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Notes on Hosea Lot Holcombe

Hosea Lot Holcombe was a very prominent citizen in both the Carolinas and Alabama. I have included various published accounts of his life in this biography. 

A detailed biography may be located in the book written by Hosea Lot Holcombe entitled A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama, King and Baird (Philadelphia : 1840) 375 pages. Copies of this book are available for viewing at The Sons of the American Revolution Library, 1000 South Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40203 and at the Jefferson County Historical Society, 20 North 21st Street, Birmingham, AL 35203. Pages 118-119 of this book are also discussed in "The Alabama Historical Quarterly" (17:4, Winter 1955, page 392).

Hosea Lot Holcombe was the son of Hosea and Phoebe "Phebe" Smith. He was born near Cross Keys, Union District, South Carolina on July 20, 1780. At age 20 he united with Padgett's Creek Church. 

Hosea Lot Holcombe married his first cousin, Cassandra Jackson, in Union District, South Carolina, June 7, 1801. Cassandra's mother, Martha Smith Jackson, was a sister to Lott's mother, Phebe Smith Holcombe.

By the age of 22 he was licensed to preach. In 1812, he resided in Lincoln County, North Carolina where he was pastor of the Hebron Baptist Church. Hosea came from North Carolina at the time when Rev. Reuben Ross was a leader in the state. He was a strong influence oh Hosea. He moved to Alabama in 1818 and founded the Ruhama Church in Birmingham in 1819. He wrote "A Reply to Rev. Finis Ewings Lecture on the Subjects and Modes of Baptisms: Being a Veneration of Believers Baptismů" Tuscaloosa, Alabama Expositors Office, 1833 103 pages. He also wrote, "A Refutation of the Rev. Joshua Lawrence's Patriotic Discourse: or Anti Mission Principles Exposed". Tuscaloosa, Alabama Intelligence Office, 1836. On March 27, 1819, he started the Ruhama Baptist Church where he was pastor from 1819 to 1821. He founded Hebron in 1819, Rock Creek 1822, Ropes Valley 1827, Union 1833. He also was the pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Jefferson County, Alabama. Hosea was calm and steadily poised in judgment, dominated by the grace within him. He settled at Jonesboro just outside Birmingham, Alabama. The Rev. Hosea Holcombe died on July 31, 1841. He labored 25 years to spread the Baptist faith. He wrote a history of the State's Baptist movement that was not published until after his death. He was buried near Jonesboro and his grave was neglected until Frank Barnett helped erect a marker in 1912. 

Hosea Lott Holcomb was a Baptist preacher, well-known evangelist, and church organizer. He wrote the book A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama. It contains a short history of the Baptists from the apostolic age down to the present time. It is interspersed with anecdotes and concludes with an address to the Baptists of Alabama. In 1819 and 1820, Lot served the Enon Baptist Church, Jefferson County, Alabama. This church is located at 724 Morris Majestic Road, Morris, Alabama 35116. Beginning in 1830, Lott served with four others as member of the Mount Zion Missionary Board in Alabama.

Lot Holcomb assumed his father's name when Hosea (1755-1789) died.

Jefferson County Census 1830
D J Holcombe male 1 under 5, 1 20 to 30 female 2 under 5, 1 20 to 30

Hosea Holcombe male 1 under 10, 1 40 to 50, 2 15 to 20 female 1 40 to 60 1 5 to 10 1 10 to 15 1 20 to 30

Thomas Holcombe male 1 20 to 30 female 1 20 to 30

Isaac Barger male 1 10 to 15 1 15 to 20 1 50 to 60 female 1 5 to 10 1 10 to 15 1 40 to 50 1 60 to 70 1 slave

Hosea Holcombe was born near Cross Keys in Union District South Carolina on July 20, 1780, the son of Hosea and Phoebe Smith Holcombe. At age 20 he joined Padgett's Creek Baptist Church in South Carolina. He was licensed to preach, and later ordained as a Baptist minister about 1805. He and his family moved from South Carolina to a new farm in Lincoln Co. North Carolina before 1812. Soon afterward he compiled a book of church hymns, but no known copy exists today. One of the earliest pastors of Hebron Baptist Church, Holcombe helped establish the Mountain Meeting House, one of the churches affiliated with the Broad River Baptist Association.

The Bethel Baptist Association in South Carolina was formed in 1789. "From this in a few years were formed the Broad River Association some of whose churches were in North Carolina, the Saluda Association, and the Edgefield Association ... the distinction of Separate [Baptists] and Regular [Baptists] fell into disuse, as it was already falling into disuse in North Carolina" (George W. Paschal, History of North Carolina , Vol.1 1663=1805, p. 393).]

