Thursday, January 29, 2015

In January of 1905, famous Evangelist Sam P Jones Is Interviewed By A Mysterious Reporter . . .

Christal Cooper

Montgomery Advertiser Article – 674 Words
Samuel Porter Jones Biography -  377 Words

Montgomery Advertiser Reporter Talks to
Evangelist Sam Jones in January 1905
    *Samuel Porter Jones was the most famous and celebrated evangelist of his time, attracting a national congregation with style, wit and delivery.

At the union railway station the other night, could have been seen a wiry man of middle age, well groomed, smoking a fragrant Havana.

       He paced up and down the platform with the wind blowing icy blasts from the river. 

Casual observers passed him and did not look at him twice.  If they had paid particular attention to him he might have been sized up as an Eastern drummer, ready to offer three months time on clothing or hardware.

       But this man who paced the platform of the Montgomery depot unnoticed has and is leading thousands to the Christian religion.  He has addressed millions of people and has spoken in every state of the Union.

       Had some citizen discovered his identity and secured his consent to deliver a two-minute talk between trains, the depot would have been crowded within five-minutes.

       But Sam P Jones of Cartersville, Georgia, whose name is known in practically every home in America and whose name is blessed in thousands of these homes, paced the platform of the union depot and smoked a big black cigar.

       “Good evening Mr. Jones,” said the interviewer.  The interviewer was not sure of this man.  He had seen him years before and had recently conned his photograph, but the interviewer was misled by the cigar and the badge of the Mystic Shrine on the lapel of his coat.

       “Good evening.  How are you sir?” said the magnetic voice that has changed the course of a thousand lives rang out merrily in the night air.

       “Just admiring your depot.” Rev.  Jones began.  “It’s been some time since I’ve been in Montgomery and I’m looking at the immense improvement.  I always liked this town.  It’s not as busy as Birmingham, but it retains some characteristics of the old South, which are dear to us, characteristics that the busier city has lost.  Not that Montgomery’s not a busy city, but I just wanted to refer to its changing to those customs and characteristics.  Mobile clings to them, but Mobile is a mighty wicked town, terribly wicked.”

       And with this sentence delivered in tones of severity, the interviewer remembered for the first time that he was conversing with an evangelist as famous perhaps as Henry Ward Beecher, and not a Manchester salesman.

       The conversation drifted to the cold weather, and then to freezing water pipes.  Mr. Jones spoke of the average plumber with much of the vinegary sarcasm with which he refers to the average drunkards.

       Plumber’s prices brought on a reference to Thomas W. Lawson’s “Frenzied Finances.”

       “There’s a man, “ said Mr. Jones, “ who is doing a great work for this country.  He is causing people to think of what the land is coming to financially.   Why, I believe firmly his statement that ten men will finally own the country.”
       “Well Mr. Jones, don’t you think he’s insincere?  You know he’s one of the gang.”

“That’s the reason I believe in him.  If he was a beggar boy you think he’d ben an authority financer?  No, sir.  When I want to learn something about ‘possum hunting I go and listen to a ‘possum hunter talk.  I don’t ask a professor of mathematics to tell me about the art.”
And Sam Jones had relapsed into the original style, which after his reformation brought him from position of the Cartersville drayman to the South’s greatest evangelist.

Mr. Jones had changed but little in his appearance since last seen in Montgomery.  His hair is turning gray but his eye sparkles and his step is elastic.
He is the kind of person one may talk to without unembarassment. And still recognize the greatness.  These are truly great.  

       “There’s my train.”  With remarkable agility he jumped to the platform.  “Good night.  See you again, I hope.”
       And San Jones flew southward contentedly puffing his cigar.

Samuel Porter Jones Biography
Samuel Porter Jones was born in October 16, 1847 in Oak Bowery, Alabama.  When he was nine years old he and his widowed father moved to Cartersville, Georgia.  The intellectual Jones entered the legal profession at his father’s insistence.   His career in law was disastrous and he worked menial jobs to support himself and his wife Laura McElwain and their young children.   During these unsuccessful years he suffered mental depression and alcoholism. 

