Transcribed by Rae Wayne
September 2, 1948
* CAL’S COLUMN *
In our last article we closed with a promise to continue our story of the trip to Virginia and Kentucky. We left our friend Marcrum’s home late in the day to go to the church, which was located about a quarter of a mile from where we had lodged. We arrived in time to find quite a crowd gathering for the service. We found a group of entire strangers and we were also strangers to them. They gave us the “once over, “ gazing at us as if we were some kind of animals that had just escaped from a cage. We do not suppose they meant to be rude, but strangers were not frequent visitors to those high hills and mountains. The church house was of frame construction and was of fair size. However, the interior was in very poor condition. It had first been ceiled with heavy paper, which, in the process of time, had come loose and which was hanging in long pieces from the ceiling overhead. We do not mean to be critical about the appearance of the church house, but only to show something of the neglect so common among practically all country church buildings. Broken window panes, sashes rotting and falling apart, door steps rotten, and ready to break through, stove pipes red with rust, and the stove in the same condition, are all too common. Maybe the stove had a leg off and a big rock supported the stove in place of the missing leg. In general, our country church houses are neglected in a way far worse than any of us would allow about our own homes.
An old brother preached that night, and he was not able to read a word from the Bible. However, he had the Bible read to him and was able to quote whole chapters from memory. He delivered an excellent sermon and was a fair speaker in spite of his great lack of education. We met a number of other ministers that night, and on the next day. Among these were; Ramsey, Ewing and DeBusk. Ewing was perhaps the a-blest of them all. One thing that struck us in a peculiar way was that the ministers, when speaking rapidly and with enthusiasm, would sing-song their sermons, somewhat after manner of the tobacco auctioneer. It was our first hearing of this kind of mannerism, and it is reported to have been brought about in part by excessive fatigue on the part of the speaker. It is said to have made speaking some easier to “sing off” the sermon. Another thing we found there in those mountains of Southwest Virginia was that the songs they sung there 25 years ago were among those sung in Middle Tennessee as far back as 50 years ago. One of them we recall was “Some Sweet Day,” which was sung frequently through Middle Tennessee 40 to 50 years ago. We also heard “Amazing Grace” sung in a tune different from any other we had ever before or have ever since heard. It must have been a still older tune than any of the tunes we have heard here in Tennessee. It might be added that in the Southern Mountain regions, we have perhaps the purest Anglo-Saxon stock to be found in America. Here many of the folk songs have been handed down from generation to generation. Also many of the religious songs have also been promulgated in the same manner.
One peculiarity noted among these mountain ministers was the fact that practically all of them had large families. The man Ewing mentioned above was the father of 11 children. Ramsey had 12 and other ministers had from five to ten children. On the other hand our Baptist ministers here in Middle Tennessee are not very “prolific,” a lot of them having no children at all. We would like to suggest that they move to the mountains of Virginia and East Tennessee and take up their abode and perhaps in time they, too, may prove to be worthy sires of a worthy generation of sons and daughters.
Although this meeting was confined to Baptists, we had a sort of “free-for-all” in our discussions. The program dealt with questions that were rather new to us in a way. One of them was the old question asked by the Lord concerning the baptism of John. “Was the baptism of John from Heaven or from men?” We had thought that this was forever settled by the Lord, but those Virginia ministers decided to “chaw the rag” over it again. Another question was this: “Does Satan have any power in this age of the world?” We had thought that nobody would argue that the Devil had no power now, but we were hardly prepared for the position taken by one Elder DeBusk. He was a short, thick man, with a rather peculiar voice. He arose and said: “Brethren, we read in Matt. 28:18, in the words of Jesus that all power was or had been given into the hands of the Savior. If all power was in the hands of Christ, then there was none left for the Devil, and he, therefore, has no power now.” To their credit it may be said that every time one of them made a speech, the writer was given an opportunity to reply to same. We arose and said: “Brethren, the argument advanced by Brother DeBusk is not well taken in our judgment. The word power in Matt. 28:18, means authority. Moreover, we read in Paul’s writings of how Satan had hindered the great apostle, who was not converted until after the time Christ spoke the words of Matt. 28:18. Then Peter speaks of the adversary, the Devil, as a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour. This indicates that the Devil is not helpless and there are other Scriptures which indicate that the power of the Devil has not yet been taken from him.” We also sought to show that there will come a time when Satan will be bound, and that this time is yet future. We perhaps did not convince these preachers of the unscripturalness of their position, but we did argue with them. In fact we almost “talked out” during the two-day session.
We spent two nights in the home of Brother Marcrum, and then went to the home of Elder Ewing, above mentioned, where we spent one night. We reached this man’s home after services at night. When we arrived, we found the children, who for the most part, had remained at home; and never have we seen so many children in one man’s home. They were almost stacked in piles, there being 11 of them in all. Brother Ewing wanted to argue with us on the question of whether the Commission was given to the church or to the Apostles as individual ministers and we tried to avoid a discussion in the man’s home. But he insisted that we argue the matter. So I said, “Go ahead, and make your speech.” He did so and we followed him. We kept this up until about one o’clock in the morning and the two of us, both having unusually large mouths, awoke about half the sleeping children, who began to squall and scream and we suggested that the debate be called off temporarily. He took us out to supper about one o’clock in the morning, and shortly afterward, took us to the room we were to occupy for the night. It was a side room of the Ewing residence, and one of the first things we noted was that there were three or four huge cotton bags some three feet off the floor in the air, suspended by ropes. We asked what was in the sacks and the reply was, “Biscuit timber,” meaning flour of course. We then asked why the flour was suspended from the rafters by ropes and he informed us that he did this to keep the rats away from the flour. We had a good night’s rest from one thirty o’clock on till daylight. The minister and his wife and 11 children arose pretty early next morning and never have we seen a much larger family. Mrs. Ewing was one of the hardest working women we have ever met. She kept the “home fires burning,” while her minister husband preached far and near for virtually nothing. On Saturday before we were in his home that night, he had had a funeral service for a youth shot to death by his own brother with a high-powered rifle.
We recall having met a young woman, at the fifth Sunday meeting, whose name we do not remember. She was a resident of the vicinity of Ewing, Va., and we inquired if she had a sweetheart and she replied in the negative. She was a nice looking girl and we recommended to her one of our single preacher friends of 25 years ago. He wrote to her and they exchanged letters for months, but they never met.
In the next article we hope to tell of leaving Virginia and going into Kentucky and of a short visit into Middlesboro section.