Faith That Overcomes, The Story Of My Life
by Chester Estes
>Chester R. & Gladys M. Estes
Table Of Contents
First Period - 1903-1910
Second Period - 1910-1919
Third Period -1914-1921
Fourth Period - 1921-1928
Fifth Period - 1928-1937
Seventh Period - 1942-1944
Eighth Period -1944
To my beloved wife, Gladys Mae, who has been my side-to-side companion for more than 60 years, and to my devoted children and their families, this work is most affectionately dedicated. -The Author.
A wise man frequently pauses during the course of his life to evaluate accomplishments to determine whether he is going in the right direction, and to consider the marks he will leave for posterity. The purpose of such contemplation is not an ego trip, but an honest effort to see where he will be when he gets where he is going and whether it is the destination he desires.
In his autobiography, Chester Estes relates and evaluates the moves he made and the paths he followed in his service of our Lord. Through "Faith That Overcomes," the reader will be able to walk with him from his early childhood memories, through those trying years as a young, ambitious gospel preacher, to see the mature, respected man of God he became.
Throughout his life, brother Estes realized he was never walking alone. Certainly there was a devoted wife and the three children to offer valuable assistance. But there was more. In "Faith That Overcomes" he mentions the help received from the providential hand of God. He said, "There seems to have always been some impelling force in my life which has been pushing me along and urging me to do something! I do believe in providential guidance."
In his work, too, there seemed to be a compulsion to leave something ta benefit generations yet unborn. Thus, he wrote a number of books, published his own paper, The Evangelist, for many years, wrote many articles for publication, and, in what he considers his crowning literary achievement, brought forth his translation of the New Testament, The Better Version. It has been the privilege of the Gospel Light Publishing Company to a cooperate with brother Estes in several publishing efforts. Some day, soon or later, his voice, as with dl of us, will be stilled; but the printed word shall continue to enlighten generations to come.
Wallace Alexander Gospel Light Publishing Co. Delight, Arkansas
August 14, 1981
One of the hardest tasks for me to undertake is to write the story of my life. I have written about eleven books over a period of years and have written many articles for different papers, in addition to editing about three religious papers and translating the New Testament from the Original into English, but the hardest of all is to bring myself around to writing the story of my life. I think it is very necessary for me to begin to do so now, so that my descendants and others may know.
I was born in a log cabin in Marion County, Alabama, about ten miles south of Haleyville, and about one-eighth of a mile north of the White House church, one of the oldest churches of Christ in Alabama, which was established by John Taylor. Some of the charter members were attending there in the 1920's and 1930's. It was not known at first as the White House church. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 a large building was erected, painted white, and since then has been called the White House. There was, perhaps, not another building in that section of the country, which was painted white. The place was originally known as Haley's place, according to the best information I now have. Green Haley was among some of the first persons to be baptized there by John Taylor. The building, when I was born, was a one-room log house, used as a schoolhouse and a church house. Green Haley was the father of Walker Haley, for whom the town of Haleyville was named. My wife's father, J. F. Chastain told me that he remembered when there was only one store there, in that town, which was run by Walker Haley. Re also told me that he had often heard brother John Taylor preach.
My parents were James Riley Estes and Anna Hitchcock Estes, now deceased. I was the second child of a family of nine children. The first, Curtis William, was eighteen months my senior. He was killed in an accident in Houston, Texas, about 30 years ago. The children consisted of eight boys and one girl. There are only three sons and one daughter now living.
My grandfather on the Estes side of the house was John Estes and my great-grandfather was Simeon Estes. My great-grandfather reared a large family of sons and daughters a few miles north of Winfield, Alabama. I am not certain about his ancestors or that I have his first name right. His rearing many sons accounts for the family name being widely known in north Alabama.
My grandfather on the Sims aide of the house was George Sims. I now know nothing of his ancestors, as to where he came from, only that he entered several acres of land in Marion County, Alabama, a few miles north of what is now known as the White House community, where he reared a large family of sons and daughters. My grandmother, Julia, was one of the daughters. I recall but Little about him, and I do not recall ever having seen my grandfather and grandmother Estes. I do remember that in 1910 my great-grandfather S h s died at the age of 93 years. So, he was born in 1817. We now own a part of the old Sims place, and the house in which George Sims reared that large family was torn down only a few years ago. The house of my grandfather Estes, in which my father was born, is still standing (as of 1981).
My grandfather on my mother's side of the house was Joseph Hitchcock and my grandmother was Martha Osburn Hitchcock. My grandfather moved his large family of sons and daughters from near Atlanta, Georgia, in a "steer wagon" before the turn of the century, and settled in the woods in what is now known as the Thorn Bill community, in Marion County, Alabama. There he built a one room log house with a dirt floor. I can now remember visiting there before I was six years old.
My grandmother on my mother's side of the house, was Martha Osburn before her marriage to Joseph Hitchcock. She was also reared near Atlanta. I can now remember one of her brothers, my great uncle Warner Osburn, visiting us in Mississippi about 1914. My grandmother often told me how she visited the battlefield after the Battle of Atlanta and found one of her brothers dead on the battlefield. When my grandfather moved his family from Georgia he left my grandmother behind. (I never knew the reason.) She followed later, after my parents were married, and lived with them until her death about the time of World War I. She was an educated person and taught me many things of importance. She assisted my mother in rearing her family. I will, perhaps, in this story, say more of my progenitors later. (Incidentally, one son of this union, Uncle Homer Hitchcock, still lives in Birmingham, as of 1978.)
My Life's story may be divided into several sections. I wish to mention in this section several things I now remember. Let me say first that since I was born July 1, 1903, and moved to Mississippi in February of 1910, I was, therefore, less than six years old when we moved. The things I now remember, as mentioned in this section, were before I had reached the age of six.
I remember the death of my brother, Johnnie, who was one year old at his death. I was two years older than he. So, I must have been only three years old, but I remember his death distinctly. I remember when Oscar, the fourth son, was born. He is less than five years younger than I. I remember when my older brother, Curtis, started to school. Since we lived adjacent to the school (a one-room, one-teacher school) when my brother started to school, I went with him. I remember many things which took place there during that time, even though I was less than six years old. I remember the "older girls'' carrying me about in their arms at school. I can remember "learning my letters" and learning to read as my older brother was being taught. I can remember a little recitation, given to the public, by the teacher, one Saturday afternoon. I can remember that each one in this play was given a stanza of a poem, and that when each one had given his part all gave the chorus in unison. When through, I stepped out before the audience (being at the foot of the class) and looked up to the head of the class and said, "Well, I came out a way be-head and Curtis came out a way behind," which caused the audience to laugh out loud.
I remember visiting my grandfather's place several times and of the many kinds of fruit he had growing in his orchard.
I remember when our neighbor, Mr. Joseph Kennedy, died. When news came to us, I was at the barn with my father. He took me by the hand (it was getting dark), and we rushed over to the Kennedy place. I can now remember seeing the coins, which were laid on the eye-lids of Mr. Kennedy, which was a custom in those days.
I remember a preacher, said to be a Greek, who came to our house and held a meeting at the school house. He stayed with us and would tell many stories about his life, and how he was persecuted, and how some of his enemies would destroy his Bibles. I remember many of the families of that time, of our relatives, their children, and our being together, and many other things too numerous to mention. Most of our relatives we knew then have gone on before.
I remember a man by the name of John Crow visiting our family several times. He had just been around the world as a result of being in the Cuban conflict. I can recall his conversation about landing at San Francisco and how mean that city was, and that he stated if ever a city should sink because of its wickedness, that city would. That was before the city did sink in 1906. I must have been about three years old at the time I heard him make that conversation.
I remember when the "swinging bridge" was built across the Buttahatachee River near us, there at the White House. The bridge was moved a few years ago when the U.S. 278 was built. Some of the construction workers boarded with us and I remember one of them giving me some coins which 1 prized highly.
I remember visiting the family of my mother's sister near Winfield (a great distance at that time), and that while running down the hill, playing with my cousins, I ran into a barbed wire fence. I had never seen one before. We had rail fences. I still bear some scars of that fence on my nose and eye. I also remember that while there on that visit we ran to see a train go by. I think it was my first time to see a train. If not the first, the second time.
I remember seeing one of the first automobiles in the country. It was rumored that Dr. Lee of Haleyville was in the community and that he would pass by on the road near our house. My brother and I ran down the hill to the road and lay flat down on the ground and watched it pass. We told that we saw chains underneath, and we were chided because we said we saw chains. But we actually saw chains underneath, for it was a chain drive.
I remember that my brother and I took our two mules down the hill from the barn to give them some water in a stream near the house. I rode one of them and my brother led one, which could not be ridden. On the way back the one I was riding "spooked" and threw me on the ground. The other one pulled loose from my brother, came along and stepped on me while I was on the ground. Someone sent for Dr. Doss, a lady doctor, who lived near there. She came and examined me. I was soon alright. This lady doctor was more than a mid-wife. She gathered moat of her medicine from the woods. She was the doctor or midwife when I was born. She and her husband, Jim Doss, were charter members of the White House church, and were still living when I began to preach. Some of their children are still living. The old house in which they lived has been torn down only recently. Dr. L. G. Doss of Florence, Alabama, is a grandson.
I remember an incident that took place in that one room schoolhouse. A teacher had been employed to teach a four-month's school term. He was a very overbearing man. He punished one young man for a small fracture of his rubs by having him stand before the other students and whipping him until the blood ran through his shirt. This so aroused the community until they not only fired him but gathered on the school ground around him and almost mobbed him.
I remember our family and some aunts of ours going to Haleyville to see a train. We were standing behind the depot and when the engine came in view right before my eyes, puffing and blowing, my brother ran while one of our aunts held me to keep me from running away also. I also remember visiting our relatives in Birmingham, Mr. and Mrs. George Brock, and, while there, we attended the State Fair, seeing the Vulcan and many other things.
There was a creek just below our house called Hobson's Creek. It flowed into the Buttahatachee River not far away. At that time some large fish in the river would swim up that little creek. The road to Haleyville crossed this creek. There was no bridge across it and wagons would have to "ford" the creek in crossing. My brother and I would stand in the road and fish. One day we caught that "big one" and could hardly drag it out into the road. We were so excited that we began to jump up and down and scream. Our parents heard us, me running down the hill, thinking that something awful had happened to us. When they reached us and saw what we were excited about, they gave us a little switching. The next time we caught a big fish we kept quiet about it.
I remember all the talk about moving far away into the state of Mississippi, and the preparation for that long journey. There were three families who moved at that time. They were the families of Jake Smith, Uncle Tom Holmes, and my father. They made bows and covered them over with same material, such as canvass, ta make their "covered wagons," and started on their way. This was in February of 1910. At that time my uncle was living in the house, which my grandfather built, in which my father was born, and which is still standing. My mother took me and my two brothers with her on the train. We spent the night before leaving with a cousin of mine, who was an elder, and married. That night we stood out in the yard and watched Haley's Comet for the first time. I will say more about it in another division of this narrative, for we watched the comet several times in Mississippi before it ceased to appear. It will appear again in this decade. I hope to live to see it-and far beyond its next appearance.
I have not been writing about these things to simply inform you of some facts or to give you a little bit of history, but to also give you an idea of the fact that I have always been very observant, and at that time I must have been a very precocious child. These are some of the things I have remembered during what I call the first period of my life. Other incidents may come to mind later and be found under the heading of "Related Incidents." I can now look back and write about myself during this period as if writing about another person, other than myself. I shall now skip to that second period of my life spent in Mississippi, from 1910 to 1919 and touch on it in less detail.
In Mississippi - 1910-1919
I have already mentioned our moving into Mississippi. My father had leased a few acres of land on which there was a store building, a combination of a cotton gin and a grist mill. On this place there was what people would then call a fine dwelling in which we lived. There were two or three other dwellings on the place. The other families who moved with us lived in them.
Our mother and three of us children rode the little train, which ran from Haleyville to Corinth, Mississippi, which was called the "doodle-bug." We got off the train at Tishomingo and was met by our father in a wagon. He had gone on earlier. It was in February and the weather was bad; everything was frozen over. There was really no such thing as we would now call roads. The wagons usually followed the "ruts" except when meeting someone, which was rather rare. Most of the time the mud and ice accumulated on the wheels, making it hard for the team to pull the wagon and it would sometimes even clog the wheels until they would lock. There were no paved roads in Tishomingo and Prentiss counties -not even gravel roads. When the roads crossed what we called "bottoms," low lying sections where there was usually a stream, the people who worked the roads would split poles in half and lay them aide by aide with the flat side down. These were called "corduroy roads." Sometimes they would stretch for a mile across a low lying section. Automobiles practically did not exist then, and when they came into use later no attempt was made to operate them in the winter time. As late as 1918 a young man visited in Alabama and came back saying that they ran automobiles in the winter in Alabama.
The place we had leased belonged to what you would call at that time a "well-to-do" family, We farmed the land, grew cotton and corn, ran the grist mill, and ginned the cot ton for the people of the community. We also had a small stock of goods in the large store building. We lived at this place about four years. There are a few things I can remember about the place. It was evidently one of the unrecorded battle grounds of the Civil War because after a rain we would go out and gather the bullets and mini-balls which would be washed up out of the ground. I remember also during the "ginning season" I worked at the gin, feeding the cotton to the gin from where it had been stored by farmers who were unable to wait for it to be ginned. This chore was called "feeding the suction." Another chore I was often assigned to do was to stay in the "seed house" and keep the seed pulled away from the "shoot" and keep the seed evenly scattered.
The community where we lived was made up of a very religious people who were mostly Primitive Baptists. There was a church near there, which was called "New Hope," and adjacent to it was a school where we would attend about four months in the year. I do not remember much now about that school. I do remember our learning about the Presidents and that Taft was President at that time. I remember the superintendent of the schools in Prentiss County visiting us on one occasion and making a speech. He was J. F. Chambers who lived in Booneville, the county seat, about fifteen miles to our west. He was a preacher and we would often go to Will's Chapel on Sundays to hear him preach. There we would sometimes take dinner with some of the members where the preacher and his family would eat, and, after dinner, the children of these families would play together. The Chambers family had one son, Smith, about my age, whom I also knew later at Lipscomb. He was accidently killed in the early 1920's. Mrs. Chambers was a sister of Hugo McCord's father, and a sister of Alice Dean McCord who later became one of my regular writers for The Evangelist which I published for several years.
We also attended the New Hope church with our neighbors occasionally. I remember the time when some of the members of that church wanted to use mechanical instrumental music in their worship services. This almost caused a split among them. As I remember, the instrument was never used. I also remember a lady who lived near us "trying out" for membership every time they "opened the doors of the church," but was always turned down by a single vote of her sister-in-law, who had a disliking for her.
This place where we lived was known as "Brown's Creek." There had been a Post Office there years before, prior to the time of rural routes. There had been "star routes" before the days of rural routes (mail from one Post Office to another). About three hundred yards from where we lived where lived a doctor who was "club footed." We knew him only as Dr. Wheeler and his wife as Sophia. They had no children of their own, but did rear two or three orphans. This was our doctor who looked after us while we lived at this place. In spite of the fact that he was club-footed he would try to work some on his farm. I recall seeing him stand on top of a load of hay and drive the team. He could not stand without being near something on which he could lean or in some manner brace himself. He would wobble as he would try to hold on to the reigns of the team of mules in order to stand on the hay. He was like a bicycle in that as long as he moved or had something on which he could lean he stayed in an upright position. He would put himself against the bed when delivering babies or treating the sick. This doctor's wife kept a library and, other than some law books and doctor books, I read about everything in that library. They were good books-not like a lot of the trash seen in libraries today. My grandmother, as stated elsewhere, was an informed person, and she would always assist me in my reading. She would explain many things I otherwise would never have understood.
After about four years we moved from this place. My father bought a little farm further northeast of Brown's Creek, adjacent to the Iduma School, six miles west of Paden on the road between Paden and Booneville, which was also near the Forked Oak Missionary Baptist Church and cemetery. In this cemetery my brother, Leonard, and my grandmother, Martha Hitchcock, lie buried.
At the place near the Iduma School, we operated the small farm. It was mostly covered with fine timber when we first moved there. When we tried to clear it, we could not give the fine timber away but had to cut it down, had "log rollings" and burned the timber. At this place we also operated a mill later and manufactured some of the timber. We also operated a store and ran a gristmill. We lived at this place until World War I, through the war, and in 1919 moved back into Marion County, Alabama, to the place we now own (as of January 1, 1978).
During the five years we lived in Mississippi, I attended the two-teacher two-room school about four months in the year. One teacher would teach the first grades (usually it was a woman) and the upper grades would be taught in another room by a man. Sometimes there would be only one or two students in a class. I remember the male teacher well. He would ride his big black horse about three miles every morning, all wrapped up when it was cold, and put the horse in a stable nearby, build a fire in the stove and have everything ready for classes when others arrived. He was an excellent teacher, cultured, refined and well informed. I often wondered about the source of his learning, then learned later that he was a student of one of my former teachers, the lamented A. G. Freed. His people were Primitive Baptists in religion but many of the teachers in that area would go to Henderson, Tennessee, for their teacher training.
