12 March 2013

William Eldridge Hatcher - A Virginia Gentleman

William Eldridge Hatcher, LL.D., L.H.D.

W.E. Hatcher is best known for his biography of John Jasper, the great black pastor of Sixth Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. Hatcher was a godly Christian, Pastor, author and was the epitome of the Virginia Gentleman. Born in old Bedford, Virginia in the shadow of the Peaks of Otter, his father was a rugged farmer and his mother a "fair and cultured" Presbyterian. His mother died when he was but 4 years old and she spent her dying breaths praying that William and his brother would become ministers of the Gospel. God heard and answered her prayers. W.E. Hatcher went on to pastor several churches including Grace Street Baptist church in Richmond, Virginia where he served for over 25 years.

He was a prolific writer and lecturer, editing and contributing to numerous Christian periodicals in his time. He also was the founder of Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia. This school is still in existence and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1998. Hatcher was contemporaries with Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody and knew both of them personally. He was a close friend of Spurgeon and preached in Spurgeon's church. Moody preached a series of meetings for Grace Street Baptist. 

I took the following from a Hatcher genealogy page:

"Men of Mark in Virginia" Volume V, pages 197, 198, 199 by Lyon G. Tyler, LL.D. This book has three pages devoted to Dr. Hatcher's remarkable versatility as a lecturer, fundraiser, editor, minister and inspirational leader to the young. He founded Fork Union Academy and held several post of honor and responsibility. He was President of the Board of Trustees of Richmond College, Board of Trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, President of the Virginia Baptist Orphanage, President of the Education Board of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and President of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

There are two biographies of Hatcher. One is an autobiography titled, Along the Trail of the Friendly Years and the other is titled simply, W.E. Hatcher. Both books are spiritual feasts, particularly Hatcher's autobiography. The books give an extraordinary insight into life in the South, particularly Virginia, right before and right after the War Between the States. What amazes me when reading these books is how pervasive and deep-rooted Christianity was in the culture at that time. It truly saddens the heart to know what we have lost.

And the following is taken from Christ in the Camp:

For more than a week a revival has been in progress among the soldiers stationed at Ashland. Services are held every night in the Baptist church, and the seats set apart for the anxious are frequently well nigh filled by the soldiers, who are asking for the prayers of God's people. Rev. W. E. Hatcher, of Manchester, preaches every night. At Aquia creek thirty have professed conversion within a few weeks, a number of whom were baptized in the Potomac by Rev. Geo. F. Bagby, a chaplain. The entire regiment with which the converts were connected turned out to witness the ceremony. Our informant says he has never looked upon a more lovely and impressive scene. We understand that a protracted meeting is in progress in Colonel Cary's regiment, and that Rev. Andrew Broaddus, of Caroline, is officiating . . .

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