Rev. Bowers preached with fervor, frugality

Published 2:57 pm Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lest readers begin to feel, from the first two tales, that most men in Dark Corner were rough moonshiners, mischief makers or worse, trigger-happy killers, there were other rough-hewn men who stood tall and stalwart.

None stood taller than A.D. Bowers.

Most folks called him the Rev. Alex Bowers, the man of God who never wavered in his untiring pastoral efforts for 23 different churches in the mountains of upper South Carolina, many of them in the Dark Corner.

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He organized six Baptist churches Oak Grove, Locust Hill, Highland, Camp Creek, Ebenezer-Welcome and Reedy River Cotton Mill while he worked tirelessly in the ministry for over 40 years, without salary.

If you are obedient to the Lord, and tithe your time and money for His work to get done, God is always gracious enough to meet your needs, he would say.

Born in upper Greenville County in February, 1826, he married Mary Center in 1846. He was granted a license to preach by Glassy Mountain Baptist Church in July, 1859, and was ordained two years later.

But then he had to leave his modest farm and serve in the Confederate Army during the War Between the States.

He began his compassionate pastoral ministry after returning from the war, and became a staunch supporter of Christian education, benevolence, home and foreign missions that were sponsored by the local association and the State Baptist Convention.

He always took a firm stand in opposition to the making of whiskey that so many in his congregation and in surrounding congregations considered their God-given, inalienable right.

He was frequently at odds with some outspoken moonshiners after delivering one of his lengthy sermons on the subject.

On a particular Sunday, his continuing opposition had become strong enough that a group of moonshiners, already about two or three sheets to the wind, decided to kill him. They went to the church where he was scheduled to preach that morning.

He was in the pulpit ready to begin his sermon as they approached the windows of the outside wall and pointed their guns through them. Rather loudly, they announced they were there for one purpose: To shoot you dead!

Rev. Bowers calmly said to the men: God has given me this message to preach, fellows. Just wait until I finish preaching it, and then you can kill me.

He opened his Bible and began his usual, fiery (and lengthy) sermon.

By the end of it, his Godly courage defeated their purpose and they returned peacefully to their homes, much to the relief of folks in the congregation.

The courageous Gospel hero of the hills died 20 days before his 83rd birthday in 1909. Though his body had become too frail to easily stand, his last sermons were delivered with deep-seated compassion while sitting in a chair.