The story below is about the seed that would blossom into Seven Springs Presbyterian Church. The story speaks of one faithful and passionate woman whose life changed when she heard the sweet gospel of Jesus Christ. Ms. Nancy is like a modern-day Lydia (Acts 16:11-15, 40). Through God’s providence, she planted the seed that would grow into Seven Springs Presbyterian Church.
“The world yet waits to see what, in this short life, a man or woman can do, who is wholly given up to God.” If Nancy McGlocklin had lived before the Apostle Paul, her name would surely have been recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle of the Hebrews. We have aimed to draw a picture true to life. If there is a word of exaggeration or a shade of coloring in these pages, the writer does not know it. The manuscript was submitted to her pastor in her old age, Rev. P.H. Gwinn, who has written as follows:
“Here is a sweet and helpful message. The reader will be charmed with the faithful portraiture of this humble life-a life pressed by poverty but possessing the eternal riches. The character sketch is remarkable for clean-cut analysis and strict fidelity to truth.”
Riding horseback through the Alleghenies of Southwestern Virginia, in the summer of 1886, a minister of the gospel came to a log cabin, the like of which is often seen in these mountains. It stood immediately on the line of the road, its backside fronting the road, as is often the case, and taking the place of about one and half panels of the rail fence enclosing a field. In this backside was its only window-a section cut from one of the logs, about twenty inches long and twelve inches deep, and without sash or glass.
Having learned that a poor, sick woman was there, he stopped to show her sympathy. There was neither gate nor stile in the rail-fence which ran from either end of the cabin around the field. The fence was low and quickly stepped over into a path leading around the corner of the house. Following this path, he entered through an opened door. The cabin had but one room, about twelve by fourteen feet, and was about six feet to the eaves.
Being a tall man, he stooped on entering to keep from striking his head on the poles above. On these poles were some loose boards that served to separate the room from a shallow loft. The floor was “mother earth.” Two upright pine poles, planted firmly in the ground and lasted firmly in the ground and lashed to the girder above, were held securely by two cross poles, fastened to the log wall. Boards rived out of oak, with a thin covering on them, made a poor excuse for a bed.
On this bed was lying a little woman sick with a fever having her eyes closed. No one was with her. Her husband was away, working by the day to earn a living for the family. Her children were not far off at play, and did not come into the cabin during his visit.
As the minister approached her bed side, she opened her eyes languidly and looked at him with a mildly inquiring expression. When he spoke, she answered, “Yes, I know you, this is Mr. the preacher at the Old Glade.”
Her faculties were sound, and she was not at all nervous. So, after inquiring for her health and speaking a sentence or two of sympathy, he began to quote from memory a short Scripture lesson of comforting words. She listened attentively and when, after prayer, he was bidding her goodbye, she said,
“I am a poor woman; am mighty sick; it’s good in you to come to see such a poor creature as me.”
Thus was made my first acquaintance with Nancy McGlocklin.
After the fever left her and she became strong enough to leave home, on the first Lord’s day, she came to Old Glade Spring Church. Her dress was very plain and contrasted strongly with those of the congregation. In a very modest way she entered the church, and walking up the aisle close to the ends of the side pews, she took a seat near the wall. Her mind was evidently on things above, for she looked neither to the right nor to the left, but kept her face turned a little to one side and looking downward. When the preacher arose to begin worship, she lifted her face and kept her eyes upon him. This was her habit so long as the minister stood in the pulpit for about ten years.
That autumn a protracted meeting was held in the church at the end of which ten souls were added to the communion. Nancy was one of them. She was then forty-seven years old and all the rest were young people of eighteen or twenty years. This made her a noticeable figure, but her manner was full of thoughtfulness and reverence.
From this day to that of her death she lived a life of holiness apparently complete. She did not know a letter in the Book. But she resolved to learn to read the Bible. She came to Sunday School and joined a class of young scholars. Ever afterward she was as punctual almost as the sun in her attendance. In the face of all kinds of weather she walked nearly a mile to this school and was rewarded not only by learning many lessons from the Scriptures but also by learning to read them for herself. She brought her children with her.
After a while her husband bought a very small piece of ground in the pines, and on the very summit of a steep little knob, swept by winter’s winds and scorched by summer’s sun. Here they built two little cabins of pine poles side by side, about the size of that they had left. This was three miles from the church, and while rejoicing in their owning the home, we regretted her removal because it seemed out of the question for her to walk to church regularly over such a distance.
The first Sabbath she was in her place and her children beside her. For nearly nine years the poor woman walked this distance through the woods and fields, in spite of all kinds of weather and with utmost regularity. In all this time she did not fail to be in her place in church, except when too sick to leave her cabin, or when nobody could come. This continued for years after that minister left the church for another.
During one of those times of sickness the minister asked her if she wanted to come to church. Her startled reply was, “Oh, Yes, If I was well I feel like I could get there in three steps. I would step first to Jim Ryburn’s gate; next to the top of the hill by Billy McRybum’s woods; and then right to the door of the church.” (One step a mile!) Before such love as this, mountains dwindled into mole-hills and distance was annihilated.
