Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Philip Humphries: an itinerant preacher

The story of Phillip Humphries, itinerant preacher of another century, sprang out at me like dewey mists on a spring morning. The story was told as a childhood memory by my cousin, the late Watson Benjamin Dyer, who did much research into family history. Sometimes his five books of genealogy yield rich little stories that leave the reader wanting more.

Such was his story about one Phillip Humphries, itinerant preacher, who came by Watson's father's home in Choestoe. The appearance and message of the old preacher man left a lasting impression on Watson who was about 10 (1911) when he first saw the old preacher.

Watson's story went something like this:

He and his father were working in the cornfield along the road that led by their house (this road is now named Collins Road). They looked up from their work and saw an old man with a long white beard approaching. Albert, Watson's father, was not surprised to see him, for he knew Phillip Humphries. But to Watson, the stranger with a pack on his back, disheveled clothes, and his long white beard looked as Watson imagined Moses, the biblical patriarch, in appearance.

In the spring and again in the fall they would look up and suddenly Old Phil Humphries would be there, ready to talk, ready to give an account of his travels through many states and as far away from Choestoe as Texas. Watson called the old man "Uncle Phil" out of deference to his age and stature as a man of God. Actually, he was a "first cousin, thrice removed."

First, "Uncle Phil" warned people of their sins. This was his God-given message, one that he carried with him unabashedly in all of his travels. "If people did not repent and turn from their wicked ways," Uncle Phil stated, "God would visit them in his anger and cause devastation to come upon their homes, their crops, their families." From Georgia to Texas, this was his mission, to give the burning message God had put upon his heart.

It being about noontime, my Uncle Albert (Watson's father) invited the preacher to remain for the noon meal. He accepted gracefully, and at table the men talked of crops, people, politics, the weather, and what God expected of believers. The young boy Watson listened with open ears as his father and the preacher talked.

From reports on his journeys, the old preacher had really been to Texas. He talked knowledgeably about things he saw in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.

In Spring, as he stopped by the Dyer farm, he was coming from Texas. In Fall, as he again stopped for his talk and a noon meal, he was on his way back to Texas, proclaiming his message along the way, the themes of which were repentance and the coming catastrophe. He did not want money for the Word he delivered from the Lord, but he welcomed food, clothing and a place to lay his head at night. He also caught a free ride in buggies or wagons going in the direction of his mission trip. Watson said that Phillip had a sister who lived in adjacent Arkaquah District named Lottie Humphries, or Granny, as she was known because of her age.

Were Watson's 10-year old memories of Old Preacher Phillip Humphries a figment of his imagination? No. A little research revealed that his family did live in Arkaquah and he was a son of John and Kizziah Souther Humphries. Kizziah Souther was Albert Dyer's great aunt, a sister of his great grandfather, John Jesse Souther.

Kizziah Souther married John Humphries in Burke County, N.C., on December 27, 1831. They moved to Georgia, along with others of Kizziah's siblings (for her mother and father were already settled in Choestoe) in the mid to late 1830's. Phillip Humphries was the sixth of 13 children born to John and Kizziah. The first four of their 13 children were born before they left North Carolina. The last nine were born in Arkaquah District where they settled in Georgia. These 13 children, by name and order of birth were Jesse, Jane, Catherine, Willis, James, Phillip, John, Noah, Sarah, Mary, Nancy Ann, Joseph F. and David.

Phillip Humphries was born about 1841. He was listed as 9 years of age in the 1850 Union County census. He married Cordie Parker. He served in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States. Family legend holds that an injury, or the terrible experiences of war, left his mind "deranged"-hence his wanderings between Texas and Georgia and his unusual way of delivering the gospel message. Texas had a pull for Phillip Humphries, where he took his wife and family, because his older brother, Willis, and his wife, Mary Johnson Humphries, had migrated there. Known names of Phillip and Cordie Parker Humphries are Joseph, James, Louise and Maggie, and possibly others whose names are not known.

The Lottie Humphries who Preacher Phillip Humphries visited at the "old Humphries place" in Arkaquah was actually Phillip's sister-in-law, Charlotte Duckworth who married Jesse Humphries on March 11, 1855. Charlotte, called Lottie, was the sixth child of David and Mary Duckworth. Lottie's husband Jesse also served in the Confederate Army. Jesse and Lottie moved their family to Walker County, Ga., where Jesse died. However, it seems that Lottie moved back to the "old Humphries" place at Arkaquah, because she is listed in the Union County Cemetery Book as buried in Bethel Cemetery, with her tombstone reading "Granny Lottie Humphrey - died 1923." Having been listed as 13 in the 1850 census, Lottie was born about 1837.

Preacher Phillip Humphries made his last visit to Georgia when an old man and became so ill that he could not return to Texas. Both the message and the desire to journey had left him. He was so ill that relatives placed him in a facility for Old Soldiers somewhere in North Carolina where he died and was buried.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published June 15, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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