L. T. Hastings Autobiography
July 28, 1884 - February 15, 1978
(C. B. Hastings' father)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
|CHAPTER I||The Rock From Which I Was Hewn|
|CHAPTER II||Train Up A Child|
|CHAPTER III||O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice|
|CHAPTER IV||Every Work That Is Done Under The Sun|
|CHAPTER V||Whetting The Edge Of Iron|
|CHAPTER VI||Woe Is Me If I Preach Not (And Court Miss Cora)|
|CHAPTER VII||The Way Of A Maid With A Man|
|CHAPTER VIII||Persecuting The Churches|
|CHAPTER IX||We Had Goodly Heritages|
|CHAPTER X||On Cleaving Unto A Wife|
|CHAPTER XI||The School Of The Prophets|
|CHAPTER XII||From East Texas To New Orleans|
|CHAPTER XIII||The First Church-Owned Radio Station|
|CHAPTER XIV||A Rocky Beginning In Monroe|
|CHAPTER XV||The People Had A Mind To Work|
|CHAPTER XVI||First Retirement To Clear Creek School|
|CHAPTER XVII||Second Retirement To Knoxville|
|CHAPTER XVIII||Third Retirement To Dallas|
|CHAPTER XIX||Fourth Retirement To Atlanta|
Few of us are granted lives that are both long and fulfilling. Luther T. Hastings, former pastor of First Baptist Church, Monroe, and twice President of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, was educated during the close of the Victorian Age and was still preaching and teaching at Clear Creek Baptist School in Kentucky at the dawn of the Nuclear Age.
In a lifetime of over ninety-three years he helped Louisiana and Southern Baptists mature into the largest Protestant denomination in America. He started serious life as a boy behind a plow on rock hill farms of Middle Tennessee and wound up in the rear seat of a jetliner to Israel when he was ninety. It was a fitting progression for one who all his life preached and eagerly awaited a better arrival of his Lord on Olivet.
Father never planned to write his life story for any other than "Letters to My Grandchildren." This accounts for much of the homely and sometimes sentimental touches of his writings. However, the more the family lived with his manuscript, the more we realized our debt to the ever-widening circle of friends, students, and members of churches whose lives were touched by this servant of God.
Hence we offer it here not only for those who knew him well, but also for those who had only heard by the hearing of the ear. It is hoped that the reader will draw inspiration and renewed joy in the Lord from his four lovesthe Lord Jesus, the Word Eternal, family and friends of all ages, and "Miss Coral"
Herewith also we thank Carol Phipps, my secretary and her friend, Karen Heath, when we served together at the Home Mission Board, for typing the manuscript. My son, John, contributed his computer expertise and my son-in-law, Ken Sehested, styled the manuscript.
C. B. Hastings, February, 1989
Since my second retirement in 1958, I have frequently thought that I should write out my diary in detail to give you a coherent and chronological story of my long life, I say long, for in a few weeks from now I will be 90. In the course of nature I do not have many years at most to fulfill my purpose. With apology to Shakespeare, I have screwed my determination to "the sticking point."
With modesty I shall record enough of my success in life to inspire you to let God have His way with you, for only as I surrendered to His will and followed the leadership of His Split was I able to accomplish anything that He could record as success. On the other hand, I shall record as many of my frailties and failures as I can afford to show you that "God can strike straight licks with crooked sticks," as Dr. J. B. Gambrell used to say. God has committed heavenly treasures in earthen vessels, vessels of clay.
First, I must tell you that I Was Born July 28, 1884, near the village of Richmond, Bedford County, Tennessee, the first of six children born to Wiley Stephens (not sure it was spelled with "ph" or "v") Hastings and Mary Frances Bledsoe. There were two boys and four girls, born in this order: Luther, Beulah, Lizzie, Lessie, Roy, and Jessie. All are still living except Beulah who lived to be more than 70 years old.
My parents were poor, hard-working, uneducated country folk. Father was born three years before the out-break of the Civil War. My mother was born in June of 1864, the year the war ended. The South was destitute and devastated. Neither went to school for the simple reason there were no free public schools, and their parents could not afford to send them to private schools which were few and widely scattered. Father could read fairly well; Mother could not read nor write, nor even sign her name. What they lacked in formal education they made up with solid "horse sense" coupled with Christian Philosophy of life. Hard work, honesty self-reliance and rigid economy tolerated not one iota of trifling laziness, crooked dealing or dependence on others to do for them what they would not do for themselves. Nor would they allow a wasteful squandering of their scanty resources. They never bought a thing on credit. If they did not have the money or the produce to pay for it, they did without. You would be surprised to know just how many things they could do without. They were like the West Texas cowboy that came to the city for the first time. He wandered around in a large department store where hundreds of items were on display which he had never seen before. A sales-lady came to him and said, "Is there anything I can do for you?" "No, sis", he replied, "I ain't never seen so many things I can do without."
The house in which I was born was a two-room log house. Two large rooms were separated by a wide breeze way open on two sides. One room was the living room, the other, the company room. Attached to one corner of the living room was a boxed-up room that served as kitchen and dining room, thus giving the living room and the attached room an "L" shape.
The house was located in a narrow hollow near the northern slope of ELk Ridge, a water-shed that ran east and west for many miles. The rainfall on the south side of the ridge found its way into ELk river and into the Tennessee River, that which fell on the north side found its way into Duck River and into the Tennessee many miles nearer the Tennessee's entrance into the Ohio. I was privileged to see and photograph the house. The original log rooms were still there, but they had been enclosed by more modern structure until its appearance was completely changed .
The village of Richmond at the time of my birth consisted of a general store, a black-smith shop, a small one-room school house, a church, and about half a dozen dwellings, one of which was the village doctor's.
Father was a farmer, a share-cropper, which means that he did not own the land he tilled. If the owner of the farm lived on the farm, Father and his little family lived in the more humble tenants' quarters. The owner received a part of the produce and Father got the balance. Until I was past my sixth birthday, Father never owned any land. During those few years he must have moved to a different place each fall. As I remember we lived in at least four different places, none of them more than two miles from where I was born. The last, before moving to Marshall County in 189O, was a magnificent farm some two miles from Richmond known as the Sherrin farm. The owner had moved to Shelbyville, so we were privileged to live in his (to us) palatial house, two stories with ten rooms. There sister Lizzie was born, the third child. That made a family of five, which gave us an average of two rooms apiece. We were really living high.
Having attained my sixth birthday before we moved from there in December, I attended my first school located just across the creek from where we lived. In those days the beginner was first required to master the contents of "the chart" before he could qualify for the First Reader. I shall never forget with what awe and eager expectation I stood before that amazing storehouse of knowledge which I must master before I could move up to the First Reader. The chart consisted of large sheets of cloth arranged on a tripod similar to Bible maps in our modern Sunday Schools. The first page contained the small alphabet and capital letters. We were not even allowed to turn that sheet over until we could repeat from memory that basic portion of the vast amount of knowledge that lay ahead of us. Then we were taught to put two letters together to spell the simplest words, such as an, at, am, in, to, etc. Very soon we were introduced to the mystics of the diacritical marks, which indicated the varying sounds of letters that had more than one sound.
Wheat was one of the main grain crops in that fertile section. Father had sown several acres in wheat and the harvest was bountiful. Up to that time I had never seen a threshing machine powered by a steam engine. In fact, I had never seen a steam engine of any sort until this steam thresher moved into the field to thresh Father's crop. I shall never forget how frightened I was when Mother took me out to see this new outfit. That puffing, snorting, smoking monster nearly scared the living day-lights out of me, and Mother had to hold me to keep me from fleeing from the field! Later on we moved to Marshall County, just a mile from Talley Station, a small station on the Louisville and Nashville railroad. I was hardly less frightened when I stood for the first time on the station platform and saw the train come in.
Memory has not recorded many worthwhile incidents in my preschool days. You may be interested in two which I clearly remember. It was in the summer near my third year. Mother had occasion to go to the nearest neighbor's house not far away. Of course, she took me along. It was a hot day, the road was dusty and I insisted that she carry me. She insisted that I walk. I said, "My feet hurt." Then I began to cry, thinking that my tears would prevail. After I had insisted some more, she broke off a switch from an accommodating bush, and when she was through, I was hurting in another place and quite willing to walk! Incidentally, my parents did not know much of the Bible but there was one Scripture that they had memorized and faithfully applied as the occasion required: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (at the appropriate time. Proverbs 13:24). Oh, how much my parents did love me! They loved me too much to let me have my way when they knew their way was the better. The other incident I well remember was also in my third year. I was playing outside the house near an open window, talking to myself, for my sister was too small to play with me.
Mother heard me say, "When I get grown I want an organ, threshing machine and a vest." That was before I had the terrifying experience with the steam powered machine; so I must have had in mind the horse-powered thresher.
Before leaving the scenes of my birth and early childhood, let me tell you a little about my ancestors. "A little" it will be, for the absence of any records available to me and the scarcity of information I received from my parents limit me to only "a little." I only saw one of my grandparents, my father's mother. The other three died before I was born. Therefore, I missed the blessing of being associated with both of my grandfathers and my maternal grandmother. In your case the situation is reversed. You still have one grandmother and one grandfather. I hope you say "Amen!" when I express the hope that your knowledge of and association with them (though the latter has been infrequent) have been and will continue to be a joy and blessing to you as you are to them. It might be that a part of that mutual joy is due to the fact that our association with each other was limited to occasional visits, for you know that grandparents have a reputation for being grandchildren spoilers and meddlers .
The name Hastings is of English origin, and figures prominently in world affairs. Early in my study of history the dates of two world-shaking, destiny-shaping events were fixed in my memory October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings, and July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence. I cannot assure you that there were any Hastings on the Mayflower; if not, Hey were not far behind.
They may have "missed the boat" and they had to catch the next one. However, if all were on the Mayflower who are claimed as ancestors of people today, Noah's ark was a canoe compared with the Mayflower.
Somewhere along the way I got this information (or tradition): early in colonial days four Hastings brothers came over from England and settled in Virginia. From there they branched out in various directions and are doubtless our progenitors, for the name is found in all parts of the country. All the Hastings that are kin to us, so far as I know, live in Tennessee. I never thought to ask my mother where she got the name Luther, my given name. I am sure the middle name Thomas came from my Uncle Tom Hastings, a brother of my father.
Enough of that snooping around trying to find out where we came from. It is a lot more important to know where we are going than where we came from. Selahl
The scene now shifts from Bedford County to Marshall County, a county adjoining Bedford on the west. With the cash Father had, supplemented by a loan from a wealthy friend, he purchased a hill farm of 84 acres, one mile from Talley Station. There we moved December 1, 1890, four months after my sixth birthday. That was our home for fifteen years. As evidence that we did not occupy all ten rooms in the house we moved from, a two-horse wagon was sufficient to move our furniture in one load. Its main items were two double beds, a single bed, five straight-backed chairs (no rockers), a small lamp table, a home-made trunk, cook stove, dining table, two benches the length of the dining table, on which we sat at meal time, and a three cornered cupboard. Father and Mother rode on the spring seat with baby Lizzie in mother's lap. Beulah and I rode on the feather-beds (mattresses) piled on top of the furniture. Much of the fifteen miles was very rough road; Beulah and I had to hold on to whatever we could to keep from being bounced off. Of course Father had to make another top to bring the wash kettle, tubs, farm and garden tools, and sundry other items. What a contrast between the ten-room house we moved out of and the one-room kitchen, dining room, and bed room, where Uncle Charlie slept on the single bed that was squeezed in at one end of the dining table. Uncle Charlie, Father's youngest brother, had joined our family about a year before.
Fortunately he married a few months after we moved and they moved into their own house. That gave us some relief by reducing our family from six to fiveFather, Mother and three children.
The house was located far up in a hollow, hedged in by hills on the north, east and south, leaving the west open for exit. When we saw anyone coming up the rocky road, we knew they were coming to our house for there was nobody living further up in the hollow. Our nearest neighbor was about quarter of a mile to the west of us. The barn was a tumble-down shack, and nearly all the fences needed repairing or rebuilding. But it was our home.
Whoa! Wait a minute; back up! I forgot to record a very humorous incident that occurred a few weeks before we moved from the Sherrin place to our new home. We were in need of a new two-horse wagon and the harness for the team. After some persuasion Father agreed to take me with him to Shelbyville, ten miles away, to purchase them. He rode one of the mules and led the other. Since I was too small to manage the other mule, I rode double behind Father. As we were coming into the edge of the town, I observed two wires stretched from pole to pole along the side of the street. The poles were about 12 or 15 feet high. I asked my Father, "Pa" (we always called our parents Pa and Ma), "What are them wires up there for?" He was a man of few words and not a person to go into detail, He replied, "Folks talk on them." That left my imagination to supply the details. The only way "folks" could talk on "them wires" was for them to climb the poles and sit on swinging wires while they carried on the conversation. I had never heard of the telephone. That was my first introduction to the device that is so widely used today. Moral: Parents, take time to explain things to young, inquiring minds.
Now back to our log-cabin home! Remember that there were three girls born after me before my only brother was born. Until they got old enough to assist Mother with the household chores, I was Mother's "little girl" as well as Father's boy. Until I was old enough to help him on the farm, my duties in and around the house included: toting (look up the word "tote" in your dictionary) in stove-wood and in the winter tithe Redwood; toting water from the spring about 100 yards away. On "wash day" when much water was needed, that spring seemed like it was a mile away. I had to operate the old-fashioned cedar dash churn ("Ma looks like the butter just won't come!"), rock the baby to sleep in her home-made cradle, and iron the "flat work" on ironing day after each week's wash. In the summer-time wash day was not complete till Mother rounded up the children and gave us our weekly bath in a tub of rinse water. I am not so sure but at times after we had been playing in the dirt she would put us through the tub of soapy water. At any rate when she got through with us the dirt was gone along with patches of hide!
There were other tasks assigned as the occasions required. Our parents believed that "an idle brain is the devil's workshop," and they saw to it his "satanic majesty" did not have a chance to set up shop around our house. However, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," as the saying goes. So at intervals between assigned tasks we found time to play. Our favorite pastime was building play houses and "ridy horses." We would roam over the yard, the barn yard, and other near-by spots, looking for broken pieces of pottery, glass, and dishesany material that could be used to build our "made-out-like-houses." Our favorite location for these was under the wide-spreading branches of a large beech tree, not so far removed from Mother's ever-watchful eye but what she knew where we were and what we were doing. Never down through the years have we ever lived in a real house that was as spacious and luxurious as those we built between the rugged roots of that old tree. Only late in life did our parents have just one carpeted roomthe parlor; but every room in our houses was carpeted with beautiful, soft green moss and decorated with flowers in season.
Just across the road from that beech tree there were some bushes and young trees which nature had formed in such a way that we could mount their bent-down branches and imagine we were riding prize-winning horses. Our imagination and initiative enabled us to enjoy our simple, at-hand play-things far more than the modern child enjoys his vast array of "store-bought" toys and gadgets. I made my wagons, bows and arrows, slings, kites etc., and I took care of them.
I was in my seventh year when we moved to Talley Station community. Of course, I was allowed to go to school. I was allowed to go, not made to go for I had an enormous appetite for knowledge. I loved books, and would have spent hours each day reading, but for the simple fact that I had no books to read. Until I was at least 12 years old there were only three books in our house, not counting my few text books: a very small-print, cheaply-bound Bible which could not have cost more than 40 cents, the story of Daniel Boone, and the account of the awful Johnstown Flood in Pennsylvania, May 31, 1889. The school house was located about 200 yards from the Louisville and Nashville railroad depot in Talley Station. The small school yard bordered on the railroad's right of way, so we had the delightful privilege of seeing the two trains pass each day. From our house to the school was about a mile. The length of the free-school terms depended on the available money; sometime only four months in the yearnever more than six. When the free school closed, there would be period of "pay" school, provided enough money could be raised through subscriptions to pay the teacher at the rate of $2.00 per pupil per month. Only a few times was I permitted to attend the "pay" school. Father could not spare the money and as I grew older my services were needed on the farm. He introduced me to the plow at twelve. If our fields had been level, I could have handled the smaller plows at ten, but our fields were steep, rocky in places, and had stumps.
I never had a teacher, in any school, from the first to the last (seminary), that I did not love and respectsome more than others, of course. The great majority of them were devout Christians with high moral and spiritual standards. The first fifteen minutes of each morning at Talley were give to reading a portion of the Scriptures, without comment, and the singing of hymns that we learned in Sunday School. I shall never forget the thrill that was mine when my voice had changed from the "gosling stage" to that vocal maturity that enabled me to sing bass. One morning we were singing "In the Sweet Bye and Bye." For the first time my booming bass came out clear and right on time in the chorus repeats. At recess one of the pretty girls about my age said, "Luther, your bass was so pretty this morning." I nearly had a romantic fit! You should have heard me the next time! That reminds me of a story that was told about Theodore ("Teddy") Roosevelt, one of our greatest presidents. At times he gave the impression that he highly recommended himself. So the story goes that he dreamed that he died and went to Heaven. After being welcomed by St. Peter at the gate an angel was assigned to lead him around and give him every attention that would contribute to the enjoyment of his new home.
"On earth, I was particularly fond of great choral productions," he replied. "May I have one thousand sopranos?" Here they came.
"Now, let me have one thousand altos." Immediately they took their places.
"One thousand tenors, please," and they lined up. The angel expected an order for one thousand basses, but no bases were ordered.
Then said the angel, "Mr. Roosevelt, don't you want one thousand bases?"
"No," he said, as his noble bosom swelled with pride. "I'll sing the bass."
Of course, there are several flaws in that story, the chief one being that pride will have no place in Heaven. Pride was what turned the Garden of Eden into "Paradise Lost."
I hear the school bell ringing"time for books." I attended the Talley school off and on for at least twelve years, and went as far as they taught in that loosely-graded school. The main courses were reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, grammar, geography and history. The last teacher I had was Professor Leonard, a man in his seventies and very learned. He could have graced some university chair, especially in Latin. In my last year he offered beginner's Latin. Three of us dared to enroll. Thus I got my first taste of foreign languages which later included Greek, German, French and Hebrew. Although he was the most learned teacher I had at Talley, he was not the one that influenced my life most during those changing and sometimes turbulent adolescent days. That honor goes to Miss Blanche Phillips. She was in her early thirties, I guess, so kind and understanding. She took a special interest in me.
One day when she and I were talking, she said, "Luther, what do you intend to make of yourself? "I don't know, Miss Blanche; I wish I knew." She looked down into the recesses of my heart with those tender, soft blue eyes and said "Luther, first make a man!"
Another most wholesome ingredient that went into my moral and spiritual nature during that formative period were the McGuffey's Readers: First, Second, Third, and on through the Sixth. We never went further than the fifth at Talley. They not only embodied sound teaching methods in simplicity and effectiveness for the beginners, but beginning with the third of the series, the stories, poems and varied reading exercises all had in them some moral or even spiritual flavor. I have said that I could hold a revival meeting using the Third Reader. The wholesome ingredients were not couched in stilted, theological and philosophical jargon but in simple, beautiful, easy-to-understand language.
Here are some of the lessons indelibly impressed upon our plastic minds: God, the Creator; the Holy Bible, prayer, forgiveness, industry, helpfulness, unselfishness, obedience to our parents; wrong-doing never goes unpunished; resisting temptation, and on and on. Do you want my humble opinion proudly expressed? It was a sad day when those readers were taken out of the public school. I confess that I have not seen the modern readers, but I know that the Supreme Court and the supremely foolish Madeline O'Hare would not approve them in our schools today! Nowhere in McGuffoy's do you Omd even a hint of "child self expression!" I tried that on my parents a few times. They would express themselves, and I would express myself to the contrary. But they had the final word, sometimes punctuated and underscored with the rod of correction. It is possible that they were wrong a few times, but I was wrong most of the time. I have lived to honor them for loving me too much to let me have my self-determined, self-expressed way. As Billy Graham would say "The Bible says, 'Children, obey your parents."' But many children today act as if it said, "Parents obey your children."
At this point it will be easy to shift from the home and the public school to that third Heaven-born, divinely-given institution that contributed so much to my lifethe church. My parents were members of the Hannah's Gap Baptist Church, small country church about a mile from my birth place, just over the ridge from where I was born. The church was served by a non-resident preacher and it was listed in the association as a "fourth time" church, which meant that preaching services were held only one Sunday a month. However, it was the custom of such churches to have a Saturday morning service and monthly business meeting, preaching again Saturday night and two services on Sunday. If the church had a Sunday School, I do not remember attending it. The Baptist cause in that part of Tennessee at that time was completely over-shadowed by the Methodists and Christians ("Campbellites"). Baptist churches, especially in the country, were undeveloped except in the basic doctrines of their faith. They knew why they were Baptists and were ready to give a reason for the hope they had in Christ. They had only one revival meeting a year. It had to begin at Hannah's Gap the second Sunday in August, and usually ran two weeks. It was the rarest thing that anybody was saved except in the revival. It wasn't expected and, of course, it didn't occur. When we moved to the Talley Station community, there was no Baptist church for miles around. My parents still retained membership in the Hannah's Gap Church, at least ten miles away as the crow flies. The roads were very steep and rough in places, however, the crow would most likely detour around them as we had to do when we attended the services where our kin and friends lived. When we did attend, which was seldom, usually at revival time, we had to go horseback (muleback too) or in the farm wagon. Whichever way, there was many a jolt. When we moved to Talley there were three of us children and I was less than eight years old. This is how we loaded up when we went horseback: Father rode the mule and I rode behind him. Mother rode the horse with Beulah behind her and baby Lizzie was in Mother's lap. Of course, when we out-grew that arrangement and other children came along, we had to hitch the team to the wagon and all rode in the wagon. You are acquainted with "Shake-Well-Before -Taking" instructions; well, we were shaken well as we were taken.
In the spring of 1891, a few months after we had moved into the Talley community, Beulah and I began attending Sunday School in a little Methodist Church, Mt. Zion, located about a mile from home. I was nearly seven and she was four. Weather permitting, we walked. The road was steep and rough in places, very rough on our Sunday shoes when we got big enough to graduate from bare-foot to shoes. Since our parents were not brought up in Sunday School they did not go with us. They did go to the preaching services which came once a month at Hannah's Gap Church. They encouraged us to go to Sunday School and admonished us to behave ourselves, for to their way of thinking Sunday School was a good thing for children and a few women, but not for grown-ups, especially men. Now don't blame them too severely, for after they had worked hard six days from before sunup, with even Sunday chores that could not be omitted, they literally regarded Sunday as a day of rest. Rest they did, as much as their free time permitted. Why didn't they hitch up the team to the wagon and all go? For the simple reason that mules (for we had few horses) had pulled the plow, the harrow, and the wagon six full days and they too needed and deserved a rest
As you may imagine, that little Sunday School was not a standard one according to modern requirements. There were only three classes, the "card" class, a class for adolescents, and a mixed class for the few men and women. The attendance was never over 40 I am sure. Beulah and I were in the card class composed of the smaller children up through ten or twelve years. It was called the card class because each Sunday's lesson was on a card. On the front was a beautiful colored picture illustrating the "Golden Text" and on the back side was a simple but thrilling story. Each Sunday we were given the card for that day with the admonition, "Be sure and come next Sunday and get your card." We would not have missed it except for some unavoidable reason.
Then there was a class for the teenagers and young adults. If they had a dozen present, it was something to brag about. Also there was the group of adults, men and women, taught by Mr. Conrad, merchant, postmaster and depot agent for the railroad. He was a fine man in every respect, a devout Christian and an excellent Sunday School teacher. I am sure I did not skip the teen-agers class; but I do not remember much about it. For some reason I found myself in Mr. Conrad's class before I was in my middle teens. His teaching made a great impression on me .
The membership of the church, for the most part was composed of "old-time, shouting Methodists." In their revivals many of them, men and women got happy and were not ashamed to praise the Lord by shouting, especially when someone was saved for whom they had been praying. The preachers were not very learned. They frequently broke the King's English, but they also broke sinners' hearts with their straight-forward, spirit-filled messages of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus who so loved sinners that He was willing to die to save them .
Such powerful preaching, plus the shouting of those happy saints brought conviction to my heart. In one of the revivals in my sixteenth year I went forward to the "mourner's bench," got down on my knees, and confessed to God that I was a sinner and asked Him to help me trust His Son as my Saviour. A sweet peace came to me as I surrendered and I publicly testified that I was saved, but I did not offer myself for membership. Several of my schoolmates were also saved that night. On the way home as Mother and I trudged along the dusty way, I talked with her about my next step. She was so happy that I was saved. She would not stand in the way if I wanted to join the Methodists, since it was so far away to Hannah's Gap but she and Father were members there and she would be happy if I would join with them. That settled the matter with me. The Hannah's Gap revival was due the next week.
I could not wait until they could go with me, so I begged Father to let me have one of the mules to ride the ten miles over there for a morning service. There I presented myself for membership on public profession of my faith in the Lord and asked for baptism.
In those days, when anyone presented himself for membership on profession of faith for baptism he (or she) was required to stand up and tell the church what the Lord had done for him. Some would stammer and stutter, and frequently they would break down in tears as they concluded their testimony with the words, "I know I am saved, and want to see others saved." The desire to see others saved was regarded as one sure sign that work of saving grace had been wrought. The one that I desired to see saved was my sister Beulah. Later in the week I again persuaded Father to let me have a mule. I borrowed a neighbor's buggy and took her to the meeting. She was gloriously saved. Sunday we all went to the closing of the meeting. That afternoon Beulah and I along with several others were baptized in the beautiful waters of the creek that flowed by the church. However, to get "much water," the place for baptizing was about a mile down the creek. As we came up out of the watery grave we joined the congregation in singing "Oh Happy Day That Fixed my Choice".
The custom of requiring converts to relate their experience was based on the idea "if you have it, you can tell it." The discontinuation of that requirement, I fear, has resulted in churches baptizing many who have not had an experience of saving grace. This is said, not to create doubts, but to sound a warning.
Although my membership was in a Baptist church, my spiritual growth depended more upon what I received at Mt. Zion due to the fact that I could not attend the Hannah's Gap services regularly. One of the things I enjoyed so much at Mt. Zion was the song services. How I loved to sing those grand old hymns! The leader was "Uncle Tite" Adams, an elderly man whose voice was raspy and cracked, but he loved the Lord and he helped us get the most out of the songs. He beat the tempo perfectly, never missing a beat. However, his metronome speed never was above 40 whether we were singing "Amazing Grace" or "I Am Bound for the Promised Land." As we sang the latter in that slow, craggy tempo, we wondered when, if ever, the saints would get to that happy land! Even so, there was in that tempo a much-to-be-desired joy not possible in the present day "whoop-em-up", "faster, please," "spizerinktum style"namely, we had time to pronounce the words and get their meaning. All my dentures can do now is slur over many of the words and skip others in an effort to keep up with the director and accompanist. (Now don't you tell anybody what I've said!)
In the absence of a piano or organ to give the pitch, "Uncle Tite" had a "C" tuning fork. Did you ever see one? When the song was not in the key of C, he had an interesting way of starting from that tone and arriving at the desired key. Ask me about it sometime. I will explain and illustrate the procedure. Once a year "Uncle Tite" would conduct a week's singing school in which he taught us sight reading and many fundamentals of music. We learned to read the shaped notes, for not many country folks could read the round notes. The notes had different shapes which indicated their position on the staff. The names of the notes, in the ascending scale, were Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do. I was twenty year's old before I learned to read round notes.
