Hezekiah Balch, D.D. (1741–1810) was a Presbyterian minister and one of the co-founders of Tusculum College, originally called Greeneville College. The Rev Balch was also the author of, and one of the signatories of "The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence"
Early life and education
He was born in 1741 in Harford County, Maryland along Deer Creek. There is very little information about Balch's early life. His parents are Col. James Balch (1714 - 1779) and Anne Goodwin (1719 - 1760). Family tradition states that Balch was named after his father. Other sources disagree that the elder Hezekiah Balch was his father referring to the man as his cousin. While he was still a child, Balch's family moved south to Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Due to the recommendation of a local preacher, he attended Princeton starting in 1758. In 1766, Balch received his Master of Arts from Princeton and was ordained in 1770. While at Princeton, he was one of the founders of the Cliosophic Society.
Balch's first acts as a pastor were as a missionary in the rural areas of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. After his travels as a missionary, he settled in Greeneville, Tennessee and then founded a church in 1783. Balch was a part of a group of Presbyterian preachers in Eastern Tennessee who taught a form of abolitionist Evangelicalism. This formed the basis of the abolitionist movement in the state in the 1830s. Due to the growth in the number of congregations in the area, Balch worked to establish a presbytery in Greeneville in 1800.
In 1795 he helped found Greeneville College, the first college west of the Appalachian Mountains, in Greeneville, Tennessee. The school's first location was a frame building on Balch's farm. At the first meeting of the school's board of trustees, on 18 February 1795, Balch was chosen as the college's president. He stayed in the position until his death in 1810. After being named the college president, Balch traveled through New England raising money for the new college. In 1805, Balch received a Doctor of Divinity from Williams College.
The last years of Balch's life were plagued with illness, but in April 1810, Balch came down with "brief but most distressing illness" and died. He was buried in Harmony Graveyard in Greeneville, Tennessee.
The inscription on the tomb of Rev. Balch is as follows.:
"Beneath this Marble repose the mortal remains of the Rev. Hezekiah James Balch, first paitor of Poplar Tent congregation and one of the original members of Orange Presbytery.
He was a licensed preacher of the everlasting Gospel by the Presbytery of Donegal in 1766, ordained to the full work of the holy ministry in 1769 and rested from his labors A. D. 1776, having been the pastor of the united congregation of Poplar Tent and Rocky River about seven years.
He was distinguished as one of the committee of three who prepared that immortal document the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and his eloquence the more effectual from his acknowledged wisdom, purity of motive and dignity of character, contributed much to the unani- mous adoption of that instrument on the 20th of May, 1775."
- Historical Sketch of Popular Tent Church; cabarrus County, North Carolina; Grave of Hezekiah Balch, https://archive.org/stream/historicalsketch00wmsh/historicalsketch00wmsh_djvu.txt
- "POPLAR TENT CHURCH AND CEMETERY AND TOMB OF REV. HEZEKIAH JAMES BALCH" By REV. W. HAMPTON EUBANK, May 20, 1775
- Balch 1897, p. 507
- Sprague 1857, p. 308
- "Genealogy of the Balch Families in America" James Balch pg 450.
- Temple 1912, p. 11
- Balch 1907, p. 375
- Balch Genealogica, by Thomas Willing Balch, Pg 105
- Drake 2003, p. 87
- Sprague 1857, p. 311
- Balch 1897, p. 508
- Wheeler 2000, p. 10
- Sprague 1857, p. 310
- "Balch Genealogica", by Thomas Willing Balch, pgs 109 & 110
- Balch, Galusha Burchard (1897). Genealogy of the Balch families in America. Putnam.
- Balch, Thomas Willing (1907). Balch Genealogica. Allen, Lane and Scott.
- Drake, Richard (2003). A History of Appalachia. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-7116-4.
- Sprague, William B (1857). Annals of the American Pulpit. 3. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.
- Temple, Oliver Perry (1912). Notable men of Tennessee: from 1833 to 1875, their times and their contemporaries. New York: The Cosmopolitan Press.
- Wheeler, Frank (2000). Tusculum College Tennessee. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738506111.