It began with a vision by two men of war, who fought against each other. Each sought to follow God and do His bidding. Both men choosing the path of serving Christ. General O. O. Howard served the Federal Forces and was known as the Christian General. Captain Edward O. Guerrant served the Confederacy. This is his story, but in a greater sense, this is America’s story based firmly in faith in a mountainous region known as Letcher, Kentucky.

After the War Between the States, men of valor realized that the reunification of the divided nation depended upon education. They knew that the road to prosperity rest in the hand of not only education but more importantly, a spiritual reawakening. Reverend Doctor Edward O. Guerrant was one of these men of vision.

Edward Owing Guerrant was born in Sharpsburg, Kentucky, on February 28, 1838. He attended school at Sharpsburg, Flat Creek, and later he went to a boarding school in Mt. Sterling. There he lived with relatives. He was known as a clever lad, kind hearted and very smart. He was also naturally born athlete. From his mother, he ‘inherited a deep sense of religion and love of God.

In the fall of 1856, Edward entered Centre College, located in Danville, Kentucky. There he studied to be a teacher, but his destiny seemed to lay in the gospel ministry. In his junior year, he was elected President of the class and editor of the Centre College Magazine, where he published several of his poems. After graduation, Edward enrolled in Danville Seminary. A former classmate described Edward to be, “Rather small in stature, with black hair and mustache, dark eyes, quick and graceful movements, dark complexion and soldierly bearing”.

On January 30, 1862, Edward O. Guerrant departed for the Confederate army to take a position offered to him by General Marshall. He wrote in a letter that if he found himself dissatisfied in that position, he would travel to Columbia Theological Seminary. When he arrived at the encampment he enlisted as a private in Co. E., First Battalion, Kentucky Mounted Rifles. He was sworn in by General Marshall and immediately assumed the duties of military secretary and member of Marshall’s staff. Guerrant served in the famed Fifth Kentucky Orphan Brigade. He obtained the title of Assistant Adjutant-General of the Brigade. He was given the rank of captain.

It has been documented that Captain Guerrant was faithful in the execution of his duties and received high praise and laurels for his writing abilities. He went on and worked under General George Crosby as well as Brigadier General William Preston. When General John Hunt Morgan was killed in Greenville, Tennessee, Captain Guerrant heard the shots. When the monument to General Morgan was dedicated in Lexington, Kentucky, the prayer was offered by Chaplain Guerrant. His detailed daily diary (Bluegrass Confederate, the Headquarters Diary of Edward O. Guerrant) is a remarkable work that virtually preserved the history of the Appalachian regions of eastern Kentucky, east Tennessee, and southwestern Virginia during that turbulent time.

When the war ended, Edward returned home. He realized that education was the key in rebuilding the divided nation. He also recognized that it must be Christian based religion. His mother had always wanted him to be a minister. Edward stated that she had made him one before he was twelve years of age. His father was a physician, along with his brother and other members of his family.

In the fall of 1865, Edward traveled to Philadelphia and enrolled into Jefferson Medical School. He returned home in 1866 and taught in a school at Flat Creek. In the fall, he continued pursuing his career by enrolling in the Bellevue Hospital Medical College located in New York. He graduated in 1867, and began practice in Mt. Sterling, or as he called it, ‘The capital of eastern Kentucky’. Dr. Guerrant married Mary Jane DeVault (1844-1937), whom he had met during the war. He continued practicing medicine from 1867-1873. Then once again he heard the call of the Gospel.

Dr. Guerrant attended the Union Seminary, which had such icons as Dr. Dabney (parson to General Jackson and wrote a biography of Stonewall) on staff. Patrick Henry, James Madison, and David ‘Father’ Rice were among the long list of famed trustees. There Edward continued studying and being advised for the forthcoming ministry. In 1875, the ‘mountain evangelist’ began his mission of bringing Christ to Appalachia and beyond. In the year 1881, Dr. Guerrant was a crusading evangelist in Eastern Kentucky. There he saw the need for a Christian education and began earnestly seeking God’s will for himself. His prayers were answered and the vision of educating and emancipating the masses through Christian instruction began.

For forty years Dr. Guerrant served his calling as a soldier, doctor, and minister. Dr. Guerrant traveled extensively and was known as the ‘Evangelist of the Synod of Kentucky’. He preached to thousands, became the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Louisville, where he met Reverend Stuart Robinson. The noble cleric left a lasting impression on Edward.

