The Gurganus Family
John Gurganus was born April 11, 1852 at Bird Creek, Edgefield, South Carolina. He was the son of William David Gurganus (1828-1863) and Louisa Eliz Humphries (1824-1899). He was married to Amanda Elizabeth Evans (1855-1935) on January 22, 1872. Two of Amanda’s brothers, Jabe D. Evans (1874-1967) and Marion “Tom” Evans (1878-1915) were preachers of the gospel of Christ. John and Amanda had twelve children in a twenty year span of time: William Houston Gurganus (1872-1940) (noted for his work as a gospel preacher below); Jabus Bledsole Gurganus (1872-1908); Benjamin Powell “Doc” Gurganus (1877-1934); Margaret Sylvania Gurganus (1880-1957); George Wilson Gurganus (1883-1954); Martha Martelia Tellie Gurganus (1884-1962); James Monroe Gurganus (1887-1887); John Alonzo Gurganus (1887-1887); Catherine Sena Gurganus (1889-1973); Virginia Quay Gurganus (1890-1979); Charlie Fletcher Gurganus (1893-1992); and one other.
The 1880 U.S. Census shows that John was living in Dunns, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and Amanda were twenty-two years of age. He was listed as a farmer. By the time of the 1900 Census the family was living in Cordova, Walker County, Alabama.
V.Q. Gurganus wrote a history of the Cordova church of Christ in 1975. Excerpts of that history are as follows: “Early in 1899, eleven Disciples of Christ began to worship “as it is written” in an upper room, the Masonic Hall over Dr. Miller’s drug store, they were John Gurganus and His wife, Amanda. B.P. Gurganus and his wife, Trannie. Margret Gurganus, later (Mrs. Robert Norris). . . That same year, Bro. Will Parker held a meeting of the Disciples in the Long Memorial Methodist church, with the understanding no members were to be taken in, but two Collins girls came to home of John Gurganus where bro. Parker was staying and requested baptism-they were the first baptisms; and their names were, Alice, later, (Mrs. Gib Deason) her sister, Lottie, later, (Mrs. Ben Lasenby) then others began to fellowship this group of Disciples, among whom were John Stanley and Brewer family.” . . .About 1903 a church building was begun, the timber was hauled by John Gurganus . . . Late in the year 1904 we moved from Cordova, Ala., then began the church at Liberty Hill, (now Central).” (V.Q. Gurganus, The Church of Christ Cordova, Alabama.” (-V.Q. Gurganus, Unpublished History of Cordova Church of Christ)
There is an interesting story that appeared in Forty Years On The Firing Line, by G. C. Brewer. During his early years of preaching, brother Brewer made a preaching trip down to Walker County, Alabama and stayed in the home of John and Amanda Gurganus while preaching a meeting at Liberty Hill. He explained at length,
“I was to begin at Liberty Hill on Saturday night, and Saturday forenoon I went to Oakman and then sometime later in the day I rode out with a mail carrier toward Liberty Hill.
“We finally came to a wire fence that was strung on new posts, and seemingly a new field had just been cleared of timber. There was a road alongside this fence that was bordered on the other side by tall trees. The man who carried the mail stopped and said, "This is where you get out. You walk up this road about one mile and you'll come to the church house. It's the new house. There is an old house there but that is the Baptist Church and the schoolhouse."
“I said good-by to this postman and walked leisurely up the road until I found the church houses of which he had spoken. There was no living soul around there, and I put my telescope grip on the door-step of the meeting house and spent my time walking out through the graveyard and strolling down through the woods, listening to the birds and to the sighing of the trees. I spent the long hours in this way. In the late afternoon I could hear people calling hogs at some distance away, and I heard some feminine voice calling the milk cows and singing as she went about the milking. I had not yet seen any living human being.
“I stayed around this church building until the sun began to go down and the shadows of the trees began to fall across the road and over the clearing which formed the grounds of the church building. After a while, people began to ride up on mules; some of them came walking up and they greeted each other and seemed to be gathering for the service. None of them recognized me and I don't suppose anyone of them suspected that I was the preacher. A little later on, I heard a man driving an ox team and I heard the heavy wagon that these oxen were drawing coming over the road and up the hill. When this wagon came into sight, I saw it was filled with people and the man who was driving the ox team was walking and driving the team. When this wagon came up and rolled into the clearing back of the building. the man gave orders to the team to stop and the people began jumping out of the wagon and bringing their chairs into the building. The driver took his team loose from the wagon and tied them to a tree; then he came walking around to me and said:
“’You're Brother Brewer, ain't you?’
“I admitted that I was even he.
