The Pioneering Workers
The Workers First Came to America, 1903 by George Walker
Georgia: When the Gospel Came to Georgia, 1912
Idaho: When the Gospel First Came to the Palouse Country (Idaho), 1913
Idaho: A Brief Summary of Those who Worked in the Lewiston Idaho Area
Iowa: The First Days of the “Truth" in Iowa, 1907
Kentucky: The First Church in Hopkins County, Kentucky - 1914
Kentucky Sister Worker List List 1910-1984
Nebraska: The Gospel Comes to Nebraska, 1907
North Carolina: How The Gospel Came to the Woods Family (North Carolina), 1924
Texas, West: History of West Texas Conventions by J. W. Byrd - 1922
* = Workers on the 1905 List from United Kingdom
The Gospel Comes to Nebraska
Click Here to view photo of West Point, Nebraska (1910)
The gospel first came to Nebraska in 1907. Tom Craig* and Hugh Doake* came from Canada with very little, to the town of Elgin, Nebraska. They had no place to go or address to begin. Martha Sprague’s folks lived just west of Elgin on a large wheat farm. They offered the workers some money but they refused, so they asked them if they would like to help in the wheat field and they would pay them to work. Martha was home alone when they workers first came. She asked them, "What church do you belong to?" They answered, "We don’t belong to any denomination, but belong to God." They stayed and had supper and spent the night. The night before they had spent in a haystack.
They started meetings in a schoolhouse nearby, and Martha and her folks went and many of the neighbors attended the meetings. They held meetings every night of the week. Martha missed one night as she belonged to a group who met to dance and she felt she shouldn’t let her group down as they had won many prizes. But she felt so condemned she never went to the dance again. The night before she had gone to be with her group, the workers had preached on the prodigal son and feeding on husks, and she knew that was just what was in the world. Martha was the only one that professed in the mission. She was just 18 years old.
The workers started another mission about 17 miles away. She thought they had gone away but one day they walked back to have a study with Martha. They explained to her that if there were more professing people near they would have a fellowship meeting. They explained what a fellowship meeting was and how the meetings were conducted and explained other parts of the scripture that would help Martha understand better.
Later Tom Craig* and Hugh Doake* went a little further and had more meetings in a schoolhouse. They stayed with a family named the Frank Sullivans. Mrs. Sullivan, her mother, and son all professed. But not Mr. Sullivan. In this mission Anna Hestigan professed and later went into the work. She was the teacher of the schoolhouse.Now it was near the fall and they began to think about a convention. So they explained to Frank Sullivan about convention and he said they could use his place. So the meetings were held in the schoolhouse but the people stayed at the Sullivans’ home.
This first convention was at Petersburg, about twelve miles south of Elgin. About 16 workers came from the eastern states to help with the convention. Some who attended this first convention were George Walker*, William Irvine*, Jim Jardine*, Oliver Taylor, Charlotte Braden, Anna Taylor, Violet Jamieson, and Jean Craig*. This convention lasted 10 days. Every afternoon was left open for any to ask questions. They also had a baptism at this convention. Most all were baptized.
From this convention Martha went out in the work with Anna Taylor. Up until this time she had never been in a fellowship meeting. Before they left the convention grounds, a workers’ meeting was held and they divided up what money they had amongst them. They had one dollar apiece. She thought all was so nice. She saw some of the wives laying out some of their clothes and letting the sisters pick out dresses they could use as they went forth. They only carried hymn sheets with about 10 hymns on either side instead of hymn books as they carried everything as they walked. This was still in the year 1907.After convention Martha went back home to tell her father she was going in the work. He didn’t like the idea of his daughter walking around the country, but she went anyway, Later her father came to see how she was doing, and gave her his check book, but she never used it and still has it. Martha was just one year in the work in Nebraska.
When the Gospel First Came to the Palouse Country, Idaho
Written by: Esther Hedlund Anderson
March 8, 1974
Two servants of God, Tom Lyness and Donald Davidson, arrived in Viola, Idaho, during the summer of 1913 and held some meetings in a tent they set up. They held meetings for several weeks and quite a few decided to accept the Lord and the message that these ministers had been explaining from the scriptures, about how God sent out His Apostles.
Many of these people who attended the meetings got terribly angry and upset, for they could see that Tom and Donald had the Bible on their side, and several who attended a denominational church in Viola could see the difference in what they had and how they had been blinded in paying a minister to make trips from Moscow to come out and preach a sermon on Sundays, the pay coming from the congregation. Many young people attended Tom and Donald's meetings, even though the principal means of transportation was by horse and buggy! Many young people rode saddle horses, too.
One night some of the younger set decided that they were going to have some fun with the workers and they painted "Devil's Hotel" on the tent, along with "Mutt and Jeff, Proprietors" (Tom was tall and Donald was short). I understand they found out who did this painting and made them clean and erase their mess from the tent. Those who professed in this mission kept true and faithful to the end of their days. Some of them were Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Williams and Mrs. Chaney. After Tom and Donald finished the mission in Viola they started meetings in the Flannigan Creek schoolhouse, in the winter of 1913-1914.
This was the first mission that my immediate family, the Andrew Hedlunds, attended. We had to travel to meeting by horse and buggy or a bobsled if there was much snow. We had to travel about 5 miles, part of this was through a timbered road that was just being built, so going was pretty rough, and we had to dodge a lot of stumps. Many who came walked carrying a lantern for light. We enjoyed these meetings so much. It was in this mission that my mother, along with several others, professed. Our farmhouse was new and Tom and Donald stayed with us quite a lot.
After finishing this mission at Flannigan Creek, my father thought Tom and Donald should try some meetings in our district, so he went and called on the school board to see if these ministers could hold some Gospel meetings in our two-room schoolhouse. This was the East Cover school. The school board consented and Tom and Donald began some meetings; about four meetings a week. Large crowds turned out, and quite a number professed, but we were the most fortunate, since we had Tom and Donald in our home and thus were able to have some great visits on the scriptures. We had been a religious family before, and it took a lot of explanation to get us straight.
One evening when we were coming home from the Gospel meetings, my brother Willie asked this question of Tom and Donald, "Are we right, or are we wrong?" Tom took his Bible and opened to the 10th chapter of John's Gospel and explained about the "Good shepherd, hireling, and the wolf," and this was the chapter that brought things to light for us. It made things as plain as the noonday sun. So, when the invitation was given one evening at the Gospel meeting, Willie and I stood to our feet, along with Mrs. Elesa Anderson. (Elesa and I are the only ones alive who professed in this mission.) Others who professed in this mission are Mr. and Mrs. Michael, Mrs. Adolph Hanson, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, and Julia Vogel, also some of the Ross Greer family. It was in this mission that so much hatred and prejudice outside the faith, but directed toward the faith, erupted. Tom and Donald's lives were threatened, but I am glad it was soon hushed up. The religious people were the cause of all this. My father didn't profess until two years after this mission. He professed at Dalton Gardens, out from Coeur d'Alene, where one of our conventions was held. My family was faithful until their deaths.
It was at the farm home that we had our first special meeting; the summer of 1915. We had two tents set up, one for the meetings and the other for eating accommodations. Friends came in their cars from Dayton and Walla Walla, Washington, since Tom had worked missions in those parts. The ladies slept on straw ticks upstairs in the house, they brought their own bedding, etc. Our eight-room house was new, but had no electricity, nor running water, but we made out very nicely with the conveniences we had. We had so much to be grateful and thankful for that the servants of God came to our community, and brought this glorious Gospel, and this special meeting was indeed special to His people. It was indeed wonderful to see and hear these servants and handmaidens of God who had sacrificed their lives for the Gospels sake.
