LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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Chapter 12

 

 

AN INDIAN TERRITORY—ARKANSAS PIONEER

 

 

Men who blazed their way through the trackless forests of America in the days of our fathers and gave us this land of liberty and spiritual freedom were not city-bred chaps, nor hothouse plants, by any means. They were of that rugged caste whose hearts burned for freedom, and had a purpose born of a conviction that we must be a free people.

In the same manner, holiness pioneers who blazed the way for true religion on the frontiers of Texas, and the Indian Territory, and the mountains of Arkansas, must be the same sturdy type of men as those in the early days of our country. Among these pioneers, there was none more daring nor who endured greater hardships than Rev. J. D. Scott. Born on the frontier of Texas, and with meager educational advantages, but with a determination to preach holiness or die, he entered unexplored fields along religious lines, and planted holiness in the Indian Territory, which afterward became Oklahoma, and no state in the Union was more suddenly transformed from “rowdyism” to strong Pentecostal Nazarene churches than this state. There is a reason. Fearless preachers planted gospel seed into hearts of desperate characters, who instantly became as desperate to tell the world what God had done for them.

Rev. J. D. Scott was converted down in the straw, at an old-time mourners’ bench, when there was no thought of telling a fellow to “take it by faith,” but they were supposed to pray till something happened. As soon as he was converted he was called to preach, and at once began the study of the Bible, and his zeal was so great that many of his friends feared that he would go crazy.

He soon discovered a something remaining within that gave him serious trouble, but was told that he must endure it through life. But, in answer to fervent prayer, one day as he drove along the public road “the fire fell,” and he shouted until his buggy pony ran away with him. He had never heard a sermon on holiness, but God had sanctified him. Soon after that he met Rev. H. L. Averill and heard him preach, and knew that God had given him that same blessing. About this time he met James Hunton, another rugged pioneer of holiness. Soon after this he went to Fort Worth, and began gospel work in Bethel Mission, where he soon ran out of money, and sent his wife back to his father’s, while he kept “batch” and continued the work. His wife returned to him in the spring and they traveled together, preaching holiness, and the first year received $4.50 for their work. At this mission and training school in the Bethel Mission he received his first training for gospel work.

They went on an extended preaching tour through the Indian Territory, picking cotton between meetings to get money to go to the next place, and to buy their clothing.

They met Dr. Hobbs, who was conducting a holiness mission in Ardmore, I. T., and joined him for awhile. Dr. Hobbs bought a tent and Brother Scott went to Wynnewood in the early spring of 1896, put up the tent, but a snowstorm struck town, blowing the tent down. Here he was, away from home and friends, and the weather was cold and rainy all spring and no money. He walked six miles out into the country, and found a schoolhouse, hunted up the trustees and got permission to start a revival meeting. The rain had put the people behind with their crops, and they said, “No time for a meeting now,” but you can try it. He sent to Wynnewood for his wife, while he walked the country, advertising the meeting. People came out of curiosity, to hear a holiness preacher, who had never conducted a meeting alone.

Great power came on the people, and the schoolhouse was crowded every night. The meeting ran two weeks with great interest. The preacher had only five sermons, but he put in good time in testifying, and telling what God had done for him. This was enough for these simple-minded people. They filled the altar and prayed through by the score. From this first meeting there was a call for others, one after another, until thirteen meetings were held within a radius of twenty miles. Most of them were in schoolhouses, with split logs for benches with no backs. The first collection at the close of the meeting amounted to 10 cents.

One of these meetings was held in the little village of Seven Shooter, sometimes called Poker Sandy; and the preacher and wife were entertained in the home of a Mr. Dalton, a cousin of the famous “Dalton gang,” so notorious in the reconstruction days after the Civil War. Cowboys would attend these meetings wearing great spurs, with chime bells hanging on them which would jingle as they walked. After the services at night they would start home shooting off their revolvers, until the darkness would blaze and the woods roar with the reports of their guns. The boys liked the preacher and a gospel that would make a man quit sin, so they devised a plan to pay him. They met and played cards all night with some other boys, and put all they won in the collection, which was a good sum for those days.

At this place the people became so interested in their missionary work that they bought them a horse and buggy. Nearby was another village that they called “Robber’s Roost.” This was in what was then known as the Choctaw Nation, among the Choctaw Indians and white people who leased land for farming purposes from the Indians, most of them living in log cabins with dirt floors. The parlor, living room, dining room, and kitchen were often all in one room.

Great revivals broke out among these rugged pioneers, and people fell off their seats like dead men, and often lay for hours unconscious, to come through shouting the praises of God. People shouted holiness, testified to holiness, threw away their tobacco, paid their outlawed debts, and fixed up old grudges that had stood for years. This stirred the tobacco-chewing preachers and cold professors, and great persecution broke out against these holiness preachers. They were called Mormons, bandits, church splitters, and it was even told that J. D. Scott had robbed a bank down in Texas, and that he was over in the Indian Territory to evade the law. They said that there was a $1,000 reward for him. This report reached his father down in Texas, and he wrote for him to come home and clear the matter up. He could not leave the meeting, so he left the matter in the hands of the Lord and went on preaching.

All churches were closed against him, and he had to build brush arbors, and hold meetings in schoolhouses. This sort of thing kept up for two years, which gave plenty of free advertising to the meetings. During this time there were hundreds of people saved and sanctified in that part of the Chickasaw Nation.

