Perhaps no group has had such a controversial place in the literature of Appalachianstudies as the home missionaries. Accused of cultural and religious imperialism, many scholars fault home missionaries for casting mountain peoples in the role of?other, ? as well as for partnering with economic interests to exploit the region's resources. Edward O. Guerrant, a Kentucky-born physician and Presbyterian minister, has been singled out as one of the worst offenders.For most of his adult life, Guerrant traveled the hills and hamlets of southernAppalachia, spreading gospel, building churches, and recording his keen observations ofthe landscape and the people. In 1910, Guerrant published The Galax Gatherers: TheGospel among the Highlanders, an account of these travels. Reissued here for the first time, The Galax Gatherers is a fascinating look at Guerrant's beliefs, prejudices, and vision for a people ?left behind? by the modern world.Guerrant's interest in Appalachia began when he served as a soldier in the Confederatearmy, during which time he traveled the mountains of southwestern Virginia, easternTennessee, and eastern Kentucky. When the war ended in 1865, he began training tobecome a medical doctor, eventually setting up practice near Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, where population was sparse. But Guerrant was just as interested in saving the souls of his mountain neighbors as their bodies; in 1873 he went to seminary, and by 1877 he was named to the Presbyterian Church's Home Missions Committee.So began Guerrant's famously contentious career as a mountain missionary. Using hismedical expertise to entice followers, Guerrant recruited nearly three thousand new Church members in his first four-year term as ?Synodical Evangelist, ? organized twenty-five congregations, and built fifteen houses of worship. In 1897, Guerrant founded the Society of Soul Winners, a non-denominational organization that trained ministers and teachers for mountain work and constructed churches, mission schools, colleges, an orphanage, and a hospital.In a new introduction to the text, Mark Huddle notes that the lingering picture ofGuerrant is more complex than scholars have heretofore acknowledged. The GalaxGatherers is the story of the mountain missionaries in the words of one of their own andan absorbing record of early twentieth-century Appalachian life.
The Galax Gatherers
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