Rev. A.B. Murden Biography
State Missionary - Eloquent Baptist Divine
Few young men at the age of twenty-seven have accomplished more or exerted a broader influence for good than has Rev. A.B. Murden. He first saw the light on the plantation of Judge Howell Bunkley, near Crawfordville, Ga., August 25, 1865. He was the seventh son of Jerry and Sarah Ann Murden. Being a bright boy from babyhood, the people predicted great things from him.
The white people called him Bartow, in honor of the great Southern General, but the colored folks called him Ulysses Grant, hence the name Aaron Bartow Ulysses Grant Murden.
At the age of nine young Murden was sent to school. He soon proved to be a very bright boy; so rapidly did he learn that many offered to take him and educate him, but his mother was not willing to have him leave home. As a lad he was thoughtful and active and always wanted to earn something for himself.
A pleasing little incident is that when about twelve years old he bottomed a chair for a neighbor and received in payment an old hen. At another time he earned a goose, and from that time he began to earn money. He became quite skillful in making brooms, horse-collars and foot-mats. These articles, when sold, brought many dollars to his widowed mother.
When about sixteen years old young Aaron found himself an orphan, thrown upon the world to care for himself. He had always been a great lover of his mother and now that she who had always been his best friend was dead, he resolved to leave the old home place.
He had a great thirst for knowledge, but to gain it he must have money, and this he had not. He resolved to find work on the railroad so that he might earn money enough to defray his expenses at school one term at least. Accordingly he left his home and came to Atlanta, but not until the crop was gathered and he had attended to all the business which his mother had left undone. After settling the debts of the farm, paying the doctor's bill and burial expenses of his mother, he found that he had twenty-five dollars for himself.
On reaching Atlanta, he went to see his cousin, Mr. W.A. Jackson, at whose house he left his trunk and other articles. Before leaving the city he deposited twenty-two dollars in the bank, and boarded the cars for Marietta, Ga., with three dollars in his pocket. While on the cars, boy-like, he bought a ring for a dollar and a half. On reaching Marietta he found he must walk forty miles to Dallas, Ga., at which place he was to engage. On the way some one stole a dollar from him, so when he reached his destination he had only fifty cents.
The E.T., V. & G.R.R. was being constructed at that time, and he engaged at grading for a dollar and a quarter per day. His manliness, activity and faithfulness to duty soon brought him to the place where he earned a dollar and seventy-five cents a day. At first he boarded at nine dollars per month, but soon found this a poor way to save money, so he built him a little shack in the woods and did his own cooking. He found that by so doing he could live on three dollars a month. Some of my readers may not know what a shack is. It is a very small house built of logs and daubed with mud. It has a stick-chimney, a dirt floor and is just high enough for a man to get in. In such a house our hero lived from March till August, 1882.
In this short sketch we cannot mention all the incidents, but the reader may rest assured they were many and varied. Young Murden was the only Christian but one working on the road at that time. Most of the men spent Sundays in gambling; but he went out and found a church into which he gathered the children and told them about Jesus, that one who died to save them.
He witnessed many crimes, and many accidents occurred. Several times he narrowly escaped with his life.
Rev. Murden tells of one most remarkable incident. It was the 25th of March, 1882; he had been holding the jumper from the seven o'clock till near twelve, when the man who was driving the steel said, "Murden, I guess you are tired now, let me hold and you drive." They were working in a deep cut, and a huge stone looked frowningly down upon them. Murden had said, "Mitchell, I think that rock there is cracked." Mitchell had proposed to examine it in a few minutes. Scarcely had the words died from his lips when down came the massive rock upon him. He was leaning over the jumper, and so great was the force that the steel was driven right through his breast. He head was terrible mashed; he brought one convulsive groan and was dead. A piece of the rock struck young Murden in the side and hurled him quite a distance. Think, he had gotten up from the steel only about ten minutes before Mr. Mitchell was killed! What a narrow escape and what an evidence of God's providence over those whom he chooses to do a great work in his name.
