A Tribute to Elder Jacob Castlebury

By the request of sorrowing friends, brethren and sisters, it becomes my melancholy duty to send you for publication the following obituary and biographical sketch of our beloved brother and able minister of the gospel, Elder Jacob Castlebury, who was born in Robertson County, Tennessee, February 28, 1804, and departed this life May 23, 1885, aged eighty-one years, two months and twenty-three days.

The deceased grew up to manhood in his native state, and there, in 1823, was united in marriage with Miss Phebe Boren, who was several years older than he, and yet survives him. To them were born six children, five sons and one daughter. Three of the sons survived their honored sire. He came to the state of Illinois at an early day, and located in Morgan County, and afterward for a time resided in Greene, and in 1833 located in Hancock County, near Plymouth, and has resided in that part of the country continuously for over half a century, and up to the time of his death. In 1834 he obtained a hope of eternal life through the mercy of God, and upon a profession of that faith he was baptized by the late Elder Micijah B. Rowland, and united with Middle Creek Church of Primitive Baptists, it being the only church of that order then in the eastern part of the county. He began to speak some in behalf of the cause the same year he joined, 1834. In 1835 he went into the constitution of Providence Church, and has continued in her fellowship about fifty years, and up to the day of his death. The church licensed him to preach anywhere that God might cast his lot, in August 1836, having been previously liberated to exercise. In January 1839, he was ordained to the full functions of the gospel ministry.

In attempting to speak of the worth and merit of our beloved and highly esteemed brother in Christ, and my fellow-laborer in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, I feel utterly inadequate to do his character justice in an ordinary obituary notice. As a citizen of Hancock County for over half a century, he maintained an unblemished character for integrity, honor and uprightness; and such were his kindness and friendship among his neighbors and friends generally, that the remark was often heard, "Uncle Jake Castlebury is one of the best men I ever saw." As a church member, his life was unblemished by a moral stain, and he had the entire confidence of his brethren and sisters, not only for his honesty, sincerity and faithfulness, but for his safe and wise counsel in discipline and gospel order. As Moderator of the Salem Association for many years, he was respected and loved by her and her entire correspondence, and was always on the side of peace and order. But it was as a minister of the gospel that he was the most noted and the most valuable to the cause of the Redeemer. Beginning with very little education, and in a frontier country, he, I am told, made frequent failures at the start. The sublime glories of the gospel and a sense of his own weakness would often cause him to sit down before his subject was finished. But a prayerful investigation of God's word for many years enabled him to grasp the glory of the gospel, and to set forth its sacred truth with a clearness I have seldom heard from the pulpit. As a speaker, he was not brilliant but remarkably methodical and clear. He was slow in his manner of address, and every sentence spoken seemed to have been studied, and every idea examined before it dropped from his lips. I have known him personally for nearly thirty years, and have often sat under his ministry, and though sound, firm, and unshaken in the faith, yet he was always conservative and moderate, and eminently a man of peace. He always stood opposed to every innovation upon the doctrine and practice of the gospel, and contended earnestly for the ancient landmarks set by inspiration.

For several years Elder Castlebury suffered much with a spinal and kidney affliction, which prevented him from traveling much, but he continued to preach near home and at his own church till within a few days of his final attack of sickness. I spent a night with him in April, and he was then able to be around his premises, and was unshaken in the faith he had so long defended, but said he believed his time here was short. He was taken with a chill, attended with congestion of the lungs and brain, about two weeks before his decease, and suffered much, and sank rapidly to the tomb. Being informed of his condition, I reached his bedside the evening before he expired, just in time to find him conscious, and able to speak my name, and to say a few words. About his last words we could understand were, "Lord, give me strength." He soon lost his speech, and became unconscious, but continued to breathe heavily all night, with many of his friends and brethren around him, and at a quarter to nine o'clock a.m., May 23, his spirit took its flight, we feel assured, to the paradise of God. I left his bedside one hour and a half before he expired, to take a train for a funeral in another county. His remains were buried in a family graveyard in the vicinity, attended by a large concourse of people, and Elder B. R. Warren spent a brief time in singing and prayer on the occasion, the final tribute of respect to his memory being arranged for the first Sunday in June, at the Providence Church-house. On that day, long before the hour of worship, the house was filled and also surrounded with a solemn concourse of people, and, perhaps not over one-third of those attending could be seated in this good-sized meeting-house. The writer spoke briefly on the occasion from II. Tim. iv. 6-8, "For I am now ready to be offered," &c., followed by Elder B. R. Warren in some solemn remarks, and by Elder W. Phillips by singing.

Of course everything was done for the departed herald that medical skill, kind friends and loving hearts could do; but his time was up, his work was done, and a crown of glory awaited him. His aged and helpless wife, his relatives, his church and the entire community have sustained a great loss in his death. But God is righteous, and we should be still.

Your brother in Christ,

I. N. Vanmeter.
Macomb, Ill., June 9, 1885.

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