Rev. Robert R. Witten is one of the pioneers of the Methodist Church in Missouri. He was born October 8, 1831, in McMinn county, Tennessee, and is a son of Rev. James Witten, who was born in Tazewell county, Virginia, January 5, 1793.
The parents of Rev. James Witten with their family, moved to Sequatchie Valley, Tennessee, James then being sixteen years of age and the oldest of the family, and his father being quite feeble, nearly all the work of opening up a new farm in a heavily timbered country devolved upon him; he never attended school to exceed six months in his life, but so thoroughly did he mingle hard study with hard labor that he mastered all the branches of mathematics and also acquired a fine knowledge of all branches of an English education. Iie served as first lieutenant in the war of 1812, and shortly after the close of the Civil War was licensed as a preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church and labored in various pastoral charges in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.
In the year 1820 he married Miss Eliza S. Ewing, of Lee county, Virginia. In 1848 he came to Missouri and labored as an itinerant, his field of labor being all of north-west Missouri. He was once threatened by a mob in Clay county, that if he did not quit preaching, that for the first offense he should have tar and feathers, and for the second, hemp rope. To this he replied.: Then you can come on now with your hemp rope, for I shall not only commit the first but the last also; halt if scaring is what you want, you have struck the wrong man. I have faced the mouth of the cannon in the defense of my country without fear, and I can do it again, and bear in mind that I served my country in the War of 1812, and my father and grandfather in the Revolutionary War. We fought for liberty and we intend to have it!”
Of such noble patriots and hardy pioneers did the subject of this sketch spring. At ten years of age Robert R. Witten became a plow-boy and so labored on a farm until of age, attending school a little in the winter. He received a collegiate course at Grand River College. In 1851 he went with his father into the missionary work with the Wyandotte, Delaware and Kickapoo Indians, and taught the mission school. December 25, 1852, he received his first license to preach, and three years after entered conference and went into itineracy. As he says, he then left the poetic Kickapoo to the luxury of his blanket and bow and went to try the fiercer forms of border life in Missouri, and ever since then has labored faithfully and endured many hardships and privations, but has accomplished much good and is well known all over northwestern Missouri. By request of conference he delivered an historical address at Cameron, Missouri, March 23, 1881, showing the brilliant history of Methodism in Missouri for the last quarter of a century. This was a very able effort, and by request of conference it was published in pamphlet form, a copy of which should be in the hands of all desiring to know the early history of the church in Missouri.
As has been appropriately expressed by Elder Shumate, Mr. Witten is a grand specimen of backwoods life-a real homespun nobleman. He is still laboring in the ministry at Pattonsburg, Daviess county, and, as he says, is still fighting the good fight of faith, and by the help of God is determined to gain the victory.