It is time to get back home and to work on the farm. At the age of ten there were many things I could help father do, such as hoeing, pulling weeds, piling brush for burning, etc. As I grew older he needed my help in many ways. For instance, there was much virgin soil that had to be cleared. By the time I was 12 I was at the end of a cross-cut saw and he at the other, sawing timber to be split into rails and fence posts for fences; sawing fire wood and stove wood; helping around the barn with the stock, and on and on. I could handle the smaller plows before I was in my early teens. But when it came to handling the heavy, steel-beam turning plow with two mules turning the soil in the spring in preparation for planting, that called for the strength of a strong teen-ager. That I was. All of the tillable land was hilly, but some of it had unbelievable steep places to cultivate. To give you an idea of how steep they were, take a pencil. Draw a right-angled triangle. The hypotenuse will represent the slope of some of the ground over which I struggled with a team and heavy turning plow. The strenuous exercise of farm life and the simple but wholesome food Mother prepared were responsible for my strong body and the vitality I still have at this advanced age Other activities included splitting rails and building rail-fences; splitting fence posts, digging holes for them and stretching barbed wire; quarrying rocks, hauling and building them into rock fences and retaining walls; cutting and hauling logs to the sawmill and hauling back the lumber for the various building projects; riving and drawing shingles to cover those buildings; grubbing stumps and saplings in preparation of virgin soil for cultivation; harvesting wheat, rye and oats in early summer and corn in the fall; hauling small grain shocks to the threshing machine (sometimes the wagon would turn over with a load of unthreshed grain); mowing out fence-corner with a scythe in the hot summer-time after the crop was "laid by;" etc., etc.! Even when it rained or the weather otherwise prevented out-door work there were always numerous indoor jobs that had to be done: sharpening tools, shucking and shelling corn, mending harness, half-soleing shoes, working in the shop such as shaping axe handles, making plow stocks, shaping mauls, and on and on. Although father was a farmer, he was also handy with carpenter tools and had a pretty good kit. In the summer-time after crops were laid by he would engage in carpenter work, building houses and barns for others as well as for us. I learned to use these tools and helped him in these projects. So you see there was no time for me to get away from home, get with a rowdy bunch and go cavorting all over the country, getting into mischief of all kinds.
I have mentioned my love of books. We all had a great love for music but there was no musical instrument in our home, except the mouth harp and the French harp (harmonica), until I was in my teens. Along came a man selling "roller organs." It was a small, portable instrument weighing not more than 15 pounds. It was called an organ because it was a reed instrument. The roller was wooden, about the size of a small rolling pin and some ten inches in length. It bristled with short brass pegs so arranged that as the roller was turned with a crank the pins would depress the keys and the bellows would release the compressed air that activated the reeds. When the roller was in place and the operator turned the crank, out "rolled" the music. The instrument and ten rollers (one tune to the roller) cost $10.00, if my memory does not err. Some of the tunes were sacred, such as "Jesus, Lover of my Soul", "Rock of Ages", "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder." Others were of the popular variety, "Home, Sweet Home", "When You and I Were Young, Maggie", "Dixie", "Yankee Doodle Dandy", and others.
From early childhood I tinkered with all kinds of musical instruments and could at least make joyful noise on the following: French harp (harmonica), guitar, banjo, fiddle (country name for the city violin), bass fiddle in school orchestra, parlor organ, piano, Pipe organ, baritone horn in the university band. While in Haynes McLean Preparatory School a good friend, Will Lane, gave me $25.00 to pay for piano lessons. My teacher must have thought I was a potential Beethoven. Before I could run the scales accurately she had me practicing on Beethoven's "Adieu to the Piano." The $25.00 was soon spent and I was unable to take any more lessons. I had learned a lot more about music than I was able to put into practice. When I took my last lesson, I could not play acceptably "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." Some weeks later, while doing janitor work in the studio after everyone had left, I sat down before the piano and with a hymn-book before me I began to try to play the more familiar hymns. Almost instantly my clumsy, large-knuckled fingers seemed to know just where and when to strike the keys. I never took any more lessons, but with practice here and there, as I had an available piano, I finally acquired the ability to play any of the hymns. I have never been able to play classical music on the piano. I cannot execute the double movement of the left hand. Through the years I have studied music on my own until I have a fairly good knowledge of the wonderful art of music. As you may know, I have composed some hymns and presently I am working on an anthem based upon the first three verses of Psalm 103. One of my hymns, both words and music, was published by Broadman Press, Favorite Gospel Songs (Copyright 1965), entitled "Lead Me, Savior."
The best I can remember, I was 18 when I finished school at Talley Station. There was no graduation, no diploma given. I had gone as far as the school was prepared to take me. That summer I stood examination for a Primary Teacher's Certificate with a view to teaching. I passed, got my certificate and was chosen to teach a small primary school near Hannah's Gap at the tremendous salary of $30.00 a month. For some reason the school was abandoned and my contract cancelled before time for school to begin in the fall. What a disappointment!
I had heard of Haynes-McLean Preparatory School in Lewisburg, the county seat of Marshall County. I so much desired to go there and get enough education to qualify me for a Secondary Certificate and give myself to the teaching profession. There were two seemingly insurmountable obstacles: my father needed my service on the farm and he had no money to pay for board, tuition and other expenses. Our growing family necessitated the building of a new house. Prior to that we had built a new barn. In the late 90's we had suffered two almost complete crop failures and other reverses. All of these things added up to a situation that seemed to make it impossible for me to realize my ambition to get any more education. The future looked dark for this poor country plowboy. But there is a saying, "The darkest hour is just before dawn."
On a hot August day, Father and I were way up in the hollow above our house sawing winter firewood. About the middle of the afternoon, a well-dressed man suddenly appeared on the scene. He was Professor W. D. Hudgins, Principal of the school I longed to enter. He had heard of me and my desire to further my education. Father explained the situation I have described and assured him that he wished I could go to school, but the situation made it impossible. Mr. Hudgins then suggested that I come to the school some day and see if some arrangement could be made whereby I could work my way through school. Father said he would think about it and if at all possible he would let me go for the conference. That was in the summer of 1903. Imagine how my hopes were dashed into the dust when Father decided that he could not do without my help on the farm. I would just have to give up the idea of going to school.
Things rocked along until the next summer. I was hoping against hope that some way would be found for me to go to school. In the meantime Professor Hudgins had been replaced by Professor M. M. Summar as Principal of the school. He was in the community one day soliciting students and some one suggested that he go see Luther Hastings. He promised Father that he would give me work around the school to pay for my tuition and books, and that he knew a family that would give me my board for my help in the house and yard where boarders were kept. Father finally consented to let me go if those arrangements could be made.
A few weeks before the Fall term of 1904 was to begin, I went to Lewisburg and with Mr. Summar's help it was arranged that I should get my room and board for the help I could give Mrs. W. A. Leath, who operated a boarding house for teachers and students of the school. The house adjoined the school campus. Since I was handy with carpenter tools, there was always some repair work on buildings and fences of the school and Mother had trained me to be helpful around the house. Mrs. Leath was a fine, motherly, Christian woman. Her husband was a retired Methodist minister and in very poor health, so she had to supplement his income operating the boarding house. I drew water, built fires, brought in coal, washed dishes, swept rooms and kept the yard in order. They received me as a member of their family. I owe Mrs. Leath an eternal debt of gratitude for helping me during the three years I was in school there. I needed her and she needed me. Her husband died the next spring. They had three children, two girls, Mary and Virginia, in their middle twenties, and a son, William, in his early teens. If she has not passed away within the past few years, Miss Mary is still living in an old folks home in Memphis. Neither of the girls ever married. They were school teachers. William became a Congregational minister and held some prominent pastorates in the North. He died a few years ago.
In addition to a full course in school and my duties in the Leath home, Mr. Summar kept me busy after-school hours and Saturdays. He was a friend indeed, for he was a friend in my need. He was a devout and faithful member of the Baptist church, a small church with not more than 100 members, worshipping in a shabby, one-room building. I united with the church and received much spiritual benefit in the services. Those years meant more than I can tell in the strengthening of my faith and the enlargement of my vision. There in my senior year I announced that I felt called of God to preach AND teach.
I enjoyed every phase of school life and engaged in every part of it, literary, athletic, musical, dramatic, public speaking. Friendships were formed that have lasted down through the years. There was never a dull moment. When I left home to go away to school, although I was going not more than 12 miles from home, I was sure that I would get so homesick I would have to come back every few weeks. Not so, not that I loved home less but because I was so in love with my new connections that I had no time to get homesick. I loved my teachers, the student body, the Leaths and the members of the church, even though Baptists were looked down upon in that town. With pardonable pride I can now say sixty years later they are the largest congregation in Lewisburg, worshipping in a modern building with around 1,000 in Sunday School. During my three years there I discovered a new world far more exciting than the one Columbus discovered in 1492!
After I had been in school two years I was offered the position as principal of the country school just half a mile from where my family had moved in December 1905, some 15 miles from Talley in the northern section of Marshall County. The salary was $50.00 per month. How could a poor country boy turn down a fortune like that? When I was 16 years old, my second cousin, Rube Hastings, persuaded my father to let me come and work for him four months, March through June, at $13.00 per month on his steep and rough hill farm just over the hill from ours. Now six years later I was to get nearly four times that amount as a teacher in a public school. Besides, I had the privilege of being with my family and attending church with them at the lovely counts y church located just across the highway from the school.
My assistant was Mrs. Will Hastings, whose husband was a distant cousin of ours. She was nearly old enough to be my mother and had teen-age children under me while she taught the smaller children. Her maturity in age was a great help to me in many ways. Her youngest child, Fnel, age six, is now a District Judge living in Memphis, Tennessee. I taught one year, the fall and spring terms, and then returned to Haynes-McLean for my senior year, graduating in May, 1908, as valedictorian of a class of six, three girls and three boys. Only three of us are still living: Will Murray, Kate Alford Armstrong and I. Will and Kate still live in Lewisburg. Dunng the past 20 years we have been able to gather together and recount those happy days at "dear old Haynes-McLean." The school was discontinued some eight or ten years after my graduation. The city bought the property and erected a city high school. In 1965, the 31st of July, a reunion of the school's alumni had a big picnic at Henry Horton State Park adjoining the school grounds where I had taught 58 years before. Will and I were there. Kate was sick and could not attend. I met so many I had not seen in more than fifty years.
A number of important events occurred in 1908, the year of my graduation. I have not yet come to the time when my diaries will aid my memory, but the events I now record made such a deep impression on me I am sure that memory will not go far astray, especially in exact dates.
At the invitation of a small country church three miles from Lewisburg, I preached my first sermon the first Sunday in May. The name of the church was Mars Hill. Professor Summar was kind enough to lend me his fine horse and buggy, and Will Murray accompanied me. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:3~ 37) was the basis of my sermonic effort. In Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians (I Corinthians 2:3), he says, "I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." And so was I with the little group gathered to hear me in my maiden effort to preach the Gospel. On the way back to Lewisburg, Will commented: "Well, Luther, I've heard a few worse sermons, and a lot of better ones!"
The Baptist Church in Lewisburg was too weak numerically and financially to support a pastor full time, so it teamed up with the Smyrna Church (located just across the Pikegraveled roadfrom the school where I taught) and called the same pastor, who gave each church two Sundays a month alternately. Dunng my school days Brother C. A. Ladd was the pastor. A few weeks before my graduation he resigned and the two churches agreed to use me as interim pastor through the summer months until I would be going to college, or until they should call a permanent pastor. As I remember, the two churches paid me $100.00 a month. What a contrast between that and my wage as a farm hand eight years ago$13.00! Since I stayed at home and did not have to pay for room and meals, I was able to save almost all of my income, which would be needed when I should enroll in college in September. My main expense was "hack" fare to and from Lewisburg on the Sundays I preached there. I transferred my membership from Lewisburg to Smyrna, since my family's membership was there. Not until they all get to glory will the faithful members of the two congregations know how much I owe them for their patience in letting me practice on them and for the encouragement they gave me. I'm sure many of them could join my friend Will in saying, "We've heard a few worse sermons, and a lot of better ones."
I need to back up, and explain why my family moved from Talley to the Smyrna community. When I left home in September, 1904 for school, Father was deprived of my much-needed help on the farm. Although he was not quite SO, he had worked so hard through the years, his physical strength was not equal to the rigors and hardships of the steep, rough hill farm. Mother and the girls often went into the fields to help where they could, and they managed to plant and harvest a crop in 1905. A first cousin of mine wanted to buy the place and made Father a good offer.
Providentially, Father was led to find and purchase the little farm in the Smyrna community. It comprised only 24 acres, but it was river-bottom land, level and as fertile as the Nile Valley. All of it was under cultivation except about four acres which were divided into garden, yard, barn lot, and a small cow pasture. This portion of the acreage was located on the high bank of Cane Creek that emptied into Duck River at the back side of the tillable land. The Spring freshets would cause the river to overflow and back up the waters of Cane Creek over nearly the whole cultivated land. When the waters receded, a rich covering of sediment was left to enrich the soil. With reasonable seasons, those twenty acres would produce more corn, wheat, oats and clover than the hill farm produced, especially after several severe spring floods had washed off so much of the top soil. Then the preparation and cultivation of the small farm was so much easier on Father's diminishing strength. What a pleasure to plow in soil without a stump or rock and level as a table top! The sale price of the hill farm was about the same as the purchase price of the river farm.
Now, back to my pastorates, and other events in the summer of 1908. It was in the last days of June, or the first of July that under the guiding providence of God I met Cora Brownlow, who later was to become my wife, and the mother of our two children. This is how it came to pass. The Baptists had a summer encampment at Estill Springs, some 40 miles from Lewisburg by rail. From what 1 had heard about the programs, it offered a spiritual feast that I needed. So I decided I would spend a week there. I boarded the train at Lewisburg on a Monday morning. It was a passenger train that ran from Columbia to Estill Springs on a branch of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis that connected with the main line at Estill, which ran from Nashville to Chattanooga. As I entered the car, I saw six beautiful young ladies grouped in seats facing each other and engaged in spirited conversation. I took a seat on the opposite side of the car, opened a window, and hardly took my eyes off the passing scenery as we came to venous stations with which I was familiar: Belfast, Talley Station and Petersburg. I greeted by name many of those who habitually came to see the train.
At Talley someone said, "Hi there, Luther, where are you going?" I replied, "I'm going to the Encampment at Estill Springs."
That announcement caused a noticeable excitement across the aisle, and one of the party ventured to say, "Oh, that is where we are going!" That broke the ice and we introduced ourselves to each other. One of the group was Cora Brownlow. She was in charge of the Y.W.A. group in the First Baptist Church of Columbia, and was chaperoning a group to the Encampment. Being a bashful country boy, I had scarcely learned to be at ease with only one young lady, so you can imagine how flabbergasted I was in the midst of that bunch of cackling pullets. However, we had a good time and by the time we arrived at our destination we had gotten pretty well acquainted
Soon after we passed Petersburg, one of the girls detached herself from the others and, much to the scarcely-concealed disgust of the others less brave than she was, asked if she could share the seat with me. Of course, I blushingly gave permission. Now, you are thinking that was Miss Coral Not so. You see, Miss Cora was the chaperone and must set the example of behavior for the others. The young lady was very charming and we soon were engaged in easy conversation. During the week she was my croquet and bowling partner, and we were frequently together at the Encampment. Everybody looked upon her as the special friend of the young preacher. And, to tell the truth, it would have been easy for me to fall for her. At least I was leaning in her direction! But, something happened.
One of the prominent speakers on the program that week was Dr. George H. Crutcher. He and his wife had been missionaries in Mexico. He contracted smallpox, and as soon as he had sufficiently recovered they returned to the States. He resigned from the mission work, and was engaged in evangelistic work in connection with the Women's College at Murfreesboro. He lived to a ripe old age, but earned to his grave the facial scars of smallpox. He was mighty in the Scriptures, and when he was preaching under the power of the Holy Spirit, his countenance glowed with a light not seen on land or sea that hid the ugly scars.
After the evening meal we would all gather on the long veranda of the main building for vesper services conducted by Dr. Crutcher. He gave opportunity for testimonies concerning Christian experiences, and some dedicated their lives to the service of the Lord wherever He wanted them. Among the latter was Miss Cora, who said she felt the Lord wanted her to dedicate her life to the winning of souls to Christ. Her evident sincerity and spiritual fervor thrilled everyone, especially the young preacher from Lewisburg! He said to himself, "What a wonderful wife she would be for some preacher," never imagining that I would be that preacher!
Dr. Crutcher's parents and other relatives lived in and near Lewisburg and were members of the Baptist Church there. When he knew that I was the interim pastor, we had several conversations about the future of the work. He suggested that it would greatly strengthen the cause if the church would agree to let him hold a tent meeting of at least two weeks. Of course, I was right in for it. He said that as soon as his services at the Encampment were concluded, he would come to Lewisburg and make arrangements for the meeting, the church willing. The church was enthusiastic about the matter. Permission was granted by the county authorities for him to pitch his tent on the shaded courthouse lawn, and the services were to begin the third Sunday in July.
Dr. Crutcher had known the Brownlow family in Columbia for some time. He had been in their home many times and Miss Cora's parents had been with him in revival meetings to do personal soul-winning. He suggested that the church and pastor invite Miss Cora to come and help in the meeting, thereby giving her an opportunity to put into action her recent dedication. The church agreed and I heartily seconded the motion. Her parents gladly gave consent for her to come, but she must be accompanied by her sister Kittye. It was arranged at first for them to have a room and meals in the rooming house of one of our leading members. But there were a number of young men who were more interested in trying to date these attractive girls than they were in the revival, so we arranged for them to be entertainedwhere do you suppose? In the county jail! Well, not exactly in the jail, but in the living quarters of the jailer and his wife in the front part of the new jail. So for the rest of the time they were "jail birds."
It was a great meeting. Many were saved, a goodly number united with the church, and Baptist stock went up several points. The more I observed the Spirit-filled and heaven-blest ministry of Miss Cora, the more I was convinced that she would make some preacher a wonderful wife. And why shouldn't I be that preacher? In other words, the love bug had bit me!
Members of the Smyrna church drove in for many of the services, and they began to say, "Why can't we have Dr. Crutcher come to us at the close of the Lewisburg meeting?" Providentially he had no engagement for the weeks following, so it was arranged that after a week's rest he would begin a meeting at Smyrna in August. Up to this time I had not been ordained. It was planned that a council would be called, composed of pastors and deacons of other churches, and I would be ordained in an afternoon service the first day of the meeting. Dr. Crutcher conducted my examination and preached the ordination sermon. Those who composed the council and laid ordaining hands upon me included my good friend, Professor Summar, who served as clerk of the council. It was a great service and was a boost to the meeting.
Great crowds attended and the spiritual tides were running high. In the middle of the second week, Dr. Crutcher got sick and I had to take over. The Lord was with me and we had conversions right up to the close of the meeting Sunday night with baptizing that afternoon in the river. Among the ones baptized was my brother Roy. One saved in the last service was Clarence Reynolds who later married my sister Lessie. As he passed our house that night on the way home he was singing "The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago."
I should have told you that when the church invited Dr. Crutcher, they also extended an invitation for Miss Cora and Miss Kittye to come and help; Miss Cora to do personal work and Miss Kittye to sing. Of course, I heartily concurred in the invitation, and their contribution to the success of the meeting was great indeed. One of the special objects of prayer and concern was the bachelor son of one of the most prominent families in the community, wealthy members of our church. This son had never made any profession of faith down through the years. He was at least 40 years of age. Of course, Miss Cora became interested in his salvation. She not only prayed for him, but had personal contacts with him, explaining the plan of salvation and urging him to accept Christ as his Saviour and master. En the last service as the invitation was being given and several were coming forward, she went to him and in her charming way asked if he would not go forward and confess the Saviour as his Saviour. After some reluctance he went forward, but declined to request baptism and church membership. He died a few years after that, but he never was baptized and never identified himself with the church. It is to be hoped that he fell as much in love with the Saviour as he did with Miss Cora, but that is part of another chapter.
I, too, was head over heels in love with her, but I realized for the good of the meeting I must conduct myself in such a way that it would not be apparent that I was in love with this charming Christian young lady. After the meeting there were only two weeks until I would be going off to college, and if I was going to get any courting in I would have to get busy. Finally I "screwed my courage up to the sticking point" and without writing or phoning her that I was coming, I boarded the train at Lewisburg for Columbia, 19 miles away. I arrived at the depot in Columbia about 11 A.M. and phoned her that I was in town, and if it was agreeable I would love to see her. I don't know how I thought I would get to her house three miles from the depot. She, of course, was very much surprised but offered to come for me. In a little while she drove up in a buggy and away we went to the country home to which her parents had moved after her father retired from banking.
Now words fail to describe my feelings when she told me that J--- ????, the wealthy bachelor of Smyrna had suddenly appeared unannounced a little before I phoned. That meant that I didn't have the shadow of a chance. I might as well have her turn around and take me back to the depot and I would take the first train back home. We hadn't been in her home but a little while until I--- had her off in a room to himself. I was left with Mother Brownlow to entertain me out on the front porch until Father Brownlow came along and asked if I would like to go with him to the barn and see his fine horses and cattle. Of course, I said I would be delighted, but if I had said what was in my heart, I would have said, "Mr. Brownlow, it so happens that I did not come to see your pedigreed stock. I came to see your adorable daughter, Coral I want to stay close by so that when that other guy leaves, I can file my claim to her heart and hand."
I thought he would never get through introducing me to this one and that one and the rest of the stock. I verily believe his horses and cattle manifested more interest in me than I did in them. Like the man and wife that took their ten children to the circus to see the monkeys and other animals. When they asked the admission price, the man asked if all of those children were theirs. "Of course they are!" was the reply.
Finally we went back to the house and found to my delight that J--- had departed. A glance at my watch revealed the fact that it was just 40 minutes until my train was due, and it would take the biggest part of that time for Miss Cora to get me back to the depot. The black boy quickly harnessed the horse to the buggy and we headed for the depot. Now if any fellow ever courted in a hurry, I did. In my heart I hoped we could get to the depot too late for me to catch my train, but we drove up just three minutes before it came rolling in. She committed herself to my assurances of love, and a desire that she become my wife no further than to assure me that she admired me and she would have to think and pray over the matter. I bade her a sad farewell and boarded the train with the feeling that I was running a poor second in the race for her affections. Not many girls ever got two marriage proposals within two hours, but Miss Cora did. Years later, as she would tell about her two proposals in one day, I would remind her of the saying "It pours when it rains after a long dry spell!" And then I would say, "You had been through a long dry spell hadn't you?" How mean can some husbands beat times!
Before we parted she agreed to correspond with me. From that first of September, 1908 when I entered college, until we were married, March 5, 1913, our chief medium of communication was through letter-writing, with a few personal contacts interspersed at conventions, State and South-wide, encampments and visits in Mt. Pleasant, Columbia, Memphis and Chickasha, Oklahoma. She kept nearly all of my letters and I kept many of hers. As we moved from place to place down through the years, the box containing those "love missals" has not been left behind nor destroyed. I have spent several days before beginning this page reading scores of them. I have not counted them, but I can safely say there are at least 300, some of them 20 and even 30 pages in length. I feel like a bee in a honey bucket as I read our avowals of love for each other, and our unswerving devotion to each other, praying the Lord to guide us in our final decisions. I cannot begin to copy the voluminous correspondencethat would make a huge bookbut I will copy the letter I addressed to Miss Cora after I returned from the visit to Columbia and proposed to her. Here it is:
August 28, 1908
Miss Cora Brownlow Columbia, Tenn.
Dear Miss Cora:
I know you think I am the most abrupt and impudent mortal you ever met. Time and opportunity did not permit me to explain my seeming abruptness on last Wednesday afternoon, therefore I choose this occasion to offer certain explanations, hoping you will accept them. I did not mean to act rashly or imprudently, but my heart was full to over-flowing, and I had to say something to relieve it. What I said, I said in the best way my stammering tongue could word it. Again let me ask you to take me into your confidence, and speak to me as freely as you would to your father or mother. Tell me the truth and nothing but the truth; human destiny is under consideration, and you cannot afford to trifle with that. Miss Cora, you know as well as I that my success as a minister of the Gospel is going to depend largely upon my companion for life. Of course, there are four long years of toil, labor and loneliness before me yet, ere I shall be ready to form a union with any one. Nothing in this world would so lighten my labors, cheer my loneliness while at Jackson, and stimulate me to do and be my very best, as the happy assurance that I will be the principal object of your prayers, sympathies, andmay I say it?affections. I confess with the deepest humility that I am unworthy of your attention and affections, but by the help of God I shall try to reach as high a degree of worthiness as I can in the years of training and development that lie before me. At present there is a great chasm between us, but can it not be spanned? You are cultured, refined, accomplished; I am not. You are known as a girl of deepest piety and humblest consecration to God; the same cannot be said of me, but I am asking God to make me such. Miss Cora, I cannot express with pen and paper what is in my heart. I have torn up sheet after sheet of paper because I was not satisfied with my attempt to say what I wanted to, and if I knew that you were likely to misunderstand anything I have written I would tear these up too. I wish I could see you again face to face. I meant to have a longer talk with you Wednesday, but the opportunity did not present itself. I hope I may get to see you before I go to Jackson. I cannot express in words my appreciation of your kindness to me the little while I was in your home. I am so grateful to your Godly father and mother and to Miss Kittye for the kind way in which they also received and entertained me. I thank you all for every trouble I put you to....
In conclusion let me say that I have not intended to draw from you any hasty promise or decision without due consideration on your part; if such seems to you to be the case, then you have misunderstood me. Please forgive me for writing this letter by answering it as soon as you have time. Don't forget to pray earnestly for me. Oh how I need your prayers and sympathy! Remember me to your father and mother and Miss Kittye. Good-bye, and God bless you and keep you is the benediction of
Your Devoted Friend,
Luther T. Hastings
Not many days after writing this letter I packed my trunk with my few earthly possessions and boarded the train in Lewisburg for Jackson. I had to change trains at Columbia and I had time to call Miss Cora over the phone. She repeated what she had written to me in answer to my letter, namely, that she would pray for me each day and would write me. She was sure that God had great things in store for me and that I would make a great preacher if I would pray, study my Bible, keep humble and seek to win the lost to Christ.. Those words of encouragement sent me on my way rejoicing as if on wings.
Up to this point, I am sure that you have been wondering if Miss Cora was the first and only sweetheart I ever had, for remember that in 1908 I was 24 years old. Of course I had "puppy love" romances with different girls in school, but nothing ever came of them. Before I entered Haynes-McLean in 1904, I thought I was desperately in love with a country girl that attended the Mt. Zion Church. I proposed to her, and she accepted. When I went off to school, she just gradually faded out of my memory when I realized what a foolish thing I was about to do: marry and take on the responsibilities of rearing a family before I was 20 years old, when I was so poor I couldn't buy a whole pack of shoe-strings at a time! (Of course that is slightly exaggerated. I recently read of a fellow who said his folks were so poor they had to buy shoe-strings one at a time. I had to work that story in somewhere!)
Just think what would have happened, or rather wouldn't have happened: Haynes-McLean, no college and no seminary, no Miss Cora, no Brownlow and Jeanette, no John, Larry, Nancy, Gail and Roger, no one thousand other things that have made my life so rich and, in some measure, useful! Let us thank God that His providential care includes prevention as well as positive direction. Even then He allows us to have enough of our own foolish ways to convince us after we have suffered the dire consequences of our folly that we would be much better off if we allowed Him to hinder us more often. Some day you too will be wrestling with the age-old problem of Divine sovereignty and human free will.
