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ZION PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH CEMETERY-MAURY COUNTY TENNESSEE


STEPHENSON, Rev. James White, D.D., Jan 1756 - 6 Jan 1832. "b. Augusta Co., Va.: ordained, 1789; first pastor, Zion; pastor for 43 years." (Revolutionary War Soldier.)

James White Stephenson was born June 1, 1756 in Augusta Co., VA. He was living in Williamsburg (then Georgetown) District of South Carolina at the time of the American Revolution. He joined the army as a private in General Sumter's command and fought in the Battles of Blackstock, Hanging Rock, and several others. He escaped death on two occasions:
....in one engagement, while in the act of firing, had his gun broken off at the lock by a ball. Just at that moment, a comrade fell by his side, whose gun he seized and continued to fight.
...one night when he was too sick to serve as sentry, the man taking his place was shot dead at his post.

He studied Greek and Latin at the old Waxhaw Church (Waxhaw is the term used for the area in Lancaster Co, South Carolina); graduated from Mt. Zion College, Winnsboro, South Carolina; and received his Doctor of Divinity (honorary degree) from South Carolina College. After graduation from Mt. Zion, James White Stephenson was principal of a "classical school" in the Waxhaw area. Young Andrew Jackson, later to be President of the U.S., was one of his pupils.

In 1790, He became pastor of the Bethel Presbyterian Church in King's Tree, South Carolina. The members of this congregation had broken off earlier from the Williamsburg Church. Soon after he became pastor, Stephenson succeeded in moderating the habits of his congregation, who previous to his arrival had been "much given to worldly amusements, frivolity, and unpuritan like conduct in general." Also, before coming to the area," no Calvinistic minister had preached a word about saving the souls of slaves." Stephenson sought to evangelize the Negroes.

When members of his church migrated to Middle Tennessee, Stephenson visited them (1806) and preached several sermons. In 1808, he moved his family to TN and lived for a while on a farm in Franklin Co., TN before moving to Maury County, TN. In August, 1809, he administered the first Sacrament of the Lord's supper in the Zion congregation. His salary was $175.00 per year. In 1811,Stephenson paid taxes on 209 1/4 acres and 942 acres in another part of the county, as well as nine slaves.
Stephenson died in Maury Co., TN. He and his first wife Elizabeth James, were married on August 4,1791.Their only child, Alicia, was born in September, 1792.
Elizabeth James Stephenson died July 19,1793. Stephenson then married Mary Fleming on May 26,1808. Their only child, John James Stephenson was born September 10,1811; He married Margaret A. Frierson, October 6,1835,and died in Athens, Alabama, August 26,1838.
In 1876,William Stuart Fleming wrote:
He was a pastor of the people of Zion Church...before the colony left Williamsburg District in South Carolina, and after they migrated to Maury County, in all, about forty years, and until old age rendered it necessary for him to relinquish preaching...He was a profound scholar, a thorough theologian, a man of grave aspect and a most conscientious Christian. In the cast of his features he was said to be not unlike General Washington.

Extracted from parts of Page 173-175, "Let the Drums Roll" Veterans & Patriots of the Revolutionary War. by Marise Parrish Lightfoot by Tommy Stephenson. 11/15/2007. Mr. Stephenson provided some commentary.