“My mind is directed today to look back upon the earlier days of my life. I was born in Haywood County, North Carolina, on April 21, 1875, in a one room log cabin, with a clap-board roof and a slab floor. This was the home of father, mother, and six children. I was the youngest of the family.”
“My earliest recollections were of poverty and great privation. When I was five years of age, I became a cripple with bone white swelling in my left leg. Another affliction I possessed, equally painful to me, was a stammering tongue, and I was unable to speak without great difficulty. My crippled condition had deprived me of any early education, for the schools in those days were far and few, too far to send a cripple. Six months of formal schooling was all I ever got. At the age of nine years my leg was operated upon and a small portion of the bone removed, but this was not a cure, and seemed to help but very little. These were the days of my childhood that I would like to forget. They were suffering days when my stomach knew hunger, and oft my body was cold.”
“My father worked for thirty-seven and a half cents per day to support his family of six children. The cold winters in that mountain country many times caught the Compton children without shoes and scarcely any clothing for the winter season. We only had one sister, and she would not wear out as much clothing as the boys. As the youngest, it was my lot during my boyhood days to wear my sister’s clothes. No boy of eight or ten years feels good in his sister’s dress.”
“Our family knew nothing of a cook stove in those days. All our cooking was done on an open fireplace. Many miles from any railroad, mail came to this country but once a week. We were shut away from this great world and lived among the timber-covered mountains, with their silence only broken by the rushing waters that dashed down the mountain streams. Large spruce trees, in company with chestnut, walnut, and oak of several varieties, grew in abundance.”
“Many times have I thanked God for my early education with nature. For years it seemed their value to me was lost, but later on my soul realized the unspeakable benefit they were, and are still are, to this day. As I think of the early years of my childhood, I know now that my soul absorbed a love for God’s open country through it’s birds, flowers, animals, towering mountains, sparkling springs, and beautiful torrent rivers.”
“My father was converted after the Civil War, entered into the ministry, and was ordained the year I was born. His preaching was not of the modern kind, nor for money or earthly glory, for he received but little of either. He had received Christ, and Jesus Christ was the joy of his heart and ministry, and continued to be so until his death.”
“By fourteen years old, I had become a very wild and reckless boy. I had unbeknown to my parents formed acquaintances with blockade distillers and those who handled the mountain made liquor. I quickly acquired their habits of drinking, not for the taste, but because it made me less sensitive to my physical afflictions.”
“The only stealing I ever did was to steal liquor and sell it to the gang that I had made for my associates. It became known throughout the county that Preacher Compton’s youngest boy was selling and drinking liquor and gambling, all of which were forbidden by the Compton government.”
“I remember very well the first city that I entered that had sidewalks. I had never seen a city, and I concluded the sidewalk was private property and my path was the middle of the street. I finally landed in Asheville, N.C., which was only a small mountain town at that time. I secured a job as a water-boy on the Vanderbilt Estate. The Vanderbilt’s had just begun work preparing to build the Biltmore House. It took all my wages to pay my board, and I lived and associated with the class of people who drank, gambled, and lived questionable lives in every way.”
“After I left, I traveled throughout the States in freight boxes. Though unable to read, I possessed the power to win at gambling, and often won sufficient amounts to live on for weeks at a time.”
“In my eighteenth year, I made the supreme blunder and mistake of my early history. Knowing what suffering, loneliness, and hunger for sympathy was, I became an easy victim, and without reflection or consideration the deed was done that will leave scars and sorrow of hearts and souls during my whole life. In a short time without consideration one act has caused more suffering, more unexplainable sorrow, then all the poverty, impediment of speech, or suffering as a cripple combined. My soul forbids me to write another word about it.”
“In my twentieth year I landed in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was in the month of November, and the weather was unusually cold and stormy. My clothing was a summer suit and my shoes were worn to the bare foot. My poverty and need were serious. One day I wandered up Plum Street and heard the singing of songs such as I heard in my boyhood days in North Carolina.”
“I went into the mission and took a seat in the back. Men and women who had known all kinds of sin were giving their testimony, and many had accepted Jesus and were living clean, good lives. But my strong argument was that there was no hope for me. What could a poor, crippled, homeless tramp do? Finally after three days I looked to the Heavens above and said, “Lord, I am the frazzled end of a wrecked humanity. If You can save me, do it.” Instantly there came into my heart the consciousness that God had heard my cry and prayer. I can never describe the feelings of my soul.”
A Mountain Preacher
“A year after my conversion, during the summer of 1895, I was asked to speak of my experience as a poor mountain boy who had found Christ. After my introduction, I got up on a dry goods box, my knees knocking together, and completely lost my self-consciousness. When I came to myself, there were four men kneeling at my feet, crying for mercy. Kid, they said, you talked for thirty-five minutes and you never stuttered a word.”
