Thomas Franklin Welch


                 A Short History of Thomas Franklin Welch
                     by his son, Isaac F. Welch, 1912

My father, Elder Thomas Franklin Welch, was born of Irish parentage in
middle Overton County, Tennessee (on) April 27, 1812. In 1830 he was
united in marriage to Elizabeth Oliver, four or five years later professing
faith in Christ and uniting with the Missionary Baptist Church. He
immediately entered the ministry in answer to a call to preach the glorious
gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the fall of 1853 he and a number of families loaded their covered wagons
and left Hardeman County, Tennessee for Waco, Texas. On their long journey
they camped on Saturday night on Collier's Creek (in) Montgomery County,
Arkansas to rest on Sunday which was their custom on the entire trip. Some
of the citizens in that community, learning that he was a preacher,
persuaded him to abandon his long trip to Waco, and stop there. He was told
that there was a fine farm for sale at the mouth of the South Fork just
below the Gap owned by James Chaney. Early Monday morning he asked the
crowd to remain in camp and he would go over and look at the place but with
very little thought of stopping in that country. After looking over the
farm, however, and having been influenced by the fact that there were no
Baptist preachers in all that country and by the persuasion of his new
friends, he bought the place. I think he sold this place in 1859 to Baalam
Strawn who about this time bought the Caddo Gap Mills from his brother
Judge Fielding Strawn and W.M. Sanders. My father then bought the farm just
below Glenwood where he and mother are buried.

My father's time was fully occupied as pastor of various churches from the
time he arrived in that country until his death August 22, 1871. Covering a
wide territory his work extended from Mt. Ida in Montgomery County to
Alpine in Clark County and from Deroach, Hot Spring County to Nashville in
Howard County. Since he never received a full temporal support from his
churches, he farmed in connection with pastoral work. I believe he was one
of the most self-sacrificing, consecrated and devoted men I have ever
known. It has been said, "that the noblest work of God was when he made an
honest man." If this be true, my father's creation was a noble work. I say
this because I had the very best opportunity to note his life from day to
day for many years and those who would have delighted to speak of his noble
qualities have crossed over the river there being so few left who knew him

Having served as pastor there for seventeen years (1854-1871) some of the
best work of his life was doubtless in his home church, old Bethel.
Eternity alone can reveal the results of his labors at this place.

I was at the old home place last December (1911) and as I sat in the home
of Mr. Batreal, whose house covers the spot where our old house once stood
and the writer spent the greater part of his boyhood days, memory's pages
began to unfold and a scene passed in review: 

I pictured my father sitting on the left side of the old fireplace as one
entered the east room from the hall, a great quantity of split pine knots
behind his chair. As he sat with his back to the wall, so the light from
the fireplace would shine on the pages of the book he read, he occasionally
would throw on another pine knot as it was needed. His library was easy to
reach to his right. Next to him, the companion of his life, my mother, sat
and in a semi-circle around that old hearth-stone were their children. The
book my father held was the Bible. Every member of the family also held a
copy of that precious volume, each reading a verse around until the chapter
was read. Often my father would ask questions or make a short comment; a
hymn was sung, and prayer was led by father or one of the boys, O precious

As I sat there and thought of those precious seasons forever gone, I
wondered that I had not been a better man, with such a father, such a Godly
praying mother, and such sacred surroundings. Allow me to write it down:
my honest conviction is that such earnest service and efforts will always
be rewarded.

My father lived to see every one of his children converted and members of
the Baptist Church, five of his boys being ministers of the gospel.

When he came to die, he quoted these precious words, "I have fought a good
fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith." 2 Tim. 4:7. His
last words were John 10:27-29 and his boast was - "A sinner saved by

I often think of many things that occurred during the Civil War. I remember
the good-byes when my brothers John, Tom and Jim took up their haversacks,
canteens and guns, and took their leave for services in the Southern Army.
I was just as great a rebel as the crowd that went; although I was too
young to go. One thing never to be forgotten was a visit of Federal Scouts
to our home, who took away some of our horses and cursed my father,
threatening to kill him if he said anything more, while he was begging them
to leave him one of the horses. I remember he told them they would not
cheat him out of many years, if they did kill him.

I think it was in 1864, when we were thrashing our wheat at Jordan's Gin
between our place and Old Bethel, we had a home-made thrasher attached to
the gin-power. The neighbors swapped work helping one another harvest and
thrash wheat. One day during this time a man came dashing down the road
under whip and spur to tell us that a large body of Federal troops were
coming on just behind him down the Arkadelphia road. My father owned at
that time a grey mare that was being used in thrashing. Taking the stock
out of the harness as quickly as possible my father told me to take the
mare home with all possible speed and hide her out. I rode bare back, up
hill and down hill, as I had never before or since ridden. Upon reaching
home I took the mare to her hiding place on the other side of the mountain
from our house, sparing her for that time, but a few weeks after this, when
it seemed that all was quiet and there were no rumors of troops in the
country my father had us bring the horses down to the lot to feed them. At
that time we had left, I think, an old pony and the large grey mare. They
had scarcely begun to eat when a bunch of Cavalry dashed up and took the
last horse we had. We plowed Old Buck and Old Bright from that time on
until the war closed.

Welch History, Rev. Jeff D. Welch, Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing
Company, 1950, page 23-25.

Update 03.19.01              David Kelley 1997                 BIO-0116.HTM