When you look at Dr. George W. Truett’s photo, the white-haired man, with a square face, and firm jaw, appears stern. His blue eyes seem to penetrate your soul.
Imagine this six foot, 210 pound preacher standing straight as a plumb line behind the pulpit. Truett usually wore a dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie. He was always sincere when he delivered his sermon and pled for people to repent and receive Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. His message often moved the congregation to tears.
He spoke slowly and softly at times, then his voice would roar like a storm in a mountain. Sometimes again, the hoarse murmur of many waters, and rose like a wave of the sea higher and higher, to curl and break in spray of white-hot whispers that searched the corners of the church like hissing jets of stream (Keith Durso, Thy Will Be Done, 2009).
Later in 1927, a lawyer commenting on Truett’s voice said to a writer for the Homiletic Review, “You’ll notice he follows the old order: Begin low, speak slow, rise higher, take fire.”
Although Truett appeared solemn when he preached, his face often softened with smiles. According to his niece Josephine Nash, he was the life of a party at family gatherings, was very talkative with lots of hilarious anecdotes, and had a contagious laugh. Truett was known for his kindness and generosity. He gave most of his money to needy people, charity, and churches. His motto was: “Be kind to everyone you meet, because everybody is having a hard time.”
He had time for everyone. The smallest child, the poorest person, or the richest individual could capture the heart of this sensitive man. He often took young preachers under his wing and encouraged them (Powhaten W. James, George W. Truett: A Biography, 1939).
Truett never forgot his roots. This world-renown minister had humble beginnings in the Blue Ridge Mountains two miles west of Hayesville, North Carolina.
Truett Camp is located on the farm that was the birthplace and boyhood home of Truett. He was born May 6, 1867 in a log cabin. His parents were Charles Levi and Mary Kimsey Truett. The seventh of eight children, Truett grew up in a hard-working family.
Trees covered most of their 250-acre farm. The Truetts grew corn, wheat, oats, rye, and hay. They also raised hogs, sheep, cattle, horses, and mules. Drinking water had to be hauled several yards. Water for washing and bathing came from a nearby brook (Durso, Ibid).
Truett attended Hayesville Academy. Originally, the school was named Hicksville Academy, which was owned and operated for many years by Professor John O. Hicks, known as “the father of education” in this area (Guy Padgett, A History of Clay County, North Carolina, 1976).
As a child, Truett was handy with the plow, rifle, and books. He read with amazing rapidity and had a photographic memory. He devoured the newspapers and magazines in their home. His favorite genres included biographies and the Holy Bible.
Another activity he enjoyed was debating. Children gathered in the vacant log cabin on the Truett farm for their “Log Cabin Debating Society.” They decided the subjects when the youth arrived (Durso, Ibid).
His family attended the Hayesville Baptist Church. In 1886, at the age of 19, Truett accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. The next morning, Truett told his mother he had never felt such peace in his entire life. He joined the church and served as clerk and Sunday school superintendent.
After his conversion, Truett continued to teach at the Crooked Creek Public School. It was a one-roomed school in Towns County, Georgia. He had 50 pupils and taught various subjects. The children ranged from 6 to 21 years of age.
Truett dreamed of starting his own school like the one he attended as a boy. He and his cousin, Ferd McConnell, established an academy at Hiawassee, Georgia in 1887. Truett was the first principal of the private school that opened in the courthouse. The classes continued to meet there until a frame school was erected. There was an excellent religious atmosphere in the school and he won his first convert to Christ (James, Ibid).
The boy was handicapped and confined to a wheelchair. Truett worked with the child and helped him to excel in his studies. When the youth accepted Christ, he said it was because Dr. Truett showed by his example that he cared for him.
Truett’s family sold their farm and moved to Texas where life was easier, money more plentiful, and one could get on in the world. They wrote letters about the glories of Texas (Durso, Ibid). Truett and his brother, Luther, followed the rest of their family to Whitewright, Texas in 1889. Leaving the mountains, their home, and work was difficult. But they had left Clay County and would reside in Texas the rest of their lives.
During his first summer in Whitewright, Truett worked on the family farm. That fall he entered Grayson Junior College to prepare for a legal career.
