History of the Restoration Movement

William *Milton "Uncle Will" Behel


Autobiography Of W. M. Behel


To my Beloved Father, Kieffer Lairmore (sic) Behel, who helped me rewrite and arrange this little booklet, which is some of the works of his deceased Father, W. M. Behel, A Minister of The Gospel, I lovingly present it. Your daughter, Martha Ruth Behel [signed]


I acknowledge helpful thoughts from several different writers, whose works I have had access to in writing this little booklet. Please memorize The Books of The Bible. It will be helpful as you turn to the scriptural references frequently given. Please read these. You will become quite familiar with The Bible by so doing. I pray God's blessings in this effort; that it may be helpful to many, especially the young people--my friends whose hearts are tender and susceptible to Truth and Right.


To my wife and children, who have so nobly stood by me during the many years in my effort to "Preach the Gospel"—God's power to save (Rom. 1:16). I dedicate this little booklet.

William M. Behel


Born in Perry County, Pennsylvania, September 10, 1872; the son of William and E. J. Behel.

At four years of age I began my school career, attending the common county schools in that state until March 1884. My parents then moved to Bailey Springs, near Florence, Alabama. In Alabama I only went to school one month.

Being the oldest child in a large family of nine boys and three girls, it became necessary that I work. I worked on the farm (Father renting and leasing land) until I married in February 21, 1892. My wife's maiden name was Martha J. Clemmons. She was reared an orphan girl, under very rigid people who demanded much of her--more than was right. We were blessed with nine children, three of whom died in infancy.

On August 17, 1888 before our marriage, we were "baptized into Christ," (Gal. 3:27.) by Brother T. B. Lairmore (sic "Larimore") at Mars Hill, Alabama. Not knowing any better then, at about the age of three weeks my parents permitted a denominational minister "to sprinkle" some water on my head  and called it "baptism." One of the most difficult problems I have had to solve was to get the idea out of my mind that "sprinkling" was not "Bible Baptism." Brother Lairmore (sic), labored to show me that "Baptism" was a "Burial," a "Planting," etc. {Col. 2 :12.) but being "error bound;" I could not at least did not catch the thought. Let me say here that I truly sympathize with those who are thus bound in error. I know by experience how hard it is to see the truth as revealed in the Bible, while our mind is full of error. I rode eight miles home from meeting that night, horseback; all the while trying to understand why. Brother Lairmore (sic) insisted on my being baptized. I really thought I had been "Baptized" when that water was sprinkled on me.! On my arrival home at 11:00 p.m., I began "searching the scriptures." I began (by the help of a concordance) reading every word the Bible said on "Baptism." Not until I had reconsidered (Matt. 3:13-17.) and read (Acts 8:26-40 especially verses 37-40.) did I begin to see why Brother Lairmore (sic) insisted. I knew that "sprinkling" did not require "One" or "Both" going down into the water," etc. Here my error began to be discovered. Reading on (Rom. 6:1-6; Col. 2:12.) I saw clearly that "Baptism" is a "Burial." At 3:00 a.m. I lie down fully determined as to what I must do. I had promised Brother Lairmore (sic) I would see him later, so I went to Mars Hill. Brother Lairmore (sic) met me at the door and ask my decision. I replied, "I am ready to be baptized." The hour was soon arranged and I was thus "born again" on the above date. Here my Christian life began. I attended "Lord Is Day" services for a few months. A new congregation was planted at Oak Hill, where I worshipped for years. A school was taught by a Baptist teacher whose name was Duckett. This man announced that on a certain Sunday he would organize a Sunday School. I think that Providence was at work then, because without any reason, even an excuse I did not attend service as usual at Oak Hill, but went to be present at that Sunday School organization. What happened? Wholly unexpected to me I was unanimously appointed to what they then called Sunday School Superintendent. Previously I had learned that Christians should assemble on the "First day of the week" to "break bread." I accepted the appointment, and endeavored to bring that Sunday School to what the Bible requires as worship. We met every "Lord's Day" for more than twelve months in an old dilapidated building without windows, but logs cut out with no shutters; with plenty of ventilation through cracks in the log wall. This was in the year 1893 or 1894. Brother J. C. Ott and Brother George Smallwood preached occasionally, also Brother W. H. Gresham. Through their influence and that of the few brethren there it was decided that a house of worship be built. Soon a new log building was erected on land donated (I think) by Ben Watkins. Thus began what is now (1817)(sic "1917"sdh)The Mt. Zion Church of Christ. That log house has lately been replaced by a nice new building. The afore mentioned brethren continued preaching and numbers became "obedient to the faith." But Alas! A rule or ruin brother, an "Elder" from a congregation several miles away wanted to be a "leading character" in the Mt. Zion Congregation. At a time when sickness prevented my being present they changed the time from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and arranged matters so that the brother who had been seeing that "The Bread and The Fruit of the Vine" was there failed to "bring" it and "would not" send these emblems. It was an effort to get this writer out of the way. I was young and I looked on that as a thrust at me. I went a few times and saw that we both had a following. I saw a division coming and felt that I would be partly the cause. I stepped down and out. Here I made the biggest blunder of my life. I came very near infidelity. Had it not been that Brethren Ott, Smallwood, and Gresham continued to exhort, persuade, teach, and plead with me, I never would have done the work In Christ's Kingdom that I have done. I was headed fast toward Atheism. But thanks to God, who thus used those good brethren to save. By this bitter experience I have learned that older members of The Church should be very careful concerning their treatment toward younger brethren. I fear many has been thus caused to "quit" the service of the Lord, going back into the world. "Woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." After time partly healed the wounds, under the leadership of that brother, things grew better and the congregation slowly grew in numbers. In the meantime, Bro. Smallwood had an appointment to preach under an arbor. He sent me word to fill this appointment for him. At first I refused by trying to excuse myself. Under the persuasion of him and others I agreed later to try, and I did.  Though I had for years taken part in public service I had not thought of preaching, it seemed to me a long sermon. They said, "About twenty minutes." About this time Brother E. C. Fuqua came into the community. From this brother I received much encouragement. To him, I am indebted for the major part of my limited knowledge of The Bible. Helping, encouraging, and strengthening me in various ways, he has been of great value to me. From that "twenty minute sermon" on, brethren from different congregations would urge me to preach and after about seven months preaching "Lord's Days" and at night, I was invited to hold a series of meetings at St. Joseph, Tennessee. That meeting resulted in several additions. Slowly this work grew until later I baptized Brother Ben Spencer who gave a lot on which to build a house of worship. Now a good house of worship and an active congregation is now at St. Joseph, Tennessee.