In 1897 he was engaged to teach an Indian school, connected with an orphanage that was being built at a little village called Bee, twenty miles west of Durant. This was in a rich country, and the people were a different class of citizens. A revival was started, Rev. Beecher Airhart, Noah Cooley, and C. B. Jernigan conducting the services. The meeting was a great success. Here Bud Taylor and his wife were sanctified, who have done much for the holiness movement since. Just before the meeting began Brother Scott’s baby was taken very sick of pneumonia, and no doctor was called, but prayer was made to God. It came very near dying, and the people were enraged, a rope was bought and a hangman’s knot was tied ready to hang Scott if the baby died. But God heard prayer and the baby was suddenly healed. Rev. J. D. Scott remained there two years as head of the school, then went to Peniel, Texas, and entered the Texas Holiness University, where he took a theological course under Dr. A. M. Hills. He and his wife would go to school until cotton picking time, then pick cotton for money to take him through another term.

He, with Rev. George Constable, Rev. Allie Irick, and Rev. Noah Cooley, all young students in school, deciding to make their debut in the world, planned a big evangelistic tour through the North. They expected great results. They stopped off at Little Rock, Ark., and worked awhile in the Door of Hope Mission, that was then run by Rev. Mrs. E. J. Sheeks. From there they went to Jonesboro, Ark., where for the first time they met with the Church of Christ, their first real holiness church. Scott and Irick both joined and were ordained the same night, as that was the way of doing then. They went on to Memphis, Tenn., and then to Milan, Tenn., to visit the first Church of Christ, that was organized by Rev. R. L. Harris in 1894. They got as far as Kentucky, and all went financially broke, and had to write back for money to get home on.

On returning home, Will Nelson, a sanctified brick mason, bought a gospel tent for Brother Scott, and he organized a band of eight workers. After holding two meetings in Texas they went to the mountains in southeastern Arkansas and opened up a work that continues till this day.

Their first meeting was at Giliham, Ark., where they had to put up the tent and do all the advertising of the meeting themselves. Here they had a fine meeting, then they went to Lockesburg and pitched the tent in the courthouse yard. Great glory and power attended this meeting and many people were saved and the country stirred for miles. One man was called to preach, who went at it with a vim.

From Lockesburg they went to Grannis, being hauled across the mountains in log wagons. Here there was much opposition, and the workers had to live on canned goods and sleep under the gospel tent for days before there was a home opened to them. The meeting ran on for days, and many of the hardest cases in the country were saved. On the last night of the meeting there were forty or fifty people clearly saved, and not less than three hundred people shouting at one time. The good people bought a home and presented it to Rev. J. D. Scott and family to have them locate there, while he continued to push his evangelistic work. Here he organized the first holiness church in southwestern Arkansas.

The following winter he opened a Bible school at Old Cove, where another holiness church was organized. A goodly number of holiness people located there and a literary school was opened in connection with the Bible school, with Rev. L. A. Campbell, principal, and Rev. J. D. Scott, Bible teacher. Throughout the summer months he did evangelistic work across the mountains. It would take three wagons and teams to haul their big gospel tent and workers and their camp tents. God gave them hundreds of souls in that country and nearly a score of holiness churches. Brother Scott was an ardent believer in organizing his work as fast as he went, and established campmeetings and schools. In this country he invited Rev. C B. Jernigan to assist him in revival work and to organize as he went. They were fast friends, and Rev. J. D. Scott did not open a new work without inviting Jernigan to assist him in the work after he had opened the new field.

In this country he came in touch with Rev. W. F. Dallas, who also was a mighty pioneer, and was the District Superintendent of the Arkansas District for several years. Also with Rev. Bob Cook, Rev. Truman Adams, and Rev. Joseph N. Speakes.

A holiness association was formed in August, 1902, called the Southwestern Arkansas Holiness Association. In July 1904 a state association was formed with Rev. J. N. Speakes president and Rev. J. D. Scott, secretary. In February 1906 the Bible school buildings at Old Cove burned and they moved to Vilonia, Ark where Rev. J. D. Scott was elected president of the board of trustees of the Arkansas Holiness College and financial agent for the school. A church was soon organized at Little Rock and Rev. C B Jernigan engaged for a revival, after which Rev. C B Jernigan was engaged for a revival in the college at Vilonia, which resulted in the organization of a holiness church there.

The union of the Church of Christ with the Independent Holiness Church was consummated during this time, and Rev. J. D. Scott was chosen as one of the editors of The Holiness Evangel, the official organ of the church, published at Pilot Point, Texas, with Rev. C. B. Jernigan as the other editor. This threw the two men very closely together, who had been fast friends for years.

Brother Scott’s health failed, and he could no longer carry on evangelistic work. He moved to Pilot Point, Texas, and took the office and had charge of the paper work, while his co-laborer, C. B. Jernigan, took his place in the field.

After his removal to Pilot Point, Texas, he was elected superintendent of the Bible Institute and Training School, the official church school of the Holiness Church of Christ, and was filling these places of trust when the General Assembly of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene convened there, at the time the great church union took place. He was the first Superintendent of the Dallas District after the union, afterward going to Mexico as missionary, and to edit a paper in Mexico for our mission stations; but the Mexican revolution broke out and he returned to the States, locating in California, taking the pastorate of the Pomona church, afterward he was Superintendent of the Missouri District, and is now managing editor of our great paper, the Herald of Holiness.

He was a pioneer to the manner born, and faithful to organized holiness.