John Wilkinson was born in Parsonstown, Kings County, Ireland, August 17, 1834, and died in Baton Rouge, La., April 7, 1875. He was blessed with pious parents, and trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Alone and entire stranger (sic), he arrived in New Orleans twenty-one years ago in April—the month in which he died—being then not quite twenty-one years of age. He immediately found employment in his occupation as a printer. He promptly presented to the writer of this memoir, then pastor of the Carondelet St. Church, his certificate of membership and entered at once into the privileges and usual activities of the Church. He also identified himself with the Young Men’s Christian Association and became a useful worker. He was married to Miss Lizzie Kent August 1859, by Rev. Joshua Heard. For some time before the war he was foreman of the New Orleans Christian Advocate Office.
On the outbreak of the war his sympathies were with the people of the South, and he entered into the Confederate service in an artillery company raised in Copiah County, Miss. He was in the long and severe siege of Port Hudson, where he met great perils and endured exhausting privation and suffering. On the fall of that post he was paroled. After the expiration of his parole he went into the service in the cavalry. A vacancy occurring, he was elected by his comrades their captain. He was then detailed for the protection of the country back of Vicksburg and along the west boundary of middle Mississippi. As a soldier, he was brave, faithful and pure. As an officer, he was impartial and diligent, winning the respect and love of all in his command.
At the close of the great struggle he returned to New Orleans. The writer being again pastor of Carondelet Street Church—though our Church edifices were then held by the Methodist Episcopal Church North, we organized in the Unitarian Church, kindly loaned us—Brother Wilkinson was considered the most suitable man and was appointed Superintendent of the Sabbath School, a position he filled with eminent ability, satisfaction and usefulness. He also resumed his place as foreman of the printing office of the New Orleans Christian Advocate. He was an accomplished artist as a printer, and filled the place of foreman with great efficiency.
He felt that he was called of God, and moved by the Holy Ghost, to take on him the office and work of the ministry, and began to study for his great life calling with untiring diligence. He was recommended to the Quarterly Conference for license to preach, and was unanimously elected. Brother Wilkinson was one of those who had the hearty outward call of the Church, as well as the inward call of God to the work of the ministry. All seemed to recognize his eminent fitness for the sacred calling. The Louisiana Conference with equal unanimity, received him, and he was appointed to Opelousas Station, which he filled three years with ever increasing usefulness and acceptability. At the close of his third year, while at Shreveport, attending the session of the Annual Conference, his beloved and faithful wife was taken from him and his four motherless children. At the close of this Conference, Bishop McTyeire read out the name of John Wilkinson for Shreveport. There seemed to be a murmur of applause and approval all over the Conference floor. All seemed to feel and confess the eminent adaptation of the man for the place. He spent four years in Shreveport, years of intense study, pastoral labor and ever increasing acceptability as a preacher.
In May 1871, he was united in marriage with Miss Mollie Keener, daughter of Bishop Keener, with whom he lived nearly four happy years in the unalloyed bliss of wedded love.
The last year of his pastorate in Shreveport that city was visited with epidemic yellow fever, which, for virulence and mortality, was scarcely ever surpassed in the history of plagues and pestilences. While hundreds of all classes fled or fell, Brother Wilkinson, with the same undaunted heroism with which he had faced death upon the battle field, faced the pestilence that walketh in darkness and wasteth at noonday, until his exhausted strength succumbed to the deadly miasm (sic). But God raised him up, and when but feeble, went forth again on his errands of mercy, nursing, comforting, counseling and providing. Many there will rise up and call him blessed. Had not the itinerant law removed him at the end of four years, the loving hands of the people of Shreveport would have held him with an unrelaxing grasp.
Brother Wilkinson’s next and last field of labor was Baton Rouge. Here he was the same blameless Christian, diligent student, faithful pastor, son of consolation and popular preacher that he had ever been; only all this was magnified and intensified by constant growth in every spiritual, social and ministerial excellence.
Brother Wilkinson was gifted far above the average, but he was studious, and his natural endowments were diligently and successfully cultivated. As an English scholar he had no superior among us in thoroughness, accuracy and polish. He was also diligently prosecuting linguistic studies. In his pulpit preparations he was accurate and complete. The oil which he used in the sanctuary was well beaten. As a preacher he was clear, instructive, spiritual and impressive. He had superior elocutionary gifts, and used them with happy effect. He was a delightful companion, genial and cheerful. He had almost a feminine modesty and refinement. His aesthetic tastes were exquisite; he reveled in the love of the beautiful. We have never known a man of more singleness of aim or saintliness of character. Not long before he died, he preached a sermon on the “RESURRECTION.” His bereaved wife says his talk in the last months and weeks of his earthly life had an increasing spirituality and heavenliness. His last earthly work was to write an address to be delivered to a thousand children in Carondelet Street Church, New Orleans, at the District Conference, and his theme was, “I want to be an Angel.” How soon he realized that wish! He came from his study after writing this Sabbath school address, exhausted, took to his bed, and never left it more. He was attacked with pneumonia, terminating on the brain. His talk was heavenly and beautiful.
While in a state of semi-delirium he was in delightful fellowship with the angels; the theme of his last writing still floating like a beautiful vision before this mental eye.
His sickness and death produced a profound impression upon the church and community of Baton Rouge. The church, at his funeral, was draped in sable and adorned with flowers and crowded with representatives of all classes, who wept and sobbed in tender sympathy with the solemn scene. At his grave the Sunday School children, weeping, sang, “The Peaceful River,” “I Want to Be an Angel,” and “Over There, Over There.”
Brother Wilkinson lived well on earth, and now he has gone to the home of the Godly and the good. He had a bright earthly future. Had he lived he would have attained great eminence and honor. We can ill spare him, but the Lord had need of him. His will be done. May His divine benediction and comfort rest upon the bereaved.
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1875|