Without regard to the order of events in my life as a preacher, I shall try to tell some of the various happenings. Suffice it to say that much of my life as a preacher has been of the pioneer type, though I have labored with many well established congregations.

One time after hearing the sermon a young lady ask, "Will you accept me as a member of The Church of Christ on my Methodist sprinkling?" I replied, "No Madam, If I should do so, you would not be any better off than you now are because Christ would not accept that sprinkling as Baptism. Besides God "adds those saved" to The Church, and "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mk. 16:16.) I asked her to read a few references that I gave her, and told her that if she really desired to become a member of The Church of Christ, to meet me at the water the next day, when several were to be baptized. She promised to read the references and I was sure she would be there if she really meant it. The next morning I received a note from her father, stating that if "I undertook to baptize her, he would shoot me before I got out of the water." I replied by a note stating that if she demanded baptism I would undertake to do so, and we would see how it ended. He was there with a gun. The girl nobly made the confession, and said "She was ready to be baptized now." I asked that she be the last one of those candidates to be baptized. She said, "All right." This I did thinking, if he did shoot the baptizing would be over. I led her "down into the water."  He raised his gun and instantly a number of pistols "clicked" as they cocked to shoot. He dropped the gun, I baptized her, dismissed the audience, and instantly a number of men surrounded me, thinking the man would attempt to shoot me. I said, "No, it's all over." No effort was made to use the gun. The next day this girl came to me and said, "Papa told me to invite you home with me and take dinner." I admit I was "shaky" but she seemed so calm, that I said, "Well I will go." I feared he intended to poison me or some other fowl play. But I was mistaken. Not a word was said about about the baptizing, and I was never treated in any home any better, and as long as that man lived he was my friend.

