Samuel Wait,1 one of the men who helped institute the North
Carolina Baptist State Convention, and who was afterwards the first
President of Wake Forest College, was born in Washington County,
New York, December 19, 1789. In 1806 his father, Joseph Wait,
moved to Middletown, Vermont, where on March 12, 1809, Samuel
Wait was baptized by Elder Sylvanus Haynes into the membership of
the Baptist Church. In 1813 Wait felt called to preach. To prepare
himself for his calling he entered Salem Academy in Washington
County, New York, where he studied Greek and Hebrew under "the
celebrated linguist, Professor James Stephenson." Even at this early
day he saw the importance of an education for the ministerial calling,
and is reported to have said: "I have a great work to perform, and am
anxious to begin it. It is an arduous and tiresome work to get ready,
but I dare not begin till I feel some strength to meet the infidel on his
own ground, and this strength at this day must be derived from study."
On July 13, 1815, the church at Middletown licensed him to preach
for one year, and gave him unlimited license on December 16, 1815.
A year later he became pastor of the Baptist Church at Sharon,
Massachusetts, which church called him to ordination as a full
minister on June 3, 1818. Two weeks later he married Miss Sarah
Merriam, a daughter of Jonathan Merriam, and a first cousin of Rev.
T. J. Conant, D.D. As a wife she proved a true helpmeet for her
husband in his
1 The most important sources for the life of Dr. Wait are "The Origin and Early
History of Wake Forest College," by Samuel Wait, Wake Forest Student, Vol. 2;
"Our College," by L. R. Mills, Wake Forest Student, Vol. 3; "Early Life of Dr.
Samuel Wait," by W. L. Wait, Wake Forest Student, Vol. 5; "Life of Samuel Wait,
D.D.," by John B. Brewer, North Carolina Baptist Historical Papers, Vol. 1; A
Manuscript Journal printed and edited with notes by C. E. Taylor in Wake Forest
Student, IV, 365 ff. Ibid., 417 ff. numerous letters of Wait in the Biblical Recorder,
1835-1865, and notebooks of Dr. Samuel Wait, the records of the Board of Trustees
and of the Faculty of Wake Forest College, and the minutes of the Baptist State
Convention of North Carolina.
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