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ. In the providence of God, you came to Wayne, Steuben county, and preached, in a school-house near the outlet of the Little Lake. You employed as a text, the words of our Redeemer, as recorded in Isaiah, 50th Chapter 4th Verse: "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary." The earnestness of your matter in pointing out the wants of "the weary", and the knowledge of him to whom "the tongue of the learned" had been given, made an impression upon my mind that has never wholly passed away. Then and there was firmly fixed in my heart the necessity of presenting important truths with holy zeal. From that time until I began, in much feebleness, to preach the Gospel, there was an almost hourly recurrence of my mind to the doctrine deduced from that beautiful verse, and to the manner of its enforcement. Although I have never used that particular text for sermonizing, yet, for more than thirty years, I have "kept in memory what you preached to me," and, as I hope, "believe not in vain."

If time and space would allow, I should take pleasure in referring to your first field of labor, in Catlin. I once tried to preach to your people, when we, accompanied by a number of brethren, retired to a log house, in that then new country. We spent the first hours of the night in telling what the Lord had done for our souls, and then laid our weary bodies down upon the floor, to rest for a few hours, preparatory to another day of toil and night of preaching—for it was a time of the outpouring of the Spirit in that place. I should like to refer at length to the time when "Old Schoolism" had well nigh swallowed up the church of which I was pastor, in Hector. God sent you to my aid, and made you his instrument as a deliverer.

As you are nearer your home to-day, and as I hope to meet you again when we both have passed over Jordan, may I not ask you to pray for me that my faith fail not? And may the God of all grace strengthen your heart, and, after you have suffered all his will, perfect and settle you in his heavenly kingdom! Love to all,

Truly yours,

B. R. Swick

Sketches of Sermons

The following outlines of discourses were taken down, nearly thirty years ago, by a brother, who says in relation to them, "These sketches may convey some idea of Eld. Sheardown’s mode of treating a text, but I never knew him to take any written plan into the pulpit, or use one on any occasion. I do not believe he ever wrote one. He was among the most difficult of men to follow after, to make a report. I have many times taken pencil and paper, at the commencement of his sermon, and, after getting down perhaps two or three ideas, would become perfectly oblivious to all thoughts of writing, and find myself, at or near the close of the service, with mouth half open, and tears and sweat running profusely.

Text—Isaiah 50,11: "Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow."

Introduction.—The Christian has the promise of heaven and happiness—but these are not for the sinner.

The Word of God is compared to fire, and its effects to a furnace. Those characters kindle a fire of their own—one which God has not kindled. But their fire as neither light nor heat. It is counterfeit, and counterfeiters grow more skillful. Hence, ungodly men all have some creed. There are about seventeen hundred different systems of religious belief. We notice,

I. Some of the fires which men kindle.

1st. To blunt conscience, some kindle the fire of Atheism. 2d. Others, for the same purpose, deny such parts of the Bible as they cannot comprehend—yet they cannot tell which part is revealed, and which is not. 3d. Others deny the immortality of the soul 4th. Some embrace Univeralism. 5th. Some trust in their morality. 6th. Others expect to reach heaven because their pious parents had them sprinkled in infancy. 7th. Others trust in church membership, like Nicodemus, the High Churchman. But Jesus said, "Ye must be born again." Members of other churches satisfy themselves with the mere forms of religion. They enlist, but do not fight. 8th. Some try to live religion alone—make no profession, &c.

II. The consequences of so doing.

"Ye shall lie down in sorrow." This term, "lie down," has reference to the end of a journey. O, the sorrow of that soul that has expected heaven, and lies down in hell! "They shall have it at God’s hand"—no escape. Be not deceived!

Text—Zechariah 3, 9: "Upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the gnawing thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day."

Introduction:--Jesus Christ is often spoken of under the figure of a stone. "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone." Notice, that the eyes are not in the stone, but looking "upon" it.

1st. The eye of God was upon Christ, for the fulfillment of the covenant between them. 2d. The eye of divine Justice. 3d. Angels were looking ministers, &c. 4th. The eyes of wicked men—they recoiled, mocked, whipped, &c. 5th. Devils looked. 6th. Saints looked. 7th. The eye of Mercy was upon him.