“This was one of the greatest performances that God has ever bestowed upon me. He had called me, and set me apart for his ministry. I decided soon afterward that I was going back in the direction of the mountains and I was going to talk salvation and eternal life to everyone I met. I would trust the Lord to keep me.”
“I spent the next years in the mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, and elsewhere. In those days I traveled by horseback and sought the most neglected sections of our mountain country to labor in. It was not every place we were given a warm welcome. Sometimes the hospitality was more severe than the cold of winter. My habit was to visit every home in the community and pray with them, inviting them to attend the meetings. These were the years of poverty and privation, and much ignorance, but also days of prayer, praise, and thankfulness.”
“Yes! I can truthfully say that telling the story of Jesus Christ in patches and sometimes borrowed clothing, without a penny in my pocket, with no responsibility except to read, pray and preach, was one of the happiest, most joyful experiences my life has ever witnessed. For I became able to speak from experience, and experience transcends all theory and book learning.”
Faith Cottage (est. 1903)
“I began my Mission work in our city of Asheville in my twenty-seventh year – street preaching and performing house-to-house visitation in the underserved sections of our city. I was also conducting a mission on Buxton Street every night, and had a day school for children in the basement there because there was no compulsory school law at that time.”
“Finally, in May of 1903 I found myself conducting a tent revival in downtown Asheville. The meetings were especially blessed of God, to the salvation of many. It was at this time that a burden came on my heart for unfortunate girls. Now, to the worldly minded, there is quite a romantic history connected with the Rescue Home that we established, but those of us who know God and the value of prayer, we can only say, What hath God wrought?”
“My wife Etta and I, with our God given love for the homeless and unfortunate girls, moved out of our single room, with our meager belongings, into an eight-room home we called ‘Faith Cottage.’ It was open day and night to the unfortunate and homeless girls who desired to be redeemed from their life of sin. It had no solicitors, nor anyone to beg means for its support, excepting on their knees in prayer. Some lasting good was done, and we quickly became crowded and needed more room. The Lord provided, and soon we moved into a seventeen-room house.”
“When God laid in our hearts to open Faith Cottage, certain people tried to bring us before the court to declare such a Home a nuisance to the city. Some of these then had to drape their homes in mourning, on account of the departure of their daughter’s virtue.”
“While engaged in this rescue work among the fallen girls of Asheville and the surrounding country, homeless and destitute children were frequently brought to us to be provided for. If they were illegitimate children, we could find no homes for them. Finally, after three years of rescue work, the Lord laid it upon our hearts to also open a Home to care and educate the neglected children of the Southern mountains.”
“Our first two children were received while living in the Rescue Home that was rented property. When the Lord later gave us property for Faith Cottage, this home was partitioned off, and part of the upstairs used for the children. We had not a dollar toward buying a home for them, but prayer was made without ceasing to God for a suitable location for a permanent Orphanage.”
Eliada Orphanage (est. 1906)
“Several places were contemplated and prayed over, but finally we felt the Lord clearly led us to a certain five acres and small cabin, four miles west of Asheville. The cabin was a very poor structure, and when it rained the roof leaked like a sieve. Our little family lived in this cabin for over four months; then they were moved into a planked up room about 24×24, which the workers called Glory Inn. Some one asked, “Whatever did you give such a place such a name for?” The answer was, “We had the glory in-side.” They lived there for seven months.”
“Many prophesied that the Big House, which we then built, would never be raised. But it was built as a visible witness to the fact that what is prayed for in secret, God rewards openly. From the time the work on the building began, it continued right on until the shavings were swept out and the family moved in. To God be all the glory for what was done. He merits it.”
“Many years have passed since that first step of faith was made. All through those early struggles we saw by faith better things, and constantly rejoiced because we were assured of better days. At the beginning of the Eliada Orphanage, there was not an institution in the state that accepted infant children, or children born out of wedlock. We stood alone in this ministry and service.”
“These past years have been mixed with tears and triumphs, great joys along with inexpressible trials and heartaches. Every prop of human trust has been knocked out, and I have been left many times with only my Bible, and my faith in God. His unspeakable gift.
But whatever our burden, our work cannot in any wise be well done unless everything we possess, whether talent, money, or gifts, is laid at his feet for His possession and use at any time or place. He chooses. May it be so with all of us.”
–Reverend Lucius Bunyan Compton
–Eliada Orphanage, Asheville, N.C.–
Cliff–I have read all of the stories so far, and you have left me wanting more. Please keep telling people about the lives of those of us who grew up there, and may God Bless you as you continue to tell our stories so the world can hear.
I loved the story. Shows how God can work in the lives of those who believe.
Such an interesting history!
Thank you for the story. What an awesome God we serve.