Here is a list of some (workers) who were there: Willie Jamieson, Jack Carroll, Mr. & Mrs. Richter, Emily Wilson (now Emily Christie), Carl Wren, Dan Sedlitz, Walter Waldon, Tom Lyness and his sister, Annie Lyness, Donald Davidson, and Adga Sterling.
It was at this meeting that Nellie Williams professed. She went out into the work as one of His handmaidens on Nov. 18, 1920. Her field was Montana. Her parents, the Charles Williams, lived in Viola and were very faithful in His way and an encouragement to many. Nellie is still in the work after over 50 years.
After Tom and Donald finished the Gospel meetings in the East Cove district, they held some meetings in Princeton, Onaway, and Deary. I cannot remember the names of those who made their decision in these meetings, for all are gone, either by death or moved to other localities, but one lady, Mrs. Goldie Lee, professed and was very faithful for 60 years. She passed away just recently.
In August 1914, Tom and Donald held a tent mission in Moscow, Idaho. Many professed, including Mr. and Mrs. John Oberg and family, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Oberg and daughter (who professed in later years as she was just a child then), Mrs. Engdall, the three Mattson girls--Alice, Esther, and Mabel. Alice was in the work a short time, but ill health forced her to quit the work. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mattson are the last I can recall. Must add that Alice Mattson passed away several years ago, and Mrs. Frank Mattson is now Mrs. George (Anna) Allen.
Esther Jones was in California when the meetings were going on in Moscow, but she came home in time to attend them, so some of us got her over to Moscow, and she became very interested, and before the mission closed, she stood to her feet and instead of saying, "Christ for me from tonight," she said, "I had been a Methodist, but now have found the true way and want to walk in it." She is the daughter of Mrs. Rose Wilson (her mother professed at the East Cove school). Esther Jones offered her life for the work in November, 1916, and she and Annie Lyness went to Montana. In 1919 she came back to these parts, and she and Fannie Carroll held a mission in the Angel School about four miles from Palouse, Washington. In this mission, the Charlie Tevertmeyers professed, along with their daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Willie Carson, who live in Dayton, Washington. Esther Jones left for Buenos Aires, South America on December 23, 1923. She and several other workers spent several years there. They found some honest people who accepted Christ and kept very true. Much hard labor (was) done in this foreign land in seeking souls to Christ. Esther is now in California.
There are only four professing people in Moscow and myself left who professed 60 years ago in 1914. Mr. and Mrs. John Munn and family moved to Potlatch many years ago and have a lovely family of 6 children. Two of their daughters are in the work—Jeanette in Korea, and Phyllis in Viet Nam. The John Munns now live on the coast.
There has been some wonderful spiritual work accomplished in this Palouse country during the past several years. We now have many young babes and trust they prove true and faithful.
I have tried my best to get this great story together and it has been quite difficult to get all the names down correctly so please excuse my mistakes.
NOTE: Palouse Country is in Latah and Whitman Counties, Idaho
Jack Carroll and Carl Wwren had a mission at Lenore in 1914 in a school house. Those who professed in this mission were Mr. & Mrs. Jack Shilts, Mrs. Tom Pea, Mrs. Schwartz, Mrs. Gilbert (who later married Mr. Darland) & Mrs. Joy who died in the faith at the age of 101.
Mr. Jack Shildts owned a church building at Lenore that he had built and they and others were attending then at the time of the mission. There was a preacher who came from peck to conduct the church services in the Schildts church building. One Sunday during the mission this preacher said some terrible false things about jack Carrol and Carl wren right to their face as they sat in the service. Mrs. Schilts was a rather frail woman and she fainted there in the service. It seems to be understood that that was the last Sunday there was ever any services at the Schilts church building.
Bert Middleton and Carl wren came to Blake district above Orofino in school. Mable Blake professed in that mission, also Mrs. Shoemaker and her daughters Ora & Dora. Dora married a man by the name of Bauton in or near Seattle. Mr. & Mrs. Everett Sloan. The Sunday am meeting was at Shoemakers first and later at the Sloan home for several years. The Sloan children are in the Aberdeen County of Washington. Later Eddie Cornock and Bert Middleton were together for 2 years in the field and then Dan Siedlitz was with Ed Cornock. Ed and Bert had a mission across the river from Lewiston, results unknown. Sometime 1917-1919. Agda Sterling and Emily Wilson had a mission in the C old Springs school house a few miles out from Winchester in 1917 when Mr. & Mrs. Pratt professed.
Linda Hayes [Heyes] and Edith Ward had a mission in Kamiah when Mr. & Mrs. Turner and their daughter Clara and Arvilla professed and they had the church in their home for several years. Clara married Mark Jay and lived in the Yakima Valley. Arvilla lives in Yakima. Mrs. Hardin, Mrs. Spivey, they also had a mission at W inona when Oma Turner who later married Lee McRoberts and live at Caldwell. These two missions were in the early twenties. Jennie Gilipin was with Eelizebeth Anderson in that area afterwards for a while. This is a different Elizebeth Anderson than the one that is presently in the ministry and has been for years.
Jim Jennings and Howard Mooney had a mission at Reubens in the Presbyterian church building for several months. Violet and Dicey Pierre professed at that time. (Violet DeHaven and Mrs. Burnett) Abe & John Frieson were at this mission part of the time. In the summer of 1928 Jim Jennings and Loyd Hamilton had a mission in Winchester when Mrs. Nana Bruch professed. After Jim and Loyd left the mission Linda Hayes [Heyes] and Rose Mooney came to take care of the mission. Jim Jennings and Loyd Hamilton had a mission at the Silcott school 9 miles west of Clarkston in the early part of 1928 when Barbara Scott professed.
Alice Wix and Grace Ploegsma had a mission at Winchester in 1939 when Mr. & Mrs. Orval DeHaven professed. She, Violet, Renewed her vows at this time.
How the Gospel Came to the Woods Family
in North Carolina
Written By Louise Woods - February 25 1981
In the Fall of 1924, Robert Smith and Eddie Beacom went to Durham, searched for an opening, but nothing opened. As Robert prayed and looked at the map his eye would always see "Hillsboro." They took the train to Hillsboro, got a room in a rooming house near the station for themselves, their personal things, lantern and hymn books. Nothing opened at Hillsborough (as now spelled). The first road they took out of town led them to find the three-room school at Schley. It was afternoon recess when they reached the school and inquired of the teacher, Jean Kenion, for the trustees. She directed them to see Uncle Arthur Wilson (mother's brother). He was found by them at the barn and readily gave his consent for them to have meetings at the school. He directed them to see my Dad, who was a trustee. My mother told them they could find him at Edmond Latta's corn shucking. Fortunately, this was putting them toward their room in town. Dad asked if they were Mormons. "No." Are you bringing some new religion into the community? "No, it's the old, old story but new to some." Dad told them they wouldn't need to see the third trustee, Joe Miller. Next day, they asked the teacher (Jean Kenion) to announce the meetings beginning that evening. She told the pupils to tell their parents that two Mormons would have a meeting there and for them not to come. This was at the end of November 1924.
The first night about 12 men, Opal and Jean Coleman were present. Among these was Cousin Ellis Coleman. No one mentioned these brothers going home with them. Dad told them he couldn't take them with him because the cotton was stored in that room (common place for keeping it dry), but come prepared to go home with him the next night. Mother and I were waiting for the report when Dad came home that first night, with a beam in his face I had never seen before. He told us it was the real gospel and all could go the next night. Only Doak and I were free to go. Robert and Eddie walked home with us. Dad asked them to have family worship with us before the fire, and Robert said, "If that is your custom." By this Dad knew it was not their custom, so it was never done in the home again.
