Tempest in a Teapot

Although Daniel and Ann Lattimore had moved their entire family to Indiana around 1810, at least one grandchild returned to the South. This was Samuel Stockton Lattimore, a highly revered Baptist minister who somehow got embroiled in a tempest apparently through no fault of his own. 

Before moving to Jefferson County, Indiana, in 1811, Samuel’s grandparent’s, Daniel and Ann Lattimore, had a son, John Jr., who was born in 1778 when the Lattimores were still in North Carolina. He married Isabella Carson in North Carolina and they also came to Indiana with their own five young children. They settled a little to the north of Daniel and Ann, in Jennings County, where they had five more children. Those pioneer women! But it takes a big family to work a farm.

In those days, Indiana was on the frontier. In 1816, friendly Indians came to John’s door to warn the family that hostile Indians were in the area. John and his wife and their six or seven children, by this time, fled to safety in Madison, 20 very difficult miles away. 

John’s in-laws, the Carsons, also migrated to Jennings County, Indiana from Rutherford County, North Carolina. Isabella’s father, Walter Carson, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He initially volunteered in the militia of York County, Pennsylvania. He later moved to South Carolina and served in the militia there as well. As with the Lattimores, Walter Carson took all of his children with him to Indiana and settled near the Lattimores along Grahams Creek. 

John Lattimore, Jr.

John and Isabella’s son Samuel Stockton Lattimore was born in 1811 while his parents still lived in North Carolina. He was one of the few Lattimores that left Indiana and returned to the South. He first appears in Mississippi, where, in 1834, Samuel married Francis Ann Compere, a daughter of English missionary, Lee Compere. 

Lee Compere, was a highly revered, if also controversial, Baptist preacher and missionary. Lee was born in Market Harbor, Leicestershire, England in 1790. In 1815, the Baptist Mission Society (BMS) of England appointed Compere to serve as a missionary among the slaves in the British colony of Jamaica. The missionary efforts of Lee and his wife Susannah Voysey Compere in Jamaica were successful in building a congregation, but the couple angered the BMS by openly opposing slavery. Which, I suppose, means that the Baptists condoned slavery.

Lee Compere

So Lee and his wife Susanna moved to Alabama in 1822 to continue their missionary work with the Creek Indians, but then became embroiled in the struggles between white and Creek slave owners and the issue of Indian removal. The Comperes provided the Creeks with the Western-style education that they wanted for their children but prohibited Christian evangelism, thus ignoring the terms of the official agreement between the Creeks and the Georgia Baptists. Among the Creeks, as in Jamaica, the abolitionist Comperes found a receptive audience for Christianity among black slaves. Creek slave-owners, however, eventually forbid their slaves to visit the Compere’s mission. Lee continued his mission work until late in life and ended up in Texas with his son Thomas. For more information about Lee Compere, click here.

Samuel Stockton Lattimore may have been greatly influenced by his father-in-law, Lee Compere, or he may have already been a Baptist minister when he met the Comperes. But he took a more orthodox position within the Baptist community. Samuel Lattimore appears in three books published in the 19th and early 20th century about the history of the Baptist Church. Annals of the American Pulpit: Baptist. 1860 by William Buell Sprague, The Baptist Encyclopedia – Vol. 2, 1881 by William Cathcart, and A Complete History of Mississippi Baptists, from the earliest times, 1903 by Z. T. Leavell and T. J. Bailey, 1903.

Reverend Samuel S. Lattimore was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina March 9, 1811; removed with his father while a child to Jennings, Indiana. At 14 years of age he became a member of the literary institution at South Hanover, Indiana, supporting himself by his own exertions. He remained at this institution for nine years, until he completed his course in July 1833. During this period he became a member of the Presbyterian Church and remained in this connection for six or seven years.

Leaving college soon thereafter, he went to Vicksburg, Mississippi thence to Clinton and shortly after taught in the school at Society Ridge. In 1834 he was ordained to the gospel ministry and became general agent for the Mississippi Baptist State Convention. In Dec. 1837 he settled at Middleton, Carroll County, Mississippi, where he engaged in preaching and teaching a school under Baptist auspices until 1840, when he removed to Sumter County, Alabama, where he preached to Providence and other churches. In 1845 he was again general agent for the Mississippi Baptist State Convention. In 1847, he was called to the pastorate of Macon Church, Noxube County, Mississippi. Remaining there one year he accepted a very urgent call from the Aberdeen Church, with understanding that he should return to Macon after the lapse of a year. Accordingly he returned to Macon and remained till he again accepted an invitation to take charge of the Aberdeen Church. In this relation he continued until his death.

