One of Scott County’s Memorable Preachers
(EDITOR‘S NOTE— The following article represents excerpts taken from a story written by Esther Sharp Sanderson in 1964).
Reverend GEORGE CECIL, commonly known as Preacher GEORGE, was a self-educated minister who knew his Bible from "kiver to kiver." He preached it straight from the cuff, barring no punches. The central thought of Preacher GEORGE’s sermon was to show sinners where they stand, and where they might land.
Preacher GEORGE had a brilliant mind, a remarkable memory, and a gift of oratory and eloquence unequaled among rural preachers in the county. His profound faith in Jesus Christ, his religious fervor, and his gift of humor made him the most popular evangelist of his day.It was customary to hold revivals in all churches after the crops were laid by. Every church was clamoring for Preacher GEORGE. He went from place to place holding revivals that would last from two to six weeks. Mothers cleaned their lantern chimneys, trimmed the wicks and filled them with kerosene, dads trimmed their mustache, young men put on their side arms in holsters, and the young ladies put on their charms and went for miles around to his revivals. Standing room was sometimes at a premium, especially when the revival was going good.
Preacher GEORGE started preaching at the age of twenty-four. His father was saved during one of his revivals, and he baptized him. He helped organize the First Baptist Church of Oneida and he was its first pastor. He was also pastor of many other churches in the county, but his greatest work was as an evangelist. During his long ministry, he baptized 3,999 and married almost that many. When asked if he thought he would meet all of the 3,999 whom he had baptized in Heaven, he replied: "Yes, I will if they haven’t lied on God."
When Preacher GEORGE was holding a revival on Upper Smokey, one sister got so happy she was shouting and weaving up and down the isles saying, "I’m on my way to glory! I’m on my way to glory!" A feeble minded man was following close behind her saying, "let me go wid ye! — let me go wid ye!" At the May meeting he baptized the man. He came up, splashed George’s face and eyes full of water, swam to the other side and took off to the mountains shouting as he went.
One of the most dramatic occasions during GEORGE’s long career as a minister was a message he delivered before a scaffold upon which a man was soon to be hanged for a terrible crime he had committed in Scott County. It was a public hanging, and men, women and even children began pouring into Huntsville long before daybreak. As KING was led out from his prison cell a hushed stillness pervaded the atmosphere. The prisoner sat on his homemade pine casket listening to his own funeral being preached by two ministers. The first one preached his soul into Heaven. It was Preacher GEORGE’s turn. Standing in the shadow of the gallows, he sang a solo, "Come think on death and judgments; your time is almost spent." He chose for his text, "The way of the transgressor is hard." Looking the condemned man in the face, he said, "Unless you have been forgiven of your sins, in hell you will lift up your eyes. Later, as the black hood was being pulled over the man’s face, Preacher GEORGE intoned, "May the Lord have mercy on your soul." Children screamed and women fainted.
GEORGE CECIL’s ancestors came from England during the Colonial period. He was one of thirteen children of’ WILLIAM and NANCY WEST CECIL, namely: EMILY, JAMES, RUEBEN, WILLIAM, RILEY, REASON, BURL, GEORGE WASHINGTON, JOHN WESLEY, CHARLES NELSON, ROBINSON CRUSOE, HARRISON MAYNARD, RACHEL ROSEMARY, NANCY WILLIAMS and PHARIBEE JANE. WILLIAM was born near Helenwood, February 29, 1828; he died November 8, 1903 [2 Jan 1902/19031]. NANCY WEST CECIL was born November 8, 1848 [17 Mar 18332]. GEORGE married NANCY DAVID. To this union were born five children, namely: RANS, BURG, JOHN, GEORGE II and FRANKIE. His first wife passed away. Later he married MARTHA DUNCAN JEFFERS. They had two children: GEORGE III and DEE TEE. FRANKIE is the only living child.
Preacher GEORGE preached his last sermon at the Mill Branch Church two weeks before his passing in 1941. His funeral was conducted in the First Baptist Church at Oneida by Reverend MAYNARD JEFFERS and LELAND THOMAS. He was laid to rest in the Montgomery [Mill Branch Cemetery3] church yard.
(FOOTNOTE — Among the local descendents of Rev. GEORGE W. CECIL are: the children of RANS (Loranzo) CECIL. MAE LAY, WILDA SPECK, BELLE CECIL and THELMA GRANDSTAFF. The children of MAE LAY: MARCY SWAIN and CECIL LAY. Children of MARCY SWAIN: MiCHAEL SWAIN, ANNE GALLAGHER, MISSY WALLEN, CATHY CAMERON, NANCY WATTERS and TIM SWAIN. CECIL LAY’s son is CHRISTOPHER B. LAY. WILLIAM HAMILTON is the son of BELLE CECIL. His children are: JEANENNE STEWART, BILL HAMILTON, PHILIP HAMILTON and VALERIE LeMARR. Rev. VIRGIL CECIL was the son of Rev. REUBEN CECIL. Children of Rev. VIRGIL CECIL: MILFORD, WENDELL, ROGER and VAUGHN. KAY SANDRA SEXTON TABAKA is the daughter of ARCHIE ALTON SEXTON and ANNA KENYON CECIL, who was the daughter of BURG CECIL and MINNIE BLEVINS CECIL).
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 4, No. 4 – Summer 1993
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
Death date 2 Jan 1902; Obituaries from the West Union Association United Baptists' Minutes (1893-1946), (Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756), p17 and Bailey, Robert L., Cemeteries of Scott County, Tennessee, (Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756, 1994), p 77
Birth date 17 Jan 1833; Bailey, Robert L., "The West Family Of Scott County, A Different Perspective," Scott County Historical Society Newsletter, Summer 1998: p23; Bailey, Robert L., Cemeteries of Scott County, Tennessee, (Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756, 1994), p77; and Obituaries from the West Union Association United Baptists' Minutes (1893-1946), (Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756), p112.
Burial 19 Jan 1941, Mill Branch Cemetery; Bailey, Robert L., Cemeteries of Scott County, Tennessee, (Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756, 1994), p290; and Bailey, Robert L., Cooper Funeral Home Records, Vol 1, 1932-1942 and 1948-1953, (Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756), p78
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