Stuart Robinson School was the last and the ‘farthest back in the Cumberlands’ of any of the schools established under the leadership of Dr. Edward O. Guerrant. Stuart Robinson opened its doors with one hundred forty mountain students in attendance. Stuart Robinson began on a hill above the Presbyterian Church in Blackey, Kentucky, on February 10, 1914. It closed in 1957, and then became the campus for Letcher School until 1960.

Though his health continued to decline, nevertheless Dr. Guerrant’s worked nonstop in living the Great Commission and went into all of Appalachia proclaiming Christ and the way to salvation. He died on November 27, 1916, and is buried in the beautiful Lexington Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky. His wife is also buried at that location.

His legacy of establishing churches (six in Breathitt County) and Christian institutions, such as Highland Institute, Witherspoon College, and Stuart Robinson, live on, along with his writings. Some of his writings include Forty Years Among the Highlanders (1905), Bloody Breathitt (1890), The Galax Gatherers (1910), the Gospel of the Liles (1912), Bluegrass Confederate, and his military documentation during the war, along with his journals.

During his life, Dr. Guerrant served the people in several different capacities. His many accolades include being a Presbyterian minister, physician (at Mt. Sterling, KY), a prolific author, a Confederate Officer, and founder/editor/president of the American Inland Mission, better known as the “Soul Winners Society”. His most important contribution is his vision for the people. It is still alive and well to this day. And the vision will be passed forward to the rising generations as long as the people humble themselves and call upon Christ to guide them.

Stuart Robinson was born on November 14, 1814, in Strabane, Ireland. His parents were James and Martha Porter Robinson. While but an infant he was tossed in the air and unfortunately was not caught. The accident resulted in him hitting his head. The doctor feared he would have brain injury, but young Stuart miraculously recovered. However, the fall did permanently damage his hand and arm, yet the young child prospered.

Due to financial constraints, the family moved to New York, and then to Martinsburg, Virginia. His mother died when Stuart was six or seven years of age. His father arranged for Stuart to be raised by the Troutman’s. The Troutman’s recognized Stuart’s abilities and insured that he attended Christian based schools. The seed was planted and proved to be fertile. Stuart was ordained on October 8, 1842, at Lewisburg, Virginia. He ministered at the Kanawah Salines Church, and served churches in Kentucky, Virginia (now known as West Virginia), and Maryland. From 1848 to 1854, Stuart was a pastor in Frankfort, Kentucky. He returned to Louisville, Kentucky, and became known for his preaching and oratory abilities. In 1858, he was chosen to be the pastor of Second Church in Louisville. He remained at that post until health issues (stomach cancer) impeded his ability to serve. He died on October 5, 1881.

His many accolades included teaching at Princeton Seminary and Danville Seminary. He was president of a female seminary in Frankfort, director of Farmer’s Bank of Kentucky, and president of a turnpike company. In 1854, he became the cleric of Central Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, Maryland. In 1862, he went to Canada and stayed until 1866. He was co-editor of Free Christians Commonwealth, which he aided in editing from a ‘far country’. In 1873, he traveled abroad to Europe, Palestine, and Egypt, where he visited the Holy Land and preached. He served as moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1877, spoke in sessions of the Presbyterian Council in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the title of Doctor of Divinity was bestowed upon him by Centre College. He was a strong supporter of mountain ministries and outreach projects. Edward Guerrant admired Reverend Stuart for his passionate preaching and was deeply influenced by his messages of reaching others beyond the church doors. Due to health issues, Edward left that perish and followed his calling to be an evangelist.

In 1896, Dr. Guerrant visualized what was known as the ‘Soul Winners’. With the help and support of others, a society of soul winners was formed to begin the ‘mountain work’ of bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through education, to the mountains. The extensive and often exhausting work began in earnest. Most of the funding was raised by his endeavors. Local landowners helped erect and provided material to build the buildings. Volunteers came forward to assist in the construction of the facilities, cutting stones for foundations, walls, and timber for building material. God surely had provided the means to realize the vision.

