REV. EDMUND SHACKLEFORD, OF GEORGIA.
Rev. Edmund Shackleford was born in Orange county, Va., June, 1781, but his father, soon after, removed to Elbert county, Ga. He first united with Falling Creek Church, and, probably, began to exercise his gifts in that region, and thence removed to Greene, and was some time member in County Line Church. While pastor of Ridgeland, he taught a school, as many pastors were compelled to do in that day, and even in the more enlightened age. In November, 1811, he was chosen pastor of Milledgeville, which he supplied till 1822, but did not remove his family to town till 1817. Here, also, he was compelled to teach to sustain the heavy expenses of a large family.
Mr. S. was a natural orator and good English scholar. I do not affirm that “the bees were at his mouth” in the cradle, as runneth the fable concerning an ancient orator of most persuasive speaking powers; but, so popular a preacher was he, when first settled in Milledgeville, that his congregations were always the largest in town.
About 1822, Mr. S. removed to Morgan county, settled on a small plantation, and served the churches at Antioch, Fellowship, Indian Creek, and Monticello. Here he continued till 1829, and was, a few years, moderator of the Ocmulgee Association—wrote a valuable circular in 1829, the year of the great revival.
While in Milledgeville, drinking spirits was fashionable with both ministers and lay members, and Mr. S. was carried away with the flood. He indulged in it so much as to bring the cause of religion into disrepute. His congregation, which was the largest in town, dwindled to a mere handful, and the church was well nigh extinction! He did not, to be sure, become dead drunk; but was every day excited by alcohol. What a sad picture! yet it is a faithful one, and over which piety yet weeps, and even then expostulated with the fallen yet infatuated man, but to no purpose!
While residing in Morgan the temperance cause began to make some impression on a few minds. Like most drinkers he was mad at it at first, and resolved that no such shackles as subscribing a pledge should be put upon his freedom. But, upon more sober thought, he determined to abstain privately, though the temperance society was the object of his perfect scorn. In April, 1828, when the State Temperance Society was organized, he was chosen its first Secretary. In 1830, at its anniversary, Bethesda, Greene county, he delivered an address with much feeling and great effect. He spoke on the evils of alcohol from experience, and his immense congregation were in tears. When he first began to refrain he had the agonies and horrors of a man getting sober—his health seemed to fail. But said he, “I’ll die a martyr to the cause, rather than drink again.”
While in Milledgeville he was admonished by his brethren, and cautioned against the dangerous road he was traveling—perhaps, however, not with all that kindness that wins and breaks a heart. But said he, “I was offended that a suspicion even existed that I should some day be overpowered by liquor—and I drank sometimes when I did not thirst for the poison, to show I would drink when I pleased—that I was an independent man, and would not be controlled by officious interference!” But over this unwise, head-strong course, he often wept “tears of blood.” Had he lived till the origin of the Washingtonian Society in Baltimore in 1840, he would, no doubt, have entered into their cause with a zeal and energy which would have resisted opposition. Yes, methinks his noble spirit would have more calmly yielded to the summons of the monster death, if, in prophetic vision, like old Simeon, he could have viewed the “salvation” that was to rescue so many of his species from a drunkard’s grave.
About 1829 he married his second wife, and removed to Hancock county, where he died in the summer of 1830. His constitution had been injured by ardent spirits, and for his wayward course he exercised deep repentance. He did all he could to efface the impression and neutralize the influence which his bad habits had occasioned.
Like most of his ministering brethren, he accumulated but little property. His orphan children were left, in a great measure, destitute of the means of sustenance. Some of them, however, have found a treasure since his departure, in the good hope through grace of the forgiveness of sins. That must be a disinterested philanthropist who is so forgetful of self, and all that is dear to self, as to spend his time and expend his earnings in the service of the public, and leave his children to the charity of a cold world! Such was Edmund Shackleford, and such were many who have gone up to their reward on high. Many of those now laboring, have talents and education to shine in any of the learned professions, and amass immense wealth; but as they devote themselves to the churches and the public wholly, ought not those who enjoy their services to provide for their present wants, and, in prospect, for their weeping, needy orphans? The subject of ministerial support has received a new impulse since Mr. S.’s death, and, it is hoped, will continue to bear on the public mind, till the apostolic direction shall be faithfully regarded.
From The Christian Repository and Family Visitant, Volume VII, S. H. & Mrs. S. R. Ford, editors, Louisville, KY: Bradley & Gilbert, pp. 288-290