On another occasion a young lady arranged for baptism, but on the appointed day her father forced her to go home about two hours before the time for her baptism.  She stopped on the way to get her suitcase and left a note requesting The Church to defer her baptism until a later date, stating she had fallen into the hands of an awful man and must await the outcome. The next morning I received word that if the girl and the preacher could get to the water she was ready and wanted to be baptized. A brother said, "I'll go bring the girl." I said, "I can walk," but we went to the water. He brought the girl and she was baptized. I received word from her father, "I'll kill you before you leave the community." I paid no attention to it until it was talked about very much. I then said, "He won't do it." "Forty men agreed they would eat nothing until they had slain Paul." (Acts 23:14.) They did not kill Paul, and he will not kill me. Later, we received a letter {written under compulsion) bearing the girl I s name stating, "I did wrong in being baptized," and asked that her name be erased from the church record. We knew by comparing the two notes that she was compelled to write it. A reply was written stating that the congregation never had been, neither would they now be guilty of withdrawing from members unless charges were made and proven of bad conduct; adding that we recognized the sister as a member in full standing. That was the end of it, but I have been told that her father never allowed the girl to attend any service of The Church of Christ.

One time I was called to make a thirty-five mile trip to baptize a lady who was sick, but able to be up a few minutes at a time. I went and the woman went to the water prepared to be baptized. After we reached the water her husband positively refused to let her be baptized. She soon died without baptism. Her husband has deeply regretted since her death that he acted as he did.

I was requested by a young lady who had just made the confession to baptize her that night. The other young lady wanted to wait until the next day. I let them debate the question a few minutes, one insisting tonight, the other on the next day. The young lady tearfully, looking up saying, "Will you baptize me tonight"? I replied, "Surely, if you so desire." She said, "If I am ever baptized it must be tonight." I made the announcement and in a few minutes I baptized both those girls at 10:00 p.m. The next day that girl's father was the maddest man in town. I later learned that her sister had made the confession and her father whipped her severely with a buggy whip. This girl feared her father would not allow her to be baptized, possibly fearing the same treatment from her father. Too, I was told, that the citizens after his whipping that girl told him if he ever again treated a child thus, that his hide would not hold shucks. That may be why the girl I baptized was not whipped. Later, this father invited me to his home and treated me royally.

The Most ridiculous incident I think I ever met was at a time when several people, mostly young ladies made the confession and arranged for baptism next day. I noticed one of them seemed to have a weak mind. However, I made no difference in my treatment of them. The next day all were present except the girl I thought not bright. I waited some time thinking some hindering cause was the trouble. I made some inquiry. Imagine my surprise when I was told that the girl's father was her grandfather. Now think about that please. Shame on anyone thus guilty. It is too bad.

One time I baptized a woman whose husband on three previous occasions refused to allow his wife to be baptized. As soon as they could, brethren began telling me I would have trouble about baptizing that lady. I ask that nobody say anything about the matter, even if he did talk. Even if he did say "They will not baptize her." Perhaps said I, heretofore he said they will not baptize my wife; and someone said, "We'll show you; we will baptize her" and that stirred his temper. Be quiet now and watch me baptize her this afternoon. But little if anything was said and this man sat on a log so close to me while I baptized his wife that he could nearly touch me, but not a word of objection did he utter.

I baptized a lady whose weight was 364 pounds. Affusionists had tried for several days to persuade her to let them sprinkle water on her, stating that no living man could baptize her because of her weight. I did baptize her without any difficulty.

