This letter was written by Rev. Isaac Shook (1803-1866) while traveling in Alabama and Mississippi as an agent for the American Bible Society. The following biography comes from the Cumberland Presbyterian, March 11, 1897:
Born Oct. 30, 1803, in Bedford County, Tennessee, Shook was trained for his life-toil upon his father’s farm, never a bad preparatory school for a boy. Enabled to attend the crude schools of his neighborhood but little, he obtained the greater part of his education after working hours and at night by the flickering light of burning bark in the great fireplace of his boyhood home. Read that again, young man, you who are accustomed to complain at your hard lot in securing an education in these days of opportunity; read that again, and hush your complaining with loud thanksgiving for improved conditions. A Christian and a Cumberland Presbyterian from early boyhood, Mr. Shook soon after reached his majority was licensed to preach by Elk Presbytery. He spent the first years of his ministerial life riding the circuit in Middle Tennessee, preaching in the rude cabins of the early settlers, and often sleeping with the snow drifting upon his bed. Such exposure brought on a cough which lasted him through life and finally caused his death April 11, 1866. In 1832 he went with Rev. S. W. Sparks to Gallatin, Miss., to organize a presbytery. On his way home he stopped at Columbus over Sunday, it being a fixed principle with him never to travel on the Lord’s day. He was asked to preach in a Baptist church. The Lord blessed his sermon and a revival began which lasted two months, Mr. Shook preaching every day. He organized a Cumberland church which afterward called him as pastor. In 1835, Rev. Jacob Lindly sent for him to go to Cumberland, Ohio, where he organized a church. He afterward traveled and preached through a large part of that State. During this trip he stopped at the parental home of A. J. Baird, then a little boy. Taking the child upon his knee Mr. Shook talked to him of God and heaven. Dr. Baird often afterward said that an impression was made then which never left him until he was a converted man. While at Marietta, Ohio, Mr. Shook also met Miss Maria Shipman whom he afterward married. She was indeed a helpmeet, teaching school to support the family, while her husband preached.
Mrs. Julia M. Baker, of Belvidere, Tenn., a daughter of Mr. Shook, writes: “The most noticeable trait in my father’s character was his strong faith in his Heavenly Father, whom he trusted for both temporal and spiritual blessings. I will give one incident: At the commencement of the late war his nightly prayer at the family altar was for the safety of the husband of his only daughter. After awhile the petition ceased. On being asked about it his answer was, ‘I don’t want to mock God. My prayer is answered.’ That son is still living, and is an elder in the church.” From 1851 until 1854 he was secretary of the Board of Missions. During that time he began the publication of a monthly missionary magazine. In the second year after its removal to Nashville Mr. Shook was made financial agent of the Publishing Work of the Church, serving some three years. It was his great desire, during the closing years of his life, to see the war ended and peace restored, and then to attend the first post-bellum meeting of the General Assembly. While his first wish was gratified, he was called from labor to reward before the historic Owensboro (Ky.) meeting of our highest church court.
Addressed to Rev. J. C. Brigham, Corresponding Secretary American Bible Society, No. 115 Nassau Street, New York [City]
Selma, Dallas County, Alabama
June 10, 1837
My dear sir,
Since my last, I have visited Bibb County & made arrangements by which I think it will be pretty well supplied with Bibles. I could not form a Society for want of suitable materials, but visited every neighborhood of importance except one or two. Preached, exhorted, appointed committees, & opened subscriptions till I think the work will go on. I also visited Marion Perry County [but] could make no consequence of the absence of the clergy & other influential men. Will visit them again. Found 34 bibles that had been lying there 6 or 8 years, but could not learn whether they belonged to the County Bible Society — now defunct — the State Bible Society, or whether they had been sent there on deposit by the American Bible Society.
Came on to this place. Found the County Society nominally in existence, but in effect dead. They have had no meeting for a number of years. The officers are all very wicked men. Found one box of Testaments 700 in number that has been lying here unopened 8 years. Also some Bibles in the neighborhood. Do not yet know the number. Have not been able to learn whether they were sent here on deposit by the American Bible Society, the State Society, or whether they belong to the County Society. I have made arrangements to reorganize the County Bible Society. Think the prospects are very good.
Direct your next communications to Columbus, Mississippi where I shall be about the first of August. Please to acknowledge the receipt of $3.50 from three friends & $5 from D. B. Friend — all of Madison County, Alabama & charge the same to yours most truly, — Isaac Shook, Agent, American Bible Society, Tennessee & Alabama