The next day Mother needed to go help cook dinner at her Dad's for the corn shuckers, and this was rather upsetting to her dad, that she would leave strangers there alone and said, "They could be horse thieves." Mother replied, "I know we can trust them." Question were asked that she could not answer. Many from the community attended and invited Robert and Eddie to their homes for the night, among these the Colemans'. Different time during the days they were in our home, Dad would say he found them praying and was sure they were praying for us. He had never seen a Presbyterian preacher praying in that room.
Dad had told them he would like to be one of them, so at the end of those two weeks of meetings, in a Sunday afternoon meeting, they gave him opportunity to openly express his choice. The brothers left for December Special Meetings, though we were not told why they were leaving. One Sunday soon after this, I went with Dad and Doak to Little River Presbyterian church, and Dad told Preacher White that he wished his name to be removed from "the church roll." We went home with his sister, Patty Latta, and family, where much was said, questions asked. More zeal than wisdom was displayed by Dad.
This started a lot of persecution, but it helped to make the Bible more real to us. In February, 1925, the workers returned, walked out through the rain (Dad had told them to come by any time). Mother have them dry clothes, and dried theirs by the open fire. Again they began meetings in the school. Weather and roads hindered people coming, so after the second night they left. That Spring (Easter time), Dad went to Winston-Salem for a Special Meeting. This was a good eye-opener. He met sister workers and several friends among them, he well remembered was Walter Nance and wife, Walter Bean, Pearl Settle, Pearl Meek. Walter Bean began to write my Dad. His letters seemed special, like those from Robert.
The workers returned in May, had more meetings in the school. This is when Mother and Opal Coleman decided. The last meeting was held at home, then they left, keeping in touch by writing. In May, Doak and I went to Little River service for our last time (Emmeline and Nancy were away at school, boarding at Sam Nicks, Methodist Preacher, Dad's brother-in-law). The Preacher White had many harsh, untrue things to say about the workers, whom he had not heard once. That day I vowed to never go back there again. I did not see nor understand what God had planned for His people; all I understood was these are preachers sent of God, living the scriptures.
It was my privilege to go with Opal when she went to the Baptist service to tell the preacher to remove her name off the book. This caused more stir. At the end of July, the workers returned, a few meetings were held in the school again. They were told they could not continue. The last night there, Jean Coleman and I expressed our choice. Next day there was a baptism in the river back of the farm where Dad, Mother, Opal and I took that step.
That afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Coley from Willow Springs came, brought Grace Robertson and Dora Thomas with them (sister workers). A meeting was arranged in the home that evening, very different than I expected or had ever seen. All who were sincere in the choice they had made were asked to take part in prayer and testimony. Seemed wonderful to hear what all the others had to say, but as for me, I could say nothing. That statement would not leave, "All who are sincere." I could feel I was, so just stood to my feet to openly show I meant this. In spite of myself, words came out. The meeting was opened again that night for any who wished to express the choice to follow Jesus. Lizzie Coleman Smith, Cousin Florence Coleman, Emmeline and Nancy decided. The workers left that night with the Coleys. The following Sunday A.M. we had our first fellowship meeting without the workers.
That Fall, Dad, Opal and I went to Winston Salem for convention at Walter Nance’s place. Jack Jackson and Jimmy Patrick were there. It all, seemed so heavenly and still does! Grateful, Doak, Hamby, Frances and all the others followed after in the same choice through the years. To see the grandchildren, great-grandchildren being drawn means more than words can tell.
Fall of 1925, Grace Robertson and Ella Smith came, had meetings. Young went for his first (meeting). Robert was back for a weekend, left for South America January 1926. Saw him seven years later in Georgia, I was in the work then.
By Louise Woods
They then came to the Camp Creek Community and secured the Baptist Church building for meetings. When the pastor returned, they were put out, but then they used a rental house that belonged to Mr. Ferguson. The Fergusons, Loudermilks, Candells, Mr. and Mrs. Nunnally, and others professed, and a Sunday morning meeting was started in the Ferguson home. About 40 were baptized.
The fall of 1913, Ida and Dora Thomas went to Winterville and had a mission in the Beaverdam School. The ones who professed were the Gabriels, Hancocks, Brambletts, James, Mrs. Myers, Miss Alice Martin and brother Charley, Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Melton (4 sisters and 1 brother), and some others. The Sunday morning meeting was started in the Hancock home.
In the spring of 1914, Ida and Annie came to Demorest and tried for the Baptist building for meetings and were refused. Jim Ramey had moved from Mt. Airy near his brother Marion in White County who professed and had just moved to the Demorest area. The girls had a six-week mission in the Ramey home. Those who professed were Mae and Fred Ramey, Annie Tench, the Stameys, and Bell Brock. Wilsons professed later.
The winter of 1912 and 1913 at Commerce, Lyon and Albert Webb and wives, Cliff Chandler and daughter Mae, Tom Gillispie and wife, Mrs. Steele professed.
In the spring of 1915, they had two days of Special Meetings. George Walker came. Ida and Annie left for California. Herbert Hill and Maurice Hawkins came. They had Mr. Ferguson's funeral on arrival.
They had a small convention at Gabriels in Winterville in the fall of 1919. The first convention at Demorest was in 1921.
The First Days of the “Truth" in Iowa
Compiled in 1974
We have gathered a little information about how the "Truth" came to Iowa, who some of the first Workers were, and who professed in those first years.
In the fall of 1907, after a convention in Chicago, Maggie Stewart* from Ireland, and Mamie Womer from Ohio, came to the territory near Persia, Iowa. Maggie Stewart had a sister living there, Mrs. Bert Graham, in whom she was especially interested. They had meetings near the Grahams. In those meetings, Mr. and Mrs. Bert Graham and Mr. and Peter Ronfeldt professed. Then in the Spring of 1908, Willie Weir came and baptized them. The next year, 1909, Martha Sprague came to be with Maggie Stewart.
Robert Stuhr said that James Jardine* told him that he and Wilfred Edwards had a tent in Ottumwa in 1907, but they had no results.
In the fall of 1909, Hugh Doak* and Glen Smith came to the Corning and Quincy vicinity, where several professed. Grace Hoops, Jessie Patterson, Dessie Dick and Hazel Hanna professed; and in the Fall of 1910, and went to a convention at West Point, Nebr. at the David Landholm's farm. These four young women went out in the work from that convention. Others who professed in those meetings north of Corning were Mr. and Mrs. Joe Wyatt, John and Emma Stepheny, Mrs. Hanna and Ida Cedarburg, and a young woman that died soon after the mission.
In the fall of 1909, James Jardine* and Wilfred Edwards got the use of a church building 10 miles south of Russell, Iowa. Here Mrs. Sayre and her three daughters and Mrs. Mick Gillham professed. The workers then moved to a school 3 miles on South where Mrs. Sayre's sister, Mary Bates and Mrs. Becker (Veta Becker 's mother) professed.
Some time later John McNeil* and Aaron Holmquest came from a convention in Wisconsin, probably 1910, to a church building North East of Corydon, where Thomas Coats and his wife professed.
In the Summer of 1911, John McNeil* and George Samuels* had meetings near Burlington. Four brothers of Mr. Richter of Burlington had professed in Washington State in 1909. They were very much concerned about their brother here in Iowa. They kept writing to him about the "Truth" that had come to them. Finally, Otto Richter made a trip to Iowa to see the brother and his wife, at Burlinton, and talk to them about the ''Truth." Together, they went to Tom Coates near Corydon, where John McNeil and George Samuels were having meetings. A little later, John and George held meetings in a school house 1/4 mile north of the Richters at Burlington. Mr. and Mrs. Richter and Mr. and Mrs. Sutcliffe professed in August of 1911.