Holcombe was scheduled to preach in 1816 at the annual meeting of the Broad River Baptist Association, but instead yielded his time to Rev. Luther Rice who organized cooperation among Baptists for missionary work. According to James Walker, it was Luther Rice who influenced Holcombe to dedicate his life toward evangelistic and progressive leadership of the Baptists. After living in North Carolina only five years, the Holcombe family moved to Jefferson County, Alabama in 1818 and settled on land near old Jonesboro in the Jones Valley. The Holcombe's joined Cannon Baptist Church in old Jonesboro. Reverend Holcombe married Cassandra Jackson and three of their eleven children became Baptist preachers.

Rev. Hosea Holcombe served as pastor of Ruhama Baptist Church 1819-1821, and became pastor of Cannon Baptist Church on June 22, 1822. Baptist churches in Jefferson County (near Birmingham and present-day Bessemer) that he helped constitute include Hebron Baptist Church near Leeds in 1819, Rock Creek Baptist Church a few miles west of Bessemer in 1822, Roupes Valley Baptist Church which became Bucksville Baptist Church and is now Tannehill Valley Baptist Church in 1827. He also constituted Union Baptist Church in Shelby County Alabama in 1833.

Holcombe was instrumental in organizing the Alabama Baptist State Convention in 1823 and served as its president 1833-1838. He was delegated to write church history, but a lack of cooperation led him to travel thousands of miles by horseback over the state of Alabama to get material for his book A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama.

According to James Walker, he spent a seeming tireless life of preaching, writing, and singing and composing church hymns.

He died at his Jonesboro home in 1841 and was buried at Sadler Cemetery. The Alabama Historical Association erected a marker to honor the memory of Alabama's first church historian. "also an evangelist and missionary." It is located on Highway 150 between Bessemer and I65 at Muscoda in Jefferson County, Alabama (one mile north of Sadler Cemetery).

Much of the information for this biographical sketch was taken from an article by James Walker which appeared in a Jefferson County, Alabama newspaper The Western Star on March 17, 1999. I post this bio with credit going to James Walker. The Western Star, 205-424-7827, Weekly, 8,500 205) 424-8118 [Fax]

The Ruhama Baptist Church

Constituted in 1819 by pioneer settlers in Territory of Alabama. Oldest church in Birmingham Baptist Association. Elder Hosea Holcombe served as first pastor. First meeting house was log cabin. Present building is on fourth site.

The Canaan Baptist Church

Jefferson County's oldest Baptist Church-Organized September 5, 1818 in home of Isaac Brown 3 miles west of Elyton. Met in homes and schoolhouse near Old Jonesboro until 1824. First building erected on site now the 14th Street entrance to Cedar Hill Cemetery. Canaan Association (now Birmingham Baptist Association) was organized there in 1833. Hosea Holcombe, pioneer preacher and historian, was pastor 1822-41. The congregation has worshiped at this present location since 1856.

Owens Directory of Alabama - Biography Vol III Page 829

Hosea Holcombe was a Baptist minister born July 20, 1780 in Union District South Carolina. He died 20 July 1841 at Jonesboro. He was the son of Hosea H Holcombe and Phoebe Smith and the grandson of John Holcombe born in Prince Edward County, Virginia in the 1720's. Hosea Lott Holcomb married his first cousin, Cassandra Jackson, in Union District, South Carolina, June 7, 1801. Cassandra's mother (Martha Smith Jackson) was a sister to Lott's mother, Phebe Smith Holcomb. Lott Holcomb was a Baptist preacher, well-known evangelist, and church organizer. He wrote A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama. It contains a short history of the Baptists from the apostolic age down to the present time. It is interspersed with anecdotes and concludes with an address to the Baptists of Alabama. In 1819 and 1820, Lott served the Enon Baptist Church, Jefferson County, Alabama. This church is located at 724 Morris Majestic Road, Morris, AL 35116. Beginning in 1830, Lott served with four others as member of the Mount Zion Missionary Board in Alabama.

