This letter was written by Rev. O. T. Hammond (1813-1839), a Baptist missionary employed by the Baptist Home Mission Society. Hammond died the following year at the age of 26.
Hammond wrote the letter to Rev. William Carey Crane (1816-1885) who was, at the time, an instructor at Talbotton, Georgia. Crane was born in Richmond, Virginia. He attended the Mount Pleasant Classical Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts and Virginia Baptist Seminary, now known as Richmond College. In 1883, he attended the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institute and Madison, now known as Colgate University. In 1836, he received a B.A. from Columbian College, now known as George Washington University, followed by an M.A. in 1839. From 1837 to 1839, he taught in Talbotton, Georgia and preached in Thomaston and Greenville. He also preached at Mercer University. In 1838, he became a Baptist minister in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1839, he preached at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
In the 1840s, Crane served as a pastor in Columbus, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City. In 1844, he was a Professor at Union University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and he edited The Baptist with R.B.C. Howell for two years in Nashville. He served as President of Mississippi Female College in Hernando from 1851 to 1857, Semple Broaddus College in Centre Hill, Mississippi from 1859 to 1860, and Mount Lebanon College in Louisiana from 1860 to 1863. He was co-editor of the Louisiana Baptist and President of the Louisiana Baptist State Convention. He served as a pastor in Centre Hill, Coldwater, Oxford, Mississippi and New Connah, Tennessee. He was also an editor of the Mississippi Baptist. He was the cofounder and Vice-President of the Mississippi State Historical Society. He served as the general agent of the American Tract Society for two years. From 1851 to 1863, he served as Secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention and was its Vice-President four times in the 1870s and 1880s.
In 1863, Crane served as Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. From 1864 to 1885, he was the President of Baylor University. He served as the pastor of the Independence Baptist Church for eighteen years from 1864 to 1867, and again from 1869 to 1884. He was also active in the Texas Baptist State Convention. He was the first President of the Texas State Teachers Association and Chairman of the founding committee for Sam Houston Normal Institute, now known as Sam Houston State University. He was a member of the American Philological Association.
Crane County, Texas is named after him. [Source: Wikipedia]
Addressed to: Rev. William Carey Crane, Talbotton Institution, Georgia
November 29, 1838
Dear Bro. Crane,
Yours of the 7th inst. arrived while I was absent on a visit to Irwinton, Alabama. I am most certainly highly gratified to learn that you think of taking up your residence in this land of flowers – the garden of America. Just such men are greatly needed & we must have men of education, acknowledged piety & form decision, before much can be done in our denomination. I have several times been on the eve of writing you & was much pleased to find your letter among others on my return.
Florida. It is a rich country. Planters are very wealthy – soil uncommonly productive – cotton & corn raised in great abundance. I am told by gentlemen from Georgia, South Carolina, & North Carolina that planters are more wealthy here than in any part of the U.S. It I in some places quite healthy; in others very sickly – on the whole sickly, but much depends on the prudence of a man. Exposure will not answer; night air should be avoided. Persons of pulmonary complaints have but little to fear & much to expect. Spare, lean men are very healthy, but persons north of 40 degrees if corpulent or inclined to bilious attacks are in danger. I have been uncommonly healthy. Mrs. H. was equally so until October. She was then seriously attacked & for several her pulse was 136 or more. Her physician was much alarmed. She is now quite well & in school.
The moral atmosphere is sickly. The religious almost fatal to a foreigner who is lax in his self governments. Our churches are many of them worse than none; Sabbath breaking; drunkenness; cheating; bigotry; ignorance & superstition quite common. Anti-ism is not the worst fault. I could pass by this in part, but gross immoralities we are bound to oppose. I really believe that the majority of the preaching has a tendency to harden men’s hearts. Many ordained preachers are open inebriates!! God have mercy on them! The Baptists are numerous, but a ____ into ______ & distilled would not make one straight forward, intelligent, active & efficient man.
Now for the other side of the picture. There are many men of intelligence, who do not possess religion that are the avowed friends of piety; men of profound attainments & will attend church when preachers are worthy of the name. This Territory has many men of liberal education, who believe in the Baptist manner of worship. We have 40 or 50 churches, not one that can be called missionary associations, but openly or secretly opposed to all we love. There is not a church with which I am acquainted to which I could administer the Lord’s Supper!! We have a Baptist in Tallahassee of the right stamp, & some in the country, & from these handful we think of forming a church, declaring yourselves free from all Anti-Churches. The Presbyterians have a good house, splendidly furnished, & most of their male members are graduates. I am now preaching for them, but in January we shall commence for ourselves. Light is all we want. Pour the light of Heaven upon these hard heads & they will be alarmed at their deformity.
Pensacola is called healthy. I have a slight acquaintance with an Episcopalian minister there who is clever but has but little talent. Further deponent saith not. You will be among Catholics of the worst stamp. I shall be exceedingly happy to keep up a correspondence with you; we should have a mutual understanding; by so doing we can do good. Your wife would without doubt find the boon of health in our balmy atmosphere.
Mrs. Hammond joins with me in wishing a life of usefulness, health & prosperity. I should like to see your dearer self, she is from the land of my fathers; I give her my right hand across the piny wastes & rolling rivers.
I am dear brother most sincerely your servant for Christ’s sake.
— O. T. Hammond
P.S. This is all (inter nos) not for the public eye.