Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Do Good – Anyway

PUSH: Play Units for the Severely Handicapped

PUSH: Play Units for the Severely Handicapped

A decade ago, I met a woman who served as an instructor at the United States Chamber of Commerce Institute of Organizational Management.  In 2000, I graduated from the program for Chamber of Commerce Executives which took place in Charleston, South Carolina.  There we discussed the means by which we could be “masters” of our given professions.  Throughout the program which took place for a week over four years, we discussed topics ranging from ethical leadership to volunteer development. Perhaps the message which made the most impact on me was a piece shared by one of our instructors on the Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership.

Dr. Kent M. Keith, wrote the commandments, which were later used by Mother Teresa.  His simple statements were thought provoking for me and I think you will find them meaningful as well.  Keith writes:

People are illogical, unreasonable and self centered.  Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. 

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.  Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.  Be honest and frank anyway. 

The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest ideas.  Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway. 

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.  Build anyway.

People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them.  Help them anyway.    

Keith saved what I felt was the best for last.  He said, “Give the world the bestann marie you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.   But give the world the best you have anyway.”   Simple truths for challenging times.  Sometimes they seem too difficult to put into practice.   Perhaps…. but wouldn’t it be great –  just to do it anyway?

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from an old country church

Bethesda Presbyterian Church

Bethesda Presbyterian Church

Over the years, I have written many articles about my childhood and early life in Rock Hill, South Carolina. While I live in Huntersville (NC) now, I still attend church when possible at Bethesda Presbyterian.  It’s a little country church located in McConnells, a sleepy little town, just outside of York.  Members of my family count among the early founding members which date back to 1789.  A few years ago, the late Rev. Jeff Lowrance of Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Huntersville and I discovered that one of the earlier ministers served both Hopewell and my church – Bethesda.  I cannot tell you how ironic it felt to me that 200 years later, a young man from Bethesda would travel to the Huntersville community, working with other business and community leaders as we seek to reach our potential as a community.

Rev. Jeff Lowarance

Rev. Jeff Lowrance

Growing up in a small country church, we didn’t have all new equipment and audio visual aids that churches like Huntersville Presbyterian have today. While our choir was quite dedicated and the members rarely missed a practice, the men of the choir in my earlier years were not particularly talented.  Most were pretty handy when it came to repairing the cemetery fence.  However, when it came to singing – few, if any, could carry a tune.  One Sunday, the Session of the church bought the Choir new robes.  They looked grand but sang just as bad. The next year, the congregation bought a new organ. Instead of drowning out the off key choir, the newly inspired group sang that much louder. Finally, the Session of the church hired a Choir Director who moved the choir to the balcony in the back of the church.  Now it seemed, no matter how badly the choir sang, no one actually had to endure watching them do it.

One day after church I was walking back to the car and I decided to ask my Granddaddy Russell why the Elders of the church didn’t simply ask those who couldn’t sing to drop out of the choir. He stopped walking, looked down at me, and took my hand. “You must use all the talents and abilities you have,”  he said.  “The trees would be very silent if no birds sang but the very best.”

songbirdToday, each of us as chamber members, civic club participants, school and church volunteers, and active citizens try to give back to the community we love. We strive to make it a great place to work and live.  Some do a better job than others, but every time we do something for someone else, we use the unique talents God gave us for that very purpose.  And the trees would be very silent indeed if no birds sang except the very best.

August 21, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bethesda Presbyterian Church History – Rev. Alexander, Martin, and Walker and the Battle of Kings Mountain

Bethesda0001The following article appeared in a series of articles written by A.M. Grist publisher and editor of the Yorkville Enquirer at York, S.C. This paper was established in 1855 by Mr. Grist’s father. After the death of his father, his brother took the helm and was a purported great writer. When the paper was ultimatley passed down to him, A. M. felt inadequate to fill his brother’s shoes. He worked energetically and worried so much that he suffered a nervous breakdown. The doctor told him to stay away from the newspaper office, get out in the country. Mr. Grist began taking long walks along the winding roads of York county, talking with the country folks–and writing a column of “Rolling Along” for his twice-a-week paper. This column became very popular, and was continued for years, building up a great circulation, as well as rebuilding the writer’s health and endearing him to everybody, old and young, in the whole county. The following was published Tuesday, March 26, 1935:

Tuesday, March 26, 1935
Just A-Rolling Along the Way
Log of Yorkville Enquirer’s Reporter as He
Journeys Here and There in York County
by A. M. Grist

If you will pardon me, just this once, I am going to “fudge” a bit, and take advantage of  Brother W. W. Pegram, editor of The Chester News, who is writing many interesting historical sketches very much along the same line as are the “Rolling Along” sketches in the Enquirer, and every now and then one of Editor Pegram’s stories has a York County angle, and the following taken from his issue of March l8, has this angle.  It appears that one of the readers of The News wants to question a statement concerning a certain thing in connection with the Battle of Kings Mountain and Editor Pegram sets him straight.  The following letter to The News from T. J. Robbins of Lowrys gets things going:

William Martin preached a sermon that inspired the men to the Kings Mountain Battle, which was the turning point in the Revolutionary War. “This certainly was a new thing to me. They should tell us where this sermon was preached and when. If the report is correct of this William Martin it would be well for them to examine his reputation.” The Presbyterian history of the Presbyterian church of South Carolina, tells us that Dr. Joseph Alexander of Bullocks Creek, S.C., made the patriotic talk that inspired the men of this section to gather and sent them on to Kings Mountain. I have ‘The Battle of Kings Mountain’,  the official record of the war department of the United States, which gives a full description of this battle.  This battle was made up of men from Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. “The North and South Carolinians” were commanded by Col. Williams, who was wounded and died the next day. Ferguson forgot to take into consideration that he was to battle with Scotch-Irish Presbyterians.

