A Sketch of the Life and Labors of Dr. A. C. Dayton
Amos Cooper Dayton, the author of "Theodosia Ernest" and the "Infidel's Daughter," was the second son of Jonathan and Phoebe Dayton, and born in Plainfield, New Jersey, September 4, 1813.
His life up to his sixteenth year was spent on his father's farm "in plain living and high thinking." Before he was seven years old he showed a passionate love for books, and the first money he ever earned, by hauling a load of nuts to the village market, was at once invested in a grammar and arithmetic. "Our choices are our destiny. Nothing is ours that our choices have not made ours."
The little lad chose learning and a useful life, shaping his future toward those ends.
At twelve years of age he joined the Presbyterian church, of which his parents were members. When sixteen he was forced to leave school on account of an accident that came near destroying his eyesight. He worked his way, however, through the medical college in New York after this misfortune,
and received his diploma in the twenty-second year of his age.
When traveling for his health in the Southern States he met, and after a brief courtship, married Lucy Harrison, third daughter of Capt. R. P. and Mrs. Eliza Harrison, of Shelbyville, Tenn.
The wedded pair left at once for Florida, where the young physician meant to practice his profession, and, if possible, regain his health. It was already feared that he had consumption.
In 1852 Dr. Dayton became a Baptist. How he was led to make this change he tells in full in his last diary, kept from '52 to '64; and the painful struggles through which "Theodosia" passed were not creations of his imagination, but were a recital of his own experiences.
It was at this time, during a long and serious illness, that he resolved to preach the Gospel of Christ.
In his journal he writes: "It was the fondly cherished hope of my parents that my life should be devoted to the great work of the ministry. They intended, on account of this, to give me the benefit of a liberal education, and failed to carry out their design only because I lost health and eyesight at such an early age.
"When I was under such deep, conviction in '42 this was one of the great wrongs which I felt I had done. I had not employed my time and talents in spreading the truths of God's Word, but had wasted my life in other and comparatively useless labors."
In September, '52, on the Sabbath following his baptism, he preached his first sermon in the little Baptist church at Shelbyville, Tenn. His theme was "The Love of God." Singularly enough, this first sermon was also his last.
Only two Sabbaths before he went home he selected it from a collection of sermons where it had lain for years, and once more told with almost heavenly inspiration of the "love of Christ that passeth knowledge."
In 1855 he removed from Shelbyville to Nashville, Tenn., upon being offered the office of Corresponding Secretary of the Bible Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. A few years later this was given up, and the duties of the associate editor of the Tennessee Baptist and of an author absorbed much of his time. He served several churches as monthly pastor as well.
It was now that "Theodosia Ernest" was published that brought him fame for all time.
"The Infidel's Daughter" followed, and various smaller works on denominational subjects.
In '59 he had a terrible illness, and from this he never fully recovered.
In '62 I find this record in his journal: "I can walk once more. Oh, what a blessing to be able to walk — to stand up to preach! Once I had to sit in my chair. God has indeed done great things for me, and I try to give him thanks."
In '61 the horrors of the civil war drove him from home. In the spring of '63 he was offered
the presidency of Houston Female College, in the thriving town of Perry, Ga., and here his last days were spent in teaching and preaching.
He died in great peace on June 11, 1865, and was buried in the cemetery at this place. His funeral discourse was preached by his dearly-beloved brother in the ministry, Rev. B. F. Tharpe, who died in the year 1899. They sleep together now under the Southern pines, whose mournful music is their requiem.
Dr. Dayton left behind him at the time of his death a large and helpless family, an invalid wife, five daughters and three sons. One son, Robert H., and a daughter, Mary Hand, have followed him to the better land in the last few years.
The oldest daughter, Laura, well known as the writer of a number of popular Sunday-school books, and as the consecrated leader of the Baptist and Reflector's, Young South, is now the widow of Albert Eakin and lives in Chattanooga.
The next in age, Lucie, is also a writer, and has been a contributor of stories to nearly all our Baptist papers for twenty years. Her last book, Thread of Gold, has added much to her reputation. She is the wife of Rev. J. M. Phillips, D. D., pastor of the Baptist church at Mossy Creek, Tenn., for the past four years. The other two daughters are Mrs. T. S. Stock, of Mississippi, and Mrs. W. W. Kannon, of Tennessee.
Of the two sons, John is a prosperous merchant of Chattanooga; Lawson a highly thought-of lawyer of Shelbyville. =================
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