Caleb Rule was born on Jul. 2, 1840 in Knox County, Tennessee to the
parents of John Rule and Nancy Hood. His
father was a farmer and of a German Descent.
Caleb received a common school education. He and one of his younger brothers, John Rule
joined the Union Army in 1863 and served together. They engaged in numerous battles at locations
such as Cumberland Gap, Stones River, Okolona Mississippi, Chickamauga, Decatur
and Athens Alabama. Pvt. Caleb and Cpl.
John were captured on September 25, 1864, at Sulphur Trestle near Athens,
Alabama, by Confederate forces under the command of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest
and marched to Cahaba Prison Camp, not far from Selma where they would
experience a year and nine months of the unimaginable conditions.
Soon after arriving at Cahaba, the Alabama River flooded and the prisoners
stood waist deep in water for five days and nights with no food or sleep. The only building at the prison camp was old
cotton shed. It was large enough for
about 500 men, but during the time the Rule brothers were there, it housed over
2,000. Most of the men had no shelter from the weather and little medical
treatment. The average dial ration of
food was a scant one and half pints of uncooked, coarsely ground corn meal (cob
and all), a piece of slab bacon about the size of two fingers, and a dash of
salt. On very rare occasions, the
prisoners received treats of cow peas or pumpkin. Prisoners had to find a way to cook their own
Regional commander, Lt. Col. Samuel Jones negotiated an exchange of Union
prisoners from Cahaba Prison for captured Confederates, and the prison was
evacuated in March 1865. The prisoners were then sent by train and by foot from
Alabama to Vicksburg, Mississippi and there they boarded the SS Sultana for a
trip to Ohio to be mustered out of service.
These two brothers were homesick for Sevier County, Tennessee, and were
anticipating seeing their family once again they didn’t mind being overcrowded.
Unfortunately, one the early morning of April 27, 1865 one of these brothers
would not survive through the night.
The Sultana docked in Memphis, TN to unload cargo and pick up some more
coal. They got about eight miles out of
Memphis around 2 o’clock a.m. when the
boilers exploded and the boat was ripped apart. Hundreds of sleeping men were
shot into the air and landed on the burning deck of the steamboat or were
thrown into the floodwater of the Mississippi River. Caleb was an excellent
swimmer. He swam and floated down river
for seven miles before coming to a clump of trees. He grabbed a vine and ripped
it free of the small tree from which it was wrapped. The vine, symbolic perhaps
of Caleb's grip on life, was with him when he was picked up by a yawl.
Tragically, Caleb's brother John Rule died in the Sultana explosion and his
body was never recovered. Caleb always said that by the grace of God he
survived the ordeal. Caleb was taken to one
of the hospitals in Memphis, TN where he recuperated and was discharged. He later boarded another steamboat, was taken
to Ohio to be mustered out of service, then walked from Cincinnati to Sevier
County reaching home in time to celebrate his 25th birthday on
July 2, 1865.
Caleb Rule began a new life at home. He surrendered to the
call to preach and was ordained by Antioch Baptist Church in 1872. By December he felt well enough to take the
responsibility of being a husband and asked 21 year old Eliza Louise Pierce to
be his wife. They were married on
December 28, 1865. Caleb and Eliza had seven
sons, Frank, Marion, William, Andrew, John, Oliver and Harvey; and four
daughters, Zora (Jenkins), Nancy (Tarwater), Margaret (Froneberger) and Myrtle
(Baker). Eliza sadly died in 1893 when their youngest daughter was only eight
We know that during this time Caleb Rule was the
pastor at Piney Level Baptist Church thanks to an article of a story passed
along from Mrs. John (Nora) Hitch. The
article was in the Daily Times in Blount County, Tennessee. It was about an earthquake interrupting the
revival meeting. It states that the
meeting had just begun when Rule asked the visiting preacher to lead them in
prayer. The preacher had just knelt down
and just completed his prayer when the floor and the building began to shake. They were left in darkness after their oil
lamps fell and broke onto the floor. No
one was hurt from the earthquake itself but one of the ladies suffered a heart
attack and had to be carried out of the church.
Rule remarried Martha L. Blalock on November 5, 1894 and was together
for the rest of his life.
All of Caleb’s children were grown by the time
Rule pastored Zion Hill. While Rule was at
Zion Hill, he baptized six into the church family. As a 63-year old preacher,
he was a great encouragement to the congregation. He led not only through his
strong Bible preaching but also by his example of faithfulness to the Lord.
Caleb Rule was a well-respected minister in the area and was one of seven men
chosen to serve on the Executive Board of the Sevier Association in 1903. The
Executive Board was the decision-making body of the association. He was
rewarded for many years of faithful service with his selection to the
board. During his life he pastored 12
churches and was also a farmer, and postmaster of Gist’s Creek
Post Office. Rev. Caleb Rule died January 7, 1913 in Sevier County, Tennessee.
He was laid to rest in the Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
Caleb Rule & the earthquake, Blount Co. TN
Who in Tennessee