Richmond Times Dispatch
Richmond Times Dispatch
Contributed by Susan

Description: Rev. John Calvin Swindal, The Marrying Parson

Date: May 6 1906

Newspaper published in: Richmond, VA

Page/Column: 3

Rev. John Calvin Swindal, The Marrying Parson

Osborn's Gap, VA., May 5. It has been said that all the world loves a lover, and the same inherent characteristic in all humanity prompts a like feeling toward the man who binds hearts at the altar of Hymen. The cardiac passion is sacred, and as interest attaches to the institution of marriage, so it follows as a logical sequence that more than a passing interest is felt in him who performs the rites that make "two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one."

The little mountain hamlet of Osborn's Gap, Va., has a mecca at which the nuptial rites will be performed for those who are matrimonially inclined the year round. Parson John Calvin Swindal is the man tho ties the knots, and he never gets too busy to wait upon those who call at his gate and wish to wed. He has a keen instinct that tells him when a wedding is on hand who would not have this instinct sharpened after twenty years spent in watching these affairs of the heart?

Came From Carolina

John Calvin Swindall was born in Ashe County, North Carolina, in 1853. His parents moved to this place in ante-bellum days, and as schools were an almost unknown quantity in this section at that time, young Swindal grew up surrounded by the environments of backwoods life, with but few educational advantages. He can read and write after the manner of the old schoolmasters of 40 years ago, but he was a fund of common sense that enables him to hold his own against "the world, the flesh and the devil." His inclinations seem to have been of a religious turn since he reached mature manhood, though during his boyhood days, he was inclined to be wild and rollicking. He joined the Primitive Baptist Church about 22 years ago, and immediately thereafter began to labor in the "vineyard of the Lord." He never receives any monetary returns from his ministerial labors, indeed, he would not be thus compensated for his efforts, for he believes "salvation is free." He follows the dual occupation of farming and merchandising, with "heartbinding" as a side line, by which he makes a respectable living. He is able to give a goodly portion of this time to the promulgation of the gospel.

He has kept no record of the number of marriages he has performed, but he has sent many a twain on their way rejoicing. He is frequently called upon to wait on those desiring to take upon themselves the "yoke of matrimoany," while on preaching missions, and he never refuses to "yoke" them, even away from his mecca.

Hard to Say "I Will"

The parson has a keen relish of whatever presents a humorous or ludicrous side and he recounts many laughable and amusing happenings which he has witnessed during his 20 years' experience in this business.

A buxom lass from Kentucky appeared at the mecca to be tied to the man of presumably her choice, but when her turn came to promise "I will," she grew hysterical and could not pronounce the words. The parson repeated the ceremony a number of times with the same result, after which the lassie ran behind the house to give vent to her uncontrollable laughter. Her intended had just been released from the Kentucky penitentiary. Perhaps she was doubting the propriety of casting her lot with that of an ex-convict, and had adopted the motto, "when in doubt giggle." She cam back from behind the house to again face the music, and with a great effort managed to stammer out "I will."

Came at Midnight

A few years ago a party of thirteen from Kentucky called on the parson at midnight and requested his services to unite a couple. The man was a long, land fellow known as "Big Ugly," while his intended was a little thin, red-faced woman with a piping voice. Big Ugly was bare-footed and dressed in an overall suit. After the ceremony was over, the party decided that it was too dark to return to Kentucky to cross Cumberland Mountain. They asked the parson to keep them till morning, which he agreed to do. He gave them breakfast and fed three or four horses. When the party was ready to leave, Big Ugly asked what they owed.

"I don't know," answered the parson, about a dollar, I guess."

"I guess we do," said Big Ugly, as he rode away followed by his party.

On the Mountain Top

The parson was requested to meet a wedding party on top of Cumberland Mountain some time ago. The couple were mounted an on top of a high cliff, where they had the ceremony performed.

Among the many odd experiences the parson recounted was the marrying of a woman to four different men. She would leave her husband, divorce proceedings would be instituted, and she would marry again.

Since the publication of a brief sketch of Parson Swindal and his business in the Times Dispatch, he has received letters from love-sick swains, asking his aid in securing "Kentucky treasures" in the persons of attractive mountain girls. So he may add another side line to his business by establishing a matrimonial bureau.

Submitted: 07/26/15

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