Sam P. Jones, Cartersville, & the Grand Ole Opry
This week Marietta First Methodist’s ELM’s History of North Georgia class was about evangelist Rev, Samuel Porter Jones (1847-1906). It was a very interesting lecture.
Sam P. Jones started spent his youth raising hell and partying with the best (or worse) of them. He was a big drinker, gambler, and all that goes with it. As our instructor said, “He was a party animal).
He received his high school tutoring from William and Rebecca Felton. Rebecca Felton was a pioneer of women’s suffrage and led the early temperance movement in Georgia. Rebecca also became the first female U.S. Senator.
He studied and got his degree in law but did not do well with his law profession. He married and they had children.
On his father’s death’s bed he promised his father he would quit drinking and that promise developed into a divine mission.
He was a Methodist and in due time became ordained as a minister. He was a circuit minister which he had to go from town to town on in north Georgia at schedule times to preach.
Eventually he got is own church in Cartersville, Georgia. He started his evangelical career. He was good. He gain much popularity and were entertained by presidents, probably as popular as Billy Graham.
What I appreciated about him was he insisted on preaching to black people too. This was during the time that blacks were hardly given the time of day, much less, preaching to them. He also seemed to want to preach to the ordinary man – the working man.
He and the Methodists leaders did not see eye to eye so he broke off to continue his own style of preaching.
One time he was going to Nashville to preach. Then Nashville had a lot of riverboats on the Cumberland River which flowed through town and the riverboats would have gambling, drinking, can-can girls, and whatever else. The owners of the ships did not want somebody preaching to their customers on how evil they were being.
Riverboat owner and Captain Tom Ryman had a plan. He was sending his ship’s thugs to the Jones’s meeting cause havoc and disorder. He went to, to supervise.
Captain Tom Ryman was so moved by Jones’ preaching that he took his men back to his riverboat and had them throw overboard all whiskey, gambling tables, roulette wheels, and other fun-devices.
Then he had a Tabernacle built that could seat a lot of people to attend services. After Tom died, the city renamed it Ryman Auditorium, which in time, was the home of the Grand Ole’ Opry on Saturday nights, but was reserved for preaching other times.
Rev Sam Jones died on a train on the back to Cartersville from Little Rock.. He was so enormously popular with the people his body was in-state at the Georgia Capital in Atlanta. When it was returned to Cartersville 3,000 mourners was waiting at the depot.
Y’all come back, y’hear?