I recall that moat of all of our neighbors were members of the Missionary Baptist and Primitive Baptist churches, and that only a few in all that area were members of the church of Christ. A few met in an old saddle shop in Booneville, a few at Hill's Chapel, and a few at Carter's School House. We would sometimes travel three or four miles to Sunday School or to hear someone preach, if the roads were passable for a team and wagon. (Looking back now, I think of that community where we lived as being no more advanced than the interior of China.) I remember that just before the War, a young man by the name of Grover Estes, from near Tupelo, came there to teach school. He boarded with us. Later his father rode a horse more than 30 miles to visit us, and that the family tree was discussed until midnight. This young teacher began to teach a Bible class at Carter School House and to cause the members to meet regularly for worship, which had not been their custom to do for some time.
I remember World War I well, and how "the boys" died like flies in the camps and were sent home in boxes because of the raging of what was called the German Flu. We took a daily paper, about our only communication from the outside world, which I read constantly, and, as a result, I could tell all about the War, the Generals on all sides, the battles fought, etc., which has now about passed out of my memory. I also remember the War plants in Muscle Shoals and that people would leave the community and come here to work-and that oftentimes they also were shipped back in boxes because of the raging of the flu.
During the five years we lived at this place, I worked on the farm, at the sawmill, in the store, ran the gristmill, helped to work the roads, hauled logs, and hauled timber to the "plainer" at Paden. I did much of the latter when I was about 15 or 16 years old, and often others would have to load and unload for me.
As has already been stated, we did have deaths and tragedies during the five years we lived near the Iduma school, which was sometimes called the Lacy place.
THIRD PERIOD 1919-1921
In 1919 my father decided to sell everything and move back to Alabama. We had a sale, and the proceeds from that sale amounted to about $4,000, which was a lot of money in that day. He bought a farm in Marion County, which was a part of the land which had been entered by my great-grandfather, George Sims, who died in 1910 at the age of 93. This farm cost about $6,000. My father paid a down payment, keeping back about $2,000 of the $4,000 we had received from the sale in Mississippi in order to make a crop in 1920. The crop in 1921 was a failure as far as income from it was concerned, and, as a result, it was necessary to secure a government loan on the balance. This farm joined the farm of my wife's father, J. F. Chastain. We lived there in that community as teenagers usually lived at that time. On August 21, 1921, I was married to Miss Gladys Mae Chastain, daughter of James Franklin and Zela Chastain. At this time I had begun to study the Bible, and, as I learned something about it, I would try to tell others about it. This effort to study and preach the Bible is told, in part, in other sections of this story and other references may be made to it under the heading of "Related Incidents." Most of my story only touches some high spots, or is an outline, with the expectation (if I am spared to finish it) of giving many incidents scattered about in all sections of the story as a sort of appendix.
It was during this period that we lived in Mississippi, between 1910 and 1919, if I have the record right that my brother, Edgar, was born. When Edgar was about four years old he had an accident which resulted in his death about 14 years later. Also, my only sister, Leanora, now Mrs. Erskine Greeg, living in Birmingham, was born. Both Carl and Troy were born during this period. Carl did a few years ago in Michigan. Troy lives in Michigan at this writing (January 23, 1978).
As I Remember
I remember the first religious book, other than the Bible, to fall into my hands. It was "Jacob's Ladder" by brother E. M. Borden. This was in 1921. At that time I had a burning desire to preach the gospel. I read that book through so many times that I was later almost able to preach some of the sermons in it from memory. At that time I was already married, but had not even completed grammar school. I would make a one-horse share crop and run the saw mill in between crops. I remember gathering the "hands," as the workmen were called, under the saw mill at the noon hour, while they ate their lunches, and reading to them from the Bible and discussing it with them. The pay was $1.00 per day. Since I "ran" the mill I was paid $1.25 per day. The mill hands listened to my reading and discussion of the Bible. I do not know exactly whether it was because I was impressive in what I was trying to do or because they were paid the $1.00 per day. The next religious book I remember reading, other than the Bible, was "Eunice Lloyd" by brother R. N. Moody. These two books had much to do in flaming my desire to "make a preacher.'' Who is able to determine the good that may come from some good book one has written. One may live on and on because of what he has written.
About this time I also had an opportunity to hear J. D. Tant debate Claud Casey and to later hear Tant throughout a meeting in the community. Every morning I would drive by the place where Tant was staying and pick him up and carry him in a buggy to the place of the meeting. I was present the time he asked the question, "Which one was the older, Adam or Abraham?" Because of the timidity of the people no one answered. Brother Tant was to return the next year and conduct a one month's Bible school, but when he got back to Texas and wrote in the Firm Foundation that the brethren at that place were so ignorant that they did not know which was older, Adam or Abraham, the brethren there cancelled his return the next year. Don't get the wrong idea that I did not know which was the older. I really did know, but, like the others, I simply said nothing. I was so disappointed because he did not return. I wanted to attend that Bible school, thinking that it would help me to "make a preacher.”
About the same time I heard such men as W. R. Wilcutt, A. D. Dies, W. R. Gurganus, Charlie Nichols (brother of Gus), and others, some of whom were educated and some who were not. Some of them were "Bible college" preachers and some were not. It seemed to me that the "Bible college" preachers were rated somewhat higher in the estimation of the people of the community than the others. I was then trying to preach, but I wanted to be a "Bible college" preacher. The "Bible College” that most of the preachers had attended for a few weeks was the Alabama Christian College at Berry, Alabama, which, at that time, as I recall, had "gone under." There were few "regular preachers" and not much "regular preaching" in those days, and when the brethren were through with the "worship" (mostly the Sunday school), I would often call attention to the fact that I wanted to "say a few words," which usually meant an entire hour, or mom.
We often rode in a wagon "to church" during the "big meetings." I remember that, after hearing a sermon one night by a "non-Bible college" preacher, I made the remark to those in the wagon that I would give anything if I could preach like that man. After I "made a great preacher" my mother-in-law would often remind me of what I said that night.
I remember a Methodist lady who moved into the community. She was a very religious woman. There were no Methodists in the community. Since she was religious, she wanted services conducted in her home. So, she invited me to "preach" there in her "front" room every Sunday afternoon, which I did. You talk about being "called ta preach"-I guess I could say that I was "called to preach" by a Methodist woman. I also remember that near that place I held an "open air" meeting. I worked at the mill during the day and preached there at night, wearing my "overalls" or the suit, which I wore at the sawmill during the day. This happens to be about the same spot where I am now (April 1981) preaching each Sunday morning. You see, the world is round-and I have preached around it, and come back to the same spot.
I remember that it had "leaked out" in the community through a man who took some religious papers that there was a "Bible college" in Nashville, Tennessee, and that there was a brother there who had a lot of money and who was helping people like me who wanted to "learn to be preachers." Since, as I already stated, I had observed that "Bible college" preachers were more acceptable in the community than others, I decided above all things, I wanted to be a "Bible college" preacher. I knew of a few people who had taken six weeks business courses, and that most of the "Bible college" preachers had also finished their "Bible college" courses in a few weeks. So, I reasoned that if I could go to Nashville for a few weeks it would give me some prestige as a "Bible college" preacher. And, besides, I could also use a little more education, I then thought it would be best for me not to "saw mill" in the fall of 1922, but to attend the two-room school nearby (run by two ladies) and "finish" grammar school, which I did.
By the Spring of 1923 I was preaching throughout the rural sections to large overflowing audiences and baptizing many people, but I was not satisfied-I wanted to be a "Bible college" preacher. I mentioned earlier that the brother (Archie Burleson) in the community who was a little more advanced, and who took some religious papers, had informed me of the "Bible college" in Nashville, and of the man who had the money to help preachers. I, therefore, wrote a letter to the "Nashville Christian Bible College," Nashville, Tennessee. Somehow it arrived (and we did not have zip codes). I had a letter right back from A. B. Lipscomb, then president of David Lipscomb College. Horace Lipscomb became president immediately thereafter. Succeeding Horace, H. Leo Boles became president, and A. G. Freed became vice president. I corresponded with brother Boles. I told him of my desire to preach the gospel. I asked him to write to me and tell me how long he thought I would have to stay there in order to "become a successful gospel preacher.'' He never did tell me. Ye just kept sending me literature about Lipscomb. The literature would point out how many "credits" of high school work one must have to enter college. I was not interested in "credits" in high school-I wanted to attend a "Bible college" and be a "successful gospel preacher.'' In fact, I did not know what was meant by having so many "credits" before I could enter the college I wanted to attend. I could not understand it all, but had made up my mind to go to Nashville and stay a few weeks so that I would then be known as a "Bible college" preacher.
As has been stated, I wanted to go to a "Bible college" in order to make a better preacher, and was advised to do so by so many who heard me preach. I was constantly trying to find some means for doing that very thing. In the Spring of 1923 I was told by some to go to a certain person who was reputed to be a "millionaire," that he was a religious man, had built the church building in that little town, and that he would surely help me. I followed their advice and visited with him. I found him dressed in his regular "home spun" clothes, sitting in a large chair, and almost blind. When I put my case before him, he stated that he was planning to go ta Birmingham for an eye operation, and that he only had enough money "available" for that trip and operation. He did, however, offer ta help me by telling me how ta make some money. He gave me $1.50, the price of a subscription to a religious magazine, telling me that I could keep the fifty cents and send in one dollar on each subscription, and, in that way, I could make some money. I do not know whether that is how he became a millionaire or not. (Of course, I sent the entire $1.50 to the publisher and dropped his idea.) I left him thinking that perhaps I should help him in some way, instead of his helping me. I never saw the brother anymore. He died sometime during the time I was away for my first year in high school at David Lipscomb College. Perhaps I, too, would have made a millionaire had I followed his advice, but I could not see it in that way at that time.
My brother and I ran the sawmill we had leased from our father and we had accumulated about $100 each. In order for us to have so much money, I would firs up the old steam boiler about 3:00 a.m. every day and cool it down at night. The date set to go to David Lipscomb College was September 18, 1923. I preached at a place the Sunday before leaving, and the brethren there gave me $10 to start me on my way. At this place I held meetings for the next 15 years in succession. Later, when a fine church building was erected and advertised in all the papers, and the names of those connected with the new building, my name was not mentioned-but He knows!
About the middle of September, 1923, I bundled up a few things, took the $100 I had made that summer, boarded the train at a little north Alabama railroad station and was then on my way to Nashville to take that "six-week's" course in order to make a "successful gospel preacher." My wife stayed behind with her parents, had the little crop gathered and sold the milk cow, giving us about $75 net. After about one month at Lipscomb the $100 I had made at the mill was gone, since I had to buy some books, buy a suit of clothes, and pay one month's board. At the end of that one-month's stay I had to return home and borrow $200. The wife and I then returned to Nashville, lived for seven months on the $275, paying $16 a month rent out of that amount. At the end of the seventh month, the money was all gone, my wife returned to her parents, and I went back to the dormitory and worked for the school that last month for my board.
In the event that I am never able to write anymore, let me say here that during that first year at Lipscomb (in the first year of high school) I evidently learned more than any other person who ever went there, simply because I had such an enormous empty space in which to store that knowledge. Yes, I went to "Bible college" to take a six week's course, where I remained for five years, doing six years' work, sitting at the feet of two great people-A. G. Freed and H. Leo Boles. I had five years of Bible under brother Freed, two years under brother Boles and one year under brother S. P. Pittman, who also furnished us a little house in which to live for four years. I also had some special classes in Bible under E. A, Elam.
I know it calls for a great deal of repetition, but I believe I can better round out my story of our stay in Tennessee and the incidents leading up to our going away to Lipscomb by inserting here an article I prepared some time back for one of the religious papers. The title of the article, as you will observe, is, You Do Not Need To Know Much To Preach. The article was never completed. There should have been a second part of it showing that there are many things preached now about things, which it is not necessary for us to know. So, read this article in its entirety as a part of the story of my life, even though some incidents are repeated. Time is so fleeting that I do not have time to rewrite it before inserting it here as a part of the story of my life.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW MUCH TO PREACH
There has been a great deal of discussion of late in the different religious papers regarding the so-called shortage of preachers, as to why some are qualified and some are not, and of what it takes to guarantee qualifications. There has also been some effort made to place the blame upon someone, something, or some institutions for the lack of qualifications or the right training, and as to why the church is flooded with the curse of surplus preachers who, in reality, are not preachers. After reflecting upon the ideas of some, and upon their "cure all" remedies, I also have reached some conclusions, which I wish to set forth.
If Will Rogers did not say it, he suggested it-that one did not need to know much in order ta be a politician. It can also be said that one does not have to know much in order to be a preacher.
I am using a very concrete example to prove that you do not need to know much in order to preach. I am using myself as an example. I began preaching in 1922, even before I had completed my grammar school education. I married at the age of 18, and did not finish grammar school until the year after I married, which was in the Spring of 1922. In fact, I made two one-horse "sharecrops'' after I was married, and worked during the summers at the saw mill for $6.00 a week before I entered the high school at David Lipscomb College. However, before entering first year high school under the lamented A. G. Freed, I preached every Lord's day, held several meetings, baptized people, married people, and held one debate. When I began to study the Bible I also began to tell others about it. Also, I was influenced to preach by some country preachers who never saw the inside of a high school building, and some educated preachers, such as C. R. Nichol, G. A. Dunn, A. D. Dies, J. D. Tant, and others. These men preached the gospel in its purity and simplicity in places where there was little or no money. It never entered my mind that I should ever be paid anything for preaching, and, during my Lifetime of preaching, I have never been paid much. I believed it was I my duty to try to tell others, as best I could, the gospel I story. For the last twenty-five years I have given my time to preaching and writing the word of God without pay. Prior to the last twenty-five years there was very little money around to pay anyone, and the churches were not immersed in money as they are now.
When I began preaching in 1922, I saw the need of an academic education. Few people in the community had ever attended a high school. Nearby there was a two-teacher, two-room grammar school. In the fall of 1922 and the spring of 1923 I went there and "finished" grade school. In the spring of 1923 we made another one horse share crop, I worked at the sawmill, preached on Sundays, and held a meeting or two. That spring I would come in from plowing, eat dinner, lie down on the floor and memorize much of the New Testament. One of my projects at that time was to memorize the book of Hebrews. I would then, after rest and reading, return to the field and plow till dark. We would work in those days from dawn till dark, with an hour off at noon for dinner and rest. During the summer of that year my oldest brother and I ran a sawmill. The mill was near where we lived in a little two-room shack. I would fire up the steam boiler about three o'clock in the morning, and, after the day, would cool it off at night. During the noon hour of lunch and rest I would read and comment on the Scriptures to the "hands" who worked at the mill. I was preaching. I remember distinctly a meeting I held out in the open during the summer. We used some planks to provide seats for those who came to hear. Each night I preached I wore my overalls the same as the other men of the community. I was preaching.
In the fall of 1922 I learned through a brother in the congregation where we worshipped (from a man who knew a little more about the outside world than some of the rest of us) that there was a "Bible school" in Nashville, Tennessee, and that there was a rich man there by the name of A. M. Burton, who would help anyone who was trying to "make a preacher." I had in mind that I should attend a "Bible school." I had learned a little about a "Bible school" at Berry, Alabama, called the "Alabama Christian College," through some of the country preachers who had taken courses there. The discussions about a preacher when he came into the community, by those who "sized him up," was whether he had been to a "Bible college," and they usually put a higher estimation on his capability if he was a "college preacher." Looking back now, I would say, "perhaps they were right." However, I knew a few, such as C. A. Wheeler and brother Wade, who stood, in the estimation of the people, above the "college preachers." The few "colleges" run by brethren then were small, run by some outstanding preacher, very unlike colleges of today, but accomplished a great deal of good, by teaching the preachers to know and tell the story of the New Testament and leave untold a lot of the things that preachers are being taught in "our Bible colleges" today.
A "Bible college" then was thought of as a sort of a "preacher factory" and that if you had "gone through" one you were better equipped to preach. Even though I had been preaching and baptizing people, attracting large crowds who came to hear the "young preacher," I still thought that I needed to go to a "Bible college" since that would give me some "prestige" as a preacher-that I should be like the "college preachers," who, of course, had no education, except a few weeks of training by some older and wiser preachers.
In those days I had no religious books, such as we have today. The first religious book I recall possessing was "Jacob's Ladder" by E. M. Borden. My only book was the Bible. I preached the gospel as the power of God to save and baptized many people even before I ever saw a high school. I remember one meeting distinctly in which I preached at what was then Burleson's School House in the fall of 1923, just before I entered the David Lipscomb College High School in the fall. I was given $10.00 for this meeting, and the brethren gave me $20.00 extra in order to assist me to "go to college." After I had "gone to college" I held meetings at this place for the next 14 years in succession and baptized many people in that area. We usually boarded, during the meetings, with brother "Bud" Burleson, the grandfather of Sonny Loden, known as "Sonny James." (I wish to digress here to state that I am related to Sonny on the Loden side of the house, and that I was often in the Loden home when in meetings at Hackleburg, Alabama, and that I recall the "Loden family" taking a sort of vacation from singing in Memphis to attend one of my meetings in Missouri, and that they assisted in the meeting.) But back to the meetings at Burleson: as I stated I held meetings there for 14 successive years. Brother Bud Burleson and brother Charlie Howell were the leaders of this congregation. Brother Burleson would give me two five dollar gold pieces at the breakfast table on the morning of the last day of each meeting. He did this until we went off the "gold standard." A few years ago a younger generation came along in the Burleson church, led by some preachers. They built a fine church house down on the highway, and during the change from the old building into the new, they gathered and published the history of the development of the congregation which led to what they had accomplished, mentioning all the preachers who had preached there. My name was not even mentioned in the article. Kings have arisen who have forgotten the Josephs. "He knows!" During the summer of 1923, as already stated, my brother and I ran the sawmill, and we made about $100 each during the summer. I took that money and went to Nashville to make a "good gospel preacher." My wife remained at home with her parents who were near. She had the crop gathered, sold a little milk cow, and had a pig butchered for our meat while I went away to Nashville to "get educated" so that after about six weeks I could return to the community and continue preaching-but then as a "college preacher."
