Page images


ANTHONY FORSTER was born in the County of Brunswick, North-Carolina, January 11th, 1785. His father, who was a respectable farmer in that part of the country, died when he was yet a child, and left the guardianship and direction of his youth to the care of a friend. Of his early life little is known. That little, however, is highly honourable to his character in every respect, and clearly evinces that the peculiar traits, which distinguished his mind in maturer years, had begun to develope themselves at that early period. We have the authority of a sensible and judicious man, in whose family he was for some time an inmate in early youth, that he was an extraordinary boy ; that he possessed an inquisitiveness of mind, and habits of research and investigation beyond his years. Reasons, as the same person observed, which satisfied other children, were often unsatisfactory to him. Whatever inquiry he commenced, was pursued with unremitting zeal and assiduity, as far as his means of information enabled him. These, however, were but too scanty and limited, at that period, in that part of the country where Providence had assigned him his lot. His early education was of course incomplete. Of that system of steady, vigorous and efficient scholastick discipline, which the experience of ages has sanctioned as best adapted to mature and harmonize the mental powers, his youth was, in a great measure, destitute. It had been the intention of his father to superintend personally the education of his sons ; but his death early deprived them of this advantage; and they were sent by their Guardian to the University of North-Carolina, where they entered the Preparatory School. The subject of this Memoir was then twelve years of age. It is not known to the writer how long he remained in this seminary, before he became a member of the College ; nor into what class be entered on his admission ; but the period of his residence in both departments of this Institution was five years. Mr. Forster's attainments, when he left the University, were highly respectable. While there he maintained a distinguished rank in his class and his deportment was manly and honourable, and secured him the esteem and respect both of his fellowstudents and of his instructors.

After leaving College, he was induced by the wishes and advice of his friends to commence the study of law; but it was not the study most congenial to his feelings, or his taste, and he seems never to have pursued it with much ardour, or constancy. He was more frequently to be found poring over some old and ponderous volumes of theology, which chance had thrown in his way, than in perusing Blackstone or Coke. His health, too, which seems never to have been robust, became evidently impaired by his too sedentary habits, and it was thought advisable that he should try the effects of a more active course of life. He yielded to the suggestions of friendship-perhaps to his own sense of duty-and accepted an Ensign's Commission in the army of the United States, bearing date March, 1804. He immediately joined a body of troops which was stationed at that time on the western frontiers of Georgia, and while there was promoted to a Lieutenancy. Here he remained, with the reputation of a brave, correct and active officer, until October, 1806, when he resigned his commission, and quitted the service. This step, which would seem to have been hastened, at least, by his dissatisfaction with some measures of his commanding officer, left him without employment, far from his friends, and in a great measure destitute of resources. In these circumstances, his mind seems to have been for a period unsettled, and indeterminate with regard to the course he should pursue in life. He was for some time employed in the United States' Factory established at the fort where he had been stationed ; and then returned again to his legal studies, in the office and under the direction of a practitioner at the bar at Milledgeville, in Georgia. - In these different occupations he passed the greater part of two years. About the close of this period he was attacked with a violent pain in the head; and as several persons in the vicinity had been recently carried off by inflammation of the brain, he was induced to call in the aid of a physician, who bled him so profusely that a nervous fever was the consequence, which reduced him to the very brink of the grave. At this critical and distressing period, the hand of sympathy and kindness was extended for his relief. A family then residing in Milledgeville, removed him to their house, and, although strangers to him, evinced, by their undeviating attention during his illness, the warmest interest in his favour : of which he ever retained a deep sense of gratitude. During three weeks the time passed to him unconsciously. At one time he lay for half an hour to all appearance dead. Those about him thought that he had actually expired, and were proceeding to prepare for him the habiliments of the grave; when their arrangements were interrupted by signs of returning life. At this time, he was in full possession of his mental powers, and distinctly perceived what was going forward around him. But the corporeal functions were entirely suspended; he had no power to utter a sound, or move a limb; and fully expected to be committed living to the earth.

From the effects of this fever he never entirely recovered. IIc himself always considered it as the origin of that diseage, which finally terminated his existence.

He soon

regained, however, sufficient strength to be able to set out on a visit to his friends in North-Carolina, intending to proceed thence to Ballstown Springs. On his way, he stopped in King and Queen County, Virginia, to visit a friend of his father, at whose house he experienced an attack of rheumatism so violent as to confine him for some time to his room.

When he had sufficiently recovered to be able to resume his travels, the season was so far advanced that he judged it unadvisable to pursue his original plan, and returned to North-Carolina. Some time after his return, lis friend and former guardian, General B. Smith, who had been recently elected Chief Magistrate of that State, gave him an invitation to accept the office of his Private Secretary. He complied with this proposal, and soon after removed to Raleigh, and entered on the duties of his office. This was in December, 1810. But he did not continue long in this situation. His mind had of late been more particularly directed to the contemplation of religious subjects—his religious views and feelings had become more distinct and decided ; and he had definitively resolved to dedicate his talents and exertions to the immediate service of the Gospel. With the permission of his friend and benefactor, he therefore resigned his appointment, and accepted the office of Assistant Teacher in the Raleigh Academy, pursuing. at his leisure hours, the study of Theology, under the direction of the Rev. Dr. M'Pheeters, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, and Principal of the Academy.

He was licensed as a Preacher by the Orange Presbytery, in Raleigh, early in 1813; and till November, of the same year, officiated as a voluntary Missionary, that is, without receiving any compensation for his services, in various parts of South Carolina and Georgia. About the close of this year, Mr. Forster was invited by the Independent Church at Wappetaw in South-Carolina, to settle.

[ocr errors]

with them as their Pastor. With the state of things in this parish, Mr. Forster was, in a great measure, unacquainted ; but by the representations made to him, he was induced to accept the invitation ; and accordingly removed from Raleigh, with his wife, to whom he had been recently married, early in January, 1814,* in order to enter on the duties of his sacred charge. On arriving at the contemplated scene of his future labours, he found that the representations which had been made to him, were essentially erroneous, and that the prospects which he had been led to anticipate, were, in a great measure, illusory. So very different did he discover the reality to be from the expectations he had formed, that he felt himself constrained to signify to his parishioners that he wished to recal his acceptance of their invitation ; offering, at the same time, to preach for them during the winter. To this they assented'; and he continued to labour among them till June ; at which time they formally repeated their invitation to a permanent settlement. Grateful as must have been this token of their affection and esteem, he felt it his duty to decline its acceptance.

During the summer of 1814, he preached in the First Presbyterian Church in Charleston, the Pastor of which being at that time absent on a tour to the Northern States. Among this people his services were eminently acceptable. Those who had an opportunity of becoming personally acquainted with him, became strongly attached to him, and continued to be among his warmest, and most stedfast friends in every variety of his fortune, until his death.

After the expiration of his engagement in this Church, he was invited to preach at the Independent Church on John's Island. Here he remained during the greater part

* Mr. Forster was married in December, 1813, to Miss Altona H. Gales, daughter of Mr. Joseph Gales, of Raleigh, North-Carolina. His widow and two children, a son and a daughter, survive him

« PreviousContinue »