I was a beardless youth traveling the Jacksonville Circuit in the Kentucky Conference as assistant preacher to Rev. Chas. Cooper, preacher in charge. The Jacksonville Circuit embraced a part of three different counties -- Shelby, Henry and Franklin. We ranged from the Kentucky River, thirteen miles below Frankfort, out onto the L. & N. Railroad up to Sweet Home near Christiansburg.

Directly after going to the Circuit, I spent the night with Rev. Peter Kavanaugh who lived in a big bend of the Kentucky River at a place known as LeCompt's Bottom. Leaving Brother Kavanaugh's early in the morning I started across the ridge for a community on Sand Riffle Creek. I had gotten some distance from the house of this most interesting and unique preacher, a nephew, by the way, of our beloved Bishop Kavanaugh. I was riding up a lane when I heard the discharge of a shotgun. Both barrels were fired so close together that it sounded almost like one report. Looking across the field, some hundreds of yards away, I saw three men running, one of them hollowing for help, with two others after him. The wounded man fell. I supposed it was a case of murder. There were several rail fences between me and the men, so I threw my bridle rein over a fence stake, dismounted and ran toward the men as rapidly as possible.

When I arrived on the scene I found that a farmer was going with his own sons over to Brother Kavanaugh's to make apple cider. One of the boys, a stout, handsome lad, some nineteen years of age, was carrying a shotgun in his hand, breech foremost. He had leaped over a ditch in the field, had stumbled and pitching forward had thrown the gun in front of him. The hammers had struck the ground, discharging both barrels. His hand had fallen upon the muzzle of the gun so that the forefinger on his right hand was shot away down to the first joint, hanging by a small bit of skin. Several shot had struck other portions of his hand; one shot had gone into his thigh, another into his ankle. The only serious wound, however, was that which had taken off his finger. I got the lad up, got him to a pool of water, and washed his hand. We clipped away the dangling finger and I tried to assure him that he was not dangerously hurt. His father and the other brother were greatly distressed. The old gentleman said with tears, "Oh, my boy is ruined. He was just getting large enough to help me and now he will never be able to do anything on the farm."

Determined to look on the bright side of the matter, I said to the father, "His finger is gone, but just look what a fine head he has. If he hadn't shot off that finger, he would spend the rest of his life killing tobacco worms and cutting cordwood for the little steamboat that runs up this river. Now, you will have to send him to school, give him an education and some day he will be a great lawyer." I was able to stop their weeping and give them a hopeful view of the situation. The big fine boy looked at me with surprise. His eyes opened wide with interest when I suggested that he get an education and become a lawyer. He wiped away his tears with the shirt sleeve of his uninjured hand and seemed to realize that he was not so badly hurt after all.

They all expressed their gratitude for my coming to them in their trouble. I went to a neighbor's not far away, sent some one in haste for the doctor and went on my way. In course of time, I became an evangelist and went out to hold a meeting in one of the western states. We had quite a large congregation the first night of the services, and while the congregation was singing, just before the benediction I walked down the center aisle, as my custom was, and shook hands with quite a number of people. My attention was especially attracted by a large and very handsome gentleman sitting by an elegantly dressed lady. As I shook hands with him, I said, "Beg pardon, sir, but are you a Christian?" He looked up and smiling said, "No, I am not a Christian, but I am a Kentuckian." He seemed to think that was the next best thing. He said, "I understand you are a Kentuckian and I would be very glad to have you call to see me. I am a lawyer in this town and my office is a certain number on a certain street." I assured him that I would call the next morning.

