Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

Early Adventists Braved Harsh Conditions in East Tennessee

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A classic line reads, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history. The process of remembering God’s work includes the stories of Scripture, the evidences of God’s work in our personal lives, and also the stories of God’s leading through the church.


The history of the Adventist Church in the territory of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference includes many inspiring stories told through the lives of individuals who were willing to respond to the call of God.


One such story takes place in Bledsoe County, Tenn., near Pikeville—one of the very first places impacted by the three angels messages in this conference. Orlando Soulea young man from Michigan, left home to share the gospel in the hills of Tennessee. It was a very different place from what we would recognize today.


In one letter to the Review and Herald, Soule describes his work: In about six weeks he had given 39 lectures, even though he’d had to stop meetings on two occasions due tbad weather. Opponents had challenged him to debates and even burned his

tracts. One gentleman listened, then went home to prove Soule wrong. But after much study, the antagonist realized that his only safety lay in obedience, so he started keeping the Sabbath. Soule wrote, In fair weather I spoke eleven times a week, and visited from two to six families each day, making a journey of from eight to twelve miles [on foot].


A short time later, a traveling minister named D. M. Canright visited Soule and gave a vivid description of the extreme conditions of service. He had traveled from Nashville toward Bledsoe County on what he described as the worst road he had ever seen, even during his travels through Colorado. He wrote: In Tennessee I should judge that the cows lay out the roads, and then the roads take care of themselves!” Canright and a fellow Adventist worker had hired a team of horses and

worked hard to try to reach the meeting place before Sabbath, but to no avail. They woke up Sabbath morning with nine miles still to goso they completed the journey on foot.


When the evangelist finally arrived, he found a gathering of about 20 people who were hungering for truth. Some had traveled

10 miles through the dense, forested Cumberland Mountains in order to hear the lectures. Often they could not hold night meetings, however, for fear of poisonous snakes. “They are so thick on the mountains and so venomous that the people will not go out after dark, wrote Canright. He also noted that the people living in East Tennessee were not known for healthy living. Corn bread, pork, and coffee are about all a man will see week after week, he wrote. “With very few exceptions, no fruit, no sauce, no vegetables are seen on the table.


In the harsh conditions of this wilderness area, Soule shared Bible truth. New believers studied their Bibles, made decisions to follow Jesus, and were baptized. The first Adventist church in the area to organize, called Mt. Gilead, was located by Bee Creek in Pikeville.


We have nothing to fear for the future, but we do have much to learn from the past. We may not need to walk 10 miles or dodge poisonous snakes on our way to church, but we still have the opportunity to find individuals ready to learn more about Jesus. Are you ready to share? 


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by Greg Hudson, pastor of the Georgia-Cumberland Academy Church, Calhoun, Ga.