Of all the 19th century Rainwaters, the Baptist minister known to genealogists as “James the Preacher” is among the most well known.
According to a biography of him published in the 1881 “History of the Baptist Denomination in Georgia,” James Rainwater was born on 13 January 1795 in South Carolina. The identity of his parents is a subject of enormous debate and research, but no conclusion satisfactory to all researchers has ever been reached.
In 1817, he married Mary Mason, nicknamed “Polly” in the habit of the day. Together they had a large family of at least eleven children. These are: Emily, ca 1817; Zebulon Miles, ca 1823; Joseph E., 1824; Christiana, ca 1825; Elizabeth, ca 1825; Clara, ca 1826; Sarah, ca 1826, Frances E., ca 1836; Benjamin F., ca 1838; Catherine E., ca 1840; and Martha, 1841. The gaps between some of the children suggest that there may have been others who did not survive to adulthood. Mary Mason died on 8 Jan 1859 in Campbell Co., GA, and James married his 2nd wife, Nancy Candler Dobbs, on 15 May 1859. According to one source1, Nancy was the aunt of Asa Candler, one of the principal founders of the Coca-Cola Company.
Rev. James Rainwater had a busy career in the Baptist church. He was called to preach on 12 Mar 1825 by the Baptist Church at Philadelphia, South Carolina, and was ordained on 6 Jan 1826, by a group of presbyters that included Rev. Miles Rainwater, his first cousin. James was the pastor of Philadelphia Baptist until Nov 1835, at which time he removed to Macedonia Baptist Church in Coweta Co., Georgia. Sometime prior to 1850, he moved to Campbell Co., GA, but continued to preach at Macedonia until 1857. He led congregations in Ramah, Providence and Bethlehem Baptist Churches in Campbell Co., as well as Antioch Baptist in Meriweather County.
In June 1852, Rev. James Rainwater was a delegate from Campbell Co. to the State Temperance Convention in Newnan, and served again in March 1853 as a delegate to the Anti-Liquor Traffic Convention.
In 1850, James Rainwater was a census enumerator for Campbell Co., Georgia. The county contained two James Rainwater, the second known as James the Blacksmith, whose family relationship to the Preacher is not known.
James Rainwater died on 22 June 1871 in Campbell Co., Georgia. His will names his second wife and surviving children.
This original photograph is owned by Erin Leongomez, who also contributed the transcription of Rev. James Rainwater’s will. Additional biographical data was contributed by Glidie Rainwater Mobley.
1A History of Coweta Co., GA, The Newnan-Coweta Historical Society, 1988
© 2018 Susan Chance-Rainwater
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