In Memory of Elder William Harper
1771 - 1859

By request of the friends of the deceased, I set down to write out an account of the life and death of our beloved brother, ELDER WILLIAM HARPER, who, in years gone by, has truly been a father in Israel to the few scattered sheep and lambs found in the great valley for more than half a century. From statistics sent to me by his son, Brother James Harper, I proceed to the mournful duty of recording the departure of one of the heralds of the Cross.

Died at the residence of James Harper, his son, in Brown county, Illinois, ELDER WILLIAM HARPER, on the 10th of September, 1859, of old age, and its attendant infirmities, aged 87 years, 11 months and 27 days. The subject of this obituary was born in the State of Maryland, on the 13th of September, 1771. When five or six years old his parents moved to Virginia, where he lived seventeen years, and was married to Anna Putnam on the 17th of February, 1793, and in the next June was baptized by Elder John Picket, and united with the Regular Baptist Church, called Battle Run; and in 1794, he and family emigrated to Kentucky, where he remained 24 years, in which time he was licensed and ordained a minister of the gospel by the Regular Baptist Church, called Salt Lick, near the close of the 18th century; when in 1800, at an Association of Regular Baptists there was an effort made to bring about a union between the SEPARATE and REGULAR Baptists, and when the vote was taken the Association was unanimous for a union, except this veteran of the cross, who voted against the act. He then arose, giving his reasons for thus acting, and was enabled by sound scriptural arguments to show that such a union would be disorder, and of course would bring distress, by its confusion among the children of the kingdom, and so convinced the Association of their error that the union was not entered into, so the Association was kept in peace by not going into that work of darkness, into which many of the Associations in the great valley were drawn by those who for filthy lucre's sake were preaching things they ought not. In the year 1818 he removed to the State of Ohio, where he again joined the Regular Baptists, and when the modern Mission system began to make inroads on the order and peace of the Baptists, he was amongst the first to protest against that, and all the unscriptural kindred institutions of modern invention for evangelizing the world. In 1835 he and his family moved to Illinois, since which time, to my own personal knowledge, he has been a faithful, uncompromising and zealous minister of the gospel. His chief desire and greatest happiness appeared to centre in the love and fellowship of his brethren, and by the affectionate and dutiful attention of his sons, even after infirmity, consequent upon his age had rendered him quite feeble, he would not only be found at church and other meetings, guarding the fold or feeding the flock, but also at the annual meeting of our Associations, even up to August 1858, the last time he attended the Mount Gilead Association, of which he was a member from its organization. And even after he was unable to say but little, in consequence of physical weakness, yet the brethren loved to see the old soldier of the cross in the stand, even when reclining on something spread down for his comfort. He remained not only a lover, but faithful defender of the faith once delivered to the saints, whilst with an apostle of old he would be found exhorting the brethren to study the things that make for peace and things whereby one may edify another.

On the 8th of October 1850, he was bereaved of his companion and wife of his youth, which he bore with christian resignation to the Divine will, from which time he lived with his son James, until he fell asleep in Jesus.

Although much might further be said in relation to the usefulness and labors of this man of God, I know the limits generally allotted to such communications admonish me to conclude. But I feel to beg room to send a few lines to our brethren, penned by brother James Harper, the day of his father's departures, whilst looking on that body that was to be laid down, a natural body, but to be raised a spiritual body; knowing at the last day he would be raised in the likeness of his Redeemer.

The wayworn saint has dropped at last,
In Jesus arms to rest;
Till Christ shall raise the sleeping dust,
To everlasting bliss.
There ancient saints, and saints (yet) unborn,
Shall form one heavenly choir;
Nor will the anthem be complete,
Till every member's there.

I remain yours in the tribulations and comforts of the gospel of Christ.

J. G. Williams.
Adams Co., Illinois,
Nov. 9, 1859.

- Copied from "The Signs of the Times," Vol. 27, No. 15, November 15, 1859, p. 175.

Copyright c. 2003. All rights reserved. The Primitive Baptist Library.

This page maintained by: Robert Webb - (