Joe H. Blue
[Written in January 1944 in a personal letter to Roy L. Ruckman. Brother Blue had no thought of it being more than a personal letter, but it has been shared with hundreds for it is a means of encouraging young preachers.]
I was born September 18, 1875 in Izard County, Arkansas, near Mt. Pleasant. The fall I was born my parents moved six miles southeast near where Cushman is now, in Independence County, on a farm. We lived there until the day I was eleven years old, and then moved into Fulton County near Salem, Arkansas. My father bought 220 acres of land in the woods, and we went to clearing and fencing it with rails.
There were twelve of us children — seven boys and five girls. We attended the neighborhood schools which were about four months in the year. My father was a gospel preacher but did not preach very much. He said he had to stay with us boys to keep us out of the pen. I obeyed the gospel of Christ when I was sixteen years old under the preaching of the lamented W.A. Schultz but was baptized by J.M. Billingsley. I attended worship at home and read my Bible every day.
When I was eighteen years old I attended a ten months school at Agnos, Arkansas, taught by W.R. Chestnut, and while there in school I worshipped with the congregation at Agnos, and there I received many good lessons from the brethren which have been a great help to me all the way through life. The fall I was 19 years old I traded a long-legged mule for a year's schooling at Viola, Arkansas. My father thought I made a bad trade and said that I had lost a good mule. I was under the great teacher E.M. Perkins who died at Enid, Oklahoma, a few years ago. I just had a change of clothes, and that was all.
The year I was twenty years old I entered school at Salem, Arkansas, under Professor J.H. Caldwell. I boarded at home, and rode horseback to my school.
When the school was out, I began traveling with Brothers Willie H. George and S.C. Garner. I owned a mare and saddle, and my father gave me a pair of saddle-pockets and a Bible. I just had one change of clothes and fifty cents in money. I left home crying on October 1, 1896, and rode thirty miles that day to join Brothers George and Garner who were in a meeting near Sage, Arkansas. They did the preaching, and I would read a chapter and lead in prayer, and that was as far as I would go in the work. All three of us went together from place to place on horseback holding meetings. The brethren would pay as much as $5.00 for a two weeks' meeting. The first money I received for my work was seventy-five cents. Brother Jack Warner, near Poughkeepsie, Arkansas, gave it to me, and that made me rich for a while.
On November 1, 1896, I preached my first sermon at Lebanon Schoolhouse near Poughkeepsie. I traveled with Brothers George and Garner until Christmas that year, and that time I preached six times. I then started out by myself. I went into Sharp County and preached out in the sticks, in homes and schoolhouses. I had in my saddle-pockets the change of clothes. my Bible, the Gospel Plan of Salvation by T.W. Brents, and four cents in my pocket. I did not say a word to anyone about my poverty. I was afraid they would think I was preaching for money. I preached all that year (1897) and baptized 75 and established one congregation. The brethren paid me $19.00 for my work that year. In May of that year my father sent me $10.00 to buy me a suit of clothes. I bought them with the $10.00, and then I was in fine shape for the work. Many days I went without dinner because I did not have the money to buy it.
In the fall of 1897 (November 9) I was married to Miss Mary Montgomery, and that was the best trade I ever made. She had a mare and sidesaddle. one cow, one sheep, and $25.15. We set up to keep house, and I must say that no one with all their fine houses was as happy as we were. Mary said she would cross the mountain by my side. I made a crop in 1898, and I fed by team night and morning in the dark. I would plow as long as I could see at night, and at sunup or before I was at my plow. Mary was with me with a hoe, and we made a fine crop. We settled down in the neighborhood where Mary was raised and have been there ever since. I have never moved. I preached every Sunday and Sunday night while I was making my crop that first year.
When we were married we had six members of the Church of Christ in the neighborhood . In the same neighborhood we had a Baptist Church, Methodist Church. Holiness, and Presbyterians, but today we have only the church in the neighborhood. and there has not been a sectarian sermon preached in the neighborhood in 35 years.
I made four crops after we were married, and the rest of the time I have been doing evangelistic work. We have remained on the farm all the time. We have our orchard, garden, cows, hens, hogs, horses, and goats. We have been married 46 years, and Mary has made two trips with me for meetings. She has been busy on the farm caring for the children, stock, garden, and chickens. We have bought 25 pounds of meat in the 46 years. We have never bought any butter, laundry soap, or vegetables of any kind. We never did buy any wood. We have raised three children, two of our own, and an orphan girl. I have conducted 107 debates. I have one of the best collections of religious books in the state.
I have never been the man to complain about what the brethren have paid me for my work. I preached monthly (for a year) for a congregation and held their meeting, and they paid me $4.00 for my work. I preached monthly for another congregation, twenty miles away, and held their meeting, and they paid me one dollar and a bushel of seed corn. Brother O.L. Hays and I were called to Cotter, Arkansas, to hold a meeting in 1904 in the month of January, and they paid us $2.00 and a handkerchief apiece. When the meeting closed there was a three-inch snow on the ground, and we walked home a distance of 46 miles. I have gotten off the train at Hardy, Arkansas, in the night, and taken my suitcase and walked home that night, a distance of 25 miles. Many times I have set up in a cold depot all night because I did not have the price of a bed and enough to take me on to my meeting. I have done without something to eat in my travels just because I did not have money to buy it and get on to meetings.
Mary is the bridge that has taken me over. She has never said not go, come home, or complained in the least. She has always said. "you go and preach, and do all the good you can, and I will take care of things at home," and she has done a fine job of it.
I have been stoned, beaten with green walnuts, and with eggs. I have had dynamite put under the pulpit while I was preaching. I have had to be guarded while I preached. I have had them to threaten to take me out of the pulpit and fix me so I would never be able to get in another one. I have had them threaten to hang me. I have suffered all this for the cause of our Lord, and yet have not begun to suffer what our Lord suffered, or the apostles.
I am now 68 years old and want to preach many more years. To God be all the glory for the great Victory."