Saturday, July 12, 2014

Harrison Mayes Has a Message for You

I knew I wanted to check out the Museum of Appalachia if it worked out during my Southern trip this summer, and we managed to squeeze it in. Located about 20 miles north of Knoxville, Tennessee, it has a good collection of folk art (especially quilts, whittling and carving, and basket-weaving). The focus is on a series of buildings, most moved to the site, that show how life was lived over the years. There are several cabins of different sizes -- including one that belonged to Samuel Clemens's family when he was very young -- barns, gardens, and various out-buildings.

I expected all of that, but I didn't know about Harrison Mayes. As a young miner in 1918, Mayes was almost killed in an accident. Praying for recovery, he promised God he would be a loyal servant for the rest of his life if he lived.

For Mayes, that service took the form of proselytizing through signage.

Over time, he put signs in 44 states and had plans for signs in other countries and even on the moon.

Mayes believed in one humankind, as this sign shows. (He probably thought the one language was English and the one nation the U.S., but still.) The "one church" was clearly Christian, but he attended Catholic as well as Protestant churches, visiting black congregations and white ones.

Mayes never drove a car. He called this his Sunday bike because he rode it to church (and in parades).

A nice clear message, I must admit. Note the part of the other sign at right where it directs his successors to "erect on planet Jupiter, 1990."

Finally, a model (made by Mayes's son) of the house they lived in. It gave his usual message to passing airplanes.


Unemployed Dragon said...

How do you find all these cool things to visit?

Daughter Number Three said...

Umm... I think I found the museum from a book I have on folk art sites around the country. But I also cruise the website Roadside America.