With the money I had saved from my sullener interim pastorates, plus $125.00 the Smyrna Church gave me in addition to the salary, I was able to pay all debts and enroll in Union University, Jackson, Tennessee. A few weeks after enrollment, the President of the college called me into his office and informed me that a church in Memphis had written him asking him to suggest a ministerial student who could serve them until they could call a permanent pastor. Their pastor had just resigned. Imagine my surprise when he asked me if I would go to their aid. "Dr. Conger, I appreciate your thinking of me, but I am not qualified to undertake such a responsibility. That is a big city church and I am just a little country preacher, just ordained two months ago, and don't have enough sermons in my barrel to wad a gun." If "them's not my very words," they express the way I felt. His insistence and my need of money to keep me in school overcame my reluctance and I agreed to go.
For four months, as I remember, I went by train to Memphis each Saturday, went to a hotel for the night and preached; at least, that is what they called my efforts twice on Sunday. I went back to the hotel for the night and caught the early Monday morning train back to Jackson, arriving in time for my first class. The good Lord was with me in answer to my prayers which could be condensed into Peter's distressing cry, "Save, Lord, or I perish!" La Belle Place, was the name of the church, and by a strange coincidence, George Sherman, later to become my brother-in-law, was once pastor of the church, not the one I succeeded. His name was Lawless. Think of a church having a "Lawless" preacher succeeded by a plowboy, sermon-less preacher. The church must have prayed the Lord, "Save, Lord or WE perish," for the Chief Shepherd heard the cry of the flock and sent them one of the best preachers in Tennessee.
At the risk of over-extending this story, I must tell you about an incident that occurred one night while I was preaching. I was stammering and sputtering like a T-model Ford about to quit. My confusion was aggravated by some young people back under the balcony who decided that they had rather talk to each other than listen to my babblings. All of a sudden without any indication of what I was about to do, I closed my eyes, lifted my voice in prayer (?), telling the Lord to please remind those disturbers that they were in His House and for them to behave accordingly. "Amen!" I then tried to resume my broken, wobbly line of thought. At the conclusion of the service the offending couple dashed out of the building and I never knew their names until twenty years later, three years after I had gone to Monroe as pastor. At the end of a morning service a stranger lingered to speak with me. He said, "Jones is my name; I am from Memphis. I was a member of La Belle Place when you were interim pastor. Do you remember the night some young people were about to take the service away from you and you stopped and prayed for them?"
Of course, C. B. knew that I was the one they were disturbing that night; but as long as he lived (he died in his pulpit a few years ago) he never mentioned the incident, and I never mentioned it either. I suppose his conscience was still troubling him to some extent and he decided that silence was better than confession to me, for he had confessed to the Lord and He had forgiven him. Besides he was quite stare that I did not know who the offenders were and there was no need to disclose their names twenty years later. Just a few weeks before his death, we visited in their home in Winnsboro, Louisiana, while on one of our western trips, and I had the blessed privilege of telling them again how much we loved them and what they had meant to us. "Mirabile dictu!"
"Do you know who the ring leaders were?"
"No, and I prefer not to know, for I fear I have not forgiven them."
"Well, I am going to tell you any way. They were C. B. Hall and the girl he later married. He was your assistant pastor here two years before he resigned to accept a similar position in the First Church, E1 Dorado."
"C. B. Hall! I never met a man I loved more than C. B. Hall, and when he left here I felt that he could never be replaced."
"Your unique rebuke that night was the beginning of their conversion. He and the girl he was with that night were gloriously saved and joined the church soon after your ministry was concluded. C. B. felt called of the Lord to preach; he and Mrs. Hall went to the Baptist Bible Institute, New Orleans, and this church called him from a church in Mississippi."
"Well, well, miracles will never cease!"
During my four years in college scores of incidents occurred that clamor for recording, but I must move on, else I will never get to the end of my storysixty-six years yet to go. In my senior year (1911-'12) I was chosen editor of the 1912 annual, Lest We Forget. Accompanying my graduation photo is the following, prepared not by me, but by Stella K. Anderson, Associate Editor:
LUTHER THOMAS HASTINGS....Tennessee
"His modesty is beautiful, his piety deep and constant."
Graduated from Haynes-McLean School, Lewisburg, Tenn.
'08; Member of Calliopean Literary Society; J.R. Graves Society of Religious Inquiry; Contestant for Rhodes Medal, '09; Winner of J.R. Graves Award,
'09; Varsity Eleven,
'09; Secretary and Treasurer Athletic Association,
'09-'10; President Calliopean Literary Society,
'10; "Cardinal and Cream" Staff,
'10; Sophomore Basketball Team,
'10; Varsity Basketball, '11; Winner in College Song Contest,
'11; President J.R. Graves Society,
'12; Member Varsity Band (baritone),
'11, '12; Editor-in-Chief, Lest We Forget,
'12; Faculty Representative Commencement Exercises (chosen on basis of scholarship and deportment); B. A. Degree.
This shows that I identified myself with all phases of College life: scholastic, athletic, musical, public speaking, editorial, literary, etc. Add to those activities my full-time pastoral work, revivals, conventions, and other denominational gatherings, and my weekly (finally daily) letters to Miss Cora, and you see that I led a pretty full life!
There are a few special events that I must record. In the Spring of 1909 I suffered a severe attack of erysipelas (a form of blood poisoning) in the face and head, accompanied by very high fever (105 -107) and swelling. Yes, I really had the "big head" and my face was a fright, swollen and a purplish red. The high fever threw me into delirium, which caused me to turn against my roommate, Herbert Mount. I got the idea that he was planning to kill me and when he would come into the room in the dormitory, I would scream until he disappeared. I simply would not allow him in the room during my waking time, although he was desirous of waiting upon me and doing everything he could to make me comfortable and nurse me back to health. The college doctor was very kind and dear Mrs. Shelbourne, our dormitory "mother," was a real mother to me. They phoned my father to come. When he arrived I did not know him. He remained three days, at which time I had taken a turn for the better. It took me three weeks to regain my strength and get back into school and church activities. The faculty and student body had special prayers for my recovery and manifested other tokens of concern. I really was a sick boy!
After my interim ministry in Memphis, the next great challenge along that line was the invitation of Dr. Virgin, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jackson, to supply for him the Sunday that he would be at the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore (1910), near the close of my sophomore year. It was the church where most of the faculty and student body attended, so you can imagine with what fear and trembling I stood before them for those two sermons. At the morning hour I preached on David slaying Goliath. I finally got the giant killed, but I was nearly dead too. That night I preached on "They are without fault before the throne" (Revelation 14:5).
Right after I had concluded my ministry in Memphis, a small country church (Cane Creek) about three miles from Jackson, called me. It was one of the oldest churches in the association. In its small membership there were some of the choicest saints, who were so kind to me. It was only a "fourth-time" church. Soon other fourth-time churches called and I had full time work. The salaries were small but together I received enough to keep expenses paid. Here is a complete list of churches that I served during the four years of my college career: (unless otherwise indicated, they were fourth-time) Cane Creek, Middleburg, Toone, Pleasant Plains (halftime), Bemis.
Cane Creek, my first real pastorale, was the only one that I kept until after graduation. Now I must tell you about a wonderful thing the ladies of that church did for me. In the fall of my Junior year (1910) I was called to go out to a secondary school and supply a week for the Principal who had been called to another state on the occasion of his father's illness and death. I taught eighth and ninth grades and received $5.00 a day. Near the school in this fine rural community was the Pleasant Plains Church. They had just become pastorless and had invited me to come before them the Sunday following the week I was teaching, which was the Sunday I was due at Cane Creek. About the middle of that week one of the Cane Creek deacons, having found out that I was out of Jackson teaching, called and said, "We are sure that you will be with us Sunday, your regular day." "No," I said, "I have accepted an invitation to preach for the Pleasant Plains Church. That does not mean that I would resign from Cane Creek if they should call and I accept."
I sent R. E. Guy, even at the risk of "Santa Claus" substituting his name for mine. When I arrived at my dormitory after the evening services, Brother Guy was there and handed me a small package, a beautiful Elgin watch and chain from the ladies of the church! I still have that watch. It keeps good time after 64 years. Since I was not there to receive it in person, they threatened (?) to keep it and give it to the next pastor! But "all's well that ends well;" the church called me and I was allowed to keep the watch after I had genuinely apologized and expressed heartfelt thanks to the dear ladies, among whom were some lovely girls!!
Graduation week provided one thrill after another until I was almost overcome with the honors, awards and congratulations expressed in so many ways. My dear parents and Jessie (ten years of age) were there. You can easily imagine the immense joy and pardonable pride the occasion afforded them. Poor, dear Mother! In all of her 48 years she had hardly been out of "hollering" distance from home! We all wept unashamed tears.
Immediately after graduation, I took the train for Columbia to assume the enormous responsibility as pastor in response to a call given some two months before. Between trains in Nashville I purchased a typewriter which would serve me in business correspondence and outlining sermons and, with Miss Cora's reluctant permission, would shorten the time required to write her, for our exchange of letters was getting to the hot and furious stage. Understand, I did not abandon the pen for the typewriter, but many of the longer epistles of love were typed.
I secured a comfortable room within a block of the church and got meals next door. The church had recently built a beautiful, brick, six-room home for the pastor. But it was not intended for a bachelor pastor. The church still owed a considerable amount on its construction, so they found it very convenient to have an unmarried pastor. They rented the pastorium and applied the rental to the debt. However, it was not long after I arrived until it was rumored that their pastor was in love with a former member of the church, one of the most popular and consecrated young ladies in the city of Columbia. (Need I tell you her name?) If I could persuade her to come back and occupy the home as wife of their pastor, they would be willing to forego the rental even though they would have to take me Alto boot."
Of course, I was willing to co-operate to the fullest extent. But she was not yet willing to commit herself to the idea. The letters flew back and forth, but "hope deferred" did not make the heart faint, for "faint heart never did win fair lady." Therefore my letters became more and more persistent, even though at times hers seemed more resistant. I believe she was waiting to see how I was doing as pastor of her church which contained many of her kin and friends.
Although my ministry in Columbia was brief (less than a year), it was by no means fruitless. Many things were accomplished. Perhaps the outstanding achievement was the grading of the Sunday School and the introduction of a plan of study that would enable the leadership to become more efficient. The baptismal waters were regularly troubled as the young pastor seemed to become more and more entrenched in the hearts of the membership, including "her" kin and special friends who, I feel sure, kept her informed.
The First Church was the leading church in the association, which fact imposed upon the pastor an associational leadership and responsibility that greatly added to his tremendous duties as pastor. Through the summer revival meeting season, I was invited to hold more revivals than I could find time to hold. Then in the fall there were many associational activities that depended upon my counsel and leadership.
Now I must back up a bit and tell you about Miss Cora's parents and family. J. P. (James Pole, but he was usually referred to by his initials) Brownlow, her father, married Jane Ussery just before the Civil War broke out. He left his young wife and their first child in the care of her people in Giles County, Tennessee, enlisted in Forrest's Cavalry which was one of the most famous Confederate fighting units. He was in many of the most bloody conflicts in Middle Tennessee, was wounded and rose to the rank of First Lieutenant. Their family rapidly increased, nine children having been born to them. One, possibly two, died in infancy. Miss Cora and her sister, Kittye, were the last ones given to their parents late in life, after they thought their days of child-bearing had ended
In 1890 the Brownlows moved to Mt. Pleasant where Mr. Brownlow operated a grocery store and organized and operated a bank. He was a business genius. The Mt. Pleasant bank grew to be a sizeable and serviceable institution, which he later turned over to his youngest son, Cecil. He moved his family to Columbia where he and his older son, Joe, organized a bank that is still doing business. This move to Columbia was made some time in the early '90's, I am sure, for his bank was the only one that survived the financial crash of the middle '90's.
Father and Mother Brownlow were originally members of what was popularly known as the "Hardshell Baptists." They afterwards joined the Missionary Baptists and became the most ardent, consistent and persistent soul-winners. Father Brownlow was what was then known as an "exhorter," which means that in revival meetings he would get up, relate his conversion experience, quote John 3:16, or some other well-known Scripture and with genuine spiritual ardor, would exhort sinners to repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation. They would come and fall upon their knees, calling upon God to have mercy on them while loved ones and friends knelt with them and prayed for them to make a full surrender. Sometimes Mother Brownlow and other saintly ones would shout the praises of the Lord as their souls overflowed with the love of God. Yes, they were not ashamed to shout in those days and their "hallelujahs" would sometimes melt the hard hearts of sinners to penitential tears and they would soon be rejoicing in the sweet assurance that their sins were forgiven and washed away in the blood of the Lamb.Let me pause to give the vital statistics of the Hastings and Brownlow families:
Wiley S. Hastings: December 18, 1857 - February 4, 1937
Mary Frances Bledsoe Hastings: June 7, 1864 - June 13, 1936
Luther Thomas Hastings: July 28, 1 884 -
Beulah Lee Hastings Moore: May 1, 1887 - February 16, 1961
Lizzie May Hastings Hopper: March 7, 1890 -
Lessie Jane Hastings Eggerton: August 22, 1892 -
James Roy Hastings: February 1, 1897
Jessie Florence Hastings Wilson: October 24, 1902 -
James Polk Brownlow: August 17, 1841 - October 20, 1917
Jane Ussery Brownlow, wife: August 13, 1838 - March 9, 1914
Sallie Polk Brownlow Sherman: July 15, 1865 - February 21, 1965
John Ervin Brownlow: (?) 1865 - (?) 1939
Joseph Franklin Brownlow: (?) 1870- (?) 1925
Cecil Alexander Brownlow: (?) 1877 - (?) 1950
Cora Rebecca Brownlow Hastings: July 3, 1879 - September 25, 1970
Kitten Brownlow Howard: November 20, 1881 - December 1, 1918
Father and mother Brownlow had nine children, two of whom died in infancy. Cora and Kittye were the youngest; the other five who lived to be married were: Belle (died at birth of third child); Sallie, married George Sherman, the mother of John, Jeannette and Hester, John, Joe and Cecil, all of whom died after I came to know the Brownlow family in 1908.
My mother was Mary Frances Bledsoe, father's second wife. His first wife died at the birth of their child, who also died. Father had an only sister, Martha Ann. She married a Morton. When he died in 1907 (?), Aunt Sip, as she was affectionately called, came to live with us. She outlived father and mother and died in the home of sister Beulah September 27, 1950. Twins were born to her and Uncle Zackstill born; they never had any more children. She was the kindest, most unselfish, most accommodating person I ever knew. She was so precious to us.
And now I must back up again to the point where I digressed to record vital statistics of our two families, an altogether too skimpy record. After moving to Columbia, the Brownlow family soon established itself as one of the most prominent and influential families in the city: in business, in social affairs and especially in religious activities. The directors' room in Father Brownlow's bank was also a prayer room where he had many a prayer with men who came to transact business. He took them into that room where he talked and prayed with them about their souls and the true riches laid up in Heaven's bank and available to all those who by faith draw checks on it for their spiritual needs.
After some twenty years, Father Brownlow retired and turned everything over to Joe. At that time Brother Sherman was pastor of the First Baptist Church in Chickasha, Oklahoma. He persuaded Father and Mother Brownlow to move out to Chickasha and bring with them Cora and Kittye, the only children not married. Through Brother Sherman's influence Kittye became a member of the faculty in a college in Chickasha, teaching voice. She had a marvelous talent in music, both in piano and in voice. Cora (somewhere along the way I have dropped the "Miss," so from here on it will be just Cora) became associational worker with young women as well as helping in revival meetings.
Father Brownlow was busy helping Brother Sherman and also helping in the associational work. It was not easy for them to leave their many friends and kin in Columbia and Maury County and move to the faraway land of Oklahoma, but they were happy in the work of the Lord and that was sufficient compensation for their loss. The move to the west was In 1912.
Cora and I kept up our correspondence and we met occasionally at State and Southern Baptist Conventions and encampments. The first Southern Baptist Convention I ever attended was in 1911 in Jacksonville, Florida, the end of my third year in college. She and Kittye attended that convention. Next year the convention met in Oklahoma City, just 40 miles from Chickasha. At this convention we definitely decided to get married. The only question was when. I would be graduating in a few weeks and would be going to Columbia as pastor. Would it be wise to take her back home as a bride and occupy the new pastorium? We would make it a matter of earnest prayer to know the will of the Lord.
In August after the Oklahoma convention, Cora had to have an appendectomy and ovarian operation. All of one ovary was removed and a part of the other. The surgeon could not assure her that she could ever become a mother, but thought that her chances were more than 50 percent. This, of course was a matter of great concern, for if we married, we wanted a family. The doctors who waited upon her at the birth of our two children said it was a miracle that she was able to bear children.
At this time Kittye decided that she needed more training in voice for the position she held. She would go to New York and study under a very fine teacher, but Cora must go with her. Just two, possibly three weeks after the operation, they left for New York, secured a small apartment and Kittye began her voice study. As her returning strength would permit, Cora would go sight-seeing and take care of the apartment. She also tried to keep up answering my lettersone a day and sometimes two. She made a remarkably fast recovery from her operation. Some weeks after their arrival in New York, Marie Brownlow, their brother Joe's oldest daughter, joined them. As Christmas was drawing nigh, the burden of our correspondence was the question of our getting together at Christmas and making final arrangements for the wedding. Should I go to New York or should Cora go back to Chickasha where I would meet her? Since Kittye's study would be extended beyond Christmas, it would not be desirable to leave her there alone, so it looked like I would be going to New York. But Marie decided she would not go home for the holidays and she would stay with Kittye and let Cora go back to Chickasha, Oklahoma. Father Brownlow made arrangements for me to room at the hotel, since the little cottage in which they were living did not have sufficient bedroom space for Cora's sweetheart. I was there some eight or ten days.
After much prayer and serious thought:, we set March 6, for the wedding. It was decided that I would resign from the Columbia church, as it did not seem wise that I continue there after we married. The Chickasha Association was in need of an associational missionary. Brother Sherman and Father Brownlow were sure that the board, on their recommendation would elect me as their missionary. This was done in the January meeting. The idea was that I would serve in that capacity until the first of September. I would resign and we would enter the seminary at Fort Worth. This we did.
The Columbia folks knew that we were seriously contemplating marriage, but when I offered my resignation, it really created a sensation. They sought to persuade me to bring Cora back home and remain their pastor. But ,when they knew that I must get my seminary education and had selected Fort Worth, they saw the wisdom of our plan.
Before I record the GREAT EVENT in Chickasha, I must relate two humorous eventshumorous to others but rather embarrassing to methat occurred in the morning services that I conducted in Columbia before leaving. I had prepared the morning message what little preparation I was able to make in the exciting circumstanceswith the church congregation in mind. I had selected as a text (more pretext, I fear) 2 Timothy 4:7,8: "I have fought a good fight," etc. If Paul had been standing behind me and looking over my shoulder when I selected that part of his swan song, he would have laughed out loud and said, "Where are your battle scars? Oh, I see. They are in your back. What sort of course was it that you finished in less than a year? Yes, you kept the faithyou did not preach it much!"
In my preparation I failed to note the immediate context, verse 6: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." In reading the Scripture lesson before the sermon, I began with verse one. As I was finishing verse 5, "make full proof of thy ministry," my eyes glanced over verse 6, "For I am now ready to be offered," etc. Oh, it will never do to read THAT verse; I'll just skip it hoping that no one will notice the omission. But in that congregation, as in all churches I suppose, there is at least one person who is the pastor's "thorn in the flesh." Well, mine was an old maid who took a fiendish delight in teasing and embarrassing the pastor. At the conclusion of the service I took my accustomed place at the main exit to shake hands with the folks and speak a word of consolation to any who might be on the verge of fainting at the thought of having to give up their "beloved" pastor. As they passed out, I nearly "passed out" when I looked down the line and saw my "thorn" with that tantalizing smile that always preceded the storm. As she took my hand, she cried out loud so that all could hear, "Preacher, how come you to omit that verse, 'I am now ready to be offered up'? You sure are about to be offered up, and you have my sympathy!" Poor soul, she was really expressing her jealousy of Cora Brownlow and not her sympathy. If there had been a three inch crack in the floor, I would have passed down as well as passed out!
The second incident occurred during the closing minutes of the evening service. It was the custom among most of the churches that when a new pastor came to the city, the churches, would call off their evening services and join the congregation in welcoming their new pastor; and when a pastor resigned, the custom would be repeated. The other churches called off their services and joined in "welcoming the departure" of the outgoing pastor. The house was filled to its utmost capacity and I brought an evangelistic message. I made my strongest appeal for people to be saved and announced that the invitation hymn would be number, "I am Bound for the Promised Land; Oh, who will come and go with me, I am bound for the Promised Land." I observed that the congregation, led by the choir, did not enter into the singing with the zest I expected, and before the first stanza was finished there was a spirit-quenching levity that passed over the congregation. I looked around and the choir was almost convulsed with laughter, led by my brother-in-law to-be, Joe Brownlow, the very personification of dignity. His "holding-back straps" had broken, too. Needless to say, no one was saved. If possible, I felt more deflated than at the morning incident! How I wished that my train would be leaving in thirty minutes instead of the next morning. I had checked out of my rooming house the day before and was the guest of Joe and family until I should leave Monday. They got home from church before I did, and as I walked up to the front door I [Did he mean to write "they"? Editor] was singing, "I am Bound for the Promised Land!" Preachers, be careful how you select invitation hymns!
Now back to Chickasha and the GREAT EVENT. I left Columbia the next morning after the last Sunday in February, terminating nine months' ministry. I stopped in Jackson that night and renewed many acquaintances among the faculty and student body. I was asked to conduct chapel the next morning. Of course, I announced that I was "bound for the Promised Land." I related the incidents I have just recorded. The faculty and students roared with laughter, and concluded the service by singing "I am Bound for the Promised Land."
I resumed my westward journey soon after chapel service. I had a lay-over in Memphis of some hours during which I contacted many friends by phone. After a night's ride I arrived in Chickasha Wednesday morning. Brother Sherman met me at the depot and took me to the hotel, only three blocks from the church and the cottage home of the Brownlows. I barely had time to bathe, shave and change clothes before I was due at the Shermans where I would meet Cora and her parents and we all would have dinner there. That was Wednesday and the wedding was to be Thursday. So the rest of Wednesday and all of Thursday were filled with exciting activity in preparation for the event. It was to be a home wedding. As I remember, some 150 invitations were mailed to friends and relatives of the two families. Scores of beautiful and useful gifts came from far and near. Ladies of the church helped decorate, and the artistic display of the gifts added to the beauty of the several rooms.
Standing room was at a premium as Brother Sherman impressively spoke the meaningful words of the ceremony. The wedding cake and the individual cakes were the gift of a dear, long-time friend in Columbia. She baked them and so securely packed them for shipment by express that not one was even slightly mashed. They were delivered at the Brownlow home just four hours before the wedding. You may be interested to know that when we moved to Dallas in 1967, we found a member of the Park Cities churcha Mrs. Daviswho lived in Chickasha and was present at our wedding in 1913.
I know you would like for me to relate many more details of the wedding, but I am not gifted in writing up social occasions, describing what the bride wore, etc. After I had made those stupid mistakes in Columbia, you may wonder how I got along at the wedding. Of course, I was a nervous as a rabbit's nose, but at least I did not act like the nervous groom I heard of: at the conclusion of the ceremony he kissed the minister and handed the bride a ten-dollar bill.
In conclusion, I will sincerely say, "We were marked and have lived happily ever since." God surely intended it. If ever there was a match made in Heaven, ours was. We were so glad that Father and Mother Brownlow could be with us, not only because it afforded them the privilege of sharing our joys of the occasion, but because we were the recipients of Father Brownlow's generosity in sharing the expense of the event. In that connection, I might record the fact that after it was definitely decided at the time of my Christmas visit that the wedding would be in March, the question of the engagement ring came up. We looked at some at the local jewelry, and she agreed with me that they were too expensive for my meager finances. So, we resorted to the Sears-Roebuck catalogue and she selected one priced $20.00. I placed the order and in due time it came to her, but I did not have the privilege of placing it on her finger. I might also add that the marriage license cost me $2.00, and I gave Brother Sherman a whole $5.00 bill. So that made her cost me $27.00. But what a BARGAIN I did get.
The Executive Committee of the Chickasha Association was kind enough to allow my salary to begin March 1, though the wedding did not occur until the 6th. Therefore, we had no time for a honey-moon trip. Brother Sherman had obtained the pastor's permission for me to preach at the morning hour in the First church. I went to the Michigan Avenue church for the evening service. I preached to a large crowd, many of whom were curious to see and hear Cora Brownlow's brand new husband!
I found the field ripe unto harvest whether in towns, villages or rural sections. Wherever I went I sought to render a varied ministry, not only in the saving of the lost, but in the enlisting of the saved in the various activities of the churches: Sunday School, B.Y.P.U. (it was then), W.M.U. and its organizations down to the Sunbeams. Cora went with me as much as her physical strength and home duties would permit and rendered invaluable service in personal soul-winning and work with the women and children.
One of the most needed and helpful phases of my ministry was the conducting of Sunday School Institutes using as a guide one of the most helpful study course books the Sunday School Board has ever published, The Convention Normal Manual. Since it was a farming community, it was not always practical to undertake a revival meeting in the busy spring time; but I could enlist the leadership members in the study of the manual, holding both day and night services. One of the most delightful meetings of this sort was held at the small town of Purcell. The pastor was T. L. Holcomb, a graduate of Union University, a year or two ahead of me, and one of the best friends I ever had. What a joyful time we had together talking over old times at Union.
According to the scanty records I have, my ministry of six months ended September 7. A summary of my work as reported to the association shows the following: conversions, 201; reclaimed, 54; baptisms, 138; by letter, 60; one church organized with 17 charter members; an undetermined number of "Institutes;" many subscriptions of the Foreign Missions Journal and the Home Field. With deep gratitude to God, I must say that those six months were one of the most intensely active and richly rewarding periods of my whole ministry of equal length of time.
The next thing on schedule was to get ready to move to the Fort Worth seminary. In the meantime Father and Mother Brownlow, who had been living with usor was it the other way around? had yielded to easily understood "home sickness" and planned to return to Columbia. They said they would visit back there until we could find a house and get settled, and they would rejoin us; but at their age and in their hearts I am sure they knew that they were going back to their earthly home where they would remain until the Lord summoned them to their bright eternal home. That is what happened. Mother Brownlow "fell asleep in Jesus" the following March 9 (1914) just six months from the time they left Chickasha. Father survived her four years and six months. He and sister Kittye, Mrs. Buck Howard since June, 1913, visited us a few days in Jacksonville, Texas, only a few weeks before he joined Mother Brownlow in glory. After her death Father lived with Kittye and Buck in Columbia. His funeral was attended by more people than any other funeral in the memory of many of his friends. What a fruitful life, what a glorious "home going!" He being dead still speaks and will continue to speak until Jesus comes. The same is true of his devoted companion!
Since they were supposed to join us later in Fort Worth, they turned over to us all the furniture, enough to furnish a small four or five room cottage. When we and our furniture arrived at Seminary Hill, no house was immediately available and we had to store the furniture and take a room in Fort Worth Hall, taking our meals in the dining room. This was a providential arrangement, for since some time in July or August it was definitely and joyfully revealed to us that our first-born was due to arrive around April 1, and Cora needed the rest and release from house-keeping during the early months of her condition.