As I have already mentioned, I had been told by a brother that there was a "Bible school" in Nashville, and a brother there who would help people like me to receive an education in order to preach. I wrote a letter to "The Christian Bible School" (I wish I had that letter) at Nashville. I had a reply from brother Horace Lipscomb, then president, having succeeded brother A. B. Lipscomb, his brother. In the meantime, brother H. Leo Boles became president and brother A. G. Freed vice-president. I began to receive literature from the office of the college, pointing out the advantages of the school, and the number of "units" of high school work I would need in order to enter the college, none of which I understood. I did not know what they meant by a "unit." I simply wanted to go to a "Bible college." I then wrote a letter to brother Boles asking him about how long I would have to stay there in school in order for me to "make a good gospel preacher." (I thought it would take about six weeks.) I continued to receive literature about the advantages of the college, what it offered, and what I needed in order to enter, none of which I understood. So, I decided the only thing to do was to take my $100 which I had made during the summer working at the saw mill, leave my wife with her parents, and go away to Nashville and stay one month, return back to the community and spend the rest of my life preaching the gospel, feeling that I would have more influence or prestige, having been to a "Bible school," that more people would hear me, since I would then be a "college preacher." To shorten this part of the story, I packed my trunk with a few things I would need during the month, boarded the little Northern Alabama train at Bear Creek, Alabama, rode to Sheffield, Alabama, changed trains for the L.& N. and headed for Nashville, September 18, 1923. I had never been in a city. I got off the train at the depot on Broad Street, walked up Broad to Eighth Avenue, according to the instruction in the college catalogue, which had been sent to me. I was instructed to board the Glendale street car, but I boarded the first car that came along, which lacked a mile or so going to Caldwell Lane where I was to get off. The conductor was kind. When he got to the end of his line, he looked at me and said that he was not supposed to do it, but that he would give me a transfer to the Glendale car, and that I should wait there until the next car arrived. I boarded the next car and got off at Caldwell lane. I walked up that lane till I came to Granny White Pike. There I turned in onto the campus of David Lipscomb College, I walked by the home of sister David Lipscomb, who was then living, by the "Old Bell Tower," and into the small office of H. Leo Boles, the president of the school. There was no secretary in that office; there was no elaborate furniture or equipment - only brother Boles and another person. That other person was C. J. Garner, and he was filling out some papers for entrance information. Brother Boles "signed us in" and signed both of us to the same room in the dormitory. C. J. Garner was registered as a senior in college and I was in first year high school; he was a single person and I was married. The entrance ceremony was that simple, and was performed by the head of the college himself. I will perhaps come back to this a little later, but I want to mention some other things.
From September 18, 1923, until the end of the school year of 1928, a period of five years, I "sat at the feet" of A.G. Freed and H. Leo Boles. I sat at the feet of A. G. Freed literally, spiritually and mentally, for his feet were usually under his desk and my desk touched the back of his desk. I admired the man above any other teacher I had, and would manage to get just as close to him as possible in every class he conducted.
Now, going back to the time of my entrance into a "Bible college," at the end of the first month, after buying a few books and some clothes, the $100.00 that I had made at the sawmill during the summer was all gone. My wife had remained with her parents, had the little one-horse crop gathered, sold the little cow, and had the pig butchered for our meat. She had netted out of all this about $78.00. I returned home, went to brother Walker Haley, who owned a bank in Haleyville, or was president of the bank, and told him my story. He authorized the bank to lend me $200.00. My wife and I took the $278.00, boarded the train at Bear Creek, Alabama, traveled to Sheffield, changed trains there, and then went on to Nashville. When we were situated, I rode the street car back down town, went to the depot, checked out the "cured" pig which had been shipped in a sack, put it on my shoulder, walked about eight blocks to the Glendale car line, boarded the street car, got off again at Caldwell Lane, walked up Caldwell lane with the "pig" to where we had rooms with Mrs. Neely, a sister of Horace and A. B. Lipscomb. I am sure that the children of sister Neely can witness to all this. Out of the $278.00 we paid $16 a month for rooms and lights, and at the end of the seven months all the money was gone. I went to brother Boles about the matter. I told him that my wife was returning home, and that I would have to go also, unless something could be done so that I could stay one more month and finish the first year of high school work, He assigned me to the dormitory and gave me a job of keeping the grass mowed around the dormitory of the girls. Thus I was able to stay in school until the Spring of 1924.
As already mentioned, I went to David Lipscomb College to take a "course in preaching," but when I arrived there was no such course offered, since all were taught the Bible alike and the only thing I could do was to enter the high school department. I should digress to say that some of the same teachers who taught in high school also taught in college. Brother Freed was over the high school. During the first year I perhaps learned more than any person who had ever been to the school, since I had such a vacuum for it. I had a good mind but was void of learning. I read about every kind of book in the library, besides other books I could borrow. During that first year I tried to find some work, but this was next to impossible. At that time there was a barn and field on the campus, a part of the farm of David Lipscomb, and we would work some there tending the swine the school raised for meat to help supply the tables of the boarding students. I now remember helping to butcher some of the meat there on the campus where some of the present buildings now stand. Also, I remember helping to build some of the walks around the school with cinders, which came from the old heating plants. Of course, we received no pay in money for this work. We were credited 25 cents an hour for such work on our tuition and fees. Since I was a ''day student" (lived off the campus), I could not have one of the better jobs such as sweeping the floors, such as brother John P. Lewis, and others, had. The Deacon boys had the bookstore, brother Smith had the Post Office, and others had similar jobs, which I considered to be much better. What little work I could get at the school was during the last month of the 1923-24 school year, after my wife had returned home and I had gone to the dormitory. During that last month I roomed in the dormitory with Basil Hall. In those days most of the cars were Model T Fords, and I was sort of a mechanic on such cars and was able to make a few dollars working on the cars of some of the members of the faculty. Also, I sold soap on the streets of Nashville a few times. I could buy a suitcase full of different soaps for $6.00 and sell it on Mondays (there was no school on Mondays in those days) receiving $10.00 for the soap, allowing me to make $4.00. I remember going to the home of brother Freed when he bought $1.00 worth of my soap, not because he needed it, for he was one of the cleanest persons I ever knew-physically, mentally and spiritually. He simply wanted to help me. I will have more to say about the Model T's later.
I mentioned that my wife went back home, in Alabama, a month before school was out in 1924 and I went back to the dormitory, roomed with Basil Hall, and worked on the campus for my board until school was out. During the summer of 1924 I did many things. I held several meetings in Alabama and Mississippi, sold books for the John C. Winston Company, held a debate with a Baptist preacher, worked some on the farm for my father-in-law, where we would stay each summer.
During the summer of 1924 we had accumulated about $300.00 and returned to the college in Nashville in the fall to begin my second year high school education. I observed that often times some attention was paid to a struggling boarding student by someone who was in a position to help that student, but few people gave any concern to the needs of a day student, and especially if he were a married person. However, brother S. P. Pittman, and some others, were aware of our plight-especially brother Pittman. He came to our rescue by furnishing us a little shack in which to live for four years, as long as we were in Nashville. This little house was at the west end of a short lane off Granny White Pike. We named the street Pittman Lane and Pittman Place. I believe the street still bears that name. Brother Norton, from Alabama, had built this little house on the property of brother Pittman and lived there while attending school. The house was located just south of the rim of the campus. Brother Pittman later built his home there. Some of the college buildings now stand adjacent to the spot where we lived. The little house was built of three-fourth inch boards, no inside ceiling, and no studs except in the corners. To keep from freezing, we kept a fire all the time during cold weather. I would take a sack and ride my bike several miles to the coal yard to get a few lumps of coal to burn. (I had a paper route and a bicycle at this time.) We had no running water, not even city water, but got what water we used next door from a "cistern." At this time we were making about $1.00 per day, To stretch that out I would ride my bike my the way to the "square" in town where I could buy hamburger meat for five cents per pound. We could then buy a can of salmon for ten cents, and we would buy buttermilk from a Mrs. Morrow, down next to the car line, for twenty cents a gallon. In season, we would buy turnip greens, which were very cheap, and sometimes people would give us some greens. One cold winter my wife had the measles, was in bed for about three weeks with a fever. We had no money to buy ice, but we did have a rain barrel in the "leak of the house" and the Lord provided us with some ice in the rain barrel. I should also mention that we practically had no furniture. We managed for a used oil stove on which to cook, and sister David Lipscomb, living then, gave us a little table on which to eat. I well remember carrying it on my back across that cornfield, from the "President's Home," where she and brother Stroop's family lived, to the place where we were living south of the cornfield.
I mentioned earlier that I had gotten a paper route with the Nashville Tennessean. I bought the route and bicycle from brother Barney Morehead for $10.00. I paid for that business and equipment on the installment plan, $1.00 a week until it was paid for. The bike had no fenders, and the snow, water, and mud would hit me in the back as I delivered papers. I would meet the first Glendale street car every morning and work till I could barely make classes. I was hurt a little one morning when I was scolded for being late. I would make this route twice a day, regardless of the weather. I sort of envied the student who had the Banner, since it was delivered only once each day and sold for the same price of twenty cents a week. On that paper route we had many struggles and also a lot of incidents. When I was collecting one Monday morning, a lady proceeded ta tell me, when she leaned that I was "making a preacher," that her preacher was paid $5,000 a year for preaching. I told her that they would have to pay me more than that to preach what he was preaching. Even now, when I see a "paper boy" I want to take off my hat and bow in honor of him. I have never known one to really turn out bad. During those years there wen; no "located preachers" in Nashville, that I can recall, except one or two. Brother S. H. Hall was at Russell Street. The churches in and around Nashville were getting a "free ride" in those days, as far as paying preachers was concerned, which might have been better than now, as far as I know. Certainly preaching was not being commercialized, as it seems to be now. The churches would use the members of the faculty at the college, working men in the Nashville area, and the students at David Lipscomb to do the preaching. Usually each church had a different preacher each Lord's day, or four different preachers for the month. There were many churches in that area, and as it is here now in this area, many more preachers than churches. Some of the student "preachers" would receive a good Sunday dinner where they would preach, car fare, and sometimes a little extra. Some of the best students would receive as much as $10.00 or $15.00 a Sunday from the churches where they preached, but most of them received less. It seems now, reflecting back, that the school served as a sort of a preacher supplier organization, and that the students were more apt to be selected to be sent out who, in the estimation of the school, would reflect more favorably on the college, and that the faculty members perhaps filled the places in the churches where the pay was the best. Be that as it may have been, since I was not a boarding student, and was not as prominent as some others, I was rarely "sent out" in answer to the calls which came to the college for preachers. However, I was preaching somewhere almost every Sunday in Nashville and the surrounding country. Sometimes I would receive as much as $5.00 a Sunday. I preached at Richland Creek, there in Nashville, during the five years of my stay there, and I believe that was what I received each Lord's day. I remember preaching at Joseph Avenue, in what I thought then was an elaborate building, and that while preaching I could feel that slick hardwood floor through the holes in the soles of my shoes. I was paid the regular $5.00, There may have been things wrong with the churches in those days, but we did not have the envy, jealousy, confusion, and division which we have today or it was in the "upper echelon" and I did not know about it.
In the winter, when the days were short and the weather bad, I would sometimes ride my fenderless bike to town and pick up my papers early in the afternoon. They were usually sent out on the Glendale car and kicked off at Caldwell lane. Sometimes the car would not arrive with them until after dark which forced me, without lights, to have to deliver the papers late. Many times my customers would fuss. I remember one incident distinctly. I went to the paper office, picked up my papers and headed onto Church Street. In those days there would be a policeman standing in the street directing traffic. As I was a little slow making the turn onto Church Street, a big (little) policeman kicked the bike out from under me and I fell in the street. Being helpless, I got on my bike and continued on back to the college. Thank God, policemen cannot do things like that today!
In the Spring of 1925 my uncle let me have the money to buy a 1923 Ford Roadster from brother Forrest Deacon, who was a student, and who, with his brother, ran the book store in the administration building. My wife and I used the little car during the summer of 1925 as we lived all over the country with the members of the church were I was busily engaged holding meetings and baptizing many people. In the fall of 1925 we returned to our little shack in Nashville. The paper company gave me an extended route and also paid me to pick up the papers in town for the other carriers along the way out to the college. For this, plus the income from my own route, we made about $100 a month. It cost about $60 a month to operate the car, which left us about $40, being about $10 a month more than I made with the bike. The wear of the car was considered as a means of going to school, and the money was paid back to my uncle for the purchase of the car two or three years later out of what I received for meetings during the summers.
Since I had a means of transportation I began to branch out with my preaching, all over Nashville, middle Tennessee, and even back down into Alabama, on weekends. This work was filled with many experiences, about which I shall speak later.
In the summer of 1925 I sold barber supplies for a Nashville firm in Northern Alabama and Mississippi, and held several meetings. In addition to the small commission on the sales, I also received a few dollars for the support of the gospel meetings. This sort of procedure continued through 1926 and into 1927. In the Spring of 1927 I went to brother Freed and told him that I could not continue further and graduate from the college department, that I could graduate from high school and would then lack only one more year in college, since I had been doing high school and college work combined. He then suggested that I "try out" for the work in Scottsville, Kentucky, and that he would recommend me to the Chapel Avenue church, which would support me. He was in a meeting at that time with the Chapel Avenue church. Brother Comer, a wealthy man, and president of the Washington Manufacturing Company, sent me to Scottsville for the "try out." He told the brethren there that I was rather young, but that I could preach. I then, after the weekend trip, accepted the work with the intention of moving to Kentucky at the close of the school year. However, after receiving some help from brother Walker Haley, Haleyville, Alabama, and some of the congregations where I was preaching chipped in a little more, I decided that I could go another year and finish the college course in the Spring of 1928. I told brother Freed of my plans, and that I was also going to call brother Comer and cancel the work in Kentucky. I never saw brother Comer again after I called him, but, in the meantime, before I cancelled the work, almost every time I would see him he would give me a few dollars, stating that he wanted to help me out on the trip to Scottsville. Scottsville, Kentucky, was brother Comer's birthplace.
During the last year in school, 1927-28, I had so much academic work, since I was finishing six years work in five years, I had to forego any secular work I had been doing in order to graduate from high school in 1927 (Spring) and from college in 1928 (Spring). During the summers I would hold meetings in many different States. However, when I finished David Lipscomb College in 1928, I accepted work with the church at Winfield, Alabama, in the county in which I was born and reared. We moved there in June of 1928 with all our world's possessions in the rear seat of a Model T Ford, and a diploma signed by H. Leo Boles, A. G. Freed, E. A. Elam, and C. M. Pullias. I accepted the work at Winfield, and they were to pay me a salary of $125.00 a month, the most money that I had ever heard of- then came the depression!
Yes, we went to Winfield with all our earth's possessions in the rear seat of a Model T Ford, and a debt of $2,000 hanging over our heads. That was perhaps as much as ten times that amount today. After one year the depression had come, and there was no money in the treasury. We did not starve because there was plenty to eat, much of which was often supplied by the congregations in the country, but there was no money to pay debts. Since I had never made so much money as the church was paying me, before the depression hit, the amount being $125.00 a month, we succeeded in paying back about half of that big debt before the time came when there was no money. The balance was not paid until almost 20 years later, while we were living in Longview, Texas. I believe that it was in the year of 1943, twenty years after we entered Lipscomb. The records there will show.
Since I am dealing with our moving to Winfield, Alabama, in the year of 1928, a little story comes to mind here which I think will be of interest to our readers. One summer while out selling books and doing some preaching, I went to Winfield, where I first met brother A. G. Williams, spoken of by everyone who knew him as "Big Williams"-he was a big man, not only physically, but in many other ways. He was known by all the "big preachers" in the "brotherhood," and they had, through his influence, been brought to Winfield to hold "big meetings," as they were called in those days-only the denominations had "revivals." Brother Williams bought a book from me. When he took it home sister Williams said, "What? Another book? We have so many books now that we never read." Brother Williams replied, "Well, some little fellow by the name of Chester Estes came along selling books, who said that he was selling books to help himself through school. He said that he was 'making a preacher.' I bought me to help him, but I don't think that he will ever make it." Later, in 1928, brother Williams "hired" me to work there with the church in Winfield. Where we lived for the next nine years. Brother Williams would tell this story often in my presence while we lived there.
Winfield, Alabama - 1928-1937
As has already been mentioned, we moved to Winfield, Alabama, in the Spring of 1928, with all our earthly possessions in the back seat of a Model T Ford, with a school debt hanging over our heads in the amount of better than $2,000, which was big at that time. The church had arranged for a two-room apartment for us with Mrs. J. B. Whitehead, whose father had deeded the church property several years before to the "Christian Church," as the church was "commonly" called in those days. On this property there was a very large frame store building, which had been converted into a church building and was used as such for many years.
