As the name of this eccentric preacher has been introduced so much of late, to the public, and as little is known of him at the east, we publish the following description of him and an anecdote, which will give a very good idea of the individual:
Brownlow is a man of medium height and rather slim, with a round, “bullet” head, a quiet, pleasing countenance, and a good address; is an excellent, logical and persuasive speaker, and is as little in personal bearing and appearance like the blackguard he likes to make himself appear as one can imagine.
A characteristic story is told of him that is worth recording. Upon the borders of Virginia, there was a settlement of rough “hard shell” Baptists. The Methodists had long essayed to effect a lodgment in this quarter, but were summarily defeated by the decisive mode of turning their missionaries neck and heels out of the place – and this is no very tender or “do as you would be done by” style of Christian treatment. With such vigor did the Baptists hold this tower of the Lord that the Methodists, with all their zeal for propagating the Gospel, and their resolute devotion to the great duty, paused before this Baptist Gibraltar. The task seemed a hopeless one, and not one of the faithful could be found to encounter the inevitable risk of personal violence – especially as a coat of tar and feathers had been designated as the fate of any new warrior of the cross who should appear in that region in Methodist garb. At last, Parson Brownlow was appointed to the duty of converting these heathens from the errors of their ways.
Parson Brownlow was much younger, less celebrated than he is now, but the same fiery and reckless spirit animated him then that has since extended his reputation so widely. He knew the risk was chosen to encounter, and rather relished the novelty and excitement of this new field. Accordingly, mounted upon his horse, with the inevitable saddle-bags of the Southern horseback traveler, he entered the enemy’s camp, on Saturday morning, and announced his purpose to give the barbarians in their locality a “creed of the new doctrine on the holy day to follow.” The result was that horse and saddle-bags were taken as spoils, his person roughly maltreated, and he was turned loose in the outskirts of the place and ordered, at his peril, never to study daylight in that quarter again. The parson footed it home as best he might, but soon after reappeared at the scene of contest, and conflict, with another horse and another pair of saddle-bags, to commence his labors. His treatment was commensurate with the hearty and religious indignation of his foes, and once more the parson footed it home, sore and horseless.
A third time the irrepressible Brownlow appeared upon the field, to be served about as before; only his pertinacity and courage had worked upon the curiosity as well as the fancy of a portion of the good people of the region. Some were for hearing “what the cuss was arter” but he was finally again unhorsed and unsaddle-bagged, and he started home afoot, but he had effected a lodgment among those rude people, who love pluck and grit if they did not love Methodism. Of course he was expelled again. And sure enough the fourth time, with the fourth horse and fourth pair of saddlebags, appeared the persevering Parson Brownlow. By this time there had arisen a decided curiosity to hear what the “cuss” had to say, and the parson at last was allowed to preach. Well suited in tastes and impulses to the rude congregation before him, he soon won their confidence, and closed a decidedly popular man. A dozen invitations pressed him to dinner – a universal request that he would come again as soon as he could, and a full restoration of the value of the lost horses, and saddle-bags proved the final triumph of the “irrepressible Methodist.” The final result was, the place became the most invincible of the Methodists and Parson Brownlow one of the most popular preachers among them.
– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 29, 1862, p. 3