We finally secured a house and moved in time to get ready for the arrival of our darling baby girl, Mary Frances, born early in April, I'm sorry I do not remember the exact date. I know it was a Sunday morning in a small hospital near the seminary. Although we knew it was near the time, we agreed that I should go to my appointment some forty miles away on Saturday, hoping I would get back in time to perform my fatherly duties, namely, anxiety, nervousness and just plain stupidity. It was a country appointment and I could not be reached by phone and I did not get back until Monday morning. Our baby was more than 24 hours old when she first cast eyes upon her adoring daddy! Mother and baby were doing fine and papa gradually recovered and readjusted to this new phase of marned life.
Our cup of joy was over-flowing. Cora made a quick recovery and was able to care for our baby, including breast feeding. You will forgive my fatherly pride when I say our baby was beautiful: dainty and perfectly formed, with light golden curly hair and light blue eyesa perfect blonde. She came to be the pet of Seminary Hill, causing her parents' bosoms to swell with pardonable, parental pride. [Alliteration wholly unpremeditated!]
She had perfect health, cheerful and smiling until she was nine months old. She contacted a severe cold that went into pneumonia. Of course, she was the object of prayerful concern on the part of the faculty and student body, her anxious parents, and the skillful attention of the seminary physician. The Great Physician heard our prayers and blessed the means used. Later we found that the drastic treatment of pneumonia in those days, before the modern miracle antibiotics, called for the use of a powerful drug, creosote. In Mary Francis' case the use of the drug was efficacious in the immediate relief from pneumonia, but later it proved to be a contributing factor in her death when she was 15 months old. The details of that heartbreaking experience will come later.
Soon after our arrival at the seminary, the Chief Shepherd was gracious enough to provide me with small churches to shepherd (perhaps to practice on would be the more appropriate term for my ministry). The financial remuneration was not large, but sufficient to meet our necessary expenses. The churches served during my three and a half years in the seminary were: Bluffdale, Selden, Valley Grove and Tolar, and Addison, Oklahoma. All except Addison were in Erath County, Texas. Two (Selden and Valley Grove) were out in the country from Stephenville. The other two were located in Bluffdale and Tolar, small towns on the Santa Fe Railroad. A part of the time I was preaching at four fourth-time churches; at other times, one half-time and two fourth-time. I would leave Fort Worth Saturday morning on the Santa Fe and return Monday morning in time for classes. Money was not the only remuneration received, especially from the country churches. They would load me down with fruits, vegetables and fresh meat in season. I would leave home with a suitcase In which were my Bible, an extra handkerchief, shaving outfit and nightgown (a now out-of-date masculine, nocturnal equipment), and I would return with that piece of luggage bulging with good things to eat. It sure helped on the grocery bill.
There was an elderly couple in the Selden church that took a special delight in thinking up unique ways of doing nice and helpful things for their pastor. When we opened the suitcase on one occasion, we found several large bell peppersmore than we could eat before they spoiled, so we divided with our across-the-hall neighbors, the Perry Evans. Some days later we were down to the last two peppers and they were so withered I was about to throw them in the garbage. On opening one of them, out fell a silver dollar. We hurriedly opened the other one and out fell another silver dollar. Those dear old people had made a slit in the stem end of the peppers and inserted the silver coins. Excited, we ran across the hall, banged on the kitchen door and said, "Here, you can keep the peppers, but please let us have the stuffing!" But they vowed and declared that theirs were not stuffed. I immediately wrote our friends and told them how very much we enjoyed "stuffed" peppers, especially when they were stuffed with silver dollars.
I have already introduced Dr. George Crutcher, the man who wielded such an influence on me in the beginning of my ministry and was instrumental in lounging your grandmother into my life in the meetings he held in Lewisburg and Smyrna. Now he comes on the stage of action again: this time, February, 1914, soon after Mary Frances had recovered from pneumonia. A few years prior to this date he had become State Mission Secretary (now called Executive Secretary) of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, headquarters in Shreveport. He came to the seminary to enlist some students in evangelistic work during the three summer months. He would arrange for them to hold meetings in needy places. They would be on a stated salary and the offerings Could be turned into the Shreveport office. Although it Could mean that I would be absent from precious wife and darling baby three whole months, the experience and the financial remuneration would compensate in a large measure for the sacrifice entailed. Brother Sherman and Sister Sallie said they would take care of Cora and the baby. Prior to this time he had accepted a call and moved to Holdenville, Oklahoma. So at the close of the seminary term the last of May, I bade them a sad farewell, put them on a train for Holdenville, and I took the train to Eunice, Louisiana, my first meeting, deep in the heart of south Louisiana Catholicism.
When I got off the train and looked around, I thought I had landed in some run-down town in Italy. The little Baptist congregation met in a one-room building that was about to fall down, a disgrace to the name church, and the Baptists were nobodies. The Sunday the meeting began was some feast day of the Catholics, a day of frivolity and all sorts of worldly activities. There were numerous booths on the sidewalks selling almost every imaginable thing, including alcoholic liquors donated by the saloons which were far more numerous than churches. I had something of Paul's feelings when he arrived in Athens: "His spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the whole city given to idolatry." I had a "spiritual spasm" and I knew no better than to lash into those modern Philistines with the "jaw"-bone" of a zealous young preacher. I minced no words. I didn't call a spade a dirty device for removing soil from one place to another, not appropriate for dainty ecclesiastical hands to handle. Some were astounded, some infuriated and some were gloriously saved and baptized in the mill pond, the banks of which were ringed with the curious and cursing. Later on, while pastoring in Monroe, I was told by one of the members of the Eunice church that my life had been threatened and without my knowledge, he and another man followed me each night as I went from the church to the hotel. Members of the church said that was the greatest meeting ever held within their memory. Today the Baptists in Eunice are the leading people with a magnificent church building and just a few miles from there is located Acadia Academy where hundreds of young people have been educated in a truly scriptural and spiritual atmosphere.
I held meetings in other predominantly Catholic towns with varying success. My last meetings were held in towns located in Central and Northwestern Louisiana, the last one in a church in Shreveport. What a wonderful time I did have!
Before taking you back to Holdenville to be reunited with my precious wife and darling baby from whom I had been separated three long months, I must record one more happy event. My second meeting in south Louisiana was in Campti, a saw-mill town located in the central part of the state. There began the acquaintance of one of the noblest and best known men I ever knewB. B. McKinney, the "sweet singer" of Southern Baptist Israel. He was two years younger than I and had just begun to lead singing in revival meetings. His home was near Minden. Dr. Crutcher had discovered him and through his influence Ben was being kept busy in summer revivals. He led the singing in two, possibly three, of my meetings. His rapid rise in the field of evangelical music was phenomenal, fifteen of his hymns appear in The Baptist Hymnal. He wrote the words also of many of them. His tragic death in 1952 in an auto accident brought great grief to the thousands that had been blest by his sweet music and equally sweet personality. I sent his widow a message of sympathy; her acknowledgement of it was in the title of one of his most popular songs, "Have Faith in God." He, being dead, still sings in "the Invisible Choir." And multitudes on earth will continue to sing his songs until Jesus comes.
You can well imagine my joy when I embraced my loved ones again. Cora was in good health and Mary Frances was a smiling, healthy baby. While there, Cora met a fine Christian girl who felt that the Lord wanted her in missionary work, but her people were too poor to send her to the Seminary Training School for Women. The annual meeting of the association was held in Holdenville that summer, and your grandmother made an appeal for that group of churches to raise the money to send Grace Elliott to seminary. En a few weeks she was happily enrolled and President Scarborough helped out in her expenses by giving her the operation of the telephone exchange. Soon after graduation she applied to the Foreign Mission Board, was accepted and sent to China. There she met and married Dr. M. T. Rankin, who later became the secretary of the Board.
When we went to New Orleans in 1920, your grandmother's class of young married women and her G. Al's supported a mountain girl in Sylva Academy in Western North Carolina. The girl's name was Winona Hooper. After graduation at the academy she went to college, graduated there and resumed to her mountain people and became a teacher in the academy. In September 1933, we took Brownlow to Mars Hill Junior College, located in the mountains near Asheville, where he was enrolled. On our way back home we visited Winona in her home deep in the mountains a few miles from Robinsville in the southwestern tip of North Carolina. To get there we had to drive our new Plymouth over one of the roughest roads any car ever traveled. But it was worth it to see Winona and have her profuse and genuine expressions of appreciation for what your grandmother and her G. Al's had done for her. Winona had several brothers and sisters. They were living in a two-room cabin with a ladder leading up into a loft where evidently a number of the children were bedded down on pallets. Rarely have I seen such poverty. I thought of the words of the poet: "Full many a gem of purest rays serene, the dark unfathomed caves of oceans bear;" not only the oceans, but mountains too.
Soon after reunion with my happy little family in Holdenville, we returned to Seminary Hill for my second yeara year filled with serious study, many joys and two sad events. In December little Mary Frances contracted a cold that developed into pneumonia. I have recorded the progress of her illness and the weakened condition in which she was left due to the strong medicine used in combating the pneumonia. After the close of school in May, 1915 we returned to Tennessee to visit our people and proudly show them our darling baby. Father Brownlow had sent the money for our train fare. Columbia was our first stop. After visiting Cora's relatives in Columbia and Mt. Pleasant, we went to see my people in Marshall County. The June weather was so hot and enervating, the water was hard (limestone), the change of food, plus the weakened condition of bowels from the pneumoniaall combined to induce an attack of cholera infantum, a disease common to children in the summer. We immediately summoned the physician, Dr. Culbertson who, by the way, was brother to Jessie Culbertson, a member of my Haynes-McLean graduation class, a fine Christian, sympathetic and understanding man. After he had examined her and learned of her past illness, he told us that she was in a serious condition and advised that we hurry back to Columbia where we could get the services of a baby specialist. There were not many autos in the community at that time. A wealthy man, who by the way, was the man that proposed to Cora the same day I did seven years before, had the largest, most comfortable car in the community, offered to take us to Columbia. How kind! In my heart I freely forgave him for trying to beat me in the race for Coral Someone told us that he had said that he was not worthy of such a fine Christian girl and was glad that she married Luther Hastings, one of the finest young men he had ever known!
Although we were in Columbia in less than two hours and had her under the doctor's care immediately, we realized that she was growing weaker by the hour. As I recall, we arrived in Columbia Thursday. The Saturday following she went to sleep in the arms of Jesus who seemed to whisper, "I can take better care of her than you can, and I will give her back to you some sweet day." Of course we were heart-broken, but His sustaining grace enabled us to be submissive. The funeral service was held in the First Baptist Church Sunday afternoon with her white, flower-draped casket placed in front of the pulpit from which I had proclaimed the blessed Gospel of peace and hope through Jesus our Saviour during my ministry as pastor. Her precious little body was laid to rest in the Brownlow plot in the Columbia cemetery. How empty were our arms as we turned sorrowfully but trustingly away from her flower-covered grave. During the seven years of my ministry I had stood many times on the minister's side of the casket seeking to comfort the bereaved; but this was the first time Iand wehad sat on the other side of the casket looking up into the face of the minister as he sought to comfort us with the comfort wherewith we had comforted others.
Prior to this event, Father Brownlow had been the prime mover in establishing and supporting a mission of the church in South Columbia, a manufacturing community. He planned and made arrangements for me to hold a tent meeting beginning the very day that Mary Frances was buried. Of course, I did not conduct either service that day, but I did begin Monday night. Rarely, if ever in my long ministry, have I felt the presence and power of the Holy Spirit more than during the two weeks of the meeting that resulted in a large number (I have forgotten how many) of conversions and baptisms.
Just a few hours before Mary Frances died I was watching alone at her bedside. Cora was almost in a state of collapse and we had persuaded her to lie down in an adjoining room. I knelt by our precious child's bed and fully committed her to the Lord, assuring Him that, whatever was His will, I would with His help preach His blessed Gospel as long as He would give me breath. It took Cora a few days to get over the shock of having to give up our first-born, so she did not begin attending the services until nearer the middle of the first week, and then over the protest of sister Kittye, who felt that she would not be equal to the emotional strain. But when Father Brownlow mentioned to her that there was a large number of young women attending and he felt that she could lead them to the Lord, she said, "Let me go; the only way I can get rid of this heavy burden is to get the burden of lost souls on my heart and lead them to Jesus." As I remember, it was the following Sunday night when she was kneeling with several and praying for them at the altar and a number were happily saved, Cora rose up and began shouting the praises of the Lord. She was instrumental in leading several, including hard sinners, to an acceptance of the Lord. While kneeling at the mercy seat, Heaven came down, our souls to greet! What a meeting! All glory to God!
Soon after the close of the meeting it was necessary for us to bid our loved ones and friends a fond farewell and return to the seminary, for my little country churches needed our ministry. They asked me to conduct the summer revivals. Again and again the Lord was with us in great power. Down through the years I have been made to realize that one of the purposes the Lord had in mind in our bereavement was to enable us to comfort others with the same comfort wherewith He had comforted us. Read 2 Corinthians 1:36. Many times I have said to those that sat on the opposite side of the casket from where I stood, "I know how to sympathize with you; where you sit my wife and I have sat." We cannot truly sympathize with others unless we have passed through the valley of the dark shadows through which they are passing.
The fact that Cora's operation before we married did not prevent her from becoming a mother encouraged us to believe and hope the Lord would not leave us childless. Soon after our return to Seminary Hill it was evident that He was going to honor our faith and fulfill our hope. SO, dear children, in due time your father made his appearance. Naturally we thought a little girl would somehow take the place of the one we had lost, but the Lord decreed otherwise, and we were so thankful that He placed in our alms once more our own off-spring. Mother and son got along just fine, not to mention proud papa!" He was born in the room that Dr. B. H. Carroll died in on Seminary Hill, Sunday, March 5, 1916. Again, as in the case of Mary Frances, I was not at "the party." It was my day at the Tolar church and we hoped that the event could be postponed until I got back early Monday morning. I got the telephone message about middle of the afternoon and there was no train until the next morning. It was too far to walk, so there was nothing to do but try to preach that night, go to bed and stay awake nearly all night and catch the train next morning. "The Slow Train Through Arkansas" was a lightning express compared to that poky train that stopped at every whistle stop! I don't remember how I greeted the youngster when I finally got there. Very likely I said, "Hello, kid, what you doing here?" But one look and I decided to keep him. Aren't you glad we decided not to send him back and swap him for a girl? In that case, no telling who your father would have been! Selah! But we came very near losing him the way we lost his little sister. That is another story.
The summer of 1915 ended, I enrolled in my third year in the seminary. About that time the faculty invited me to stay another year and take a course leading to the Th. D. Degree. Although years were stacking up on me (I would be nearly 33 at time of graduation) I decided to stay.
The faithful little churches were making it financially possible. As we neared the end of the school year in May, no church desiring a full-time pastor living on the field had extended a call, so it looked like it would be advisable to remain on Seminary Hill through the summer and I would write the required thesis for my degree. Then all unexpectedly, the Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville in east Texas, invited me to visit them with view of a possible call. They extended the call and desired that we move on the field at the earliest possible time for they had been pastorless some months. They needed a pastor and much more. I needed the increase in finances; so I promised the faculty that I would write the thesis during my spare time in the pastorale if they would let me go on to Jacksonville immediately after the close of school in May. But I soon found out there was no spare time in a pastorale, living on the field, and I haven't written that thesis yet. Before leaving the seminary I stood the oral examination, receiving a high rating, but until I write that required thesis I can't be Doctor-ed. I am just a plain, old-fashioned Brother.
The church welcomed us in a great way. The membership was not large, numerically, but they were so faithful and cooperative. Jacksonville was the headquarters for the Baptist Missionary Alliance movement, and until a few years before we arrived, the First Church (BMA) was the only Baptist church in Jacksonville. A minority group decided to cooperate with the Convention Baptists, so they pulled out and organized the Central Church. Although the bitter rivalry between the two churches had subsided a bit, they still, like the Jews and Samaritans, had no dealings with one another. All in all it was a happy and profitable ministry, except the serious illness of Brownlow which I will relate later on.
I forgot to record at the proper time a tragic event during Christmas 1916 while we still lived on Seminary Hill. While Cora and Brownlow were spending the weekend with friends in Dallas and I was at one of my church appointments, Dr. Carroll's house, a part of which we had been occupying since we returned from our Tennessee trip, caught fire and was completely destroyed. Fortunately for us, it caught on the side occupied by the Perry Evans family and burned slowly, and that gave the students who had not been able to go home for the holidays time to get all of our furniture out except some stored in the garret. The Evans were also away. Their furniture was a total loss. The insurance company gave us a liberal settlement for our loss, including some of our valuable wedding presents, especially silverware. The interurban train from Dallas was due to arrive in Ft. Worth Monday morning about the time my train was due. It was understood that Cora and the baby would remain in the sitting room of the interurban until I arrived. I was greeted with, "Honey, the Carroll house was destroyed by fire yesterday."
This is how she found it out on the way over from Dallas. A student was on the same interurban with her, reading the morning paper that had a news item of the fire. He said, "Oh, Mrs. Hastings, did you know your house burned down yesterday?" What a shock to her, not knowing whether any of our furniture was saved! The first thing she thought of was her father's magnificent enlarged picture. Of course, I was equally shocked and we did not know until we arrived on the Hill what the situation was. A three inch snow had fallen before the hire, we found our furniture piled out in the snow just outside the yard fence. The boys had done a heroic thing in saving our furniture. They had even carried out two china cabinets loaded with china and silver. Two of her hand-painted plates were chipped a bit, but not a complete break. We stored everything except what was needed in two rooms which a student let us occupy until the following May when we moved to Jacksonville. Next to death in the family, a fire is the most upsetting experience one can have. May you never have that experience.
In July or August, 1917, Father Brownlow and Kittye visited us a few days. He was 76 and very feeble. It was the goodness of the Lord that enabled him to make the trip, for he passed on to his glorious heavenly home and reunion with so many loved ones just a few months later, October 20, 1917. Mother Brownlow had preceded him three and a half years earlier, March 9, 1914. Cora was not permitted to attend the funeral of either of her parents. It was not advisable that she attend Mother Brownlow's funeral, for little Mary Frances was due just a month later. I do not recall the situation that prevented her from going to Father Brownlow's funeral. In fact, she never was permitted to attend the funerals of any of her immediate family: mother, father, brothersJohn, Joe, Cecil, and sister Kittye, except that she was present at the funeral of sister Sallie, Mrs. George Sherman.
In the summer of 1918, Brownlow contracted the same bowel trouble that took away his little sister. He was critically ill from the very beginning. You can understand our deep concern. Good Doctor Bone was doing all he could, but seemingly to no avail. He advised that we lose no time in getting Brownlow to Dallas and placing him in Dr. Moore's Baby Camp, where he could be treated by specialists in baby diseases. I shall never forget the long, hot dusty trip over gravel roads most of the way in our T-model car. He was so sick and we were so troubled and anxious. Nor shall I ever forget his pitiful cry when we left him in the care of the doctors and nurses and the Great Physician. Mainly through diet he gradually began to improve. As I recall he was there two long weeks.
One of the several junior colleges owned and operated by Texas Baptists at this time was located at Rusk, just a few miles from Jacksonville. At the state Baptist convention it was decided to select an evangelist who would hold meetings principally in the respective areas around those institutions, get the names of prospective students, locate people who might be interested in financial support and in every other legitimate way promote the welfare of the colleges. I was selected to serge the Rusk College. Until my successor to the pastorale in Jacksonville was called and ready to occupy the pastor's home, we were permitted to remain in the homeuntil the first of January after I resigned in November, 1918, then we moved to Rusk. I was kept busy in meetings and conferences and enjoyed the work.
Early in the summer Cora became sick with an acute attack of colitis, a trouble that vexed her for years before we married. It became necessary for her to undergo an operation. She entered the Baptist Hospital in Dallas. It was a major operation. I am Sorry that I have forgotten the name of the chief surgeon, but I will never forget his kindness. When she was ready to leave the hospital, I asked him how much I owed him. He took me by the hand and said, "You owe me $1,000 dollars worth h of preaching the Gospel." Well do I remember the one who administered the anesthesia, Dr. Poe. Of course, I was in touch with the Baptist headquarters. A short time before she entered the hospital the secretary informed me that Ross Avenue Church was pastorless and wanted someone to hold a revival meeting. So it was arranged that while she was in the hospital I would preach for them every night. Dr. Poe was a member of the church and very graciously invited me to be their guest during the time. Our kind Dallas friends, the McGrews (I believe that was their name), took care of Brownlow. After her release from the hospital we returned to our Rusk home. Although she was making good progress from so serious an operation, still she was not able to keep house and look after Brownlow and I had to be away holding meetings. So we decided that she and Brownlow should go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for her to recuperate. We made the trip in our T-model Ford, the first car I ever owned, and were successful in getting a comfortable small apartment. I returned to resume my evangelistic work. As I remember, it was one long month before we felt that she was able to come home and take up the responsibilities of the home. I drove up there and brought them back home around the first of August.
Although my pastorale at Jacksonville was brief (two and a half years), on the whole it was a pleasant and profitable one. It was the first on-the-field pastorale, except a few months at Columbia, and our first time to live in a church-owned home for the pastor. Though small in number, the membership was loyal and progressive.... I had several opportunities to hold revival meetings, including my own. The church and community had their share of sorrow in connection with the closing year of World War I. Some of our finest young men were killed and others came back maimed for life. In the winter of 1918 many of our members, including myself, contracted the flu. Fortunately Cora and Brownlow escaped, I suppose they had already had their share of sickness. I was quite sick, but our good Dr. Bone and the Great Physician pulled me through.
Soon after Cora and Brownlow returned from Eureka Springs, I had two invitations from Louisiana churches, Highland Baptist in Shreveport and Coliseum Place in New Orleans, to come visit them with a view to a call. The Highland church had just been organized from a mission conducted by the First Baptist Church, Dr. M. E. Dodd, Pastor. The Coliseum church was the second oldest Baptist church in New Orleans, located in what was once the elite residential section of the city, but now in a rundown apartment section. What were once the mansions of the rich had been turned into apartments occupied by more or less transient people. After much prayer, we felt impressed to accept the invitation of the Coliseum church. I took the train for New Orleans, leaving Cora and Brownlow in Rusk. I preached at the morning and evening services, returning to Rusk the next day. In conference with the pulpit committee Sunday afternoon, I told them if they felt the leadership of the Lord in recommending that the church extend a call, and the church called, I would give it careful and prayerful consideration. The following Wednesday night the church in conference issued the call and notified me to that effect. I realized that it was a tremendous decision facing us. The church had not had a pastor for a year or more; Dr. W. E. Denham, one of the teachers of the recently founded Baptist Bible Institute, had been serving as interim pastor. My "father in the ministry," Dr. George Crutcher, was professor of evangelism and Dr. R. P. Mahon was head of the Missions Department. All three and their families were members and I, a young minister, would be preaching to experienced Bible teachers. Also a number of the students of the B.B.I. would be in the congregation. If ever we begged the Lord to show us His will, it was at this time. He did. I wired the church, we accepted the call and would be on the field the first of November, 1920.
This business of moving was getting to be monotonous: from Chickasha to Ft. Worth; from Ft. Worth to Jacksonville; from Jacksonville to Rusk; now from Rusk to New Orleans. When we and our furniture arrived, there was no place for either. The church had no home for the pastor. Apartments were either furnished or were too small to accommodate five rooms of furniture, or too costly for the small salary we were to get, $3,000 a year. A few months later we found a more commodious furnished apartment, at the same price on the famous St. Charles Avenue, some six blocks from the church. A Mrs. Brown, a lovely, devoted member of the church, owned the apartment. As I remember, we lived there until next moving time, September 1, 1921. In addition to the fine fellowship with Mrs. Brown, there were two special advantages in this location: first, we could sit on the balcony porch upstairs and watch the famous Mardi Gras parade; second, we were within fairly easy walking distance from the church, except when it was pouring down rain, a frequent inconvenience in New Orleans. Our next move was to an upstairs, five-room, unfurnished modern brick apartment at 2014 Prytania, ten blocks from the church. We lived there three years, then moved to another upstairs apartment near the Baptist Bible Institute. That was our last move in New Orleans until we moved to Monroe September 18, 1925, five years from the time we arrived in New Orleans.
We faced many problems during those five stressful years. For at least two years there was the problem of conveyance. Wherever we went, it was either take a street-car or walk. Until the advent of the automobile, the membership of the church, for the most part, lived not very far from the church, 1376 Camp Street, which was once the choice residence section of what might be called downtown New Orleans. Now the membership of the church was scattered far and wide, especially those who were able to live in newer, modern houses and own cars. Those who lived in the neighborhood of the church lived in apartments and for the most part were of the transient, middle and lower class of people. The membership, not having had a permanent pastor for almost two years, had not had much pastoral visitation, except as was done by Mrs. Switzer, a devoted member of the church who was given $50 a month to visit, chiefly in the hospitals and to the shut-ins.
After about two years of my trying to visit the scattered flock on foot and by street car, the church purchased a T-model Ford for the pastor's use. It was of the open, canvas-like top type with curtains to be buttoned on in case of rain. Frequently rains came so suddenly that by the time you got out, removed the curtains from under the front seat and got them in place you were as wet as if you had been walking in the rain. I recall one occasion of great embarrassment: we were on our way to a home wedding in a distant part of the city. When we left home there was no indication of rain, so I did not put up the curtains. When we were within a mile of the bride's home, one of those sudden squalls came up and the rain came down. I got out to put up the curtains and by the time I got them up I looked like a drowned henno, roosterin my Palm Beach suit. The time for the wedding was already come, and there was nothing else to do but go on and hope that the bride's father might have a spare suit I could borrow. By the time we arrived the rain had stopped as suddenly as it began and the sun was shining. Yes, the father had a spare suit, but it was two numbers too small; but I managed to squeeze into it. I looked like a stuffed sack of sausage. But the ceremony was said with all the dignity and solemnity that I could summons, and so far as I know they lived happily ever afterward. But that is not all. The groom gave me a five dollar gold piece. When we got to the car, Cora was anxious to know how much she was to get, for she always claimedand gotthe fees. I felt in the borrowed coat pocket andthere was a hole in the pocketand no coin! I sounded the alarm and several joined in search for the lost coin as diligently as the woman in the Parable of the Lost Coin. Finally some one found it in the grass in the front yard. It had dropped out as I walked across the grass to the car. Well, the course of true love never did run smooth, even for the officiating parson!
At my suggestion, after the close of a morning service the congregation gathered around the new car and we had a brief dedication service, dedicating it to the service of the Lord in the pastor's ministry. It should have a name. Several suggestions were offered. Finally "Ebenezer," suggested by Mrs. George Crutcher, was adopted and the service was concluded by singing:
Here I raise mine Ebenezer,
Hither by thy help I'm come, And I hope by thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
The words and name were so appropriate, especially when, in the winter rainy season, I would get off the paved streets and get stuck in a mud-hole. The car was not a gift to me, so it was registered in the name of the church as the owner. I had been driving the car quite awhile with no accident or untoward incident. One day the church received a card from the Traffic Department of the Police Headquarters which read something like this: "The Coliseum Place Baptist Church, 1376 Camp Street, New Orleans, Louisiana. Gentlemen: You are charged by Officer Gosling of speeding 30 miles an hour on St. Charles Avenue, between such and such streets on such a date. Unless satisfactory explanation is made immediately, you will be so charged and if guilty will be fined $10." Well, I immediately hastened to the Police Station with the card and said: "Gentlemen, I happen to be pastor of this church which is charged with exceeding the speed limit. I had no idea they were going so fast, and if you let them off this time, I assure you that I will slow them down!" They looked at me as if I was crazy and tore up the card. Next Sunday morning I said to the congregation, "Did you know that you were about to be arrested last week and limed for exceeding the speed limit? All this time I have been trying to get you to get a faster move on yourselves, and now the Powers-that-be in New Orleans say you are going too fast!" Then I took my text, "The King's business requireth haste." I Samuel 21:8.