"I will engrave," &c. Anciently, the corner stone had the initials of the architect engraved upon it. So Christ—and he showed the engraving when he said to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger," &c. "He hath upon his vesture and upon his thigh a name written."

"Remove the iniquity," &c. "Christ has become the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." "By his stripes we are healed." "Now no condemnation," &c. Christ has "spoiled death," &c—He has dragged death and hell at his chariots wheels—when he rose, a mighty Conqueror, &c.

His manner during pulpit ministrations was peculiar to himself, and no attempt at imitation could be made without spoiling the picture. Before service, he would walk the aisles, singing, and shaking hands with each one who came in. In prayer, he left the impression upon his hearers that he walked and talked with God. In reading hymns, and preaching, he gestured much. After reading the text, he usually laid the Bible upon the seat behind him, and, as he warmed in the work, would sometimes, lay off his coat, then his cravat and collar, and, for about an hour, would pour forth, in a manner indescribably attractive and impressive, thoughts that were a "wonder to many."


A Fugitive Epistle

(At the time of Bro. Sheardown’s removal to Southport, his goods were sent to him from Havanna, but—very unfortunately—one box, containing his choicest private papers, &c., became mislaid, and he has since had no tidings from it. The loss to him, in preparing the sketch of his long and checkered life, was great, but has been very well supplied by his most remarkable memory of minute particulars as well as prominent events. There happens, however, to have been preserved in the family, one letter, to the wife of his youth, which we venture here to insert, as a specimen of his yearnings for the endearments of home, even while his whole heart was engaged in carrying out the spirit of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: "Watch then in all things; endure afflictions; do the work of an evangelist; make full proof of thy ministry.")

Walworth, January 10, 1843

My Dear Esther—Having a few moments to spare, I have commenced another epistle to you, hoping you received my last in season. When we cannot see each other, it is good to converse in black and white, for thoughts on paper are better than none at all. Through the mercy of God, my health is good as usual. "The Lord is my portion, I shall not want." The field is a hard one, but God has done a good work here, and I hope will do more. I shall not finish this, until I sum up in this place. May the Lord bless you, my sister—good night!

Wednesday Evening—Another day is past, and I am seated in my room, thinking about you and the dear children. When I think of home, in a moment I seem to be there. But, alas! I will say no more about it, or you will think I am homesick. You have always indulged me in my childish notions, and if I live to get home I expect you will still have to bear with me. Through mercy, my health is very good. Had a visit, to-day, from Bro. Griswold, the pastor with whom I hold my next meeting. He is a good soul, and has a precious wife. I think I shall have a good home, and this I know will be pleasing to you. I am as happy as circumstances will permit. My love to the children. Yours, my dear sister, in a precious Saviour—good night!

Thursday Evening—We have had a good meeting. I have labored hard, but my health holds out well. I have got two fine, new flannel shirts, which you know I stood in want of, and how many more clothes I shall have to get before I come home I cannot tell, but you can trust me not to get anything but what I really want. What adds to the pleasure of the evening, is your letter, which came safe to hand just as the meeting was out. The consolation it afforded, almost over-powered me, for I had been thinking, last night, whether you would answer my letter or not. Nothing could have been more seasonable to me. Do not neglect sending to the office, as I may write often. I would say something more, but I remember you showed my letter to the girls, so you must guess for yourself. Now, my dear sister, you know I love you. Good night, &c.

Friday Evening—The day and the night are both alike unto the Lord. My health is yet good, but I find my sheet is filling up, and I have said nothing about Bro. French and wife, who made their appearance in our meeting. The snow was going so fast they had to go home, but I visited with them about all night, and a good visit it was.

I have found a better pen, so I thought I would write a little more this evening, for to-morrow night I expect to be very tired. Covenant meeting at one o’clock. It will be hard work to get the converts out, for there are few members in the church that have any meaning qualifications. Tell John, if he is a faithful boy, he will have a suit of clothes for his name. I may go and spend a week with Bro. French before I come home. That, you will perhaps think, is too bad—to visit any one before I visit you. But I think you made me promise to do so: if not, I know you will forgive me, for you are aware that I never lay out many nights on my way home.

I am thinking about old John Bunyan’s "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners." That is the foundation of my hope.