“He said, ‘I am Brother John Gurganus.’ He shook hands with me and said, ‘I wouldn't a knowed you 'cept they've been tell' me that you're only a beardless boy and that you look more like a girl than a boy. They tell me you can shorely preach.’
“After these remarks. he led me into the house and said, ‘The service will begin now in a few minutes.’
“The people kept coming until the house was full and then Brother Willie Gurganus, the son of ‘Uncle John,’ led the singing. Uncle John himself led the prayer and then told them that Brother Brewer would have the floor. I arose and preached with people going in and out of the house during all the sermon I heard some loud talking on the outside and I was told later that two or three of the boys had a fight out in the yard. After the service closed, I rode to the home of Brother John Gurganus in his ox wagon.
“Brother Doc Gurganus who was another son of Brother John rode swiftly by us on a young mule, waved his hand and said, ‘I'll beat you home.’
“We rode along in the ox wagon for about one hour during which time, as I remember, not a word was spoken by anyone in the wagon with me. I sat and listened to the sound of the breeze in the pine trees and to the low rumble of the wagon as it rolled over the rough road. I admired the scenery. The night was beautiful and the moon streaming through the branches of the trees splashed on the road like gold that had been spilled by some celestial milkmaid. Uncle John would break the silence by talking to his oxen occasionally and directing them in the way. He was walking alongside the ox that was on the left side of the pole. Occasionally he would shout back at me and tell me what a wonderful sermon I had preached, and he said that if I kept that up we were liable to baptize the whole community. He told me that there hadn't been any preacher there since Brother Joe Hallbrook had preached there some twenty years ago, (This was before I was born.) He said Brother C. A. Wheeler preached in that county but he hadn't been to Liberty Hill for a long time.
“As we rumbled along at the slow pace the oxen took, I began to wonder if we would ever reach our destination. Although I had had nothing to eat since breakfast and was tired and hungry, I nevertheless enjoyed the scenery. The trees were whispering in the soft breeze and the moon streamed through their boughs and laced the whole wood with threads of gold. After what seemed to be more than an hour, I began to hear music, It sounded sweet but was lonesome and melancholy. The tones were soft and they seemed to be coming from a distance. I listened for some moments before I made any remark. I was trying to determine in my mind where the music could be originating. After a while my imagination began to play and I could imagine that I was approaching the gates of heaven, and I thought that that celestial milkmaid that had been splashing the road with gold had probably got through with her chores and had joined in the music of that celestial city. Then I decided to see if others were hearing the music and what their reaction to it was. Sister Gurganus was sitting near me but she had on a black sunbonnet and her face could not be discerned.
“I said, "I hear music; I wonder where that is coming from."
“Sister Gurganus removed a black gum tooth-brush from her mouth and expectorated over the front wheel of the wagon and said, "Hit's Doc. He done got home."
“’What's that he's playing?’
“She said, "Hit's our organ."
“I then began to wonder if Brother Gurganus who drove an ox team lived in a mansion and had a wonderful organ and other instruments in it. But soon we reached home and it proved not to be a mansion but a humble cabin consisting of two or three buildings which were not connected with each other except by gangplanks or foot logs. I waited with Brother Gurganus till he turned the oxen loose in the lot, then we came into the house. The room which we entered was clean and smelled sweet but it was a very large room with a plain floor, a wide open fireplace and a high mantle piece, with two beds occupying opposite corners of the back of the room. I was tired and sleepy and wondered when Brother Gurganus was going to let me go to bed. I was also hungry but I didn't think of getting anything to eat at that time of night. The women had all disappeared and I had no idea where they had gone, but I supposed they had gone to some of the other rooms to go to bed. Brother Gurganus continued to talk about the sermon and about who was at the meeting and about how he wondered how they liked that sermon and what they'd say about this argument or that, and he wanted to ask some questions about my home and family.
“On learning that my father was dead, he gave a grunt of sympathy and said, ‘You're a self-made boy.’
“At this, I could only smile, since I realized that I was not yet even half made.
“After a while I heard a door open, which creaked loudly, and then I heard the voice of Sister Gurganus say, ‘John-.’
“He answered, ‘Well?’
“And she said, ‘You can come on.’
“Brother Gurganus then said to me, ‘Let's go out to supper.’
