Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church

Manuscript Collections :
Synthetic Collections :

Thomas Dwight Witherspoon

Manuscript Collection #083
Box #tba

Content Summary: Sermon Register (or logbook), two volumes, 1858-77 and 1877-1894; Sermon manuscripts, 1858-1894; Sermon notes.

Span dates: 1859-1898 Size: 3.5 cu. ft. (four boxes)

Access: This collection is open to researchers.

Preferred citation:
Thomas Dwight Witherspoon Manuscript Collection, PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

Related Collections:
Records of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (aka Southern) - [synthetic collection]

Bibliography [with links to selected writings]
Sermon Register--
---First pastorate, Oxford, Mississippi, 1859-1860
---Chaplaincy, 42nd MS Regiment, 1861-1865
------1858-65 Log with historical annotations added [2.3mb pdf]
---Pastor, Second Pres. Ch., Memphis, TN, 1865-70 [2.6mb pdf]
---Pastor, Pres. Ch, Christiansburg, VA, 1870-71
---Chaplain, University of Virginia, 1871-73
---Pastor, Tabb Street Pres. Ch., Petersburg, VA, 1873-82
---Pastor, First Pres. Ch., Louisville, KY, 1882-1891
---Pastor, First Pres. Ch., Richmond, KY, 1891-1894
---Professor, Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, -----1894-1898
Sermon Notes
Biographical materials
---Obituary, published in The Confederate Veteran. 1899

witherspoon01The Rev. Thomas Dwight Witherspoon
[17 January 1836 - 3 November 1898]

Administrative History:
Collection received on donation from the Rev. & Mrs. Dwight Linton, 18 March 2005.
Arrangement and description by Wayne Sparkman. Arrangement is chronological, with cross-reference to numbered sermon entries in Rev. Witherspoon's logbook (two volumes).

Biographical sketch: Thomas Dwight Witherspoon was born in Greensboro, Alabama on 17 January 1836 to parents Franklin and Agnes Fulton Witherspoon. His higher education began at the University of Mississippi, where he gained the Bachelor's degree in 1856 and the Master's degree in 1858. From 1856-1859, he prepared for the ministry at Columbia Theological Seminary, Columbia, SC, graduating there in 1859.

Witherspoon was licensed to preach by Chickasaw Presbytery on 6 June 1859 and ordained by the same Presbytery on 23 May 1860, approximately one year before the north/south split of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Rev. Witherspoon officially began his first pastorate at the Presbyterian church in Oxford, Mississippi, and he served there until the start of the Civil War. Following a sermon before the Oxford congregation on 30 April 1861, preaching on Psalm 20:7, Rev. Witherspoon immediately entered the conflict, enlisting as a private with the Mississippi Infantry, which was assembling near Lynchburg, Virginia. The course of his military career can be summarized with a quick move to the chaplaincy, and transfer from 2d Mississippi Regiment to the 42nd Mississippi Infantry. Though the date of his separation from the Confederate Army is uncertain, he was in service for the duration of the war, and was present for the great battle at Gettysburg. In a particularly touching scene, he accompanied the body of a fallen commander, Col. Hugh R. Miller, to his burial, and was subsequently imprisoned for a time at Fort McHenry.

Witherspoon's second pastorate, with the Second Presbyterian church of Memphis, Tennessee, began on 3 September 1865, and he continued there until failing health prompted his retiring from that pulpit on 9 October 1870. From here he was installed as the pastor of the Christiansburg, Virginia church on 23 October 1870, though he remained in this post for only one year, taking on subsequent duties as chaplain at the University of Virginia from 1871-1873.

From 1873 until 1882, Rev. Witherspoon was the pastor of the historic Tabb Street Presbyterian Church of Petersburg, Virginia. His next pastorate was with the First Presbyterian church of Louisville, Kentucky, laboring there from 1882 until 1891. Leaving Louisville and moving about 100 miles to the southeast, he relocated in 1891 to take a post as the Professor of Professor of Bible and Christian Evidence, leading a new program at the Central University of Richmond, Kentucky. Though only there for one year, he left a significant impression upon his students. The Rev. James H. Taylor later recounted:

“Dr. T. Dwight Witherspoon was our teacher of Homiletics. Here was a very kind and considerate teacher. There was something strangely spiritual about him that made us show him reverential respect. He had an uncanny way of analyzing our written sermons. On one occasion he marked my sermon with the words, “You will find this sermon hard to preach,” indicating the place. I thought that I would try it. When Henry Sweets asked me to preach at his mission, I accepted and started on the sermon. All went fairly well for a short while and then I stalled. The best thing to do was to stop; so I stopped. Later I went to Dr. Witherspoon with the copy of the sermon and told him I had tried to preach it. With that gentle smile he said, “And how did you come out?” I said, “I didn’t come out.” Then he explained it to me. Ever after I had the most exalted opinion of his judgment. He was also a splendid teacher.”

Rev. James H. Taylor, D.D., in History of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, (Louisville, KY: Published by The Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1953; printed by The Franklin Printing Company),p. 39]

Initially concurrent with his post as professor, Dr. Witherspoon also served as the pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Richmond, Kentucky. It may well have been the pressing claims of pastoral ministry that caused him to demit the professorship in 1892, while he continued as pastor of the church until 1894. Witherspoon's final service was as Professor of Homiletics and Pastoral Theology at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 1894-1898. He was in fact one of the six original professors when the Seminary opened, and was present on 2 October 1893 to greet students arriving to begin their studies. Dr. Witherspoon served at the Seminary until his death on 3 November 1898. He is presumably buried in Louisville, though we have not yet located his gravesite.

Honors included the Doctor of Divinity degree (1867) and the Doctor of Laws degree (1885), both awarded by his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. In 1884 he served as Moderator of General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church, U.S. when that Assembly met in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Notable publications included Children of the Covenant (1873) and Romanism (1881). A full list of his publications is posted in an attached Bibliography.

Finding aid to be posted soon.

┬ęPCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2018. All Rights Reserved.