“Rev. Joseph Alexander was a great preacher and patriot, launched a classic school at Bullocks Creek and educated Andrew Jackson, president of the United States.   I am only writing to try to keep the record straight.”

American Forces at Kings Mountain
American Forces at Kings Mountain

“Our good friend Mr. Robbins, states that ‘he wants to keep the record straight’, and herein the writer thoroughly ‘agrees with him, says Mr. Pegram.   However, we feel sure that Mr. Robbins has not been studying enough of our local Revolutionary ‘history.  The History of the Presbyterian church, which he alludes to, is fine insofar as it goes, but it is confined mostly to Presbyterian history. Unfortunately not much of the Covenanter history of Chester County has been preserved, but the writer has delved into what records he could find during the past several years, compiling them into readability form, visiting various sections of Chester county and through historical documents and manuscripts of authentic nature, and has arrived at the conclusion that Rev. William Martin, Covenanter preacher, was an outstanding man of his day.

“Mr. Robbins says, ‘It would be well for them to examine his (Martin’s) reputation. The writer has done just that and is in a position to state that at times Rev. Martin was intemperate. Catholic Presbyterian church in Chester county let him go as pastor on account of having imbibed too freely of spirits. However, some of our old Presbyterian elders were also on the carpet from time to time answering like charges and the writer can place his hands on a record where a man was elected to an eldership in Bethesda Presbyterian church near McConnellsville, and some of the members objected to his election because he did not own his own still. In other words, one would infer from the record that “all substantial” church officers in that day were expected to own stills.

Whiskey still
Whiskey still

“Mr. Robbins wants to know when and where Rev. Martin preached his inspiring sermon to the men which sent them forward to Kings Mountain.   His war sermon was after Buford’s defeat, and its effects are graphically described in The Women of the American Revolution, Vol. 3, at page 124. The British put William Martin in chains in Winnsboro. They burned his church on Rocky Creek in Chester county in 1780 and they made things hot in general for Rev. Martin, but he was a patriot and up and down this section he went inspiring the men to go forth to battle. The writer, with the help of a fellow-townsman, has located the grave of Rev. William Martin, also his old home site and the spring nearby, and we could go right along with citations of his patriotism and we can name you numbers of old settlers in Chester county who had Rev. William Martin baptize their children and many a child was named for him, which would indicate that his personal acquaintances must have thought well of him, else they would not have tied his name onto their children.

“The writer admits that Rev. Martin at times partook too freely of the spirits but that he was for all this a God-fearing man we quote from his will, we having seen the original: ‘ In the name of God Amen.  I, William Martin of Chester District and State of South Carolina, being in common health and of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God for all his mercies, calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament, that is to say, principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul unto the hands of Almighty God that gave it to me and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in a decent Christian manner, nothing doubting but at the General Resurrection.  I shall receive the same again by the Almighty power of Almighty God.’

With this information we trust our friend Mr. Robbins will realize that Rev. Martin, along with Rev. Alexander, was a God-fearing man as well as a patriot. The writer would not attempt to uphold Rev. Martin in his intemperance; nevertheless we would not detract from the noble things for which he manfully stood in trying days. Thus may the record be kept straight.
Rev. Alexander's grave at Bullocks Creek Pres. Church

Rev. Alexander's grave at Bullocks Creek Pres. Church

From the foregoing, it is probable that  Mr. Robbins is referring to the fact that Rev. Martin had somewhat of a reputation as a drinker of a little too much brandy on occasion, and for that reason suggests that “it would be well for them to examine his reputation.” As Editor Pegram explains fully, in that far day respectable and well-to-do people were expected to have their own stills, and everybody was expected to drink toddy more or less frequently, and neither preachers, elders, deacons, stewards or vestrymen refrained from partaking of whisky on any and all social occasions.  “Then such was considered seemly.   Dr. Maurice Moore, in his Reminiscences of York, tells this about Rev. Mr.  Walker, a one-time pastor of Bethesda Presbyterian church, and a son-in-law of Dr. Joseph Alexander of Bullocks Creek academy fame. In part Dr. Moore’s reference to Rev. Walker follows:

“I recall one Friday, when Rev.  Walker stopped at my father’s gate on his way to Chester. He refused the invitation to come in and take a social glass.  My father, ‘on hospitable intent’, proposed to bring out the decanter to him, as he sat on the horse. ‘No! no! as you insist, I’ll go in — not take a drink on horseback.’

“He was going to see a criminal who was to be hung on the following Friday – a man named Floyd who had killed the sheriff of Chester district, Colonel Nunn.  My step-mother was much interested in the man’s case and begged her preacher to call as he returned, and tell her if the man seemed penitent and to have laid hold on the precious promises held up for his acceptance. He kindly promised he would gratify her.”
 
