I have a book titled, “Gospel Preachers Who Blazed the Trail.” It was published in 1911. It contains stories of men who were preachers in the Churches of Christ at the turn of the twentieth century. My grandfather was one of those men.
He was one of eleven children born on a cotton farm in Tennessee. His help was need on the farm and he was not able to attend school as a child. He was sixteen when he was first permitted to attend classes. He could not yet read. I have a very hard time imagining a life without reading, but it was a common experience in the 1890s. He was able to go to school for three months each year for the next three years. When he left home at age nineteen he was just barely able to read. After he married my grandmother he enrolled in the Gunter Bible College, a small school run by the Churches of Christ in Texas. He attended classes there for three semesters.
My grandfather may have lacked formal education, but that man loved God and he loved the Bible. When I was little we would play the Bible Game. I would read a verse from the Bible and he would quote both the verse before and the verse after mine. It was very rare that he wasn’t correct. He had the entire book memorized. I thought he was amazing. His faith was innocent, pure and contagious.
My mom told stories about going to hear him preach at arbor meetings. He would preach every night for two weeks and crowds would gather under the shady arbor to listen. She and her sister would sit in the buggy and listen. After preaching each night he would baptize people in the river. I think it must have looked a bit like the baptism scene in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.”
I now worship in a Presbyterian church, but sometimes during communion I remember my grandfather. He was a good man. He and my grandmother raised five children who all loved God. My mother is the laughing one on the left in the back row.
This is the article published with his picture in book from 1911.
THOMAS GIDEON FOWLER was born near Lewisburg, Tenn., April 20, 1883. His parents moved to Texas in 1893. Thomas was old enough to be of service in the raising and gathering of cotton. Being the second boy and fourth child of 11 children, the father unable to work, it was necessary for him to stay out of school and assist in making a living for the family.
He was 16 years old when he entered school, at that time not knowing his letters. He attended a small country school three months for three years. The day he was 19 he began life for himself. Seven months later he again entered school and continued for nearly two years.
September 14, 1904, he was married to Miss Jessie Mullins. November after his marriage he entered Gunter Bible College, where he was a student for nearly three sessions.
He began preaching the first year after entering Gunter Bible College, and by the grace of God, and the help of his faithful wife he has continued to preach the word with success --- though at times he has had to teach some in the public schools.