Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Abner Wentworth Clopton

Abner Wentworth Clopton (1784-1833)

In 1820, the famous Milton Female Academy opened its doors to students, soon followed by the Milton Male Academy. The board of trustees of the Milton Female Academy included such Caswell County luminaries as Bartlett Yancey, Jr., Bedford Brown, and Romulus M. Saunders. The school's first superintendent was Reverend Abner Wentworth Clopton, a graduate of the University of North Carolina and a highly respected Baptist minister. It was because of Clopton that John Day, Jr. moved to Milton to continue his religious studies. And, Thomas Day followed his older brother. Thus, had the Milton Female Academy not been established, it is unlikely that Thomas Day would have selected Milton for his cabinet-making business.

In early school records there was found a note that in Milton a Female Academy having been opened in 1819, the Trustees invited the Rev. Abner W. Clopton of the Baptist Church, to take charge of it. Mr. Clopton presided over the institution for three years, preaching statedly the while to the inhabitants.

University of North Carolina Graduates 1809

John Bobbitt                           William Hooper
Maxwell Chambers                 John Briggs Mebane
Abner W. Clopton                  Thomas G. Polk
John Gilchrist                         John R. Stokes
Philemon Hawkins                 John C. Williams

Source: University of North Carolina Graduates.
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Abner W. Clopton Memoir.

Jeter, Jeremiah Bell. A memoir of Abner W. Clopton. Richmond: Yale & Wyatt, 1837.
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In 1820, the famous Milton Female Academy opened its doors to students, soon followed by the Milton Male Academy. The board of trustees of the Milton Female Academy included such Caswell County luminaries as Bartlett Yancey, Jr., Bedford Brown, and Romulus M. Saunders. The school's first superintendent was Reverend Abner W. Clopton, a graduate of the University of North Carolina and a highly respected Baptist minister. It was because of Clopton that John Day, Jr. moved to Milton to continue his religious studies. And, Thomas Day followed his older brother. Thus, had the Milton Female Academy not been established, it is unlikely that Thomas Day would have selected Milton for his cabinetmaking business.
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Milton Female Academy, 1819.

The building for the Female Academy in this place, being nearly completed, the Trustees take this method to inform the public, that it will go into operation on the 2d Monday in January next under the special direction and superintendence of the Rev. Abner W. Clopton. In employing Mr. Clopton to superintend the Academy, they have not only consulted their own feelings in regard to a public ministry, but they have had also particular regard to public sentiment in relation to the institution. Most parents choose to place their daughters at institutions where they may enjoy the advantages of religious instruction.

And while the Trustees have acted with deference to this disposition, they have taken the necessary steps to secure the most efficient means of combining, with religious privileges, the best opportunities of the literary and ornamental branches of education. For this purpose they expect to have two of the best tutoresses that can be procured from Philadelphia or New York.

The prices of Board and Tuition will be regulated by those of the Oxford Female Academy, and will be required in advance.

The first session will end on the second Monday in June.

By order, R. M. Sanders, Sec'y.

Having been employed by the Trustees to superintend the Female Academy, in Milton, I submit the following remarks to the consideration of such as may be unacquainted with the prospects of this institution. While literary institutions are constantly multiplying, it must be a subject of pleasing reflection to pious parents, if not to others, that religious instruction forms a prominent feature in some of these institutions. * * * It is a fact too notorious to be doubted, and too serious not to be lamented, that many parents have awfully neglected the pious instruction of their children. * * * The superintendent of the Salem Academy having been consulted on the subject gave it as his decided opinion, that a minister of the Gospel should take charge of our institution. And the Trustees, wishing to give to their system of education every advantage that the public might require, determined to follow his counsel. * * *

We cannot, at present, name our Tutoresses. But it may be confidently understood, that none but such as are in all respects qualified, will be employed. The Trustees would not have delayed the procurement of them until this time, if they had not been disappointed in their expectations of obtaining some from Elizabeth Town. There will be public worship, in the Academy, regularly twice on every Lord's day-- in the forenoon and at night; and the pupils will have religious exercises appointed them invariably, on the afternoon of the same day. * * * Parents may be well assured also, that their daughters, while here, will be as effectually debarred from all scenes of profane merriment, and revelling, as are the pupils of the Salem School. * * * Milton, N. C., December 2, 1819. A. W. Clopton.

In addition to the above, the Trustees have the pleasure to announce to the public, that two young Ladies, by the name of Thomas, of the city of New York, having offered their services, will be employed as Tutoresses in our Academy.

These ladies, being members of the Episcopal Church, whose pastor is the Rev. Mr. Lyle, will come recommended by him; and by the Rev. Dr. Spring, pastor of the Presbyterian Church ; and by the Rev. Mr. Williams, pastor of the 2d Baptist church, in the city of New York. * * *

Raleigh Register, December 31, 1819
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Milton Baptist Church

The minutes of the Milton Baptist Church and other early records were lost in a disastrous fire many years ago. Available records have been searched in order for us to learn something of those who preceded us in the work of this church. As early as February 28, 1928, an issue of the Milton Gazette and Advertiser published the following notice: The citizens of Milton were called to a "Church raisin." "It is requested that those who hold subscriptions for building a Baptist Meeting House in Milton will report to the Commissioner in his place the amount subscribed on or before the first Thursday in March next at which time and place all those who may wish to encourage and aid in the said building are requested to attend, especially those who are to furnish labor and materials." Just where that building was is not yet known."