There are many things I now plan to come back to which took place during the early months we were in Winfield, but I am now coming to the birth of our children. Wife and I were married in August of 1921, but our first child, a beautiful baby girl, did not arrive until April of 1931. We had been married for some time and looking forward to the arrival of our first-born was very exciting, not only for us, but also for the members of the church and other of our friends and relatives. The population of Winfield was not large at that time, and everybody knew everybody else, and all about what was happening or about to happen. We remember how kind everyone was to us, whether they were members of the church or not. The ladies of the church, and of the clubs, gave several "stork showers," suggested male and female names for the about-to-be-born, and wrote out their predictions. When the time came, we went to Jasper because there were no hospitals nearer than Jasper. It was there at the Walker County Hospital that our first child was born, a daughter, whom we named Evelyn Estelle. She was a beautiful child and became the "doll" of the town. We lived on the campus of the high school, and she became the "pet" of the teachers and the students. They would come by and "borrow" her, take her to the drug store where she would entertain the young people while they ate ice cream and "sipped" the sodas. When she was born we did not live on the campus, but in the two-room apartment where there was no indoor plumbing, refrigeration, or other conveniences, but we "made out." I guess we made it because we were all the time on the "go." By the time our daughter was one month old we had her with us in Columbus, Mississippi, at a service. When she was two and one half months old she was with us at Hope, Arkansas, where we stayed in the home of brother and sister John G. Reese. While there, we drove over into Texas. When she was two and one half months old she had been in six States. When she was 18 months old a small boy was carrying her at the 'church building, stumbled and fell on her, breaking her leg. We rushed her to the Jasper hospital where she remained for sometime. While there, she entertained the hospital staff with her singing and recitations. When only two and one-half years old she was with us in California for four and one-half months and in several other States, as we "preached our way back" to Winfield.
On September 4, 1936, the twin boys were born. We had not, of course, been expecting twins. When the time I for their arrival had come, we headed for the Jasper hospital again, this time in a Model A Ford, with my wife's sister and her husband (Mr. and Mrs. Rayburn Webster) in the front seat and my wife, Dr. Lucas and I in the rear seat. My brother-in-law was driving at a reasonable speed and doing a lot of talking. Suddenly Dr. Lucas spoke up and told him to drive faster. We arrived at the hospital and in about 15 minutes Dr. Lucas came out into the hall where I was waiting, held up his finger, and said to me, "You have a boy." Then he went down the stairs to get into the car and return to Winfield with Mr. and Mrs. Webster. All at once a nurse stuck her head out of the window from the second floor and called to Dr. Lucas. He returned, went into the delivery room for a few minutes (seemed like hours) and then came out again held up two fingers, and said, "Two boys." We later named the twins Charles Robert and Edward William. Charles was born 15 minutes before Edward was born.
At this time, and a few days before the birth of the twins, I had been so busy that I almost collapsed. I was teaching in the high school, conducting a meeting 35 miles away at Old Cleveland, in Fayette County, driving back and forth in a Model A over gravel roads. And, on top of all that, we had Cled Wallace in a meeting there in Winfield. When the twins were born and I had determined the wife was all right, I went home and went to bed. One night brother Wallace announced the birth of the twins, and said, "Sister Estes is doing fine, but brother Estes had to go to bed."
We look back to the nine years there at Winfield and wonder how we made it. Perhaps it was not only that we were young, but also because the people were so good to us-not only church members, but all the people of the town. There were usually some members there in our home to help the wife, and someone to assist her in getting to church and other places with the twins and little girl. I spent most of the summer months away from Winfield, or in meetings, which were within driving distance from home, and, while away, there would always be someone helping the wife with the children. And, it was the same story when we later moved to Corinth. The twins were only 18 months old when we moved from Winfield.
The next part of our story will be about the five years we spent at Corinth, Mississippi, after leaving Winfield, but I wish to say more about our work at Winfield and mention some incidents. I preached all over the State during our stay of nine years there, and, in addition, held meetings in every part of Marion, Walker, Fayette, Lamar, and adjacent counties. We also went as far away as California. We were there in 1933, 1934, and 1935. We spent more than four months at Coalinga, California, in 1934, after the birth of our daughter and before the birth of our twins. We were associated there with the daughter of brother Larimore and her family-brother and sister White. Later they visited the old home place here in Florence, at Mars Hill. While here, they drove down to Winfield and visited with us there. I remember that they had a "movie camera" and made some pictures of our family. I remember distinctly that we had the children out in the yard there where we lived, and the making of the pictures. I went back to California in 1935 on the train, arriving at Fresno, and spent the night in the home of brother and sister White. I also remember that their son, Larimore, drove me to the depot when I returned home. That was the last time we ever saw the White family. I will say more of these California trips later.
We were so busy during the nine years we lived at Winfield, not realizing that we were "making history," that I never kept a diary nor made notes. All I wrote now is from memory, just as it comes to me. I do remember how busy we were. As mentioned elsewhere, we moved ta Winfield in 1928, to be paid as a salary $125 a month by the church, which was more money than I had ever received before. When the depression carne in 1929 I had to supplement my income in some way, since there was not enough money in the church treasury to pay me more than $15 a week. Up to that time we had managed in some way to pay off about half of the $2,000 school debt we owed. (It was finally paid in full in 1943, while we were in Longview, Texas, twenty years from the time we went to Lipscomb.) To supplement our income, I began to teach school, sell care, and do other odd jobs, in order to live. Yet, all that time, I would be preaching to large crowds at night. I taught one school year at Glen Allen, one year at Wayside, and seven years in the high school at Winfield. At no time did 1 receive more than $70.00 a month. When I quit teaching the Marion County school system owed me $205.00 which has never been paid. If the interest on that amount were compounded to date, I am sure it would be a considerable amount.
There were few preachers in Northern Alabama during the time about which we are writing which you would call "located preachers." Those of us who were supposed to be "located" were constantly on the move, holding meetings wherever we were called upon to do so. The counties of Marion, Fayette, Lamar, Winston, Walker, and adjacent counties were filled with churches, which were demanding my time, while at the same time, I was supposed to be doing "local work," and, during the school months, was supposed to be teaching school.
This was a period of "depression." There was little money floating around. In fact, most of my life I have been in a "depression," in the sense in which it has been a financial struggle, since I had to work my way through grammar school, high school, college, and at two universities at different times, in addition to seeing our children through the colleges and universities. So, you can understand that we were accustomed to hard times. However, looking back, we, by the grace of God, made it very well. Even though there was no money floating around, we did have plenty to eat, and rent and clothing were inexpensive. Being surrounded by churches in the rural section, the members of these congregations were all the time loading us down with fruits, vegetables, and mat. The depression was terrible, but it seems now, looking back again, that the Lord blessed Americans with plenty to eat and wear. Of course, some did really suffer-and some more than others. We did receive a little money from the churches, a little from the school system, and, in addition, I would sell an automobile for the motor company, receiving $15 or $20 commission. The Lord has been with us! Glory to His name! And, all thanks and praise be to Him!
During the meetings around Winfield there would always be large crowds in attendance. I remember a meeting at White's Chapel in which the house was always filled and people were standing and sitting on the outside. I held several meetings. In one of these meetings, there were more than 20 baptisms. I baptized them just below the bridge in New River. The traffic was at a standstill, and brother Wade, a pioneer preacher of the gospel (who should not be forgotten) was sitting in a chair on the bridge and watching the baptisms.
There were churches scattered all over that section of the country. Just south of the White's Chapel church there was old New River church, established by some of the old pioneer preachers-we may speak of them later. I believe that the Srygleys, brother John Taylor, and possibly brother Larimore preached there. I would hold meetings at this place when the crowds were so large that I would stand just outside the door, on the steps of the building, and preach to the people. The people would be in the house, seated in front on benches, in wagons, buggies and automobiles. There would always be a number of baptisms.
There are other congregations all around New River. I have in mind Old Cleveland, about 15 miles further south. It was here that I held my greatest meeting from the standpoint of crowds, confessions, and baptisms. I guess the "modern preacher" would report it as "responses." As has already been mentioned this was about the time the twins were born. I was sort of "boot-legging" this meeting, since, as a teacher at the school, I was supposed to be dedicated to my school work, and the church at Winfield sort of expected me to be around, since a "big meeting" was in the making. I would start every evening about sun down the 35 mile trip in the Model A over the gravel roads to Cleveland church and then return back home after services. The crowds grew from the beginning. We had planned a short meeting. When they began to obey the gospel at night I would start on my trip earlier and we would have the baptizing in the late afternoon. Each night we would have more confessions and I would return the next day to do the baptizing in a pond near the church building and then stay and preach at the building at night. This continued on into the next week, even though the meeting was supposed to have closed on Saturday night, so that I could be in the meeting at Winfield, beginning on Sunday, with brother Cled Wallace doing the preaching. We continued this procedure until people stopped making the confession at night services. As a result of this meeting, and as I remember it now, there were about 48 baptisms and many restorations. This continued right up to the time the twins were born and about the middle of the meeting at Winfield. This was the time that brother Wallace announced to the congregation the birth of the twins, that the twins and sister Estes were all right, but that I had to go to bed.
I never kept what you would call a real diary, but at times I made a few notes of the places where I preached and sometimes mentioned the subjects. I did keep what you might call a partial diary of some of 1935, which I will insert here, which gives you an idea of how active I must have been during the nine years at Winfield.
May 12: Began a meeting with the church at Parrish, Ala. Made my home with brother and sister W. A. Black. Brother Fannon Anthony was with me and spent several days in the meeting. There was evidence of a great meeting.
May 19: I spoke morning and evening south of Parrish, where Dr. Jones worships. In the afternoon I preached the funeral of Albert Richinson's mother, who was a Baptist. She died at the age of 88, Funeral was in the home. Brother C. A. Wheeler was present. Returned to Winfield. Heard part of brother Black's sermon. He was in a meeting at Winfield.
May 20: Spent the morning in making preparation to leave for Coalinga, Calif. Heard brother Black at 11:00 a.m. Caught No. 6 at 2:40 p.m. for California.
May 21: Arrived in Kansas City at 7 a.m. Spent five hours in the terminal there. Had some snap shots of Evelyn enlarged. Left Kansas City at 12 noon for the long journey to California, first across the state of Kansas. Kansas seen from the train as a level country. Potatoes growing along the way. There was much flood water. Went through a part of Colorado at night.
May 22: Came into New Mexico early in the morning. Shaved in the lounge. Watched two engines pull and push the train across the "Rockies." Crossed New Mexico and Arizona. Saw snow almost all the way. Passed near the Grand Canyon at night.
May 23: Crossed a part of the Mojave Desert. Reached Mojave station at 7 a.m. Started the long ride through the desert, over the "Ridge Route" and into the San Jouquin Valley. Went through 18 tunnels in 35 miles. Went through the famous "loop," where a long train is supposed to cross itself. Arrived at Bakersfield. Weather was hot. Was met at Hanford by brother Houston, Mrs. Cook, Gladys Hensley, and Bertha Jo Cook. Reached Coalinga. Had a bath. Preached at night.
May 26: Three services. Dinner in the park. Many visitors from Fresno, 75 miles away. Brother White, son-in-law of brother T. B. Larimore, spoke also. Brother Larimore White, son of brother and sister White, led the singing part of the time.
May 29: The meeting closed without any addition. (I was there in 1933 and 1934 in which meetings there were several additions), but everyone felt that much gaud was done. Brother Walter Corbin drove me to Fresno (75 miles) after the last night service. We found brother White in bed. Sister White was still up. She was ironing. We were served a dish of ice cream about midnight. First time to be in the home of the White's.
May 30: Arose in the morning. Had a gaud night's rest in the home of the daughter of brother T. B. Larimore. Had breakfast. Attended a picnic in the city park. All the churches in the valley had people present. There were games, dinner, singing, and speaking. I spoke about the churches in Alabama. I was carried to the train by a brother Baldly. Boarded the train for Sweetwater, Texas.
May 31: Spent 5 hours in Window, Arizona. Had lunch. Clothes pressed. Walked some distance to the Santa Fee reading room and glanced over the daily papers. Spent a few hours in the Santa Fee Harvey houses, resting and looking at the Indian relics. Boarded the train. Crossed the Painted Desert at sun down. The desert comes to life in many colors at sunrise or sunset. I had crossed it before at sunrise in a Model A.
June 1: Reached Clovis, New Mexico, in time for breakfast. Reached Sweetwater about 3:00 p.m. Waited until 4:00 p.m. till brother Fletcher and brother Irvin Driskell met me there. They were delayed use of the flood. We started to Hamlin by way of Awn. Brother Driskell often walked ahead of the car in the water to mark out the road and keep us from being ditched. Received into the home of brother and sister Fletcher. Also, met the children. [Brother Fletcher now lives in Abilene and is one of the elders at Highland-Jan. 7, 1978.]
June 2: Began meeting at Hamlin. Had dinner with brother and sister Foster. It rained. Got stuck in the mud. Had two good services that day.
June 3: Meeting continues. God services. 60 present for morning service. Large crowd at night. Meeting continued through 9th. 70 present at the day service the 5th. 90 present at the day service 6th.
June 9: House was full at 11 a.m. Many visitors. Subject: Take Ye Away the Stone. 14 present from Tipton Home who sang in the morning. They rendered a program in the afternoon and all remained for the night service. The Estes family from Anson was present for the service. We talked about whether we were related. Meeting continued June 10.
June 11: Meeting closed with 14 baptisms. The children of brother and sister Fletcher were baptized. Brother Driskell was the song leader in the meeting. We roomed together in the home of the Fletchers.
June 12: Was brought to Sweetwater by brother and sister Greene. Train was late because of another washout. Reached Fort Worth and spent two hours there.
June 13: Reached Memphis for breakfast. Saw brother H. Leo Boles and rode with him on the train across Arkansas. Alfalfa Bill, former governor of Oklahoma, was with us on the train. Boarded another train for Winfield. Found sister Kleckly on the train. She lived in Birmingham. Her parents lived in Winfield. Her husband was killed by a train in Birmingham that morning, the conductor received the message, and asked me to break the sad news to her. We rode together till we reached Winfield, where I was met by the wife and Evelyn. Had been gone 24 days, and traveled in 11 States.
June 14: Spent the day at home.
June 15: Drove to Enterprise, Al, accompanied by Tee Stalcup and Jessie Guin. Stopped in Birmingham to talk with the relatives of brother Kleckly. Reached Enterprise at 6 p.m. Began meeting at 11 the next day. Took dinner in the home of brother Ellis, and ate melons in the afternoon. Meeting continued June 16.
June 18: Visited brother Dickson at Elba. Meeting continued.
June 21: Had dinner with brother Ellis. Drove to Dothan. Visited the "hot wells" at Cottonwood just over the Florida line. Touched 12 States in 30 days.
June 25: Good services. Four confessions in the morning. 6 baptisms and one confession at the close of the meeting.
June 24: Started home. On way had dinner in Calera. Visited Tommy in Birmingham. Visited Mrs. Kleskey in Birmingham. Reached home at 6 p.m.
June 25: Spent the day at home.
June 26: Returned to Birmingham with wife and Evelyn, Eugah Pearl, and Mrs. Newman. Shopped. Ate dinner. Spent the afternoon with Tommy DeShazo. Preached at West End in Birmingham and returned home after the night services.
June 27: Spent the day at home.
June 28: Drove to Paint Rock, Alabama, and heard L. T. Farrar preach.
June 29: Began my part of the meeting with brother Farrar leading the song service.
June 30: Preached the funeral of brother McFarland, of Garth, who was 88 years old at his death.
July 1: My 32nd birthday. Meeting continued. We put brother Farrar on the train and he returned to his home in Chattanooga. He was sick.
July 2: Meeting continued.
July 3: Received the news of the death of brother Farrar, whom we had sent home. Preached sister Craig's funeral, who was killed by lightning.
July 4: Spoke the last words at the grave of brother Farrar at New Market.
July 5-1 7: No record kept; must have been in a meeting at Prospect Station.
July 19: Closed the meeting at Prospect Station, Tennessee, with three baptisms. Ate dinner in Russellville, bought some presents for wife and Evelyn. Reached home at 2 p.m.
July 20: Called to Hubbertsville to preach the funeral of a young unmarried sister McArthur, 17 years old, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. McArthur. Her father had accidently turned the car over on her. It was estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 people were at the funeral. July 21: Began a meeting at Mount Olive in Lamar County, Alabama. Three services with dinner on the ground. The house was filled in the afternoon. Made my home with brother and sister McArthur. Morning subject: "Serving God. " Afternoon subject: "From Heaven or of Men." Night subject: "Cornelius," There were many visitors at all services. Drove back home to Winfield that night.
July 22: Preached Monday night to a large crowd. Meeting continued.
July 27: Meeting closed with 8 baptisms. Returned home.
July 28: Began a meeting at Antioch in Lamar County. Three services, dinner on the ground. Made my home with brother and sister Claud Rowland.
July 29-31 : Meeting continued.
August 1: Closed the meeting with three baptisms. Returned home.
August 4: Began at Kingville, in Lamar County. Three services and dinner on the ground. Subjects: "Take Ye Away the Stones," "Temptation," and "The Great Commission." Returned home after the night services.
August 5: Preached at night to a large crowd. Subject: "The Word of God." One was restored. Made my home with brother and sister Haze Johnson.