I was stopping with the pastor of the church where the meetings were being held. After we got home, I told him about meeting this Kentucky lawyer and his invitation to call at his office. The pastor said, "I don't think you want to bother with him. He is one of the most godless men in this town. Did you notice that woman he was with?" "Yes," I said. "Well, that's his wife. Some years ago her first husband died and left a large insurance. The company refused to pay the insurance. She brought suit and employed this Kentucky lawyer. In the course of the trial, the lawyer representing the insurance company made some remark reflecting against the woman who had brought the suit. The Kentucky lawyer gave him a terrible threshing on the spot in spite of the protest of the judge and the officials." "Is that all," I asked. "No," said the preacher, "he won the suit, collected the insurance, and married the woman." I remarked that he was just the kind of fish I was angling for. The pastor thought there was no hope, but I induced him to go around with me the next morning and I found my lawyer seated at the bottom of the stairway leading into his office. He was glad to see me. We went up at once to an elegantly furnished law office. A table sat in the center of the room. He motioned me to a chair on one side while he seated himself in a chair on the other side. The pastor took a newspaper and went over near a window to read the morning news. The lawyer and I got busy talking about Kentucky.

"What county are you from?" I asked.

"Henry County," answered the lawyer.

"In what part of Henry did you live?" I asked.

"Down at the mouth of Sand Riffle Creek on the Kentucky River," was his answer.

"Did you ever know Rev. Peter Kavanaugh?"

"Yes, indeed, he was one of our nearest neighbors and one of the best men in the world."

I remarked that I had known Brother Kavanaugh and while traveling the Jacksonville Circuit had often been entertained in his home. I asked my lawyer how long he had been in Texas, and learned that he had been there some ten years.

I said, "An incident occurred down there close to the mouth of Sand Riffle Creek about fifteen years ago that you may have heard about." I then related to him the story of the boy who shot off his finger and how he had run and fallen and how I had run through the fields to get to him, washed his hand and assured him that he was not badly hurt, commented on his fine big head and told him that he would now go to school and perhaps some day make a great lawyer. He leaned over the table and listened with intense interest, looking me straight in the face. When I got through, he straightened back in his chair, threw up his right hand and said, "There's the stump of the finger!" We leaped to our feet, reached across the table and caught hold of each other. The tears came into our eyes. We were bosom friends from that moment. He said, "My father and brother have a large grocery up here on another street and father has talked many times about the little man who hitched a gray horse in the lane and ran to our help. He will be glad to see you."

We went up and met his father. The old gentleman gave me a cordial greeting; the tears trickled down his face and we chatted and laughed together over how my prophecy had come true. Sure enough, he had sent the boy to school, he had studied law, gone out to this western state and had become quite successful and, as stated before, had won the big insurance case for the widow, whipped the lawyer who had insinuated against her, and married the widow. He would have me down to his home for dinner. He attended the meetings quite regularly and the next summer he and his wife came to the famous old Scottsville Camp.

My lawyer fell under deep conviction for his sins, but would not come to the altar. He said there were some important matters back home he would have to straighten up before he could be a Christian. He went home after the meeting closed and I suppose straightened up matters for he soon professed salvation and united with the Baptist Church.

Some years later, stopping off in the same city I found that he had been elected Mayor and he offered to give a tract of land and build a tabernacle if I would come once a year and hold a camp meeting. I have always been sorry that my time was so crowded with work that I found it impossible to accept his offer. He accumulated considerable property and from time to time when I would meet him in my travels in the West he would always slip his hand into mine with a bill saying that he wanted to help bear my expenses as I carried the good news.

The last time I saw this friend I was passing through St. Louis during the World's Fair in that city and in the great central depot there I met him and his wife. They had just come in from the west to spend some days at the World's Fair. They gave me a most cordial greeting. He moved away from the city where I found him. I do not know where he resides or whether he is living or dead, but, living or dead, we are good friends for time and eternity and I shall never forget the thrill of joy that swept through me when he lifted his hand showing the missing finger and with a smile said, "There's the stump!"

 

From: REMARKABLE CONVERSIONS, INTERESTING INCIDENTS AND STRIKING ILLUSTRATIONS By Henry Clay Morrison, Herald Press Louisville, Kentucky, 1925.

 

 

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