“About an hour before sundown, I, with my father, was under the shade of a big chestnut tree which stood near the barn, he riving boards and I piling them, when Mr. Walker hove in sight at a full gallop. As the horse neared the gate, expecting to be checked up at the frequent stopping place, he fell into a long trot, which almost caused the rider to lose his perpendicular, but urged on he resumed the canter.  Mr. Walker righted himself; for with the smoother gait he could retain the proper equilibrium — and passed with a dignified ‘Good afternoon, ‘Squire’.

I lifted up my head, big with discernment for a lad of ten. Never stir! father, if Mr. Walker wasn’t drunk.  My father turned sternly: ‘Let me ever hear of you saying such a thing as that again, sir and I’ll give you such a whipping as you never had in your life!  Mum was the word after that.

Preacher on horseback
Preacher on horseback

“In a few moments my father threw down the frower and walked to the house. I followed, for my task was done when he stopped work. He walked thru the hall where my stepmother and sister were sitting, at their sewing, and went into his own room. “Katie,” he called, and his wife followed. I crept near the door. and heard him telling the mournful tale. How hard I felt it, I might not repeat my knowledge, gained too, thru my penetration, to the girls; but the interdict was too heavy, and when my stepmother came out with a face a yard long, I could only hug myself with sterile complacency that I knew, too.

“Day after the next being the Sabbath, in the pulpit the good old man confessed his fault with tears to the congregation, who wept with him in sympathy and love. Nor was there one to whom he was less dear or respected from the humiliating avowal; freely was his sin forgiven and forgotten, and not for one instant was his usefulness injured. I might, after this, tell the other urchins what I’d seen; but the information had lost its zest, and I wondered vainly why my father issued so stern a mandate, when after all, Mr. Walker told about it himself in the meeting house.”
 
Source: The Yorkville Enquirer, Tuesday March 26, 1935.

August 20, 2009 Posted by | Bethesda Presbyterian Church History | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bethesda Presbyterian Church History (York, SC) – The Revivals, Ministers, & Doctors 1800 – 1927

Bethesda0001The following article appeared in a series of articles written by A.M. Grist publisher and editor of the Yorkville Enquirer at York, S.C. This paper was established in 1855 by Mr. Grist’s father.  After the death of his father, his brother took the helm and was a purported great writer.  When the paper was ultimatley passed down to him, A. M. felt inadequate to fill his brother’s shoes. He worked energetically and worried so much that he suffered a nervous breakdown. The doctor told him to stay away from the newspaper office, get out in the country. Mr. Grist began taking long walks along the winding roads of York county, talking with the country folks–and writing a column of “Rolling Along” for his twice-a-week paper. This column became very popular, and was continued for years, building up a great circulation, as well as rebuilding the writer’s health and endearing him to everybody, old and young, in the whole county.  The following is one of those articles written in 1935.

Just A-Rolling Along the Way
Log of the Green Chevrolet As It Voyages Over More of York County
(Sketch of Bethesda Church)

The story of Bethesda Church would not be complete without telling of some of the big religious revivals that have occurred in the congregation in the years long gone by. Strange as it may seem, the first big revival meeting held at Bethesda had its inception in Kentucky and Tennessee.  This was in 1800, according to the history as written by Mrs. Bratton and kindly loaned to me for this sketch. The Rev. R.B. Walker, pastor of Bethesda right in the beginning of the last century 1800, had heard of a great religious awakening in Kentucky and Tennessee. He didn’t get his information by radio, telegraph, or the newspapers, but evidently it came to him by word of mouth as some traveler passed through from Kentucky and Tennessee, and perhaps stopped over for a visit to this energetic Bethesda pastor. Certain it is that Rev. Walker was interested in what he had heard and wanted to know more about this great religious awakening.  He saddled old Dobbin and equipped with saddlebags and other traveling paraphernalia and clothing that he might need for a few weeks, he made the journey of several hundred miles to the section where the religious awakening had taken place, and perhaps was then in progress.  He remained in Kentucky for sometime. Long enough to get into full sympathy with the conditions and then returned to Bethesda. Shortly thereafter Mr. Walker began a protracted meeting and it was at this time that the first of the series of camp meetings was instituted at Bethesda.

A watercolor painting of a camp meeting in Tenn. or Ky. c. 1839

A watercolor painting of a camp meeting in Tenn. or Ky. c. 1839

Neighboring ministers were invited to aid in the evangelistic meeting, and many people came, some of them as far as 30 or 40 miles to attend the services which lasted for weeks and its influence for years. It is said that “the people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved by the wind.”   The record says that this first camp meeting is known in the church history as “the Old Revival,” and resulted in the conversion of more than 300. The next extended revival at Bethesda came in 1817, and as the result of this meeting at “least 200 souls were added to the Lord.”
 
It was in 1832 that the Rev. Daniel Baker, acting evangelist for South Carolina, visited Bethesda church and conducted a meeting, and his preaching aroused the community to an appreciation of Divine things.  A great many were received into the church and for years afterward many pointed back to this meeting as the time of receiving their first impressions of things religious, if not conversion.

