Down South there is beautiful country, and there are charming people. The Mississippi River flows through to the sea, and there are many great rivers besides. Along these rivers there are lovely and fruitful valleys, and next to the sea there are great plains. These valleys and plains are called the lowlands. But up where the rivers rise, the land lifts into hills and steep mountains; and these are called the highlands.
The lowlands are easiest to farm, because they are more or less level; and so more people live there. The colored people live mostly in the lowlands, but there are many white people there too. In most places there are more white people than colored people.
But up in the mountains there are white people, and almost nobody but white people. We call them the mountain people. There are not so many of them, because they don't have much land to till. But there are about two million mountain people. And two million people are more than you could count, one by one, if you should take all day to do it.
They work the land, even on steep hillsides, but much of it is simply too steep. It is very beautiful, though, with its far views, its rocks and waterfalls, its forests of tall trees, its thickets of bushes and vines and beautiful flowers. There are pastures too, where the cattle roam and the sheep follow their paths to the quiet waters.
There are big houses and little houses where the people live. Some of the houses are of stone and brick, some of lumber, and some of logs. The poorer people live mostly in log houses. And some of them live so far apart that their nearest neighbors are a mile or more away.
Now, the children of the mountain people often have a hard time to get to school. Their fathers and mothers have very little money to pay teachers, and schools are few and far between. Some mountain children never go to school, and never learn to read and write. Then, too, when anyone falls sick, very likely he has no doctor. There is no money to pay a doctor, and there are no doctors very near. So he just has to suffer, and maybe get well, and maybe die. In some places there are missionary-minded teachers and kindhearted doctors who go up and live among the mountain people, and teach them and heal them. But they have to live on very little, and only the love of Jesus in their hearts leads them to do it.
Sister White loved the mountain children and the mountain people too. Her heart was always open to the call of the poor and needy, and she encouraged Christian men and women to go into the mountains and help the people there. She was glad when some went up into the mountains, to make schools for the children, to heal the sick, to teach the people how to live more healthfully, and to make better crops, and best of all, to bring them the message of Jesus’ salvation and of His soon coming. There were Brother and Sister Shireman in the mountains of Carolina. There were Brother and Sister Howell in the hills of Tennessee. There were Dr. Hayward and his wife in the highlands of Alabama. But there were not very many, and the needs were great.
Sister White wrote: “Self-supporting missionaries are often very successful. Beginning in a small, humble way, their work enlarges as they move forward under the guidance of the Spirit of God. . . . No taunting word is to be spoken of them as in the rough places of the earth they sow the gospel seed.”
But the time came when a greater work was to be done. In 1904, four years after Sister White returned from Australia, she was visiting her son Edson in Nashville, Tennessee, and helping him to make his work for the colored people tell for more. There came down, then, from Michigan, two men, Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Magan, to look for a farm where they might live among the mountain people and teach them.
Sister White said, “Let us go up the river in the Morning Star, and look for a good place.”
So they all got in the steamboat, Morning Star, and up the river they went. About ten miles from Nashville they tied up the boat at a landing, and Sister White said to Dr. Sutherland and Dr. Magan, “Right near here is a farm the Lord wants you to have, to start a training school for teachers for the mountain people. Come over and look at it.”
But they said, “We don't want a big farm. We don't want to start a training school. We want a little place, where we can be small and do a humble work among the people.”
“The Lord has given you experience and power to train teachers,” said Sister White. “Don't bury your talent in the ground, like the unfaithful servant, but use it to make more means for the work of the Lord.”
So they bought the farm and started a training school. Some young people came in to be trained as teachers and nurses and cooks and farm workers and blacksmiths and such. It was not long till two of these young men, with their wives, went out to start a school in the hill country near by. The children there had no school, so they started a school and taught the children. The people around them often fell sick, but they had no doctor; so they nursed them and made them well. And they taught them how to live better, so they would not be sick.
The farmers there had only one money crop, tobacco. But work in tobacco was poisonous to the children. Their eyes and faces and hands were often red and sore from work in the tobacco fields. So the teachers showed the farmers how to raise strawberries instead, and sell them. They made more money from strawberries than they had from tobacco. And today that is great strawberry country. They held Sabbath schools and Sunday schools, and they taught the truth. And many there were of the children and the people who rose up and called them blessed.
More young people went out to open more schools, to make health centers, and to teach good farming. All through the mountain country and the hill country of Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia these little centers of truth-teaching started up. Some of them have grown into large schools and sanitariums, and some of them have stayed small. But all of them have served their people well, teaching the children in school, healing the sick, showing better ways of living, and lifting up the hearts of all in the blessed hope of Jesus’ soon coming.
Some of the mountain people were very rough. They made fiery liquor in their moonshine stills, and drank it at home and even when they met for church. This made them drunk, and sometimes they had ugly fights. Nearly all of them used tobacco, smoking and chewing, and the women dipped snuff. Snuff is a powder made of tobacco, which they put into their mouths with the chewed end of a little stick. Even the children used tobacco. The habit is very hard to break. But the teachers taught them how much harm their whisky and their tobacco were doing them. They did not let the children use it in the schoolhouse, and they encouraged them to give it up altogether.
Charley was a boy in one of these schools. He carried a plug of tobacco in his pocket, and out of school hours he always had a chew in his mouth. Well, his father and his mother and all his brothers and sisters chewed tobacco or dipped snuff. Why shouldn't he? But Charley told them what he had learned in school, and they really wanted Charley to quit tobacco, though they said they couldn't. His mother promised him a new pair of shoes if he would quit, but he shook his head. His uncle promised him a whole sack of candy if he would quit, but he said no. He loved his plug too much.
But Charley also loved music. In the school his voice rang out the cheeriest in the morning songs, and he hung around Miss Margaret, the teacher, whenever he could find her playing the piano.
One day Miss Margaret said, “I'll tell you what I'll give you, Charley, if you will quit tobacco.”
“What?” said Charley.
“I'll teach you to play the piano.”
“Will you?” His voice rang with pleasure. But then he said, “I don't reckon I could stick.”
“You think it over, Charley, and whenever you get ready, let me know. When you have let tobacco alone for a whole day, come and tell me, and I'll give you a lesson that very night.”
Charley kept out of reach the next day. He hadn't quit. But the second day he came to the teacher with shining eyes. “I get my lesson tonight, Miss Margaret,” he said, “I hain't taken a chew today, and that plug is right there in my hip pocket. It'll stay there till I've forgotten it, too.”
His mother said to him, “Charley, why didn't you give up tobacco when your uncle said he'd give you a sack of candy?”
“I reckoned it wouldn't last very long,” said Charley.
“Why did you do it, then,” said she, “for the music lessons?”
And Charley said, “I reckoned they'd last as long as I would.”
Charley never touched tobacco again. He learned to play the piano, and became a good pianist and a fine singer. And he went on to be a teacher of others. There were many other boys and girls like him, who learned how to live from the missionary schools and who became Jesus’ disciples and messengers.
Sister White was very glad for the work that was being done for the mountain children and their parents. She said to the workers, “Be of good courage. Do not lose faith. Your heavenly Father is with you, and will help you as you teach the children of the hills.”
Arthur W. Spalding