Here the record I had kept ended, and I cannot now recall my work during the following months. A part may be related elsewhere in this story, or in the sections of Related Incidents. As I have said, I never kept what you could call a record, or a diary, but only a few notes. This record of our activities during the summer of 1935 gives you an idea of our activities for nine years at Winfield, five years at Corinth, Miss., three years in Texas, and some twelve or fifteen years in the Muscle Shoals are.. I was forced to teach school nine months in the year in order to support my family. As soon as school was out in the Spring we were busy holding meetings all over the Southland. This does not mean that we were not very active in the work of the church and preaching the gospel during the nine months of school. I was busy doing what a "local preacher" was supposed to do, but busy also holding meetings at night in driving distance of Winfield. Whatever good was done while there at Winfield, during the nine years, the credit goes to the wife who "kept the home fires burning," and the glory and praise goes to the Lord, who guided us and provided for us. There seems to have always been some impelling force in my life, which has been pushing me along, and urging me to do something! I do believe in Providential guidance! It is impossible for me to catalogue all the efforts put forth to enlarge the borders of the kingdom of God while we were living in Winfield, as our base, or radiating center. If I had kept a record of everything that pertained to our work it would constitute several volumes. I hope to mention several more happenings under the heading of Related Incidents, if, and as, they come to me.
There are many persons about whom I would like to write, but in this story I am writing about myself,, my family, and my work as it is related to the kingdom of God. I am, therefore, using the personal pronouns. Every person makes his own tracks and others are not always able to walk in them. Our tracks should be such, and made in such a manner, that some will desire to walk in them and that some may in some way be profited by walking in them. In this writing, at this time, the tracks that have been made have, with the passing of time, become rather obscure and we may be found, therefore, uncovering a few of them here and there sufficiently enough to enable us to look back and see where we have been and, hopefully, to assist others to see a better way to travel.
I call to mind one of the efforts we put forth scan after moving to Winfield. The church there sent me to Tuscaloosa several times at the invitation of students who were there in the University of Alabama, to preach in the cart house where they were meeting. I believe this was in 1928 and 1929. I remember going with brother Henley ta look at a denominational church house, which they were in the process of buying. I have never preached there in that city since. Now there are several large congregations in the city. I did hold a meeting later in Tuscaloosa County, just south of Berry. During that meeting about nine persons were baptized in a creek in Tuscaloosa County. I lived during that meeting with a family who had a one-room "shack" with a lean-to at the rear, in which I slept on a home-made bed with corn shucks for a mattress. It was here that I met Chester Honeycutt, who had "begun to make talks." He would drive to the building each night with his family in a wagon.
I now recall another trip the wife and I made before Evelyn was born. The church at Winfield and the Gospel Advocate Company "supported" us to go to Rock Rill, S.C. for a tent meeting. James A. Allen was editor of the Advocate. His father was the preacher at Greenviile, S.C., and would drive down about 60 miles to Rock Hill to lead the singing. Not more than 40 persons ever attended the meeting. There were only four members in Rock Hill at that time, and they were all members of the same family-the Jones family. I understand that there is a strong church there now. We went from Rock Hill to Charleston, where we saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. We went out to Sullivan Island, the setting of the novel, "Gold Bug," by Edgar Allen Poe. From there we went to Savannah, Georgia, for a brief meeting, where several were baptized in a stream just out of Savannah. From there we returned by way of Atlanta and Birmingham to our home in Winfield.
There had always been a desire in my heart to see some of the far West of the United States. Through a report in one of the religious papers by a brother Perkins, of Armona, California, I learned of the need for a meeting in Coalinga, California. There were few churches in that State at that time. I immediately began to work up plans to go to Coalinga and hold that meeting. There were some attempts to dissuade me from making that trip, since few had perhaps made such a long journey in a Model A Ford. It was thought that we might encounter some trouble and, if so, we would be a long way from home and friends. In spite of all of that, I was determined to make the trip, if possible. I began to reason that I could finance the trip if I could get three or four persons to go with me and pay $25 each. James Stalcup, who had just graduated from the University of Alabama at the age of twenty, was anxious to go. His father was a banker (whom I baptized some years later) and said that he would gladly pay $25 for Jimmie to go. In the meantime, I preached one Sunday at Mount Hope and a young man there by the name of Jimmie Finnell wanted to go with us. His mother said that she would pay his way. She wanted him to visit his aunt in San Bernadine who had not seen him since he was about 18 months old. My brother's wife, Aubrey Chastain, lived in California, and was visiting home folks, and would return with us. As soon as I had enough money to try to make the trip, I wired brother Corbin at Coalinga that we were coming. I drove to Bear Creek, AL, to pick up Jimmie Fennell. On our way back to Winfield he stated that he had a cousin in Birmingham who wanted to go. He called him on the phone and had him there in a little time. I then had $75 in money and had just received a Gulf credit card (which turned out was no good west of the Pecos River). So, early the next morning we packed and were ready to go. The Model A was a Tudor. On the running board of the driver's side we fastened three suit cases and two on the front fenders. The only entrance and exit was through the right door. Each of the five of us rode on an army blanket on which to sleep on the way. We left the wife and Evelyn behind, just as the sun was rising, headed for California. There were no roads such as we have now. We traveled the gravel roads out of Alabama, across Mississippi, a part of Arkansas and Louisiana and spent our first night just outside of Marshall, Texas, sleeping on the ground. We spent the next night in Sweetwater, Texas, all sleeping in one room of a cabin, which we rented for $1.00. So, I can say that we spent 20 cents each for a place to sleep on that trip. The next day we reached El Paso, went over into Old Mexico for a few minutes, crossed the boot-heal of New Mexico and spent our third night sleeping on the ground just outside of Safford, Arizona. We left Safford early in the morning, crossed the Coolidge Dam across the River, near Miami, Arizona, traveled the Apache Trail to Phoenix, by way of the Roosevelt Dam. We took a plunge in the clear water below the dam and then went on our way to Phoenix, reaching Phoenix about noon. There we ate our breakfast and dinner. We ate at a place which gave a person all he could eat for 25 cents. Some of us even took a "second helping." We then had some repairs done on the car. Next we traveled the deserts till we crossed the Colorado River at Yuma, Arizona, where we sure enough went into a desert, the Sahara of America, of nothing but sand for a distance of about 30 miles, The sand dunes were on every side of us, from a few feet high to mountain size. The sand was constantly blowing across the little one-way paved mad. We could see parts of the old 30-mile plank road sticking up out of the sand in places. My brother-in-law said that he had traveled the wooden mad when it was used for travel. We crossed that desert about sun down and slept our fourth night on the ground in the Imperial Valley, sleeping on the ground beside the Salton Sea. This body of water is more than 200 feet below sea level, being the third lowest spot on the earth. Death Valley is about 325 feet below sea level, while the Dead Sea, the lowest on earth, is more than 1,300 feet. The next day we dropped the two Finnell cousins at San Bernadine, went on to Los Angeles, got us a room for the night, and the next day headed out of Los Angeles, over the mountains (under which the trains go), along the ridge route into the San Jouquin Valley, and on to Bakersfield. From there we went to Hanford, in the Valley, then West to Armona, and still further West towards the Coastal Range. There was nothing in the way of trees, homes, towns, or even people for the next 60 miles, till we reached the town of Coalinga, sitting out there in the desert, with the Coastal Range behind it. We had traveled about 3,000 miles in a Model A. My brother-in-law went on to Fresno, 75 miles to our north, and Jimmie Stalcup and I began a gospel meeting there in Coalinga, which continued for about 10 days.
The little church had been established some years before by brother Daniel Sommers. They had bought a "cook house" out in the oil fields and moved it into town for a meeting place. It was more like a wooden tent, since it had a porch all the way around it. The auditorium would seat about 100 people. We had a good meeting. The building was filled most of the time. There were visitors from Armona and Fresno. Several were baptized.
Let me digress here to say that brother Perkins, of Armona, had arranged the meeting. He had moved from Tennessee several years before and at that time there was only one congregation in the entire state of California. When we were there, churches were few in the state. Pepperdine had not even been founded at that time.
While we were in California, we visited the Sequoia Park where we saw, among many other interesting things, the giant redwood trees, one of which was the "General Sherman." That tree is almost 40 feet in diameter with a height of almost 300 feet. Some of the trees are more than 300 feet high. In one of brother Hall Calhoun's sermons, he said that this single tree (the oldest living thing) had more than 500,000 board feet of lumber, enough to box in the largest ship in the man, that it would take two men 13 days to saw it down with an saw. And, I would add, it would furnish enough lumber to run a little sawmill a year. It is almost impossible to even think of such a tree, and yet you would not notice it being larger than some other trees around it, if it were not for the sign on the tree stating that it is the largest tree in the world and the oldest living thing. In this park, we climbed the 1,000 granite steps to the top of Rock Moro. From there we could see all the way back across the valley to the coastal range. Looking west and southwest we could see all the mountains and valleys blanked with snow. This was in June. We could see Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain peak in the continental United States. Over beyond Mount Whitney lies the Death Valley, the highest and lowest spots in the United States lying side by side. I listened to brother H. Leo Boles describing a scene during one of his sermons at Jasper, Alabama, when giving a beautiful description of the work of the hand of God. After the service, I said, "Brother Boles, I can tell you exactly where you were standing." He said, "Where?" I said, "You were standing on top of Rock Mom, in California." He said, "How do you know?" I replied, "I have been there. " The next year the wife and I, with several members of the church at Coalinga, visited these places and now have many pictures of the places, which we still look at of ten.
While in the meeting at Coalinga, I told the church that if the schools in Winfield closed because of a lack of money, we might come back and spend a few months with them in 1934. So, in 1934 we headed back to California-the wife, Evelyn and I-in a Model B Ford. The trip was about the same, of which we have mentioned, and will say more later, but this time we did not sleep on the ground.
After the meeting in 1933, Jimmie and I left Coalinga for our long trip back to Winfield, by way of San Bernadine to pick up the two passengers we had left there. We traveled back by way of Needles, across the mountains, by way of the Grand Canyon, across the Painted Desert, over Route 66, which was a dirt road, and on to Oklahoma. We did visit Grand Canyon and take a view of that great crevice in the earth 100 miles long, 15 miles wide and one mile deep, where we looked down at the Colorado River and the mountains within the canyon. There are many other things I would like to say about this trip, but time and space forbids. I must say that this Model A was the same one that the wife and I had formerly used on our preaching trip into South Carolina and Georgia. While we were there in California, something went wrong with the transmission and we had to hold the stick, or prop it, in high gear all the way back to Winfield. We drove it during the summer and then traded it for the Model B in which the wife, Evelyn and I returned to California in 1934.
Now, back to our second trip to California. As stated, we did not sleep on the ground every night.
We worked there with the little church in Coalinga till late in the Spring of the year. We visited all the places I had, with others, visited the year before and saw all the same sites. Living there for that short period of time was, to us, like living in another world. We would arise every day expecting to see the shining of the sun. One could look in the afternoon toward the East and see the snow covered mountains of the Sierra range, more than one hundred miles away directly east, and apparently all the way from Los Angeles to Sacramento.
Just before leaving for our trip back East, we crossed over the Coastal Range and drove over Route 101 to San Francisco, crossed the Bay over to San Francisco to San Quinton prison (to visit an inmate). We crossed between Alcatraz and the piers of the Golden Gab Bridge. The bridge had not been completed at that time. We had breakfast on the boat on the way across the Bay. We, then, after our visit, drove around by Oakland and back to Coalinga.
Soon after our trip to the Bay area we headed back East, holding some meetings on the way back to Winfield. The first one was at Hope, Arkansas, where we had held two meetings before. Then we stopped at Morrilton (July 1, my birthday) where I preached to the church, which met in the auditorium of Harding College. Brother Armstrong was in the audience that Sunday morning. In fact, he taught the Bible class in the auditorium before the regular service in which I preached. I was in his Bible class that morning and he was in my audience when I preached. From Morrilton we drove to Kennett, Missouri, where we held a meeting nearby at Bakersfield, and then one at Brag City. From there we returned to Winfield, having been gone almost half of that year.
We will now begin to relate some things about the Sixth period of the account of my life at Corinth, Mississippi, from 1937 to 1942. There are many other things of interest we are not able to relate during the nine years we lived in Winfield. I hope to be able to think of some more and relate them later under the heading of Related Incidents. Also, I want to mention the many churches in Northern Alabama for which I held meetings during those days - which I hope to insert in that division of my story.
As has already been stated, we moved to Winfield, Alabama, from Nashville, in the Spring of 1928, with a promise of a "salary" of $125 a month, the first "salary" that I had ever been promised in my life. The church there had me to conduct the first "big meeting" after moving there. The church in Winfield was rather strong compared to the other city churches in the country. In fact, many of the country churches were stronger than the city churches. The church was weak at Hamilton, Guin, Jasper, Fayette, and other places. I often went to Hamilton, Guin and Fayette and preached to very small groups.
The church at Winfield had never had many "located preachers." Brother John Allen Hudson preached there for a while before we "located' ' there. In fact, he married a girl from Fayette County, just south of Winfield. I was almost the first "located preacher" the church had ever had, and I think they were rather "proud" to have us "their located preacher." I was not, while there, tied down with a short rope, but experienced a rather long line and was allowed to roam around over the rural sections and towns preaching the gospel. In fact, the church there thought that was a part of their work. I cannot now even remember all the churches for which I held meetings. Here I mention a few. Marion County: Hamilton, Guin, Hackleburg, Bear Creek, Barn Creek, Burleson, Pleasant Ridge, Brilliant, Gold Mine, Bethel, Thorn Hill, Loden Hill, Piney Grove, and other places which I cannot call to mind now. Fayette County: Fayette, Cleveland, Pea Ridge, New River, Glen Allen, Berry, White's Chapel, Berea, Camp Comfort, Hubbertville, and other places which I cannot now recall. Lamar County: Christian Chapel, Mount Olive, Kingville, Millport, Vernon, Bethel, Antioch, and other places I do not now remember. Walker County: Oakman, Parriah, Zion, Macedonia, Manchester, Carbon Rill, Eldridge, Nauvoo, and other places I cannot now recall.
The church at Winfield always wanted to employ "big preachers" for their "big meetings." While we were there the following are some of the "big preachers" they had for meetings: C. R. Nichol, G. A. Dunn, N. B. Hardeman, T. W. Phillips II, John T. Lewis, John G. Reese, Foy E. Wallace, Cled Wallace, A. B. Lipscomb, and perhaps others. They often brought in a song leader from other places. Among the song leaders, I mention Austin Lambert and Marion Davis. In most of the meeting brother Davis led the singing. All these mentioned above have been guests in our home. Many other "big preachers" held meetings at Winfield after we moved away to Corinth, Mississippi.
It was in 1937 that we decided to move to Corinth, Mississippi. I had been "trying out" at different places with a view to moving. I made one trip to Columbus, Georgia, but cannot recall now whether I was rejected or that I did not want to go there. I believe it was the latter. Brother John T. Lewis and brother A. B. Lipscomb had both recommended me to the brethren at Columbia, South Carolina, and I had made an appointment to go there for a "try out." However, in the meantime, someone had recommended me ta the Foote Street church in Corinth, Mississippi, and when I decided to go to Corinth, I cancelled the appointment with the church in Columbia, South Carolina.
I recall my "try out" at Corinth. The weather was very cold. I travelled the muddy roads to Corinth from Winfield and when I arrived at Corinth, after a few minutes, we found that the ice had actually locked the wheals of the car. I spent the night with brother C. P. Butler and his family. The next morning we had to thaw out the wheels of the car before I could return to Winfield. I was "hired" by the Foote Street church at a salary of $125.00 a month and we were to move immediately. It was understood that I would also be preaching for some churches around Corinth and that, if they should give me any money, it should be turned in to the treasury of the Foote Street church. This did not last long, for when they reflected on that arrangement a little I think that they were sort of ashamed of it and told me to keep what the churches might give me to take care of my car expenses. Or, it might have been because what the church gave me was so little it did not help. Anyway, I know the amount was very small, for, actually, the depression was not over and there was very little money anywhere.
The Foote Street church had never had but two "located preachers" before. A brother Shepherd worked there about six months one time and brother A. E. Emmons, Jr., a local boy, had been preaching there before we arrived. In fact, it was announced the night of my "try out" that he was getting married and would be moving elsewhere. The church there had always depended on some of the members to do the teaching and preaching, or had visiting preachers from Sunday to Sunday. The visiting preachers were, in most instances, the teachers at Freed-Hardeman College. The Foote Street church was the largest congregation in the State of Mississippi, and had, at that time, one of the best buildings anywhere. I happened to visit in Corinth in 1924 while in a meeting at Stutt's Chapel, in Prentiss County, and while calling on the barber shops in Corinth to sell supplies, a barber told me that a meeting was being conducted there by G. C. Brewer. I visited and sat on the front seat, not knowing then that some day I would be the preacher there and be standing in that pulpit.