The church was organized in 1851 and, through the generosity of a rich man from the North, was able to construct what, at that time, was a magnificent brick structure, consisting mainly of a beautiful and spacious auditorium with horse-shoe balcony around three sides. Underneath the auditorium was a street-level prayer auditorium with a few class rooms stuck around in cubby holes for the Sunday School. The building occupied every square foot of the lot, with no room for expanding facilities. In the last few years the church has acquired some lots adjoining the original building and Sunday School facilities have been more adequately provided. As was the custom in the days when the building was erected, it had a tall steeple at least 100 feet tall, which withstood all the raging storms and hurricanes that visited that area until a few years ago a hurricane (Beulah, I believe) blew off the steeple part of the tower about 60 feet from the ground. It was the last church in New Orleans to suffer that kind of loss through the years.
The seating capacity of the auditorium, including the balcony, was about 600. From the acoustical standpoint and worshipful appearance, it was one of the best I ever saw. We rarely ever needed the balcony, only when we had outstanding ministers. In 1922, I believe it was, the Baptist Churches united in inviting Dr. A. C. Dixon, the then retired pastor of the Spurgeon Tabernacle, London, England, to conduct an eight-day evangelistic meeting, afternoon and evening services. The auditorium was filled to capacity at the evening services. His messages were thrilling and soul-filling.
When we moved to New Orleans in 1920, there were only six full-time white Baptist churches. Only two of these, Coliseum and the First church, were self-supporting, the other four received aid from the Home Mission Board. There were a few missions scattered around over the city which later became independent churches. There were 100 Negro Baptist Churchesso many that it was said that many of the people of the city thought there were no Baptists except Negroes. Today there are almost 100 white Baptist churches and many missions. This phenomenal growth is largely due to the founding of the Baptist Bible Institute, authorized by the 1917 session of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans. Until the property located at 1220 Washington Avenue was acquired the newly formed school held its sessions in the Coliseum Church building. I was elected secretary of the Board of Trustees in 1921 and served in that capacity some three or four years after moving to Monroe in 1925.
The detailed account of events in the five years we lived there would fill a sizeable volume, so we will have to limit this record to some of the outstanding experiences, some happy and some otherwise.
Although we had never lived in a high altitudenever more than 1000 feet above sea-level, we had to get used to the climate of New Orleans. Due to its low elevation (from five below to 25 feet above sea level) the climate was very enervating, especially in the late spring and summer when the humidity and rainfall were so excessive. In the winters the temperature rarely ever registered freezing point, but the cold winds coming over Lake Pontchartrain were bone-chilling. In spite of the adverse climatic conditions our health was good. We had no serious illnesses.
In March 1921 a very sad event occurred in Sister Lessie's family in Tennessee. A freak tornado in a path less than 100 yards wide struck the community of Rich Creek where they lived and utterly destroyed their house, killing her husband and child. For days Lessie was unconscious and we almost despaired of her life. Finally she regained consciousness and one of the saddest duties I ever had to perform was to tell her that she was a widow and childless. Clarence and their little girl were buried in the same grave. Just across the road from Lessies's house there was a blacksmith shop. Will Lane, one of the best friends I ever had, was there having his horse shod. He heard the roar of the approaching storm, and said to the smith, "Yonder comes a twister; I am going across the road to see if I can help Clarence and Lessie." He too was instantly killed. When Lessie regained consciousness and her memory, she said that all four of them were huddled in one corner of the kitchen praying when it struck. Some two hundred yards from their house was a country store. The storekeeper and other witnesses stood on the store's porch and watched the storm without having to hold their hats on. They said the house was lifted intact to the Bee tops and burst as if a keg of powder had been exploded in it. Three were taken, one was left.
Miraculously preserved from death, Lessie made a quick recovery from her injures with no sears or other evidences of permanent nature. She accepted her great loss in a beautiful spins of Christian submission to what must have been God's will. Though she could not understand she could and did trust. At our invitation and insistence she came to visit us in New Orleans about mid-summer. The change of environment helped her to overcome her grief and shock. Surely God had spared her for some great service in His kingdom. After much prayer for His guidance, she decided to enroll in the Baptist Bible Institute in September of that year (1921). She enjoyed the studies, made good grades and graduated in May, 1924. She found part time employment in the American Bible Society's Dispensary, which enabled her to buy her clothes, books, fees, etc. She stayed in our home as a member of the family. Of course we made no charge for room and meals. She was a great help to us. Upon her graduation, the Coliseum Church employed her as church secretary, a position she continued to hold some time after we left New Orleans in September, 1925. One of our deacons and clerk of the church was Willie H. Eggerton, a young widower. He and Lessie fell in love with each other and married in 1932. Lessie's life is an example of how "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm."
I kept no diary of my five years ministry in New Orleans. However, memory recalls far more incidents than I have time and space to record. Therefore I will confine myself to the recording of some of the outstanding events and accomplishments. The one that stands above all others in its longtime, far-reaching effects was the construction of the first church-owned radio station in New Orleans. The First Church of Shreveport had been broadcasting their services over their pastor's (M. E. Dodd) station a year or more before Coliseum went on the air the first Sunday in January, 1924, call letters, WABZ, 50 watts power. Some other churches in the city had broadcast a few services from the station studio or perhaps by remote control, but no other church owned a station. A number of reasons made it expedient that Baptists especially should avail themselves of this new and effective means of "shouting the Gospel from the house-top" as well as from the pulpit where the shouting never got beyond the inner walls of the auditorium.
First, it gave the prevailing Catholic population an opportunity to hear the Gospel and get a correct understanding of these "peculiar people" called Baptists. They were forbidden by their church to attend Protestant services and, in fact, they were forbidden to listen to such heretical services over radio, but many of them secretly violated the latter prohibition.
Second, New Orleans was the second largest port in the United States. The radio enabled seamen from over the world to hear the Gospel while they were in port, and even as they approached and departed from the port. Not a few of them while in port over the weekend came to our services to see the source of messages they had picked up as far away as 150 miles at sea. Although WABZ was a low powered station, yet under favorable circumstances it could be picked up hundreds of miles away. We had reports from as far away as Ohio and Connecticut. Scores of listeners in Louisiana and Mississippi would acknowledge reception and express appreciation of messages.
You will be interested to know how the station was financed and built. The project was not authorized by the church. Only a few members were interested in it. In fact, some opposed it as an innovation that would not justify its cost. With a little help from a few individuals in the church and a few donations of equipment from merchants (batteries, grids, etc), I financed the project out of my small salary.
There was a member of the congregation that gave his time free of charge in assembling the parts as I secured them, shopping here and there and everywhere I could find the cheapest price. His name was Bradberry; everybody knew him as "Brad." I have forgotten, if I ever knew, his given name. He had been in the employ of the telephone company for years, but had been retired on a liberal pension due to a fall from a pole that broke his legs and left him a cripple. He was a wizard in electronics. He would make out a list of parts needed and I would go shopping for them. Sometimes I would have to wait for another payday to have cash for the purchases. We were some three or four months getting the bootleg station ready for federal inspection and licensing. The cost of materials was around $250 and the whole thing, including the barrel-type aerial stretched above the roof of the church building, could have been loaded in a Ford pick-up Buck. In fact, the transmitter was located in a little cubby hole back of the pipe organ, no larger than the average clothes closet. When the federal inspector saw it, he had a big laugh, but it passed all tests and, as I said, we received a telegram from Washington authorizing us to begin broadcasting January 1, 1924.
As the years went by the station was given authority to step up the wattage until it reached 250 watts. Later James A. Noe of Monroe, who owned a large station there, desired a station in New Orleans. He brought the broadcast rights of WABZ from the church, changed the call letters to WNOE, and increased its power to 50,000 watts. In addition to the purchase price (I do not know how much) the church retained broadcast privileges for their Sunday morning services for 99 years. Wow! What a big oak from so small an acorn. Ninety-nine years, plus the yearsten or twelve, at least before the sale of the station add up to more than 110 years of broadcasting the Gospel, if Jesus delays His coming that long.
The most expensive single item in the equipment was the large transmission tube$50. Like all tubes they would burn out occasionally. Guess I would holler too loud, eh? The next most expensive was the microphone$25. Brad's ingenuity came to a temporally relief of my almost depleted bank account. He sawed a coconut shell into two equal parts, scraped out the inside of one of the halves, neatly polished the outside, cut a hole in the end large enough to fit over the screw-end, then screwed the phone mouthpiece back in place. That secured the enlarged mouthpiece so it would pick up increased sound waves. "Necessity is the mother of invention."
Facing this page, there is a picture of the Church showing the steeple before it was blown off. On a cold December day, I went up inside the tower and steeple as far as that last small window, dropped a rope down to Brad who was on the cave of the roof. He fastened the rope to the end of the aerial and I drew it up and securely fastened it to a beam in the steeple. Then Brad "cooped" his way along the cave to the other end, and by means of a long rope attached to that end of the aerial, he was able to draw it up and fasten it to a ten-foot two-by-four that had been bolted onto the gable end of the roof. The Lord really took care of Brad and me in this dangerous operation.
Before we leave New Orleans, I must relate two other incidents: one near Magic, the other humorous. In the summer of 1914 while engaged in the evangelistic work in Louisiana, referred to earlier in my story, I held a meeting in Ansley, a north Louisiana saw-mill town. The outstanding member of the church was the company doctor, Dr. McBride. Rarely have I ever met a kinder, more loving, devoted Christian than he. He had two sons that became doctors. One of them, Douglas, was interning in Charity Hospital in New Orleans when we went there in 1920. Douglas was a Christian, but having served in World War I and now subjected to all the temptations of a young unmarried doctor in a big wicked city, his noble father was concerned that Douglas should have someone who would take a special interest in him and help him in his spiritual life. Soon after we moved to the Prytania Apartments, I had a letter from Douglas's father asking me to show a special interest in his son and if we had a spare room let Douglas share the influence of our home.
We had a spare room and Douglas, who had joined the Coliseum church in the meantime, was only too glad to come and be our "adopted son." He had finished his intern work and had become an associate with one of the finest Baptist doctors in the city. In the membership of our church there was a beautiful girl in her early twenties, some years younger than he, who fell in love with him. He had great admiration for her, dating her occasionally. One day the girl's mother phoned Douglas at the office and told him that Madge was quite sick. Douglas said he would have a prescription sent out and after office hours he would come to see her. He was detained in his office rather late and it was after he had supper that he came by his room to change clothes before going to see Madge. About 7:30 our phone rang. It was Madge's mother asking for Douglas. She said Madge is violently nauseated, spitting up blood. He told her that he would be there at once. As he turned away from the phone he fairly screamed, "Oh, God, either I or the pharmacist made a terrible error and Madge has taken poison. Brother Hastings, if you and Mrs. Hastings ever prayed, pray now." Of course we assured him that we would be on our knees in prayer. With that he rushed out of the house.
It was Brownlow's bedtime, 8 o'clock. He had put on his "nighties" and was in his little bed in the sleeping porch adjoining our room. He learned to read before he was six and he would always insist on reading some of his Bible before going to sleep. At this time he had just passed his sixth birthday. As we were about to kneel in prayer we heard him reading, "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them." Mark 16:18. What a coincidence! He had been oblivious to the exciting incidents that had preceded his reading. It was nothing less than the Lord saying to us, "Here is the promise for you to claim in prayer." Be assured that we prayed in faith, claiming that promise.
Douglas had gone by the Touro Infirmary on his way to Madge's home and obtained a stomach pump and upon his arrival pumped the poison from her stomach and in less than an hour Madge was sitting up in bed, chatting and laughing with her doctor and members of her family. Now I know you would expect the story to end in "they afterwards married and lived happily ever after," but not so. In a way, Douglas loved and admired her, but did not feel that they were intended for each other. About a year later Madge married another fine young man. Douglas manned one of Brownsville, Tennessee's, finest young women.
The other incident also involves Brownlow's rather extraordinary ability to read. Soon after he was five, we enrolled him in a pre-school private school just a few blocks from where we lived. From an earlier age we had read to him Bible stones in Hurlburt's Stories of the Bible. He loved them so much he wanted to read from the Bible itself. Before he was of school age he could read more or less acceptably the four Gospels. [Ed: I believe Dad is stretching it a bit!] With a little coaxing he could read passages, even in the Old Testament that contained more difficult passages. In our morning devotions he insisted on taking his turn in reading the passages assigned in the Daily Bible Readings. One morning the assignment was in the eleventh chapter of I Kings, beginning with the first verse. I had read the first verse, his mother read the second, and the third verse was his. This is the way the verse reads: "And he (Solomon) had seven hundred wives...and three hundred concubines". etc. But this is the way he read it: "And he had seven hundred wives...and three hundred combinations." "Bully for you," I said: "that is the best translation I ever heard!" The rest of that verse reads "and his wives turned away his heart." It took seven hundred wives to turn Solomon away from the path of rectitude; in many instances today it takes only one! What a man was Solomon! Brownlow tells it that he said "cucumbers" instead of "combinations". Take your choicethere isn't enough difference between them to argue about!
I must hurry on to Monroe, Louisiana, for it will require many pages to record just the highlights of my ministry of 21 years there. In mid-summer 1925, I received an invitation to come to Monroe and preach in view of a possible call to become pastor of the First Church. In conference with the pulpit committee after the morning service, I told them that if they felt impressed and unanimously recommended that the church extend a call, I would give it serious consideration. The following Sunday the church in conference extended a unanimous call and through The chairman of the Pulpit Committee notified me by phone. A few days later I wired my acceptance, effective September 1.
Our furniture was loaded in a railroad freight car, and we journeyed overland "a la Ford." It was a long, hot and dusty drive, for not much of the way was concreted gravel, and not much of that was black-topped. The members of the church gave us a warm welcome and we were soon comfortably housed in the pastor's home, a two-story, eight room buff-colored brick on the bank of the beautiful Ouachita River, 1410 South Grand Avenue. At one time the Ouachita (an Indian name) was rated the second most beautiful and scenic river in the United States, but I am sorry to say that even while we lived there it became polluted by the huge paper mill in West Monroe and by the gas and oil wells in the up-stream regions. We were the second pastor to occupy the pastor's home. It was built during the pastorale of my predecessor. He and his family occupied it only two years before we moved in. That was the first rent-free house we had occupied since leaving Jacksonville, Texas, in 1919, six years before. Monroe was my third and last pastorale after graduating from the Seminary in 1917, a span of 32 years.
I said the church gave us a warm welcome. I soon discovered that a small number were reluctant to accept the former pastor's resignation and were not too enthusiastic about my call to be pastor. It was not that they had anything against methey would have felt that way about anyone else, due to their intense devotion to him. To aggravate the situation he continued his residence in the city and his membership in the church after his resignation and for six months after I became pastor. You can understand how slow his ardent friends were in transferring their allegiance from him to me. He was still their pastor, though not their preacher. If they got sick they wanted him to visit them and in some cases they would keep their sickness a secret from me until he had visited them so they could blame me for my tardy visit. If any married, he was the officiating minister, and if there was a death in the family he was the minister in charge. Only to know him was to realize how easy it was for them to almost idolize him and how difficult for them to give him up. He had one of the most fascinating personalities I ever saw. He drew people to him with a magnetism that was almost irresistible. He was a promoter and builder, and when he was called to the Monroe church it was with the idea that he would be able to rally the membership in the construction of much-needed facilities for Sunday School. For some reason, he was unable to rally the membership in a building program, and when I was called it was understood that I would major on the accomplishment of the task in which he had supposedly failed.
When I arrived, I found the Intermediate Department of the Sunday School and part of the B.Y.P.U. (as it was called then) meeting in a dilapidated, ramshackled residence, rat-infested and foul-odored from its decay. The church had previously acquired the property adjoining the church for the much-needed educational building. The main part of the Sunday School was scattered around in the auditorium and various cubby holes in the church building. When the building was constructed in 1911 they did not excavate a basement under the building. Later on the men of the church, working mainly at night, had dug out, with pick and shovel, a half basement to provide roomsuch as it wasfor the Juniors.
About the middle of my predecessor's five-year ministry, having failed so far in the church's building program, he turned to the hospital situation. The Catholics had a monopoly, the St. Francis Hospital being the only one in the city. With the encouragement and financial backing of a few doctors and moneyed men both in and out of the Baptist church he launched a program to construct another hospital. Although it was a small hospitalsome twenty rooms it cost a lot of money to erect and equip. So he found himself to be pastor of a large (1200 members) church and business manager of a hospital that required a lot of agonizing attention. This did not set well with many of his congregation who said, "We did not call him to build a hospital but to promote the building of our sorely-needed Sunday School facilities." He was urging the congregation to join him in providing the finances for building and operating a hospital. To pressure the church in coming to his aid he would threaten to resign. After two or three resignations which the church rejected, he offered one too many, and to his surprise the church accepted his resignation. With this "sick" hospital on his hands he could not consider accepting a pastorale elsewhere; he would have to stay by the hospital until he could find a buyer and relieve him, and that did not occur until February after I became pastor the preceding September. He finally sold it to a fine Baptist doctor from Mississippi, Dr. A. D. Tisdale.
Now having said all this about the problem that he created (unintentionally, I am sure) by remaining in the city those six months after I became pastor, I must say that he tried to let me be pastor, even his pastor, but his friends would not let him. In 1958, when I retired and we moved to Knoxville, some of our friends in Monroe asked why we did not come back there and make that our home. My reply in substance, was that when a pastor resigned he should move off the field and let his successor have it. If a man and woman dissolve the manage relationship and she manses another man, the two men should not undertake to live under the same roof. When I resigned the church in 1949, I told them that I would be with them one month longer and would be moving 700 miles away, and they must not be calling me back to marry the living and bury their dead. If they wanted me to minister on either occasion, hurry up and marry or die so I could perform my pastoral duty before I left. In spite of that admonition, we had been at Clear Creek only two weeks when one of our best friends died suddenly and a telephone call came for me to come and conduct the funeral. Although they had no pastor, I was so far away that if I came to them and did not come when others were bereaved before they had a pastor, I would be showing partiality if I came to one and did not come at the request of all. A few years later, when we were visiting Monroe at the invitation of the church and my successor, Dr. James T. Horton, an elderly member of the church told me that she had it in her will that I was to conduct her funeral and my expenses paid out of her estate. I told her as kindly as I could that I would be unable to comply with her request.
The third meeting of the Baptist World Alliance was held in Stockholm, Sweden, July 21-27, 1923. The church voted to send their pastor (and perhaps his wife too, I am not sure) and gave him a "love offering" to cover expensesseveral hundred dollars. He had been their pastor less than three years. When I had been pastor the same length of time, the fourth meeting of the Alliance was to be held in Toronto, Canada, June 23-29, 1928. The Church voted, not very enthusiastically, to send us to Toronto and appointed Mr. Masling to raise the estimated expenses, $250. I say "not very enthusiastically," for at that time my popularity was at lowest ebb. I had even received anonymous letters suggesting that, due to my unpopularity, I should resign: I would never be able to lead the church to build the educational building. When the time came for us to leave, Mr. Masling had received $110, less than half the estimated cost of sending us to Toronto. That was interpreted to indicate my downgraded popularity in comparison with that of my predecessor. The church had sent him across the ocean and now they were willing to send me to Canada but, so far as the amount given me was concerned I could stay there! So the Deacons said, "We will recommend that the amount raised be supplemented out of the missions budget. That aroused my righteous indignation. I said, among other things: "I will not accept it as a gift, only as a loan, which I will repay in monthly installments as my salary will permit." I shall never forget the Sunday morning, some months later, when I waved the last check at the congregation as I dropped it in the collection plate and said, "Paid in full, if you please!"
Under those rather strained conditions we took off in our new Buick, Brownlow and Sister Lessie with us. What a wonderful trip by way of Detroit into Canada; then returning by way of Niagara Falls, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington. But what did we find on our return to Monroe after these three wonderful weeks? A resolution from the Board of Deacons calling for my resignation! The plan was to offer the resolution at the close of the Sunday morning servicesthe very first Sunday after our return.
Now let me tell you of the under-handed work that led to the resolution. You can hardly believe that men who claimed to be Christians would resort to such methods to oust the pastor. Let me say that most of them saw their awful mistake and later repented and apologized to me in a written letter. Here is the story of the plot that failed. The next Sunday after we left for Toronto, a motorcade of some six or eight cars traveled to...carrying the leading followers of the former pastor. After hearing him preach that morning they all had dinner together in a private dining room of the hotel. There the plans were discussed and perfected. Some time after they returned to Monroe, perhaps near the time of our return to keep their plans from leaking out, a secret meeting of the Board of Deacons was called to meet in the home of the main leader of the plot. I say "secret" for my associate, C. B. Hall, was not invited to the meeting. W. L. Stevens, a deacon and one of the best friends I ever had, was chosen to deliver the resolution to me late Saturday, the next day after we got back. He reluctantly agreed to deliver it. But he decided that he would not deliver it then, for it would upset me for the services next morning. The chairman of the deacons was on the front seat when I went into the pulpit, wholly ignorant of the trap that was set for me. However, I thought something was up, for he was never known to sit on the front seat. He was to read the resolution to the church at the close of the service and move its adoption. I was full of my message and, if ever the Holy Spirit was with me, He was with me that morning. I told of high points of the Alliance meeting and the many blessings of the trip. Of course, I said nothing to indicate that I knew about the resolution that was to be offered. There was an unusually large crowd present, but I attributed it to the fact that they had come to welcome the pastor and family back home.
To go back a little: A few days before we left I had a letter from the chairman of the committee to make arrangements for visiting ministers to occupy pulpits of Toronto churches the Sunday of the Alliance meeting, asking me to preach in one of the churches at the morning hour. It turned out to be one of the largest churches in the city. At the close of the morning service, the one in chargenot the pastor, for he was sick and unable to attendsaid they had not heard from the one chosen to preach at the evening hour, and asked if I could preach again. I agreed. The congregation was typical of modern downtown churches, very formal and precise. I had to be robed. But I didn't let those things hinder me; I just "let my hair down" and preached to them like I was preaching to a country church in the red hills of northern Louisiana, and they liked it. When we got home, I found a letter addressed to "The Board of Management," First Baptist Church, Monroe, Louisiana. It was from the official Board of the church where I had preached, and they were very profuse in their appreciation of my messages, thanking the Monroe church for lending their pastor to them for those services, and congratulating them upon having such a learned, Bible minister. I am surprised the letter ever got into my hands, but I carried it into the pulpit that morning.
After relating the thrill I had in preaching to the Toronto congregation, I read the letter and commented that "Baptist churches do not have a Board of Management," though there are times when the deacons think they are a "Board of Management." Of course, I said it in a joking sort of way, wholly innocent of what had happened and what was supposed to happen at the close of the service. How the guilty ones must have flinched as they took it that this was my challenge to their plans to oust me. It was a case of "When ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." At any rate the resolution was not presented to the church as planned and it was not even presented to me until the next day.
Of course, it upset me at the time, but I had all the week to cool off and pray for wisdom in my response to it the next Sunday. An even larger crowd was present than the previous Sunday, for it had got around that the pastor was being asked to resign. The gist of my remarks was something like this: "The resolution is kind enough to say that I need not make my resignation effective immediately, but for me to begin to look around for another church. You are asking me to do a thing for which you would never have called me; for if I had been asked to resign from my former pastorale and you knew I was "looking around" for a place to land, you never would have called me. Before accepting your call, I looked UP, not around. The Chief Shepherd assured me that it was His will for me to shepherd this flock. He called me to preach. He called me to preach to you and, until He calls me elsewhere, HERE I STAND, so help me, Lord." At the close of the service the over-whelming portion of the congregation pushed their way to the front to assure me that I was their pastor and they would stand by and support me. Gradually the storm subsided and I preached with power and unction I had never known.
Soon members of the opposition began to lose jobs, some died or moved to some other church, and even out of the city. God had put fear in their hearts. More than once they heard me refer to I Samuel 26:9, "And David said unto Abishai, 'Destroy him not (Saul, David's enemy); for who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and not be guiltless!" Well, when I began this story I did not intend to stretch it out in so much detail, but as Pilate said, 'What I have written, I have written."
Now let us return to the early days of my ministry when "the honeymoon," was still on! The church had been accustomed to having two revival meetings a year, May and November. Soon after we arrived, it was time to have our Fall revival. They asked me to do the preaching, and since they had no one to lead the singing (the little choir of six voices was led by a woman who was a Presbyterian), at my suggestion they invited Edgar Speannen, a student in the Bible Institute in New Orleans, to lead the singing. Each morning I preached from the Book of Acts. I have never seen a congregation more eager and hungry for the preaching of the Word. We had a gracious revival and many were added to the church.
A rather humorous incident occurred the first Sunday of the meeting. The city had just installed traffic lights in the downtown section, quite a novelty. To warn motorists and pedestrians of the change of lights from green to red, or vice-versa, an electric bell installed on the light pole would ring. The busiest intersection was at the corner where our building was located; it was not more than fifty feet from the main entrance of the church to the bell. Although it was early November, it was a warm, spring-like day, all doors and windows were open and the ringing of the bell could be distinctly heard during the services. Edgar was singing "When They Ring the Golden Bells for You and Me." Each time, he got to the chorus, "Don't you hear the bells now ringing," that traffic bell would tear looseclatter-r-r-r-r. It was so noticeable that it created a spirit of levity in the congregation and spoiled the spiritual effect of his singing. He had one of the sweetest solo voices I ever heard, but earthly bells interfered with the sweet harmony of the heavenly bells.
After the revival, as we were nearing the end of the year, the church budget came up for some much-needed revision. The fiscal year of the church had been the same as the associational year, October 1 to September 30. It seemed desirable to change it to the calendar year. That was done in face of the opposition of some who were opposed to any sort of change. As I remember, the budget under which they were operating when I came on the field was $20,000. At the end of the month, if there was not enough money to meet all the budgeted items, the treasurer would pay the salaries and local bills, and if there was anything leftusually there was very little, if anyit went for denominational causes. The various organizations of the Church, Sunday School, B.Y.P.U. and Missionary Societyhad been allowed to have their own treasuries and dispense their own offerings in whatever way they wanted to, without the church's knowledge or sanction. That, of course, meant that the church treasury got only the leavings and there wasn't much left. What a time we had getting a unified budget with all offerings coming into the church treasury and the church financing the essential needs of its organizations! The so-called organized adult classes were our biggest problem. Their memberships were made up of the people most able to give, but their offerings were not getting into the treasury of the church. The church, for the most part, was financing its program out of the left-overs. It took two or three agonizing years to get things worked out and running with some degree of smoothness.