“This sounded good to me, notwithstanding the fact I was sleepy. We went to the back of the room, opened a door and walked across a connecting gangplank made of logs hewn on top to an adjoining building also constructed of logs. This was a large room with an open fireplace but also with a cookstove to one side and kitchen furniture in another corner, and in the middle of the room was a large table literally loaded down with things to eat. These women had cooked supper since we came home. There were many vegetables on the table that had been left from the noon meal, such as beans and cabbage, potatoes and other things. But they had made fresh biscuits; they had chicken freshly fried with hot cream gravy; they had fried squirrel and squirrel gravy; they had sweetmilk, buttermilk and coffee; and, if there was anything lacking to make that a complete meal, I could not then think of what it was, and I certainly cannot now remember anything that could have been added to that good meal. I ate ravenously and enjoyed it as much as any meal I had ever eaten and I don't recall that I've eaten one since that gave me as much surprise and pleasure as that meal that came about eleven o'clock that night.
Brother Gurganus continued to talk about the meeting and the preaching; and Sister Gurganus, while she wasn't very talkative, did ask me where I had had dinner and when she learned that I had had nothing to eat all day, she became very much concerned and said she was sorry they were so late in getting that meal ready. She then asked me a few questions about how old I was and about my parents and my brothers and sisters, how long I had been preaching, etc. I didn't get to answer any of these questions because Brother John had already got the answers and he broke in and told his wife all she wanted to know about these things. When she learned that my father was dead, my mother a widow with a house full of children, she too emitted a sympathetic grunt and said it was very noble and fine for a boy of my age to start out preaching the gospel.
After we had completed our meal, Sister Gurganus told John to take the young man to his bed and let him get some sleep. I followed Brother Gurganus back into the room where we had been before we were called to the table, and I supposed I would occupy one of the beds in that room, but Brother Gurganus opened a door at the other end of the building and led me into a little room that was joined hard to this building. It was just about wide enough for a bed, but it extended the full length of the building. There were many things kept in this room but over the bed there were shelves filled with quilts that seemed to have been recently made and quilted, and the room had the smell of new cloth. Underneath these shelves, after the manner of a lower berth in a Pullman car, was my bed. It was clean and comfortable and I soon fell into a sleep that knew no disturbance until the gobbling of the turkeys and the crowing of the roosters and the voice of someone calling the milk cows aroused me in the light of the early morning.” (Forty Years On The Firing Line, pages 4-9)
This lengthy excerpt is enough to give a picture of the spirit and life of John and Amanda Gurganus. They were mainstays in the work of the Kingdom of the Lord in southern Walker County, Alabama all their days. To this day, Gurganus family members attend and work among churches of Christ in the region.
While John was known at times to speak at a worship assembly, his son William was more the preacher in the famiy. William Houston Gurganus was born December 1, 1872 in Walker County, Alabama. He was the eldest son of John Gurganus (1852-1932) and Amanda Elizabeth Evans Gurganus (1876-1938). He was married to Mary Elizabeth Gurganus (1876-1938) in 1897. They had twelve children: Lissie was born in 1898; Howard Clayton (1898-1983); Clarence Herman (1899-1901); Homer (1902-1993); John Warlick (1903-1993); Berner was born in 1907; Velma Lutitia (1909-1952); Belmer was born in 1909; James Wiley (1910-2002); Willie (1914-1996); Pape was born in 1917; and Rufus was born in 1919. After Mary died, he married a woman named Susie who was born in 1896. William preached in the area and was even involved in debate opportunities. He contributed greatly to cause of Christ as a gospel preacher.
Many of the Gurganus family members now lay beneath the sod at Central church of Christ in southern Walker County. John died December 21, 1932. Amanda passed three years later, December 3, 1935. Their son William passed away in 1940.
-Scott Harp, 02.04.2022
Sources: Ancestry.com, Forty Years On The Firing Line, pages 4-9, by G. C. Brewer, Unpublished History of Cordova church of Christ, by V.Q. Gurganus
Directions To Grave
The old Central Church of Christ and cemetery is located in southern Walker County, Alabama on Pleasantfield Rd./Cty. Rd. 35. Heading south out of Jasper several miles on Hwy. 69 you will go through Oakman. Just south of town you'll have to turn left to stay on Hwy. 69. You will travel about five miles where the road will curve back and forth over several ridges. Turn left on Liberty Hill Rd. You will pass Liberty Hill church. (Incidently, if you are interested in stopping at Liberty Hill, in the cemetery there are the graves of Amanda's brothers, Jabe Evans and Tom Evans, both of whom were restoration preachers.) Continue past Liberty Hill a few miles (the road becomes Pleasanfield Rd.) and you will come to a little white church on the left with no sign. In the back are the Gurganus family plots. Note: Also on this road further down is Indian Creek Youth Camp, a camped owned and operated by churches of Christ in the region.
GPS Location of Graves
or D.d. 33.632089,-87.345044
Central Church of Christ and cemetery in southern Walker County, Alabama
Photos Taken 02.01.2015
Webpage Produced 02.04.2022
Courtesy Of Scott Harp