At the time we moved to Corinth the churches were not very strong throughout the State of Mississippi. After the War between the States, mechanical instruments of worship were introduced into the churches and it has been said that the Christian Church took over all the churches except the old Thyatira church and those who opposed the introduction of the instrument had to start all over again. Even in Corinth, and in the churches around there, when we moved to Corinth, there was not too much of a line drawn between members of the church of Christ and the Christian Church. I now have in my files the story of how the non-instrumental brethren in Corinth had to give up their place of worship and start all over again. This history was written by Mrs. W. T. Martindale and contains a brief history of the church from the time of the War between the States. She states that sister Kendrick and others purchased the lot where the Waldron Street Christian Church stands. She mentions that in 1900 there was only one congregation worshipping on Waldron Street. She mentions a preacher whom she called Patterson, who was born at Pleasant Site, Alabama, as the leader in introducing the instrument. This brother had attended Mars Hill, in Florence, and had preached his first sermon at old Rock Creek, the home of the Srygleys. On the other side, opposing the issue, was a brother whom she calls Uncle Tom Darnell, who led the opposition against the introduction of the instrument. Those who opposed were allowed to meet in the afternoon on Lord's day for worship, but soon found the doors of the building locked against them so that they could not even enter the building. They then began to meet in the courthouse. About that time brother F. W. Smith was called to hold a meeting for them in the courthouse. (I remember brother Smith. In fact, I delivered his daily paper when we were in Nashville. I heard him speak several times when we were in David Lipscomb College.) Lam, brother G. A. Dunn held a good meeting there in the courthouse. When the courthouse was torn down, they began to build the neat little brick building, which stood just across the street from the building, which was built a few years before we moved to Corinth. I suppose that building is still there. It was used as a dwelling while we were in Corinth. About the time the building was completed, brother Darnell passed on to his reward and brother Jobe Leath became the leader of the church up to a little while before we moved to Corinth. When we moved there (1937), there was still an atmosphere of conflict in the city and the surrounding communities caused by the use of mechanical instruments in some of the churches. Families were divided. Earlier in the history of the church the Kendrick family was divided. There were three Kendrick brothers: Allen, Mansel, and Dr. Carroll. Some were for the instrument and some were against its use in worship. While living at Corinth, I would hold meetings at one of the churches and the next year they might have a Christian Church preacher. Just a short way out of Corinth is what was then called the Jerusalem church, near the community of Kendrick, named for the Kendrick family. These families of which I speak lived there in days past. I have stood by the grave of Allen Kendrick and preached the funerals of others who were being buried alongside the graves of the Kendricks, and could see the name of Allen Kendrick inscribed on the head stone of his grave. He was one of the co-laborers of Alexander Campbell. I visited the old Kendrick home one time with brother G. A. Dunn and a relative of the Kendricks gave us some books. Some of mine have the signature of Allen Kendrick written inside. Also, I have the book of Carroll Kendrick dealing with the issues of that day, which came from the Kendrick library. Another family which was much divided over the issues of the day was the Meeks family. I did know some of this family on both sides of the issue.
Our work at Corinth was very productive, even though we were still in the depression. Times were so hard that people in need could not be cared for, even by the Red Cross. The church there often picked up people who could not pay for a room in a cheap boarding house and took care of them. The church soon began to grow in numbers. More than 300 people were added during our stay there. There were no divisions in churches of Christ such as we have now and such as you might find in the church at Corinth now. The elders at Foote Street were C. P. Butler, W. A. Burns, C. P. Roberts and brother - - - - Hopper. We not only preached the gospel and taught the Bible there in Corinth, but I was also kept busy throughout the summers in meetings in different parts of the State. In addition to preaching throughout the county and the surrounding counties, I held meetings further away in Pontotoc, Meridian, Starkville, Hamilton, and many other places. We were instrumental in starting the church in Meridian. I understand that the radio program which we started has continued till this day. It was during a meeting at Meridian I met a family from Chicago who was visiting there. After the meeting I received an invitation to preach in Chicago with a view, on the part of the church in Chicago, for me to become their local preacher. I made that trip to Chicago (1940) and preached in the Kedzie Temple where the congregation met. I always reflected afterwards that it was Providence that prevented me from moving my family to Chicago. It was during a meeting in a tent in Starkville, while driving from Corinth to Starkville, in the vicinity of West Point, that I composed the song, Let Jesus Come In. Brother Marion Davis was helping me in the meeting. When I arrived in Starkville, I wrote the words and brother Davis set the words to music and we began to sing it. Foote Street church sort of held up our hands while we preached all were the Stab of Mississippi. Brother Davis was with me in this work in many ways, especially as the song leader.
The church at Corinth, like the one at Winfield, usually had the "big preachers" for their "big meetings," and we usually had brother Davis to lead the songs. The meetings in those days would sometime run through three Sundays-instead of three days. It was near the closing of our stay at Corinth that we had brother Foy E. Wallace and he, sensing that I would like to move, recommended me to the church at Longview, Texas. I will say more about this later. Among the "big preachers" we had at Corinth were Foy E. Wallace, Cled Wallace, John G. Reese, N. B. Hardeman, E. R. Harper, and Floyd Decker.
The people were good to us at Corinth. We moved there before Evelyn was of school age and Charles and Edward were only about 18 months old. There were those there who would help the wife to "keep the home fires burning" while I was away in meetings. I must mention one young lady especially who was with us much, and went with us almost everywhere the family went, always helping the wife with the children. Her name was then Stella Rainey. She later became Mrs. Walter Jones and is now living in Corinth. Often times you could see her walking between Charles and Edward, holding their hands, with Evelyn walking at their side. We have a picture of them together now in our album. I can see them now! Also, when I was away from the family, and there was a matter for me to see about, or a problem, there was brother C. P. Butler, one of the elders, who would see about it. Brother and sister Butler had 12 children of their own, but he always found time to see if all things went well with our family. He has now passed to his reward and so have all the other men who were elders while we were there. Sister Butler is living now in Corinth. Let me say here that the elders at Foote Street, while we were there, were not "bosses." They led by way of example, as the New Testament teaches. I never thought that I had any "lords" over me while we were there.
It was early after our arrival at Corinth that we launched the publication of The Evangelist, which was published monthly for the next twelve years. At first (for two issues) it was mimeographed. Then we went to a printed paper, printing it at Booneville, Mississippi. Later brother W. A. Black joined with me as an editor, and over a period of time many other preachers became associate editors. After a few issues we began to do a more professional job by having the Gospel Light Publishing Company to do the printing, which they continued ta do for many years. My book (my first one), Titus Goes Modern, was printed at Booneville in 1940. There is in this book a picture of the Foote Street building and myself. This book is now out of print.
There are now in existence four bound volumes of The Evangelist. Looking through it now, I observe that the following have been contributing editors at different times: W. A. Black, Lindsay Allen, John G. Reese, Marion Davis, A. C. Dreaden, Granville Tyler, J. C. Murphy, J.O. Jones, Gus Nichols, J. A. McNutt, Robert Turner, Alice McCord Dean, Paul D. Murphy, L.L. Gieger, Hoyt Bailey, John D. Cox, Floyd J. Spivey, George DeHoff, James Wells - about nineteen in number, I believe, of which ten have passed on as of 1980.
Speaking of those who are deceased, and going back to the different elders with whom I have worked, all the elders who served the church while we were in Corinth have passed away. In fact, I do not know of anyone serving as an elder today in any of the congregations where we worked. Most of them have gone to their reward. I have worked with the elders at the following places: Winfield, Alabama; Coalinga, California; Corinth, Mississippi; Longview, Texas; Greenville, Texas; Paul's Valley, Oklahoma; Highland Park in Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Jackson Highway, Sheffield, Alabama; and Bethel, in Marion County, Alabama. The most of the elders in the above mentioned congregations have died. A few moved from the congregations, or, for some reasons, are no longer serving as elders.
This period of work at Corinth continued for a period of five years, until our children became old enough to begin to attend school. All the time we were there I was holding meetings in and around Corinth, all over the State of Mississippi, and out into several other States, doing the preaching at Foote Street, teaching classes, reading, writing, publishing The Evangelist, and all the work a "located preacher" was supposed to do. One thing I remember distinctly was that much time was consumed in preaching funerals. Times were hard then and sometimes I the wife and I had to step in and become the undertakers for some poor families when a member died.
About the end of the five-year's stay in Corinth, we had brother Foy E. Wallace for a meeting. He sensed that I would like to move. I had about been convinced by some that I would soon "break down" under the load, and I began to think that some other place would be better for the family. There was an opening for a preacher for the church in Longview, Texas, at that time. Brother Wallace recommended me for the work there. On December 10, 1941, I rode the train to Longview, spent the night with brother and sister J. W. Akin, preached them on Sunday morning of the 11th. I remember I was wearing a new suit of clothes which had been presented to me by brother Cass Turner, brother of Col. Rosco Turner. As stated, I preached in Longview on Sunday morning and was "employed. " After dinner brother Akin drove me around over the town. While we were out we learned from the cry of the newsboy on the street that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. As I rode the train back to Corinth the next day I observed that guards were posted all along the route, at water tanks, crossings, bridges, and other places. Suddenly the whole country was changed. However, we continued to make preparations to move to Longview, which we did on New Year's day of 1942.
Other things may be mentioned about our work while we were living in Corinth in the section dealing with Related Incidents. I must hasten to try to complete this story, which is not much more than an outlined sketch of the story of my life.
As already mentioned, we moved to Longview the first day of 1942. The church there was to pay $200 a month, and we paid our own rent of $35 a month for a nice little brick home. This was more money than we had ever received for "local work." The rent was a little more than we had been paying. It was said that there were three millionaires in the church there. One of them I really never knew since he did not attend much. Another attended but rarely gave much more to the work in the way of money than the rest. A third one who was there d the time gave $50 every Lord's day, besides giving a great deal in other ways. His contribution on Sundays, to the beet of my memory, was more than one-fourth of the sum of d the contributions on Sundays. He, of course, was able to do more, since he owned about 400 acres of flowing oil wells.
The church, in my opinion, as I now look back to it, was in a sort of stand still. There seemed to be the will of the members, but they had not been encouraged to do much more than to stay within the four walls of the building, and there was some opposition to the leadership. We encouraged them to hold a meeting there in the south part of the town, which resulted in a strong congregation being started there.
After about one year, I became discouraged. This seems to have become known rather far away and, as a result, I was called to Akron, Ohio, and offered the work there at Thayer Street. I preached there on the radio about 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, at the church building at 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., then at Brown Street at 7:00 p.m. I enjoyed the visit there with the brethren, but I did not think that I would like living in Akron. Also, about that time I was called to Sixth Street church in Port Arthur, Texas. I did not think that I should go there. Later, after moving back to Alabama, the twins and I spent almost a whole month there in a meeting with another congregation.
During the time we lived in Texas the whole country was troubled. The War was raging, families were being torn asunder and, in many ways, conditions were far from being normal. We took advantage of some of the conditions in order to spread the gospel throughout the world through the printed page. Longview has been called the "bottle neck" as far as transportation by rail is concerned. It was estimated that, during the war, a "troop train" went through Longview every 15 minutes. We would meet these trains and bombard them with copies of The Evangelist and other good gospel literature that we could secure.
We would put this material into the hands of soldiers on their way to the training camps or on their way to the battlefield. The soldiers would often be hanging on to the side of the train or reaching out through the windows as the train went through in order to grasp whatever we had to give them to read. We would sometimes, when the trains stopped, board the trains to give out copies of The Evangelist and whatever other materials we might have. As a result of this effort to "evangelize" we would hear, from people all over the world. I can now look through the bound volumes of The Evangelist and read letters from behind the "iron curtain." A few years later when some of the brethren began to pierce the "iron curtain" and found it cracked, was it because of something we had a part in doing then? I want to think so.
The church in Longview in many ways was a good congregation. There may have been some friction between the leaders and the members, but perhaps not too serious. Looking back, I would now judge that it was a sort of struggle between a mild liberalism and a strong conservatism. We had many friends there, and they have been our supporters of what we have tried to do since leaving there almost 34 years ago. I am not mentioning names because of the lapse of memory and time. Some near to us might be left out. Many of them have gone to their eternal reward. In fact, the most of the people I have known in different places in the different church where we have worked are no longer living. I must, however, mention brother R. J. Findley, Jr., and his wife, Mary Elizabeth. Brother Findley and I were "pen pals" all these years until he passed on in 1976. We still, to some extent, carry on our correspondence with Mary Elizabeth.
While in Longview, I preached at many places in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama. I was often on "lectureships," as they had begun to call them, in Dallas, Paris, Center, and other places in Texas that I cannot now recall. Also, I remember being in Duncan, Oklahoma, for a "lecture." Most of the speakers in these meetings have passed on. In addition to all this activity, I was also publishing The Evangelist, doing the radio preaching there on the local station, and other matters pertaining to "local work." Brother Robert Turner, the preacher at Kilgore, and I conducted a "round table" discussion on the Gladewater station.
We were not exactly satisfied living there in Longview, even though we had many friends, and they were dear to us. There was so much pressure, maybe because of the War and the unsettled conditions of the country. We were homesick for Alabama, and were constantly looking for an opportunity to return to Alabama. In the meantime, we thought that we would move to Greenville, Texas, where I was promised $65 a week to work there.
We were again to pay our own rent. That was not much more than we received at Longview, since the church had bought a little dwelling to the rear of the church budding in Longview and were furnishing our rent, until we moved. Our moving to Greenville was one of the many mistakes we have made in our lives. The friction there in the church was a mountain we did not think we could climb, and I, therefore, accepted a call to move to Paul's Valley, Oklahoma. For about 13 weeks I drove from Greenville to Paul's Valley, by Ardmore, and through that section north of Ardmore, where the racks are so turned up on the side of the road so that it appears that you are crossing through a giant cemetery, especially when driving through some night when there is a full moon. This was during the War, and the brethren there in Paul's Valley had not been able to find a place for us to live. The Lord then opened up the work here at Highland Park, in Muscle Shoals, where we have been since the fall of 1944 - back in the good old soil of Alabama.
Other reference will be made about our work while we were in Texas at the close of my story under the heading of Related Incidents
EIGHTH PERIOD Muscle Shoals, Alabama -- 1944
You have now traveled with us in this story thousands of miles, over a period of 41 years, and we are now back in Alabama, near where we started. And, if we are able to continue the story, we shall travel many more miles and complete a story of 78 years (as of July 1, 1981), with a prayer that we may even be able to travel together beyond the century mark.
We left Texas thinking that the Highland Park church had rented a house for us, but by the time we arrived the house was not available. There were some government houses on Grand Avenue with FHA foreclosures. We simply became "squatters" by moving into one of them for a few months. We then purchased one of the houses just across the street from the one we had occupied, at 301 Grand, where we lived for the next 14 years, and where our children grew up and attended the different schools. There was a small mortgage against out place in Marion County which we paid off, because we did not want two government mortgages at the same time. The house we purchased was a small six room dwelling with a small garage. The price was $3,860. We paid $385 down and the payments on the balance amounted to $23.40 a month, which paid principal, interest, taxes and insurance. If we had that little house today, it would sell for more than four times the amount we paid then.
I left a $65 a week salary in Texas and came to Highland Park with a promise to receive $45 a week. The church paid the expense of moving. It was always my policy to move nowhere if I had to pay my own moving cost. The salary here was so little that I had to have outside support for a growing family. I, therefore, sold books (wholesale and retail), through The Evangelist, and tried to farm some on the side. The farming, I soon learned, cost more than we made. The truth of the matter, I have never received enough support during my life as a preacher in order to rear a family, and have always had to find some outside source of income. I have been a salesman of something almost all my life, selling anything from gold eye needles to real estate, I have sold needles, Cloverine Salve, papers, soap, Bibles, other books, automobiles, run as a "news butch," farmed, logged, run a grist mill, run a saw mill, worked at a gin, graded roads, and sold real estate in order to support myself and my family. I have held a Real Estate Broker's License since 1945. For the last 25 years, since leaving the work at Highland Park, our support from the church has been practically nothing-our labor has been gratis. The church at Highland Park, where I preached for 11 and a half years finally got up to the amount of $75 a week, but since then our support from the churches has been almost nothing.
As I said, we were glad to be back in Alabama, our native State, and our reception was great. The churches were many here, but not so large as they are now, and not even as many as are in the area now, but they were apparently peaceful - there was no division then of which we were aware. There was cooperation among them and all the preachers in the area. I now remember that we were given a "reception" soon after we moved here at the picnic grounds of TVA. There were present many members of the church from several of the congregations, and about all the preachers in this area were present. I remember some of them, such as James Wells, Franklin Puckett, John D. Cox. You could have put all the preachers in a sack at that time and they would not have fought. Were these days the "good old days"? Most of the people present then have passed on to the other world.
Our work here at Highland Park for eleven and a half years was the very peak of our career. We were soon on the radio, behind heard all over north Alabama, and being supported by about 35 congregations. We were heard by thousands every morning at 6:45. I made the first speech on WJOI standing between some piles of lumber before the station was completed. I now run into people here and there, saying, "We remember you-we remember hearing you every morning on the radio several years ago." In addition to doing the "local work" hem, the radio preaching and publishing The Evangelist, I held meetings throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and other States.
This work continued in a fine way for about eleven and a half years, but, because of a growing family it was necessary for me to have outside support. I, therefore, began selling real estate for a few years and building some homes until the children were married and had their own families. Under these circumstances we thought best to give up the work at Highland Park. A few of us then rented the Seventh Day Adventist building in Sheffield where we worshipped for a while, thinking that during that period we would be able to buy that building. When the Adventists decided they would not sell, we moved across the street, a little further north, and began meeting in a store building. Here we met for several months. We called the church the Jackson Highway church of Christ since we were located on that highway. Later we bought the lots on Southern Boulevard where the present building now stands. We had elders from the first time we met in the Adventist building. They were Baxter Rose, A. L. Pitts, and George McDonald.
A few words about the construction of the present building will be in order here. At the time of its construction I was in the process of building some homes for sale. I had a personal financial arrangement with the supply house and the bank. The m a w was furnished on an open account for the church building. I was the only trustee, as far as I know, that had a financial standing of account with the supply house and the bank, which we used. The obligation was mine to take the initiative in renewing the bank notes and the supply house account every few months, until we could secure a loan, which was about a year after we began meeting in the new building. I mentioned that at the time I was having some homes built by contract carpenters and another person was doing the same thing. This person let his carpenters join our carpenters and within four weeks from the time the foundation was laid we were meeting in the new building. One of our twins, Charles, had drawn the plans, and the other, Edward, stayed with the work during the construction of the building, as an overseer, till it was completed.
