Young girl writes of 1800’s trip to the mountains

Jadon Gibson

Gen. O. O. Howard, of Gettysburg fame, is given much credit for the founding of the burgeoning Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.. The general and his close ally, Dr. E. O. Guerrant, founded many schools and churches in the mountain area.

Here is a letter written by Grace Guerrant to her sister, Anne Guerrant, during a trip with her father to the mountains in the late 1800’s.

“Dear Anne: Papa promised to take me with him the next time he went into the mountains to preach, so we started on the 10th of July. We took the Kentucky Union Railroad, at Lexington. We passed between big cliffs, hundreds of feet high, on both sides of the road.

“Many of the mountains have dome-like rocks on top, bigger than a church. They are spectacular. I saw a large rock with a tree growing right on top of it.

“The river is lined with beautiful flowers including ivy and laurel. I saw men cutting oats with a big scythe with something like fingers on it. Papa called it cradling.

After a couple days they had to continue with horses and two buggies.

“Mr. Little, a friend of my papa’s, and his niece, Kate Patrick were traveling with us,” she continued in hr letter. “Kate will be helping with the singing. Papa brought a little Estey organ which is tied on behind the wagon.

“As we traveled up the creek we had to get out and help the wagon down the rocky stair-steps in the road. We arrived at a place where we saw several bare-footed ladies. One lady was wearing shoes but no stockings. Another lady must have been an old maid as she had a dress on that was shorter than mine.

“The mountains are very steep but have corn growing on the sides nearly to the top. It is so steep they must plow them sideways rather than up and down. We see coal mines sticking out of the mountains all along the road. Sometimes we rode over solid beds of coal.

“I’ve seen the biggest trees imaginable growing along the creeks and rivers and we saw a big boy who had only a shirt on. Most of the men go barefoot but they seem very clever.

“I thought for a while that we had traveled on bad roads but I later found that we were just beginning. Three men went along to cut trees and roll logs and rocks out of the road. The roads are made up of big rocks, logs, steep banks, deep holes, and splash-dams. I thought our buggy would be smashed all to pieces.

“The horse pulled one trace in two and a big rock broke a spoke out of the buggy. Sometimes we had to walk and climb. The roads were so bumpy we couldn’t keep our hats on. Sometimes I bumped papa and sometimes he bumped me. It was so funny.

“Papa got a man to lead the horse around a big tree on the mountain while he and another man held the buggy. The horse got strangled and the man cried out, “Here’s a dead horse.” It scared me nearly to death but they finally got the horses up.

It was very steep going down the mountain. Mr. Little jerked back on the horse causing him to fall down with the buggy on top of him. Papa and some men got the buggy off of the horse. Then, the buggy got away, ran down the mountain and broke the shaft. It was very hard work for them to get the buggies, horses and everything to the bottom of the mountain.

“I’ve never seen so much in my entire life. Every day seems like a week long. Papa calls it my vacation trip. It took us five hours to go seven miles because papa and Mr. Little had to walk, lead the horses, and roll the logs out of the way.

“We finally arrived and papa is preaching in the little schoolhouse on the bank of the river. Most of the people walk to church and it is crowded at 10 a.m. and at 4 p.m. Miss Kate Patrick and I play the little organ. It is the first one ever used here in a worship service.

Dr. Guerrant was responsible for the founding of many churches and schools in our mountain area. The letter from his daughter Grace gives excellent insight to their travels and their findings at the time.

“Twenty-five people have joined. One was a 70-year old man and another was a pretty, little girl. We are going to take dinner to church and have an all-day meeting on Sunday.

“We went swimming in the river one evening and had lots of fun. It is very cool and quiet in the mountains.

“When you get tired and want a vacation, you should come to the mountains. The people will be glad to see you. They are as clever as can be. Good-bye, Your Sister, Grace.”

Author’s note: I’ve been behind due to some surgery I had April 16th. I hope to catch up somewhat this week.

A Voice for God – a voice for good
My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. Thank you my dear Lord Jesus for taking care of me over the last few weeks following my surgery. I couldn’t care for myself. I’ve often seen you working through others to get me through this trying time.

Thank you for giving me the energy and wherewithal to put together this Voice for God and get it out this morning. The stories since my surgery were done in advance except for some minor amendments. I’ve not been able to sit at my desk and type but very little.

A lot of individuals we know have health conditions that are hard to deal with. Thank you dear Lord for helping pull them through. It is often a touch through others that makes a difference.
My wife Chris took off work the last three weeks. She’s helped me get out of bed and do what I needed to do and get to where I need to be. Though she’s starting back to work today she will still be home at lunch each day for a while.

Thanks to good friends Judge Bill and Judy McMurray for being there at St. Mary’s Tennova Hospital when I got out of surgery. Who would have ever thunk it! (purposely misspelled) Thanks to all of those saying a prayer for this mountain boy! We’ve touched so many lives since moving back here in 1985 through our radio show (recently retired) and Voice for God and From the Mountains columns. These stories have gone around the world each week. Thanks again for their prayers and well wishes.

Like many others I’ve had so much pain during this time I couldn’t distinguish my happy times from my crying times. In talking with many friends I may have teared up when I should have been happy and laughed too heartily when I should have been remorseful. Forgive me to those this applies to as it is our dearest friends that brings out these close feelings. I never meant any disrespect.
Thanks again Lord for all you do for me. I see your impact in my life every day. When my time is the hardest I often see a sign from you. I know that you are near.

I hope those with pain and despair will remember and turn to you. It can even be silent words or prayers. They can find relief and hope through you. Dear Lord, touch those who come to you and give them comfort. Amen.

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