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Alexander Gregg, First Bishop of Texas

By His Son, the Late Wilson Gregg

Edited and Extended by the Reverend Arthur Howard Noll.

Sewanee, Tennesee: The University Press, 1912.

Chapter II. Alexander Gregg, Attorney at Law.

RETURNING to his home in Society Hill, after receiving his bachelor's degree, young Gregg found himself possessed of not a little distinction for one of his age. An attractive personality contributed somewhat to this result. [He was "a stalwart youngster, straight as an arrow, of calm, deliberate, but resolute mien, without the taint of a single bad habit, and inheriting in a marked degree much of the mental, moral and physical structure peculiar to his Scotch ancestors."--Rev. B. A. Rogers, "Memorial Sermon."] He is described as having a handsome, strong face and a well-proportioned and finely developed figure. He was more than six feet in height. He was fond of outdoor exercises and excelled in manly sports. He was a good swimmer and a fine horseback rider, and he kept up these two healthy diversions until past middle life. He thus early strengthened a naturally fine constitution which was destined to be severely tested in his later career.

The elder Gregg desired his son to assist in the care of the family property and to engage in mercantile pursuits with a bachelor uncle at Society Hill. But the young college graduate instinctively turned to the legal profession and went up to Cheraw where [10/11] he entered as a student-at-law in the office of McIver and Robbins, a leading firm of lawyers in that part of the state. A fellow-student was John J. Inglis, who subsequently became Chancellor of the State of South Carolina; and later, upon removing to Baltimore, was made Judge of the Orphans' Court, and Dean of the Law Department of the University of Maryland. He was himself a man of orderly habits, but he testified to the superiority of Alexander Gregg in that respect. For the two years of his life as a law student the latter occupied a room back of the law office and pursued an unvarying daily programme. He was admitted to practise law as an attorney on the sixth of December, 1841, and formed a partnership with General J. W. Blackney, a man of some prominence, having been a member of the legislature of South Carolina for several terms, and being then a commander of the state troops. The firm of Blackney and Gregg occupied offices in a brick building on Front Street in Cheraw, and their practice was chiefly confined to the Northeastern Circuit, embracing the districts of Chesterfield, Marlboro, Darlington and Marion.

The firm had a good practice. The senior member of the firm confined himself almost entirely to the office work while Mr. Gregg gave his attention to practice in the courts, and speedily established a reputation for broad knowledge of the law, for sound [11/12] judgment and for skill in advocacy. The conduct of some celebrated cases was committed to him. In one instance, in a case where a large amount of money was involved, Mr. Gregg's opponents were Senator W. C. Preston and Ex-Governor Wilson, and he not only won a verdict for his clients and secured for them a considerable sum in damages, but his conduct of the suit and the speeches he made in the court elicited favorable and extended comment and at once brought him into a degree of prominence. He was a most energetic man, and he continued to attract attention by contesting to a successful issue several cases which had previously been considered hopeless.

In Cheraw, Mr. Gregg made the acquaintance of Charlotte Wilson Kollock, daughter of Mr. Oliver Hawes Kolloch, who had some time previously retired from professional and literary life and was living on his plantation in Marlboro county. Mr. Kollock was a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. He had married a niece of Governor Wilson of South Carolina. He was widely known for his scholarly attainments and for his active connection with the Episcopal Church. His daughter was accomplished, and her dark hair and eyes and her lively disposition were in striking contrast with the quiet disposition of the young lawyer with his Scotch complexion and [12/13] grey eyes. After a long courtship they were married on the twenty-first of April, 1841. The fruit of this marriage was ten children. Nine of them were born in Cheraw and three died there. The first-born, Alexander, after a college career at Oxford, Mississippi, entered the Confederate Army at the breaking out of the Civil War, but died in Richmond at the early age of nineteen, before he could participate in any of the battles for his country. Two daughters grew to womanhood and were married. One was widowed on the day of her marriage, her husband dying of cholera. The other, long time a widow, died in 1909. Two sons are still living in Texas. Another son was the writer of this biography, but died before its completion. The youngest son, C. K. Gregg, became a practising physician, was for a time an Assistant Surgeon in the United States Army in the West, and returning in 1888 to Texas and settling in the town of McKinney, met there a tragic death in October of that year.