Nearly fifty years later, 1881, Bethesda again had a wonderful experience in an evangelistic meeting, though in the interval from 1832 to 1881 there had been many special meetings held at the church.  This meeting in 1881 began with the fall communion service, an event of importance then and later, and continued for a period of two weeks.  Rev. F. L. Leeper of Fort Mill, was the preacher who conducted the meeting. He was a more than ordinarily able man and was filled with the evangelistic spirit. No matter how dark the nights might be, no matter how hard it might have been raining, or how cold the weather, the building was filled to capacity night after night by throngs of men, women and children. Even the gallery was filled with negro hearers at the services. The people came from distances of six, eight and ten miles in buggies, wagons and on horseback and even on foot for considerable distances.  The people were evidently hungry for the “Gospel messages” they were earnest and eager worshippers.  As a result of this meeting new life was infused into the church and 52 members were added to the communion. This meeting is yet known and refereed to as the great revival of 1881. 

Samuel Williamson, President Davidson College

Samuel Williamson, President Davidson College

The influence of Bethesda church has not been confined to its own immediate bounds as great as that influence has been. During its long years many men have gone out from it as ministers and missionaries and traveled to the far corners of this nation and to foreign lands as well. Rev. James McElhaney was born at Waxhaw, but came to the Bethesda community when 10 years of age. He lived there until he entered the ministry. His brother, Rev. John McElhaney was also reared in the Bethesda congregation. Other Bethesda men who became ministers were Revs. John and Samuel Williamson, the latter becoming president of Davidson college, where he served for 16 years.
 
The Rev. George Washington Boggs, another Bethesda man, was graduated from Princeton seminary in 1830 and two years later sailed on the Black Warrior for India, as a missionary under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Others going out from Bethesda included Rev. Lossing Clinton, Rev. A. P. Sullivan and Rev. C. J. Sullivan. The later went as a missionary to the Indians in Arkansas in 1855. He contracted TB and went to an early grave in Texas while trying to reach home. 

Rev. Thomas M. Lowry was another of Bethesda’s young men who became a minister. He united with Bethesda in 1872 in his 18th year.  Five years later he was licensed to preach and at once went to Aberdeen, Miss. He spent  most of his years as an active minister in the west, but was also a pastor at Shelby N.C. for several years.  He died Feb. 2, 1927 and is buried in Rose Hill cemetery, Yorkville.  Rev. Samuel Rainey Hope, a son of the late Robert S. hope and a grandson of Allison Hope, both of them ruling elders at Bethesda, was for fourteen years a missionary in Japan. He is now a resident of Asheville, N.C.  Rev. Paul H. Moore, also a Bethesda product is now pastor at Pendleton, S.C.  

The Bratton Family Homestead - Col. William Bratton's home were continued in the 19th century by his youngest son, Dr. John Simpson Bratton (1789-1843)

The Bratton Family Homestead - Col. William Bratton's home was continued in the 19th century by his youngest son, Dr. John Simpson Bratton (1789-1843)

 
But as many ministers as have gone out of the loins of Bethesda congregation, they are few as compared with the number of its sons who have turned to that other profession that serves humanity — medicine. The list of Bethesda doctors includes the following:

Dr. Josiah~ Moore, who began practice in 1798; Dr. William Bratton, Dr. A. Gibson, James Davidson, Charles Hanna, Haslett Clendennin, John S. Bratton, William Moore, Alexander CIendennin, Nathan Marion,  L. O. Williamson, M. A. Moore , John Hall, Samuel Dale, William McNeel, Stuart Starr, William Hemmingway, Calvin P. Sandifer, (of whom the Bethesda church records make this note: “He might justly be termed the Luke of Bethesda, its beloved physician.”) He died Dec. 3, 1882.

Drs. J. Stanhope Moore, R.B. Hope, S. Edward Bratton, Washington McNeel, James Hufus Bratton, J.F. Lindsay, H. S. Moore, R. L. Love, ___ ___ Ratchford, R.C. Hanna, John Mc Neel, Thomas A. Crawford, William M. Love, Walker Moore, Clarence Bratton, S. Glenn Love, Daniel Moore, James P. Crawford, Wilson McConnell, Harvey McConnell.

We cannot give here a list of names of Bethesda’s soldiers who have played their parts in all the wars in which the United States has had a part, but suffice it to say that out of the Bethesda congregation — founded before the Revolutionary war — there has always been a proportionate part of Bethesda’s soldiers in every war, as anyone can easily find but by visiting the church cemetery and noting the many grave markers reciting the fact that many soldiers are buried there.
 
But as much as have the men of Bethesda contributed to the ministry and to the medical world, and also to the military field, there has been no lack of noble women in the Bethesda congregations through the years who have contributed their full share to every neighborhood, county and state activity. Fact of the matter is, we suspect that much of the long and honorable history of Bethesda church, extending over 164 years since its actual organization as a church body and before that as a meeting place, is largely due to the activities of the women of the community, as close observation has long ago convinced us that without the women actively engaged in church work, churches would not very actively exist.

