William R. Gwaltney

Pastor, FBC Hillsborough, 1867- 1872
Rev. W. R. Gwaltney presided at the November 13, 1867 church conference and was “earnestly requested to attend a pastor and deacons meeting” to be held at the Beulah Church.  On March 25, 1868, he and his wife, “Sister A.E. Gwaltney”  presented a letter of dismission from Cub Creek Church, Wilkes County, NC and were received as members of the church.  Matters of church discipline were addressed frequently during this time with committees established to investigate “evil reports” against various members.  The building committee continued to oversee completion of the building began in 1860.  The church bell purchased to replace the one given to the Confederacy was sold for $35 and the money was applied to purchase of a new one.  Attempts to raise funds to purchase an organ failed.  On November 3, 1870, “Brother Gwaltney tendered his resignation as pastor,” but on motion the resignation was rejected.  On January 8, 1871 the church voted to call him pastor for the coming year, 1871, and to reject a proposal from Chapel Hill to share him as minister.  The latter would have him move to Chapel Hill.  Funds were raised for “making door to balcony.”  Gwaltney moderated his last church meeting on January 4, 1872.1 

The following biography is excerpted from several sources:
William Robert Gwaltney was born near Taylorsville in Alexandria County, NC on September 9, 1835.  He was the third child of Howell Gwaltney and Elsie Hendren.  In all there were eleven siblings. He was licensed to preach by Pilgrim Church in 1860.  He entered Wake Forest College in 1860 but left college in 1862 at the beginning of the Civil War.  In 1863, he was ordained a Baptist minister by the church in Taylorsville and joined the Confederate Army. There he served as colporteur and chaplain with the 1st North Carolina Infantry Regiment in Virginia, rendering “valuable service in this important position” until General Lee surrendered at Appomattox. He reentered Wake Forest as soon as it reopened and graduated with a BA in 1868. 

Gwaltney married Amelia Ellen Staley in Wilkesboro, NC on January 30, 1866.  They had nine children.  For the next forty years, he ministered and built churches throughout North Carolina. He served full time at churches in Taylorsville, Hillsboro, Chapel Hill, Mocksville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Greensboro, Wake Forest and Hickory.  At Hillsboro, Mocksville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and Greensboro, he led in erecting new houses of worship or greatly improving the old ones.  Wake Forest conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1895. His last pastorate was at Hickory.  He died there on December 15, 1907.

One of his biographers describe him as a Christian gentleman of exalted character, an able preacher of the gospel, a good pastor, wise in counsel, and a leader in the various departments of denominational work.  He was a Trustee of Wake Forest College, Meredith College, Thomasville Baptist Orphanage, and was a member of the various boards of the NC Baptist State Convention.2,3,4
Gwaltney served as pastor of the Wake Forest Baptist Church from July, 1890 to June 1898.  Charles Elisha Taylor was president of the College at this time.  Gwaltney made it clear in his first sermon at Wake Forest that he was not there “to preach literature or science or politics or philosophy, but to preach Jesus Christ as Savior and teacher and comforter.”  He was true to this purpose during his eight years ministry at the church. Students appreciated his warm and sincere interest in their spiritual welfare as he often visited them in their rooms.5

Gwaltney was seventy-two when he died in 1907.  His wife, Amelia Ellen Staley, continued to live in Hickory, NC after his death.  She died there on December 19, 1932.  She was born on September 8, 1846 making her eighty-six years old at the time of her death.  Both she and her husband are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Hickory.6

  1. Minutes of First Baptist Church Hillsborough, NC from November 19, 1853 to December 2, 1953.
  2. Taylor, Thomas, J. D.D., A History of the Tar River Baptist Association, 1830-1921.  Prepared and Published by order of the Association, 1923 (?).  Accessed on March 3, 2011 at:  http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/historyfiction/fullview.aspx?id=tah
  3. The W. R. Gwaltney Papers #1636, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Accessed on March 3, 2011 at:  http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/g/Gwaltney,W.R.html
  4. Rootsweb Ancestry Genealogical Database for Martin-Gwaltney Families:  Accessed on March 3, 2011 at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bmartin/Gwaltney.html
  5. Paschal, George W. History of Wake Forest College. Volume 2, 1865 – 1905. Wake Forest College, Wake Forest, NC. 1943. Edward & Broughton Company, Raleigh, NC.  Accessed on March 3, 2011 at:  http://zsr.wfu.edu/collections/digital/HST_WFU/wf_history_v2.pdf
  6. J. Martin Family Genealogical Database. Accessed on March 3, 2011 at: http://www.jmartinfamily.com/jon/gedreporter/ind3061.html#@I13309@
 Compiled by Reginald Carter, Historian, FBC Hillsborough
Last Updated: March 3, 2011