From 1849 to 1854 he was President of the Mississippi Baptist State Convention. In 1834 he married Frances A, daughter of Reverend Lee Compere. He died suddenly Oct 17, 1857. He was a man of marked ability, of warm & generous affections, eloquent as a preacher, able as a writer and eminently successful as a minister of the Gospel.

The Baptist Encyclopedia

I know the reading is a little tedious but the details matter. The first sentence identifies this as our Samuel.

The third book provides detailed accounts of the meetings of the Mississippi Association, an entity composed of the Baptist churches in Mississippi. The book mentions the many sermons given and roles played by S. S. Lattimore, J. L. Lattimore, W. C. Lattimore, Lee Compere and E. L. Compere. These are Samuel Stockton Lattimore, his sons, John Lee Lattimore and Walter Compere Lattimore, his father-in-law, Lee Compere and his brother-in-law, Ebenezer Lee Compere.

The first mention of S.S. Lattimore is in 1836, when it is noted that he was to become the general agent of the Mississippi Association of Baptist Churches. He continued to serve the Association until 1855 when he “was in ill health, but still in the years of his usefulness. They parted with him with sincere regret.” The book has many references to S.S. Lattimore’s service and sermons. But S.S. Lattimore’s association with the Mississippi Association was soon to become controversial.

Every five years or so I sit myself down with determination to try to figure out this controversy. And every time, I throw up my hands in disgust. But, for your sake, here I go again. Two pamphlets were published by A. Newton and our Samuel Lattimore:

The Conspiracy exposed, and Rev. S. S. Lattimore unmasked, by A. Newton and S. S. Lattimore, 1841

Examination of the last new school book on baptism: Or a plain statement, in relation to certain difficulties between Rev. A. Newton and the author of this pamphlet by Samuel S Lattimore, 1843.

The first one is available on line, but not the second. Supposedly written by both Rev. A. Newton and Rev. S. S. Lattimore, it starts this way.

READ IF YOU DARE

One word, if you please, before you lay this pamphlet down. Had you heard any thing before of the subject, which is brought to your notice upon these pages? Not a word, says one. Then it is just as you please whether you read this paper or not I do not care to disturb the equanimity of your temper, or to trespass upon your time with any personal affair of mine. I would be pleased to have you read to be sure – but I allege no claim upon your time or your patience. And although you may be amused, I am not sure that you will be benefitted; except it may be, that, in turning over another page of the history of human depravity, you shall be better able to resist the influences of the hollow-hearted and false among your fellow-men.

I have heard something of this controversy, says another. I am sick of what I have heard already. I care not to hear any more about it.

Patience, friend! You say you are sick. How do you suppose I feel? Take a full dose, and perhaps you may be relieved. You have not heard all about it, that is certain. However, you can do as you please. One thing, let me say, I have a right to ask, not as a favor to any to any one, but as an act of justice to all. You will, of course form no opinion in the case, if you decide not to read. You cannot decide not to read, and reserve to yourself the privilege of approving or condemning, as caprice or prejudice or interest may dictate. Solomon says, he that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly unto him. You would not be guilty of such folly, would you? Then read and judge for yourself. You may then form and express whatever opinion you please.

The Conspiracy exposed, and Rev. S. S. Lattimore unmasked

And it just gets worse. You can perhaps see why I have been both intrigued and infuriated. This is the beginning of the introduction to a 191 page “pamphlet”, with 91 pages of supporting documents and 100 pages of outrage and self pity apparently arising from Mr. Newton taking umbrage at being accused of spreading falsehoods concerning whether or not Mr. Lattimore denied attending a masquerade ball in New Orleans, or perhaps a brothel. The documents involve apparently countless Baptist ministers and church officials, as well as documents written by Mr. Lattimore. There seems to be no other portion of the pamphlet written by Mr. Lattimore, despite the claim of joint authorship and the implied endorsement.

I’m not sure why this tempest in a teapot fascinates me so and yet I cannot bring myself to get to the bottom of it. Newton certainly provides enough documentation and argument to justify his feelings of being slighted. But I guess that is part of the problem. This controversy is of such little importance and yet the amount of verbiage is so vast that I am unable to sustain the necessary effort to plow through it. But how can there be nothing there? And there is another pamphlet! In past years I felt that there must be more substance to this controversy. However, more recently I’ve become aware of just how petty and vindictive people can be for no good reason whatsoever.