When spring opened, she not only came to church and Sunday School and her own children as before, but she brought with her from the mountains a company of other children numbering in all from six to a dozen. To the minister this was an inspiring sight and often helped him to preach.
Having learned to read the Bible, someone made her a present of one of the best issued by the American Bible Society, of good size and large print. This she brought to Sunday School and church without fail, always wrapped in a plain, colored handkerchief When the minister opened the Bible before him to read the lesson, she always opened hers and followed him closely, observing his comments. She was the only hearer he ever had in that congregation who did this. The notion was evidently original with herself, and the habit continued certainly to the end of his ministry there.
Having learned to read the Bible she became, in a modest way, a faithful exhorter and teacher of others. Most diligently did she “redeem the time” from her industrious life to embrace every opportunity to do good. With her, duties never clashed, but a way was found, while caring for her own house, to go from house to house in that mountain region preaching Christ. Her love began at her home, with her husband and children, but did not stay there. Never obtrusive or loud, not pushing her own notions, but with a heart full of the constraining love of Christ, she strove to wins souls to Him. She had a good word for old and young, for rich and poor. This one thing she did for the Lord who redeemed her with His own blood. And the Lord blessed her work. Social life improved in every way. Drunkenness, profanity, Sabbath breaking, and all kinds of open sin began to disappear. The people became “diligent in the business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”
Before a great while the Holy Spirit stirred up the people to desire preaching from the minister and she gladly informed him of it. Under a wide-spreading oak, on a pretty open place to the north of the railroad, in “the gap” to Saltville, he began his work for their benefit. The people were ready for it, made ready by her industry and consecrated zeal. A goodly company of them came together at the first call. Some brought chairs from the neighboring houses, some sat upon the sod-covered ground, but for the most of them, seats had been of a primitive and rude kind. Throughout the summer a growing congregation met regularly in the afternoon of the Lord’s Day beneath this noble oak which the children called “Our Church.” When winter came with his chilling winds and cold rains and snow, the people found a place for worship in an old house near by. This they soon fitted up with windows and doors, and other wise made comfortable. Here many were led to God and a useful happy life, who, but for the zeal of this godly, little woman would have lived and died in sin.
Few who knew that community in 1875 would have recognized it in 1886. Dilapidated houses had been put in good order, fences repaired or built anew; paint or whitewash freely used; the lands cleaned up and planted with crops; and the people Sunday by Sunday assembled in the church wearing clothes that became the Lord’s Day, and their income.
The old minister paid a visit to his old church about this time and while sitting in the home of one of these people of the mountain side, talking about the happy changes that had taken place, asked the question, “How ‘s it all come about?” The answer came from an old, bedridden woman in the corner,– “Nancy done it all.”
Question: “How could she do such a work as this?”
“She goes everywhere in the mountain, and never leaves a cabin without saying a word for Jesus.”
That explains it all. By “saying a word for Jesus” in every cabin in that mountain this humble woman opened a new chapter in “The short and simple annals of the poor.”
Down to old age she continued in this work and had a rich reward in seeing the blessing of the Lord on those she loved and prayed for. When worn with age and feeble in body, she still did what she could. A letter was received from her by her old minister, written with her own hands dated “December 7, 1884″ containing this sentence, … I yet have two places to go to where we can talk about Christ and the happy home prepared for the weary pilgrim when done with the troubles of this life. The places are Uncle Bobbie Clark and Mrs. Schwartz.”
The religion of this follower of the “meek and lowly Jesus” was a tender, solemn, and constraining love for her Savior. This was the governing motive of her whole life. She felt that love of Christ in her own heart and knew by her experience what it would be in everyone that believed on Him. And the more she did for others, the more she wanted to do. For the habit of doing good, like every other habit, is strengthened by indulgence. Nor is there any greater luxury than self-denial for the good of others. “For when the power of imparting joy is equal to the
will, the human soul requires no other heaven.”
In her own home, in the homes of others by the way and wherever she came in touch with souls, she recorded on them “a word for Jesus.” Personal work for souls was her way, which proved itself effective. Not great sermons, or fine sermons but little words for Jesus, touched with love, these sink into the heart. Everything else may fail, but this cannot, for it is recorded in his “book of remembrance,” as we are told in Malachi, third chapter and sixteenth verse (Mal 3:16).
Her zeal was not without knowledge. By regular attendance at Sunday School and public worship, and by slowly reading the Word of God at home, little by little she acquired a surprisingly large fund of Scripture knowledge, and her sanctified common sense taught her how to use it. She read the whole Bible and not only the four gospels. Of this familiarity with Scripture, acquired after forty-seven years old, she never seemed to be conscious, but was always ready to learn. Yet she knew how to answer in meekness of wisdom, any who might playfully try her acquaintance of Scripture. One of the Ruling Elders of the Church, who held her in highest esteem, being naturally fond of teasing, asked her once in company if she could give him the name of the mother of King David. She replied respectfully, “No, sir, I cannot.” Whereupon the Elder began to chide her mildly for not reading the Old Testament enough. She pleasantly turned the laugh by asking if he could tell her what became of the brazen serpent Moses had made in the wilderness. When his ignorance was acknowledged, she suggested diffidently that it would be well for the rulers in the church not to skip the Old Testament in their reading.
