Volume 7, Number 9 - Fall 1981

Experiences of a County Preacher
by Rev. Allen Ledbetter
Ava, Missouri

I was born at Lutie, now Theodosia, Ozark County, Missouri, seventy-five years ago, the son of James Henry Ledbetter and Caledonia Jones Ledbetter who was the daughter of B.B. Jones and Delia Duggins Jones. I had four brothers, C.R. (Raymond), E.G. (Emory), D.R. (Rayford) and H.H. (Hobart), all raised in Ozark County and all gone except my youngest brother, Hobart and myself. I grew up on a farm adjoining the farm owned by Claude Brown, the father of Omer E. Brown. Omer was a lifelong friend of mine. I went to school to him at Stony Point School when I was a small child, he being twelve years older than I. He was a successful lawyer and business man and I was asked to preach his funeral at Ozark in 1971. His wife, Lucille, has been a friend of my wife and me for many years. I was pleased when he wrote about me and had pictures of my wife and me and my brothers and our mother in his book ‘‘Son of Pioneers.

I was married to Bertha Alma Hampton, the daughter of W.H. and Ella Myers Hampton in her parents’ home by Rev. B.N. Reich, November 22, 1922. We have three children, Delpha Hogan, Principal of York Elementary School in Springfield, Carl Ledbetter. Superintendent of Buildings and Transportation of Neosho High School and W.D. (Dee), former Superintendent of Sarcoxie High School, who retired from teaching after thirty years and is now a car dealer at Sarcoxie. We have nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. We were very young when we married and we had a hard time making a living. We bought a farm on Highway 160 west of Lutie and lived on that farm twenty-seven years; raised some crops, cattle and hogs. Times were very hard and money scarce. We farmed, raised some crops, cattle and hogs. During the Depression I sold cows for as little as $10.00 a head and hogs for $2.00 each. We finally got the farm paid for and were able to send the children to college. When they married we sold the farm to Jake Nave and two of his sons who still own it.

In 1934 I was called to preach the Gospel and since I was ordained in 1935 I have been a full time pastor of twenty-seven different General Baptist churches. I served one church seventeen years and have pastored my home church, Salem, near Ocie, Missouri, fourteen years and three different times. I have held nearly 400 revivals, about 40 in other states. I have preached more than 100 funerals of preachers and deacons and I have lost count of other funerals and weddings. At one time I baptized 57 people in one day. I am now pastoring the True Hope Church at Lutie and the Brown Branch Church of the White River Association of General Baptist Church. A few years ago I was called to the General Baptist Church at West Plains, where for the first time in our lives we lived in a rented house. We built a new church building there and helped get their congregation in good shape before moving back to Ava, where we now have a home on Rainbow Ridge.

Both my wife’s family and mine were old time merchants. My grandfather B.B. Jones had the first general store in Lutie. The postoffice was in a corner of the store, and he also had a flour mill and a cotton gin for many years. The Store was later owned by his son, A. ("Sike") Jones, the father of Bessie Teague and Blanche Cummins. It is interesting to note that my cousin, Bessie Teague and her husband the late John W. Teague, were merchants at Bruner, Mo. Bessie was postmaster about forty years before reaching retirement age, and she was succeeded by her daughter, Laura Wolfe, who has been postmaster nearly 19 years. Another son of B.B. Jones, my uncle Jack Jones, was also a merchant at Lutie, in the same building as his father and brother. The store is now owned and operated by my brother, Hobart Ledbetter and his wife Maxine. So there has been a Jones Family store at Lutie for more than 100 years. B.B. Jones has three sons and one daughter yet living: Jesse, who until recently lived in Ava and is now in California; Mart of California; Weldon, who lives near Lutie in a nice house on the same site where my grandfather’s house stood; and Neva, whose whereabouts I do not know.

My wife’s father, W.H. Hampton and his brother Fred Hampton, and her brother, Monroe Hampton, had a store, postoffice and mill at Ocie, near the Ozark-Taney County line about one mile East of Big Creek and 7 miles


West of Lutie (Theodosia). Monroe, Bertha’s only brother, recently retired as postmaster at Theodosia and now lives on a farm near Longrun, known as the T.B. Hobbs farm. Her only sister, Flossie Cole is living in the Chastain Nursing Home at Ava, where she has been for the past eight years.

I have no fault to find with God’s dealing with us. I was able to make a living by farming, raising cattle and dealing in real estate, so as to not be a financial burden on the little churches I served. Our three children are fine Christian citizens who have spent many years in the educational field. I thank God for our American Heritage and the spiritual influence that has been a great part of our history. May God bless each and every one who reads this article.

Editor’s Note: Both Rev. Allen and Hobart Ledbetter are members of our Society, compliments of Lucille A. Brown.


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