At the time this was going on, Samuel was the president of the Judson Institute and very active in the Baptist community, of which he was a long-standing, highly regarded and respected member. Alas, mental exhaustion forces me to leave it to the reader to decide if there is any there there. Please let me know if you are successful.

At this time, Lee Compere was not doing so well, either. There apparently were still some Baptists who resented Lee’s opposition to slavery. In 1857, there was “material for a sad paragraph in two resolutions passed at the session.” The first resolution was passed “to raise funds for the assistance of the venerable Lee Compere. To the credit of the body, a response was made, but it appears feeble and limited. Ten persons proffered $5.00 each. Lee Compere, born in England, missionary to Jamaica, the benison [sic] of the Creek Indians, father-in-law of S. S. Lattimore, in old age and in want, and a public collection taken for him of fifty paltry dollars! What a frowning wall before the Baptist ministry of Lee Compere, brainy and brave, prompt and pious, famous foreigner, God chosen vessel, in old age and in want!

A second resolution “was double in its intensity. S. S. Lattimore, the pulpit prodigy, was dead. Generous to a fault, his family was left in ‘straitened circumstances.’ His name is in Foster’s Chronicles. He could ‘insinuate himself into the very soul’. He held the fierce lightnings in his grasp, and stood on seamless granite. His head was bathed in the exhilarating atmosphere not breathed by the vulgar herd of men. The gifted Lattimore was gone, and his family in straightened circumstances, and a collection to be taken in the churches to liquidate his debts.” Baptist ministers were not well paid nor, apparently, well kept by the church in their declining years. He and “Franny” had seven children before he died in 1857, age 46, when the youngest was only two years old.

Later in 1857, this note appeared. “S. S. Lattimore had been the subject of scurrilous attack, by some secular newspaper. The Choctaw had long honored him, and much revered him. He was in very feeble health, and as his step was unsteady, he had been accused by merciless enemies of drinking. This stirred the blood of the Choctaw Baptists. But before the Association arose from its labors, the sad news reached them that the gifted Lattimore was dead. A good report was written, expressive of their sorrow. As to the life, and death of this great orator, much has been written in the history of the Aberdeen Association. Suffice it here to say that in discursive thought he has had few equals among our brethren, and no superiors.” Well, at least a good report was written.

However, the effort to honor Samuel continued to be wanting. There seemed to be some irregularities. “He had been such a popular preacher that there was an offering taken throughout Mississippi for a memorial. In 1860, there was a resolution of the Association, making inquiry concerning J. K. Barry, appointed by the Aberdeen Association, to raise funds for the erection of a suitable monument at the grave of S. S. Lattimore, and for relief to his widow, and requesting that Association to obtain, if possible, from the said Barry, a full list of contributions made to him for these objects, and that the same be published in the Mississippi Baptist.”  However, before the memorial could be built, a person grabbed the money belt where all the money had been put and rode off on a horse. He was never caught and Samuel was buried in an unmarked grave in Odd Fellows Rest in Aberdeen, Mississippi.

After Samuel’s death, Franny could not take care of her seven children, or at least the five youngest ones. Her mother, Susanna Compere, had died in 1834, a year after the birth of her ninth child. Her father, Lee, had remarried in 1836. So when he was in “straightened circumstances” in 1857, he continued his Baptist ministry in Mississippi and then appears in Navarro County, Texas with his second wife and a grandson in 1870, next door to his son Thomas and his family. At 79, he was trying his hand as a farmer, having given up preaching. He died a year later.

So, when Samuel died, Franny was on her own and also in “straightened circumstances”. Apparently, she never remarried. In fact we don’t know what happened to Franny, except that she apparently died in Jennings County, Indiana, where her husband’s family lived. Maybe her in-laws took her in. Her two youngest sons, William and Walter, went to live with their eldest brother, John Lee, who was still a minister in Alabama. William eventually went to live with his grandfather, Lee Compere, in Texas.

Samuel’s and Franny’s son John Lee Lattimore also became a Baptist minister and traveled around the south before settling for a while in Falls County, Texas, some time between 1870 and 1880. There, the youngest of John Lee’s daughters, Bertha Woodfin Lattimore, would meet George Charles Felix Butte.

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