Monday, December 15, 2008

Uncle Ben

This article was originally printed from the July-August 1993 issue of Away Here in Texas. It appears here with slight revision.

Benjamin Lewis Vaughn was born in the Oak Flat Community of southern Rusk County, Texas, on November 21, 1885. He was the third of nine children born to Marshall Lewis Vaughn and Martha Jane Sanders. Ben grew up on a 71-acre farm helping with such chores as milking cows, plowing fields, picking cotton, making syrup, and cutting wood. He attended school at Oak Flat School (District 44, Rusk County). At age eighteen he professed faith in Christ and united with the Smyrna Missionary Baptist Church of Oak Flat.

Ben's musical training began early in life. His father, a Baptist minister, was a Sacred Harp singer and taught all his children to sing. Ben's grandparents moved to Texas from Greene County, Georgia in the mid-1850s and probably brought The Sacred Harp with them. It is said that his great-grandfather, William Parker, was co-compiler of a 29-page songbook in 1818. Ben evidently took his knowledge of the rudiments of music and taught himself to play the pump organ, the autoharp, and the accordion.

Ben's later musical training seems to have been from two sources: singing schools and courses at Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, Texas. Ben studied seven-shape note music in several singing schools by Sharp McNeil of Cushing, Texas. He attended several Sacred Harp singing schools and had three terms under Prof. John W. Miller of Athens, Texas. Prof. Miller was President of the Sacred Harp Association of Texas. The music at Jacksonville College probably consisted of round notes. We have a textbook from his college days: Hymns and Hymns Tunes by David Breed.

Ben did not go to Jacksonville College to study music. Rather, he enrolled in the fall of 1909 to pursue a teacher's certificate. His brother Levi and cousin Tip enrolled at the same time. While in school, Ben served as business manager of the college Glee Club, of which he was a member.

Sometime before October 1909, Ben felt the call to preach, as is evidenced by his correspondence with his pastor, Elder J. F. McLendon (Elder McLendon was President of the East Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention, 1890.) On September 17, 1910, he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Smyrna Church and exercised his gift before her on several occasions. Ben also began to teach singing schools—offering to teach the Sacred Harp or seven-shape or round notes if the community so desired.

After graduating from Jacksonville College, Ben was employed as a teacher at Oak Flat, Public School District No. 4 in Nacogdoches County. He taught there during the 1911-12 school year.

Ben was a talented singer and musician. He wrote at least two songs, both about death. The first, written very late in 1909 or early in 1910, was entitled "She Is Gone". It was dedicated to Mr. H. B. Woolverton, having been written after the death of his wife. Sharp McNeil published it in a small seven-shape songbook. The other song, "A Golden Crown to Wear," is dated July 17, 1910, and is found on page 521 of The Sacred Harp. It was added to the book after Ben's death, probably submitted by his father, Elder M. L. Vaughn, or, more likely, his teacher, Prof. John W. Miller. Two of Miller’s songs were added to the book at the same time as A Golden Crown to Wear.

The chorus of "A Golden Crown to Wear" seems almost prophetic:

O time speed on and bring the hour,
When I shall meet with Christ in power;
Yes, let me then to glory rise,
And wear a crown beyond the skies.

Time sped on, and in a short time Ben was gone. He contracted typhoid fever and died on August 21, 1912. "All that was mortal of our brother was laid away by tender hands and weeping hearts, to rest in the Holleman Cemetery. Funeral services were conducted by his pastor, Elder J. H. Waller, from the text, 'A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.'"

Thus his candle burned for only a short time, but burned brightly. In 26 years, Ben became singer, musician, licensed minister, public school teacher, singing school teacher, and songwriter. How he could have influenced his family, his church, and Sacred Harp singing in East Texas we can only wonder. Such consideration we must leave in the hands of a loving God who doeth all things well.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Connections update

Update of Mt. Carmel connections based on information from White Plains Baptist Church minutes (Greene County, Georgia) and book source noted below.

Elizabeth Carmichael evidently united with Mars Hill Baptist Church, Clarke Co., GA (now Oconee Co.) on 9-10-1842 (no action is given in the minutes, just the name; but this was probably when she joined) Elizabeth Spinks m. Reuben 4-6-1842 in Clarke Co., GA. She was dismissed by letter from Mars Hill on 12-21-1844.

Reuben Carmichael received by experience by Mars Hill Baptist Church on 7-29-1844 (dismissed by letter 12-21-1844, according to DAR Book #240)

Source: History of the People of Mars Hill Baptist Church and Community by Amy Warren Sanders, Athens, GA: Family Puzzlers, 1999. Pages 36, 37, 38, 43, 105

Reuben Carmichael and wife Elizabeth united with White Plains Baptist Church by letter on March 15, 1845. Elizabeth died August 1, 1847 (according to White Plains membership roll records) and Reuben was dismissed by letter November 20, 1847.

Sydney Frances Parker united with White Plains Baptist Church by experience of grace on August 16, 1846, and was probably baptized by pastor John Harris. She was dismissed by letter January 16, 1847.