Owen Clinton Pope, Reconstruction Teaching and Preaching

Owen Clinton Pope (1842-1901) came to Berrien County, GA during Reconstruction. He was a Confederate veteran who before the War was a rising pastor in the Baptist ministry. He may have come to Berrien County because of his acquaintance with Philip Coleman Pendleton or with Mercer University classmate Edwin B. Carroll. A graduate of Mercer, Pope was highly qualified to teach in country schools of Wiregrass Georgia and took jobs at the schools at Milltown, GA and Ocean Pond, GA.

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr.

Owen Clinton Pope was born February 15, 1842, in Washington County, Georgia.

His father, Owen Clinton Pope, Sr.,  was a farmer and newspaper man for 30 years associated with the Milledgeville Southern Recorder.   O.C. Pope Sr. became a business associate of Philip Coleman Pendleton and together they purchased and operated the Central Georgian newspaper at Sandersville, GA. Census records show Pope, Sr had a three-horse farm, with 300 acres of improved land in addition to large tracts of undeveloped land.  In 1860 O. C. Pope, Sr owned 20 enslaved African-Americans ranging from infants to 25 years in age. The age and gender distribution of the people enslaved by O. C. Pope, Sr. from 1850 to 1860 suggests that he may have been raising slaves for the slave market.

His mother, Sarah Sinquefield Pope, died in 1843 when Owen Jr was but one year old. His father remarried on Owen’s second birthday, February 15, 1844, to Nancy Miller Hunt in Washington County, GA.

At the age of 16, O. C. Pope, Jr. entered Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, graduating in 1860 with a bachelor of divinity degree.

Shortly after graduation from Mercer, at barely 18 years of age, he married Mollie Sinquefield of Jefferson County, Georgia, and was also called to pastor the Baptist church of Linville, Georgia. He was ordained to the ministry in 1861.

He was married December 18, 1860 to Miss Mollie W. Sinquefield, daughter of Hon. William Sinquefield, of Jefferson County, GA, a young lady who was educated at Monroe Female College, and who, as a wife, like ‘the holy women in the old time’ has always been ‘a crown to her husband'”

Marriage Certificate of Owen Clinton Pope, December 18, 1860

Marriage Certificate of Owen Clinton Pope and Mary “Mollie” Sinquefield. The ceremony was performed by Asa Duggan, Minister of God, December 18, 1860 in Washington County, GA

In January 1861, the newlyweds O. C. and Mollie Pope took charge of the Railroad Academy at Sandersville, GA.

When O.C.’s father died of paralysis on September 10, 1861 leaving an estate of nearly 1,500 acres, O. C. Pope, Jr. was still regarded by law as a minor. A bill was introduced in the Georgia Legislature, “to authorize Owen C. Pope, a minor, of the county of Washington, to probate and qualify as Executor of the last will and testament of Owen C. Pope, senior,” passing in the house of representatives but failing in the senate. His step mother, Nancy Miller Pope was appointed Adminstratrix.

In December 1861, O.C. Pope became principal of  the newly incorporated Mount Vernon Institute at Riddleville, GA, a co-educational high school of the Mount Vernon Association of Churches. While teaching, he continued to preach in local churches.

These positions as pastor and teacher he resigned at the call of his country, enlisted as a private in the Confederate army.

He enlisted on May 16, 1862 at Washington County, GA for twelve months service as a private in Company E, 1st Regiment of Florida Cavalry. He provided his own horse and uniform. Pope wrote that he was “attached to first regiment of Florida Cavalry; not because he was ashamed of his native state, for the valor of her sons and the hospitality of her inhabitants are proverbial throughout the confederacy,”

He rendered military service on the staff of Gen. W.G.M. Davis in the Tennessee and Kentucky campaigns.

In June of 1862, Pope left his bride and work behind and made his way “by personal conveyance” to the camp of the 1st Florida Cavalry regiment on the banks of the Tennessee River, some 265 miles northeast of his home at Sandersville, GA.

¦¦¦¦¦¦¦

ARMY CORRESPONDENCE
Of the Central Georgian.