He joined Whitewright Baptist Church and taught a Sunday school class. He also preached in the pastor’s absence, but Truett did not consider it “preaching.” He would not even stand behind the pulpit. The sermons he delivered sank his dream of becoming a lawyer. At age 23, after his church had already voted to ordain him, Truett yielded to the call to preach.
In 1891, Baylor University hired Truett as financial secretary. Enterprising and energetic, he raised $92,000 in less than two years and saved the university from bankruptcy.
He decided to attend Baylor University and graduated in 1897 with his AB degree. Shortly afterward, he was offered the presidency of the college, but declined to fulfill pastoral ministries (James, Ibid).
Truett served as student pastor of East Waco Baptist Church for four years. He met Josephine Jenkins and they were married in 1894. They had three daughters, Jessie, Mary, and Annie. Several large churches wanted Truett as their pastor. He prayed and accepted the call to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. He remained their 47 years until his death in 1944. During his leadership, the church grew to be the largest church in the world at that time (Wikipedia Encyclopedia).
While serving at First Baptist, he was elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1927-1929), and the Baptist World Alliance (1934-1939). He was also trustee of Baylor University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Baylor Hospital.
When the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Truett to a six-month tour preaching to the Allied Forces in Europe.
He delivered his most famous sermon on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC on May 16, 1920. Fifteen thousand heard his message, “Baptists and Religious Liberty.” Supreme court justices, senators, congressmen, Baptists, Catholics, and other denominations attended this religious service.
Truett had a special affinity with cowboys who worked the cattle drives in central Texas. Each summer for 37 years, he took several weeks from his pulpit to travel with cattle drives and minister to cowboys.
He conducted revivals around the world, preached to many churches of various denominations across America, conducted many funerals, performed thousands of weddings, counseled with people; he was always available to help people night or day.
His wife worried about his working too hard and said he was not an iron man.
But Truett was faithful to God to the very end of his life. The city of Dallas, Texas mourned his death of bone cancer. Government offices closed so employees could attend his funeral on Monday, July 10, 1944. They flew the flags half staff in Dallas. About 4,600 mourners filled the First Baptist Church’s sanctuary for the funeral. Thousands listened to the service in Sunday school rooms and outside the building. Many others listened to the service on the radio (Durso, Ibid).
The funeral procession stretched three miles long. Six trucks carried flowers from the church to the cemetery. His fifty-four years as a Christian minister had ended. Dr. George Washington Truett ranked as one of the most beloved preachers in the world. His humble beginnings in Hayesville, North Carolina laid a firm foundation for him to serve God and humanity. He lived what he preached:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” (John 3:16, KJV). Cutline: Dr. George W. Truett, native son of Hayesville, was a world-renown minister.
by: Brenda Kay Ledford
Brenda Kay Ledford appeared on Windstream Communications' channel 4 cable TV and read this research paper over the program, "The Common Cup," in April, 2011.
Singing conventions were held on the Hayesville town square each May and September. Church choirs competed in the old courthouse for the banner which proclaimed them the best. After the morning session, they spread table clothes under the shade of maple trees and had dinner-on-the-grounds.
Luther Matheson’s group was popular at the singing conventions. “The Ritter Quartet” consisted of Luther who sang lead, Strubbie Galloway, Doc Stanley, and Glen Byers.
Luther and his family attended Myers Chapel United Methodist Church. He sang in the choir and developed a love for gospel music. He also wrote sacred songs. The Stamps Baxter Company published his music in their hymnals.
A native of Clay County, Luther grew up in the Matheson Cove. His parents were Dallas and Martha Elizabeth Norwood Matheson. Dallas owned a lot of land including Shew Bird Mountain where he grew an apple orchard above the frost line. Luther worked on the farm, but followed the example of his father who loved to read.
Luther had a thirst for knowledge. He attended the Hicks Academy and was an outstanding scholar. He received an award for his achievement. Luther became an educator and taught multi-classes at Ogden School and Tusquittee.
He started dating the lovely Mary Elizabeth (Elza) McClure who was George McClure’s daughter. She belong to Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church. Although Luther’s parents were “dyed in the wool” Methodists, he became a Baptist when he and Elza married.