John Doak* and Ed Pool held meetings near Persia in 1911, when the Stuhr family professed.
In the fall of 1912, after a Nebraska convention, John Doak* and Al DeGroot had some meetings at Conway, Iowa where Mr. and Mrs. Grubb professed. From there, they went to Sharpsburg, (5 miles north) and got the use of a Seventh Day Advent Church building there in town.
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Duckett had heard “the "Truth” in Canada and had written John Doak* to go to Sharpsburg and have some meetings when he could. Mr. Duckett was anxious for his sister, Mrs. Goodlaxson, and family to hear. The Ducketts had been down to visit the Goodlaxsons and had been writing to them about the "Truth." In the summer of 1912, John Doak* rode his bicycle from up near Persia down to Sharpsburg (about 100 miles) to see the Goodlaxsons. He stayed for dinner and supper, then wanted to go to stay all night at John Stepheny’s place 5 miles north of Corning, which was about 27 miles. Mr. Goodlaxson had a Brush car, so he took John and his bicycle part way. John went on and said he would be back later, when he could.
He and Al DeGroot came to the town of Sharpsburg soon after Christmas of 1912, and started meetings. In March 1913, Mr. and Mrs. E. O. Goodlaxson, Wm. Brown, his sister Maggie Brown professed; some others professed, but did not continue.
In the Spring of 1913, George Manning* and Robert Summerville were in the Harlan community and Mr. and Mrs. Carl Johnson and the Ericksons, and some others professed. Also of the same year, George Manning and Robert Summerville went up around Laurens and Marathon, and some of the Gartons professed, or maybe it was the spring or summer of 1914. The next year 1915, Martha Sprague and Mary Henderson were in this part and another family of Gartons professed. These were Mrs. Francis Heap’s parents.
Then in 1916, Ella Powers and Gertrude Fingal had some meetings in a school house near Marathon and the Gulbransons professed. They moved to Minnesota. Later, Iva Gulbranson went out in the work.
On Jan. 1, 1915, Jessie Patterson and Mary Clark got the use of a schoolhouse north of the town of Grand River. In these meetings, several professed: Mr. and Mrs. John Stark, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Foland, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Warrick, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Sam Jones.
In 1914, the Ahrens up in the Boone community professed in George Manning* and Arthur McCullough's meetings.
Also in 1914, John Doak* and Joe Shroyer had meetings in the Melrose schoolhouse Southeast of Arispe, where Mr. and Mrs. J.I. Wilson, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Tuttle, Bertha Elliott, Maude Hathaway, May Gunderson, Mrs. Fannie Priest and her son, Earl Priest professed.
In the fall of 1915, John Doak* and Thomas McLucas got the use of the Oakdale Methodist church building south of Columbia. In this mission, several professed: Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hancock, Mr. and Mrs. Paris Hancock, Mr. and Mrs. Jess Van Loon, Mr. and Mrs. George Van Loon, also some others.
In 1917, John Doak* and William Burns had meetings in a tent in Swan; the Nutters and Nora Cook professed. Then in the fall of 1917, John Doak* and Charles Konschak were together near Pleasantville, but World War I was on, and feelings were against the Germans. (Charles was a German). About Christmas time, George Walker* came to be with John, and Herbert Vitzthum came to be with Charles, John and George had meetings in a schoolhouse north of Pleasantville where the Kamps and Dabbs professed, in January or February of 1916. Herbert and Charles were having meetings at Beech, but trouble started because they both were Germans. They were put in jail in Indianola. They were soon out, but were not able to do much in meetings that Summer.
Maude Edie and Ruby West then came to that part in 1919, and some professed.
In 1919, Charles Mitchell and Harry Erickson came to Northwest Iowa and got an opening near George. They were there only a short time; Freda Haas professed. The next year Charles Mitchell and William Walters were in that territory; the Haases, Hendricks, De Boers, Wert Bergmans professed. They then went farther south, down in the Hull and Boyden community among the Dutch people. In this community they had plenty of persecution, but several professed: Mrs. Anna Smidt and family, the Beyers, Smids and the Van Corlers.
In 1921 and 1922, Charles Mitchell and William Klemme went to the Hospers, Alton and Orange City communities, and had meetings in several schoolhouses. Several professed: the Lyzens, Dolphins, Van Iperens and some others; some didn't continue. A church was started in Guy Van Corler's home, some nine miles east of Orange City.
The first convention in Iowa was at Richter's farm place near Burlington in 1916. Elsie Walker went out in the work from this convention. Convention in 1917 was also at Richters. In 1918, 1919 and 1920, conventions were held at William Brown's farm Northwest of Conway. Then in 1921 and 1922, the conventions were held at J. I. Wilson's farm Southeast of Arispe.
In 1923, there were two conventions in Iowa, the South one at Thomas Coates farm near Corydon and the Northwest one at Arend De Boer's farm near George, Iowa. The South Iowa convention was then moved to the G. Rietveld's farm near Knoxville for the years 1924 to 1929 inclusive, and the North Iowa convention was moved to Bos Van Iperen’s farm near Alton for the years 1924 to 1928. In 1929, the North Iowa convention was changed to John Beyer's farm near Boyden, where it is still being held; his son Raymond is now living on the farm.
In 1930, the South Iowa convention was changed to John Swanson's farm near Malcom; the son Ernest is now living on this place, convention is still being held at this place.
Many names, workers and missions are lacking in this account, because many of the older ones are gone, and it is hard to get the information. These dates are as nearly correct as we could find.
EDITOR'S NOTE in 2004: Raymond Beyer's son, John, currently lives on the home farm where the convention is still held.
Reportedly: The first Sunday morning meeting in Kentucky was established in 1907. John Freeman and Alex Rainey brought the gospel to Garrard County, Kentucky in about 1908. Alex Givan dominated the 1930s. After the death of E. W. (Willie) Webb (1887-1966), Peter Hunter (1905-1986) was the overseer.
The First Church in Hopkins County, Kentucky - 1914
Gospel Comes to the Higdon, Hawkins& Rainwater Families
Click Here to view photo of Lancaster, Kentucky Convention (1912)
"O God of Bethel, by whose hand
Thy people still are fed;
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led.
Our vows, our prayers we now present
Before Thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race."
This record is not to be considered church history, but it is written solely for the interest and benefit of those succeeding generations of our parents, grandparents, etc. who are recorded in this account. For most of us, who have been brought up under the influence of truth and godliness, it is a privilege we value, and for those who had the privilege of learning later, they have a special testimony: "Once I was blind, but now I see". We are all very thankful to have been brought in and made one in Christ.
In December of 1912, Tom Noble (Ireland) and Willie Webb (England), after an unsuccessful mission in Madisonville, started west out of Madisonville walking the railroad tracks towards Manitou and Nebo. (Willie, later, in giving his testimony told how homesick discouraged he was as he walked along that railroad, and his inclinations were to turn around and walk the other way for, he said, every tie he stepped on took him one step further from England and home.) They continued walking and left the railroad track in Manitou to inquire about the availability of a building for meetings.
They were given the use of the Union Church building, as it was the custom then for any preacher to use the building to have meetings. They announced their meetings and, as was common practice then, the whole community attended the meetings at the beginning and seemed to enjoy them. Some invited Tom and Willie into their homes.
John and Nora Higdon lived about one mile out of Manitou but did not hear of the meetings at the beginning, but many were discussing the meetings and one day, when John was in Manitou, his father who was a devout General Baptist, told John about the preachers who had come from far countries, an old Irishman (33) and a young Englishman (24) and asked him to attend the meetings. John's father said the community did not know what they were, but they surely could preach the Bible.