I remained with this congregation for eight and a half years, and, considering what we had to work with, and void of any help from the churches here, I feel that we did well. The congregation grew to become a fairly large congregation, and we were at peace. (I have a picture of the members assembled.)
At the end of eight and a half years, I gave up the work and began to preach at different places throughout the country. To make this part of my story short, I preached about 10 years at Bethel, in Marion County, and have now been at Pleasant Ridge about five years in the same county (as of Feb. 5,1978). The places are near the home we have there in that county.
During my lifetime (especially since 1938) I have done a great deal of writing. In addition to writing for the papers published by brethren, I edited and published The Evangelist for a period of 12 years without interruption. In 1940 I wrote and published Titus Goes Modern, a book dealing with the music question in worship and some of the practices of the Christian Church. Later I wrote The Gospel Vs. Another Gospel, a book consisting of several sermons delivered later on the radio. And, about the same time, I published Cold Waters For Thirsty Souls. About 15 years ago I began the translation of the New Testament and while waiting for it to be published I wrote another book called A Handbook On Biblical Interpretation. After publishing The Better Version of the New Testament, I published What Is Truth?, A Study of the Sermon on the Mount, and A Study of the Holy Spirit. In the early 1940's I published The Bible Interprets The Bible which is still in print and continues to be read widely. Titus Goes Modern and Cold Waters For Thirsty Souls are now out of print. For the last few years I published an eight-page paper called Religious News, which had been discontinued. I now have another book in manuscript form called Little Known Things, dealing with the early church and the martyrs. It also sets forth some of the evidences of the inspiration of the New Testament, with a final chapter called the Genealogy of the King James Version of the Bible. Another book, which I might add to my works, is the Bound Volumes of The Evangelist. This, itself, is in reality a book production.
Yes, I have written several books, as related above, but what I consider the crowning work of my religious life is the production of The Better Version of the New Testament. I am now in possession of the two large volumes of this work handwritten, two volumes of it written on an old manual typewriter, two copies of it written on an electric typewriter, two volumes Xeroxed for publishers, and, finally, the First, Second, and Third editions of the book. I might add also that we are hopefully looking forward to the publications of other editions. In addition to the above I have recorded the King James Version on reel to reel tape, The Better Version three times on reel to reel and three times on cassette tape. These are all to be preserved for posterity. Also, I have sent copies of my writings to the Disciples of Christ Archives in Nashville, Tennessee, except Titus Goes Modem, published in 1940 but now out of print.
Recently we built a large library, which holds thousands of books and documents. This library is joined to our home. The shelves across the end of the building are twelve feet long. More than half of one of the shelves consists of my personal works. If I should put all my reel to reel recordings and cassettes on that shelf the entire twelve foot shelf would be filled.
When I began to write the story of my life I found it a very difficult task, as mentioned in the beginning. Further along I found myself writing the story as of another person. Now, as I must close the story, I find that that task is more difficult than in the beginning or while I felt that I was writing of another person. I suppose the best I way is to close the story suddenly, since all of our days on earth must, in most instances, be closed suddenly. Life has not all been a "path of roses," nor has it been one "of thorns." Roses have been a part and so have thorns. Our path has been made easier because of our faith in Him who bore the "crown of thorns."
I am thankful to God who has Providentially guided us in our pilgrimage here on earth, and to Him be honor, glory and praise. Also I am grateful to my wonderful wife and family. Not only has God been Providentially beside me, but also has my wife, who has been the "woman behind the throne." Without her there would have perhaps been few accomplishments. She has shared in our "ups and downs," in the good and the bad, for the sixty years of our married life. Above all, she has been the mother and caretaker of our three most precious children, who now have their own loving families. Treasures are laid up in heaven for the faithful, when we can no longer serve here, but our precious treasures have been, and are now, our children and their families here on earth.
In the summer of 1924, while selling barber supplies, books, and preaching throughout the country, I came to Vim, Alabama, and spent some time there with brother and sister Ellie Reed who formerly lived on our place in Prentiss County, Mississippi. At the time of my visit with them brother Daily was living with them. (I do not now remember the first name of brother Daily.) He was an old pioneer preacher who had been baptized by Barton W. Stone. At the time I visited the Red home he was 102 years old. I talked with him all one afternoon. He told me many stories of his life, some of which may have been hallucinations of his mind. When he died there was an extended write-up in one of the Birmingham papers in which it was said that he had baptized more than 10,000 people. Some twelve years before when he was 90 he held a meeting in our yard in Mississippi under some trees, while brother Reed lived on our place. I remember that there were many people to hear him. There were few churches of Christ in Northern Mississippi at that time. There were a few members scattered here and there. It was the custom of New Testament preachers to pass through the country and stop with the scattered members and preach in their homes. We had no "evangelistic soul-saving workshops" in those days. Preachers just "went everywhere preaching the word." As a result churches sprung up and began to grow. In those days people just simply "let" their lights shine instead of trying to "make" their lights shine. So much about brother Daily. I just thought I would mention him here and, in the event my life's story is published and read, generations to follow might know about him. Anyway, "He knows."
Contributions. There have been many ways of "taking up a contribution," and I suppose all of them are alright unless some principle of the Scriptures is violated. I remember preaching "out from Nashville" in the 1920's and that a contribution box (it might have been a cigar box) was at the rear of the auditorium. The contribution was made by the members as they came in or went out of the building. The best I recall there was about $3.00 in the box the time I was there and they gave it to me to pay my "travel expense."
I preached at Scottsville, Kentucky, in 1927, which was the old hometown of R. W. Comer, president of the Washington Manufacturing Company. The contribution was taken up by the ushers passing a net on a long handle along in front of the people on the seats. The nets were something like the nets used to catch insects, or dip nets for minnows. While there in Scottsville I resided over the week-end with a brother and sister Turner, the parents of Robert Turner. Robert and I worked there in Texas together during the War for some time before I learned that he was the little Turner boy in that home, when, one day, he mentioned that his old hometown was Scottsville.
I remember that about the time I began preaching in 1922 the contribution was taken during the singing of that last song after the Lord's Supper at the White House church in Marion County, Alabama. This is the church I mentioned earlier which was established by brother John Taylor, and that there were "charter members" there when I began preaching. But, back to the manner of taking the contribution: During the last song the men who contributed would walk down the isle and lay their coins on the table. The women would put their coins on the bread plate while it was being passed for communion. I do not remember seeing anyone give a dollar bill during my early days of preaching. It was usually the "buffalo" that went to church.
I remember preaching one time at a place where it was the custom to give the preacher what was "put into the box." This was one Sunday afternoon. I knew I would get what was in the box, so I was very liberal and put in a dollar. After the service I was given the contents of the "box" -which amounted to $1.05. My sermon must have been worth a nickel. Of course, 1 have heard sermons since then that I considered not being worth that much-that should never have been preached. One thing for sure, if I had put mote in that box that day I would have received more.
I have already mentioned that the contribution about the time I began to preach was made by the men in the congregation waking down the aisle and putting their "mite" on the "Lord's table" and that the "ladies" (as they were called in those days) would put their "mite" on the bread plate as it was passed before them. The container was a sure enough "plate." In those days I had never heard of the church using the "individual cups" when partaking of the "wine." It was sure enough wine. I remember that when the individual cups were introduced some people would object to the use of such and to be accommodating the brethren would sometimes put a large cup or glass in the middle of the individual cups. I saw no difference unless it was that the objector just had a larger cup. I remember when the individual cups were introduced in the church meeting in the auditorium of David Lipscomb College in either 1923 or 1924, and that there were a few objections. Another practice comes to my mind. A cluster of men would often sit out front somewhere and talk (and thump gravel) until the song service was well under way before they would go into the house for the service or "to worship." Then when the Lord's Supper was being served some of them who considered themselves "unworthy" would slowly and reverently walk out of the house, go back to talking and thumping gravel again until the service was dismissed.
I have just finished putting The Better Version New Testament on three sets of cassette tapes for posterity, one each for Evelyn, Charles and Edward, to be presented and passed on to their posterity.
I was called to a phone to conduct a gospel meeting in one of the Northwest counties of Alabama while we were living at Winfield, Some few years prior to that time the brethren had ceased to meet for worship at this place. A young married man who was a Baptist and lived in the community was instrumental in getting them to meet again. Even though he was a Baptist and was trying to some extent to teach his doctrine, those who met were using some of "our literature," and observing the Lord's Supper each Sunday. During that meeting I baptized many people, some of whom were Baptists. A brother and a sister of the man who was a Baptist lived with him. They made the confession during the meeting, but their older brother would not let them be baptized. We had the baptizing one Saturday afternoon in a large pond in a pasture of one of the brethren. A large crowd was present for the service. I remember baptizing one large family, all of whom had been Baptists. I remember one incident that happened which was rather amusing. One man I baptized was very short in stature and wore overalls. When we waded out from the bank into the water, and as I was ready to baptize him, a little snuffbox floated out of the bib of his overalls. One of his little sons who was standing on the bank cried out, "Daddy, there goes your snuff box." Some in the crowd laughed out, and I had to ask them to he quiet, and then proceeded to baptize him. Not only was the subject's sins washed away, but so was his snuffbox.
While living at Corinth we were visiting back at Winfield during a meeting being conducted by E. R. Harper. Brother J.O. Jones was the "local preacher" there. As was the custom there in that town they had a Saturday morning meeting to accommodate the people in the rural surroundings. It was their custom to come into town and attend the Saturday church services. The building had an elevated floor to the rear. Chairs were placed along the aisles. One "drinking brother" had been on a "spree" for about a week. He walked into the rear of the building, stumbled against one of the chairs and the chairs fell like dominoes from the rear to the front. Brother Harper was on an elevated stage and, thinking the man was a farmer who had come into the building to hear him preach, said, "That's OK, come on in." This brother walked straight (wobbled) down the isle and gave Harper his hand. Harper told him to sit down on the front seat and he continued speaking. When the invitation song began this brother got up and gave Harper his hand again. Harper motioned to Jones to go over and speak to him. After Jones had spoken to him, he stated before the audience that Brother - - - had come to confess his errors and wanted the brethren to pray for him, that he had come forward to be restored. Brother Jones said that Brother - - - had been drinking and "doing some other things." At this point Brother - - - looked up at brother Jones and said, "Brother Jones, I told you that I had not been doing other things. " The audience was dismissed and everyone left the brother except brother Harper and I. We put him in a car and took him to his home, which was about six miles from Winfield.
One Sunday morning I was preaching to a large crowd at Highland Park and observed a large woman and a child standing in the rear of the crowded auditorium. She and the little child were apparently dirty and I could hardly distinguish whether they were white or black. I mentioned for the men in the rear of the building to provide a seat for them. She evidently thought that I motioned for her to approach the front, which she did. I placed them on the front seat. When the invitation was extended she stepped forward. I took her hand and asked her if she wanted to confess her faith in Christ and be baptized. She said, "No, I am looking for the welfare woman, Mrs. - - -, and I want you to announce and see if she is in the audience."
I was in an open-air meeting in Lilbourn, Missouri, while we lived at Corinth. Our meeting had been widely announced and so had a Catholic meeting being conducted near there. I preached that night as hard as I could on the question, "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" After the service a man who was a Catholic, who had been hearing me for about one hour, approached and wanted to know if we were conducting a Catholic service-that if he had attended the right place. I wondered if the trouble was with him or if I should back up and try again.
I was preaching one cold Sunday afternoon at Theo, a few miles west of Corinth, Mississippi. I usually preached somewhere every Sunday afternoon as well as mornings and evenings, while we lived in Corinth. During this Sunday afternoon, of which we speak, the audience kept looking up while I was preaching. After some few minutes I also began to look up, and, behold, the building was on fire, having been started by an overheated stove and a faulty flue. We had to close the semi- and put out the fire.
I went to a remote section of the country while we were living in Winfield to hold a "gospel meeting," as it was advertised. There seemed to be an epidemic of lethargy among the supposed leaders of the church there. The first night of the meeting I went home with the "main leader" and song leader. He had a fairly good home. There were no electric lights, as we have now, but only one kerosene burning lamp, which was carried about over the house to give light wherever the carrier wanted to go. It was very dark that first night and the householder decided that the preacher needed the light in order to retire. A bed was provided for me in a separate room where I was to sleep with a young man about 17 years old. I went to sleep and left him with the lamp. The next morning I observed that he had spent the night sleeping on the floor. I guess he did not want to sleep in the same bed with a preacher.
The next day a young couple sensed that I was sort of uncomfortable. They had recently moved from the mines into an old building about one-half mile back into the woods. They suggested that I stay with them there in the woods for the meeting. Of course, to this I readily agreed. They had been accustomed to electric lights and when they moved they purchased some gas lights, which were excellent. This old building had a clean floor and walls as high up as you could reach, and the furniture of the young couple was nice and clean, but the building had no ceiling whatsoever. One could not only look at the naked studs supporting the top, but could also see the rafters through the joists. In fact, the building was sort of a skeleton. One could look up from his bed and me the dirt daubers nests on the rafters where the daubers would store their insects, and then he could wonder just when one would fall down and hit him in the face. I would retire each night in a clean bed with clean linens. I remember going to bed one night wondering if some of the snakes out there in the jungle were not up there somewhere on the joist. Just as I dozed off to sleep one of those dauber nests fell right down in front of my face. I was sleeping on my right side and just automatically knocked it out onto the floor, thinking that it was perhaps one of those vipers I had been thinking about when I went to sleep. It was difficult to go to sleep again.
The meeting continued on through the week with crowds getting larger and larger, but still no lights. We had only that same old lamp I had encountered the first night in the home of the "leader." I was still "fussing" and telling the "leaders" to go out somewhere and get some lights. But, the "leader" continued to bring that lamp from his home and put it on a little "center table" each night. He would hold it in his hand as he led a few songs, put it on the stand for me tm "see how to preach." While I was "seeing how to preach," he would sit on the front seat, with a small child in his lap, who was usually asleep. When time came for the invitation, he would put the child on the bench, pick up the lamp, hold it in one hand and the songbook in the other and lead the invitation song. The people who sang did so by memory. One night when the time came for the invitation he picked up the lamp and, as he began to sing, he accidently blew it out. There was no invitation song that night. We dismissed and went home.
By the time this meeting closed the "leaders" were much upset because I had preached so much against their laziness. They were so upset that they did not go with me to baptize the only convert. The only one to make the confession was a teenage boy. His mother went with us to a big ditch not too far away. The boy and I climbed down the embankment into the ditch and I baptized him there in that ditch under the bridge in the darkness of the night. It was so dark that we had to feel our way down into that ditch. We disturbed the frogs and other night creatures, and I wondered if there were not some snakes down there with us. After the baptism, we three, the boy, the mother and I, went on our way rejoicing-they to their humble home and I to Winfield about 35 miles away. Those were the days of gravel roads and Model A's.
Old Jacinto, Mississippi, southeast of Corinth and southwest of Burnsville, was one time the county seat of Alcorn, Tishamingo and Itawamba counties. When we were there for a meeting in the early 1920's the old jail, the church building, and a few old homes were there. Brother and sister Pearson, an aged couple, lived in the jailhouse. We took dinner with them one day and sister Pearson gave my wife a very nice quilt. We tried to discover some kin folk connection since my wife's grandmother was a Pearson. Our visit there was in July. There had been a terrible hailstorm in May which had stripped the pine trees and some of them were dying when we were there. It was reported that one ravine was completely Wed with the hail which had washed into it, so that some were able to use the hail for ice and made ice cream the 4th of July.
I remember one incident while we were there quite well. There was a neighbor's dog that attended every service of the meeting. He was, perhaps, more. faithful than some of the members. I do not know whether it was because he liked my preaching or for some other reason, but every night he would lie down in front of me on the "stage" and remain there during the service. Because I thought that he was attracting the audience away from I my preaching (something did), I undertook the task of removing him from the stage, but he became vicious. So, I let the "live dog lie" and listen to me each night. A footnote might be added here that it is my understanding that brother A. G. one time taught at Jacinto in his young days when he "came South."
My wife, her sister, and a cousin of o m went to a community between Jacinto and Reinzi, Mississippi, to "hold a meeting" there in a schoolhouse. We went there in a Model T Roadster. Of course, we were smaller than we are now. There was no song leader and my wife, her sister, and our cousin had to start the songs. The community at that time was plagued with a gang of mean boys who tried to be outlaws. They would ride up and down the road on mules and horses and disturb the services. To my best recollection, we had only one light, a gas light, such as people used in those days. There was no electricity in most I rural sections in t h w days. This particular light was in the habit of going out. One night, when this light failed, the gang of boys began to "rock the house" so that we did not fed comfortable until we reached the place where we boarded. The man with whom we lived during the meeting was a good man. We never knew till the meeting was over that he had guarded us and protected us all the time while preaching there. He always loaded his "44" and put it in his pocket before we went to the building for services. So, I guess this was one meeting I held under the protection of a good man with a "44."
