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MURRAY COUNTY CHARACTERS
Reverand Samuel Houston Henry

Samuel H. Henry was born June 5, 1827 in Polk County, Tennessee in an area known as Brick Mill. He was of Scottish-Irish descent and was said to be a kinsman of Revolutionary War hero Patrick Henry. After going to several country schools in Polk County, he spent four years at Hiawassee College, which is located in Madisonville, Tennessee. In 1841, at the age of fourteen at a camp meeting revival, young Samuel professed Christ as his savior. It was after this revival that Samuel's father William and Mr. Samuel Parks decided to organize a church known as the Ocoee Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Samuel was listed as one of the charter members of this church.

Samuel was received as a candidate for the ministry by the Ocoee Presbytery in 1847 and in 1848 was granted a license to preach by the Flint Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church. His first church was New Prospect Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. It was there that he co-pastored with the Rev. James T. Johnson. He was later ordained in 1851 at the Clear Springs campground.

Samuel married Rossie Ann Harris on Independence Day, 1850. Their union produced ten children, six sons and four daughters. Shortly after their marriage in 1851, he was sent to Georgia as a missionary. They lived on Old Federal Road, which is today called U.S. Highway 411. He preached at various churches in the area every Sunday and also taught school at Hall's Chapel School. Rev. Henry helped to organize a church just south of the Tennessee border in October, 1851.

In 1853, the young congregation that Rev. Henry pastored constructed a new church building and a campground in the community known as Sumach, Georgia. The church decided upon the name Sumach Cumberland Presbyterian Church. From 1851 to 1895, Rev. Henry was the pastor of the church. His salary ranged from $65.00 to $200.00 a year as pastor. Samuel is known to have ministered at several other churches during this same time period and traveled as much as twenty miles each Sunday by horseback to visit the various churches.

Rev. Henry was also very active in his community. He was appointed as a charter trustee to Flint Springs Academy in 1870 and founded the Sumach Seminary in 1876. He became the first county commissioner when he was elected in 1871 and held this position till his death in 1905. Rev. Henry spoke out against any group that might tarnish the clean image of Murray County including such groups as the Ku Klux Klan and moonshiners.

There were three separate incidents during the Civil War that spoke highly of the character of Rev. Henry. The first occurred when a group of raiders came and took all of his horses. Without his horses, he was forced to walk to his church commitments, yet he was never late to a service. The second incident involved three Confederate officers who came with the pretext of raiding the Henry smokehouse. They entered the home unannounced during morning family devotions. Rev. Henry never got up from his kneeling position but asked the officers to be seated and that he would speak to them when he was through praying. Soon additional soldiers came looking for the officers and most of them removed their hats and knelt to pray as well. It is said that they gave up on their plan to raid the smokehouse and instead thanked Rev. Henry for the prayer and left.

The final incident occurred during the summer revival held at Sumach in 1865. Rev. Henry and Dr. Thomas Leach, who was an elder of the church, took the firearms from both Union and Confederate soldiers and placed them on the altar. As a result of this revival, there were 110 people who accepted Christ and 65 that joined the church.

February 23, 1895, brought tragedy to the church when the building burned. Rev. Henry expressed a desire at that time to be buried where the original pulpit had stood. A second church was built near the same site later that year. In November, 1895, Rev. Henry vacated his position because of declining health. About this time, his daughter Mattie McEntire and her husband James came to live with the Henrys.

Rossie died in December, 1901 and Rev. Henry lived for another four years. He passed away August 16, 1905 and was buried near the site of the original pulpit as requested. Among those who spoke at his funeral was Judge A.W. Fite of Cartersville, Georgia, who adjourned court that day in order to pay his respects to his beloved friend. Rev. Henry is credited with helping bring over 2,800 people to the Lord. His son J.R., grandson, J. Walter Haggard and son-in-law, Samuel Bennett followed in his footsteps to become ministers.



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