Appalachia, Bulahann Church, Cabell County, Enon Church, From Youth to Old Age, Grant District, Guyandotte Valley, history, J.D. Carter, John A. Petit, John J. Perry, John J. Rowsey, Lincoln County, preacher, Salt Rock, Susannah Church, Thomas H. Perry, timbering, Tylers Creek, Union District, West Virginia, Zoar Church
About 1910, Rev. Thomas H. Perry reflected on his long life, most of which was spent in the vicinity of Tylers Creek in Cabell County, West Virginia. In this excerpt from his autobiography, Mr. Perry recalled his early days as a preacher in the Guyandotte Valley.
After I had preached my first sermon, I then preached in the school houses in the most isolated places. I had two reasons for this: first, I thought I would meet with less intelligence; and second, that they heard so little preaching, but to my surprise the people would come for miles to my meetings, and I would wonder why they came. Do they come through evil curiosity, or do they come from a sense of duty? I would pray to the Lord, down deep in my heart and soul that He would help me at this hour to preach His word with such power that these people, who have come here this day through vain curiosity, that they may be made to feel the weight of their sins, but if they have come for the good of the soul that they may go away from this place feeling it was good to be at church to-day. The hardest struggles I had in my work was from the time I entered the church to the beginning of the sermon. The presence of strangers and noted people generally embarrassed me to some extent until after I had announced my subject and read my text. After that I did not notice them anymore than others. I never tried to change my voice from the natural or make it appear I was educated, but put my whole soul and heart in my subject with the hope that somebody might be saved to-day.
About the time I began to preach there were three other young men who entered the ministry, J.D. Carter, John J. Perry and John A. Petit. These young men lived on Tyler’s creek. John J. Perry was the founder of Susannah church, one of the good churches of Grant district. He was killed by falling timber, near Salt Rock, in 1884. John A. Petit was the founder of Bulahann church in Union district. This church was named in honor of my mother, because of the interest my father and John J. Perry took in its organization. Bro. Petit was a fine preacher and had a great many friends. He was pastor of a good church in Ohio. He died, I believe, in 1885. Bro. Carter was the founder of Zoar church, another good church in Grant district. He was a large man of fine personal appearance. His ability as a preacher was second to none in this end of the state. He died in 1906. Knowing these three men as I did, I considered them the three greatest lights that ever went out from Enon church.
Many time I have put corn in my saddle-pockets and rode up the Guyan valley as far as I could by eleven o’clock, and in good weather I would meet from fifty to seventy-five people at a school house. Some of the men were bare-footed, and had their guns and a poke of salt with them and some of the old women would smoke their pipes while I was preaching to them. The men said to me, “we came prepared to salt our cattle and kill a mess of squirrels as we go home.” Sometimes on my way home I would think a people that had so little regard for the Sabbath and not enough respect for a preacher to feed his horse were not worthy of the gospel; and then I would think if nobody will preach to them they will never do any better, and as Christ had said: “Preach His gospel to every creature,” and as Paul had said: “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” I felt I could not live, or that great calamity would come to me if I did not preach the gospel.”
About this time I was going to school at Salt Rock. A Mr. John J. Rowsey, a very noted teacher was our instructor that year. Some of the old men tried to discourage me by saying if God had called me to preach I did not have to go to school to learn how. But I felt the need of a better education and knew that some of my appointments did not pay me one dollar a year and I was hard pressed financially. These things would discourage me very much. I saw at once there was a race to be run and a battle to be fought in this life, and I remembered that the Bible said the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to them that put their trust in the Lord. I believed every word in the Bible was the word of God, I could not treat it with indifference. I was determined to preach all I could and go to school all I could, and raise my finance all I could, and as to those people that go to church with their guns and those that sit and smoke during preaching, I have a great love for them as well as others; for their souls are as precious in God’s sight as the souls of the rich and most refined.
Source: From Youth to Old Age by T.H. Perry, Chapter 10, p. 25-27.