Asa Castleberry Stephenson (My great-great-grandfather)
Stories told to Robert M. Leverette 9 Feb. 2006

My great-great grandfather was Asa Castleberry Stephenson, one of a set of twins. In 1853, he received the Faith, was Baptized and Ordain as a Baptist preacher on the same day, his seventeenth birthday. "Brother Asa came up out of that creek shouting Glory and preaching the Gospel, and this led several of the spectators by the creek to accept the Lord. The old preacher saw this, shouted Hallelujah, decided to retire, and right then and there turn the Church over to Brother Asa." In 1858, Asa married Mary E. Walker, one of a set of twins whose twin brother married Asa's twin sister, and Asa having accepted a position of State Surveyor moved to Alabama where Asa's and Mary's first children, twins, were born, George Walton (my great-grandfather) and Sarah. A couple of years later, the War of Northern Aggression broke out and Asa moved back to Georgia to enlist in the State Guards, fighting in many battles from Lookout Mountain to the Battle of Peachtree Creek. During the last day of battle at Peachtree Creek, Asa came down with Typhoid Fever and was out for the remainder of the War. During his service years, Asa also acted as the chaplain for the troops.

In 1868, doctors diagnosed Mary with a respiratory disease and told Asa he had to move her to a warmer and wetter climate, so Asa moved his family to Thomas County in South Georgia. Almost immediately after the move, he linked up with six or seven other Baptist ministers and formed the Mercer Association; a direct competitor, if you will, of the Southern Baptist but now defunct. The assembly immediately elected Asa as the group's missionary and charged him to preach the Gospel to all the "heatherns" in south Georgia and north Florida. This Asa did while founding 21 churches in his missionary district; one of which, Salem Baptist Church, still has my letter; though it has been so long, they have probably thrown it out.

Asa's salary for that first year was many bushels of corn, peas, beans, so many hogs and chickens, 1 cow, many bags of flour and several quarts each of honey and cane syrup. No paper money but then again, did he need any with all the groceries coming in?

As far as I know, Asa C. Stephenson still holds the record for the most number of couples for whom he performed the marriage ceremony; I believe the number was in the three hundreds. This does not include such sects that the "preacher" says one ceremony for thousands of couples at the same time; such as the Moonies. Of course in Asa's day, a couple would stand in front of family and friends and announce that they were married and then had to wait until a minister came along to formalize the event; often after the couple had children.

JOKE ON ASA
Asa C. Stephenson was a tall man standing at close to six feet, seven inches, and the horse he rode in the War was short in statue, causing the men to joke about whether or not Asa was "riding the damn horse or walking along with it." Apparently, this joke followed him through life; see below.

GATHERING SHEEP TO THE FOLD
When Asa was in his late fifties, one of the women church members asked him to gather her husband into the Church. Asa proceeded with this assignment for several years without much progress when one day he rode up to the woman's house. Later the woman confided in Asa that her husband said, "Here comes that preacherman walking his damn horse." Anyway, when Asa dismounted, the woman asked him in to eat lunch with them. Asa thought for a minute and told her he would be glad to in just a few minutes. Asa took off running to a large oak tree in the woman's yard and climbed as high as the limbs would support him and then climbed down and told her he was ready to eat. During the meal, the woman's husband asked Asa why he had climbed the tree? Asa told him that he had just come from another Sister's house where he had eaten a large meal so he climbed the tree to work up an appetite! The man said that if religion allowed him to climb that tree at his age then he would gladly join the Church.

EMBARRASSMENT AND THREATS
During the 1940s when our family went down to visit our Stephenson relatives, mom would make me wear short pants to services at Salem Baptist Church and this was always an embarrassing time, invariably ending with us fighting, mom would spank me and say, "Look at Grandpa Asa, what would he think of such a mean little boy?" This would usually do it and I would walk in without further to do. Mom's reference was to a large oil painting of Asa in an oval frame hanging on the vestibule wall. In the painting, Asa was looking very stern with those eyes that followed me everywhere I went and also that long beard; scared the heck out of me. Mom's uncle, George Stephenson, always seem to know exactly what mom said and would tell me not to worry, Grandpa Asa loved children, especially ragtag little boys.

I have one great-grandfather, two grandfathers, two grandmothers, one step-grandmother and several aunts and uncles buried at Salem Baptist Church.

Asa C. Stephenson, his wife Mary and one son, Cyrus, are buried at another Church he founded, Fredonia Baptist Church.