The Ladies’ Aid Society of Bethesda church was organized in 1887 with its first president being Mrs. N. B. Bratton. She carne to Bethesda just after the war from Washington, D.C, a war bride, and although an Episcopalian, and in which church she retained her membership as long as she lived,  she identified herself with the religious life and activities of the church of husband, Bethesda, and for fifty years was one of the most loyal workers for Bethesda as well as for the community in which she lived. Later on the Ladies Aid Society became the Woman’s Missionary and Aid Society and then the Woman’s Auxiliary, but still the women’s organization continues to be one of the strong factors in the religious life of Bethesda church and community.
 
To be sure the three brief sketches that I have been able to write with the aid of Mrs. Bratton’ s manuscript, is not a complete history of Bethesda church. Its history cannot be condensed in so small a compass as six newspaper columns. But perhaps someone interested, will take the foundations laid by Mrs. Bratton in her researches and build thereon a complete history as there should be and as I certainly hope there will be.

Good Morning.
– A. M. Grist.

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Bethesda Presbyterian Church History | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Trip to Pleasantville

pleasantvilleThe other night I caught a movie on TV starring Tobey McGuire called “Pleasantville“.  These days most of us think of Tobey as Spiderman.  Similar to the Back to the Future flicks with Michael J. Fox, Tobey takes a trip back to the 1950’s.  The premise of the 1998 movie is two teenagers, through the wizardry of science, are transported into a 1950s sitcom.  They land in Pleasantville where everything is black and white with a touch of gray. Life is slow and easy in Pleasantville. It’s always 70 degrees and sunny.  The undefeated high school basketball team never misses a basket and Mr. Johnson’s Malt Shop is always open to serve up your favorite cheeseburger. Things are pretty routine in the small town where lover’s lane is confined to hand holding and the biggest challenge for the fire department is rescuing a kitten from a tree.

The Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce spends most of its time repainting the “Welcome” sign and conducting the Annual Pancake Breakfast.  There is no economic downturn and no unemplopyment.  There are no traffic jams to contend with; no problems with overcrowding at the schools; no single-parent families or marital discourse.  There is no life outside of Pleasantville, where the population never changes and no one ever visits.  To the citizens who live there, there is only Pleasantville. So what is there not to like about this idealistic setting?pleasantville rainbow

There’s no color in the trees. There is nothing diverse or unique about the people. Nothing unexpected ever happens.  Perhaps the best thing about our life is that we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We can plan for our future and shape our destiny but we must accept the fact that tomorrow will be different than today. Our team won’t make every basket and it just might rain tomorrow.  Things might not come easy to us but the rewards make the effort worthwhile. There are some who would rather live in Pleasantville, but not me. I’d rather face a day with unbridled opportunities than to know what’s going to happen.  I’ll work to tackle the challenges we face and feel good when we overcome them. Give me the unexpected over the routine any day. You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. Besides,we seem to spend more time at the Lake Norman Chamber creating new signs rather than repainting them and our Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs already have a pancake breakfast.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , | Leave a comment

Bethesda Presbyterian Church History (York, SC) 1769 – 1864

Bethesda0001The following article appeared in a series of articles written by A.M. Grist publisher and editor of the Yorkville Enquirer at York, S.C. This paper was established in 1855 by Mr. Grist’s father.  After the death of his father, his brother took the helm and was a purported great writer.  When the paper was ultimatley passed down to him, A. M. felt inadequate to fill his brother’s shoes. He worked energetically and worried so much that he suffered a nervous breakdown. The doctor told him to stay away from the newspaper office, get out in the country. Mr. Grist began taking long walks along the winding roads of York county, talking with the country folks–and writing a column of “Rolling Along” for his twice-a-week paper. This column became very popular, and was continued for years, building up a great circulation, as well as rebuilding the writer’s health and endearing him to everybody, old and young, in the whole county.  The following is one of those articles written in 1935.

Just A-Rolling Along the Way
Log of the Green Chevrolet As It Voyages Over More of York County
(Sketch of Bethesda Church)

In my story in the issue of December 19th I closed the Bethesda Church story with the removal in 1879 of the arbor used for the camp meetings that has been held here for many years previous to that time.  Now, using Mrs. Bratton’s historical sketch, I will go back and briefly review the story of Bethesda from its founding down through the years, but of course not giving the history, long and honorable, in full detail.

The church records available place the founding of Bethesda Church in 1769, five years later than the founding of Bethel along in the same year as Ebenezer and Bullocks Creek churches,  if I remember correctly. However, there had been more or less frequent preaching services held in the Bethesda community  long before 1769, and of course these preliminary services and preaching occasions gradually led up to the founding of the organized church. From the best records available the organization of Bethesda Church was effected by Rev. William Richardson, while he was stationed at the famous old Waxhaw church in Lancaster county.

Rev. Richardson was.an Englishman. Coming to America he prepared for the ministry under Rev. Samuel Davis of Virginia, who was later president of Princeton College. Mr. Richardson, ordained in 1759, was sent as a missionary to the Cherokee Indian tribes of North Carolina. In 1761 he became a member of the South Carolina presbytery and began his ministry at Waxhaw, where he labored until 1771, extending his
services to the surrounding territory, including Bethesda.