Camp Kerby Smith, 22 Miles West of
Chattanooga, June 28, 1862

Dear Georgian – As war is the all absorbing topic which occupies every mans thoughts, I have have concluded that it would not be amiss to give a few items of its progress in East Tennessee, through your columns to old friends in Washington. I am at present attached to first regiment of Florida Cavalry; not because I was ashamed of my native state, for the valor of her sons and the hospitality of her inhabitants are proverbial throughout the Confederacy, but having some intimate friends in it, and on account of its destination to a healthy climate and active field I was induced to cast my humble lot as a soldier with it.
Having traveled by private conveyance through Georgia to Chattanooga, I had ample opportunity to inform myself with reference to the wheat crops. I regret to say that I have seen but few fields which promised anything like an average crop, and in this portion of Tennessee, wheat is almost an entire failure. Corn however, looks very fine and if seasons continue, we have reason to hope that we will make bread enough to feed our army until a peace is conquered or another crop comes on. Considerable damage has been wrought upon the farming interest on the opposite side of the river, by the predatory habits of our would be conquerors. The Tennessee river, upon the banks of which we are now stationed, appears to be the dividing line between us, but we occasionally cross over in scouting parties and bring over a few prisoners.
The position which we have is one of natural strength, consisting as the country does of mountains with only here and there a narrow pass. There is quite a contrast between the level piny woods of Washington, and the mountainous rocky regions around here. Near our encampment is Knickajack cave [Nickajack Cave], is almost two hundred feet in width, with an altitude of about one hundred feet, the walls being composed of massive rock in regular strata, varying from six to ten feet in thickness. From it emerges a beautiful stream navigable with canoes for many miles underground. This place is rendered important by the manufacture of Saltpetre, carried on by the government. The work was suspended about six weeks ago by the appearance of a band of Yankees who frightened away the laborers and destroyed the utensils; it has, however, been renewed since the appearance of our force in this vicinity.
The mountains around contain coal, considerable quantities of which are excavated and sold to the government for foundry purposes. I was favorably impressed with the novelty of a coal mine, and should renew my visits often were it not for the high position of the miners, which requires considerable effort for one not accustomed to their ways to attain.
It is important therefore to the Confederacy that the enemy should not obtain possession of this side of the river while the blockade is closed against saltpeter and coal. But it is much more important in a military view, as their occupation of this part of ——— would place Chattanooga in a more critical position, and subject Georgia to invasion, as we are now only four or five miles from the line. Some Georgians may be surprised to hear, that I, with a detachment of twenty-six others, withstood the enemies shell from two pieces for six hours within 1 1/2 miles of Georgia soil. Georgians must rally to the rescue, strengthen our forces, and beat back the enemy, or the time may soon come when her farms shall be desolated and her citizens carried away prisoners by the ruthless invader who is attempting to crush us beneath the iron heel of tyranny. I have seen those who were compelled to forsake their homes, even gray haired fathers, and as they recounted the bitter wrongs they had suffered, I’ve heard them swear deep and eternal vengeance against the foe. May high heaven grant that such may not be the lot of any who call themselves Georgians.
The skirmish I alluded to above, took place at a little place called Shellmound, a railroad depot. Myself, Charlie and Lawson G. Davis, were detailed with a few others of our regiment, to accompany a detachment of Artillery of two pieces from Macon, to take position on the river that we might prevent an armed steamboat from passing up the river to set troops across near Chattanooga. Our pieces were arranged on the bank of the river during the night, but on the morning our position being discovered, we were opened upon by a regiment of infantry, and two pieces of artillery from the opposite bank of the river. As we were unsupported by infantry, we were compelled to fall back behind the railroad embankment, a few yards off, which answered as a breastwork of protection. We could not use our pieces but few times before the successive volleys of minnie balls rendered it prudent for us to use only a few Enfields and Manards, which we happened to have along, with which we returned the fire in regular guerrilla style. If they had been aware of our force, (only 27) they might easily have crossed the river and captured our pieces. We remained with them however, until night, carrying them off, having killed three and wounded five, without having a single man hurt on our side.
We have made several excursions across the river capturing several prisoners. Last Saturday our regiment killed a Captain and Lieutenant, and wounding several, bringing off four prisoners without any injury to our party.
It is rumored in camp that the Confederacy is recognized by France. Many a stout heart would rejoice if the invader could be checked and driven back. I know not how long we remain here. I would be well please if you will send the Georgian, direct to Chattanooga, care of Capt. Cone. 1st Florida Cavalry. As I may be irksome I will close promising that if anything of interest transpires to write again and commending of country and her cause to the God of Sabbath.
Respectfully
O. C. Pope

Harpers Weekly illustration of Nickajack Cave, Feb 6. 1864. Owen C. Pope's regiment was encamped near the cave in 1861. <br>  <em>The "Nick-a-Jack" Cave near Chattanooga is one of the main sources from which the Confederates have derived the saltpeter required for the manufacture of powder.</em> <em>The cave is situated at the base of Raccoon Mountain, which rises abruptly to the height of twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the low grounds. In the face of a perpendicular cliff appeared the yawning mouth of Nick-a-Jack Cave. It is not arched as these caves usually are, but spanned by horizontal strata resting on square abutments at the sides, like the massive entablature of an Egyptian or Etruscan temple. From the opening issues a considerable stream, of bright green color, and of sufficient volume to turn a saw-mill near at hand. The height of the cliff is about 70 feet, that of the opening 40 feet, and about 100 in width immediately at the entrance, and of this the stream occupies about one-third. The roof of the cave is square and smooth, like the ceiling of a room, but below, the passage is rough and irregular, with heaps of earth and huge angular masses of rock, making exploration both difficult and dangerous.</em>

