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That magnificent voice: Rev. G.W. Perryman, Russell Co. KY - VII

In this final installment Part VII, "That magnificent voice:" End of his tenure in Norfolk. Removal to Winchester, KY. The staging of the trials of John Barleycorn. Dr. Perryman's death, and burial in Winchester, KY.
Next earlier installment:That magnificent voice: Rev. G.W. Perryman, Russell Co. KY - VI


Bro. G.W. Perryman tendered his resignation in Norfolk in June 1914, accepted the call from Central Baptist in Winchester, Ky., in October, and removed from Norfolk soon thereafter. Immediately before he left the Old Dominion for the Bluegrass State, he was given "an elaborate public the form of a public luncheon" attended by many and presided over by the Mayor of Norfolk. The Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch, as quoted by The Baptist World, stated that "Few pastors of any denomination have taken so continuous and prominent an interest in public affairs...and this luncheon is given alike to him personally and to his efforts for the public good."

Removing to Winchester very nearly amounted to "going home" both for Rev. and Mrs. Perryman. It was only sixty miles or thereabout from her old home in Danville and not much over one hundred miles from the hills and hollows of his formative years near Montpelier.

First 12 months in Winchester were good ones

His first twelve months in Winchester were good ones. In December 1914, shortly after he assumed the pastorate, a revival held at Central, assisted by the Revs. Sid Williams and J.A. Brown (the former preaching, the latter leading the music), brought many of the leading citizens of the town and surrounding area into the church.

As mentioned previously, he spent much of the summer of 1915 through early August (when the primary election was held) on the campaign trail in Kentucky on the behalf of Prohibition candidates.

The Prohibition candidates, particularly in the gubernatorial race, took drubbing in the primary, and a few days later, The Baptist World published a letter in which Dr. Perryman expressed his views of the election's outcome. In the missive he blasted any and all "wet" Baptists:

"I know Baptists who claim to be so orthodox that they wouldn't think about uniting with other churches to win souls, but went last Saturday and united with whisky powers, whose record is bloody, whose business is to destroy every home they possibly can...Bad indeed to strike at the saloon and hit a Baptist square between the eyes."

The fall of 1915 was particularly busy. On November 14th, the church celebrated Rev. Perryman's one-year anniversary there and a few days later The Baptist World, pulling from a lengthy article in the Winchester Democrat, reported that "during the year he has received 150 persons into the membership of the church, the Sunday school has grown from 166 to 436 and the contributions for the last year ran $1,800 beyond any other church in the district association to which it belongs." The piece then went to quote directly from the Democrat:

"Everybody knows what Dr. Perryman stands for; no uncertain sound is heard from his pulpit on great moral questions and his great congregation is with him, to a man, in the stand he takes for the uplift of humanity and the betterment of mankind."

In mid-October, he had the great pleasure of hosting, in Winchester, the marriage of his next-to-oldest daughter, Lucile, to the love of her life, Dr. Harry Rainey Bybee, a young chiropractor she had met in Norfolk. Quite possibly, Rev. Perryman himself presided over the exchange of the vows.

Come early December, 1915, the Winchester Baptist Church Sunday School, in observance of World Wide Temperance Day, participated in a "trial" in which John Barleycorn stood as defendant. The December 16, 1915 edition of The Baptist World republished a detailed account the proceedings as reported in the Winchester

Staging the trial of John Barleycorn

In essence, Sunday School Superintendent H.C. Wolf served as the prosecuting attorney, Sunday School members composed the jury, and Rev. Perryman's wore the judge's robe.

"John Barleycorn," a large pasteboard picture of a bottle dressed up, was brought in "in the role of defendant." A number of witnesses, including a jailer, gave damning testimony, then each side gave closing argument before sending the case to the jury. The vote was unanimously "guilty" and "Judge" Perryman told the accused he had been found guilty and had to die. "[The Judge] then grabbed [John Barleycorn] and put his heel upon him and said: 'I send you on to perdition from whence you came.'"

The article concluded by saying, "The scene was no doubt the greatest temperance lecture ever given in this city and it will not be forgotten by the large number of people who were present."

Rev. Perryman, as with Moses never entering the "Promised Land," never saw full prohibition enacted either in the United States as a whole or in Kentucky as a state.

A few days before Christmas 1915, Rev. Perryman became ill with la grippe. However, remarked the Mount Sterling (Ky.) Advocate, "his condition was not considered alarming and he was able to get about town as usual," and on Sunday the 27th, he filled the pulpit at Winchester Central both for the morning and evening services. Monday night (possibly in the wee hours of Tuesday morning), he suffered a "slight attack" of what was called acute indigestion in the newspapers and acute gastritis on the death certificate; almost certainly, a heart attack.

If the account of his passing given in the Adair County News (January 5, 1916) is correct, he suffered a second, much worse round of "acute indigestion" early Wednesday morning, and, already weakened from influenza, he "died after being sick three hours, in his home in Winchester, Ky.," his magnificent voice forever silenced. Rev. Perryman was four and a half months short of his fifty-ninth birthday.

Said The Baptist World in the January 6, 1916 edition, "Rev. G.W. Perryman, pastor of Central Baptist church, Winchester, Ky., was suddenly called to lay down his earthly labors on Wednesday, December 29, and to meet the Lord whom he loved and served through a long ministerial career."

Mrs. Perryman was sick with la grippe herself and according to the Advocate, "one daughter, Miss Beulah, was also confined to her bed" with the ailment. (The two younger children, Corinne and George W., lived at home as well.)

Despite her grief and own illness, Mrs. Perryman did much of the planning for the funeral, held on Friday, December 21st and attended by many of the Baptist luminaries of Kentucky and representatives from several of the churches he had pastored in the thirty-one years -- almost exactly -- since accepting the full-time call at Owenton near the end of 1884. The Interior-Journal remarked, "some of the most prominent preachers of the state [took] part in the funeral," and Eld. Williams wrote that the funeral "was the most comforting I thing I ever attended."

(One of the speakers,John Richard Sampey, taught at Southern Theological Seminary for fifty-eight years, including a tenure as President of the institution from 1928 until 1942. He and Rev. Perryman were classmates at Southern.)

Eld. Williams also commented on "such a display of flowers sent in by friends from all over the country," and added, "The family have so endeared themselves to the people of Winchester that they asked Mrs. Perryman to bury her dead with them. A nice lot was presented for his last resting place. The family will remain here for the present."

In due time, the remains of Mrs. Perryman (1943) and their daughters Beulah J. (1956) and Corinne (Thacker) (1951) were buried near those of their husband and father in the Winchester Cemetery.

The Baptist World, in noting Rev. Perryman had preached such a short time before his death, observed, "No doubt he would have wished thus to go immediately from work on earth into the presence of the Lord whom he served."

(The foregoing is adapted from "That Magnificent Voice: A Word Sketch of Rev. George W. Perryman, a Man of His Convictions," (c) 2017. Material adapted and used with permission.)


This story was posted on 2017-05-06 05:33:13
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