Two Evangelists Arrived in Johnson City in 1928 a Month Apart

In 1928, two evangelists came to Johnson City to lead pre-announced revivals. The first one was Winston-Salem, North Carolina evangelist, Edward Fraser, who arrived on September 13 with a sermon he titled, “Weeds – Spiritual and Physical.” He rented land for his tent meeting on East Market Street opposite the Colonial Hotel (at about the location of today’s Colonial Way, see attached photo).

The message was a demonstration of practical Christianity. Before the gathering, Fraser lead a group of men in an effort to convert the unsightly weed covered lot where the meeting was to be held into a neat, well-groomed lawn. The effort was consistent with the desires of the Appalachian Publishers and the Chamber of Commerce to rid the city of weeds before the forthcoming visit to the city by Herbert Hoover and also the annual Appalachian Fair.

Citizens witnessed firsthand how quickly an eyesore could be converted into something attractive. The effort was twofold – cleaning an unkempt lot and providing an illustration for his upcoming message.

Mayor William Barton; Sam R. Sells, president of the Chamber of Commerce; and members of the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs were invited to participate to display their full support to eradicate weeds. A picture of the lot was taken before and after it was cleared and manicured.

Fraser asked those who had worked on the lot not only to attend the meeting the next night but to also bring their scythe and Bible with them. The meeting began promptly at 7:45 with an appropriate song – “Bringing in the Sheaves,” an analogy between harvest time in the fields of grain and the spiritual harvest of souls as a result of diligent sowing and reaping. When the meeting rolled around, the evangelist delivered his gospel message,” asking his congregation to clean up their lives both physically and spiritually.

Left: Gipsy Smith Ad; Right: The vacant lot can be seen in this photo.

The second evangelist that came to Johnson City was the well-known “Gipsy” Smith who conducted evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Great Britain for over 70 years. He arrived in the city on October 12. His focus was a bit different from Fraser’s. Long before he came to town, he had his followers organize small group gatherings in people’s homes, known as “cottage prayer meetings” to pray for the upcoming revival.

The ladies of Johnson City eagerly volunteered their homes, forming assemblies that averaged from 20 to 24 women. Each meeting was held from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. The 33 ladies (and their residents) who volunteering their homes represented many prominent families from yesteryear:

Mrs. Ross Spears (312 East Holston Avenue), Mrs. Sam Sells (Sunset Hill), Mrs. Henry Blackwell (1305 Baxter Street), Mrs. Will Blevins (1204 E. Holston Avenue), Mrs. Charles Piston (Oakland Gardens), Mrs. S.G. Henson (310 E. Fairview Avenue), Mrs. Fred Lyle (615 E. Fairview Avenue), Mrs. L.M. Snapp (Lafayette Apartments, 302 W. Main), Mrs. Sam O’Dell (215 W. Holston Avenue), Mrs. L.E. Faulk (201 W. Holston Avenue), Mrs. D.E. Fine (301 Lamont Street), …

Mrs. Sue Miller (502 Highland Avenue), Mrs. Sam Collins (300 Fall Street), Mrs. J.F. Templeton (102 E. Unaka Avenue), Mrs. H.C. Beasley (106 E. Myrtle Avenue), Mrs. Harry Lyle (100 West Pine Street), Mrs. Neal A. Beasley (315 W. Poplar Street), Mrs. N.H. Dickson (1415 S. Roan Street), Mrs. Hughes Peters (804 Grover Street), Mrs. L.F. Sage (516 W. Main Street), Mrs. J.L. Jillin (310 Wilson Avenue), Mrs. F. Wilton (425 Hamilton Street), …

Mrs. St. Clair (303 Hamilton Street), Mrs. J.L. Hankins (920 W. Maple Street), Mrs. E.O. Woodyard (717 W. Pine Street), Mrs. Charles Dickey (412 W. Maple Street), Mrs. Frank Taylor (312 W. Pine), Mrs. A.J. Davis (511 W. Locust Street), Mrs. McFadden (216 Tacoma Avenue), Mrs. Frank Graham (200 W. Watauga), Mrs. Andy Lanless (1007 Grover Street), Mrs. John Cox (1207 Alton Street) and Mrs. Will Archer (907 Claiborne Street). 

If you recognize a family member or friend in the list, please send me an e-mail or letter.