Harpers Weekly illustration of Nickajack Cave, Feb 6. 1864. Owen C. Pope’s regiment was encamped near the cave in 1861.
  The “Nick-a-Jack” Cave near Chattanooga is one of the main sources from which the Confederates have derived the saltpeter required for the manufacture of powder. The cave is situated at the base of Raccoon Mountain, which rises abruptly to the height of twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the low grounds. In the face of a perpendicular cliff appeared the yawning mouth of Nick-a-Jack Cave. It is not arched as these caves usually are, but spanned by horizontal strata resting on square abutments at the sides, like the massive entablature of an Egyptian or Etruscan temple. From the opening issues a considerable stream, of bright green color, and of sufficient volume to turn a saw-mill near at hand. The height of the cliff is about 70 feet, that of the opening 40 feet, and about 100 in width immediately at the entrance, and of this the stream occupies about one-third. The roof of the cave is square and smooth, like the ceiling of a room, but below, the passage is rough and irregular, with heaps of earth and huge angular masses of rock, making exploration both difficult and dangerous.

During Pope’s service in the Confederate Army, he preached nightly to the troops. He was discharged November 15, 1862 “by reason of the Conscript Act approved April 21st, 1862.” Pope suffered ill health throughout the balance of his life due to his time of service in the Civil War.

At the the expiration of his term of service, he returned home… he found few churches could support a full-time minister, 

He moved to Lee County, GA, taught at Smithville and Sumterville, and preached to country churches till the close of the war… When peace was restored, disorganized churches and the desolate country made extreme poverty the inevitable lot of those who, previous to the war, had depended upon ministerial charges for support…Pope found his property swept away and his health impaired.

Virginia Rhodes Pope, sister of Owen Clinton Pope, assisted him with teaching at Milltown School (Lakeland, GA) in 1867. She later returned to Washington County, GA and married James Berrien Stephens.

Virginia Rhodes Pope, half-sister of Owen Clinton Pope, assisted him with teaching at Milltown School (Lakeland, GA) in 1867. She later returned to Washington County, GA and married James Berrien Stephens.

About 1866, Pope relocated to south Georgia, perhaps because his father’s old business partner, Philip Coleman Pendleton, had opened the South Georgia Times newspaper at Valdosta, GA.  Or perhaps Pope was influenced by former Mercer classmate Edwin Benajah Carroll who was preaching and teaching at Milltown. Like Pope, Carroll was a Confederate veteran, having served as Captain of the Berrien Minute Men, Company G, 29th Georgia Regiment.

In any case, Pope found work in Berrien and Lowndes County, “giving the week to the school-room at Ocean Pond [Lake Park, GA] and Milltown [Lakeland, GA], and the Sabbath to the pulpits of Milltown, Stockton and Cat Creek churches.

O. C. Pope with the assistance of his 13-year old sister, Virginia R. Pope, took charge of the Milltown School. “He was a most competent instructor and created quite an admirable reputation for the Milltown school.”   The prestige of the school grew during these years. At the close of the school year in 1867, students from all the surrounding country schools were invited to the commencement ceremony to view the accomplishments that had been made that year.

By 1870, O.C. Pope had moved to Jefferson County, GA to preach and to teach at academies there. He moved to churches in Tennessee and took up publication of several Baptist periodicals. He moved to Texas and added missionary and fundraising to his interests. He moved to New York to work for the Church Edifice Fund for the American Baptist Home Mission Society. In 1898, at age 55, Pope accepted the position as president of Simmons College, Abilene, TX.

 

 

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr. taught at the Milltown , GA (now Lakeland) school in 1867.

Owen Clinton Pope, Jr. taught at the Milltown, GA (now Lakeland) school in 1867.  Owen Clinton Pope later went on to become president of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University), a Baptist college in Abilene, Texas.

O. C. Pope biographical material compiled in part from The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography., Hardin-Simmons University Website, History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia, and The Portal to Texas History

Related Posts:

Lowndes Immigration Society, 1867

Judge Richard Augustus Peeples

Levi J. Knight, Jr on List of Incompetent Confederate Officers

Judge Carleton Bicknell Cole

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.