Among the earliest ministerial supplies at Bethesda of which there is record, included Rev. Hezekiah J. Balch and Dr. James Alexander.  Rev. Balch was from Hartford county, Md.  He was ordained in 1770 and shortly afterwards came on a mission to the southern states. He was present and had an important part in the famous Mecklenburg convention of May 20, 1775.  His early death cut short a promising career.

The seal of North Carolina bears the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration.

The seal of North Carolina bears the date of the Mecklenburg Declaration.

The history of Bethesda for the next 25 years is rather remarkable. During this period it had the ministerial services of many men, some of them men of brilliant minds and much ability and sturdy patriots but not any of them became pastors of Bethesda church. 
 
Rev. Dr. James Alexander of Bullocks Creek, ardent Revolutionary patriot, and educator, frequently filled the pulpit at Bethesda. Rev. John Simpson, pastor of Fishing Creek,  also preached at Bethesda more or less often and in 1774 divided his time with Bethesda regularly, this arrangement continuing
for a number of years. He too was an active patriot and his privations and losses suffered at the hands of the British are of historical record.

It is interesting to note that the membership of Bethesda Church, and in fact the whole community was a unit in the matter of resistance to British tyranny.  Although there were a few of the type classified as half-Loyalists, and then were not connected with Bethesda church, and because of this fact the peace of the Bethesda community was never imperiled by what was a prolific source of trouble in other churches of that period.
 
The first pastor of Bethesda was the Rev. Robert B. Walker, who was ordained as pastor in 1794. He continued as pastor for 40 years. He came to the church in a dark period of the history of the community and the nation as well. The demoralizing effects of the bloody war for independence were yet visible.  The energies of the people were yet paralyzed. Under the leadership of Rev. Walker the church was lifted to prosperity and it made rapid growth.

Mr. Walker was a native of this state and he began and ended his ministerial labors at Bethesda and left a great monument to himself in the work he accomplished. He was succeeded by Rev. Cyrus Johnson, whose labors for five years were most fruitful. Among other things he instituted a systematic study of catechism. He divided the congregation into wards and these were regularly visited by the pastor and elders, and on these occasions all were catechized by the pastor.

Rev. Harper Caldwell was the next pastor of Bethesda, his pastorate continuing for seven years and became known as the period of “Bethesda’s afflictions.” There were four years of continuous sickness within the bounds of the church causing many deaths; the severe drought of 1845 fell in this period, and there were many of Bethesda’s communicants who migrated to western states. The youthful pastor became discouraged and having caught the spirit which transferred so many of his flock to other states, he followed the trend and removed to Mississippi.

Ebenezer Church (Rock Hill)

Ebenezer Church (Rock Hill)

It is interesting to note just here that in the period of 1795 to 1846, 52 years, Bethesda had but three pastors, Revs. Walker, Johnson and Caldwell, with one of them continuing for 40 years. Rev. Pierpont Edward Bishop in 1847 removed from Ebenezer to Yorkville, and then began serving Bethesda as stated supply, alternating with the Yorkville church until 1851, when he was installed pastor of Bethesda. He continued as Bethesda’s pastor for nine years not only preaching, but teaching as well with a pronounced degree of acceptability, love and success until pastoral relations were dissolved and he moved to
Bennettsville.

A few months later John Stitt Harris, student at Columbia Theological seminary, began serving Bethesda as stated supply. Six month later he was installed as pastor. He served with efficiency until November, 1864 when the relationship was ended by death. He was a brilliant young man of outstanding strength of character and so beloved that his untimely passing was a tragedy of the day.  He married a daughter of Dr. John S. Bratton and thus was the more closely identified with the Bethesda community.  His remains lie buried in Bethesda cemetery.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Bethesda Presbyterian Church History | , , , , | Leave a comment

Things not always seen

Don Bombay (Left) with Dave Kight

Don Bombay (Left) with Dave Kight

Every day a new story is written in Lake Norman.  A page is turned and a new chapter begins.  Such is always the case in a growing region like ours.  Last month, the last word was written on a man who had a profound impact on our community.  Don Bombay volunteered as a SCORE representative here at the chamber.    After a very successful career as a business and financial consultant, he retired and volunteered his time with the SCORE organization. 

SCORE  is a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneurial education and the formation, growth and success of small businesses nationwide.   SCORE’s retired and working volunteers are experienced entrepreneurs and corporate managers/executives. These volunteers provide free business counseling and advice as a public service to all types of businesses, in all stages of development.

It is through SCORE that I first met Don several years ago.  Don met with many of our start up businesses and offered them counseling and advice on business plans, marketing plans, and financing.  Over the last few years, illness took a toll on Don.  Yet, no matter how bad he felt, he never allowed the illness to keep him from his goal of business assistance.  Last month Don lost his long battle to cancer.  Ironically, at the same time a memorial service was being held at the Davidson College Presbyterian Church Chapel, a groundbreaking was taking place for the Davidson Day School.sunshine

A chapter was written and a new chapter began.  Young students with a new school to perhaps be trained as our emerging entrepreneurs and business leaders of the future.  It was very fitting that the minister read a passage from II Corinthians Chapter 4:     While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Don Bombay’s work, like the contributions of many counselors and volunteers often go unheralded.  But they never go unnoticed.  Sometimes the things we never see mean more to our community than the things we do see.  Those things are eternal.

