This Goodly Land

H. E. Taliaferro (March 4, 1811–November 2, 1875)

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Alabama Connections

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Biographical Information

H. E. Taliaferro (pronounced "Tolliver") was born in western North Carolina on a farm near Fisher's River. As a boy, he worked at a local grist mill. When he was eighteen, Taliaferro moved to Roane County in eastern Tennessee to live with several older brothers from whom he learned the tanning trade. Two of his brothers were also Baptist preachers. Taliaferro felt called to preach, too, and, to prepare, he studied for a year at Madisonville Academy in Madisonville, Tenn. In 1835, Taliaferro moved to Talladega, Ala. Supporting himself and his family by farming and working as a tanner, he began preaching at churches in the area. In the 1840s, several of his sermons were published in the Virginia Baptist Preacher. In 1855, Taliaferro moved to Tuskegee, Ala., to join his brother-in-law in editing the South Western Baptist (he became senior editor in 1858). In addition to editing, Taliaferro wrote articles and sketches for the paper. He preached part-time at a local Tuskegee church and served as circuit preacher for churches in Auburn, Notasulga, Bethel, and Cotton Valley.

In 1857, Taliaferro wrote and published a religious tract The Grace of God Magnified describing a spiritual crisis he had undergone a few years earlier. The same year, a visit to the area of North Carolina where he had grown up inspired him to write a series of humorous sketches. His book Fisher's River was published in 1859, and nine additional sketches were published in the Southern Literary Messenger in the early 1860s. In 1862, Taliaferro suspended publication of the South Western Baptist, citing wartime shortages, and returned to the tanning business. When the war ended, he started a new paper, the Tuskegee News, which he edited for several years. From 1869 to 1872, Taliaferro was appointed by the American Baptist Home Mission Society to work with local black Baptists. He trained preachers and organized a statewide convention. In 1873, Taliaferro left Alabama and returned to Roane County, Tenn. He died there two years later.

Interests and Themes

H. E. Taliaferro's sketches of Appalachian life in western North Carolina are examples of Old Southwest humor.

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Last updated on Dec 21, 2009.

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