Hosea Holcombe was pastor of the first Baptist Church in Jones Valley called Ruhama which had nine members and one slave. He organized and established most Baptist Churches in the area. He wrote books and was a poet. He was president for six years of the State Baptist Convention. He settled in Jonesboro where he died on July 31, 1841 and is buried near Jonesboro. He wrote the book A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptist in Alabama published in 1840. He was born in Virginia on July 20, 1780 where he became a Baptist minister in 1805. He married Cassandra Jackson on January 7, 1801. The family moved to South Carolina where he preached for thirteen years. The family then moved to Jones Valley in Jefferson County, Alabama in 1818. He founded the Ruhama Church on March 27, 1819. In 1821, he moved to Fort Jonesboro and was pastor of the Canaan Church where he served the rest of his life. He died at home on July 31, 1841 at the age of 61. He is buried at Sadler Cemetery near Bessemer.

Hosea Holcombe: A Leader and Historian Born in Virginia on July 20, 1780, he married Cassandra Jackson on January 7, 1801 and was ordained in 1805. The family moved to South Carolina where he preached for 13 years. The family journeyed Westward and settled in Jones Valley, Jonesboro in Jefferson County, Alabama in 1818. His education was limited but he was intelligent. He founded the Ruhama Church on March 27, 1819 at the home of John and Sarah Jacks. Hosea was the pastor of nine members for two years. In 1821, he moved to Fort Jonesboro where he was the pastor of Canaan Church where he served the rest of his life.

His influences were Luther Rice and Richard Fuller. Hosea was one of the 15 people present to organize a convention at Salem Church in 1823. He was appointed to go afield to found new churches. He loyally attended every convention to 1840. He served as president in the six years prior to his death. The convention requested Hosea to write a history of the Baptists in Alabama in 1835. He labored for four years on the book that was well received by the Alabama Baptists. Hosea died at his home on July 31, 1841 at the age of 61. He is buried at the Sadler Cemetery near Bessemer. For 22 years he had traveled up ad down the state of Alabama by foot or on horseback preaching the Gospel.

A crude uncarved stone was erected by his son served at his marker up to 1912. Now, there is a Historical Marker that reads: Hosea Holcombe 1780-1841 Alabama's first Church Historian. In 1840 he published his study "History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Alabama". Also an evangelist and missionary. In 1818 he moved to Alabama from the Carolinas. President of the Alabama Baptist Convention 1833-38. Lack of cooperation led him to travel over the state to get material for his book. He died at his Jonesboro home in 1841. He is buried in Sadler Cemetery one mile south.

Davis C Woolley "Hosea Holcombe: Pioneer Alabama Baptist Historian" The Alabama Review XIV January 1961 Pages 6-8. 

Hosea Holcombe, who came to Alabama in 1818 and founded the Ruhama Church in Birmingham in 1819, wrote in 1840, "In 1820, there were not more than fifty Baptist churches in the state; and they were generally very small." When Alabama became a state in 1819, the population began to increase rapidly, and among the newcomers were many Baptist ministers, some of whom were well trained and dedicated leaders. The Baptist cause began to grow rapidly in many parts of the new state, and by 1830 the number of churches organized had increased to approximately 180.

A Memorial History of the Baptists of Alabama

Not till about 1817, did the elements of leadership appear among the Baptist churches. For almost ten years, the numerical development had been relatively considerable, due to conditions of religious preeminence which the Baptists hall established from the outset; but the work done had seen one more of dispersion than that of concentration with any objective aim. Besides, the injection of missions had led to distraction, rather than to harmony. Whatever coherency had been attempted was more of rashness, due to opposition to missions than otherwise. As a denomination, there was yet no sign of adhesiveness, save in local quarters, all of which was due to lack of leadership, without which, affairs denominational were drifting at haphazard. About this time, two men gifted with the forces of pioneer leadership, appeared on the scene, one from South Carolina, and the other from North Carolina, the one from South Carolina appearing in southern Alabama, and the other in northern Alabama. The work of crystallizing into associations had just begun, hence the greater importance of wise and constructive leaders. These men assumed no leadership, for they were each modest and retiring, but filled with zeal, and possessed of more than ordinary wisdom, their peculiar qualities pressed them to the front, and within few years, Alexander Travis became the acknowledged leader in the south of Alabama, and Hosea Holcombe came to the same unsought station beyond the mountains, in the north. They could not have reached the scene at a time more propitious, nor one when men of their type were more in need. Nature had fitted each with a physique for endurance of hardship, and had endowed each with forces of wise discernment respecting men and affairs, and grace had made each a spiritual hero unafraid and unawed by confused and formidable difficulty. Each was a man of far-seeing vision, although unknown to each other for years, each was seeking the same laudable accomplishment in the region into which he had come. There could not have been a finer adjustment of men to occasiotls.