August 11, 2009 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Family Tradition

Dale0001Few people have impacted their industry like Dale Earnhardt, Sr. has on stock car racing. The Lake Norman Visitors Center is deluged by NASCAR fans each May and October as the Sprint Cup Race is conducted at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in nearby Concord.  However, the Visitors Center feels the impact throughout the year as fans visit their favorite driver’s garages, many of which are located here at Lake Norman. Race fans, representing a great diversity of income levels, come from all over the country to spend their vacations here in the heart of NASCAR where stock car racing was born.

Perhaps no sport has a more zealous following and no sports figure has stirred such feelings as Dale Earnhardt – he was the Ty Cobb of the racing industry. If you are a race fan you either loved Dale Earnhardt or you pulled for any car but the infamous #3. There simply was no middle ground for “The Intimidator.”  I became a serious NASCAR fan in 1993. Then many people who rooted against Earnhardt cited that he was too cocky, but it was that self-confidence and risk-taking that attracted me. He was a master of the track, using a car like a painter uses his canvas. A seven-time Winston Cup (Sprint) Champion, perhaps only Richard Petty rivaled his records but no driver equaled his presence in stock car racing.

No one should meet his or her death at such a young age, only 49. But Dale Earnhardt died doing what he did so well – racing. Such a cliché but so true. His black Chevy Monte Carlo slammed into the wall at turn 4 on the last lap of the Daytona 500, considered the Super Bowl of NASCAR races.  He was holding off the pack from overtaking two cars he owned, Michael Waltrip who finished first, and his son, Dale Jr., who finished second. I sat on the edge of my couch watching as Earnhardt blocked for his DEI team. I was absolutely ecstatic as Michael and Junior crossed the finish line. Initially, some watching the finish didn’t know the accident had occurred and none of us knew how devastating it actually was when we saw the #3 car sitting silently in the infield. Later that evening a friend called to ask me had I heard the terrible news, “Dale Earnhardt died.” I was crushed. Even as I write this article, it’s difficult to hold back the tears welling up.

But the drivers got back in their cars the next Sunday much like the crew climbed back into the space shuttle after the Challenger and Columbia accidents and like a farmer plants the year after a drought. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. We can’t dwell on what could have been, only what can be.  Dale Earnhardt, riding shotgun for his team, got his drivers across the finish line. Then the #3 car made contact with another machine, drifted up the track and slammed against the wall. I suspect, if he were here, he would say with that characteristic smirk, “That’s racin.”

2001 Pepsi 400

2001 Pepsi 400

Later that year, Dale Jr, returned to Daytona in the Pepsi 400 where he went from 6th to 1st in the last few laps as Michael Waltrip, his teammate at DEI, this time held off the other challengers.  They finished in reverse order of their Daytona 500 Victories.  I’m not sure I will ever forget the scene of Junior climbing up on Michael’s #15 NAPA car and hugging him as tight as he could, both enjoying the victory that neither could celebrate earlier in the year.   Then in 2004, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the Daytona 500, six years to the day after his father won his only title in the “Great American Race.”  Try and convince me God isn’t a NASCAR fan!

#3This weekend Dale Earnhardt’s grandson Jeffrey Earnhardt, Kerry’s son, will make his Nationwide Series debut at Watkins Glen.  It’s a tradition that runs deep in the Earnhardt family – a tradition filled with victory and pain.  This weekend Junior and Jeffrey will run their race.  They’ll swap some paint and run as hard as those Hendrick and DEI engines will turn and watching it all will be the man in black.  He’ll have the best seat in the house as his boys carry on the old family tradition.  And I’m sure, he’ll say with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye – “That’s racin’”

August 8, 2009 Posted by | NASCAR Racing | , , , | Leave a comment

Serve me up a Porky Pig Platter Please!

Judge at this year's BBQ Cookoff

Judge at this year's BBQ Cookoff

Recently I was asked to judge a Barbecue Cook Off for the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson – an outreach center which assists those in the community that need a helping hand.  It was an honor as I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to that delectable dish.     Barbecue means different things to different people.  To some folks chicken, beef, lamb, and an assortment of other creatures can be barbecued on the grill.  But to a real southerner, Barbecue has one meaning – pulled or chopped pork pit-cooked slowly, typically 16-18 hours, over hickory coals served up Eastern Style with a sauce of vinegar and peppers or mustard based.

No Porky Pig sandwich or plate is complete without fresh hush puppies, Cole slaw, and topped off with Banana Pudding.  When I was a little boy growing up in Rock Hill, my father, grandfather, and a South Carolina House of Representatives member by the name of George Petty used to attend most of the South Carolina football and basketball games. Win or lose, we found our way to Maurice Bessinger’s Piggie Park in Columbia for a Big Joe for the men and a Little Joe for myself and a couple of hush puppies for good measure.