He and Elza lived in the town of Hayesville and joined Truett Memorial First Baptist Church. Luther directed the choir for many years and served as church treasurer.
They were blessed with five children: Ora Matheson Turner, Cora Matheson Johnston, Worth Matheson, Virgil (Dude) Matheson, and Dorothy (Dot) Matheson Moore. Ora and Cora were twins and Dot was the youngest child.
As a youngster, Dot skated on the sidewalk around the town square. She often visited her father, Luther, in the courthouse. He served as Clerk of Superior Court from 1919 to 1930. Luther was well liked by the citizens of Clay County.
He also worked in the Hayesville Post Office. Luther delivered mail on horseback and crossed the river at Herbert Ford. One winter the Hiawasse River had ice. The horse slipped and Luther fell into the cold water. He got pneumonia, a lung collapsed and he was admitted to Emory Hospital. Due to his illness, Luther had to resign as the mail carrier.
Then he opened a country store in town. It carried a variety of goods including groceries, shoes, clothes, and dry goods. It was a popular place for musicians to meet and sing gospel songs with Luther. My grandmother, Minnie Matheson Ledford, was Luther’s sister. She would visit him in the little store when she came to town on Saturdays. Grandma was very proud of Luther because he accomplished so much in life.
Dot has fond memories of her father. “He was a quiet man. Daddy never talked about anyone. He gave a lot of people credit at the store. He didn’t care for material things. It’s amazing how much you miss them when they’re gone.”
Finally, Luther Matheson was a man of many talents. Besides family, his first love was praising his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through gospel songs at churches and the singing conventions.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” –Colossians 3:16 (KJV)
Like liquid sapphire rolling across a canvas, Clay County’s vistas invite visitors. Time is the brush that painted the traditions of our Blue Ridge Mountains.
Shape-note music was a tradition Richard Powers knew. He was choir director at Shady Grove Baptist Church for about 50 years. His face glowed as he led the old-time hymns such as: “Standing on the Promises” and “Amazing Grace.”
He was born into a musical family. His father, John Powers, directed the choir at Copperhill Baptist Church in the Beech Cove. Richard’s mother, Georgia, and his four older sisters also sang at the church.
Richard learned shape-note music when he was 8 years old. His sister attended a singing school and taught him the shape and sound of each note. Some are written as a triangle while others are rectangular or circular. It is a unique system, devised as a simple way to read music. As he grew older, Richard taught singing schools in several churches. These classes usually lasted a week at each place. Part of his legacy included the many Clay County singers who learned music.
The singing master remembered the conventions that were held each May and September at the historical Clay County Courthouse on the town square. Singing groups from various churches competed for the coveted banner which proclaimed them the best.
These conventions drew many people who spread lunch on the courthouse lawn. Colorful picnic clothes beneath the maples gave a festive air to dinner-on-the-grounds. The feast included chicken and dumplings, fresh garden vegetables, country cured ham, banana pudding, fried apple pies, walnut cakes, and other food.
“We had a bunch who liked to sing,” said Richard. “Our youth choir scored 99 and on-half points at the convention. The judges said they knocked off a half point because they never gave anyone a perfect score in their lives.”
These kinds of community-oriented events helped take the edge off the rough times. It can be argued that music helped the mountaineers make it through the Great Depression. Richard was not stranger to those hardships. He said some of the best breakfasts he ever had were cornbread and gravy made from water and corn meal. There was usually an egg and some side meat, too. Richard’s family worked hard growing a garden, raising a hog, and cows. But after the chores were done, the young people had fun singing. They met at someone’s house on Sunday afternoons and sang until they got a tune in their heads. Then they vocalized the words. “People don’t like to sing that way anymore,” reflected Richard.
He often sang with his wife, Jessie, and their daughters, Cheryl and Katie at church. The girls inherited their father’s musical talent and enjoyed making a joyful sound unto God.
Although many churches now sing contemporary hymns, Richard recalled the days when old-timers lifted praise with foot-tapping songs. Those days always lived in the soul of this singing master who kept a melody ringing all day long in his heart.
Myers Chapel United Methodist Church no longer holds worship services. The church was closed.
Cline McClure loved old-time gospel music. He had volume and didn’t need a microphone when he led songs at the singing conventions held in our old courthouse in Hayesville.