Before the workers came to the community, John and Nora were reading their Bibles and were puzzled about why there were so many different denominations and different doctrinal points that the different denominations believed, and John had been praying that God would show him, in a vision or in some way, what was right so he could be sure. He had joined the General Baptist church at Concord, and Nora belonged to the Missionary Baptist church at Pleasant Grove, but neither of them were satisfied with their church. The Missionary Baptists where she belonged, believed in Eternal Security (once saved, always saved), but the General Baptists did not believe that. This caused a confusion in their lives for they believed the husband and wife should believe alike and go to the same church. So, in time, Nora left her church and joined his, and both were given responsibilities in the church.
The first night the Higdons attended the meetings, they asked the workers to go home with them if they didn't mind walking a mile. When they turned into the walk to go into the house, John heard Willie say to Tom, "Home again", and John turned that remark over in his mind. What did he mean “home again,” for this is my home? The next morning John took his Bible into the room where the workers were and began asking questions, and Willie especially seemed to enjoy preaching to him most of the day. Tom warned Willie to be careful about what he said to John, for he might turn out to be an enemy, but Willie said, “But he wants to know".
The meetings continued and, as usual after awhile some began to turn away and began talking against them, and some who were so eager at first turned away and said, “These men should be run out of town", but John and Nora kept attending and continued to have the workers in their home, and John kept them busy with questions from the Bible, but Nora, at this point, was not so interested, feeling she was already doing the best she could.
At the same time or at a subsequent time, Tom and Willie had another mission close by at a grade school .called Possum College. Also attending the meetings at Manitou and Possum College were Mr. Charlie and Elsie Rainwater, who lived in the Possum College community. Charlie and Elsie also took a lively interest in the meetings and had the workers in their home. Both the Higdons and Rainwaters kept coming regularly, even as the crowd began to dwindle, as the religious people began to get the message that these preachers do not believe in their religion.
As Christmas time, 1912, drew near, Tom and Willie had to close their mission, for they were scheduled to be in special meetings in another area during the holidays. In early 1913, they returned to the Manitou - Nebo - Possum College area. It is not clear now just which exact community they were in after their return, when they began meetings again. Again, the Rainwaters and Higdons began attending regularly, and when their opportunity came both Charlie and Elsie Rainwater and John Higdon professed. Some time later as Nora watched John's life and the changes that were evident, and also as she had more visits in the home with Tom and Willie, she expressed her desire to become one with them. Both the Rainwaters and Higdons experienced much opposition from relatives and religious people in the area.
After closing these missions, Tom and Willie began searching for a place for another mission. Tom borrowed the Higdon's horse and buggy and went as far as Dixon, KY looking for an opening, but failed to find a suitable place. On the same day, Willie started out walking through the country towards the Richland community. It was now early spring and spring rains had creeks overflowing. As Willie walked, he came to Greasy Creek, where the road was under water. He pulled off his shoes and sox, rolled up his pant legs and waded the cold water, then after crossing, he put his sox and shoes back on, rolled his trouser legs down and proceeded towards Richland, cold and wet. Arriving there, he inquired about a school building and was directed to a Mr. Grandy Ray, who was trustee of the local school. Mr. Ray turned out to be a friendly and agreeable fellow and :invited Willie into his home to warm himself before his open fire and also gave Willie permission to use the one room elementary school building. Willie then returned to the Higdon home, having to wade the creek on his way back. Shortly after that, Tom and Willie borrowed Mr. Higdon's team and wagon to take their things to the Richland area.
In early spring in 1913, they began a mission in the Richland school, and again they had a large turnout from the community. Most at first were supportive and seemed to be glad for the opportunity to hear the Word preached but, as before, they began to turn away as they realized that they were not preaching denominationalism, and particularly the Baptist doctrine that most of them believed.
Among those attending the meetings was Fount Hawkins. His wife, Dixie had at this time taken on the duty of sitting up with a sick neighbor woman every evening, which was customary then. As the meetings continued, some began to be enlightened to the truth, and each night when Fount would come home he would tell Dixie what he had heard and expressed his belief in what they were teaching. It wasn't long until the neighbor lady died, and Dixie was free to go with Fount to the meetings. Both Fount and Dixie were devout Missionary Baptists, and he was quite active in the church, being superintendent of the Sunday school. Dixie's grandfather was the former pastor of the church, but was now old, and they had a new pastor who at first also came to the meetings and took notes, and some accused him of preaching on Sunday what he had heard in the meetings during the week. When the Mission came to a close and the meeting was tested, here were several who stood to their feet. Among the number was Fount and Dixie Hawkins. Tom and Willie felt that some who stood to their feet were not clear on the truth and remained in the community for some time. Time proved their lack of understanding and most did not continue. A few continued for awhile, but in the end, it was Fount and Dixie Hawkins who continued for the remainder of their lives.
Sometime in the summer of 1913, Tom and Willie made arrangements for a baptism in Richland. All those who had professed in that and Manitou missions took the step in baptism, except Dixie. She was now encountering a good deal of opposition from her family, who felt she should remain with them in the Baptist faith. Dixie was baptised in 1914 along with others who had professed in Annie Groves and Katie Armstrong's meetings in another part of the county. Among those who were baptised with Dixie was Sarah Groves from Ireland. Sarah had come to this area and was working in Madisonville and had attended her sister Annie's meetings and professed.
In 1914, Tom and Willie made arrangements for Sunday morning meetings in the home of Charlie and Elsie Rainwater who then lived in the Possum College community. This was a very small area between Manitou and Richland, but much nearer Manitou. So the six new converts, Charlie and Elsie Rainwater, John and Nora Higdon and Fount and Dixie Hawkins began meeting together and this was the beginning of the first church in Hopkins County. Sometime later about 1916 or 1917, Charlie and Elsie moved to a home on what was later called Rainwater Lane, which was only one quarter mile from the Higdon home, and at that time the Sunday meeting was put in the home of John and Nora Higdon, where it remained until 1965.
In 1914, Annie Groves and Kate Armstrong came and began meetings in the western part of Hopkins County near Beulah, where Lee and Lillian Franklin professed. The exact locations of their meeting is not known now, but it seems Annie returned to this area for a few years after 1914, with other companions and different ones of the Hicks and Franklin families professed.
A short time later in that or another mission, Mrs. Fannie Hicks and her daughter Mattie Franklin professed. Soon others were added as Annie and companions continued. Jack Hicks, husband of Fannie, professed, along with their son Willie. Some time during the meetings, Mr. and Mrs. Elgie Harris and Mrs. Bernice Howton professed. A church was established first in the home of Jack and Fannie Hicks at Stoney Point, where it remained a few years. Mattie Franklin professed at the same time as her mother, but her husband Dee, who was twin brother to Lee Franklin, did not make his start in truth for a few years. Dee evidently was seriously considering truth, as one day when he was returning home with his son Owen and daughter Vable in his wagon, he suddenly took his pipe out of his mouth and threw it away. The two children were anxious to get home and tell their mother the news. Soon after that Dee also took his stand for truth.
Jack and Fannie Hicks were older people when they professed and lived about five years after professing. The Sunday meeting was then put in the home of Dee and Mattie Franklin. Mr. and Mrs. Elgie Harris soon moved to Colorado and did not return. First Sunday meeting was placed in the home of Lee and Lillian Franklin in Beulah, where some from the Higdon church also met. The regular Sunday church remained in the home of Dee and Mattie Franklin for many years, first in the area of Silent Run, then later in the Dalton area, next west of Nebo, and finally in Madisonville. Lee and Lillian Franklin also moved to Colorado and did not return. What was referred to as the Franklin church in western Hopkins Co. and the Higdon church near Madisonville continued until 1988, when they were combined.