Now, my dear sister, what other pledge can I give you of my heart being yours, than you have had for nearly thirty years? My love to the dear children and converts—good night!

Saturday Evening—Have had a good day—the Lord be praised—four were received by letter, and twenty-one by experience, and I expect a few more in the morning. I hope the Lord will be in our midst. I hope you will have a good day in Catlin. I know not what to say about the business that is to take place on the 25th inst., only that I cannot be there. I feel for you, my dear Esther, but that will not relieve you. May the Lord support you! I hope nothing will take place to injure the cause of Christ. You must give my love to the children; keep them as comfortable as you can, and dispose of everything to the best advantage. Let the girls manage, and you keep as still as you can. Don’t let me come home and find you, as I did the last time, all worn out; if I do, it will almost kill me. Good night, my dear sister—may the Lord bless you!

Sunday Evening—This must finish. Have had a good day—twenty-three strong candidates were baptized, most of whom came out of the water rejoicing in the Lord. Bro. Bennett did up the business about right. I open to-morrow evening if God will, at Marion. Expect to have a visit from Eld. Church, of Rochester, next Thursday. Tell Samuel to take good care of the stock. If you get tired of paying postage, you must say so. My love to the converts, and brethren and sisters. I am, dear Esther,

Your affectionate husband,

T. S. Sheardown

To His Children

(One of the daughters of Bro. Sheardown, has furnished a few letters from the father, while evangelizing, from which we make characteristic extracts)

January 31st—Perhaps this is the most wicked place I ever saw. It contains about 2,000 inhabitants. The church was very low, and everything seemed against us, yet the blessed Lord has, in great kindness, come down to His people. Seven were baptized yesterday, and three have told their experience to-day. Our house was flooded to overflowing. May the Lord pour down His Spirti upon this community, and save, from the wrath to come, a multitude of souls! How much we need faith and unshaken confidence in God! I expect to see a great display of redeeming grace in this benighted region, and the Lord of hosts in his war chariot of salvation riding through in great power and majesty, destroying the works of Satan—February 1st. "The Lord (said David) is on my right hand: I shall not be greatly moved." My health is as usual—my lungs somehat torpid. The pastor and his wife are Holy Ghost Christians—first-best workers—may the Lord make them a great blessing to this place! Everybody comes to meeting. We are every day putting on more team; the Gospel plow is in to the beam, and if under God we can put on strength to take her throught, shall cut a large and deep furrow. Holy Spirit, come! You must excuse a short letter, as I am in great haste. I shall write to mother this week. My love to all the dear friends. Tell ____ I am yet praying for her—she must see well to her soul. I am, dear children,

Your affectionate father,

Thos. S. Sheardown

April 14th—According to promise, I drop you a line to say that I arrived safe in this place, up to the eyes in mud. But the situation of the roads was nothing compared with the situation of the church, which is split up and divided, so that, out of one hundred members, often, not more than five brethren attend the meetings. There are large congregations of sinners in the evenings, and some are under conviction, but there is little strength in Zion. There are more unconverted people in the place than I ever saw for the number of inhabitants, and if we can get the church in its place, I shall expect a might revival, but at this time all is dark.—April 16th. Yesterday was something of a good day. Eigth or ten members were out; the rest were strangers, and people of other denominations. Evening, a large congregation; one soul converted, and some deeply convicted. "Lord, send prosperity." If there is a breach made in the walls of infidelity, I shall expect to see a mighty breaking down. Visited a Deist yesterday, and asked the privilege to pray. He said he would not say that I should not pray in his house; I might pray for myself, but not for him. So I bowed down and prayed for myself and just such a man as he is. I think he must have thought, if it did not mean him, it must have meant his brother. He and his wife attend meeting, and I have a great anxiety for their conversion.—Sabbath afternoon. A full house, this morning. Preached from Numbers 35: 12. Had a conference with the brethren in the vestry, and they gave their pledge to attend this week more than they have done. Four souls are rejoicing in God, and I hope for many more. The ague is beginning to show itself here. My health is not very good, to-day. I have a very good home—accommodations just what I wanted—two good rooms, and a good bed with clean and warm flannel sheets. Pray for me. "All is well."