As a child, Carroll McClure attended the singing conventions with his parents. Cline and Pearl parked him on the front pew so they could see him. He recalls Cline liked the songs that got up and moved.
Cline and Pearl were popular gospel singers. They sang in Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. They were invited to big singings across the region. Cline also taught some shape-note music classes.
He directed the choir at Myers Chapel United Methodist Church for many years. Pearl sang alto and played the piano by ear. She could not read music.
They grew up in Clay County and attended Hayesville School. Cline was on the championship football team in high school.
Cline attended Western Carolina University and became an educator. He taught school at Fires Creek and stayed with Harley Hicks.
He and Pearl got married in 1930. They had three children: Carroll McClure, Harold McClure, and Donna Crawford.
Pearl loved to cook and people enjoyed eating with her and Cline at their house. She had a big meal everyday that included meat, three vegetables, biscuits, cornbread, and she would even bake a cake. Each day she fed her family and four or five work hands.
She also helped Cline run a country store. It had groceries and livestock feed. Frank Bradley recalls as a child going to the store and the gristmill Cline ran on Saturday.
According to Carroll, Cline operated a hammer and gristmill on Saturday. The ears of corn were hammered to make feed for cattle. It went through the gristmill to make cornmeal. “It was a big thing on Saturday,” says Carroll. “Wagons and pickups were lined up 15 deep to grind corn at the mill.”
Besides operating the gristmill and country store, Cline farmed. Carroll helped him and recalls that his father was a major dairy farmer. “We had the largest dairy herd in this area,” says Carroll.
Cline also went into the poultry business. He was a progressive farmer and had a large irrigation system for the pasture.
Although Cline worked hard on the farm, he always had time to talk with folks. He had a great personality and never met a stranger.
Whenever he went to town, Pearl would say, “There’s no telling when he will come back home.”
Cline’s outgoing personality was one reason he was elected Clay County Clerk of Superior Court in 1938 and 1942. Everyone liked him. His son, Harold McClure, also served as Clerk of Superior Court from 1986 to 2010.
Quail hunting was also one of Cline’s interests. “I still remember his bird dog, Bill,” says Carroll. “The dog was a white pointer and he loved to hunt with him.”
Finally, Cline McClure was a splendid song leader and progressive farmer in Clay County. When he passed away in 1984, Pearl continued to bless people with her gift of singing. She and a group sang at nursing homes and visited shut-ins. Their beautiful voices lifted elderly and sick people. The singers included Pearl, Evelyn Groves, Ray Swaims, Horace McClure, and Phyllis Barnard sometimes went with them.
Pearl was 100 in November, 2011. According to Carroll, she likes to watch the Gaithers on television. When they perform the old hymns, she sings with them and remembers the words. They are implanted in her mind. That’s the power of gospel songs.
An old-fashioned singing and dinner-on-the-grounds were held Sunday, October 2, 2011 on the townsquare in Hayesville, NC. Seven church choirs participated: Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, First Freewill Baptist Church, Fort Hembree Baptist Church, Hayesville First United Methodist Church, The Cowboy Church, Oak Forest United Methodist Church, Truett Memorial First Baptist Church and individual performers.
This church event was part of the Sesquicentennial celebration of Clay County, North Carolina's 150th birthday. Hayesville, NC is the town seat for Clay County that was formed in 1861.
Brenda Kay Ledford plays the ChromAharp and sings, "The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference" at the Church Event.
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd's choir sang at the Sesquicentennial event.
Fort Hembree Baptist Church was the first Africian-American church built in Hayesville, NC.
Mrs. Annie Lloyd of Fort Hembree Baptist Church sings "Amazing Grace" at the event.
The Hayesville First United Methodist Church choir sang at this event.
Rev. Johnny Foster, pastor of Truett Memorial First Baptist Church, sings, "The Long Black Train," during the Sesquicentennial Church Event. Sheriff Vic Davis stands in the background.
Truett Memorial First Baptist Church stands on a hill and overlooks the town of Hayesville, NC. The church was named for Dr. George W. Truett, a world-renown Baptist minister, who was born in Hayesville. He was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX for 40 years.
Sandy Zimmerman was the chairperson of the Clay County Sesquicentennial events.
