Felix C. Sowell
Biographical Sketch On The Life Of F.C. Sowell Sr.
Seventy-five years of service for the Master! Such was the life of this beloved soldier of the cross, who passed away August 1, 1951, leaving many good works through which he still speaks and going to receive the true riches laid up in heaven.
F. C. Sowell, Sr., was born in Maury County, Tenn., near (he always objected to saying "on") Duck River, November 20, 1859. He was baptized into Christ when sixteen years old. Soon afterward, Brother Smithson, a blind preacher, held a meeting at Antioch in Maury County. J. C. McQuiddy made the confession, and having brought no change of clothing, borrowed a suit from Brother Sowell in which he was baptized. The two were close friends from that time, occasionally preaching together.
In order to make better preparation for the lifework he had chosen, Brother Sowell spent three years as one of "Larimore's :boys" at Mars Hill, Ala. He loved to tell of those happy days. One anecdote often repeated was in connection with the daily meetings for "criticisms." It seemed that all the boys assembled each day when Brother Larimore would make suggestions for better conduct. On one such occasion, Brother Larimore held up a pencil, requesting that the owner step forward to claim it. As the boy arose, Brother Larimore said: "Come get it, Lee. Dedie (his daughter) found it in the hen's nest." The boys had been stealing eggs from the henhouse and cooking them on the stoves in their rooms!
Brother Larimore deeply impressed simplicity in things material. The upstanding collar by which Brother Sowell was recognized wherever he went was in imitation of his beloved teacher's simple style. Brother Larimore laid upon the boys the necessity of memorizing their "proof texts," and they spent hours in the woods alone memorizing and repeating aloud the proof texts for sermons.
In 1884, Brother Sowell married Mary Z. Evans of Hickman County, Tenn. They settled in Maury County where his home remained throughout his life. The horse and buggy doctor has received his well-deserved praise, but perhaps the horse and buggy preacher has failed to get the honor due him. By horseback, wagon, buggy and finally automobile, Brother Sowell preached all over Maury and surrounding counties, building up the churches, baptizing hundreds, marrying them, burying them, comforting them in their sorrows and helping them in their problems. Such work does not usually bring great prominence, but often contributes more to the stability of the churches than any other. He never liked the idea of preaching for a "stipulated salary." It sounded too much like "making merchandise of the gospel." Rather, he went out on faith. Sometimes he received nothing, sometimes a little, but never much. When necessity demanded, he "made tents," working diligently on his little Maury County farm to support his family of eight children:
Early in his preaching career, Brother Sowell went to the South Harpeth congregation, near Linton in Davidson County, to assist William Anderson in a meeting. On one Sunday of the meeting there was a birthday anniversary for some member of the congregation. During the festivities of the occasion a suggestion was made that it be made an annual affair, with Brother Sowell to return next year for preaching and "dinner on the ground." He returned the next year, and for fifty-nine other "second Sundays in May." His last talk was made in 1946, the sixtieth anniversary of that first meeting.
Meeting work took F. C. Sowell into many states outside of Tennessee. He made nineteen trips to Texas. He held the first meeting ever conducted in Denver, Colo. The work in Denver began largely through the efforts of John D. Evans (Mrs. Sowell's brother) and in 1911 the first meeting was held in a tent.
Local work did not appeal to him. However at the insistence of good friends, he moved to Grandview, Texas and worked two years. While in Grandview, he performed the marriage ceremony for J. D. Tant and Miss Nanny Yater.
Brother Sowell loved children. One of his greatest pleasures was to visit the Tennessee Orphan Home (then in Columbia) and tell Bible stories to the children. Perhaps his most outstanding characteristics were love, kindness and gentleness. Typical of these attributes was an article contributed to the Gospel Advocate in May, 1911, proposing that all gospel preachers make a united effort in May by preaching on "love" each Sunday. Most of his articles in the Advocate contained appeals to brethren to love each other more.
His eighty-fifth year was the last year of every-Sunday preaching. During the remaining years, his greatest joy was to meet old friends and talk of times spent together. Again and again, he would go through Boles' "Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers," most of the pictures bringing to mind old friends and stirring a recollection of some interesting experience or peculiar personal characteristic.
Though blessed with a long life as counted by men, F. C. Sowell appreciated the brevity of life in God's view and fully realized its uncertainty for even the most favored. He frequently prayed: "We realize that we are nearer the grave, nearer the judgment, nearer eternity than we have ever been before, and we trust that it finds us a better people. He earnestly desired, above all things else to live as Christ lived and to be in heaven. Just a few days before passing on, F. C. Sowell quoted his last proof text: "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord . . ." feeling that thus the Holy Spirit was witnessing with his spirit for his comfort and strength.
We cannot help but have this confidence, that, after seventy-five years as a faithful Christian, after seventy years as a soldier of the cross, with thousands of persons by his own hands immersed, many of whom remain to this day as living epistles of his work, he has departed to be with Jesus which is far better. -EARLE I. WEST.
(Editor's Note: If Brother Sowell was not the last of "Larimore's boys," he must have been next to the last. Does any reader know of another of "Larimore's boys" still living?)
