Rev. Nelson Merry’s Obituary

In my last post, I mentioned that I took a trip to Mount Ararat Cemetery in order to locate the tombstone of Rev. Nelson Grover Merry. Today after work, I went to the public library to get his obituary and I found it! His birth year in the obit is wrong (he was born in 1824), but the article gives other details that will be helpful for his descendant to further work backwards.

From the Nashville Banner
Tuesday, July 15, 1884

GONE TO HIS REWARD
Death of Rev. N.G. Merry, a Prominent Colored Minister. Appropriate Action Taken by Many Leading Citizens Today.

At 4:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon Rev. N.G. Merry, colored, pastor of the First Colored Baptist church, on Spruce street, breathed his last. The deceased had been pastor of this church for nearly thirty years. In a biographical sketch paper prepared by the officers, trustees and deacons of the church the following appears.

Rev. N.G. Merry was born in Christian county, Ky., on July 10th, 1884; he removed to Tennessee in 1826 where he lived until 1836. He then returned to Kentucky and lived there until 1840. On the 15th day of May of that year, her removed to Nashville and resided here ever since. He was converted, and on November 1st, 1845, at the age of twenty-one years he was baptized in the Cumberland river by Rev. Dr. R.B.C. Howell. From his conversion he was impressed that he must preach the gospel. He commenced to exhort, although with great fear and trembling. He tried to shrink from duty, but the more he tried the stronger became the conviction, that of necessity he must preach. In March, 1852, he received a license to fill the pulpit of the colored branch of the First Baptist church of this city.

A request was made for his ordination, and a council was called on November 20th, 1853, which set him apart for the Christian ministry. Rev. S. Baker, D.D., delivered the ordination sermon, since which time he has been our regular pastor up to the time of his death. He began the pastorate of our church with 100 members. He leaves us with a membership of over 2,400. The deceased leaves a wife and six children. Elder Merry was the best known and most popular colored minister in Tennessee; not only for his great power and fluency of speech, but also for those qualities that distinguish the true Christian and gentleman.

The funeral will occur from the First Colored Baptist church tomorrow, at 2 o’clock, p.m., and will be conducted by Rev. R.B. Vandavell, of East Nashville, assisted by Rev. G.W. Dupee, of Paducah, Ky., Rev. D. A. Gaddie, of Louisville, Ky., the officers of the Preacher’s Union.

Elder Merry was a leader of his people, and was beloved and respected by them no less than by the white citizens of this city.

A meeting of white ministers and other white persons was held at the First Baptist church this morning, in respect to the memory of the deceased colored minister. Among those present at the meeting were Rev. Dr. J.B. McFerrin, Rev. Dr. Strickland, Rev. Dr. O.P. Fitzgerald, Rev. Dr. C.D. Elliott, Judge James Whitworth, Anson Nelson, Dr. J.B. Stephans, Capt. Wm. Stockell, Col. A. S. Colyar, Dr. J. B. Lindsley, T.W. Haley, Dr. J.P. Dake, Sr. and Rev. W.M. Burr.

Rev. Dr. J.B. McFerrin was called to the chair and Anson Nelson appointed secretary.

Rev. Dr. McFerrin, Rev. Dr. Elliott, Col. A.S. Colyar, Dr. J.B. Lindsley, Capt. Wm. Stockell, T.W. Haley, Judge Whitworth, Dr. J.P. Dake, Rev. Dr. O.P. Fitzgerald and Rev. W.M. Burr made remarks appropriate to the occassion.

Rev. Dr. C.H. Strickland, Judge Jas. Whitworth, Col. A.S. Colyar, Anson Nelson, and Rev. Dr. McFerrin were appointed a committee to draw up suitable resolutions. The committee reported as follows:

Resolved, That in the death of Rev. Nelson G. Merry, not only his church and his race have lost one of the noblest men and ablest ministers, but the whole community has sustained a great loss which will be felt for many days to come.

Resolved, That we sincerely condole with his church and his family in the death of so good and so useful a man.

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be furnished his church and his family, and that the city papers be requested to publish the same.

Rev. Dr. Strickland presented a letter from Bishop McTyeire, and requested Rev. O.P. Fitzgerald to read it, a duty which he performed cheerfully. Following is the letter:

My Dear Dr. Strickland – By the morning paper I see announced the death of Rev. Nelson Merry, pastor of the colored Baptist church for so long a time; and that a meeting of the white ministers of the city is to be held in your Sunday-school room at 10am., to take due notice of the occasion.

Previous and pressing engagements prevent my attendance. I should like to be with you and join in doing honor to one who illustrated our holy vocation, and was an honor to his race.

I have long regarded him one of the strongest factions for good in our city. Judged by the New Testament standard – he is greatest of all who is servant of all – who does the most for the many, then a measure of greatness cannot be denied to the man who has raised up a church and congregation from one hundred to three thousand; who has steadily ruled over them with pastoral kindness and fed and guided a flock that outnumbered Cyprian’s.

In 1881 I had the pleasure of visiting Mr. Spurgeon’s college for training preachers, in the rear of his London tabernacle, and at his request made a short address to his class of seventy odd theologues. Of course, I must tell of America and her churches. Nothing that I said pleased and surprised my audience more than this: That the largest church in Nashville was a Baptist church, and that was a colored church. (Hear, hear, said the Englishmen). The pastor who gathered and instructed this church was a colored man, and he had been their pastor before, through and since the war. And more, they worshiped in a brick meeting house covered with slate and trimmed with stone.

All these were new and grateful revelations, and received with frequent interjections of that little word (hear!) with which an Englishman challenges attention to whatever strikes h im.

No pastor, among all those who have served Nashville churches, with smaller membership and larger opportunity, has ever been able to bring up every soul in his charge, or even a majority to his ideal of what a Christian ought to be. If Nelson Merry has failed here, who has succeeded? But it is not easy to estimate the amount of good, done by his large influence, exerted through so many years. He was ever on the side of order, of temperance, of righteousness; and, I doubt not, being a genuine Christian himself, he led multitudes in the way to Heaven.

It is largely due to what the Baptist and Methodist churches did in this way, for the colored people, that our country, quietly and safely made the tremendous transition from 1861 to 1866. The average statesman, politician, and historian take no account of this mighty influence; but the future philosopher will. Yours very truly — H.N. McTyeire.

Rev. C.D. Elliott, Rev. Dr. Strickland and Anson Nelson were appointed a committee to wiat upon the officers of the First Colored Baptist church and present the proceedings of the meeting.

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