"Pioneer Mountain Parson" by B. Fickle Spurgeon, June 10, 1954
In a small cemetery in East Tennessee stands a tombstone with this inscription:
Reverend William King Cross
Known as W. K.
Born, July 18, 1814. Died Oct. 18 1893
Aged 79 years, 3 months
W. K. was one of 12 children born to the Cross family. His parents [Elijah Cross and Catherine Cook] were strict with their children, but also kind and just. They had only a modest income. They were sincere Christians.
Young W. K. was a wild and reckless fellow. He boasted that he had had more fights than any other two boys of his own size. He was honest, energetic and truthful. It had often been said, that if he ever became a Christian, he would be a wonderful example of what a Christian should be.
At the age of 18 while attending a revival meeting, W. K. stepped out from among his friends and went to the mourner's bench. that night, in giving his testimony, he held out his large brawny hands and said earnestly:
See those broken knuckles, this broken wrists? I have foght for the devil all these years; now I am going to fight for the Lord.
Some of his pals thought that W. K. would be back with the old gang within a week. Others said, "no, no. Cross will never come back to them."
But they were wrong. The next night W. K. was at the door when the boys came. Taking them out one by one to the grove, he told them he was through with the old life. After weeks of pleading and praying with them, some of his friends joined the church. From then on, his life was an open book "known and read of all men."
W. K. joined The Methodist Church in early manhood. He realized that he was not sufficiently educated to be a prominent preacher. However, he was called to many places to aid preachers laboring in difficult fields. He loved to sing; his appeals to sinners were almost irresistible; he rejoiced in salvation.
His judgment was sound; he took everything good naturedly. For instance, during a political campaign in which he was a candidate for a country office, one voter said to another, "I do not think a preacher should seek an office." to this the other replied, "Cross is not enough of a preacher to hurt."
In the same campaign one of his own relatives who was a Baptist voted against him. Informed of this, Cross replied, "that is one case where water was thicker than blood."
Parson Cross married his childhood sweetheart [Loozenia Gross (1818-1861)], and there were several children. Financially, the family was poor; spiritually, they were rich. The parson was a giant physically; work to him was a pleasure. He became a boatman, a mill-owner, and a prosperous farmer. He would often leave his family on the farm to go and preach the Gospel, walking where he could not ride a horse.
When he was in the mountains of North Carolina holding a revival, the sad news reached him that his little girl had died. Then his son. This affliction caused his wife's death, for her health was already impaired by overwork. She was laid to rest in the same cemetery with the children whom she had loved.
For a long time he was lonesome and inconsolable. But he finally decided to resume his task, his appointed work, which was "to tell the story of Jesus and his love."
He married a second time [Eliza Carlton]. Children came to replace the ones who had gone on.
The tragic story of his family he repeated wherever he went. All in the audience would weep; many embraced the preacher. Each night a "multitude" would gather around the altar. His life, his sorrows, his sermons, were topics of general conversion long after the meetings ceased.
Bond camp ground had been established in 1842, but during the Civil War it had been burned to the ground. Aided by many others, the parson rebuilt the camp ground. The camp opened on the first of each September, and usually ran for several weeks. The camp meetings were a spiritual blessing to great numbers for their influence was wide-spreading, reaching far beyond the bounds of the local community.
Year after year, the women gathered on the old camp ground. Their ambition was to please their friends; their delight, to serve and worship God. Wherever they might be, they were missionaries of kindness and loving care.
Ministers came from far and near to assist at the services. One night each week the Negroes occupied the auditorium. On that night hundreds of them came to participate.
The camp was in the form of a square and contained about two acres. Tents were built around the sides of the square. Suitable parking spaces were provided for wagons, buggies and horses. Since it was near two springs and a creek, the camp was an ideal meeting place.
The auditorium seated 1,500 people. Wings with hinges could be let down to keep out the cold September air. The shouting and singing could be heard miles away. Parson Cross never tired of relating the happy times they had at the camping ground.
After the close of the Civil War, W. K. was asked to accompany Rev. Mr. Miles, and see that the latter was not disturbed while holding services in a hostile community.
Soon after arriving at the meetinghouse, Parson Cross would tell the audience
I try to preach sometimes; but my friends say that I am a better fighter than a preacher. Now if there is any fighting to be done here tonight, I am here to do my part of it.
He would put his saddle-bags on the table, take out two large pistols, and lay one on each side. Then he would say,
the first man that makes a move, I will shoot.' No one moved. "Go ahead, Brother Miles.
The parson sometimes told about the time when a young man at a service in a strange locality persisted in talking after he had been politely requested to desist. The preacher, thereupon, left the pulpit, shedding his coat as he went down the aisle. The young fellow, who saw that the preacher was heading straight for him, decided to take to the tall timbers while things were as well with him as they were. That ended the talking.
Even after a hard day's work, men in those days often hitched the team to the wagon and went to visit a neighbor who might live miles away.
The old parson's memory was clear until the last. In the spring of 1839 (sic), the parson told his family he would attend another camp meeting, for his health was failing fast. On Oct. 18 of that year, he passed quietly away. The crowd at his funeral was one of the largest anyone in the area has ever seen. He was buried in the cemetery near his old home place.