Clay County Sheriff Vic Davis attended the Sesquicentennial Church Event.
Rev. and Mrs. Alan Flowers sing bluegrass, gospel music. He's pastor of The Cowboy Church.
Sandy Zimmerman's house was built in 1942 by Fred Waldroup. This home arrived in Hayesville, NC by train as a Sears catalog house kit. The Waldroup family with the help of local skilled carpenters assembled it. It is a craftsman-style home and retains many of its original features today. It has been restored and furnished to reflect a vintage 1940's and 1950's style.
Wanda Galloway was a teacher at Hayesville High School and played the piano at the Hayesville First United Methodist Church. She lived in this house that was built in 1880 by James Coleman. On the drive to the home, you will follow the route of an old carriage road.
This is the balcony of Capt. William P. Moore's home.
Capt. William P. (Irish Bill) Moore built this house in 1887. He was a commander in the Confederate army during the Civil War and rode the horse, Crockett.
Alan Bell built this house in 1923. He was the superintendent of the Clay County, NC School System for over 35 years from 1921 until his death in 1956.
This is the front porch of Alan Bell's home on Riverside Drive in Hayesville, NC.
Tom and Viola Gray purchased this house in 1937. It was built in 1917 by W.H. McClure. Tom was a higly respected lawyer in Hayesville, NC and Viola taught first grade at Hayesville Elementary School for many years.
Robin and Lisa Bryan's home was built in 1939 by his grandfather, Didley Bryan. Robin was born in this house and has fond memories growing up in Hayesville, NC.
The historic Sesquicentennial Quilt was created to commemorate Clay County, North Carolina's historical past. The planning committee began with members of the Misty Mountain Quilter's Guild. Several women jointed the task of creating quilt blocks that would accurately depict Clay County scenes and its history. Quilters included: Marilyn Edkin, Cathy Hogan, Becky Keller, Helen Firor, Louise MacDonald, Diane Banakas, Carol Smucker, Carleen Brock, Cheryl Powell, Beverly Adkins (Chairperson), Judy Crawford, and others.
Grandma’s Friendship Quilt hid in the loft for years was a lasting masterpiece of a time of simplicity, when people mattered, families were large, and neighbors would lend a helping hand.
Each patchwork square designed by women engineers was a living picture of pain, joy and plans, overcoming trials with faith and needles, they traded patterns like bubble gum cards.
Around the quilting bee, young girls stitched the Double Wedding Ring and dreamed of the boys they would marry, their lasting marks embroidered on each homemade quilt was a keepsake for future daughters. --Brenda Kay Ledford
I come from a family of quilters. My mother, sister, grandmother, and aunts made masterpieces out of scraps. They ripped up old clothes, cut them into patterns, and never wasted any material.
I watched them quilt and was fascinated by the fabulous designs, but never “took a hankering” to this long, tedious task. It took months to stitch a quilt. I couldn’t sit still long enough for such work.
When I attended Hayesville High School, I got the idea to make a Butterfly quilt. Springtime was just around the corner and I wanted to herald the season with a patchwork quilt. Mama warned me it would take a lot of work, but I assured her I would complete the job in record time. After several attempts to thread the needle and sticking my fingers, I questioned the labor involved with sewing. My back ached, my eyes bugged out, and I felt imprisoned by those scraps of cloth. Why spend hours quilting when you could just march into Mrs. Eva Crawford’s dime store and buy a blanket?
An exchange student from Germany told me she couldn’t understand why Americans cut up cloth, then sewed it back together. Why didn’t we just leave the cloth as one piece and stitch that for a quilt? I agreed that would make a lot more sense and take less time.
So as the months dragged on, I got sick of that Butterfly quilt. It was such a tiring job. I wanted to get rid of that burden. I wanted to go outside, play with my dog, smell the jonquils, and enjoy spring. When Mama got busy weeding her garden, I stashed the cloth under the couch. She wondered what happened to my quilt, but I just shook my head.
Well, time rocked on and thankfully I forgot that quilting project. One day I got home from school and Mama pointed to my bedroom. There lay on my bed the most beautiful, bright Butterfly quilt I had ever seen. Springtime had invaded my bedroom because my mama had finished the quilt for me.