Mrs. Gregg was a devoted Churchwoman, and this marriage was the first important link in the long chain of circumstances which led Alexander Gregg into the Episcopate. After the happy union was severed by the death of Mrs. Gregg in 1881, Bishop Gregg wrote for his children his "Recollections of the Life and Character of their Sainted Mother." [13/14] From this manuscript is derived the substance of the following account of what might properly be termed the Conversion of Alexander Gregg. Most of the immediate relatives of Mr. Gregg were members of the Baptist denomination. He refers in his manuscript to some religious convictions which he had experienced in his earlier years, but which he had lost for a time at this period of his career. He was deeply impressed, however, by the religious character of his wife; and this impression was deepened when their first-born was baptized and when this was followed by the mother receiving confirmation and becoming a devout communicant of the Church. Although fully persuaded of her concern for him and of her anxious desire to have him follow her example in this matter, he "observed with admiration her prudent course in not unduly urging the subject upon him, leaving it rather to time, to her Christian life and other influences, under God, to bring about the desired result."

In April, 1843, Mr. and Mrs. Gregg, with their infant son, made a visit to his father, intending to spend a week under the paternal roof. During the first night, he was seized with a sudden and overpowering conviction that he must at once set about the work of his salvation or that he would be irretrievably lost. Without informing anyone of the [14/15] cause of his departure, he left his father's house the next morning without delay, returned to his home, shut himself up for three days, and came forth at the end of that time with fixed purpose of mind to be baptized and "as soon as full communion with the Church could be attained and the necessary steps taken, to become a candidate for Holy Orders."

The announcement of this decision caused great consternation among the friends and relatives of the promising young lawyer for whom it seemed that a high place at the bar or even a seat on the bench was attainable within a few years. And amid all the opposition that was raised to his carrying out his purposes, he had only the support and sympathy of three persons: his wife, his mother and one of his mother's sisters. His eccentric father's opposition was so violent that for years he refused to have anything to do with the son.

Alexander Gregg was not a man to be swerved from a purpose once determined upon. He was that year baptized in St. David's Church, Cheraw, by the rector, the Rev. J. W. Miles, who the same year presented him to the Bishop of the Diocese, the Rt. Rev. C. E. Gadsden, for confirmation. He promptly settled all his business and professional affairs and retired to a small farm a few miles northwest of Cheraw, where he made a modest support for his family [15/16] while pursuing his studies under the direction of his rector and his Bishop.

As indicating the character and extent of preparation for the ministry in those days and under those circumstances, the following letters from Bishop Gadsden to Mr. Gregg will be interesting:--

Charleston 13 Novr 1843.

My dr sir:

This evening I received yours of the 8th inst. and it has afforded me real joy, as well as caused, I trust, sincere gratitude to Him Who by His Providence and grace prepares men for His service and for usefulness to their fellow-men.

With the canons you can have no doubt as to your course. You will notice that the first step is to be received as a candidate, and in order thereto, you are first "to give notice" of your intention to the Bishop. This you have done. Next you are to have a certificate signed by "at least one Presbyter and four respectable laymen," that they believe that Alexander Gregg is pious etc. (See the words in canon IX of 1841 Section a) This certificate you will send enclosed in a letter, to the Rev. Dr. Hanckel, President of the Standing Committee of this Diocese, in which letter you will request the Committee to furnish you with the canonical testimonial to be presented to the Bishop. (See Section of the IX canon of 1841.) You will also exhibit to the Committee your diploma (see Section 3d of the same canon.)

[17] When the Bishop shall have admitted you as a candidate (see section 6) he will "superintend" your studies (see canon X of 1832) or appoint some one to do so.

My counsel to you is promptly (for I take it for granted that your admission as a candidate will soon be) to provide yourself with these books and to study them diligently in order to prepare for your first examination (see Canon V of 1841, section i).

Nordenheimer's Hebrew Grammar.

Bloomfield's Greek Testament.

Gray's Key to the Old Testament.

Percey's Key to the New Testament.

Howe's Introduction to the Books of Scripture. Patrick, Lowth and Whitby's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments.

The Hebrew can be dispensed with.

To these studies, let me advise you to give as much attention as possible. You will have also to prepare five sermons (see same section) one on this text, now "assigned" you, viz:--"All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable" &c. 2 Timothy III 16.

Having fully prepared yourself for this first examination, I will appoint a time for it. You will then proceed to prepare for the second and third examinations.