About the time we arrived in Monroe, Cora's brother Joe and sister Ida, on the advice of his doctor, went from Columbia to Crystal Springs, Mississippi, to seek relief from Joe's diabetes through the mineral waters. He had been a diabetic for years and the disease was in its last stages. After being there two weeks with no noticeable improvement they decided they would go on down to New Orleans, visit us and see if they could find any help in some hospital in that city. Just as they were about to leave Crystal Springs someone back in Columbia wrote them that we had just moved to Monroe, so they came to Monroe instead. Their coming before we hardly got set up in normal housekeeping, plus the overwhelming demands upon our time and attention in getting the church situation in hand, was more than Cora could stand. She must have a maid to take the burden of the cooking, the washing and ironing. We looked around for one, following suggestions of some of our members, but found none that was suitable. The day before Joe and Ida were due to arrive, we were having our morning Bible reading and prayers. We were desperate. I well remember that Cora prayed, "Oh, Lord, Thou knowest our situation and our needs, and Thou hast promised to supply our needs according to Thy riches in Christ Jesus; so please send us someone todaythe very one we need!" In less than an hour there was a knock at the back door. It was a neatly dressed, pleasant-speaking black woman. She said, "I heard that you needed a maid, and I need work."
Cora said, "Come right in, you are hired this very moment. The Lord sent you in answer to our prayers." That was Annie Burkes. She remained with us 19 years. She took over all the housework, releasing Cora to visit with me in the homes and hospitals. My wife's compassion for the unsaved and her Christ-like sympathy for those in sickness and So~TOW ???? just doubled the effectiveness of my ministry. I have no words to adequately say what she has meant to me as a faithful wife and blessed companion in my ministry. If ever a minister had a God-given "help-meet", I am that minister and she is that gift. Just thinkthe Lord let us work and pray together 57 years.
Not only did Cora need a maid to take the burden of the housework but I needed someone to share the many responsibilities of the church work. The janitor was the only full-time employee when I arrived. A lay member of the church was superintendent of the Sunday School, and was paid a small salary for part time office work, mainly keeping records, such as they were, and looking after the finances, banking the money and writing checks. I needed some one who could combine educational and financial responsibilities and give his whole timesomeone trained for that work. After two years, I finally persuaded the church to employ C. B. Hall, who had graduated from the Baptist Bible Institute in New Orleans and had had two years training in a church in Mississippi. He was a true yoke-fellow and a great help, but the problems were too big and the going too rough for his limited experience. When he received a call to become assistant pastor of the First Church, Eldorado, Arkansas, he accepted, after being with me two years. That was in 1929.
In our search for his successor, we realized that the next combination man must be someone who could take over our deficient music program under the leadership of the Presbyterian lady, a good woman with plenty of musical ability, but she had only a very select group of eight in her choir. We needed someone who could build a large choir and lead congregational singing. After much searching for the man we needed we were led to extend the call to L. A. Stulce, a graduate from the Ft. Worth Seminary. He accepted and moved on the field with his wife, Myrtle, and daughter, Virginia, February, 1930. I will have much to say later on about his marvelous ministry of six years.
Before the coming of Brother Stulce, I had no church bulletins or other church records, and I was too busy to write diaries, so for the first five years of my ministry in Monroe I am dependent upon my memory to record a few of the outstanding events of those years.
My memory recalls the following. First, in August, 1927, the world Congress on Alcohol was held at the famous Winona Lake, Indiana. The Governor of Louisiana appointed me to represent our State. Every State in the Union was represented and people from scores of foreign countries were there. Cora, Brownlow and, I believe, sister Lessie accompanied me. We went by train. It was a wonderful meeting, a great experience. There were high hopes that National Prohibition in the United States, then in effect, would extend to all the nations of the world. How sadly that hope failed to be realized we all know. One of the first acts of President Roosevelt was to close the banks and open the saloons by repealing the Prohibition amendment with the assurance that revenue from the legal sale of alcoholic beverages would balance the budget. On the other hand it resulted in unbalancing the budget and the behavior of those who patronized the saloons. The revenues of the wicked never equal the cost of crime they produce.
One more never-to-be-forgotten event in 1927 was the devastating Mississippi flood which caused our beautiful Ouachita river to back up into our house. We had to move all first floor furniture to the second floor and seek shelter in one of the Sunday School rooms at the church, where we lived until the waters receded and the house could be put in order, about four weeks. The Arkansas and Mississippi levees broke and allowed the water to come down through that portion of Louisiana that extends from Monroe to the Mississippi River. One could have launched an outboard motor canoe in East Monroe and gone to Vicksburg, Mississippi, a distance of 85 miles. It was a major disaster. We endeavored to protect our house by sand-bagging a levee around it, but it failed to hold and the waters stood three inches on our ground floor. Five years later (1932), about the same time of the year, we had an even greater flood two inches higherbut our house was not flooded. Soon after the 1927 flood, a concrete protective wall had been erected along the bank of the river.
In 1931 under the leadership of Mr. Stulce, a "Unified Budget" was adopted and put into operation. I grew poetical and composed the following:
Now let us budge with all our might,
Until we budge the budget;
For if we do the thing that's right,
We never will begrudge it.
This was published in many denominational papers without giving me credit. Oh well, such genius (?) is never recognized until one dies!
The record shows that the budget was subscribed by early January. Finally, plans for the much-needed educational building were completed and adopted. Looks like we might "begin to commence" to build. But on every hand we hear the old cry, "This is not the time to build."
Mr. Stulce (hereafter, I'll call him "Lee.") began his third year February 26, 1932. Every day gave convincing proof that he was the man we needed. More power to him!
Your Aunt Lessie and Willie Eggerton married on September 2. She had been a widow more than 11 years, and his first wife had been dead a number of years. He had a son, Hampton, by his first wife. Lessie made Willie a good wife and good mother for Hampton.
Financial conditions the past few years had become increasingly worse since the terrible stock market crash. They reached their lowest ebb in 1933. With the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the U.S. the banks were all closed and "THE DEPRESSION" was upon us. It affected every phase of our lives, but the churches were the hardest hit. In hard times, people begin to economize by reducing or entirely canceling their church offerings. Our offerings were greatly reduced and we had to revise drastically our budget. The pastor and all the other employees of the church voluntarily accepted a twenty percent reduction in salaries. As an economy measure, to save Sunday School literature expenses, I was asked to write comments on Sunday School lessons for the Adult and Young People's departments. Those comments appeared each week in the church bulletin. Many other churches throughout the State used them in lieu of the Sunday School Board's material, as they were published in the Baptist Message. Many favorable comments were received. I really put my very best in them.
In addition to the Sunday School lessons I contributed articles on local, State, national and world conditions, especially on the liquor business and the crimes it bred. As a result my life was threatened. One Sunday night after I had preached a red hot sermon on conditions in Monroe, Deacon Murrell came to me and said, "Pastor, it isn't safe for you to drive home unattended. I will follow close behind you in my car!" This he did for a number of times when I had to drive at night. Not only did I incur the wrath of the liquor, gambling and prostitution gang, but there were those within the membership of the church who sought to deter me from speaking out so boldly against the immoral situation. One of the leading men of the church advised me not to preach that sermon. What do you suppose I did? That's rightI preached "that sermon."
I must share with you a most unusual letter taken from Hints and Helps and printed in an early issue of the 1933 FIRST BAPTIST INFORMER. A Chinese man made application for a job as follows:
I am Wang. It is for my personal benefit that I write for a position in your honorable company. I have a flexible brain that will adjust itself to your business and in consequence bring good efforts to your good selves. My education was impressed upon me in the Peking University in which place I graduated Number One.
I can drive a typewriter with good noise, and my English is great. My references are of good and should you hope to see me they will be read by you with great pleasure. My last job has left itself from me for the good reason that the large man is dead. It was on account of no fault of mine. So, honorable Sir, what about it? If I can be of big use to you, I will arrive on some date that you should guess.
Faithfully yours, Wang
The January 27 issue of The INFORMER records the death of Oliver Bradley Morton and gives the gist of my sermon on the occasion of the funeral at the church. It was one of the largest crowds ever assembled at a funeral during my ministry. He had been the outstanding leader in his church and was prominent in every phase of community life. My text was: "Know ye not that there is a pence and a great man fallen this day?" (2 Samuel 3:38).
The following report of church membership at the beginning of 1933 will give you an idea of how the Lord was blessing our work in spite of the financial depression and all other obstacles: Additions, 1932: by letter, 156; by baptism, 93; by statement, 6. Total, 255. Losses by death, lettered out, and erasure, 80. A net gain of 175.
March 3, 1933. "Building material is on the grounds" is the leading news item in this issue of The INFORMER. We quote in part:
AN APPRECIATION (May 5, 1933, taken from THE BAPTIST MESSAGE, the Louisiana Baptist paper):
For the past month Rev. L. T. Hastings has written the Sunday School Lesson Notes for The Baptist Message. We are under lasting obligations to our good brother for the splendid service he rendered the paper and the Brotherhood in general in preparing these lessons. Though the work was wholly a 'labor of love,' the material was well above the average. The fact is, we have had many letters from pastors and Sunday School teachers in which they praised these Notes in the highest terms. We have learned that some Adult classes now using The Message exclusively as their Sunday School literature took up Bro. Hastings' lessons and practically discarded all other helps. They tell us these lessons have been better than anything they have been able to find elsewhere.
So, you see, I get a "bouquet" once in awhile! BROWNLOW INVITES (May 26, 1933):
I hereby extend a most cordial invitation to the members of the church, my Sunday School class; my B.Y.P.U., the orchestra, the choir, and all my other friends, to be present at the graduation exercises at the Parish High School Auditorium, 8:15 o'clock, June 2.
Incidentally, I preached the Baccalaureate sermon Sunday afternoon preceding the graduating exercises. My subject was, "Four Anchors We Need in the Storms of Life" based on Acts 27:29.
PASTOR AND FAMILY IN TENNESSEE(August 4, 1933):
Our pastor and his family left Monday morning for Tennessee, via Hot Springs, Little Rock and Memphis. They will visit relatives in Brownsville, Nashville, Chapel Hill, Columbia and Mt. Pleasant. Brother Hastings' father has been quite feeble for more than a year, and his parents naturally expect and should have at least one visit a year. They plan to drive on to Mars Hill, N. C., where Mars Hill Junior College is located, to look over the school with a possibility of leaving Brownlow there for the next term of school. They will return to Hannah's Gap Church for a ten-day meeting. (The church where I was saved and baptized.) For twenty years they have wanted "Luther" to return and hold a meeting for them. It is a great church in the hills of Middle Tennessee. They will return in time for the services here the fourth Sunday in August.
From my report of that wonderful trip, I quote the following:
We spent one week holding services at Hannah's Gap, the community of my boyhood days and where I was converted and baptized 32 years ago. Without boasting, but with much humility, it was the greatest ovation we ever had. So different from our Lord's experience in Nazareth where they tried to kill him, which led him to say, "A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country." Maybe I am not a prophet or perhaps I was too easy on their sins. They called me "our boy" and "Luther," but whatever they called me, I responded at meal time. Oh, the eats! the eats! the eats!
But "Home, Sweet Home" is the best, although we had to leave our son at Mars Hill, surrounded by mountains and the protecting arms of our Heavenly Father. Our house is too big now; we feel like we could spare two or three apartments. We are here to preach, teach, live, love and serve better than ever. God bless our dear people!
Your pastor and his wife.
Brownlow writes (September 8, 1933): Although it is a lengthy letter, describing a "hike" from Mars Hill to the top of Bald Mountain, 21 miles distant, I think you will enjoy it quite as much as we did when we received it.
Falk and I had a marvelous time. I would not take anything for that trip. Our Mt. Mitchell trip was great, but nothing to compare with this one. We left Mars Hill at 8:00, after breakfast; just missed an eleven-mile ride with a school teacher friend of Falk's, who goes over half way up in the mountains. But we struck out and caught a ride before going much over a mile. Our next ride was about five miles on a cream truck, and such rich cream as they get from those mountaineers I have never seen before. We got our next and last ride on a gravel truck, putting us about 15 miles from our starting point, having ridden about 10 or 11 miles. We still had six to go. The last mile up to Street's Gap, where we turned to our right up the ridge to the top was the hardest. We were trying to make the Gap, four miles from the top, by dinner. Our packs gained 50 pounds, it seemed, and I was having trouble with my wind. My pack weighed 11 pounds and Falk's 15.
We reached a place to camp a little after 1:00 o'clock. It had rained the night before and was still cloudy. The available wood was too wet to burn, so we ate cold dinner.
We finally reached the top about 4:45. It was cloudy and we couldn't see much, but we got a good idea of what could be seen on a clear day. The nature of the top is most unique. About three-fourths of the way up, the undergrowth runs out and leaves an almost primeval forest with the finest kind of grass for a carpet. I was surprised at the lack of any kind of fir trees which we saw on Mt. Mitchell. The timber line was within three or four hundred feet of the top, a bald knob covered with fine grass and mossy hummocks. The sides are so steep one has to zig-zag going up. Several hundred acres on the top and sides and on several spurs are devoted to pasture land. A rancher stays in a 2-room log cabin half a mile from the top and looks after the 72 head of cattle, 15 head of horses and sheep sent up there by the farmers to fatten. He let us sleep in the cabin for 25 cents apiece.
After a hearty supper, it cleared up enough to see some of the sunset. Tired as we were, we ran the half mile back to the top, forgetting the all important flashlight. I beat Falls by 10 or 15 yards, and as I came over the rim of the top and caught the first view of that marvelous sunset my breath was almost taken from me by what I saw. Chills and thrills of delight ran all over me. We sat down on the hummocks on the west side and watched the sunset.
The cloud effects were indescribably beautiful. Far to the west and seemingly on a level with us was a group of fleece-like clouds. On the jagged edge of one of these was the most gorgeous, rich golden hue I have ever seen. This reflected on a great bank of clouds starting at the closest ridge below us and stretching for forty or fifty miles into the west. Such a sea of clouds I have never seen. They were about 500 feet below us and looked like ice hummocks in the Arctic Sea. They looked as velvety as the richest velvet itself, as soft as finely spun cotton and yet as immovable as the rock of Gibraltar.
The silence was so intense (except for an insect or two) we agreed not to speak for five minutes, so we could the better comprehend the glory and immensity of it. Bald mountain is so much higher than the surrounding mountains that the view far excels that of Mt. Mitchell. The only two things the latter is superior in are its altitude and the beauty of the balsam forest. Bald Mountain is in Tennessee; in fact we followed the State line all the way up the ridge from the Gap. It is marked by a fence. Part of the time we would be in Tennessee and then in North Carolina. A very interesting feature of that trail is that it is a part of the Appalachian Trail which extends from Maine to Georgia and keeps to the mountains almost all the way, offering many superb sights and adventures. I would like to travel that trail for a month or two some summer.
We went to bed about nine o'clock in the room next to the rancher. We had no fire, so we spread a tent on the floor and put one blanket over that; we slept under the other two blankets, with our sweaters, clothes and all on. Next morning it was too foggy to see the sunrise, so after another hearty meal we left at 8 o'clock. We came back by Deep Gap, a much shorter route.
Getting down from the gap we struck a road that led through the most beautiful forest. The trees were still wet and the sun had just come out. The rays of the sun filtered through the trees on the beautiful wild flowers and pretty little streams of water crossing the road and uniting to form a beautiful mountain stream.
We got back to where the highway trucks were and got a ride with the same man back as far as the school house at 11:30. We ate dinner and waited till 4 o'clock for school to dismiss, and rode the 11 miles in with Falk's teacher friend. My feet were tired and we were powerfully hungry because we did not have enough food left for our dinner, at least to satisfy us, but I was happy.... I wish there was another week before school starts. I want to tackle Mt. Mitchell by way of Barnardsville, but it will have to wait.
Now, I am sure you feel as if you had taken that hike with him; he has described it in such a vivid way.
Space permits only a few of the highlight events of 1934.
February 9: "THE MOST IMPORTANT WORK IS DONE." The foundation is completed. Wednesday evening at the prayer meeting Mr. Murrell and Mr. Masling astonished us with some statements concerning the educational building under construction. It was their earnest desire to impress upon our minds just what we are about. "When completed, our Educational Building will not be among the best buildings in Monroeit will be the BEST. There is nothing in the Southern Baptist Convention territory that will surpass it in beauty, practicability, and equipment. There will be four floors, with 136 rooms, 32,000 square feet of floor space, 14 assembly rooms and a capacity of 1500 in Sunday School."
On June 1, I became President of the Northeast Louisiana Baptist encampment, located near Olla, 50 miles south of Monroe just off the highway to Alexandria. This encampment began with small attendance and very little equipment, but grew to be one of the largest of the several regional encampments in the State. Mainly through the liberal and sacrificial support of the Olla community and surrounding communities, together with the help of the larger churches in the Northeast section of the State, an auditorium and a spacious dining hall and a number of cottages were erected. On account of the depression at this time, many people were out of work. The Federal Government organized what was known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Since the vicinity of our encampment was located in a vast National Forest, it was planned to locate a CCC unit in that forest. We had the nucleus of a camp, so we were approached with the proposition that the CCC lease our facilities and erect additional buildings they needed. They would vacate the camp for our ten-day encampment. They would move out in a suitable location in the forest and erect a temporary tent camp. The rent we received was a great help to us. After the CCC was disbanded some years later, they advertised their buildings for sale to the highest bidder. It was to our interest to be the highest bidder and keep the buildings intact. If some salvage concern should be the highest bidder, the buildings would be torn down. After much thought about the matter, our Encampment Committee decided to bid $250 and I was authorized to meet with the Federal representatives in New Orleans on the day the bids were to be opened. I felt very important, but apprehensive, when I met the group and presented our bid, together with a check for $250. When the time to open bids arrived, ours was the ONLY bid and the encampment got buildings that would have cost an estimated $25,000 for one percent of that amount. That gave the encampment a big boost and we had some of the best talent in the South on our annual programs. I have forgotten how many years I served as president, but it was at least six or seven years.
The year 1949 was one of the most meaningful years of my whole pastoral ministry of 41 years1908 to 1949. Before the end of it I will have terminated my pastoral work and taken up a teaching ministry. More of that later.
At the beginning of the new year, the Monroe and West Monroe churchessome of them, not alland individuals apart from church relations were engaged in a terrific war against gambling. Not only pulpits, but the press and radio stations (especially KNOE) waged a battle to the finish. I was looked upon as the leader in the fight. I received a number of insulting letters and telephone calls, and even threats to my life. Some of my own members meekly urged me to go easy. As a result, outstanding and notorious dives were closed. The moral support of the campaign encouraged the officers of the law to enforce the law and judges assessed heavy penalties against the offenders. Other crises of a less serious nature engaged our attention and drew heavily upon our physical and moral courage and strength. God had threshed the mountains with a handful of straw, but the straw had become very much frazzled. Hence it was a blessed relief when the church urged us to take a much needed vacation. After a few days fishing in my favorite fishing place, Lake Bruin, we headed for the Florida coast and spent two weeks resting, bathing and fishing.
When we returned I learned that a small minority had been quietly working among the membership pointing out that the pastor had just passed his 65th year, and that was generally considered retirement age. I had been pastor so long they felt the church needed a new voice and new leadership. Just at the time when I was beginning to feel the pressure that doubtless sooner or later would have led to my resignation, I had a telegram from Dr. L. C. Kelly, Founder and President of the Clear Creek Mountain Preacher's School, asking if I would consider a position on the faculty as professor of Old Testament. If so, would I come for a conference? This I did and, as you know, it resulted in my being elected and so I did not have to resign without a place to land.
When I surrendered to the call of the Lord in 1908, I felt that it was a "double-barreled" callto preach and teach. I loved to study; I loved the school room; I loved my teachers. I never had a teacher, all the way from the beginning to the last day in the seminary in 1917, that I didn't love and respectsome more than others, of course. For 41 years my ministry had been pastoral and evangelisticmostly pastoral; and it was beginning to look as though my desire to teach would never be realized. Years before I had decided that the Lord wanted me to teach the people to whom I was preaching and so I began to make my ministry a teaching ministry. I began to conduct Bible classes, teaching and indoctrinating those to whom I was preaching. That is one reason that I stayed so long in my last pastorale. But now, as the door seemed to be an exit from the active ministry, and as I was about to be "laid on the shelf' the teaching door was opening. And so I am fond of saying that the Lord, two deacons and three women pushed me out of one door into another open door. For nine years I revelled in the teaching of the Old Testament, a portion of the Scriptures that I loved so much and found to be the basis of much of my preaching. I found the New enfolded in the Old, and the Old unfolded in the New.
Although we rejoiced at the new and challenging work before us, we found that it was not easy to sever connections with those we had loved and labored with for 24 years. My resignation was reluctantly accepted by the vast majority of the membership on the very Sunday that would have been the beginning of my 25th year. Although the fall term of school had begun and Dr. Kelly was urging me to come at once, I did not think it would be fair to the church to leave them so suddenly. They needed time to begin looking for my successor and not having had any practice in calling a pastor for nearly a quarter of a century, they hardly knew how to go about it; so I set October 1, as the time for my ministry to terminate. The local papers and denominational papers also had articles featuring my long ministry. The farewell reception register of those who came from all churches and non-members looked like the Monroe telephone directory. Oh, that is a bit of ministerial exaggeration, an affliction of most preachers!
Sunday, October 2, was my last day. At the morning hour I preached on "The Threefold Shepherd Work of Christ," which was my first sermon when I began my ministry 24 years before. Before announcing my subject I asked how many remembered my first sermon. Only one, and he was a member of another faith but attended our services regularly. He raised his hand and said, "The Threefold Shepherd Work of Christ!" Baptism and the Lord's Supper concluded the evening services. "God bless you, my dearly beloved, and Farewell."
When the church accepted my resignation they voted to continue paying my full salary the rest of the year, three months at $500 a month. That was certainly a great help; for although the school paid moving expenses of our household goods, there were other expenses in connection with moving that we had to bear. The school salary was less than half of what I was getting from the church. My friend, H. H. Brinsmade, a reporter for the local papers, found out in some way about the salary I was to get and referred to the sacrifice in his article on my long ministry and the new work to which I had been called.
The moving van left 7:00 A. M. Monday; we left two hours later after telling our faithful servant, Annie, a tearful "Good-bye." She had been with us nineteen years and seemed like a member of the family. I am not ashamed to confess that I had tears in my eyes as I said, "Annie, if there was a place for you where we are going we would take you with us." Her husband and only child had died and she lived alone. Although she must be seventy or more at the present time (1972), she is still active, working for a wealthy family in North Monroe. She was a spotless house-keeper, and a good cook. She knew how to answer the phone and look after things so that Cora could accompany me in visitation. She meant so much to us in many ways.
On our way we spent the first night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the Moon Motel. I do not mean that the motel was in the moon no, we did not get to the real moon before the astronauts did. (By the way, as I write these words, April 18, Apollo 16 with three men aboard is on its way to the moon.) Our next stop was Anniston, Alabama. We had lunch with Cecil Brownlow, Cora's brother and his daughter, Lucille, and husband Hal Martin. Since the death of Martha, Cecil lived with Hal and Lucille. He looked so sad and frail, and he passed away not long thereafter. He was Cora's youngest brother, and when he passed away, she was the only child of the Brownlow family left. Think of it! She lived 21 years longer!
We left Anniston and spent that night in a motel at the foot of Lookout Mountain. We left there early next morning and arrived at Clear Creek 7:00 P. M. Our furniture was already there, having arrived just ahead of us a few minutes. Dr. Kelly informed me that my first class would meet 8:00 A. M. next day, not even giving me time to supervise the unloading of my furniture. The men had made a long haul that day and were too tired to unload it that evening. They went to a motel and came back early Thursday morning to unload. Even then, our furniture had to be unloaded in the Mitchell Apartments, different from the one designated for us. The one we were to occupy was occupied by a family that was due to move out in a few weeks; but they did not move till at least six months later. My wife and I were assigned a room on the first floor of the Administration Building, in which all classes met and meals were served. That was a blessing in disguise. It gave your tired grandmother plenty of time to rest and get acquainted before having to go through the arduous task of cleaning up the apartment, moving the furniture in and getting things in order such as you know she loved so much to have. It gave her an opportunity to get acquainted with the faculty and student body. She attended the chapel exercises and sat in many classes. It was a time of readjustment to our new work and environment.
And speaking of readjustment, I had a lot of things to do in shifting from the program and technique of the pulpit and pastoral ministry to that of the classroom.
Dr. Kelly had been meeting with my classes for the month before we arrived in addition to his administration duties. So, you can understand why he was so anxious for me to take over. My first class that first day was a class in Old Testament Survey, beginning at Genesis, of course. There were some 65 or 70 enrolled, many of them never having gone farther than the fourth or fifth grades in public school. Some were 40 or more years of age with a family of children. Very few, if any, had been through high school. Now, how are you going to prepare for and teach a group with such a wide range of previous education?
You remember the series of letters I addressed to Brownlow while he was in Junior College, answering a number of questions about the origin of things set forth in the opening chapters of Genesis. They had been published in bound volumes of The INFORMER. I managed to locate them in my disordered library which had been unloaded in my office. I used them as a basis of my instruction until we got our textbooks, for Dr. Kelly was waiting until I got there to get the textbook I suggested. The members of the class were thrilled and wanted copies. Of course I had only the one copy. Then I happened to think of Mr. Passman's offer to come to my help. I wrote him a letter explaining the situation and suggesting that these letters might be helpful to many others if they were published in pamphlet form. I had gotten an estimate of the cost of $1000. Almost by return mail there came a letter from him enclosing check for that amount. I set a nominal price on them, but I gave away far more than I sold. The 30-page pamphlet, with the title of "A Father Answers His Son's Questions," has gone through three editions with a total of 5,000 copies.
It seems to be characteristic of preachers early in their ministry and before they attain maturity to be dogmatic and intensely argumentative. I found an abundance of such in my various classes, and frequently the most of the class period was taken up with those supposed to be there for instruction endeavoring to be instructors. Trivial matters would be the subject of raging controversy. I had been there only a short time until I was asked if I believed in "the divinity of the blood of Jesus." Well, that was a new one; I had never heard of it, but a considerable number believed that instead of it being poured out on the ground at the foot of the cross, it was miraculously preserved and carried to Heaven and sprinkled on the altar there so we would see it when we get to Heaven. They swarmed around me like angry bees, many talking at the same time. Finally I said, "I had rather be swallowed by a whale, as Jonah was, than nibbled to death by minnows!"
On another occasion, one of them took such violent exception to a remark I made that he went stalking out of my class, went to the Dean and told him that he would leave the school without graduation rather than remain in my class if that was necessary to qualify him for graduation. I called him in my study and told him that he did not have to accept everything I said, but he owed proper respect to me as a teacher, and that he owed me an apology for his rudeness. He apologized and my name is on his certificate of graduation.
In addition to my teaching responsibility I soon had other responsibilities and privileges of extending my ministry. Each Monday morning for several months I conducted a fifteen minute devotional over the Middlesboro station, WCPM. One of my most challenging opportunities was preaching to the student body of Lincoln Memorial University located at Ha~Togate, ????Tennessee, 15 miles from Clear Creek. In addition to preaching to them on Sunday mornings I frequently was invited to speak at the Chapel hour. Sunday, November 27, I began a revival meeting at the First Church in Pineville. It went on two weeks, resulting in 27 additions, 12 for baptism. I did supply work for pastorless churches, or for churches when the pastor was absent. I was called upon to assist in the ordination of preachers and deacons over a wide area. I was really kept busy, and I did so much enjoy the great variety of services.
On or about the first day of the new year, 195O, Dr. Kelly received through the mail a package, uninsured and not registered, containing $7,860 in $10, $20, $50 and $100 dollar bills. The package was mailed in Jackson, Tennessee, and no name was outside or inside. In the same manner, the anonymous donor sent packages of cash to the Home Mission Board, Atlanta, and to the Kentucky State Baptist Board of Mission: the former, $8,200 in bills ranging from $5 to $500; the latter, $6,950. I said the package was sent to Dr. Kelly; it may have been addressed to the school, for it was meant to be used by the school, and how the school did need it! I was with Dry Kelly when he opened the package, and when the bills began to fall out on the table, you should have seen his joyful response. To this day, so far as I know, the donor has never been identified.
