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Reverend James R. Gunn (1772-1845)


It was Reverend James R. Gunn who asked Kate the question, “Who are you and what do you want?” in such a manner that a truthful answer was the only option.  Kate’s answer to his question was, “I am nothing but old Kate Batts’ witch, here to torment Ol’ Jack Bell to his death,” which earned her the nickname, “Kate.”  Hence, Reverend James Gunn is credited, indirectly, with squeezing the supposed "truth" out of Kate.

Reverend James Gunn was the younger of the two Gunn brothers who pioneered Methodism in the Red River area during the early Nineteenth Century.  He was born and spent his childhood in Virginia, where he and his brother, Thomas, were licensed to preach in May of 1789.  He moved to Caswell County, North Carolina in 1791.

The son of Episcopalians, Reverend James Gunn was married twice and had a total of seventeen children, three of which (Joseph, E.W., and William) followed in his footsteps and became Methodist ministers.  He moved to Tennessee in 1811, settling in the Red River area near the Bell farm.  He helped establish and began preaching at nearby Bethel Methodist Church, which was in addition to preaching at other Methodist churches in Tennessee and southern Kentucky.  Along with his brother, Reverend James Gunn founded Ebenezer Methodist Church (now known as Cedar Hill Methodist Church) in 1833.  Many churches he helped establish still exist today.

Reverend James R. Gunn died of a probable stroke in 1849 after spending the last eight months of his life confined to a bed, and is buried in one of the Gunn cemeteries near Adams, Tennessee.


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