Throughout the years the Wed. night Bible study was in different homes, but for many years from the 1920s to the 1940s, it was in the home of Mrs. Ida Bobbitt on East Broadway St. in Madisonville. After Mrs. Bobbitt's death in 1945, the Bible study was moved to the home of John and Nora Higdon.
During the 1920 decade, others were added to the churches. In 1920, Rod and Mollie Bowles professed and were added to the Higdon church. Also in the 1920s, a Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Martin and Mrs. Bale and the above mentioned Mrs. Bobbitt professed in the Madisonville area. To the Franklin church was added Goldie Hicks (Stevens), daughter of Jack and Fannie Hicks, and Owen and Vable Franklin and later Owen's wife, Gladys. At some point Mrs. Betty Haskins and Mr. Charlie Long professed. In later years, Mrs. Harriet Hudson (Aunt Sis), sister of Nora Higdon, professed through Isabel Norris and companion in McLean Co. and attended the Higdon church when she could.
In 1951 Willie Webb, who was without a companion at the time, began a series of gospel meetings in John and Nora Higdon's home. There were some who had indicated they were interested in hearing. Attending those meetings from the beginning were Noble Rainwater, Billy and Doris Rainwater and Kathryn and Douglas Hawkins. The meetings continued nightly, except Saturday, until November 1, when Charles Thain joined Willie, and on November 2nd the meeting was tested, and all five of those attending stood to their feet. Two years later in the 1953 convention at Madisonville, Grover Rainwater, Tommy Bowles and Lucille Rainwater Wilson professed, and one month later Tommy Bowles' wife, Mildred, professed at the convention at Paris, Tennessee.
As years passed children and grandchildren of those professing grew up, and some made their start in truth and were added to the local churches. Ruth Higdon Wood professed at Shoals, Ind. convention in 1939 and Lillian Higdon McMaine professed at the Madisonville convention in 1939. Some moved to different parts and established useful homes in other areas; and one, Sarah Higdon, has been in the work since 1939. In 1965 Mr. Higdon went to live with his daughters, Ruth Wood in Winterville, Ga. and Lillian McMaine, Paris, Ky. By this time, Mrs. Higdon had gone to her reward in 1964. It was at that time in November, 1965, Douglas and Kathryn Hawkins moved to the Higdon farm, where meetings have continued to the present time. A convention was started on the farm in 1923 and continues there.
Just as this account began with a plea from our Hymn No. 12 first two verses, it seems fitting to end it with a further plea from the last two verses, and verse three has been well expressed by the lives and struggles of those who lived and died in truth. Please respect the desire of the writer that this record not be widely copied and distributed for improper handling of such records can be damaging.
"O spread Thy covering wings around,
Till all our wand'rings cease;
And at our Father's loved abode,
Our souls arrive in peace.
Such blessings from Thy gracious hand,
Our humble prayers implore;
And Thou shalt be our chosen God,
and portion evermore. "
This Account was written in 1989 by Douglas Hawkins
NOTES: Jack & Fannie Hicks were Goldie’s parents
Mattie Franklin was Goldie’s sister
Owen & Vable Franklin are Goldie’s nephew and niece
TTT Editor's Quote: "John Freeman and Alex Rainey brought the truth to Garrard County, Kentucky in about 1908. The first Sunday morning meeting was established in 1907. Alex Given dominated the 1930's."
TTT Editors Note: This is a partial list – the brother workers list is missing
It is not known what is indicated by the * or K beside some names.
K Baker, Maurine
* Bishop, Claradene
* Burkhart, Clara May
K * Calhoun, Elizabeth
* Cannon, Alice
K Culver, Lois
K * Cooper, Beula
K * Cooper, Elsie
K Cox, Eliza
K* Day, Jesse
* Dawson, Jesse
* Dawson, Sarah
K * Dickins, Joan
K* Friend, Willie
Harvey, Ida May
K Higdon, Sarah
K * Houston, Gertrude
K Johnson, Agatha
K Layman, Alma
K Lindley, Mary
* Martin, Uldine
K McKeehan, Barbara
K* McMaine, Wilma
K * Oskins, Stella
Pike, Mary Jane
K * Sparks, Ruth
* Thomas, Arlene
Von Schalf, Emma Louise
K.* Ward, Sadie
K Weller, Martene
This list was compiled by memory; therefore it is subject to possible omissions, and/or errors which are unintentional.
Compiled by Barbara White, born in 1911, professed August 31, 1929 at the last convention at Bybee, Kentucky
Following are some notes of interest.
John Freeman-young worker who brought the Gospel to E. Ky. 1911.
Alex Renny-senior worker was John Freeman’s companion
Alex Renny, as told by one person, was Kentucky's first
John Henry Rose-in work a very short time, still resides in Estill
Loyd Watkins-Alwilda's brother
Elisabeth Calhoun is Mrs. Frank Houston of Broadhead, Ky
Joan Dickins-Mrs. Joe Crane
Mattileen Dickerson-Mrs. B. Clark of Lancaster, Ky
Ethel Dunshee-Mrs. Willard Dunshee
Muriel Jason;(few months, if at all)
Ella Powers--Mrs. George Johnson
Ruth Sparks-Mrs. Fred Muzon
Alma Towers--Mrs. Archie Curry
Sadie Ward-Mrs. Alex Renny
Alwilda Watkins(very short time, if at all)
Wilma McMaine-Mrs. Marshall Hedden.
We went to the Plains in 1917, and rented a little house near the schoolhouse, called Fairview. I was working for the old lady who owned this property. I was working for top wages of $30.00 a month. We lived in the house she owned, but we didn't have to pay rent. I had to ride horseback a couple of miles to work, and winter was coming on. Ruby was teaching in this little school. It was a Baptist settlement. There was a Baptist Sunday School there. Fairview had a Baptist School, Wayland, that taught preachers to preach. They sent preachers out to preach to the people, to practice. They didn't always send the same one. It was summer time. They came Sunday after Sunday to preach to the people. They complained because there wasn't anyone in the country that knew how to sing. The preacher couldn't lead the singing. When Mom was there, she could sing real nice, and everyone was happy. She could play the piano and lead the singing, too. When the preacher wasn't there, the people could meet there and have some songs. It was real nice and everyone was happy.
One day a couple of men came along down at the school house where Mom was. They said they were a couple of preachers, just passing through here and would like to have some meetings at the schoolhouse. “Would it be all right with you?” they asked. She said, "I haven't permission to give you the use of the school. You will have to see the two trustees". "Tell us who you are?" Then they said, "We will be glad to do this". One was Orin Taylor and the other, an old man, I can't remember". Rufus spoke up and asked, "Was it Ray Bonds?" Those aren't hard names, but I can’t remember them, especially Ray Bonds. We called them Mr. Taylor and Mr. Bonds.
After the first meeting, they didn't have anywhere to stay. We told them, "Come home with us; we have an extra room." They stayed there a week or two, and were very nice and friendly. So the whole settlement came to the meetings, I guess. Mr. Bryan was one of the leading men in the settlement and came to the meetings. After the two weeks he said to them, "Come down to my house, for I have a bigger house." By that time I was working for Mrs. Bryan, a sister-in-law to this Mr. Bryan. Mr. Gillham was working for the other Mr. Bryan and said to them, "Come over to our house," so there were houses all over the settlement where they could stay. They went on; they didn't stay long.