May the 5th, 1950, Brownlow received his Th.D. degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville. We attended the graduation exercises. Soon after thatin fact, the next day we left our car at Brandenburg and we all loaded up in Brownlow's car and headed for Vienna, Illinois. There we left Jeanette and the children with her mother and we (Brownlow, Cora and I) headed for Chicago to attend the Southern Baptist Convention. In some respects the Convention was a disappointment. Due to colds contracted along the way, we missed several sessions. Dr. Frazier, in charge of Red Cross First Aid Station, gave me a shot of penicillin three successive days. The sessions we did attend were dreary and spiritless for the most part. We did a good deal of sight-seeing before heading home.
One of the most exciting and meaningful trips I was permitted to make was to Washington, D. C., with Dr. Kelly. Early in June he said to me: "The anonymous gift we received last Christmas gave us some needed financial relief; but if the school is to survive, we must have some big money. How about going with me to Washington to see some of our friends who are able to give that kind of money?"
I told him that I felt honored to be invited to go with him and if he thought I could be any help, I was ready to go and do what I could. We left Clear Creek by car June 11, left the car at Bristol, Virginia, and took train from there to Washington, arriving early the next day. When we got off the train and were standing in the huge waiting room of the station, wondering where we should go for we had no reservation, I happened to think of my friend, Otto Passman. I suggested that we phone him and ask him to recommend some decent, reasonably priced hotel we could go to. I soon got him on his apartment phone. I told him our mission to the city and asked him to recommend a place where we might stay for a few days. He asked for the number of the telephone from which I was talking and said he would call back in a few minutes. He soon called and said, "Take a taxi and go the Congressional Hotel and a room will be ready for you."
While he did not say so, I suspected that he would take care of the bill. When we got there we found that our reservation was not just a room but a suite. We would never be able to pay for this, we thought. Five days later when we checked out, the clerk said our suite and meals were taken care of by Congressman Passman. I think we drew our first deep breath for days!
Not only did Mr. Passman take care of our lodging there, but he arranged a luncheon at the hotel for a number of his friends and some Dr. Kelly knew, in order that they might hear the story of the school. Nine were present, including senators and Congressmen and one Supreme Court Judge. They manifested great interest and decided to form a Clear Creek Club. I don't know that it ever functioned after we left; but in that luncheon meeting some eight or ten thousand dollars were pledged for the school. Mr. Passman led out with a pledge of $1,000. So the trip was worthwhile.
Soon after our return from Washington we had the pleasure of a brief visit from the James Hudsons. They had stopped at Harrogate for one night, the location of Lincoln Memorial University, where Kate had gone to school some fifteen years before. After one night with us they went on to Ridgecrest.
July 20, we left Creek Creek Mountain Preacher's School for Cleveland, Ohio, to attend the Baptist World Alliance. Sister Lessie and my niece, Betty Ruth Wilson, joined us in Cincinnati. We spent the night with brother Roy and family in Akron, then on to Cleveland the next day. The sessions of the Alliance lasted from Monday to Thursday, we attended most of them, and between sessions did a lot of sightseeing. Friday was my birthday, July 28. Lessie and Bettye Ruth gave me a birthday dinner at the Colonnade Cafeteria. We left Cleveland and spent that night with Roy's family attending the Sunday services at the great Temple Baptist Church. We arrived home Monday the 31st.
September 27th, sister Beulah phoned from Nashville that "Aunt Sip," as she was affectionately known by everyone, passed away early that morning. She was Mother's only sister and had made her home with us after the death of her husband some 40 years before until our home was broken up by the death of our parents. After that she lived with one of the girls. By "our home" I mean, of course, my parents' home. She was one of the kindest, most unselfish persons I ever knew. She lived to help other people, never living for herself. What a blessing she was to all of us! She was a devout Christian, a Baptist until she married Uncle Morton. She joined the Christian Church with him.
Earlier I have told you about my enrollment in the Haynes-McLean Preparatory School in Lewisburg in 1904. Mr. M. M. Summar, the Principal, was one of the best friends a poor country boy ever had, one who was ambitious for an education, but had no money for it. It was through the kindness and help of Mr. Summar that I was able to work for my tuition and books, and through the kindness of Mrs. Leath that I got my room and board. Some years after my graduation in 1908, Mr. Summar was employed as Business Manager and Treasurer of Union University, where I graduated in 1912; however he did not come to Union until after my graduation. This godly, consecrated Baptist layman died June 9, 1952. When I see him in Heaven, I hope to tell him in more eloquent words than I ever could on earth what he meant to me through the years. I have the same feeling toward "Mother Leath," who was a real mother to me the years I was "her boy."
Early in the month of July, 1952, Dr. Kelly asked me to make a trip in Louisiana and Texas, speaking to individuals, churches and other groups about Clear Creek, seeking to enlist financial aid for the school. I arranged an elaborate itinerary and Cora and I left Clear Creek July 25. Our first stop was in Anniston, Alabama. Sunday morning I spoke in the First Baptist Church; that evening in the Parker Memorial Baptist Church. Next stop, New Orleans, guests of Willie and Lessie. Through the courtesy of ax-governor Jimmie Noe, owner of the 50,000 watt radio station WNOE, I spoke over that station for 30 minutes. This station began as WABZ, the 50 watt station that I mostly financed in its construction in 1924. That night I attended the 17th anniversary of Dr. J. D. Grey's pastorale of the First Baptist Church and spoke a few words in behalf of the school. In Alexandria I had lunch with Mrs. C.B. Morton and Mildred and her husband. In Monroe I spoke in First and College Place churches.
We spent several days in Monroe, where I spoke over KMLB and KNOE. The Fast Church gave us a reception, an opportunity to meet many of our friends. Our next stop was Shreveport, where I spoke to the prayer meeting of the First church, August 6. Dr. Dodd was in California on vacation and speaking tour. That very night the Lord called him to his rich reward. He had been pastor of the Shreveport Church 35 years. He meant so much to me in my ministry in Louisiana.
Our next stop was in Dallas, with Brownlow, Jeanette, John, Larry, and Nancy, a year old. We were there several days. I preached for Brownlow at Buckner Children's' Home Chapel one Sunday. August 10, Brownlow and I drove to Jacksonville. He spoke at the morning hour in Central Baptist Church, where I pastored after graduation from the seminary. I spoke that night. It was good to see those whom we knew 37 years ago. Wednesday night, August 13, I spoke to the prayer meeting of the First church, Dallas, Dr. Criswell, pastor. They gave me a great welcome and listened to my story with much interest.
The 1951-1952 term of school enrolled 114 the first day. 1 had five classes; Old Testament I and II, English III, Bible geography and Rural Church Life, a total enrollment of 161 in my five classes. You can imagine how much paper work I had to do, especially in examinations and other assignments!
During the nine years we spent at Clear Creek I held several revival meetings, one of which deserves special mention, namely, at Trenton in Western Kentucky. During the meeting the pastor and his wife celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary. I gave them a pair of beautiful vases with this poem:
For nine and twenty happy years
You've been in matrimony's traces;
To celebrate that happy event
I leave behind this pair of vases.
They also speak my many thanks
For fellowship and tasty food;
If they were Mary's ointment box
They could not tell my gratitude.
Your daughter too deserves a word
of earnest praise and commendation,
Even though at times she caused me
A lot of woeful consternation.
(She "shorted-sheeted" my beda clever trick).
The year 1953 was just a routine year; Teaching, supply preaching, conducting revival meetings and Bible Studies over a wide range of territoryKentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee. I had frequent opportunities to assist in the ordination of preachers and deacons in various churches. I was kept quite busy, and in nearly all those engagements my dear wife accompanied me and enjoyed meeting people. As you well know she was a great lover of people. She never met a stranger.
On April 16, 1954, Dr. Kelly resigned as president of the school. From its very beginning in 1925 as a two-weeks' Bible Study under a tent, he had borne the burden of its growing ministry. He was a tired old soldier. D. M. Aldridge was elected to succeed him and is still president.
One of the most delightful occasions of this year was the Centennial celebration of the organization of the First Baptist Church, Monroe. We were invited, of course, and I had a prominent part in the services of that week, preaching at the morning hour, Sunday September 12. Brownlow came from Dallas to be a part of the celebration. The pastor, Dr. James Horton, and the Church went all out to do us great honors for our long ministry there.
In October 1955, I received a letter from Mayor John Coon of Monroe from which I quote a paragraph:
I regarded this as a great honor, and I went up and down the halls of the school showing students and members of the faculty the letter and key. Professor Clendaniel, publicity director, thought that would be a good story for the Middlesboro Daily News, so he phoned it into the editor. The next day the article and my picture were on the front page with the caption, "Rev. Hastings made ONERY (sic) citizen of Monroe." Well, you can imagine how the folks "rode me a bug hunting" about it! They said, "The paper trimmed you down to your right size!"
After an illness of several weeks, Dr. Kelly died December 9, 1955, at the home of one of his daughters in Madison, Indiana. His body was brought back to Pineville and lay in state in the church of which he was pastor several years before he became president of the school. I preached the funeral sermon. I was almost sick with a cold, but the Lord was win me and helped me bring a message that received wide acclaim. I went home from the funeral and went to bed with a stubborn cold that lasted several days. Dr. Kelly was one of the greatest men I ever knew. If you want to see his monument, go to Clear Creek Baptist School. How he did love the mountain preachers and people and gave his life to them.
February 16, 1957, I went to Corbin to hill out application for Social Security. The application was approved and April 3, I received a check for $876.60, $97.00 per month, retroactive to July, 1956. That was certainly a boost to my financial condition, for the salary from the school was only $234.55 a month.
Professor Hastings as seen by one of his students.
President Aldridge called me into his office March 7, 1957, and said he would recommend my election another year. When he was first elected president, he called Dr. Brown and me into his office and said that we would be retained, and he would lean very heavily on us. In the meantime, it seems that the Board had made a ruling that members of the faculty 70 years of age or above would be elected on an annual basis. Other members of the faculty and staff had been retired along the way. When I left at the close of school in June, 1958, I was the last one to go. I was 73. About that time the Board ruled that all faculty members would automatically retire at 72.
We hated to leave Clear Creek, but it was for the best in the long run, After some shopping around in Pineville, Middlesboro and Knoxville for a house, we finally found one that exactly suited us, and one that we could pay for at 3236 Lay Avenue, Knoxville. The purchase price was $9,250; paid down, $2,944.13; balance, $6,437 at $67 per month. That was our happy home until March, 1967. Although my official connection with the school ended May 31, 1958, we were permitted to occupy our apartment until July 24, the day our furniture was carried to the Knoxville address.
The people of the First Baptist Church, Pineville were so good to us, They gave us a reception and gave us a "love offering" of $115. We joined the McCalla Avenue Baptist Church the first Sunday we were in our new home, and they gave us a warm reception. All through the years, as we would move from one place to another, we felt we would never find friends like the ones we were leaving, but not so. We always found just as fine as those we had left.
Although I was on permanent retirement, still in the nine years we lived in Knoxville, I rendered some service in over 100 churches, including an interim pastorale of six months in Inskip Baptist Church. I was kept busy supplying pulpits, teaching Bible courses under the auspices of Carson-Newman College, or some other phase of religious work. I was supply pastor of the McCalla Avenue church four months soon after we became members. In a way, my ministry was expanded rather than curtailed by my retirement. Oh how delightful to meet so many good people and be a spiritual blessing to them!
So many interesting things occurred all through the years 19581967, but I cannot take time and space to mention all of them. However, a few require recording. Early in 1958 while visiting in Monroe, the Blacks raised the question as to where we would be buried. When we said that we had never discussed that very seriously, but as we had spent longer time in Monroe than anywhere else, that seemed more like home, and very likely that is where we would be buried. Brother Black then told us that soon after they moved to Monroe he bought four grave sites in the new Park Cemetery being developed east of the city limits. In the meantime Patricia had married and had children, therefore, he and Daisy would need only two of the lots, and if we wanted them, we could have them without cost. Of course we expressed our gratitude and said we did not know of anybody we had rather wake up with in the resurrection than with them. We had been so closely united in life, and we would be more closely united in glory. So, as you know, that is where your grandmother's precious body sleeps, and not many years at most my body will be placed at her side, where it reposed for so many years of our earthly pilgrimage together.
Soon after we returned home, I took our Buick to Middlesboro Buick place where I had purchased it a few months before, to have it checked and some minor repairs made. I had to leave it there overnight. Early next morning the shop caught fire and they were unable to get our car out, so it was totally destroyed. After much dickering with the insurance company and with the Buick people unwilling to bear a just part of the loss, but very anxious to sell us another Buick, we finally got a check for $2,500 from the insurance company. We bought a Ford Fairlane from our good friend, Clyde Creech, Pineville. That was February, l958.
On previous occasions your grandmother had experienced slight attacks of poor memory, incoherent speech and other symptoms, but the morning of May 20, while she was praying in our morning devotions, she suddenly began to mumble, repeat over and over, and became very weak. Next day she felt better and seemingly recovered. Now we know that was the beginning of the trouble that 12 years later took her away from us, except in our loving memory.
Before my retirement we had many fine trips, some of which I have mentioned in more or less detail. After retirement and moving to Knoxville, we had more time for extended trips. One of the great est. if not the greatest, in time and distance I now record.
On May 1, 1962, we left Knoxville with Seattle, Washington, as our goal, the place of the World's Fair. When we returned 74 days later, I had driven 9,148 miles in 15 states and Canada. We had spent only 18 nights in motels; the other 56 nights were spent in the homes of friends and kin scattered all along the way from Knoxville to Seattle and back.
One of the most enjoyable visits we had was with the Wheelers in Glendale, California, Jeanette's sister and husband and their two fine children. We were in their magnificent home one weekend and attended church services with them Sunday morning, June 3, at the Presbyterian church where they were members. Saturday, Bob took us on a two-hour tour through Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where he is vice president. On June 5, 1962, we arrived at the home of the DeWitt Chandler's in Fresno, California. They were members of Monroe First Baptist Church before moving to California. What a delightful time we had with them!
I can only make bare mention of the weekend we spent in the home of John and Margaret Thompson in San Jose. John was a member of the Monroe church until he went to California. Then we spent the next weekend with the Price's in Portland, Oregon.
He was pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church. I preached for him at both hours Sunday. I held a meeting for him years before when he was pastor of the First Baptist Church, DeQuincy, Louisiana. He was a noble man of God.
When I was planning our itinerary, I thought we had no acquaintances in Seattle. Just a few days before we left Knoxville, I had a letter from Rev. E. M. Causey, pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in Seattle. Through our mutual friend, Brother Price, he had learned that we were planning a trip that would include Seattle. In his letter he said they would count it a great honor to have us as their guests when we arrived in Seattle. Several years before I had been with him in a Bible study when he was pastor in Goldonna, Louisiana. You can imagine what a happy time we had in their home. We spent one day attending the fair and saw so many interesting things.
From Seattle we drove up to Vancouver, British Colombia, and drove around through the magnificent Stanley Park, saw many wonderful sights, then headed for home many, many miles away. We stopped at Gloneta Assembly two days. Just as we got there, June 25, a Monroe bus drove up, loaded with folks from the First Baptist Church. We had such a good time with them and meeting new friends. We arrived in Dallas June 30 in time to celebrate Brownlow's and Jeanette's twentieth wedding anniversary. Then on July 3, we celebrated mother's 83rd birthday. They reminded us that next year would be the golden anniversary of our wedding and they wanted to give us a BIG celebration. We continued our journey home through Arkansas and Tennessee, stopping to see friend and kin in several places, we found everything okay after an absence of 74 days. Home looked and felt good!
Sunday, August 5, I supplied for the pastor of the Marbledale Baptist Church. At the morning hour I preached on "Paul's Confession of Faith in a Stonn." That night I spoke on "Paul, the Snake Handler." After the service a lady came up to me and said, "While you were preaching, a 'snaketender' (we called them 'snake doctors') was flying around in the church, and where there is one, a snake is not far away!" What if a snake had showed itself? I imagine the congregation would have dismissed itself without the benediction!
The main event of 1963 was the Golden Anniversary of our wedding which occulted in Chickasha, Oklahoma, March 6, 1913. Early in January we received a letter from Brownlow and Jeanette saying they were planning to come and give us an elaborate reception in the observance of that event. We made up a mailing list of close to whom invitations were to be sent. The McCalla Avenue Baptist Church gave permission for us to use the fellowship hall, and they cooperated in many ways to make it a glorious and happy occasion. The decorations were beautiful and the refreshments were in keeping with the occasion. People came from far and near. James and Kate Hudson came all the way from Cameron, West Virginia.
The McCalla church gave us a check for $100, and the First Baptist Church of Monroe sent a check for $50. We received many other gifts, telegrams and letters congratulating us, some expressing the hope that we would live to celebrate our diamond anniversary. We didn't make it, lacking 18 years! Brownlow said the ceremony, Jeanette was the matron of honor, Nancy was maid of honor, Gail was flower girl, and Roger was my best man. "I Love You Truly" and "Because" were sung by a member of the church choir. This was the third ceremony we had said: the first by Brother George Sherman, the second by Brother Driskell in Monroe, and this one by our son. It was a solemn and meaningful occasion. As I recall there were 250 guests.
The celebration was on Monday night. The day before, I began my interim pastorale of the Inskip church, which lasted six months, the longest interim pastorale I had during our stay in Knoxville.
As I have said before, I do not wish to turn this into an "Obituary Column," but I must record the death of four persons during this year: Mrs. Anna Stephenson, Shreveport, a noble Christian friend of ours since 1911; Girard Brownlow, son of brother Joe and sister Ida; Rev. H. C. Price, of Portland, Oregon (they were so kind to us on our western trip last year); and president John F. Kennedy, assassinated in Dallas.
May 5, 1964 we left on what was another of our many interesting and pleasant trips. We timed our schedule to reach Atlantic City in time for the Southern Baptist Convention, then planned to go on to New York and as far as Bridgeport, Connecticut to visit my niece, Lizzie's oldest daughter, and her family. But we got no further than Baltimore. After visiting kin and friends in Asheville, Charleston, Wheeling, Berryville, Washington and Baltimore, I decided that the traffic congestion on the highways and in the big cities was more than I wanted to tackle, so we turned back toward home, sight-seeing in historic Richmond and Williamsburg; then on to Virginia Beach, Winston Salem, Chapel Hill, Boiling Springs, Hendersonville and home. We were gone 18 days, 2140 miles.
October SO, 1964, I. W. Parker went home to glory after several years of illness. He and Hester, daughter of George and Sallie Sherman, married in June after we married in March. They were in our wedding and we were in theirs. He was a noble Christian. We loved him very much.
On that same day we left Knoxville on another happy visit. The College Place Baptist Church invited us to be their guests in connection with the observance of their 20th anniversary. I preached at the morning hour, and at the First Baptist Church that night. After some days in Monroe, we went on to Dallas and spent several days with our children. We returned November 24.
Since my retirement and our moving to Knoxville in 1959, my life story has primarily hinged around our many trips. One of the happiest and most profitable one, if not the super-trip, began August 12, 1966, with Port Carting, Canada, as our destination, to attend the Canadian Keswick Conference on Prophecy, located in the beautiful region of the Muskokee Lakes, 145 miles north of Toronto. This was our third trip into Canada: the first in 1928, when we attended the Baptist World Alliance, and the second, as I have mentioned, a brief visit in Vancouver in connection with our 1962 western trip. But this third trip meant more to us in a spiritual way than any other. The best Biblical talent from England and America was on the program of one week. On the way up we stopped at Asheville, Charleston, Wheeling, then Pittsburg and Niagara Falls, and on to Toronto, arriving there a week later, Friday the 19th.
Our friends, the Fred Boehmers, were looking for us, and had a sumptuous meal prepared. They were exceedingly kind to us. After a good night's rest and breakfast, we proceeded on our way to Port Carting. But before we left our Toronto friends, they enquired about our plans to return. When we told them that we expected to return Monday, the 29th, he said, "I have an engagement in Chicago that weekend, and Mrs. Boehmer will be with me. Here is a key to our apartment; if we are not here when you arrive, come in and make yourselves at home. There will be food in the refrigerator and you know where your bed is." Now wasn't that kindness and confidence "Par-excellence? "
The nine days we spent at the Keswick Conference were days of heavenly fellowship and rich spiritual uplift. The only thing that marred our stay was an accident that occurred the day before we left. We had finished our Sunday dinner at the cafeteria and were on our way to our cottage. Cora was holding my right arm when we came to an unexpected four inch break in the concrete walk. She was the first to lose her balance and in falling she pulled me down on her. I managed to get loose from her, but I was unable to regain my balance and went plunging down on the concrete walk. It could easily have resulted in a broken arm, shoulder or some other injury, but I sustained only a slight bruise on my left shoulder. She suffered a sprained foot that was very painful and she had to wear slippers for several days. Think what would have happened if we had broken limbs that would have necessitated our being hospitalized for weeks a thousand miles from home. The Lord was so merciful in his providential care.
When we got back to Toronto, the Boehmers had already arrived from Chicago and we had another delightful fellowship with them before leaving next morning for Akron, Ohio, to spend a little while with your uncle Roy. We saw that if we drove the entire distance that day (some 400 miles) we would arrive late and too tired to enjoy our visit or be enjoyed. So, we stopped at a motel in Warren and went to Roy's the next morning, spending only five hours with him and Clarence, for we were due in Mansfield in time for supper with former students, Brother and Mrs. Ingle.
Next morning we headed for home via Cincinnati and Richmond, Kentucky, where we spent the night in a motel, then on home Friday, September 2. We were gone three weeks. We found everything okay, except the boy that was to have kept the yard mowed had not done so and the grass was ankle high. He said he had a motorcycle accident.
At this point it is necessary to report the tragic death of Frank Hopper, sister Lizzie's only son. While working at his desk in railroad shops, a band saw exploded and struck him in the chest, killing him instantly. We went to the funeral, a sad occasion. He was a fine young man. He left his wife and two sons. In connection with that trip, we visited relatives in Columbia, Shelbyville and Manchester, Tennessee.
Late in the afternoon of October 20, 1966, I began to feel ill, took aspirin and went to bed early. I was up at least ten times through the night. The next day I had chilly sensations followed by fever. I phoned Dr. Reed who said he would see me the next day. He found the prostate gland greatly enlarged and pus content high. I asked if that meant an operation, and he said, "I hope not. I think medication will control it." It was fortunate that I did not have to go to the hospital, for Cora would be helpless, not being able to drive the car.
Although I was not able, I preached that Sunday morning at the North Knoxville Baptist Church. My fever came up in the afternoon. This continued through the week. On Sunday, October 30, I had two chills. Dr. Reed tried to phone Brownlow in Monroe for we knew that he was to spend the week there in Bible conference. Brownlow called us Thursday night, November 3 and arrived by plane the next day.
Of course, we were glad he came. We had many conversations about future plans in the light of the present and anticipated emergencies. He convinced us, at first against our wills, that in the future these emergencies would arise. "We want to help you when they do come, but our arms are not 900 miles long. So you will have to sell out and move to Dallas so we can look after you."
That was his argument and we reluctantly agreed. We loved our little home and the people in our church and surrounding areas were so kind to us. You can understand our reluctance in agreeing to pull up and move to Dallas to be swallowed up in a big city of strangers, and in the vast membership of the Park Cines Church where Brownlow was one of the assistant ministers. I said to him: "We will not be there three years until you will be accepting work elsewhere. Then what?" Well, he did not see that in the future. Believe it or not, three years to the day after our arrival in Dallas, he tendered his resignation to accept his present position on the staff of the Home Mission Board in Atlanta.
Brownlow and his mother attended the morning services at the McCalla church. That afternoon Deacon Ferguson took him to the airport and he returned home. Although November 11 marked the ninth day since I had a rigor, Dr. Reed found there was still some pus and told me to continue medication.
On Tuesday night, November 15, Brownlow called to say they had found a four-room cottage he thought we would like. The seller wanted $2,000 equity and we would assume the balance for $70 a month. It was in a nice residential section close to shopping areas and about two miles from their residence. Cora was very much upset over the idea of moving, especially into what seemed to be a smaller house than ours in Knoxville. But we must often face adjustment of some critical sort. "Oh, Lord, help us make decisions in keeping with Thy will!"
Thursday the 17th, I called Hop Bailey, a real estate man through whom we had purchased our home almost nine years ago. He came out and after conference with him we signed a contract, and he put a "For Sale" sign in our front yard. The sale price was set at $8,250. Eleven days later we had the first serious prospective buyer, who eventually became the actual buyer. Mr. Bailey brought two Negro men, brothers from Oak Ridge, to see the house. One was a World War II casualty who had $14,000 government pension money in the bank in Clinton. His mother was his guardian, since he was incapacitated to transact business. He and his father and mother wanted to buy a house in Knoxville and could pay cash for it. The men seemed pleased with the house, but wanted their mother to see it. The Veteran's Administration would have to okay the purchase and the court would have to authorize the mother to sign the check. Several days passed without hearing from them. On December 9, Mr. Bailey phoned that the Oak Ridge prospect was still good. The Clinton Bank was in contact with the V. A. office in Nashville and they had called him. Mr. Bailey said we would have to be patient. So many people were involved in the transaction that most likely it would be after the holiday season before we could expect the sale to be consummated.
And so it was. Sunday afternoon, February 5, "Mother" Walker and her two sons and their wives came to look at the house. They were pleased and eager to buy. They said the Clinton Bank was favorable to the purchase and in all probability they would be ready to close the deal within two weeks.
In the meantime we had been disposing of some of our things: 50 volumes to the library of the McCalla Avenue church, sale of some furniture items, etc.
Although representatives of the Clinton Bank and a representative of the V. A. had approved the transaction, and the Walkers were anxious to buy, the district judge had to issue an order for the guardian mother to sign the check, and the judge was taking his time to issue the order, because he had such a full docket. On Friday, February 17, Mr. Sharp, a representative of the Hop Bailey Realty Company came with the sale contract for us to sign. Then he went to Oak Ridge and Clinton and got the required signatures. With assurances that the deal would be consummated by court order in a few weeks at most, we made our plans to have the Street Transfer Company (Mr. Street was a personal friend of ours) come and pack and crate everything, making ready for shipping at a day's notice. It was needful that we get to Dallas and locate and arrange for a place to live, for the time was getting short when we would have to give up the Knoxville house, thirty days after signing contract.
We arrived in Dallas, March 25, 1967, after a journey of seventeen days. We lost no time looking at the house that Brownlow and Jeanette thought we would like at 11711 Fernald Avenue. It was a case of "love at first sight." However, they suggested that we see another house we might like, but when we saw it, we said, "The one on Fernald is the one for us."
That was the beginning of a little more than three years of happy life, near our children and in the midst of hundreds of friends in the Park Cities church and community. We had left a host of friends in Knoxville and the Lord gave us hundreds more in Dallas. Before leaving Knoxville, the church collectively and as groups and individuals overwhelmed us with gifts and other expressions of appreciation and their deep regret that we were leaving. The last Sunday we were there, March 12, was designated "Hastings Day." The pastor, Dr. Raymond Smith, preached on "A Good Minister of Jesus Christ." I felt like I was listening to my funeral service! The church, individuals and groups gave us over $200. We received many letters and telegrams from near and far. One of the many letters is brief enough to quote, from Dr. Lewis Rhodes, pastor of the Broadway Baptist Church in Knoxville. It was addressed to Brother Earl Wilson, president of the Knoxville Baptist Pastors' Conference. Brother Wilson passed it on to me.