January 4th—Through the mercy of God, I continue to this day." There is nothing I have ever known on earth that will compare with the season we have had here. It required special meetings, and help from sister churches, to remove the rubbish out of the way. Some members were excluded, and some restored. For an old place, I have never seen so much ignorance (in spiritual things). One young man, a member of the church, when asked by the pastor, in a special meeting, if he meant to try to live relivion, said he did not know—he had not made up his mind yet! I thought, "what will come next?" At length, the Lord appeared for us. Last night, there were about sixty on the anxious seat—backsliders, and convicted sinners—and ten we hope have been converted. Today we had a season of fasting and prayer. It is the middle of the third week, and we are only beginning to work. With a few exceptions, I have been preaching all the time to the church. Some new cases came forward to-night. May the Spirit of the Highest come down! I have been loading and firing all the time, and am almost tired out. Lord, give me strength—January 6th. Things are a little better-anxious increasing—some more conversions—but a great want of deep travail in the church. They want me at Palmyra, Webster, &c., &c.—January 9th. In the multitude of business, I have delayed my letter until now. We have over twenty converts, and I expect to hear of more in the morning. Some went home much pressed down in spirits: may they find the Fountain of Life to-night! The snow is all gone, and we are in the mud as flat as a griddle, but I hope for more snow if it is the Lord’s will. I am beginning to sound the converts about going into the water on Sunday next. If I do not get home until spring, perhaps may send for mother to visit with me when I get through.

January 24th—God is doing a great work here—between sixty and seventy converts—about 150 anxious—and this only the second week.—The situation of things in Reading is all new to me, and I am perfectly unprepared to say anything upon the subject. If I had any inclination to go there, I should be the last man to manifest it until the ground were clear. I have always loved the brethren and sisters in Reading, but that is not to say that I should preach for them. I have no time to reflect upon such important engagements as long as I am in a protracted meeting. I expect to return home in March, if God will, and then will pay the subject the attention its importance demands. My health is better than I could expect—for which I would be very thankful. Yours, &c.

February 18th—I embrace a few moments, stolen from the time afforded me for rest and reflection, to inform you that I am in rather better health than when I left you. My labor is of the hardest kind, but God is here. He has converted a goodly number of the youth, and is just beginning to pull down the tall oaks of Bashan. There is trouble in the camp of the enemy. The Prince of Darkness of full of wrath. He cannot break his chain, but ‘tis frightful to see him gnaw his tongue for pain as we expose his hidden iniquities. We hope, by the grace of God, to strip the veil from his dark abode. We are at work against some of his strongholds, such as bar-rooms, gambling shops, houses of ill-fame, &c., and he begins to think it is hard times. His kingdom in this ungodly village must take a severe shaking. The pastor is a man after my own stopping-place. Thanks to my heavenly Father, "the lines have fallen to me in a pleasont place." You must be satisfied with a short letter—so many are dinging at me, some to hold a meeting, and others offering a large salary to become their pastor, &c. I seldom retire before 12 or 1 o’clock, and arise, by candle-light in the morning. My heart and hands are full, but God is with me. Love to all the dear friends. Yours, &c.

February 22d—Yours came to hand this morning, for which I was very thankful. Many things in it gave me much pleasure. That your family visit was harmonious and pleasant, was gratifying news. I should have been happy to have been at home, but I am about my Master’s business. We are holding upon the Arm of strength. The Lord is on our side, we will not fear what man can do. Souls are coming into the kingdom—some thirty-five converts, and a number of anxious. We had one baulky horse in the team, who threw himself and fell directly in the gateway, and we thought we should have to try to get him up or skin him on the ground—but, finally, put a rope to his leg. There are more churches than ministers. If it is my duty to come to Reading, the door will be opened by the brethren in season. My health has been very poor, but I feel smart again, and better than I have done for some months. Yours, &c.

For A Daughter’s Album

Youth has fled, and manhood’s failing,

Silvered locks, and furrowed brow,

Trembling limbs and painful feelings—

Think, O think upon me now!

Soon I’ll pay the debt of Nature,

Soon shall part with those I love;

Jesus smiles—O, blessed feature!

All in all in Heaven above.

Dear Eliza! You shall meet me

Far in yonder world of light;

In Heaven above, I hope to greet thee

Filled with rapture and delight.