Remember, Murden was only sixteen years old at this time, and he thought this narrow escape was a warning to him, so he resolved to leave the road. But he first went to God in prayer, and the Spirit seemed to say to him, "I'll be with you," so he decided to work until August.
It was always a glad day for him when the pay-train came. No one knew where his bank was, but he always wended his way to a certain rock away off in the woods, under which he concealed his well-earned wages.
In August he returned to Crawfordville. Having earned enough money to defray his expenses at school, he entered the Atlanta Baptist Seminary the following October.
He had not been at the seminary long before the teachers found him to be really a promising youth. As a student he was thorough and inquisitive. He was never reproved. He realized that his opportunity was worth all the effort he could put forth, so he spent no time in idleness. As a schoolmate he was genial and loving, always good-natured, hence he was loved by all the students.
The second year of his attendance at the seminary Mr. Murden did not seek a board place in the city, but stopped in the dormitory, where a number of young men did their own work. Wednesday was his cooking day. You need not think he merely cooked special things on that day; it means he did not cook anything but once a week.
During the summer vacation of 1883 Mr. Murden taught school at his home. He was quite successful as a teacher, and the people loved him as they were wont to do. He taught school five consecutive summers, and thus earned money to defray his expenses at school. Everywhere he was he was loved by patrons and scholars, and always made warm friends wherever he went.
In 1886 Mr. Murden was licensed to preach by the Friendship Baptist church, Crawfordville, Ga. He at once showed marked ability as a pulpit orator, and evinced signs of becoming one of the foremost preachers of the State.
In 1888, Rev. Murden preached the introductory sermon of the State Baptist Sunday-school Convention at Savannah, Ga., which led to his being appointed State Missionary by the State Convention.
As a missionary Rev. Murden was untiring in his efforts and faithful in visiting destitute places. For four years he traveled over the State preaching the gospel and doing what he could to lift his race to a higher standard of morality, intelligence and true Christian living.
Let the reader be assured that a missionary's path is not always a smooth one. Many times has Rev. Murden had to walk twenty and thirty miles in order to meet his appointments. He was not always received by the people, and not a few times has he gone without food for forty-eight hours. But Rev. Murden had a true missionary spirit, and allowed none of these things to move him. He went about doing what his hands found to do, with the firm conviction: Where there's a will there's a way. He has many pleasant memories of persons converted through his own personal influence. Many times he has known wicked men to cry out while he was yet preaching. He has that peculiar gravity which draws people; having been once heard he never fails to get a congregation.
We need not add that as a missionary Rev. Murden was abundantly successful. By his resolute will and firm trust in God he has made an excellent record and done a great work among his people. He has the honor of being called the best financier of all the missionaries of Georgia.
As an orator, Rev. Murden is quite fluent, and we make no mistake when we say eloquent. His graduating oration in May, 1886, won for him quite a name as a speaker. As a preacher he is a deep and ready thinker and never fails to make an impression.
Since May 1st, 1892 Rev. Murden has been pastor of the First Baptist Church, LaGrange, Ga. He has little experience as pastor; but thus far he has been quite successful. He has won a warm place in the hearts of the people, and the prospects are that his career in the line of church work may be a brilliant one.
In October, 1891, Rev. Murden married Miss Dora A. Jackson, of Atlanta, Ga., a graduate of Spelman Seminary. Theirs was a happy union. Their home is made cheerful by a bright little boy, A.B. Murden, Jr.
Rev. Murden is a graduate of the Normal and Theological departments of the Atlanta Baptist Seminary.
May this short sketch inspire some young man of mean circumstances to rise up and make for himself a name.
Carter, Edward Randolph. The Black Side: A Partial History of the Business, Religious and Educational Side of the Negro in Atlanta, Ga, Atlanta, Georgia. 1894, pp. 109-114.