My father, a USC graduate, spent many a day pouring over his studies with a plate of ribs, a side of slaw, and onion rings.  Sometimes he ordered the rice with hash, another great dish!  Rare do I tailgate for today’s Carolina Games without stopping by Bessinger’s.  I admit to an occasional run by Bojangles for Fried Chicken, but nothing says Carolina football more than a round of Big Joe Porky Pig Sandwiches and a gallon of sweet ice tea.  Yes, there are cocktails involved but it is simply not proper etiquette to drink your whiskey before a bowl of “Nanna Pudding” made with real Nilla Vanilla Wafers.  I once had someone try to sneak a Nanna Puddin’ by me made with those low fat off brands like Keebler.  I can tell the difference blindfolded, standing on my head, with a plethora of Gamecock Cheerleaders walking by – “Go Cocks!” 

Go Cocks!

Go Cocks!

When I was a chamber executive in the Low Country of South Carolina, I spent many a Friday lunch at Sweatman’s in Holly Hill.  Their mustard-based barbecue melted in your mouth – yum! In 1992, I was elected President of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) and it was tradition for the National President to host a cookout for the National Officers and headquarters staff.  I flew out gallons of Bessinger’s Barbecue from their Flying Pig service.  It was an experience those folks from Tulsa was sure not to forget.  I have to give credit where credit is due – it was my wife Melissa’s idea and it was a sure fired hit!

Great Grandmamma Rosie Agnes Lee Feemster

Great Grandmamma Rosie Agnes Lee Feemster

My Great Grandmamma Rosie Lee Feemster, whose granddaddy was Robert Byrd Lee, Robert E. Lee’s fifth cousin once removed, once told me the War of Northern Aggression or the Late Unpleasantness as her generation called it was fought because Union General Winfield Scott tried to steal Jeff Davis’s barbecue sauce recipe.  Scott, who was big as a house, didn’t fight in the war because he couldn’t mount his horse. Lincoln, rather than apologize for trying to snitch a southern dish, antagonized the Citdael boys until fed up with the Yankee chicanery, they fired off that damn cannon and started a war.  Who was I to argue with Great Grandmamma Lee!

Bessinger's Piggie Park

Bessinger's Piggie Park

So how can you tell a good Barbecue joint?  Well if they have quiche or a soufflé of some type, get the hell out of dodge.  Any good Barbecue House is going to have the green or red plaid vinyl tablecloths strategically placed on a picnic table or bench.  Shealy’s Bar-B-Que House in Leesville South Carolina even has a washing station (sink) on the wall as you wait in line.  No self respecting southerner would eat his hush puppies with soiled fingers!  If there is a picture of Jesus, Ronald Reagan, and Robert E. Lee – the Holy Trinity – on the wall, chances are it’s good pork.  A dead give away is a plump waitress or rotund cook in the back.  If they’re skinny – leave.  If they don’t eat it – you don’t want it either.

The North might have won the war, but as far as I’m concerned they can keep their beer and brats.  Give me a few ribs, a plate of pulled pork, and a side of hash and I’m a happy camper.  Throw in the hush puppies and bring on the puddin’ or pie.  Whether its peach cobbler or a slice of pecan pie – I’m in heaven, my oh my!

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Personal | , , , | 2 Comments

When Character was King

ReaganOne of my all time favorite books is “When Character was King” written by Peggy Noonan.  Peggy was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and she details some of the values which Reagan held dear.  Whether you agree or not with the “Gipper’s” political views,  few can dispute his sense of personal, business, and political ethics.  Unfortunately, not everybody demonstrates a high regard for ethics.  There are those who fudge just a bit on their resumes alleging to have the education, training, or experience they do not possess.  Others may try to trade off the success of another business, purporting to be something they are not. 

We have all probably had the experience of reading an ad in the paper for a product and service only to find out when we show up, they have just sold that last widget but they have something just as good for a little more.  Deceptive marketing, fraudulent claims, and embellished resumes are nothing new but they do carry a heavy price tag and sooner or later those lapses in ethical judgment come back to haunt those who practice them.

Last night, I was watching the Tennis Channel.  I’m simply amazed at all the cable channels now targeting certain sports markets.  There was a rematch of a Jimmy Connors – John McEnroe U.S. Open from 1984.  Both of them went at each other like warriors.  After watching the tournament and getting ready for bed, my mind raced back to another tournament –  perhaps forgotten by many of those who watched it – the quarter finals of the Rome Masters in 2005.

Andy Roddick was playing Fernando Verdasco.  Roddick was leading 5-3 in the second set and had a triple match point when the second serve of Verdasco appeared to go long.  The line judge ruled the ball out but Roddick said the ball was in after checking the mark left on the clay.  Verdasco was given an ace and then the Spaniard seemed to catch the momentum closing out the serve, then the set, and later the match.

Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick

As an avid football fan, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen players make spectacular catches, jumping up with excitement, only to show on the replay the ball had bounced on the ground first.  Roddick demonstrated a level of sportsmanship that is sorely missing in athletics.  His gesture was something we could all learn from in a business world lacking in honesty and integrity.  Quite frankly, it’s refreshing to see someone in the public eye demonstrate that type of behavior.  I’ve always been told a person’s character is revealed by how they act when they think no one is looking.  Too often, we do not take time to recognize the people who demonstrate ethical behavior.  Like Reagan, Roddick may have lost his match but he walked off the court a winner and served up an ace with fans around the world.

It was a day when we witnessed more than a tennis match.  It was a day when character was once again king.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Leadership Lessons | , , , , | Leave a comment