Jefferson, April 12, 1850 Thomas S. Sheardown

Mrs. Esther G. Sheardown

(From the correspondence of Prof. Alexander Ten Brook in the "New York Baptist Register," of Utica, we extract the following tribute to the memory of the model wife of a pastor.)

July 24, 1854

Having spent a day in visiting friends at Factoryville, in company with my classmate, Rev. J. T. Seeley, now of Dundee, on the Seneca Lake, I am again at Elmira. The principal object for which we came hither at this time, was to be present at the recognition of a church at Pine Woods. I alluded to it, once before, as made up of original members of the Elmira church, whose help at the village is no longer needed, and promises to be very efficient in this new interest. The recognition was to have been on the 19th inst., but an afflictive providence defeated it.

Mrs. Esther Sheardown, the wife of the chosen pastor, having been for some time very ill, and her death daily expected, died on the 20th, at the age of sixty-one years. She was born in the city of Hull, England, and there baptized, forty-six years ago; and, forty years ago, married, in the same place, Rev. T. S. Sheardown. It is enough to say of her that she was the worthy wife of one, who, although he may not be reckoned among the great men of the world, (as he himself would doubtless object to this,) was nevertheless the man whom, for the past twenty-five years, God has chosen to bless in the conversion of men, and the building up of the churches, beyond any man that has ever labored in this section of the State. Those churches, in Chemung, Steuben, Allegany, Yates, Seneca, and Monroe counties—for he has been greatly blessed in preaching several times of late in the city of Rochester—little know how much they are indebted to his wife for the labor which he has performed. She made it her greatest care to so attend to the family, and even in some respects to the church, in his absence, as to make it possible for him to be almost constantly engaged in those evangelical labors, at home and abroad, by which thousands have been made to rejoice. The same desire was shown on her death-bed, by inquiring, on the morning of her last Sabbath on earth, in the near prospect of death, about his readiness to go to his public duties. She expected to die, and had nothing to do but make arrangements for it. She called Rev. C. N. Chandler, pastor of the church in Elmira, and mentioned to him the text from which she wished him to preach, to the people, a sermon on the occasion of her funeral; and on Thursday she expired, in the ever-brightening hope of a blessed immortality. She was buried, the following day, at Havanna, where one of her sons is settled. The sermon on the occasion was from Rev. 14:13: "Blessed are the dead," &c., the passage which the deceased had selected.

From Eben B. Campbell, Esq.

Phelps Mills, Clinton Co., Pa., Feb. 27, 1865

Rev. Thomas Mitchell:

Dear Sir—I am glad indeed that the auto-biography of my dear friend, Rev. Thomas S. Sheardown, is about being published, and would wish to have at least ten copies.

About the year 1841, I became acquainted with Bro. Sheardown, through my first wife; and the late Bro. Elijah DePui, of Tioga,, where I resided, always spoke of him in the most kind and feeling manner. After moving to this place, about 1847, my wife urgently pressed me, time and again, to ask "father Sheardown" to come here and preach the Gospel. But it seems as if it had been ordered that my dear wife was no more to hear that voice call sinners to repent, and, ere he could arrange to come, she was called to her home on high.

In the winter of 1860, father Sheardown came, and preached nine evenings at the Mills—aiding our pastor, bro. J. Anderson Kelly, (now Agent of the University at Lewisburg.) In a short time, many of the workmen, their wives and children, became alarmed at their situation, and the result of the meeting was the conversion of some thirty precious souls. It was a remarkable work of grace, and we feel among us, to-day, the effects of that blessed season. Some of the converts have already gone to their rest, and I am truly happy to say that, out of all those spared, not one has turned again unto the world.

One interesting conversion, which occurred about the time of that revival, I will give at some length. Three young men were about starting to school. One of them became deeply concerned for his soul’s salvation. The time arrived for the school to open, and his companions urged him to leave with them. He replied, "No—I will find Christ, first." He did find Him, united with the Jersey Shore church, and then went on to his studies. In April, 1861, he was among the first of those of our noblest and best youth, who volunteered for the preservation of the flag of our country. He wrote home, often—and although, in his letters to his pastor, he said the camp was a hard place in which to lead a Christian life, yet he seemed thoroughly devoted to his Saviour. In June, he was accidentally shot, by one of his comrades. He told them not to feel bad—it was all right—God was about to call him home—exhorted them to be prepared for death; and, in four hours after receiving his wound, he fell asleep in Jesus. The church brought his body home, and have erected a suitable monument in memory of ALBERT KISSELL.

