Herald’s History

From Herald Jenkins 1969 booklet: “History of the Mars Hill Church & Cemetery”

About every so often people or persons will indulge themselves in a spirit or “fit” of nostalgia especially when a group of the so-called elder generation meet or gather and begin to reminisce of the’ past happenings, how needs were met and how things were done “in the good ole days”.

Sometimes it does seem that some things were better or at least easier to live with in bygone days but a close study usually reveals that there were problems and troubles usually caused by man’s inability to cope with problems which human minds and habits create. Too, a close observance of the habits, reasonings, desires, diverse opinions and so on convinces us that those problems will continue to beset the. human race so long as it remains “HUMAN”.

At one time in Biblical history there is an account of a race of people who were conquered by foreign powers taken from the lands of their God-given heritage and spent many years as captives of their conquerors. Later when the opportunity was provided for them to return to their native lands and rebuild their cities or places of habitation seems as if this was done with speed and dispatch, due to this observation for it was said of them “for the people had a will to work” meaning that they all had a mind to supply a common need or work for the eventual good of all.

The following pages are reproductions of the original records of a group of people with a pioneer spirit and “a will to work” in unity for a common need for the good of all. Apparently this record was made with painstaking accuracy. The spelling may not have been perfect, but I would call the penmanship superb considering the fact that it was written with a quill pen.

I have searched high and low for pictures of the “horse and buggy days” but all I can come up with is photographs of some of the families of those early pioneers. There will be many who can point to these photographs and say, “That is my grandfather or grandmother so-and-so”, and the reminisce will start off with what my father or grandfather told me of those early days. I myself have many memories, many good and some not so pleasant. In the early days of the church much dependence was placed on the “circuit riders” or traveling preachers, men who felt the urge or call to spread the gospel of Christ. I have read the history of this particular circuit which reached from Springfield, Mo. to about Neosho, Mo. Seems there was about three of these circuit riders who were well-known and took care of this circuit. Their method of transportation was by horseback and their pack consisted of an extra shirt or shirt front sometimes a pair of hand-knitted socks and of course their Bible.

To give an idea of the type or kind of Gospel some of these men preached, I will relate an anecdote which may or may not have been related in many communities across the land. There was a circuit rider sometimes referred to as “Old Hellfire”. One balmy spring day as he was nearing the community of his ministrations, he spied the remains of a small hay stack. Being very weary and tired of body, he stopped unsaddled his horse, staked the horse out to graze, took his pack as a pillow, chose the sunny side of the hay stack, and proceeded to sleep and rest. The horse and of course the preacher were spied by some of the boys of the community. Being pranksters by nature and probably recalling the preacher’s preaching the boys set the haystack on fire and when the preacher awoke he was literally ringed in by a wall of fire. He, being sincere in his fear and belief of a fiery retribution of judgment and being more asleep than awake, is said to have raised to his knees and raised his hands heavenward and cried, “Oh Lord, I really did not expect to be counted worthy, but thought that I would receive credit for trying!”

To get back to the duties and habits of the circuit riders, they had no schedule to go by. They would arrive in a community at one of the homes where the good housewife would laundry and starch his shirt-front. She would get a little soot from the top of the oven of the cook stove and mix it with hog lard for blacking for his shoes.

One of the boys of the family would mount a horse and spread the word that the preacher had come and “youns (you all) are expected at the meeting house tomorrow”. Preparation would start. Those who could, went in the morning with ample food supplies and the meeting was on. Without a doubt, the church was the center of community life, influential in family and community affairs.

The first order of business was to spend a few kind words for those who might have died since the last meeting; the next to unite in matrimony those who were waiting for the preacher to come to marry them.

Without any fanfare or ballyho, the meeting was on—preaching, singing, testifying, and a lot of giving God the glory for worldly substance, and for the privilege of being able to participate in meetings of that kind, fellowship with all ample food for the physical body and spiritual food to restore, to increase and sustain faith in a supreme God and to breed a spirit of tolerance, dependence and confidence in one’s neighbors and fellowmen.

I personally can remember the BIG MEETINGS and being a boy, especially the big dinners where there was food of quality and quantity for all desires, and apparently judging from the conversations, the testi­monies, and the actions of the people, the spiritual food was of the same quality and quantity as the other.

I too have remembrance, of the first Sunday school I attended, the collection of picture cards with their memory verses and the award I received for perfect attendance during some quarters of the year.

Most of all, I remember that after many years of doubts and indecision, that man does have an obli­gation to One higher than self and any worldly thing,   and there I made that acknowledgment and commit­ment to JESUS CHRIST as my SAVIOR and the Savior of the world. I would hesitate to qualify myself as to the faithfulness which I have supported those commitments and obligations for I know that the human streak down my backbone is at times a yard wide.

I have remembrances of other things too. I am told that one time two rival preachers, or at least of different opinions or interpretations of God’s word or plan, spent three weeks preaching alternately— one preached for an hour, then he sat down and the other one preached—each day and part of the night. People became so engrossed that, I am told, the weeds took the corn and truck patches.

I have learned through experience and observation, much to my sorrow, that there is an adversary with great power who often works through the very people and with the God-given things to hinder or destroy the kingdom of God itself.

It is quite possible that this so-called debate planted the seed that germinated into disunity, denomi­national strife, turning Christian fellowship into dislike, akin to hatred and destroying all the good works accomplished by those pioneers who built the house and dedicated it to God and His cause.

Oh yes, I remember the community so torn by denominational strife that one group would hold Church Sunday morning and the other in the afternoon. Different convictions spring up in every generation of people and it seems that the more unreasonable the differences are the more stubborn human nature is. The sad part is that things like this leave deep hurts which take generations of time to heal.

Even the cemetery and the graves of the dead became sadly neglected.

Fortunately most of that is forgotten. Now Mars Hill Cemetery is one of the best kept in the area. Several years ago the building was relinquished as a denominational institution, the Mars Hill Cemetery Association was formed, more land was donated, orderly plots staked or plotted, and many people are reserving lots for later use.

Cooperation is excellent and the expenses are met by private contributions.