The other side of the family

John M. Blackstone: A study on how naughty children sometimes turn out OK


A fatherless child. A rather horrid little child, if truth be told. Probably illiterate. A husband. A father. A state senator. A preacher.

That pretty much sums up John M. Blackstone, who was one of my ancestors.

I know all of this because his grandson, the rather fabulously-named Zephaniah Fowler, wrote an account of him. Here it is:

Elder John M. Blackstone was born in Virginia in 1780 on what was called Old Christmas Day.Of several children, he was the youngest. He never saw his father, who fell in battle near the close of the Revolutionary War. From what this writer has heard him say, he was a rude little boy. His mother could not manage him very well, so she bonded him out to a relative. As he was considered a leader in mischief among the boys, he received many a hard cuff and knock for his unruly conduct. He never attended school but about three weeks in his entire life. By some means unknown to this writer, after growing up, he went to St. Augustine, Florida, and afterwards to Brunswick, Ga., and for a time was in the military service at St. Mary’s. The next account we have of him, he was in Augusta, Ga., where he became acquainted with and married Catherine Harvey, about the year 1799. at that time, he was received into the church among the Baptists. Soon after he joined the church, his mind became weighted with preaching.

Elder John Martin Blackstone was an exceptional man, not only a preacher of the Gospel, but a leader of men. He migrated to Crawford County, Georgia in 1822. His good sense, quick perception, honesty, and integrity soon won him the confidence and esteem of all who knew him. This placed him in the front rank as a representative of his county. At the first election held in this county for representatives to the Legislature or General Assembly, he was chosen as their Senator. He was re-elected annually for nine consecutive years.

While Elder Blackstone was faithful to the best interest of the State and County, he was faithful to his obligation as the Minister of the Gospel. He helped organize several churches, to wit: Mt. Paran, Salem, Mt. Carmel, Providence, Abilene, and Union; also, Old Pisgah (now known as Calvary). He assisted in the organization of the Echeconnee Association, of the Primitive Baptist Church. He served as the first moderator for the association at Mt. Paran in 1825.

No doubt, Mr. Blackstone is rolling over in his grave over the fact that his descendants migrated to Louisiana where they became Catholics. Maybe he forgives us.

He had many, many children so surely some of the descendants remained Baptists. I hail from his daughter Sarah Porter who married Nimrod Yarbrough.

John’s memorial

John made up for his naughtiness as a child by becoming a nine-term senator. He established Primitive Baptist churches across Crawford County, Georgia. After he died, at age 78, the public paid to build a monument for him.

There seems to be some debate about whether John is buried where the monument is (Salem Primitive Baptist Church) or at another church he helped found, Mt. Paran. The confusion probably lies in the fact that the monument looks very much like a grave marker.

By the way, I was curious about the reference to John being born on “old Christmas day.” Apparently Christmas used to be celebrated on Jan. 6 before the Gregorian calendar was established.



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