A Miraculous (and Local!) Bible

Courtesy Paul Halsall, I learned an interesting new word today: “myroblyte,” which is Greek and derives from myron (“sweet oil”) and bluzo (“to gush forth”). So something “myroblytic” exudes oil, and it is a miraculous property sometimes observed in icons or relics. Unbeknownst to me, in Dalton, Georgia these past few years a ministry calling itself His Name is Flowing Oil has claimed to be in the possession of a miraculously myroblitic Bible. In the week after Trump’s inauguration, a Bible belonging to one Jerry Pearce started to produce oil, starting with a small smudge in Psalm 39 and eventually saturating the entire book. Pearce put it in a plastic bag, and then in a glass container, in order to prevent the ever-flowing oil from soaking everything around it. Word spread quickly, and people flocked to Dalton in order to join a worship service, held in Dalton’s Wink Theater, during which the Bible would be brought out and laid on people’s heads. People claimed that they received cures or felt God’s presence in a special way; they could also leave with samples of the oil, and eventually the ministry gave away some 350,000 vials of it, totaling 400 gallons. Church leaders took the Bible on tour throughout the United States and even to Canada, although it only produced oil when it was in Dalton. 

Does that last fact make you suspicious? It should! The day after the Chattanooga Times Free Press published an article about the miraculous Bible last November, the paper received a telephone call to say that Pearce was a regular customer at the Tractor Supply store in Dalton, where he was seen buying large amounts of mineral oil. Tests carried out at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga confirmed that the allegedly miraculous oil was indeed indistinguishable from the Ideal brand of mineral oil sold at Tractor Supply. The Times Free Press published their findings last month; in the wake of the article, the ministry announced that the Bible had stopped producing oil and that they were ceasing operations, although they continued to defend their work. Ministry leader Johnny Taylor claimed that the Bible was “just a sign and a wonder… but it’s your faith and it’s how you apply it and use it where the miracles come in. We tell people the Bible is not the move, it’s just the sign and the wonder, but if you go find out where the Bible is, there’s a move going on there.” So (they claimed) they were only using it to advertise the “move,” although that doesn’t quite explain the cures attributed to the oil, or the vials of oil that the ministry gave away to its worshipers. (Note though that they weren’t selling them.)

What I find interesting about this episode is how it is an example of how tradition abides. You can say that oil is biblical, but the miraculous secretion of it strikes me as very Catholic indeed, and not something that Protestants would go in for – like receiving the stigmata or using holy water for exorcisms. But tactile ritual, especially involving the miraculous, is psychologically very satisfying, and no matter how often we disparage it as “superstitious,” it always seems to find a way back. Reinhardt’s Wayne Glowka told me about the Catholic custom of burying a statue of St. Joseph in your yard if you want to sell your house, something that two of his Baptist neighbors in Milledgeville did. Note too the evangelical support for Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which was essentially an over-the-top RC meditation on the Stations of the Cross, i.e not something that Protestants usually do.

Although I suppose that the specifically Protestant ingredient here is the Bible – there are no myroblytic relics or icons in this story. 

UPDATE: See also “The Bible that Oozed Oil” by Ruth Graham at Slate

Pine Log Mountain

My English program colleague Donna Coffey Little has published a piece in Story South about the local Pine Log Mountain:

Mining Pine Log Mountain: Place and Memory in a Southern Landscape

I’ve just harvested 250 bushels of corn, Bob tells me. I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a gigantic red combine with Bob Neel, CEO of Aubrey Corporation, which owns half of Georgia’s Pine Log Mountain and leases 14,134 acres to the Department of Natural Resources as a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Aubrey Corporation grows hundreds of acres of corn and cotton at Pine Log and near the Etowah River in Kingston. Bob is the CEO, but he still harvests his own crops.