According to an article by Mark A. Huddle, “Edward O. Guerrant had labored over half of his life in the southern Appalachian Mountains. He was one of the first individuals to identify the inhabitants of that region as an ‘exceptional population’ in need of the benefits of mission work. Working with Reverend Stuart Robinson, they convinced the Synod of Kentucky to devote its precious resources to uplift the mountain people. Together the Society of Soul Winners were born and had the mission of ‘recruiting, training ministers, teachers, building churches, mission schools, colleges, hospitals, and orphanages.” Due to health issues, Guerrant, “Transferred control of the Society of Soul Winners to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.” Though ailing, Dr. Guerrant was not through with the ministry. He continued to preach and teach to the mountain people, often on horseback.

In Forty Years Among the American Highlander, Dr. Guerrant described the people of Appalachia. “They are today the purest stock of Scotch-Irish and Anglo-Saxon races on the continent. For hundreds of years they have lived isolated from the outside world, with no foreign intermixture.... They are not a degenerate people. They are brave, independent, high-spirited people, whose poverty and location have isolated them from the rest of the world.” He continues by saying, “They have been simply passed by in the march of progress in this great age, because they were out of the way.” Hence, the importance of the mission becomes quite evident. Even more important was the great commission that the Society of Soul Winners continued until they faded into antiquity.

Schools throughout the area was established by the society of soul winners. Dr. Guerrant was constantly visiting different areas, lecturing, preaching, and helping in the establishment of Christian education. One of his supporters and friends was the famed war hero, General O. O. Howard. Through their tireless efforts, several colleges throughout the mountains were established.

Oliver O. Howard was born in Maine on November 8, 1830. His accolades are many. He was a graduate of Bowdoin College and the U. S. Military Academy. He was a mathematics professor at West Point, and later in life, he became the superintendent. He fought against the Seminole Indians prior to the war and later, he was given command over the campaign against the Nez Perce, Paiutes, and Bannocks.

When the War Between the States began, he cast his lot with the union and was given the rank of colonel. He fought in several major battles and was severely wounded at Seven Pines, where he lost his right arm. He rose through the ranks and became a well-known general. His faith and piety in Christ led him to be called the ‘Christian General’.

After the war, Howard was put in charge of several programs. He was noted for his passion and commitment in establishing educational opportunities for former slaves, and was appointed over the Freeman Bureau. His vision included establishing institutions of higher learning. While on a lecture tour, he met with Reverend A. A. Myers. During their conversations, Reverend Myers told him that President Lincoln had wanted to do something for the people of the area, which had supported the north. Together they joined other men of vision to establish Lincoln Memorial. The Board of Directors included men such as Colonel Robert F. Patterson (Confederate Veteran and graduate of Washington {Lee} College {University}), M.F. Overton, A. B. Kesterson, M. Arthur, A.A. Myers, and C.F. Eager. The seven hundred room resort near Cumberland Gap, known as the Four Seasons, was purchased and in 1897, the vision was realized. O.O. Howard served as its president and as he stated, it was created for the education of the “mountain whites”.

He became a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, a well-established author, and an advocate of Christian education. Somewhere along the way, he met Edward O. Guerrant and they were known to preach and lecture together (there is a famed picture of them together at a church in Breathitt County, KY). Both men strongly believed that a Christian education would bind the wounds of the past ‘unpleasantries’ and promote a way in which men and women could not only make their lives productive but filled with the joy of being saved as well.

Resources

https://www.lmunet.edu/about-lmu/heritage-mission

http://legacy.lmunet.edu/about/mission.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Otis_Howard

https://library.bowdoin.edu/arch/oliver-otis-howard/OOH-Lincoln-Memorial.pdf

In the Shadow of Calvary’s Cross; Chaltas, David; 2017

http://muse.jhu.edu/article/572975/pdf

Dr. Edward O. Guerrant’s “Society of Soul Winners” Bath County Minister Once Directed Over 100 Churches; Neace, James Clell. Kentucky Explorer; 1997

Soul Winner: Edward O. Guerrant, the Kentucky Home Missions, and the “Discovery” of Appalachia; Huddle, Mark A.; Ohio Valley History, Volume 5; Number 4; Winter 2005; page 47-64

The Galax Gatherers: The Gospel Among the Highlanders: Guerrant, Edward O.; Illustrated by Huddle, Mark A.; University of Tennessee Press; Chicago, publication city; (1910); released again on May 28, 2005