While living at Corinth, Mississippi, I was not only busily engaged in preaching and writing, but was also called on to preach many funerals and perform many marriages. Sometimes I would be handed a few dollars by the groom when I performed a marriage ceremony. I remember one time the groom, just after the ceremony, in the presence of the bride and all those present, reached into his pocket and pulled out a five-dollar bill and started to band it to me. When he saw that it was a five-spot, instead of a one-dollar bill, he said, "Uh, Oh," and put the bill back into his pocket and brought out the intended one-spot and gave it to me. That was, of course, during the depression! On another occasion a couple came to our home to be married and, after the ceremony, he kept asking me how much I charged, even after I had repeatedly told him that I made no charge. He did this until it became embarrassing. About that time our daughter, Evelyn, then about five years old, to relieve the situation (or make it worse), spoke up and said, "I'll tell you what he gets- he gets five dollars." The groom was very willing to pay that amount. He just wanted to be sure that he paid enough for his new bride. I never knew whether that after the new wore off he thought he paid too much. A cold day in August? Well, I remember one. I was in a meeting at Stutt's Chapel, near Booneville, Mississippi. The meeting closed about the first day of August. I think that the year was about 1924 or 1926. The meeting was successful and several were baptized. We did the baptizing in one of the neighbor's stock pond. I remember well how everyone had on their coats and jackets and many had on heavy coats and garments. I, along with those who were baptized - ten or twelve of them-were shivering during the baptizing. When you hear someone say, "It will be a cold day in August," remember it can happen. I was in a gospel meeting in the old church building at Hackleburg, Alabama, where I held about six meetings in succession when, among others, a teenage girl made the confession. Her father, who belonged to a denominational church, whipped her and told her that she could not be baptized. The time for the baptizing in Bear Creek was set for the next afternoon. Her father had told her that he would "double the dose" if she were baptized. It was said that, out of remorse, he got drunk and left home. The little girl did not show up with others to be baptized at the appointed time, and it was explained to us why she did not show up. But, in the meantime, while her father was away, she returned the next night to the services with her mother. Her mother made the confession also that night and I then baptized the mother and the girl.
One of the most interesting discussions I ever had was with a Baptist preacher in 1924. This preacher boasted of the many debates he had with the people whom he saw fit to call "Campbellites," but it was my first debate. I was very young and was not only interested in the truth, but also in victory. (I would debate now only for the sake of truth.) I warned him during the debate (perhaps threatened) that if I ever heard of him challenging my brethren again I would be there after him. Anyway, it was the last debate the man ever had. During the first day of the debate he affirmed that we are saved at the point of faith without any further acts of obedience. Then when we came to the apostasy question I pointed out that some believed for a while and that they then ceased to believe. I showed that if his doctrine was true, people were saved without believing, for they ceased to believe. He would never reply to the argument. I told him before the audience that if his children should lie, steal, commit adultery or murder they would be doing what he had taught them they could do and still be saved, and that he would be responsible. Well, to make this story short, this preacher's son married the daughter of the preacher's moderator and a little while after the debate he was sentenced to the pen for life for killing his wife, the daughter of the preacher's moderator. A little while before this debate, I attended a Baptist mid-week service, and during that service, I asked some questions. After the service, this same moderator called me aside and told me that it would be best for me not to attend any of their meetings.
Sitting here this Sunday morning (January 1975) on the porch of our cottage "down on the farm" in Marion County, I can look down the hillside and see the beautiful stream flowing under the road and over the rocks. On the bank of this stream I can see some of the rocks which formed the furnace of the old steam boiler I would fire up at 3:00 a.m. during the summer of 1923. We ran the engine by steam, instead of oil, gas, or electricity, and our fuel to make that steam consisted of the green pine slabs from the logs we turned into lumber. I remember now that we would shut the mill down at noon for one hour while we rested and ate our lunches. During this period I would read the New Testament to the men who worked with us at the mill, and comment on the reading. I was preaching! And, I was what the world would call "ignorant," for I had never even seen inside any kind of high school. I guess I was then "uneducated." However, that did not keep me from preaching the gospel, baptizing people, preaching funerals, and marrying people. (I was 20 years old at that time.)
Now, some might get the idea that I had always been "agin learnin' "-not so. Learning had simply not come my way until late in life, comparatively speaking. I was not necessarily opposed to "degrees" (at that time I had never heard of them and did not know what they were). I am not now (knowing what they are) opposed to them, since we not only worked our way through the colleges attended, but have worked (hard) to put our children through college, and they now have their B.A.'s, M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s No, we are not "against degrees"-in fact, we go to heaven by degrees, but not scholastic degrees. I did, however, hear one man say he was "over educated." He said that he had a B.A. degree, an M.A. degree, and a Ph.D. degree but that he had no JOB.
At this same sitting, I look across the road to a clump of cedar trees and vines-a place where we lived during the summer of 1923, and from where we moved to Nashville. That is, moved a suitcase, truly, and a "cured pig."
Before I move on from this space let me say a few more words about "degrees." I believe that a degree would be helpful (rather, could be) in preaching the gospel, but not necessary. Some of the best preachers have no scholastic education or training, and some who have a string of degrees cannot preach and never will preach. If I believed that God calls people to preach, separate and apart from His word, I would know that He did not call some to preach, even though they have a string of degrees. God would not call one to preach who cannot preach; nor will He call one to preach error. So, if one is preaching error, or simply cannot preach, God did not call him. If one is filled with faith, a love of God, has the truth, and has the ability; he can preach the gospel, aided by his degrees, or in spite of his degrees.
This morning (January 27, 1976) I will be speaking to a small group a few feet from where I held an open air meeting in 1923, wearing my overalls each night, as did most of the other men-folk. The audience sat on planks each night which had been provided from the mill. This spot is also a few feet from where I began "making talks" in the home of the Methodist lady, referred to elsewhere. I also (before "going to church") look around and see the beautiful hills, now covered with pines, where we "dragged out an existence" logging the timberland for lumber, and growing cheap cotton on the open spaces.
Dropping back to 1922: at that time there were few automobiles. It was our custom to "go to church" in wagons, buggies, horseback (mule back), or walk. Sometimes we had the accommodation of a "fiver" (Model T). One night, as several of us were returning in a wagon from a "big meeting" being "held" by an uneducated preacher, I made the statement to the effect that I would give anything to some day be able to preach Like that man preached. My mother-in-law often reminded me of that statement after I had become a "big preacher." A few days after I made that statement I began to "preach." A Methodist lady, who was very religious, moved into the community. She seemed to think that the community into which she had moved was made up of a lot of "backward" people, and that she could become a sort of missionary for her church among them. She sensed that I was a little forward, and that I might know a little more about the Bible than some of them, and she, therefore, asked me to come to her home on Sunday afternoons, where she had arranged some seats out of blocks and planks. I was there to help her teach the people. I would there teach a Bible class, and then, after the class, I would preach b the people. So, I guess that you might say that I was "called to preach" by a Methodist woman.
While living in Coalinga, California, in 1934 I was called on to deliver the address (speech or sermon) at the Easter Sunrise service for that town. Since I was considered the "new pastor" in that town by the various denominational preachers they wanted me to have the opportunity (or to honor me with the opportunity) to speak on that occasion. I am now conscious (and was then) of the fact that the New Testament, when correctly translated, does not contain the word "Easter." Where it appears in the King James should be properly translated “Passover." I also know that we "debate" the death, burial and resurrection of Christ every first day of the week and not just once a year. However, when asked to make the speech, I replied in the affirmative because I always thought I could preach on the resurrection of Jesus any time and any place. If I just preach on the resurrection only no one would understand, unless I told them that Jesus died for us that we might be saved, and that there could be no resurrection from the grave had He I not been buried. We will never forget that Sunday morning. Coalinga was only a short distance from the ascent of the Coastal Range. We drove our vehicles to the base of the first mountain, then climbed that mountain (my wife, Evelyn and I) along with hundreds of people (if not a thousand) of all religious persuasions and all races (California had all races and religions) until we reached the peak of that mountain. At the top of that mountain there was a huge cross, fixed there for the purpose of that "celebration" each year. I was placed in front of that cross with my back to it and to the West, looking to the East and that throng of people. Standing there I could see the horizon of the Great Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the East 135 miles away (no fog or pollution then), with its great Mount Whitney (the tallest mountain in the I United States), standing there adjacent to Death Valley, the lowest place in the Continental USA, and the second lowest in the world. Just as the beautiful sun in its beauty broke the rim of the mountain range I began speaking on the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This occasion and scene I will never forget. Probably most of those to whom I spoke on that occasion have had their bodies deposited in "mother earth" to await the resurrection-yes, our resurrection, that in the belief of such we can rejoice, and that if no resurrection, we would of all men be most pitiful.
Yes, what about hobbies, you ask? From reading this book you will perhaps think that my hobby has been work. That is true, but I have had some minor hobbies, which might not be classified as work. You will observe that my hobby is not to "jog" since I have not slowed down enough to "jog" since it seems that I have been on the "run." I am sometimes asked, "What do you do since you are 78 years old?" Well, the first thing I usually say in reply is, "How much time do you have for me to tell you?" After mentioning my activities, if they continue to listen, then I say, "On top of all this I am 'retired' and on Social Security.” But you say that a person must have a hobby. Well, we do "tinker" with antique automobiles. In the family we have three Model T's-one a 1923 Roadster (like the one with which I delivered papers at D.L.C.), a 1917 Touring (like the one my father purchased in 1917), and a 1925 model which I made in 1973, the same year I finished translating TBV New Testament. I say, "made" - actually I assembled it from parts I had collected over a period of years. When preaching throughout the States my habit was to spend my spare time looking for rare books and Model T parts. Of both, I accumulated an abundance, So, if you come my way, I cannot "ride you" in a "Chambler Six, With A Running Board," but I can take you for a ride in a Model T Roadster.
Some Of Our Close Friends
I will not be able to mention our many friends, for we have had many (and, perhaps, some enemies). I want to mention a few friends who have been dear friends over a period of years. Most of them have gone to their reward. These are friends other than blood relatives: Stella Rainey Jones, A. G. Freed, S. P. Pittman, Mr. and Mrs. John G. Reese, Mr. and Mm. R. J. Findley, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Marion Davis, Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Butler, Mr. and Mrs. Warren Rainwater, Mr. A. L. and Ruby Pith, Mr. and Mrs. Waymon Mitchell, Mr. and Mrs. W. S. Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Williams.
“THE BEST VERSION" OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
Some say my version of the New Testament is not only The Better Version, but many also say that it is "The Best Version" when they compare it with the King James, the American Revised, and the "modern" versions for accuracy, clearness, readability, and understanding.
I do not claim that The Better Version came into existence by what we call a miracle, but I believe that through the Providence of God. I was enabled to write The Better Version. I certainly am thankful to God that He has given me this medium (which I believe will live to eternity) to help people tm a better understanding of the will of God as revealed through inspired messengers.
A word about how The Better Version came into existence is not out of place here, and might be very interesting to you. I have always had a peculiar interest in the book of Romans. So, I took it in hand to translation the book from the original Greek, the tongue in which God revealed it to Paul. Some of my friends saw the translation and liked it. They said, "Why do you not just translate the whole of the New Testament?" I accepted the challenge, calling it "A New Translation of the New Testament." Others saw what I was doing and said, "Why do you not just call it The Better Version of the New Testament?" This caused me to reflect on the name and change it to The Better Version.
I spent about ten years on this work and the first issue was published in 1973. A second came from the press in 1976 and a third issue came from the press in 1978.
After the first issue came from the press, for some unknown reason to me, I could not any more remember much about what took place during the time of the translating. I can remember my daughter coming in several times and saying, "He is writing, writing-he continues to write." After The Better Version came from the press, I looked at it and said, "Did I do it?" Then I looked at the two large volumes handwritten, two large volumes written on an old manual typewriter, two large volumes on an electric typewriter, two large volumes Xeroxed for the examination of publishers, and then I looked at The Better Version itself, and said, "Yea, I did indeed write The Better Version of the New Testament."
The Better Version is now being read by people throughout the world, is found in many of the libraries of colleges and universities, has been sold through more than one hundred bookstores. About one thousand favorable testimonies have been given in behalf of The Better Version. I can count the number of unfavorable criticisms that have come to me on the fingers of one hand. The thing that makes me sad is that our own brethren who publish religious papers do not give The Better Version the publicity it deserves. They seem to be afraid someone will criticize them, They do not hesitate to "publicize" and sell the "modern speech" and sectarian translations which almost every candid reader will criticize.
(Chester Estes, 502 West Michigan Ave., Muscle Shoals, Ala. 35660, July 4, 1980).
THE BETTER VERSION NEW TESTAMENT
By Chester Estes
The Better Version, unaided by high class advertising through "our" religious papers, continues to find its way (principally by "word of mouth") into all parts of the world. Only recently hundreds have gone to Ghana, some into Australia, Great Britain, Scotland, South Africa, and into all parts of the States. As an example, during the last month we shipped 61 copies into the state of Montana. We are now trying to set up an "outlet" in Nigeria.
The Better Version was translated by 75 people, less 74; or 1401 people, less 1400. In other words, by a single person. A conglomerate of people with various religious persuasions cannot correctly translate the New Testament without feeding into that respective translation an element of their own religious persuasions. Not so with the individual translator. He does not compromise with anyone. He does not consult flesh and blood. He is either right or wrong. His work stands or falls under the responsibility of a single person. What would you think had I consulted with "flesh and blood" by sending out letters to educated and uneducated people to "sound out" religious people about how to translate the New Testament and then take the responses of some 1,400 or 1,600 persons as being partners in that translation? Would you not think it ridiculous if religious papers should then begin to advertise and recommend that "translation" to people who hunger for a true translation of the New Testament? Why not just sound out the people of the world to find out what they want in the way of a New Testament church? Moses E. Lard, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, scholars of the Restoration, stated that if we ever have a better translation than the King James, it will have to come from an individual; that if from the State, it would be like the King James; and if by a committee, it would be a compromise. If he were alive today, I am sure he would think that the modern day translations by committees serve only to help people to misunderstand the New Testament.
We believe The Better Version will be much alive in the days ahead, even after all of us have gone to be with the Lord. The author of Living Oracles saw his translation through four editions. We are now in our Third Edition, expecting a Fourth Edition in 1982. (Jan. 27, 1981).
WHAT ABOUT THE "REVIEWER"?
The Better Version New Testament has been "reviewed" several times by several people, all of whom seem to exalt themselves as "reviewers" by trying to find something wrong with The Better Version. It has been a very difficult task to be able to find something to which they could object or discredit.
I have often wondered why a reviewer has to find something wrong with a book in making his review. However, if nothing is wrong, with many, there is no review. They have not reviewed unless they can find fault.
One writer, after saying some good things about The Better Version, said, "We cannot say that this is the 'best version,' but we have to agree that it is a 'better version'," all of which I appreciate. However, I am curious to know which version is the "best" version. There is always, in making a review of versions, the "good," the "better," and the "best" to be considered. I would like for the "reviewer" to just lay all the different versions of the New Testament side by side and choose the "best" version so that the rest can know what is the "best" version. We want to know. We have a right to know. The human race deserves the "best" version of what was originally spoken by the Holy Spirit.
Another thing we are concerned about: when the "reviewer" (usually a self-styled critic) places the versions side by side and then says, "This is it-this is the best version of the New Testament," just what are the credentials of the "reviewer?" Is he qualified to make such a decision? We have observed that the less qualified are the ones who establish themselves as critics and make the greatest noise. He assumes (what has not been established) that he is completely and perfectly qualified to make such decisions and to tell the world that he knows what version is the best. He knows what is the best version or he cannot know what is the best version or even what is not the best. He knows what is the best version or he cannot say that any particular version is the best. Wow can he say, "This is not the best version?" How can he, when he cannot tell us what is the best version? He cannot I say that a version is not the best version unless he can name the best version! He could have said, "As far as I know this version may be the best version, or m y not be the best version.
One reviewer, after mentioning some parts of the mechanical make-up of The Better Version, such as paragraphing, quotation marks, capitals, all of which did not exist in the Original New Testament, said, "These are very slight criticisms of The Better Version, and similar things could be pointed out in most other versions." Then he said (and I am emphasizing what he said), "We like The Better Version and heartily recommend it to the Bible student. We shall continue to use it in our study as a comparative help."
We have perhaps had a thousand "run of the people" Bible students to commend The Better Version who spoke I their own mind. Many who speak the minds of the capable critics would have us to think they speak their own minds. Such have simply jumped on the bandwagon of the capable critics and have caused members of the church to think that all versions are poison except the King James. Brother Foy E. Wallace was a capable critic of modern versions. As far as I know he never spoke or wrote a word against The Better Version. He did condemn the versions that the religious journals advertise for profit. When I hear some lesser light, speaking, parrot-like, condemn the new versions, I think of Uncle Jasper's coon dog, which as soon as he was turned loose in the woods would tree a coon. The pups in the community would then come running to that tree and bark. They never saw anything, nor treed anything themselves. They just barked not knowing what they were barking about-just to identify themselves with Uncle Jasper's real coon dog. They just wanted to blend their voices with a capable hound.
FAITH THAT OVERCOMES
A FURTHER WORD ABOUT OUR PRESENT FAMILY
One of the greatest rewards or compensations that can come to one as a result of his labors is his own family. In all his labors he keeps his family in mind. Since most of the story of my life was written at different times, and the members of our present family were not listed in detail, I shall list them more fully here.
Evelyn, our daughter, has one son, Robin Stephenson. He and Becky have a little daughter named Carly. All this makes Evelyn a grandmother and makes us great grandparents. Evelyn has been employed with Reynolds for about thirty years.
Edward and Jean have two daughters, Jennie and Beth. Jennie will graduate from college this year. Beth will enter college this fall. Edward is jobber and distributor of Gulf products in several counties here in North Alabama.
Charles and Elaine have two sons, Brent and Bart.
Brent will graduate from college next year. Bart will enter college in the fall. Charles is a professor at the University of Alabama.
We love them all and they love us.
July 17, 1981.