Little as she had of this world’s goods she felt and acted upon the principal that it was from the Lord and due proportion of it must be given to Him. She washed the soiled clothes of her neighbor for twenty-five cents a day, and often “took it out in flour and bacon.” When she had money, she put a portion of it into the church treasury. When she had none, she would devise some way of getting something in its place. Her gratitude to Him for whatever came into her hand must be shown by something. Once she sent her minister a shoat to show her love for the gospel, he preached to her comfort and joy. Another time she sent him a hen with a brood of chickens. Again she surprised him by appearing at his door, standing with a yellow earthenware bowl in one hand and a large basket full of wild grapes in the other. He quickly asked her to “Come in.” Which she declined doing, meekly saying, “No, I ain’t fitten to come into such a fine house as this, but, if you will excuse me, I heard you was fond of grape pies; and, as I didn’t have no money to give you for preaching to us, I thought I would gather some grapes for you; and here’s some sorghum molasses. I fetched along to sweeten the pies with, I hope you won’t be hurt by my gift.”
“No, Oh, No,” he said, “come in and here’s a chair. You must be tired. Sit down by the fire.
I’m much obliged to you. I am very fond of grapes pies, and it’s very kind of you to go to all this trouble to do me such a favor. Here, take this pipe; and here’s some fine smoking tobacco.
Take a smoke, won’t you?” His urgency prevailed, and they were soon talking very cheerfully.
Presently he ratified that her woolen dress was black with Spanish needles and said, “Mrs. McGlocklin, where did you get all those Spanish needles on your dress?” She was embarrassed and unwilling to answer. But he pressed the question.
At last she replied with much hesitation, “Well, if I must tell you, I reckon I must. Now, don’t laugh at me if I make a mistake, I’m ignorant, I just learned to spell out of my Bible a little in Sunday School.” Again she hesitated, and again the minister pressed his question until she repeated almost word for word what she had said adding, “If I’m wrong, I want you to set me right. Sometime ago I was spelling along in my Bible and I came across these words. Now, If I’m wrong, I won’t you to set me right, will you?”
“Go on,” replied the minister.
“I come across these words: ‘Do not your alms before men to be seen of them,’ I got my grapes in Jim Ryburn’s woods,” Mrs. McGlocklin stated.
“Very well, but where did you get all those Spanish needles? It’s a plain open road from there to here and no needles in it,” he said.
“Well,” she said, “I didn’t come along the road. I know people would see me and ask me where I was taking the grapes. So I came across the field to keep from being seen, and there’s where I got the needles. Was I wrong?”
“Certainly not, madam.” the minister answered, “you have done right. You kept your left hand from knowing what your right hand did.”
Such devotion to God as this humble-minded woman showed to the end of her life, could not go unrewarded. Godliness is profitable in this life, and has promise also in the next. She had the joy of seeing children, one by one, come into full communion of the church, and set out on their way to heaven. Last of all, her husband came also. Leaving the company of the wicked men and their ways, he confessed Christ before men and sat down in the church of God “Clothed and in his right mind.” His faithful wife and himself went up to God in Company, and took sweet counsel together. They sat down under her shadow and with great delight, and her fruit was sweet to their taste. He brought them into the banquet house and His banner over them is love.
When old age came upon them, their bread and water were made sure. An annuity of which, with frugal care, they lived more comfortably than at any time before, came without fail to the end.
In the providence of God, it was the privilege of the minister who had many years before, receive her into the church by baptism, to visit his old charge a second time and see her in her old age when her natural force was diminished that she could not leave her house. Her outward body was perishing, but her inward spirit was renewed day by day.
After a few questions about the dealing of God with herself and family, and a few words from her expression of joy at seeing him once more in her own home, which she had lost all hope of doing, her mind at once turned to the love of God the Father and her Lord Jesus Christ, and her good hope of Glory through grace. The last enemy had been destroyed for her. She was still, in her own estimation, “only a poor sinner and nothing at all but Jesus Christ was her all in all.”
Her old friends had nearly all to them, finished their course and entered into rest. She spoke of them one by one with much feeling. The times had changed her. She felt lonely because her children were married and gone, and her neighbors were strangers to her and she a stranger to most of them. She could no longer get to the house of God and be refreshed in spirit by the service of the sanctuary, but she looked for a city that hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God. This city became more homelike to her as by faith she saw many of her friends who were there to receive her. Heaven was reality to her, as much so as her cabin on the mountain top. To leave the one was to enter the other one.
Nor was she kept long in suspense. Within a year after parting with her, we receive a copy of the Glade Spring Weekly Newspaper containing the following notice of her death. “Mrs. Nancy McGlocklin, age eighty, died at her home near this place last night, March 28, 1899 at 7:30, she had been a greater sufferer, but she bore with patience, and approached the great change with an unfaltering faith and sweet peace.”