I regret that I cannot be at the Pastors' Conference for the honoring of Dr. Hastings. Please convey to him and the pastors my regrets. Dr. Hastings has been with us in his healing presence. His spirit has helped heal fractured fellowships in churches and has prevented fractures in the fellowship of pastors. His sense of humor has released tensions on the verge of explosions, His earnest prayers have brought many to an awareness of God's presence. His devotion to the Holy Scriptures has blessed multitudes. His longer years have brought a wisdom some of us still have to learn. His growing old gracefully has created in me not too sinful envy, I hope. I join you in paying honor to whom honor is due. Mrs. Hastings shares his honor. Sincerely...
At this last session of the conference I attended, they presented me with a beautiful plaque engraved as follows:
March 6, 1967
In recognition of 59 years in the Ministry and 9 years in Knox County
We Present with abiding appreciation this plaque to
DR. L. T. HASTINGS
Knoxville Baptist Pastors
Now back to Dallas. With the help of Brownlow and Jeanette and our kind neighbors, we soon had the furniture placed and we settled down to enjoying our new home and surroundings. The four rooms, and bath proved to be sufficient for our needs and comfort. One of the fine features of the new location was the absence of steep banks in the yards that had to be mowed. Both the front and the more spacious back yard were level as a floor and both were well sodded and easy to keep mowed. The shrubbery was very beautiful. The neighbors all owned their homes and were so congenial.
The first Sunday we were there we presented ourselves for membership in the Park Cities Baptist Church, although it was about seven miles from our house. We hated to pass other Baptist churches to get there, but since Brownlow and family were members there and he could be a great help in getting us acquainted with the membership, we thought that was the place for us.
We were given a most cordial welcome into the fellowship and made friends much more easily than we had expected in such a large congregation in such a large city, made up largely of the most wealthy and cultured people in Dallas, being located near the Southern Methodist University and other educational institutions. They soon put me to teaching, either special groups, such as Teacher Training, or Bible courses and Sunday School classes. Located near Fort Worth, the location of the seminary, and having so many retired ministers in Dallas, I had no opportunity, being a stranger, to preach as supply or interim pastor as I had in Knoxville. But I greatly enjoyed the teaching privileges.
Just two weeks before my wife's illness began June 25, 1970, I began teaching a class in "Christ in the Old Testament." I was able to complete the course in spite of her illness. I would leave her long enough to meet the class at 9:00 AM and then return to her, not remaining for the morning worship services, as long as she remained at home. In addition to the teaching in connection with the regular program of the church, I taught a number of home Bible studies on week nights. These proved to very enjoyable and helpful to many who were hungering for a deeper study of the Bible than they ordinarily got in Sunday School.
During our residence in Dallas we took very few trips. none longer than a trip to Monroe at the invitation of the church to take part in the dedication of the Pettit Memorial Activities Building, an addition to the educational building, in honor of Deacon L. B. Pettit, who had meant so much to the church through the years of new building and remodeling activities. We were content to remain at home, enjoying along with it the social and religious life of our community and church. So, I will omit details of the years 1968 and 1969, and come to the soul-shaking, life-changing events of 1970.
In July, Cora observed her 91st birthday and I my 86th, for you will recall that she was five years my senior. Our health through the years, on the whole, had been remarkably free from extremely critical illness. Of course, we had our share of colds and other common ailments. But now our bodies, especially hers, were feeling the wear and tear of advancing years. We had been blessed in having the very finest doctors to look after our health: Dr. Tisdale in Monroe, Dr. Wilson in Pineville, Kentucky, Dr. Reed in Knoxville, and Dr. Tschumy in Dallas. Dr. Tschumy found me in good condition, but said Cora had poor circulation and hardening of the arteries. He put her on a prescription for circulation. He told me that at her age I need not be surprised if she should have a stroke any time.
Sure enough, just a little over a month from that time, she had a slight stroke. I had gotten up, as usual, ahead of her and prepared breakfast. I let her sleep as long as she would, for she had a restless night. When she came in for breakfast, I realized that she had a stroke. Her speech was incoherent, her memory bad, and her movements lacking in coordination. For several weeks prior to this, she had complained of being weak and tired easily. I called for Dr. Tschumy. He was in Chicago attending the American Medical Association meeting. His assistant told me to put her to bed, give her aspirin and keep her quiet. By night she was feeling better, but in a few days she had a similar spell.
When Dr. Tschumy returned from Chicago, I talked with him over the phone. He said there was nothing that could be done for her to effect a cure. As long as I could care for her at home, the satisfaction of being at home with the loving care I would give her would more than compensate for any professional care in a hospital. Some days she was better and I would have hopes that she would overcome the Double. Then she would suddenly lapse into her almost helpless condition. That went on until July 29. She was so limp and helpless I was completely exhausted in my endeavors to dress her. I threw up my hands and said, "Oh, Lord, I give up. I can go no further."
I called Dr. Tschumy. "Call the ambulance and take her to the Presbyterian Hospital, and I will meet you there." She was very sick on the way. The interns took her into the emergency room. Soon Dr. Tschumy arrived. After two hours in the emergency room, she was committed to a private room with a special nurse for the night. She had a very good night, recognizing Dr. Tschumy next morning, and greeting me when I came. But she was not very communicative She was moved to the special care unit for two days, then to a semi-private room.
Now it is necessary to turn the clock back four months and pick up another very important thread in my story. Thursday, March 12, Brownlow boarded a Delta plane for Atlanta to confer with a committee with a view to accepting a position on the Home Mission Board staff. Four weeks later he called from his home and said, "You are talking to a Home missionary." That meant that he had been elected to the position and was accepting, and in a few weeks they would be moving to Atlanta. Now for us, what? Well, we would continue in Dallas until they moved, got settled and could locate a suitable house for us. Then we would sell out and move to Atlanta. The next day he submitted his resignation to Dr. Howard to be read to the church Sunday. He had been with the Park Cities church a little over ten years, and it was three years to a day from the time I had said in Knoxville that in three years he would be going somewhere else, then what for us?
Monday, June 8, he left for Atlanta to begin his new work and look for a house for them. Two weeks later he phoned for Jeanette to come. He had found a house he thought they would like and could pay for. She returned from Atlanta Thursday, June 25, the day before my wife became ill. They had decided on the house at 3663 Carriage Way, East Point, Georgia, a part of greater Atlanta. Jeanette advertised their Dallas house for sale and began making preparations for moving. I quote from my daily diary of July 7: "I got up early, after a night disturbed by waiting upon my dear wife. As I sat on the little front porch, suddenly there came over me a realization, such as I had never had before, just what all this moving meant in the light of her illness. I wept great tears and cried so loud I am sure the neighbors could have heard me if they had been up. But God gave me peace with the assurance that He knew the way; He would not leave us in the shadowy valley but would lead through and out of it."
The next day, 6:15 PM, Brownlow, Jeanette, Gail and Roger came by to tell us good-bye. They were leaving for Atlanta, going as far as Monroe that night. Their furniture was loaded that day. It was a sad parting, and we felt so lonely as we saw them driving down Fernald on their way to their new home 800 miles away. "God will provide."
I don't think Cora realized what was happening. From that day she grew steadily worse until, as I have recorded, we had to put her in the hospital. I phoned Brownlow Friday night, the 31st, just after Mrs. Avery called me to say that the Lanshire house had definitely been sold and she was calling him to come and sign the papers. Of course, Jeanette came, too. The Lord worked it around for them to have to come back, for I desperately needed them to advise with me as to what to do. Since hospitalization would not heal her, it was desirable that we get her in a rest home where she could be taken care of by professional help. The years Brownlow had spent in Dallas gave him an acquaintance with several such homes. After some inquiry, he found a vacancy in the Silver Leaves Nursing Home, just four miles from our Fernald address. He knew the supervisor of nurses and other personnel, and we made arrangements to enter her at the end of the week in the hospital, for patients had to be committed to the home from a hospital and not from their residence. She was checked out of the hospital on August 5th and taken to the home in an ambulance. Medicare and hospital insurance took care of the hospital bill, but made no provision for convalescing home care, so her expenses at Silver Leaves were wholly on my resources. I went to see her every afternoon. For several days she would beg pitifully, "Please take me home. They are mean to me here." I would explain to her that I could not take care of her at home, but, "they know how to take care of you here, and soon you will be well enough to go home."
I hope none of you ever have to experience the loneliness I felt, especially at night, when I was alone in our house not a home, for what is home without the queen of the home? I did my cooking, although the neighbors were so kind to bring me meals very often. I kept the house clean and orderly as I knew she would if she were there. I kept up the yards and attended the church services. I went to see her every afternoon around three after she and I, too, had our afternoon naps. There were times when I did not stay as long as I should or as long as she wanted me to, for it made me so sad to see her wasting away. At the time of her death she would not have weighed over 80 or 85 pounds, I am sure.
I need David's "pen of a ready writer" (Psalm 45:1) to describe her "falling on sleep in the Lord" and agony of my soul as I saw her crossing the river. Since we had been so inseparable for more than 57 years, noting could have given me more joy than for the Lord to have said, "In life you were not separated; in death you shall be eternally united!" and I could have crossed the river with her. The Sparkman Funeral home was notified immediately after she expired. They came and took her body to the home and prepared it for burial. Leroy Downey came to the nursing home before I left and wanted to take me home, but I had my car there and I told him that 1 could drive home. He followed and stayed with me until midnight. George Mixon and George Isom came and stayed until 11 PM. Some of the neighbors came. Everyone was sympathetic and did all they could to console me. Next morning Mrs. Downey and Nancy Mixon came and selected her dress which she had already picked a beautiful blue lace. The pastor and his wife were very kind. Funeral arrangements were arranged to be held in Ellis Chapel, Saturday at 2:00 PM. The chapel was crowded. The service was wonderful. Mrs. Brad Corrigan sang "The Holy City"oh, how wonderful! Charles and Doris Worley sang "The Lord is my Light and My Salvation" and Dr. Herbert Howard delivered a wonderful message. It was tape recorded, and it would be well if you children and grandchildren would listen to it again and again.
Early next morning her body was taken to the airport and placed on a Delta Plane for Monroe. Brownlow, Jeanette and I also boarded the plane, which arrived at Monroe airport 8:08. Her body was taken to the funeral home, then to the church at 1 PM. We went to the Blacks, had dinner and then to the church. A large crowd was there to hear a comforting message by Dr. James Horton. Through my long ministry I had stood where he stood, bringing a message of comfort and hope to bereaved ones. Now I was sitting where they had sat. We cannot fully sympathize with bereaved ones until we do sit where they have sat.
At least half of those in the church service followed us to the cemetery. After the brief graveside service, many lingered to express their appreciation of her and their sympathy for me. The grave is located not far from the main entrance of the cemetery. Some months later I had a beautiful stone marker installed. It had her name, birth and death dates. It also has my name and bird date, and a place for date of my death. Sooner or later it will be added It also has this information: "Pastor of the First Baptist Church 24 years 1925 to 1949."
After spending the night with their friends, the Harold Hughens, Brownlow and Jeanette left for home on the early Delta plane. Everett and Catherine Redd and Myrtle Bledsoe had driven from Manchester, Tennessee, for the funeral. They kindly offered to take me home in their car and spend a few days with me helping me get adjusted to my lonely life. We left Monroe and arrived in Dallas that afternoon. The next day, September 29th, I signed a contract with Mrs. Dunklin to sell our house. Early the next morning, George Isom came and got Everett and they went to the Greyhound bus station to meet Jessie, who arrived at 6:30 after traveling at night. The Redds and Myrtle soon left for Tennessee.
On October 2nd, just a week after Cora's death, I had a heart flurry. Nancy Mixon came and took me and Jessie to see Dr. Tschumy. The cardiogram was okay. It was just a reaction from physical and emotional strain. "Take it easy," the doctor said. Sunday I met my class in the Book of Revelation, 118 present and great interest. Brown-low called from Atlanta. He wanted me to fly to Atlanta, Wednesday, spend a week and look over the situation in preparation for my coming after I sold the Dallas property. I decided to go a day earlier, for I felt that I must come back Saturday to meet my Revelation class Sunday. Mrs. Dunklin kindly offered to take Jessie to the bus station for her return home. She had been a blessing and help to me in so many ways. I cannot adequately express my appreciation for her kindness in those trying days.
George Mixon met me at the airport upon my return from Atlanta. When I got off the plane I was so weak my legs could hardly bear the weight of my body. As soon as I got home I phoned Dr. Tschumy. The neighbors brought in food. Although I was still very weak, I insisted on going to church Sunday and meeting my Revelation class. Soon I began to feel better.
About this time Larry returned to Dallas after much travelling around trying to find a job. I invited him to come and stay with me. He soon found a job in Dallas and was such a help to me in many ways. I don't know what I could have done without him. Nancy Mixon and Lindy Downey spent much time with me sorting out and packing things to take to Atlanta, and helping to dispose of Cora's clothes and in many ways preparing for the sale of things that Brownlow and Jeanette did not want. Some days I felt pretty good. Other days I was so weak I could hardly get around. Finally, Friday night October 16, I had to go to the bathroom eight or ten times. I could hardly get there and back to bed. I phoned the doctor and he said "I will meet you at the Presbyterian Hospital." Leroy came and took me there. After an hour in the emergency room I was placed in the "intensive care" room with a special nurse. They began all sorts of tests. I was losing weight at the rate of a pound a day with no appetite. Before Cora's illness and death, I had weighed 200 pounds; when I was discharged from the hospital I weighed 166.
After being in the hospital 24 days, Dr. Tschumy said I was able to make the trip to Atlanta. I checked out the morning of November 10, and Larry and I went to the airport and caught a Delta Plane arriving in Atlanta early in the afternoon. The trip did not fatigue me in the least. I found a hearty and warm welcome at 3663 Carriage Way, and a comfortable room prepared for me. I spent the first few days writing letters and getting business affairs in shape. Immediately I began attending Sunday School and morning worship services at Dogwood Hills Baptist Church, and placed my membership there. They gave me a cordial welcome that did so much to alleviate my loneliness and get me adjusted to my new situation.
I was convalescing and, of course, needed a doctor to look after me. We soon found a fine Baptist doctor, Dr. Dan Burge. His first examination revealed some blood sugar, potential diabetes, liver enlarged and displaced, conditions that had not been found in Dallas. Although I had been fairly active after coming to East Point, I was lacking in energy. Two weeks later the check-up showed a malfunctioning right kidney and I was having fever, weakness and nervousness. Dr. Morrison, a famous surgeon, was called into consultation, and it was decided that an operation should be immediately performed. February 2, Dr. Morrison operated, removing my right kidney. I made an amazing recovery. Before leaving the hospital it was found that I had another troublean enlarged prostate. In a few weeks I returned to the Baptist Hospital for that operation, which was not as severe as first thought. In all of my 87 years I had never had an operation more than the lancing of a boil, now I was having my share. Fortunately Medicare and hospital insurance took care of the enormous bills, while my Annuity and Social Security took care of my normal needs.
Thank the Lord for these agencies that take care of us in these emergencies. In a few weeks I was back in Sunday services and rapidly regaining my strength with an enormous appetite.
On June 3, 1971, my sister Jessie came to stay with me while Brownlow, Jeanette and her sister, Mary Ellen, and the children took a trip of some ten days. She was so kind and I greatly enjoyed her visit. She returned June 11th, the next day after the home folks returned. Four weeks later, Larry and Nancy returned from Japan by way of Russia and several European countries. Imagine the many interesting scenes and experiences they related.
I could recite many happy experiences and happenings during the months I resided here in East Point, the chief of which are many trips I have been privileged to make. The first was made possible through the kindness of Everett and Catherine Redd, who is the daughter of my Mother's youngest brother. They drove down from their Manchester, Tennessee. home and spent the night of October 28, 1971, with us. Next morning we drove to Anniston, Alabama, had lunch with Hal and Lucile Martin, then on to Manchester where we spent the weekend. After the morning services at their church, we drove to Shelbyville, spent the night with my first cousin, Myrtle Bledsoe, attended prayer meeting at the First Baptist Church, a church that invited me to visit them with a view to a call in the early Twenties, while I was pastor in New Orleans. I declined the invitation. Next day we drove to Richmond, scene of my birth, then to Hannah's Gap Church where I was baptized at the age of 16. We left Catherine there with kin while Everett and I visited places of my childhood and youth, as follows; Poor Grab, Petersburg, Fayetteville, Talley Station, Mt. Zion Methodist Church, where we children attended Sunday School while we were living in the Talley Station community 15 years; back to Hannah's Gap for Catherine; to Shelbyville for another night with Myrtle; next day to Lewisburg, Smyrna Church, our home community after moving from Talley, where I was ordained to the ministry in 1908. There I saw my parents' graves in the church cemetery, then on to Mt. Pleasant for the night, to Columbia, Brownsville, Nashville and home. I stood the trip without any fatigue.
The next trip began January 10, 1972, and was financed by friends in Louisiana and Texas. I merely mention the cities and communities where I saw so many friends and kin: New Orleans, Lafayette, Houston, Victoria, San Marcos, Austin, Dallas, Monroe. I was gone 19 days. What a trip!
The next that deserves mention was to Wheeling, West Virginia to spend a week with James and Kate Hudson. What a delightful time. This trip was also financed by friends.
In some respects, the trip of all trips was the one to Washington, D. C., July 31August 4, attending the annual convention of the International Platform Association (IPA), to the membership of which I was elected in June, 1971, having been nominated by some unknown friend in Dallas. It was founded by Daniel Webster and has had continued existence under different names. Its immediate predecessor was the popular Lyceum Course. As a college student, I heard William Jennings Bryan and others. It is a talented (its publication is The TALENT) group of people from all over the world, including presidents, senators, representatives, scientists, lawyers, doctors, literary people, artists. There were almost a thousand registered members at this convention, all in Sheraton Park Hotel, where all sessions were held; thus I did not have to get out of the hotel. It was great in many ways. I met people from nearly every state in the Union, South America, Central America, England, and many European countries, Africa, Asia, Japan. It gave me a cross section view and contact with the various world cultures. What a trip for a country preacher.
One other trip deserves some detailed report. A group of senior adults of Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church, where Jeanette serves as one of the secretaries, invited me to accompany them to Ridgecrest to attend a Chautauqua Program for Senior Adults, September, 1972. The fellowship and spiritual enrichment received from friends I knew and new friends were rarely equaled before or since. Having just passed my 88th year, I felt that I might be the oldest person of the more than 100 in attendance, but there was one whose age topped mine four years. For the Wednesday devotional Charlie Nicks of Arlington, Virginia was introduced and the presiding one stated that Brother Nicks was 92 years old. When he finished his message he took his seat some three or four seats from the front, I arose from my seat in front and said, "I am jealous of this brother Nicks. I thought I would have the distinction of being the oldest person here, but he is four years older than I. If you erase the 's' from his name, he would be 'old Nick'!"
As I sat down it occurred to me that that was an unkind remark about that dear fellow. As soon as the program ended I rushed back to apologize to him for my rudeness. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he was one of the deacons of the First Baptist Church, Columbia, Tennessee, of which I was pastor in 1912 - 1913. I had not seen him in sixty years. We embraced each other and had great joy as we recalled experiences of long ago. He was one of the most dedicated laymen in Columbia at that time.
The trip of all trips was to the Holy Land February 23, to March 2, 1974. Two months prior to that time I learned that Dr. Alton Reed, retired secretary of the Annuity Board, Dallas, Texas, would conduct a tour of the Holy Land. A long-time ambition of mine had been to "walk where Jesus walked." After careful and prayerful consideration, I decided to join the group, composed, for the most part of elderly annuitants. I was instructed to join the party in the Air France waiting room of Kennedy Airport, Saturday the 23rd, not later than 5:00 P. M., ready to board the huge 747 plane for Tel Aviv. My plane from Atlanta was late leaving and I barely got to Kennedy in time to get on the plane. Ten minutes later, I would have been left. There was only one seat left and that was for me. Our group numbered fifty-seven, the majority being women, most of them from Dallas and other places in Texas. However, there were some from a number of other states as far away as California.
We arrived at Tel Aviv Sunday, boarded a bus, arrived in Jerusalem and were assigned to Shalom Hotel, a modern hotel located in the northern part of the New City. Monday we toured the Old City. Tuesday through Thursday we made extensive tours of the land, including Mizpah, Shechem, Emmaus, Bethel, Shiloh, Jacob's well, Nazareth, Tiberias, a boat trip to Capernaum, Dead Sea, Jericho, Mt. Tabor and other places too numerous to mention.
The other trip was to Ridgecrest to attend the Annuitant's Conference, May, 1974. There were 350 in attendance and the fellowship, program and food were excellent. Rarely have I attended a meeting so rich in spirituality and cordiality. A goodly number were people with whom I had been associated in one way or another in the Lord's work. Since I am in my ninetieth year, I thought I would be the senior of the group, but there was a woman who was ninety-nine. There seems to be no way to get ahead of the women these days! We decided to make this an annual affair. The next meeting will be in 1975. I hope to be there. I am fond of saying that people going to Heaven ought to arrange to go there from Ridgecrest so the change will not be so sudden; they will not know when they leave Ridgecrest and enter Heaven!
With that thought of Heaven I conclude my Life Story. In the course of nature it will not be long till I go hence. I have a one-way ticketno return! Oh, yes! I shall return with Jesus when he comes in glory with all the saints to straighten out the tangled mess that we have made. There will be peace worldwide when the Prince of peace returns.
In writing this I have not sought literary fame nor perfection. I have just tried to give a straight-forward account of my lifea diary. I hope those who find time and are disposed to read it will get at least a small blessing.
Every autobiography deserves an epilogue. However, the only proper epilogue to such a unique life as my father's deserves rather to be spelled out in the lives of the many who have received of his riches.
Out of the treasury of ninety-three years my father constantly drew things old and new. Things oldlove of study and teaching of the Old Book, love of friends of all ages, dedication to the ancient virtues of Christian living. And things newchallenges to ministry, the appropriation of new technology for the proclamation of the Word.
Though his theology was set early in his ministry and showed little developing, father never slackened in his reading. He and mother read through the Bible over a dozen times in Heir twice-daily family altar. He kept abreast of current events through magazines and radio. Lowell Thomas kept him informed for over 40 years. To his many volumes of Bible commentaries and theological writings he added in later years a love of biography and historical novels. He bought a spinets piano after he was eighty to keep up his love of music. Whenever his church choir sang the Messiah he was always an excited member of the bass section. He composed poetry, both ditties and classical verse, even attempted his own version of "Paradise Lost" in good Milton style.
One of my cherished Christmas memories is going hunting in Lafourche Swamp near Monroe. It was well below 20 degrees that clear Christmas morn. We spent most of the day recovering from getting lost and trying to build fires to head off frostbite. But Dad's love for the woods and the lakes was contagious. It more than overcame any hardships of the expedition.
Though he was inherently skeptical of "science falsely so-called," he instilled an appreciation in us who are his spiritual heirs of truth in any field. Truth with him is ultimately one and derived from Him who lighteth every man coming into the world. All conflicts, confusions, and contradictions are from the smallness of our minds or the subversions of the Evil One.
A great story-teller, my father would take a fifty-year old joke and make it as fresh as though he had just invented it. Who can forget the story of the little fellow who had just gotten a new wagon to be pulled through the admiring neighborhood by his very own goat? But the little girl refused his blandishments when he offered a ride for payment or a kiss. After trying all his wiles to no avail, in a perfect pout he slapped the reins and called out, "sit up Doat."
An unforgettable scene was set in 1973 in the Chapel of the United Nations in New York for the wedding of his granddaughter Nancy to Ken Sehested. The Manhattan Baptist Church allowed them to incorporate their wedding into the Sunday Worship. Solos by Ken Medema and Shizue Kaneko, our sponsored Japanese daughter, encompassed the worshippers in a delicate beauty. Then the two families knelt at the altar to receive the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper from the groom assisted by the bride. Their only concession to a very conservative Grandfather was a chair placed at one end to spare his ancient knees.
After five years with us in our home in Atlanta. My father decided to return to his old familiar turf in Monroe. Two things contributed to his decision. He went back to help Dr. James T. Horton, his only successor as pastor of First Baptist, celebrate his 25th anniversary (only two pastors in fifty years!) He felt Here was still a warm place for him among many he had served before. And he was more and more lonesome in our house since my work with the Home Mission Board and my wife's as a church secretary left him too much time alone.
In 1975 he moved to a downtown hotel where, as he said, he could walk to the church, the bank, the hospital, even the funeral home! For many months he enjoyed his friends and life in Monroe greatly. He still made occasional trips through Louisiana and Texas and even to Birmingham for the wedding of his granddaughter, Gail, to Steve Benfield.
As his father before him, a broken hip in March, 1977, was the beginning of the end He survived a successful implanting of a new hip socket, but he was never able to regain sufficient strength to return to his proud independence of life-style. After seven months of care in the Riverside Nursing Home in Monroe he finally gave up "the good fight" that he had waged so remarkably through almost a century of change. Perhaps the best way to close this Epilogue is to quote from the letter which went out to more than 150 friends who were still on my Father's active mailing list.
February 28, 1978
Dear Friends of Dad Hastings,
You perhaps have already heard that the great warrior of the Lord was finally cleared for takeoff to his heavenly reward on Wednesday, February 15th.
I can see "my dear wife" now showing him around the heavenly places and saying, "Didn't I tell you heaven was just like this!" With all of the riches he is now enjoying, he still left a rich heritage in hundreds of friends like you. All of us Hastings who are his direct inheritance are profoundly grateful for you who have sustained him through the 93 years and seven months with your prayers and your steadfast love. He loved life, he loved people, he loved the Lord. No wonder he enjoyed the longest of years.
Though he suffered much after breaking his hip last March, Dad died peacefully in his sleep. Providentially, his children and grandchildren were on their way for the wedding of his fifth grandchild, Roger, in Dallas. We were able to make last minute changes so that all of us, including both his greatgrandchildren, were in Monroe for the funeral service, Friday, the 17th. at First Baptist Church, where he had served for 24 years. His sister, Lessie, Mrs. W. H. Eggerton of New Orleans, was present. Sisters Lizzie and Jessie from Tennessee were not able to come because of ill health.
The service at First Baptist, Monroe, was filled with joy and triumph. Pastor John Traylor preached from the Word, so beloved by Dad. Dr. James Horton, who succeeded Dad and served for 26 years, brought a eulogy that was both simple and eloquent. The Minister of Music, Walter Manghum, who had been baptized and married by Dad, sang The Holy City. The choir sang an arrangement of All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name. The congregation sang How Firm A Foundation and all sang at the close A Mighty Fortress is Our God. My dear friend, a true brother in helping to care for Dad in my absences, Harold Hughens, assistant pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Monroe at the time, conducted the grave-side service.
To everyone of you who have remembered us with personal words, whether face-to-face or by call or letter or note, we thank you and pray for your continued friendship through the years.
Brownlow and Jeanette
Dedicated to my Grandchildren
John Allard Hastings
Larry Thomas Hastings
Nancy Hastings Sehested
Roger Lynn Hastings
Letters To My Grandchildren. Copyright © by C. Brownlow Hastings, 1989.