Appalachian Thursday – A Tough Funeral to Preach
In researching my current novel I stumbled across a story about a 1932 murder in West Virginia (ah, rabbit trails, writers love ’em!).
A 31-year-old woman named Mamie Thurman was found dead on Trace Mountain in Logan County that June. A deaf-mute boy found her while picking blackberries (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!). Her ghost allegedly haunts the road there.
A local banker and politician, Harry Robertson, was questioned along with his black handyman Clarence. Turned out Harry had been having an affair with Mamie (both of them were married to other people). Clarence had been key in helping to facilitate meetings.
There was ample evidence found in the Robertson home and car pointing to a murder and transfer of a body. There was also plenty of talk that Harry wasn’t the only prominent person having an affair with Mamie. Ultimately, Clarence was tried for the murder and found guilty with a recommendation of leniency. He died in prison about ten years later.
There’s a lot more to the story, but the bit that really caught my attention was the account of Mamie’s funeral. It was attended by 550 women and 30 men. Rev. B.C. Gamble delivered the “sermon” during the service. He read scripture from the book of John about the woman caught in the act of adultery.
John 8:3-7 – The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Once he finished the reading he said, “This is the text. Develop your own sermon on that basis.” Then someone read the obituary and they closed the service.
I may have to take up writing murder mysteries . . .