With respect to the term of candidateship (see section 7 of canon IX of 1841) being shortened, you will observe not the Bishop's consent only, [17/18] but that of the Committee is necessary. Let me refer you also to the testimonial printed in XX canon of 1832 where it is "A. B. hath lived piously for three years last past." At the time of your ordination therefore it must appear that for three years preceding you had lived piously.

I am disposed to afford you every facility which can be canonically done, in consideration of circumstances which I need not detail. Let me hope that your application to the Committee will soon be made and that a good Providence and grace may bring your pious purpose to a happy consummation.

The books I have named will be valuable to you through life, indeed almost indispensable to a minister.

If the terms of your candidateship should be inconveniently long as it respects means of living, might you not, by engaging in teaching for a part of the day, obtain some income, or if licensed by me as a lay reader, receive some compensation in a parish where a minister could not be had? But my dear sir, let us trust that Providence will overrule this obstacle. If this manuscript is rather obscure I mention that I am writing by candlelight.

I have not long since written to Dr. Powe and to Mr. Downing.

I remain with regard,

As a matter of fact, Mr. Gregg did not have the term of his candidacy shortened; did not get a dispensation from the study of Hebrew; and did not [18/19] engage in teaching while studying; nor have we any evidence that under licence as a lay reader he received any compensation from a parish before he was ordered Deacon. All things being in readiness he was in 1846 ordained Deacon by Bishop Gadsden, in St. David's Church, Cheraw.

The second letter was written with regard to his advancement to the Priesthood:--

My dear sir:--

Charleston, 15 Jany 1845.

My absence at the North prevented my receiving your letter until three days ago.

As to your first examination I believe you have the list of books recommended for your study. As to the second examination (see Canon V of 1841)

On the Evidences of Christianity

a Paley's Evidences & a Horae Paulinae.

Soame Jenyn's (being on the Internal Evidences).

Verplanck lectures. a Campbell on Miracles.

a Butler's Analogy. a Newton on the Prophecies.

a Leslie's Method with the Jews and Deists.

A preference is due to those marked (a) as they are recommended by the "House of Bishops." (See "Course of Ecclesiastical Studies" printed at the end of the canons and also "the library for a Parish Minister.")

Lyttleton on the Conversion of St. Paul.

Text for the sermon "By whom also we have [19/20] the atonement" or "By grace ye are saved through faith and that not of yourselves."

Systematic Divinity

a Pearson on the Creed. a Secker on the Catechism.

a Stackhouse's Body of Divinity. The Homilies.

a Elements of Christian Theology by Bishop of Lincoln.

Calvinism refuted by the same.

Comparison Calvinism and Arminianism by Bishop White. (This is not the exact title of the book.)

Bampton Lectures by Laurence.

Bishop Wilson's Parochialia.

Cresley on Preaching.

As to the Third Examination

(1) On Church History

a Eusebius.

a The Apostolical Fathers (Wakes or Chresalius Ed.)

Collier's Church History.

a Mosheim's Church History.

Burton's Ecclesiastical History.

Palmer's Ecclesiastical History.

Southey's Book of the Church (The Churchman's Library).

Blunt's History of the Reformation in England.

Mason's Compend of Ecclesiastical History.

(2) Ecclesiastical Polity.

a Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, (to be diligently studied).

a Daubeny's Guide to the Church.

"Episcopacy tested by Scripture"--a tract.

[21] (3) On Book of Common Prayer

a Wheatley on the Common Prayer.

Bishop Brownell on the Common Prayer.

Hobart's Fasts and Festivals of the Church (very valuable).

Palmer's Origenes Liturgicae.

(4) Constitution and Canons of the Church

"The definition of Faith and Canon of Discipline" Canons of the P. E. Church &c bound up in one volume. (Author Rev. William A. Hammond to be had of James A. Sparks, New York.)

Dolche's Church History contains some canons of the Church in South Carolina and they are printed at the end of the Journal of Convention of 1844.

Text Matt. XVI 18 "And I will give unto you the Keys," &c.

The Church the pillar and ground of the Truth.


Sengal's Life of God in the Soul of Man.

Bishop Wilson's Sacra Privata the larger edition containing meditations for clergymen.

The list may appear to you large. It could have been made much larger. Some of the books you may not be able to procure but most of them you can

When you offer for examination please show me this list. Very truly Yours in the Church,


On the nineteenth of December, 1847, in St. Philip's Church, Charleston, the Rev. Mr. Gregg was advanced to the Priesthood by Bishop Gadsden.

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