Rev. Virgil Henderson Gean, Sr.
Contributed by Mildred Mason
ON HIS NINETIETH BIRTHDAY
I was born on Second Creek three miles north of Waterloo, AL. The date was November 15, 1911 on mother’s 26th birthday, which was the day after dad’s birthday. The family lived on the George Perkins place and lived there until I was three years old. The family then moved to the White Hollow. The only thing I can remember about moving was a bolt coming out of the brake on the wagon and I thought we would wreck. That house was a 20 X 20 room with four beds in it and we all slept in the same room. It didn’t have a window except a shutter that you could slide open to let in light or air. There was another room that we called the guest room that had a bed and dresser in it. When company came they slept there. That is also the room where I stayed when Abilene and I married. About a month later Clifford and Glydia married and Abilene and I had to move out with the rest of the family.
I had two brothers older than I, Homer and Clifford, and one sister, Ethel. I had two sisters younger than me, Mabel and Ruth, and one brother younger than me. Glen Wiley lived 18months before he passed away and is buried at Richardson Cemetery at Waterloo, AL.
We lived one mile off the mail route. I remember going for the mail when I was afraid to go by myself.
We attended school at the Sego School, and walked three and a half miles to get there. We played town ball at recess. The ball was made of yarn sock tops unraveled and wound tight and sewn together. We made out own bat out of a flat board at first. Us boys played stick horse made of sour wood sticks. We used a piece of wood with a piece of tin nailed on it to roll a wagon hub band with. We also used mule shoes to roll wagon tires. We would put the mule shoe a straddle of the wagon tire and push it. We never had a red wagon, but daddy made us a truck wagon of oak split timber, and sawed wheels of blackgum. We sure was proud of that wagon.
When I was 13 years old daddy gave me and Clifford, my brother, a mule. I named mine Daisy. Clifford named his Dolly. My mule was the best mule to mind I ever saw. If there is any such thing as loving a mule, I loved her. I rode that mule to see Abilene for several years.
Dad used to take me hunting with him sometimes. We would go possum and coon hunting some. One night we caught nine possums and a pole cat. We had to drag that pole cat because it smelled so bad, but my dad sold the hide. He would skin the possums and sell their hides. One night I was carrying some I a sack and they started fighting in the sack. One night we were out hunting and it was darker than midnight under a skillet. We got lost and wondered around for a while. Finally we stopped and in a little while our dog came up the road near us and we knew where we were then. I like to squirrel hunt by myself One day I went out with five shells and the dog started treeing squirrels right-a-way. I sot five in a row and was not gone long.
The first road wagon I owned I built the wheels for that wagon myself with a chopping ax, hand saw and drawing knife. Lee Kilburn had some material for a wagon and he said I could have it to build me one if I would build him one too I had to cut all the wood, the spokes, etc. for eight wheels. Everything had to be just right or it wouldn’t fit That was no easy task to get all those spokes shaped and smooth with an ax and knife.
On November 6, 1927, Abilene Sego and I, Virgil Gean, married and lived at the George Sego farm for one year. We had one mule to farm with, and had 13 chickens, 12 hens and one rooster. In November of 1928 we moved to Burnsville, MS. Things were really slow and so we decided to move to Mishawaka, IN with my sister Ethel and her husband, Dewey Fowler.
My first job in Indiana was with Oliver Plow Works. Then I worked at Ball Band Shoes for a while on the night shift. Later I worked for American Foundry where I was having to do sand blasting. I got sand in my eye and had to go to the doctor. Then I decided to get out of that and started a new job at a toy factory where Dewey was working. They got their orders filled at the toy factory, so that meant we got layed off. All of these jobs were at $.50 an hour. At Ball Bank I worked 10 hour shifts.
I bought a T Model coupe, then traded it for a Star Durant. After getting layed off we lost our furniture and had to trade the car for another Star that we ended up driving back to Alabama. We came home in 1929 very flat. I think we had kept our stove when we moved to Indiana. Daddy made us a table and bought a horse for me. I made a share crop with him that next year.
My brothers and I got into the sawmill business for a while, but I wasn’t doing any good at making a living. I finally got a job with TVA clearing land at Waterloo so they could back the water up there. I was making $3.60 a day and glad to get it. That helped me to get a start. I bought 50 acres of land and then bought a house that had to be moved because of the lake for $75. There was a chicken house and smoke house included. Our parents pried the walls and floors apart and we moved the house by flat bed truck.
In 1939 I felt that I needed to preach God’s word. My first appointment was at the Old New Home Church off the old Savannah Highway where Bell McGee was preaching. My mother went along with me. That was the 3rd Sunday in May. I remember well my text. It was the 15th Chapter of Mathew verse 13, “Every plant not planted by the Father shall be rooted up.” It was just a short talk. I had a burden for lost souls. From there I was asked to speak several places. I was ordained to preach at the Tennessee River Association at Mount Olive Church in 1940. My first baptism was my sister-in-law, Clara Sego and Anita Scott. My first wedding was Leonard Jones and Clura Hairrell. When I was just starting to preach, I carried a new testament in my pocket and I was at a funeral for Martha Lyles. Mr. John Williams asked me to say a few words and have a prayer. That was my first funeral.
My first revival was at Bumpass Creek Church. Bro. McClanahan was preaching at a revival there and I was helping him. He would preach at night and I would preach in the day time. I remember well my text on the first day of that meeting. It was from Genesis about Adam and Eve and my topic was “Where Art Thou.” Ollie White’s wife was converted that day.
Abilene and I had eight children altogether, Mildred in 1931, Yvonne in 1939, and Doris in 1942. Doris died 16 days later. Then came Kathleen in 1944, Kenneth in 1946 and Carrol in 1948. Carrol was killed I an auto accident in 1962. Sharon was born in 1952 and Virgil Jr., was born in 1953. We had a hard time many times, and I was away preaching a lot I never worried about the family and how things were being taken care of at home. Abilene and the children always took care of things and I trusted in God completely to take care of everything while I was away. My work as an evangelist, pasturing churches, preaching on the radio and preaching in revivals took me away from home a lot.
For 61 years I have preached in the Tennessee River Association and pastured many churches. My wife, Abilene was very good to keep records for me until she had to go to be with the Lord on February 23, 1997. According to the records she kept, I have preached in 439 funerals and performed marriage ceremonies for 42 couples.
In my work as a minister I have been privileged to meet some of the best people in the world. They enriched my life and gave me much joy. They helped me so much by prayers and encouragement. I could not have gone on all these years without that help.
My children and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for coming and making this day a day to remember I days to come. The day would not have been complete without your presence. You have all had a part in making my life a pleasant journey to the golden age of 90. May God be with you all.
Virgil H. Gean and Family