The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

"One among the most amusing anecdotes that ever occurred at Huntsville Arkansas was while a protracted meeting was carried on by the Methodist people several years before the beginning of the war" said Ben Hager. In relating the story Mr. Hager said that the Berry brothers Hugh and John were noted men in their time. John was a Methodist preacher and was 6 feet tall and weighed 175 pounds. Hugh was a small man and weighed near 100 pounds and was 4 feet, 10 inches in height. He was such a little man in stature that he went by the name of "Bustle" Berry. He was a prominent merchant of Huntsville and was a jovial fun loving fellow. John Berry was a great meeting man and very strict in his religious belief and practice and held meeting very often in the town of Huntsville and in the country. Some of these services were protracted into days and weeks in length. One day John bought himself a new hymn book and he prized it so highly that he bought a nice silk handkerchief to keep the book wrapped up in and when he was not using the book he would keep it in his coat pocket and carry it around wherever he went. And when he would open up services he would take out the book and lay it on the book board and take hold of one corner of the handkerchief and flip it up which would unwrap the book in a quick way and fall on the board and he would put the handkerchief back into his coat pocket until he needed it to wrap up his book again. The preacher had done this so often in the presence of the congregation that every one present took notice to it and could not help smiling every time they saw him do so for it was amusing to them. One day while John was holding a protracted meeting in Huntsville his brother Hugh concluded he would enjoy some fun at his brothers expense at the first oppertunity. One day after John had dismissed mid day services and had announced late afternoon services he wrapped his book up again and put it back in his coat pocket being the warm season of the year he did not put his coat on and having some business In his brothers store he walked in and laid the coat down on the counter near his brothers writing desk. This was what Hugh wanted and he watched for his chance and had been waiting for it a long time. In a little while John left his coat on the counter and stepped out of the building onto the street to talk with a friend and brother in the church and as it happened no one else was in the store when John stepped out except the proprietor and he picked up his brothers coat and took out the book and unwrapped it and put the book in his desk and wrapped a bran new pack of cards up in the handkerchief and put it back in his brothers coat pocket and laid the coat back on the counter. Directly John come in and picked up his coat and went on to his residence. Hugh was afraid that he might want to sing a song or two at home before meeting time but he hoped not. When the hour arrived for services to begin Hugh put the hymn book In his pocket and went on to the church house and took his seat under the edge of the book board for he knew he could not get into a position to face his brother without laughing. Nearly all the congregation had assembled and his brother was sitting in the pulpit and when Hugh had come into the house he knew by his brothers looks that he had not as yet detected the trick he had played on him. In a little while John rose to his feet and began to talk and he did not say many words before he took the handkerchief out of his coat pocket with the supposed book wrapped up in it and layed it down on the book board as usual and taking one corner of the handkerchief in his fingers he gave it a quick jerk upward and exposed to view the whole deck of cards some of which dropped on the board and the remainder fell on the floor in front of the book board where the congregation had a fair view of the cards as they fell scattered around on the floor and on the board. The preacher was greatly amazed and the congregation not taking it in as it really was looked on with surprise and astonishment. The preacher at first was dumbfounded but soon gained his usual composure and leaning back a moment against the wall of the house he stammered out, "Now my brothers sisters and friends. You see what my brother John has done; He has been sowing more tares as usual". At this the congregation roared out in laughter and after the merriment of the audience had some what subsided Hugh Berry arose from his seat and took John Berry’s hymn book out of his pocket and laid it on the board and walked out of the house in the midst of another outburst of laughter and after the people had quieted down again John went on with his discourse the same as if nothing had happened. On many occasions after this amusing incident occurred when Johns friends would meet him the first greeting would be something Me this. "Well John has your brother Hugh been sowing any more tares.

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