Time presses me. I could give pages of interesting matter from scenes arising through those blessed meetings.

Remember us kindly to Bro. Sheardown and wife. Our earnest prayer is that God will lead him very gently down the declivity of live, and give him an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, in Heaven, there to meet those redeemed souls whom he has been an instrument in bringing to the cross.

I am yours very truly,

E. B. Campbell

Testimonial of Chemung River Association

(In the Minutes of the eighteenth session of this body, held with the church in Hornby, September, 1860, we find the following proceedings)

In place of the closing sermon, Father Sheardown gave some very touching and pleasant reminiscences of the Association, saying, he had been with it, from its birth, until now; had seen the churches planted and grow up, under the toil and watch-care of himself and his brethren; and referred to the history of particular churches and to the struggles and self-denial of individual members, in such a manner as to melt every heart, and bring tears from every eye. All felt that it was good to be there, as they sat at the feet of the father and received his benediction.

The following preamble and resolutions were then unanimously adopted:

"As our venerable father in the ministry, Rev. Thomas S. Sheardown, who has been for so many years a member of this body, and whose faithful and efficient labors have done so much in enlarging and building up the churches, is about to remove to another State, therefore

"Resolved. That we look upon his removal from this body with deep regret, and that we will ever remember him, in his relations to us, with feelings of pleasure and gratitude, especially as a safe counselor, a valuable friend, a defender of the truth, sound in the faith, and abundant in good works.

"Resolved. That we cordially recommend him to the confidence and fellowship of all of God’s people, everywhere, and especially of the church and community to which he is soon to remove."

From a Returned Missionary

Covington, Pa. July 17, 1865

Brethren Worden and Case:

I have been so anxious to learn the principal facts in the history of Eld. Sheardown, that I had resolved to make several journeys, of twenty miles or more, to learn from his own lips some of the incidents of his remarkable life. I am thankful that the dealings of God with him are now recorded, and that a book is to be published which will permanently embalm what would otherwise perish with his mortal life.

Since my return from Burmah, I have not only admired him as a preacher, but loved him as a father. I shall never forget the prayer he offered after my first attempt to preach before the Tioga Association. His warm sympathy deeply affected me. And the prayer (as on other occasions) was so marked by directness, unction, fervency, and choice words, that almost the whole audience was bathed in tears.

Since then, I have often heard him preach. His familiarity with the Bible, his profound knowledge of human nature, reasoning powers, glowing imagination, good voice, ease, and grace of expression, coupled with strong faith, devotion to his Master, and a yearning love for souls, render him a prince of preachers.

His memory is a treasury of illustrations. On one occasion, wishing to show that plainness in preaching, though apparent severity, was real kindness, he spoke of an English ship, that was almost wrecked, a short distance from a certain fort. As the ship’s crew were about to give up in despair, the guns of the fort opened upon them. "Alas!", cried those on board, "the howling storm and hungry waves have almost destroyed us, and now our friends on the shore are about to complete our misery and destruction by firing upon us." But those were friendly shot—for, as they flew harmlessly over the ship, they conveyed to it the rope, by which the sailors were all brought safely to the shore. The ministers of Christ are like those friendly guns—startling and terrifying in their denunciations of sin, but aiming at the highest welfare of hearers in their eternal salvation.

On another occasion, at a covenant meeting, a number of candidates were received for baptism. A note of discord was sounded, which threatened to mar the harmony, and destroy in a measure the good effect of the meeting, if it did not lead to subsequent bitterness. "Stop, brethren," said Eld. Sheardown,--"we must be careful what we do and say in the presence of these converts. Two old sheep were quarreling—and, as they rushed to butt their foolish heads, a lamb in its innocent gamboling ran between them, and was instantly killed." The influence of this little story was most happy—the objectionable matter was dropped and harmony was restored to us.

