Remembering Rev. J. R. Briscoe


    I learn from the Ravenna News [“Old Choc” writing in 1905]  that Dr. Cunningham has purchased the old Sandy Creek Baptist church. I am sorry to hear that it has been sold. It stood near the Sandy Creek cemetery, and should have been repaired, if it needed repairs, and kept for shelter on burial occasions when the weather is bad. It was erected in 1853. In that year Rev. J. R. Briscoe was an independent missionary in North Texas. One of his appointments was at the house of Col. Gideon Smith. He and his brother, Dr. J. C. Smith, and his brother-in-law, Allen Agnew, all extensive farmers, had a set of blacksmith tools, and when Briscoe, who was a blacksmith by trade, came to his monthly appointment, he would remain over a week and do all the work they needed in that line. He organized a church in the community and called it Sandy Creek after a small creek on whose banks the old house, recently sold, was built. When riding through Red River bottom on one occasion with some of the brethren, he noticed the tall cedar trees, equal almost to the cedars of Lebanon, and told the brethren that if they could have logs cut he would hew them, and they would build a Baptist church. The proposition was gladly accepted and a nice house was built, and for many years Sandy Creek church was the strongest church in the Sister Grove Association. Briscoe was its first pastor and served two years, and was succeeded by Rev. S. G. Wright, who served until his death, Oct. 14, 1868. He was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Connely [“Old Choc”] who served until 1872, when, most if not all, the charter members moved their membership to Bonham. A small organization continued to worship in the old house for several years, but finally the voice of the worshiper ceased to be heard within its walls. As far as I know, all the members of the church to whom I preached, except Mrs. Dr. Smith, of Bonham, have gone to live in the house not made with hands.

“in an old country church house”

   In 1862 he entered the Confederate Army as a Captain of Co. E Sixteenth Texas Calvary, commanded by Col. Wm. Fitzhugh. He was in every raid, skirmish and battle until the regiment was dismounted in July 1862. The brigade to which Col. Fitzhugh’s regiment belonged was then sent to Crystal Hill, fourteen miles above Little Rock, on the Arkansas River. There, owing to having had a leg broken, and not being able to do infantry service, Briscoe resigned with the intention of joining a calvary company as a private. Some weeks later his company unanimously petitioned him to accept the captaincy of his company again, which he did and held it until his death. While at Crystal Hill he preached his last, and I thought his ablest sermon, his text was Num. 24:5, and two thousand soldiers sat on the grass around him while he spoke. In the fall the command was moved to the vicinity of Austin, a small town 25 miles north of Little Rock. There his health began to fail, [and] when camp was moved to another place about three miles distance, he was the only one in the hospital that was too weak to be moved. Briscoe was left with his nurse in an old country church house, which had been used for a hospital. The last time I saw him alive he was lying on a straw mat near the window, pale and much emaciated. A few evenings afterwards his nurse carried him his medicine, but he shook his head and said, “No, I have given up,” and in a few minutes, the humble Christian, the self-sacrificing minister, the true patriot and gallant soldier, was numbered among the dead. The next day he was buried in the Austin Cemetery, with the honors of war. There his remains still repose. I cannot furnish the exact date of death, but it occurred in early fall of 1862.

    [for an extended account.]