History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“Reverend Wells Wild Ride”
One of the most colorful of the early circuit riders was Lemuel H. Wells. His circuit was in the northwest territories and was later a bishop in Spokane, Washington. The Reverend seems to have a particular knack for getting into strange situations, or perhaps some poor decision-making on his part occasionally played a role.
Quite possibly Wells’ most picturesque misadventure was one that was the hardest to believe, however, consisting purely of plain, unadorned Gospel truth. It was one that he had in a small town in northern Idaho. In the hotel there, he requested a bath, and was told a tub would be ready for him in the morning at the head of the stairs. Upon coming out the next day, he found a tub of water, one of those old-style giant washbasins that one sometimes see miners using in old Western movies. It was the dead of winter, and the foyer of the hotel was about 20 degrees; so, shivering in the chilly air, the Reverend leaped into the tub to get his morning ablutions over with as fast as possible, so that he might put clothes on and get warm as quick as possible. He immediately made two unpleasant observations. The first was the water in the tub was just above freezing, breaking through a skim of ice on his way into it. It seemed the hotel owner had prepared the bath the night before, so as not to have to bother with it in the morning; so it had all night to get cold in the pre-dawn winter’s chill of the unheated hotel lobby.
But the second discovery made Wells forget all about the coldness of the water. It seemed the tub leaked a little. It had been leaking out onto the floor throughout the night, forming a small puddle which had frozen like a block of ice on a highway. When Wells had hopped into the icy water, the momentum of his leap had set the tub in motion on that sheet of ice. Majestically and inexorably it sailed straight toward the top of the staircase, and decanted its contents over its rim.
So the Reverend Lemuel H. Wells, shivering cold and stark naked and helpless in the hands of a cruel fate, rode a half-full washtub down the stairs of the hotel, tumbling with it to the bottom and ending up with the tub perched triumphantly atop his battered and shivering body in a great puddle of freezing water on the landing below.
This was, of course, hardly a silent procedure. The crashing and thumpings of the tub, and the terrified shrieks of its passenger, roused every person in the building and probably several neighbors to boot. Luckily he wasn’t badly hurt. He was escorted back to his room as discreetly as possible under the circumstances, where he tried to warm himself as best he could and get ready for a day’s preaching of sermons to people who had, a few hours earlier, seen him naked under the most undignified of circumstances.
Just another day on the job, right?
Sources: Bromberg, Erik “Frontier Humor: Plain and Fancy,” Oregon Historical Quarterly, Sept. 1960; Wells, Lemuel H. A Pioneer Missionary.
Last month’s question: Because he loved Chapel Hill and Sequatchie Valley, what minister was returned to Chapel Hill Cemetery for burial? Reverend Jacob (Jake) P. Ramsey, (1926-1971) Chapel Hill 1954-1958. Reverend Jake Ramsey died in an automobile accident and was buried on 17 December 1971. He was a U.S. Navy Veteran of World War II.
Next month’s question: Who built the original wall of Chapel Hill Cemetery next to the highway?