Yours, affectionately,

G. P. Watrous


The writer, conversing with Eld. Sheardown upon his pioneer experience, heard him state that coming home one night, late and weary, he found at his barn eight strange horses, to be fed and cared for. They belonged to persons coming to settle in Catlin, or who had gone that way to spend the night in social intercourse. He went at the work cheerfully, accomplished it thoroughly, and only alluded to it to show the influx of population, and the peculiar demand for patience and large room often required by new settlers.

When young in the ministry in America, and still wearing that serviceable English drab coat, he was invited to preach to a large congregation where he was not generally known. An aged sister asked who that man was who had just entered the pulpit? She was informed that it was "the new minister, from Catlin." She sighed as she remarked, "Well, we sha’n’t have much from him—I don’t know what he looks like." While the stranger, however, made strong and rapid progress in his sermon, the late hopeless objector kept jogging the elbow of the sister next to her with the information. "He’s a perfect sing’d cat—a sing’d cat!"

As an illustration of the arduous character and wide scope of country covered by his labors, this anecdote may suffice: A preacher (then lately ordained) undertook to carry out Elder Sheardown’s engagements, during one missionary voyage of something like a fort-night’s duration. On his return, the substitute confessed: "I did the best I could to keep up with the Elder’s appointments, but came out three days behind, although I wore the skin from the back of my horse, and my shirt was not dry for two weeks."

Several persons were endeavoring to drive an undesirable mastiff out of a preaching place, when he ran to the desk where the Elder was standing. The latter coolly remarked, "Without are dogs," and gave an "effectual" kick which sent the interloper out of doors.

On one occasion, the Universalists had made extra-ordinary efforts to keep people away from a revival meeting—but in vain. The house was crowded, pulpit and all. While waiting for the moment to open services, Eld. Sheardown asked a convert, standing upon the pulpit stairs, to say a few words to the people, expressive of his feelings. He had been rather a prominent man among the unbelievers, one of whom, standing under the pulpit, looked up and exclaimed audibly—probably, however, not intending to be uncivil, but astonished beyond measure—"It beats the Devil! They’ve got Mr. ____!" (calling the convert by name.) The Elder brought his hands together pretty loudly as he rejoined, "I always thought the Universalists believed there was a Devil!"

Speaking of the late "beloved disciple," John Peck, of New Woodstock, N.Y., and of his two sons, Philetus and Linus, as all excellent men and superior preachers, Eld. Sheardown added, "Indeed, I never knew an Elder Peck who was not a full half bushel." A lady who was present, observed, "That is rather complimentary—my mother was a Peck."—"Very well," was the response, "then you are just half a Peck."

One soweth and another reapeth.—In one case, Elder Sheardown felt almost cast down in view of the fact that he had seen but little fruit from a most earnest consecration of himself and Christian friends to the good of souls in a public effort. Not long after, while he was laboring quite a distance away, a precious revival was enjoyed on his late field, and many of the converts "dated back" their awakening or their converting exercises to the comparatively forgotten time of Eld. Sheardown’s preaching. This fact, related to us by the "reaper" who gleaned the sheaves of the "sower" who had not that opportunity, should be an additional incentive for laborers to "sow beside all waters," and to trust in God that the fruit of sincere efforts for human good and divine glory will appear in due season.

Good singing always had an inspiring effect with Eld. Sheardown, and his large fund of "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," enabled him to strike the right key-note at any stage of protracted or other religious exercises. One of the most affecting and melting prayers we ever heard offered, was in 1864, before the Baptist State Convention at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on behalf of a little company of superior singers, over whom his compassionate soul yearned, for the reason that some among them had never learned to sing, in spirit, the song of redemption. An incorrect or feeble performance of that part in worship, was sometimes a drag upon his mental activity. It is related that in an instance of comparative failure, he observed—with the slight English accent which sometimes marks his speech—"You must sing that hover."

In his forgiving disposition, he has overlooked one personal misfortune. While preaching in Troy, one evening in the winter of 1862, he put his favorite young bay mare under the meeting-house sheds, from which she was taken away, with the harness, cutter, two robes, driving gloves, and whip. He has never since heard form the animal, nor from the graceless thief in that character. We do the latter (we hope) justice in venturing the opinion, that he could not have known Eld. Sheardown, and did not even guess that the finest establishment there, by him selected, belonged to a poor old Baptist minister!..