Preacher Fawcett and the brush arbor revival

Barnett Crossroads, Alabama. Sometime late in the 1940's. In the days of my early childhood some special experiences stand out more vividly than others. I'll share one.

The scene is at the southeast corner of the crossing. The old store still sat then at the northeast corner. If I have my facts correct, the owners back to the beginning of this important place was builder A. D. Kelly, then Ollie Ingram, and followed by Clyde Hawkins. Last owners were Riley & Annie Barnett who moved the store across the road to the southeast corner where this story takes place. The building was rolled across the road on logs to sit and serve our community until it was dismantled.

Yellowed signs of Pure Oil, Camel cigarettes, Prince Albert, J. R. Watkins Liniment & Flavorings, Martha White, Doan's Pills along with hundreds. The signs were nailed, tacked, stapled, pasted & taped onto inside and outside walls of that old store. Time allowed some to be ripped off and replaced with advertisements of newer offerings of the day. Coca-Cola had metal signs with beautiful girls holding frosted bottles of wonderful. Calendars with curvy blonds and scanty dress pushed the code of decency for the local ladies.

If the Barnett Crossroads was considered the center of our community life, then the old store was the beating heart. Commerce began and ended here for most folk in our community. Food, shoes, clothing, gas, kerosene, oil, farming implements, seed, feed and fertilizer for making our crops. If needed things were not found here, then a trip to Atmore, Brewton or Flomaton was made. Travel for anything beyond those reaches was considered serious. Here we gathered for necessities, information (gossip), or simply to meet and socialize.

The store was a polling place. Back in my childhood most of my people were registered Democrats. Voting day the store was a place to wait and see. Sometime a fight happened here.


Several summers during my early childhood was the time for brush arbor revival and preaching to happen. Souls were in need of saving or rededication to avoid damnation of hellfire. Preacher Fawcett rode into our community on a bicycle from somewhere mysterious to us, preached and pleaded for acceptance of salvation and as the interest and excitement waned, rode away on his bicycle to somewhere mysterious to us. Our neighbor Mrs. Hobbs thought he may have been a Communist. Anything not understood or known was looked at with suspicion. Remember, this was just as WWII was ending and the cold war was heating up and being debated. She had a problem with sandspurs growing in her yard and told us she believed the Communist were flying over in their airplanes while scattering seed for sandspurs to harass us. Every time I stepped on a sandspur, I cussed a commie.

Preacher Fawcett always boarded with a local man and his wife who lived just a bit north of the crossing. He stowed whatever gear he owned and then started constructing a brush arbor to hold revival under. Pine saplin's, sweet gum & persimmon poles for framing. Any leafy brush was layered atop the framework for the covering--shade and dew repellant. Borrowed planks laid across blocks for seating was assembled. A pulpit and altar rail was made and placed.

Revival began.

The nearest telephone was at Gilmores store in Wallace. Barnett Crossroads used the word of mouth system for information gathering. Word went out by locals sharing and encouraging attendance. This gave us reason to spend time with friends and neighbors, catch up on one another's lives and let Jesus come into our hearts.

Kerosene lamps and carbide lights were lit (smelled like a bad version of garlic to me). Chimneys of kerosene lamps got smoked and burned down wicks, causing flickering. Carbide lights made a spewing sound and spread the stink into the leafy roof where it would stick to the heat-curled leaves of the brush. Plank benches swayed from the weight of plump mothers with laps filled with burping, slobbering, teething, sweating, sour milk-smelling babies. They always nuzzled against the breast trying to get pacified and fed. Toddlers lay on well-worn and frazzled quilt pallets to free range underneath the benches and smear about and around and through and between the feet and legs of others.

At the edge, men sprawled against car and truck fenders or sat on running boards to smoke, chew, dip, laugh and debate. Some let slip a cuss word or two. Rumor was, a few light-hearted drank some shine to ease the pain of guilt as the Holy Ghost moved in. Small kids played in the dark until a mishap caused them to get handprints applied to buttocks, thighs and shanks with admonition of, "I told you to be careful, now sit." Truck beds slowly filled with sleeping children on dingy quilt pallets reserved for just that, truck bed sleeping. On the outer edges of this consecrated place, teenagers slunk about in the dark looking for other teenagers slinking about in the dark. I can't say for sure because I was too young; but word was shared that hand holding and some furtive kissing took place.

Preacher Fawcett wore long sleeved shirts, yellowed by grime from sweat and age. He would shout, "Jesus." Holding the old well used bible close to his face as he favored the left eye, he read verses and occasionally paused to look closer as the flicker from those dim lights allowed little. As the sermon grew more intense from his preaching there was arm waving, fist pounding on the pulpit, and random spittle. This all caused the spirit to come down on a few in the crowd.

Off to the side someone would jump up with holy dancing, jerking, head rolling and speaking in unknown tongues. This show of emotion always scared and intrigued me at the same time. Audience would shift in the covert search to see who else was filled with the Holy Ghost. After a season the plea was issued to come to the altar for prayer and laying on of hands. Always some would go and get prayed for as Preacher Fawcett laid on his hands and asked for our Lord to take their sins away and forgive them of their sins. Tears streaming and moaning would end the emotional time of revival.

In no way am I being critical or sitting in judgement here; just writing about my experience. I truly believe Preacher Fawcett had a calling and was in our lives and community to fulfill his mission. We all worship and believe in our own way. Preacher Fawcett brought the word and something important and needed to our lives and community. I was impacted by that time of revival and will always remember Preacher Fawcett and his Brush Arbor Revival.

*** I have always wished I had the back story on this man.***

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