The combine is two stories tall and two normal vehicles long. You have to climb a ladder on the side to get in. In the front there are eight large prongs that look like upside down canoes. As we approach each corn field, Bob aims the upside down canoes into the spaces between the rows, forcing the corn into the giant blades that pluck and shred the stalks, sending the corn into a storage compartment in the back. Each time it fills, we drive over to a shipping container and a giant hose spits out a cascade of corn.

This is the first time I’ve met Bob, who is a reedy and handsome man, as athletic 68, with a sardonic wit and a distrust of college professors. There is something Clint Eastwood-ish about him, as if he is waiting for me to say or do something stupid and make his day. It’s clear that he prides himself on being a no-bullshit kind of guy.

He won’t let me write anything down and at one point asks me pointblank if I am recording him.

“No,” I protest. He shifts his sunglasses and peers at me with penetrating blue eyes, always the skeptic.

“I’ve got a good memory, though,” I say. I can spar, I can hold my own. My curiosity outweighs my shyness.

“You’re not going to portray us as a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, are you?” he asks. “People look down on farmers.”

“I don’t,” I say. “Why do you think we just bought a 15-acre farm?”

That seems to satisfy him. He knows my neighbors Jim and Cathy, who sold me and my husband the farm we bought this summer. He and Jim are both part of the Euharlee Farmers Club, the oldest and most prestigious institution in Bartow County. Jim vouching for me is probably the only reason Bob has agreed to let me interview him about the history of Pine Log Mountain.

Read the whole thing

Reinhardt in the GHQ

Congratulations to Ken Wheeler and the students of his IDS 317: Town and Gown course in the fall of 2017, whose research on the racial integration of Reinhardt College in the late 1960s has been published in the most recent number of the Georgia Historical Quarterly, and which provided the cover illustration to boot:

Georgia Guidestones

Raynah Roberts.

Reinhardt’s Provost Mark Roberts recently enjoyed a visit to the Georgia Guidestones, a granite monument erected in 1980 in Elbert County, Georgia. From Wikipedia:

The monument is 19 feet 3 inches (5.87 m) tall, made from six granite slabs weighing 237,746 pounds (107,840 kg) in all. One slab stands in the center, with four arranged around it. A capstone lies on top of the five slabs, which are astronomically aligned. An additional stone tablet, which is set in the ground a short distance to the west of the structure, provides some notes on the history and purpose of the guidestones.

A set of 10 guidelines is inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages and a shorter message is inscribed at the top of the structure in four ancient language scripts.

The message is presented in a different language on each side of the four exterior stones: Russian, Chinese, Swahili, Spanish, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, and English. In this language it reads:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Who would have sponsored such a thing? No one knows! The story of how one R.C. Christian appeared out of nowhere, commissioned the monument from Elberton Granite Finishing, paid for it, and then disappeared, never to be seen again, is detailed in an interesting Wired article from ten years ago now. People surmise that “R.C. Christian” is a reference to “Christian Rosenkreuz,” the alleged founder of Rosicrucianism, and that the deliberately lowballed total human population number is intended as advice for the survivors of a nuclear war (this was a concern in 1980). Of course, the prescribed One-Worldism, the appeal to Enlightenment-style “reason,” and the seeming endorsement of eugenic practices are objectionable to a lot of people, especially around these parts. That Yoko Ono found it inspiring probably doesn’t help on this front. Some people have called the Guidestones a “sinister site,” the “Ten Commandments of the Antichrist,” and “of deep Satanic origin,” and vandals have occasionally attacked them.

But Elbert County, which owns the monument, has no plans to tear it down. In fact, locals appreciate the fact that they have such an enigmatic tourist attraction – one that, if nothing else, showcases the county’s granite, its most well known product.

Antebellum Newspapers

From Georgia Public Broadcasting (hat tip: Jeff Bishop), news of something interesting:

Georgia Newspapers From Before The Civil War, Now Online

Georgia newspapers spanning the years from the end of the colonial period to the start of the Civil War have been made publicly available via the internet.

