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The Leatherwood God   By: (1837-1920)

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First Page:

Nathan Harris, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team




With Illustrations by Henry Raleigh

[Illustration: He was now towering over those near him, with his head thrown back, and his hair tossed like a mane on his shoulders]


The author thinks it well to apprise the reader that the historical outline of this story is largely taken from the admirable narrative of Judge Taneyhill in the Ohio Valley Series , Robert Clarke Co., Cincinnati. The details are often invented, and the characters are all invented as to their psychological evolution, though some are based upon those of real persons easily identifiable in that narrative. The drama is that of the actual events in its main development; but the vital incidents, or the vital uses of them, are the author's. At times he has enlarged them; at times he has paraphrased the accounts of the witnesses; in one instance he has frankly reproduced the words of the imposter as reported by one who heard Dylks's last address in the Temple at Leatherwood and as given in the Taneyhill narrative. Otherwise the story is effectively fiction.


He was now towering over those near him, with his head thrown back, and his hair tossed like a mane on his shoulders

Nancy stood staring at her, with words beyond saying in her heart words that rose in her throat and choked her

"You believe, maybe, that you would be struck dead if you said the things that I do; but why ain't I struck dead?"

"It's my cloth! I spun it, I wove it, every thread! It's all we've got for our clothes this winter!"

" Now you can see how it feels to have your own husband slap you"

She had begun to wash his wound, very gently, though she spoke so roughly, while he murmured with the pain and with the comfort of the pain

They swarmed forward to the altar place and flung themselves on the ground, and heaped the pulpit steps with their bodies

"And he went down ag'in, and when he come up ag'in, his face was all soakin' wet, like he'd been crying under the water"


Already, in the third decade of the nineteenth century, the settlers in the valley of Leatherwood Creek had opened the primeval forest to their fields of corn and tobacco on the fertile slopes and rich bottom lands. The stream had its name from the bush growing on its banks, which with its tough and pliable bark served many uses of leather among the pioneers; they made parts of their harness with it, and the thongs which lifted their door latches, or tied their shoes, or held their working clothes together. The name passed to the settlement, and then it passed to the man, who came and went there in mystery and obloquy, and remained lastingly famed in the annals of the region as the Leatherwood God.

At the time he appeared the community had become a center of influence, spiritual as well as material, after a manner unknown to later conditions. It was still housed, for the most part, in the log cabins which the farmers built when they ceased to be pioneers, but in the older clearings, and along the creek a good many frame dwellings stood, and even some of brick. The population, woven of the varied strains from the North, East and South which have mixed to form the Mid Western people, enjoyed an ease of circumstance not so great as to tempt their thoughts from the other world and fix them on this. In their remoteness from the political centers of the young republic, they seldom spoke of the civic questions stirring the towns of the East; the commercial and industrial problems which vex modern society were unknown to them. Religion was their chief interest and the seriousness which they had inherited from their Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Moravian ancestry was expressed in their orderly and diligent lives; but the general prosperity had so far relaxed the stringency of their several creeds that their distinctive public rite had come to express a mutual toleration... Continue reading book >>

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