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A short story by Etta Belle Walker

Blind Preacher

Title:     Blind Preacher
Author: Etta Belle Walker [More Titles by Walker]

Not so far from Gordonsville there is a simple marker near the site of "Belle Grove," a little church made famous by a blind preacher. And back of the monument itself is a story well worth repeating. It is a tale told by William Wirt in his British Spy.

In that account Wirt said:

"It was one Sunday as I travelled through the county of Orange, that my eye was caught by a cluster of horses tied near a ruinous old wooden house in the forest, not far from the roadside. Having frequently seen such objects before, in travelling through these States, I had no difficulty in understanding that this was a place of religion."

He stated further that he was filled with curiosity as to the type of minister who would preach in such a wilderness as he was passing through and so he stopped and joined the worshippers. He described the preacher, a Presbyterian in faith, as having one of the most striking appearances he had ever seen and a most remarkable delivery.

"I have never seen, in any other orator, such a union of simplicity and majesty. He has not a gesture, an attitude, or an accent, to which he does not seem forced by the sentiment which he is expressing. His mind is too serious, too earnest, too solicitous, and, at the same time, too dignified, to stoop to artifice. Although as far removed from ostentation as a man can be, yet it is clear from the train, the style, and substance of his thoughts, that he is not only a very polite scholar, but a man of extensive and profound erudition."

James Waddel was the name of this remarkable old man of God. He was born in Ireland in 1739 and was brought to America as an infant.

Another interesting tale was told in the neighborhood. Waddel's fame as a preacher had spread through the vicinity. On one occasion a committee from a different faith prepared to wait on him and urge him to occupy their pulpit as well as his own. Upon nearing his dwelling they were shocked to hear sweet plaintive notes coming from a violin and resolved to learn who in his household would dare to play the devil's instrument. They crept softly to the window. Such amazement was theirs when they saw their potential minister himself drawing the bow--and with apparent enjoyment and satisfaction. More quickly than they had approached did they leave the yard and felt righteously thankful that they had seen the true nature of the man before it was too late!

Not only did the Blind Preacher serve as minister, but like others of his profession he conducted a school.

And what happened to the old church itself? Long abandoned as a meeting house for the Presbyterians, about 1850 it was sold and taken down by the "Sons of Temperance" and converted into a temperance hall at Gordonsville. Later it housed a school. Finally it was sold to a colored preacher as a church for his flock.

[The end]
Etta Belle Walker's short story: Blind Preacher