John Berry McFerrin was born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, and throughout his entire life was a citizen of that state. Emigrating to America from Ireland about 1750, the McFerrins were a family of fighters. The grandfather of John served during the American Revolution; his father, James, saw service under General Jackson in the War of 1812, and attained the rank of colonel in the Indian wars; through his mother, Jane Campbell Berry, he was directly related to the Col. William Campbell of King's Mountain celebrity. Their militant characteristics John McFerrin manifested throughout his long career as a leader in the affairs of his denomination. Never was he more at home than when under the fire of criticism or questions on the floor of public assemblies. Of large frame, heavy features, standing square on his feet, he was a typical son of the West. Although of Presbyterian stock, with his father he was converted under the preaching of a Methodist circuit rider and, also with his father, entered the Methodist ministry.