Then there were two sisters who came. We never had seen or heard of them. They were just like the boys. They had walked in from somewhere. Those girls were preaching in Happy at first. The Germans were trying to take over the country, and people said that these two women were German spies. (World War I). They stopped them from preaching at Happy. We didn't have a car right then, but Mr. and Mrs. Curry had a car. They were anxious about these German spies, too. We wanted to go and see these two women and run them out of the country, because the Germans were trying to cut our throats anyway. So we went over, and we had a nice song service. They had nice songs, and didn't look like German spies. Mom said that anyone who had any sense could tell that they weren't spies. Nellie Taylor was one of the girls. They were very quiet, and well dressed, and had nice hair. They were Americans. One was born in Ireland and the other was from Oklahoma. We listened to them two or three nights when Mr. Curry would take us.
They had little bitty hymnbooks. We used to have them years ago. We don't see them anymore. So Mom said she would like to have one of those hymnbooks. She never had seen a book like them before. The oldest lady was raised in Scotland. Then Mom told the ladies to come to see her. They said, "We would like to do that. This and tomorrow night are our last nights here, so we have to go somewhere." So they came and stayed a day or two, and began preaching at the school. Mom said that these people are preaching right. I said "Mom, what is the matter with you?" She wanted me to go out to the preaching that night and I said, "If we joined those people, our Sunday School and settlement will go on the rocks. Our friends will say that we are all fools. If they leave the country, we won't know where they went." We didn't know where they came from.
We were sitting out on the porch, and it was about 300 yards out there to the school. Ruby said, "Do you see those lights out there? This is the first time that God's Light has ever shown through those windows." I said, "Mom, you are crazy. They have been preaching in that church ever since that school was put there." "I know it," she said. "That is God's Light. It is the first time it has ever shown out the window."
So that went on, and some more people came. One of the ladies now lives in California. I know her real well. She is older than I am. She is married, but I can't think of her name. (Then Rufus asked if it was Cora Pixler - Cora Brodine now?) She was a woman of Oklahoma. She saw that I had a horse and buggy, and she asked if I had a gentle team. They wanted to drive around the settlement and invite people to meetings. I wished they would leave. I said that I have a buggy, but my horses aren't very gentle. (But I did have a buggy and two gentle horses--the most gentle in the country.) She asked if they could take them. I said, "Sure, sure." She asked, "What are the horses' names?" And I said, "Ah, just call them Moses and Aaron." I said that, just kidding them, but I wished they would get out of here because I was satisfied with my setting. But they stayed around in the country. They went on from time to time. Mr. Bill Bryan took them around until a bunch of people (Mr. Bill Bryan, Jennie Bryan, Ron Moore, Mrs. Schaeffer, Mrs. Moore, and Mr. and Mrs. Gillham) these people were saying, "These girls are OUR people; these are MY people."
There was a host of people, and that was when they came back and said they could have meeting in our homes. That started meetings up in our country. They started meetings in Mr. Bryan's home, because he was older and had a bigger home and was more financially able. Everybody was poor. Wages were $30.00 a month, and it was hard to find jobs; so we went over to Mr. Bill Bryan's home.
1922: In about a year, they said, "We are going to have a Convention." We didn't know what that was. They didn't have any place to have it. Dan Heckman said that he liked these people and had never seen anything like it before. So his brother and wife, who lived down east of Silverton said, "Come to our place and have it." They didn't have a thing in the world but a little two-room house, maybe three rooms, and they were expecting 60 or 100 people. They didn't know how many people wanted to hear more about this. They went down there, two or three Workers, and cut down some trees, and built a brush arbor on the south side of their house; got some 1 x 12 boards and made a bunch of seats. There were 50 to 60 people who came, and they killed a beef. It was rough country, then down east of Silverton. It was gyp-water country. It was July or August and was awfully hot.
Wylie was a baby, I think he was 4 months old. He wanted a drink. I was starving for a drink too. Me and some more boys wanted to make some coffee. (It was Saturday evening). That water didn't make good coffee. I said to Ruby, "We can't stand all this; our baby is suffering.” If I am right, our Model T didn't have a top on it. There wasn't any shade, so we couldn't get in a shade. I wanted to go home. She said, "Dad, you can't do that. It will be over tomorrow, and we will go home." A couple of other women also went with us. Their husbands stayed at home. She said, "We can't go home if they don't go." I said, “It doesn't make any difference or not." I looked at her, and she said, "Dad, you just can't do that." I saw a tear go down her pretty white face. She said, "Dad, you just got to stay here." I said, "OK, OK, I will stay if I die." We spent the night but we didn't have anywhere to sleep. A friend of ours didn't have any place to sleep either. He was a single man, so me and him went down beside a hill. We got some good rocks to put our heads on and tried to make the night. We lay there and talked. The next day we had a good breakfast for a change, coffee and stuff.After a while a new man showed up. We never had seen him before. He was Hugh Matthews. He was about 55 or 60 years old, of the Northern States. That was the man that was going to lead the meeting. That was the man that we wanted to hear because we had heard all the others. I said, "I don't like his looks, that blue belly." (because my grandfather fought in the war of 1861, and the Northern boys dressed in blue, and the Southern ones dressed in grey. The Yankees dress in blue, and the South called them "blue bellies”). I hated the "blue bellies" because they freed the Negros. Those that came from the North, us Texas boys didn't like them. Mom said, "Wait Dad, let us see this through."
So then he got his Bible up to speak. Lots of times on the Plains they said, "If any of you people want to stand (would like to make a stand), you can raise your hand, or stand to your feet to let the people know that you think this is right. We will try to teach you more about it." I had lots of chances to raise my hand, but I didn't do it. I couldn't make up my mind to enter this thing...to say more than I could do. I never had heard of them before that night (Saturday) they preached again after that afternoon. This is Saturday night, and they said if anyone wants to stand to their feet, if they want to know more about this. I had also made up my mind I was going to give it a try. He said that two or three times...to stand!! I said to myself, “My goodness, man, why didn't you say 'raise your hand?'” I couldn't raise my hand, much less stand to my feet. So that is closed. Then Hugh repeated again, “What we are trying to teach you is, we will teach you further. Stand to your feet.” So I got up and stood right by Violet Schaeffer. I knew she was a good girl, and she had been worried. Her mother had already made her choice.
So that Sunday evening, he said, “We would have a baptism right down here in the stock tank where there is fresh water. Any of you people who want to be baptized, we have some extra suits, overalls and coveralls for men, and dresses for the women." We didn't bring anything, not knowing they would have a baptism. He said, "All of you people who want to continue in this Faith, come up here and learn more about it. If you don't want to be baptized, O.K. It's your privilege.” Of course, we want to be baptized, because Christians should be baptized. We appreciate learning more about baptism and the continuation of it. I thought to myself, "I can't stop here,” so I went down to the water's edge, and there were cedars all around there, and a good place to hide and change clothes. There was fresh water out there and a big tank. A man 50 years old (I couldn't understand a little he said here)......
A man about 65, Old Man Brock, was going to be baptized. He said, “What do you think about this new kind of religion?" I said, “Mr. Brock, if I didn't think that these people had something right; I think they are right and my wife professed about 2 years ago.” She had been going to see them and visiting them and the neighbors up at Fairview. I am going to try to believe it, for I know I don't have anything now. My friends tried to get me to join the church. Jeff Shook was a Methodist. It was a big church and Jeff led the songs. I had a friend in the Campbellite church, and it was the same thing. He tried to get me to join it. Jim Belcher was a Holiness, and he tried to get me to join them. He said if I didn't join them I was going to Hell when I died. “You have got to join a church.” I said "Maybe I don't die.” I didn't know which of these churches to join, because I didn't know anything about the Bible. I never had anyone to explain anything to me about the Bible. I wasn't going to join any church just to satisfy my friends.