-Gospel Advocate - Vol. XCIII, No. 40, page 626,627, October 4, 1951
Gospel Advocate Obituary for Mary Evans Sowell
Mrs. Mary Evans Sowell, wife of the venerable minister, F. C. Sowell, Columbia, Tenn., passed away recently. The following extracts are from the Maury Democrat, of which her son, A. B. Sowell, is editor:
“Mrs. Sowell closed her life’s work Sunday, November 19, ‘early in the morning on the first day of the week,’ as she doubtless would have chosen for her journey to the spiritual realm of the Father, whom she so faithfully followed throughout a long, useful, and righteous life.
“Mrs. Sowell was a daughter of the late Daniel and Emily Darden Johnson Evans, her father having been a Virginian, whose family came from Wales. He settled in Hickman County, where Mrs. Sowell was born on February 22, 1862. On June 18, 1884, she was married to F. C. Sowell, then a young minister, who has served his church faithfully for more than half a century. She would have been seventy-two years of age her next birthday, and the couple would have observed their golden wedding anniversary next June. Eight children were born to the union, and her passing is the first sorrow in the immediate family. Besides her husband, she is survived by six daughters (Misses Ione, Carrie, and Louise Sowell and Mrs. H. S. Pogue, Columbia; Mrs. Earl H. West. Henderson; and Mrs. Seth Leeper, Chattanooga), also two sons (A. B. Sowell, editor of the Maury Democrat, Columbia, and F. C. Sowell, Jr., of radio station WLAC, Nashville), and one sister (Mrs. Helen Harrington, Fresno, Calif.).
“She was a woman of culture and refinement, modest, and self-effacing. Love for her family was boundless, but it was not a selfish love. Her life’s ambition was for the happiness of her children, in whom she sought to mold Christian characters.
“Funeral services were conducted from the Seventh Street church of Christ, Monday afternoon, by Elders B. F. Harding, N. B. Hardeman, and S. P. Pittman.”
Gospel Advocate, December 14, 1933, page 1199.
Note: Picture of grave below.
Obituary For F.C. Sowell - Chattanooga Paper
Obituary For F.C. Sowell, Nashville Paper
F.C. Sowell, Sr., Evangelist, Dies
Services Set Tomorrow For 91-Year-Old Leader In Church Of Christ
F.C. Sowell Sr., 91, widely known in Tennessee and Texas as a Church of Christ evangelist for 65 years, died late yesterday at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Oscar Foy, on Caldwell lane.
He was the father of F.C. Sowell Jr., manager of radio station WLAC in Nashville.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Columbia, but arrangements were incomplete last night.
Preaching his first sermon at the age of 18, Mr. Sowell had devoted his entire life to evangelism. His circuit covered most of Tennessee and parts of Texas. His converts numbered in the thousands, many years ago he said he had “stopped counting them after I passed 3000.”
He also had officiated at hundreds of weddings and funeral services.
Born Near Columbia
Mr. Sowell was a son of Col. William James and Emily Jane Hardison Sowell. He was born in 1859 on a farm on the banks of the Duck river about 10 miles east of Columbia, in a home his father built after migrating from North Carolina early in the 19th century.
As a young boy, Mr Sowell saw his father accept the colonelcy in the Confederatae (sic) army. His recollections of the War Between The States were vivid, and he remembered well a visit of Federal troops to his home. He often told how the Northern soldiers shot chickens for their meals, but were unable to confiscate the family’s horses because the boys had hidden them deep in the woods.
The Sowell Mill pike—the road from Columbia to Leftwich bridge—was given its name after Mr. Sowell’s father built a dam across the Duck river and operated a grist mill there.
Studied In Alabama
After receiving his preliminary education in Maury county public schools, Mr. Sowell studied for the ministry under the late T.B. Larimore at Mars Hill collage, in Alabama.
He was a familiar figure not he streets of Columbia, and probably was known to more people in Maury county the any other man. Most of his Sunday appointments during his life were made during the horse and buggy era, but after the automobile became common he drove his own car until he was past the age of 80. He often expressed pride that, no matter how bad the weather, he “got to the meeting house on time.”
Retired Since 1944
Mr. Sowell retired in 1944 after delivering his 54th annual sermon at the homecoming services at South Harpeth church, near Linton. Since then, his traditional sermon on the second Sunday in May at South Harpeth has been preached by his grandson, Earle West, minister of the Goodlettsville Church of Christ and a professor at David Lipscomb college.
Mr. Sowell married Miss Mary Z. Evans in 1884, and she died in 1933.
Besides his daughter and son in Nashville, he leaves four other daughters, Mrs. Seth Leeper of Chattanooga, Mrs. H.S. Pogue of Bemis, Tenn., and Mrs. T.E. Redman and Miss Carrie Sowell, both of Columbia; a sister, Mrs. J.S. Hammond of Nashville; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
-The Tennessean, Nashville, Tennessee, Friday, August 3, 1951, page 1,4
Directions To Grave
F.C. Sowell is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery In Columbia, Tennessee. Take I-65 exit 46 and go west on Highway 412. In Columbia, turn south on highway 31. Turn left on 14th street to Cemetery drive. Turn left at Rose Hill sign; Enter gate; grave is in the Lot on the left just past the building. In the middle of the lot are steps leading down to a walk way through the lot. The grave is about 12 rows up on the right and is almost covered by a tall crape myrtle tree.
Acc. to 14ft.
Grave faces East