In August 1872, at his father’s deathbed he experienced a miraculous conversion and entered the Methodist ministry that same year.  He conquered, with God’s help, his depression and his alcoholism, and preached around the Northwest Georgia area until 1881, when he was appointed agent of the failing North Georgia Orphans Home, which he saved from financial ruin.

During his time as agent of the North Georgia Orphans Home, he traveled throughout the entire state of Georgia, raising money for the orphanage and in the process changing lives and, in 1884, preached a revival in  Memphis, Tennessee, which resulted in him becoming an international evangelist sensation.

One year later in 1885, while preaching in Nashville, infamous riverboat captain Tom Ryman heard his message and converted to Christianity. 

Ryman built a tabernacle for Jones and other preaches and named it the Union Gospel Tabernacle.  Jones, after the death of Captain Ryman, suggested the name change to Ryman Auditorium, which would later become the future home of the Grand Ole Opry.

       In 1886, Jones financed and built a large open-air structure called “The Tabernacle” in his hometown of Cartersville, Georgia.  For the next twenty years, until his death, thousands came to hear the flamboyant Sam Jones preach. 

His sermons were not focused on theological doctrine, but instead, the simplicity of living a good life with the Trinity God’s help.  This caused conflict with other Methodist leaders, and, as a result, in 1893, Jones split from the Methodist Church and became an independent evangelist. 

       On October 15, 1906, while traveling from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to his home in Cartersville, Georgia Jones died of a heart attack on the train near Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife by his side.

To read Samuel Porter Jones’s sermons go to

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photos 1, 5, 8, 10, 16, 18, 20, 26, and 27
Reverend Samuel Porter Jones
Public Domain

Photo 2
Montgomery Alabama’s Union Railway Station in 1905
Public Domain

Photo 3
1905 newspaper ad for Havana Cigars
Public Domain

Photo 4
Alabama River in Montgomery, Alabama
Public Domain

Photo 6
1905 United States Map
Public Domain

Photo 7
The Cotton Market in Montgomery, Alabama in 1905
Public Domain

Photo 9
Mystic Shrine emblem
Public Domain

Photo 11
Mobile, Alabama in 1905
Public Domain

Photo 12
Harry Ward Beecher
Public Domain

Photos 13 and 15
Thomas W Lawson
Public Domain

Photo 14
Jacket cover of “Frenzied Finances” by Thomas W Lawson
Public Domain

Photo 17
1905 Train
Public Domain

Photo 19
North Georgia Orphans Home
Public Domain

Photo 21
Tom Ryman
Public Domain

Photo 22
Union Gospel Tabernacle
Public Domain

Photo 23
Interior of the Ryman Auditorium
Public Domain

Photo 24
Exterior of the Grand Ole Opry
Public Domain

Photo 25
Rev Jones’s The Tabernacle
Public Domain

Photo 28
Laura McElwain Jones at the time of her husband’s death
Public Domain            


  1. I enjoyed reading your post. It was quite interesting. I am a little confused, however, was this an actual newspaper interview or a piece of historical fiction? Also, FYI, photo 19 is actually of Roselawn, Jones's home in Cartersville, GA (,_Georgia)#cite_note-roselawn-3).

    Thank you!

    1. Dear Chris,

      First off, thanks for reading! And this is one of my historical articles - where I find interesting things in newspapers from years before and do a summary of what this stories were about. So yes, this was an actual interview a Montgomery reporter had with Sam Jones in 1905. He was waiting for the train while he and the reporter conversed. So this was an actual newspaper article from The Montgomery Advertiser/Times -

      And thank you for letting me know about the error in Photo 19. I will change it - not tonight - but sometime tomorrow.

      Take Care and thanks again for reading.