This old man said, “What do you think about this new-fangled church?” “Well, I never heard about it until three or four years ago,” I said. “I can show you where it started in the Bible. Christ started it. I am going to try to do it with my wife. I don't know if I can do it or not.” This other man said, “I know I can do it. I don't have anything to do but to quit chewing tobacco, and I have quit two or three times. I am just going to quit chewing tobacco. That is all I have to do.” Well, I don't chew tobacco, I don't drink, I don't cuss and I don't swear. I never have, and especially after I married my wife. She is so nice and so wonderful, and I think I should be clean for if I started to do anything that wasn't (I didn't have any bad habits; I just pitched them all in when I married). The old man said, "I think I have lived a clean life.” I said, “I think there is a lot more to this.” Oh, I think that is right. But after two or three years he was gone (not professing).
It is more than 50 years, and there was a lot of people that went into that tank when I did. (Rufus spoke up and said, “It has been more than 60 years.”). Bob and Pearl and Homer were baptized. Jenny was there. I don’t think Ruth was born then. Most of them have passed away. A bunch of them are scattered around here now that were at that meeting. Some of them passed away, as Mr. and Mrs. Gillham. Lila asked, “Were they all baptized when you were?” Homer and Bob professed about that time, but I don’t know if they were baptized then or not. Both of them made their choice before I did. I went to meeting with them and they had already joined this Faith, and they helped me a lot. I always felt like a loner. Anyway, that covered when I started.
* * * * * * *
Rufus said "Johnnie, tell us about the time that Ruby was going to fellowship meeting and didn't have enough gasoline, and Bill climbed up on the windmill tower to see if she made it." Johnnie said, "I don't remember that." Rufus said, "I heard that from Bill.” Johnnie replied, "Well that is the truth, if Bill told you. Bill didn't come into this for seven years. He was a big old boy then. He lived with us; we raised Bill." Rufus said, "He climbed the windmill to see if Ruby made it."
* * * * * *
Rufus asked, "We had the first Convention at your place in 1928?" "Yeah, I think so," said Mr. Byrd.
1923: Mr. Bill Bryan invited us up to his place after the first Convention (below Silverton). We couldn't drink the water, and it was a bad place to get to, at Heckman's. They didn't have any out-house to hide in or nothing. Mr. Bill Bryan had everything we needed and invited them to come there. It was convenient for people to get to, all over the area, so we stayed there for two or three years (I lost time) for the Convention.
1924-28: And then for some reason (I don't know for what reason), we moved to Mr. (Fletcher) Gillham's. Mr. and Mrs. Gillham were about my age. He was one of the best friends I ever had in my life. He was a peaceable man. Me and him would talk things over and always agreed on everything. He died a long time ago. For some reason, they moved it over to his place and had it a couple of years. The farm sold; he just rented. And he didn't have a home. So he moved to Canyon and bought him a home. And he still has that home (his daughter, rather, has it now).
1929-30: What are they going to do for Convention? Mr. Bill Bryan was getting old, but he said if you don't have anywhere else for it, come here. They put it there for a year. Then Rufus asked "So then they put it at your house?" Mr. Byrd continued, "Then Mr. Bill Bryan said, ‘I can't take this Convention.’ (If you have never had a Convention at your house, you would hardly know). It was put there a year, and he couldn't take the Convention. You have to be firm and take a lot. He said, "We are too old and we can't take it." So he told the Workers that he just couldn't put up with it. He said, "We loved it; but it is just too much for us."
1931: Robert Chambers came in then, and he was an older man, one of the finest men I ever knew. I guess you knew him? Johnnie asked Rufus who answered, "Yes." Johnnie continued. He could answer your questions---and satisfy you from the Bible; he could open the Scriptures and explain it to you. He was in Austin that winter and he wrote us a letter saying, "Your place is a good place for Convention if Mr. Bill Bryan can't have it any more. He is getting old and we will have it at your house.”
That threw me and Mom for a loop. We didn't have anything, were poor and in debt, and had three small children. We bought land and signed notes for our land. We were in debt for our home. I was experienced to know that a loss is hard to make up. I have known of people who had an estate and fooled around and lost it with riotous living or something, you know? So I didn't feel like I was as able as Mr. Bill Bryan was. He had had a lot of experience with the people. We don’t have any facilities or anything for people. I wanted to do my part. I read every night and prayed every morning, but if I write back and say, "No," we are saying, "No, to the whole thing, and we won't have a Convention." If I say, "Yes," we will go along together and t’will work out some way. Well, that is all we can do. I was worried about it. What in the world was I going to say? “We don't think it will work????”
I wrote, "Well, Robert, we have decided to try it; we don't think that it will work. If people want to try it and come on, then we will try it a season. By that time maybe we will find a better place for Convention." So he wrote back and thanked us and said that he was very, very happy, and I guess he wrote the word around. Some of the boys from Albuquerque over there in the Spanish Work came. I think Lewis Murray. Rufus, do you know him? And one of the other boys that died in Old Mexico, Roy Taylor and Tom Craig, that married that Bryan girl, was over there; and he was preaching in our language...three of those men came over and they built that little white house out east of our house. In those days, we built it for the kitchen (cook house); and that was where they had the groceries and the cooking. And the tent back to the West, they tied it over it, and put the food out through the West window of that white house. The girls picked it up there and took it to the tables (in the tent). There were not so many people, probably 180 or 200. So we made out pretty good there that year. Lots of people brought little tents. (Rufus said, "And some of us slept in that adobe sheep house.”) So the people all made out. Everything went along nicely.
Lewis Murray and Willie Walters prepared in 1931 at Byrd’s first Convention.
Rufus said, "We had mush for breakfast." Johnnie says, "It was ground wheat for breakfast, and everybody liked that wheat. They cooked a whole pot of that. Everybody liked that wheat and mulligan stew. Plenty of milk and we killed a good, fat beef or two. Everybody had plenty to eat. Beans, and everybody got along sumptuously, and they were very happy. It didn't hurt us because we were poor.” Rufus said, “We had the old adobe sheep shed and the old barn. I don’t know whether the sheep enjoyed it or not. We might have run them out."
The next Spring, they cleaned up. The boys came back and cleaned up and cut down the old trees. So no one has ever said anything about moving the Convention yet. They couldn't find a better place to put it. Robert did say one time, "Johnnie, we appreciate your home. I’ll tell you, your setting is ideal. You can’t find a place as ideal a setting as this. You get the mail every day. It seems you have everything, and you have lots of room. We like to have these Conventions away from town, so the young folks don't rush into town to eat and to drink and to have a big time. We want to keep them on the grounds. Fifteen miles from Happy, you have got the ideal place in the world." And we could see that, too. Then we planted the trees and tried to make some shade. It is a pretty hard thing to grow shades, and make things grow. Wylie planted a lot of trees this year, and it will take a long time to make shades.
This was copied from the tape as accurately as we could understand it.
Hubert Childers attended the first Convention in 1922 in West Texas.1923 was at Bill Bryan's place.
1924-28 was at Fletcher Gillham's Farm.
1929-30 at Bryan’s place again.
1931 and since at Byrd’s place.
1984, July 15th, Johnnie Byrd died.
1984, July 14th, Willie Walters died.
Convention at Byrds in Happy,
Texas is between Happy and Wayside, Texas, closer to
Johnnie Byrd's wife was Ruby Byrd. Their children were Wylie, Esther and others?
After Johnnie Byrd died, the Conv. grounds passed to Wylie, married to Billie, and they didn't live on the conv. grounds.
Joe and Anna Price lived on the Happy conv. grounds during Johnnie's life and after.
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