The Digital Library of Georgia and the Georgia Newspaper Project digitized almost 54,000 pages of newspapers published before 1861 with the help of a grant from the R.J. Taylor Foundation. The papers range from the Royal Georgia Gazette, first published in 1779; the full run of the Cherokee Phoenix, the voice of the Cherokee Nation prior to Indian Removal; to some early African American papers.

Not to mention the Cherokee Advance, the Cartersville Express, and the Cassville Standard, other papers from around these parts. Check it out.

The Poppy Lady

John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” may have inspired the Poppy Appeal, but it was an American, specifically a Georgian, who popularized it. According to Wikipedia:

In 1918, Moina Michael, who had taken leave from her professorship at the University of Georgia to be a volunteer worker for the American YMCA Overseas War Secretaries organization, was inspired by the poem and published a poem of her own called “We Shall Keep the Faith“. In tribute to McCrae’s poem, she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who fought and helped in the war. At a November 1918 YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ conference, she appeared with a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed 25 more to those attending. She then campaigned to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance. At a conference in 1920, the National American Legion adopted it as their official symbol of remembrance. At this conference, Frenchwoman Anna E. Guérin was inspired to introduce the artificial poppies commonly used today. In 1921 she sent her poppy sellers to London, where the symbol was adopted by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, a founder of the Royal British Legion. It was also adopted by veterans’ groups in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. James Fox notes that all of the countries who adopted the remembrance poppy were the “victors” of World War I.

The poem:

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Mark Cooper’s Friendship Monument

Attendance at the Cartersville Bluegrass and Folk Festival yesterday allowed me to take these pictures of a monument to an event in local history. Mark A. Cooper of the nineteenth-century Etowah Iron Works was apparently a popular fellow, so much so that some thirty-eight people pooled their resources to bail him out after the panic of 1857. He was able to repay his creditors three years later, and in thanks paid for a monument to their generosity, which stands in downtown Cartersville, flanked by two Georgia historical markers.

More information may be read at the Visit Cartersville website:

In 1831 Mark Cooper and a friend, Charles P. Gordon, called the first convention to publicly consider building a railroad in Georgia. Cooper and Gordon were from Eatonton, Georgia and both were elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1833 where they continued their efforts. As a result, the state owned Western & Atlantic (W&A) Railroad was completed in 1850 connecting Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Cooper had moved here in the early 1840’s and established a thriving iron production and manufacturing enterprise just south of Cartersville at the town of Etowah called the Etowah Iron and Manufacturing Company. But the iron and other goods produced at Etowah were about two miles from the newly completed W&A Railroad. So in 1847 the Etowah Railroad Company was incorporated to transport the goods to the main railroad. Cooper’s business partner couldn’t pay his share of the tracks and Cooper bought him out. In 1857 Cooper was $100,000 in debt and the Etowah Iron and Manufacturing Company was auctioned. Cooper bought the company back with a $200,000 note to be paid in three years. The 38 friends whose names appear on the Friendship Monument today endorsed the note. By 1859 Cooper paid off note and in 1860 paid tribute to his friends with the erection of the Friendship Monument on the Etowah Town Square.

Along came the Civil War, and Etowah gained prominence as a manufacturing center for the Confederacy. Eventually the Confederate Government bought and operated the iron works. A major target of the Atlanta Campaign, in May, 1864 troops under General William T. Sherman destroyed everything there except the Friendship Monument. It stood a silent sentinel to a lost cause for sixty-seven years. Then a movement began to dam the Etowah River and build a lake for flood control. The town that was Etowah would be flooded by Lake Allatoona. In 1927 the Friendship Monument was moved to downtown Cartersville to escape. Cartersville hosted a grand ceremony, and the Friendship Monument was unveiled by Mark A. Cooper’s great-great grandson Mark Cooper Pope, then three years old. By the 1960’s the town of Cartersville decided it needed more parking spaces and no longer wanted the monument. The Corps of Engineers said they had a lovely place for it on a knoll overlooking Lake Allatoona where Cooper’s Etowah used to be. So the monument was moved again.