In early school records there was found a note that in Milton a Female Academy having been opened in 1819, the Trustees invited the Rev. Abner W. Clopton of the Baptist Church, to take charge of it. Mr. Clopton presided over the institution for three years, preaching statedly the while to the inhabitants.

From early records of the Biblical Recorder, September, 1843, was found an account of the purchase of a Meeting House for the use and benefit of the Baptist Church. "It was built for the use of the Methodist Church, but owing to one of those reverses which sometimes occur, was obliged to be sold. We understand it is a new house, constructed of brick, and well finished. To whose liberality the Baptist Church is indebted for this acquisition, we are not informed.:

In 1844, the Biblical Recorder wrote:

"The arm or branch of the Baptist Church of Yanceyville, located in Milton, N.C. was constituted into a separate and independent church on the Saturday before the fifth Sunday in the last month (June 1844) by the Presbytery of the Beulah Association. Elder S. Pleasant acted as Moderator. The examination was conducted by Elder G. W. Purefoy assisted by other members of the Presbytery. The right hand of fellowship was given by the Moderator and the charge to members by Elder J. Bradley of Virginia, late president of Newton College. Concluding prayer by Elder E. Dodson.

"On Sunday the Communion was administered to about thirty communicants. The sermons on both days were very solemn and interesting, and were attended by a crowded audience on Sunday. The building occupied by the new church is a neat little house, sufficiently large and well arranged, with a good bell; and the prospects of building a good church is promising. Elder Joshua J. James is pastor."

The Milton Church was admitted to the Beulah Association in 1843. There are records from 1891 until today. Pastors who served from then until today include: John McDonald, J. R. Jones, James Armstrong, L. N. Chapell, R. J. Bateman, J. J. Adams, L. M. Holloway, J. J. Faulkner, C. W. Reed, Henry T. Allison, J. F. Davis, J. A. Hackney, R. W. Prevost, Hugh L. Nichols.

Mr. Nichols served as pastor during the years immediately following the first World War. It was during these years that the church made the unhappy decision to cease functioning as a church body. There was no pastor for approximately 12 years.

In June 1937, a religious survey having made, the church was reorganized. This was done under the leadership and through the efforts of the Rev. Algie F. Yarbrough and Mrs. Yarbrough, both Caswell County natives. Several members of the former organization had remained faithful to Baptist interests through the years when there was no church body in Milton. They were: Mrs. Frederick Preston Tucker, Miss Mollie Josephine Hanes, Mrs. Franklin B. Jones, Mrs. Lyndon J. Whitlock, and Mrs. John Walker Williams. Others who were listed in the reorganization were Mr. Robert Walker Williams, Miss Nellie Booth, Misses Lila and Aretta Yarbrough and Mr. And Mrs. A. F. Yarbrough.

In that same year, the church was again admitted to the Beulah Association. A Sunday School was organized in June 1937 and a Woman's Missionary Society in July, 1937.

Mr. Yarbrough was pastor for thirty years, resigning in December 1967. During his ministry a Baptistry was made possible by a gift from the late Mr. Sterling Graves of Yanceyville. Mr. Graves once told that his mother, the former Donna Thornton and her sister, Signora Thornton Hunt, members of this church, were baptized in cold, icy water. He wanted to help the church toward securing a Baptistry so he established a fund in order to interest the church in obtaining this goal. As a result of his challenge, not only a Baptistry, but an Educational Center consisting of five classrooms, two bath rooms, an Assembly room and kitchen were added.

Mr. Robert Williams, the surviving member of the 1937 group, met with the congregation on May 30, 1965, and broke ground for the new addition.

Rev. Clyde Shelton, a member of the church, was ordained here during Mr. Yarbrough's ministry, January 6, 1957.

Rev. Roy Parker, a Northeastern Seminary student, served as pastor following Mr. Yarbrough. During his ministry a Constitution and By-Laws were adopted.

Mr. Daylon Green and Mr. Hassell Lamm were of invaluable assistance when we had no regular pastor.

Dr. L. Harper Dawson was pastor for four years. During his pastorate the interior of the church was renovated.

Another Seminary student, Rev. William Tatum, served as pastor for two years. Rev. Stanley Cline was pastor for a six-month period. Dr. Richard Vinson, assistant professor of Religion at Averett College, was pastor for several years. The present pastor is Rev. Clyde Everett of Yanceyville, N.C.

Most of the time the membership has been small. Today there are approximately thirty-five or forty members.

The Milton Baptist Church supports all the interests of the Beulah Association. It stands as witness of the faith of those who worship here, having survived more than one doubtful time. As we look to the future, let us give thanks for those faithful ones who have gone before us and let us seek the strength and grace to continue to labor for good.

Source: In the Beginning . . . The Churches of Caswell County, Jean B. Scott, Compiler (2000) at 57-58.
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The Reverend Abner Wentworth Clopton, who was born at Pittsylvnia County, Virginia, gave up a lucrative teaching position and became a preacher. In 1823, making just $400 per year, he would give away one-fourth of his salary to help others. A college graduate, Elder Clopton would spend the rest of his life preaching and raising funds to purchase books to give to less educated ministers.  He seldom failed to answer letters and had a unique way of keeping track of which letters he had answered, and which he had not.

Source: Clopton Genealogy Website.
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Name: Abner W Clopton
Birth - Death: 1784-1833
Source Citation:
Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists. Two volumes. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1958. (EncSoB)

Name: Abner Wentworth Clopton
Birth - Death: 1784-1833
Source Citation:
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Volume 1, A-C. Edited by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979. (DcNCBi 1)

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