In the mid-1990s people started talking about moving the monument back to Cartersville and the talk spread to Atlanta where Mark Cooper Pope lives. Pope wanted the monument back in Cartersville, too, and generously lent resources to make it possible. In 1999, in conjunction with the Cartersville Sesquicentennial Celebration, the Cartersville City council approved moving the Friendship Monument back downtown and named the square where the monument would be placed “Friendship Plaza.”

New Echota

On Saturday we had the pleasure of visiting New Echota State Historical Site near Calhoun. New Echota was the capital of the Cherokee Nation from 1825 until 1838, when U.S. government forces, under the command of Winfield Scott, rounded them up and forced their removal to Oklahoma. This is the infamous Trail of Tears, and a monument commemorates this as you arrive at the visitors’ center.

The flag on the left is that of the United Keetoowah Band, and the flags on the right are those of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation, the three federally-recognized Cherokee tribes. (The United Keetoowah Band and the Cherokee Nation are headquartered in Tahlequah, Okla., while the Eastern Band is headquartered in Cherokee, N.C.)

A plan of the site. Alas, the Worcester House (8) is the only original building here. This was the home of Samuel Worcester, a missionary to the Cherokee and publisher of the Cherokee Phoenix (see below). Convicted by the state of Georgia for living in Cherokee territory without a license, Worcester appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found the Georgia law unconstitutional, as it was the federal government that had the exclusive right to treat with Native Americans. President Andrew Jackson is reputed to have said in response that “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” Worcester went west with the Cherokee and died there in 1861.

Other buildings are reconstructions, like the Council House (3), where the Cherokee legislature convened…

…or the Supreme Courthouse (4), which doubled as a school.

What made this visit especially pleasurable was to see Reinhardt history graduate Cole Gregory, now employed with the state parks service. Here he is in the Vann Tavern (9), explaining how it worked (an interesting detail: a window on the back served as a drive-thru for people that the manager did not want coming in). James Vann was a Cherokee leader who owned several taverns; this one does date from the early nineteenth century but was originally located in Forsyth County and moved here in the 1950s.

The reconstructed Print Shop (11) represents the locale of the famous Cherokee Phoenix. A friendly and knowledgeable volunteer explained things to us. The newspaper was largely written by Elias Boudinot, who believed that relocation to the west was in the best interests of the Cherokee and who thus signed the Treaty of New Echota with the federal government. This “Treaty Party” represented a minority of the Cherokee Nation, and the signatories, including Boudinot, were assassinated not long after they arrived in Oklahoma.

You can buy a copy of Vol. 1, No. 4 in the gift shop. This one contains notice of Cherokee laws passed, news of ongoing negotiations with Washington, poetry, and news of the escape of some missionaries from Maori cannibals. As you can see, it is printed both in English and in Cherokee, using Sequoyah’s syllabary. (We learned that they type foundry had changed some of his characters for easier casting – and that archaeologists at New Echota had recovered a cache of individual letters [“sorts”] at the bottom of a well, into which they had been thrown by U.S. troops in 1838.)

We were pleased to find this book in the gift shop. John Ross was a Cherokee leader who opposed forced resettlement in the west; his house is in Rossville, Georgia, less than 1000 feet from the Tennessee state line. Jeff Bishop is Reinhardt’s new director of the Funk Heritage Center and, as you can see, an expert in Cherokee history.

***

On our way home we stopped at the Rock Garden, situated behind Calhoun’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The Rock Garden is the creation of one DeWitt “Old Dog” Boyd, and features sculptures made up pebbles glued together to form miniature buildings. My favorite was this interpretation of Notre Dame cathedral, complete with flying buttresses, but I loved the whole thing – I respect anyone with the vision and the patience to realize art like this, like Howard Finster and his Paradise Garden.