Let no one conclude that all of my work as a preacher was of the above type. It was not. Many are the meetings I have held with apparently no opposition from such sources as the above. But I have noticed that as a rule where opposition was great it proved best, for it was there we had the most successful meetings. I held a meeting booked to be held in a denominational church building. Upon my arrival there, I saw several little "squads" of folks here and there talking and it was visible they were not in the best of humor. I hitched my horse and walked to where one of these "squads" were standing, and imagine my surprise when told that the preacher in charge had forbidden my using either the building or the lot on which it stood. Surprised! And why? Because several of the members of that denomination's members of that place had invited me repeatedly to hold a meeting there. I ask the preacher, (he was present and a house full seated) if I could use the house for that particular service only, as the crowd was already assembled. He said, "No, but do not think hard of me about it. This was done by the order of the General Conference." I replied, "If you had been a member or The Church of Christ you would not have been driven to do that which you could not conscientiously do; vix., refuse to let me preach just one sermon here." It hurt the man so much that I halfway wished I had not said that, but I offered no apology. And as angry group of folks at a religious gathering as you ever saw was there, mostly for, but some few, against me. I saw that some fighting was likely to take place if something was not done soon. I jumped upon a stump and announced that preaching would begin in thirty minutes in Mrs. Dial's yard, a good Methodist, about one fourth mile away by her invitation. I started. Everybody except the preacher followed and we left him locking the door. I was offered a place for, an arbor just across the road from that forbidden land. I gratefully accepted and requested the people to meet me Monday morning and build an "arbor." On our arrival a man sent me word not to build the arbor, stating that his wife and daughter would not let him stay at home if he let me preach on his land. There I was, expecting a congregation for preaching and now, no place to preach. The question arose, "Now what will you do?" "Wait until 11:00 o'clock and we will see," I replied. The hour and the congregation arrived. I laid my hat on the side of the Military Road, remarking that I owned as much of that road as any man in the county, you make seats on the bank of the road, and I stood in the road and there I preached the second sermon of a successful meeting. A citizen whose wife was a Christian at the close of this sermon offered me his new tool shed to preach in long as I desired. I accepted the offer thankfully. Thus began a two weeks meeting with sixty-two additions, the major part of which had been Methodists. This was in 1905, and there is at present a congregation worshipping there regular. The house of worship then built was named "Shiloh," because of the hard fight we had to establish that congregation.

I once held a meeting where the meeting, a saw-mill and a government brandy still were all going on at the same time, and on the same acre of land. I could stand in the pulpit and see the men at work both at the mill and the still. I want to say that I had less trouble with booze-drinkers then, than I have in some instances had when we were supposed to be under Prohibition Law. Be it said to the credit of the man who operated the "still," that soon as he could work up what material he had on hand, be closed that thing down until after the meeting was over. We had several additions during this meeting.

I have gone into destitute places time after time to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. I went to Arkansas where I preached ten or more days in a destitute place. I saw no finance in sight to pay my fare home. I wrote my wife to send me money to pay the fare. She sent it and I came home.

I've walked up to brethren I had never seen and told them my financial distress and borrowed money to pay expenses home. I once was headed to Giles County, Tennessee for preaching. At Tuscumbia, Alabama's depot a woman who said she wanted to get to Decatur, Alabama to visit her sick son. A purse was being made up for her. I gave her all the money I had except one dime. I only had a ticket to Decatur but I boarded the train trusting to find some way by which I could get from Decatur to Giles County. I felt embarrassed not knowing how I could get money to further pay my way. Worriedly I walked the depot floor. About thirty minutes before the train was due, I noticed a man eyeing me very carefully. After a few glances at me he walked up to me saying, "Did you ever hold a meeting at Rock Creek, Alabama?" I told him, "Yes, two years ago." He said, "I thought I knew you. I intended then to hand you a dollar, but found I did not have it.  Here it is, I am glad I located you. I really meant that you should have that dollar." I told him how nice it came in then, thanked him, bought my ticket and we both went on our way. I regard this and other similar incidents as Providential. I cannot account for it otherwise.

I have held meetings in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Kentucky, and Florida. I have preached some little in Pennsylvania but have held no meetings there.

One of the most pleasant works of my life was in 1925-1926 when I lived at Rogersville, Alabama and labored with different congregations in Lauderdale and Limestone Counties Alabama. I loved these people and the work there. They too appreciated me.

I have never posed as a debater but have debated some little. In 1912, I held a three days' debate with a Baptist preacher, Gregory by name. I have had a number of skirmishes with different denominational preachers. But they were not anxious for a debate. Ordinarily a few direct quotations from the Bible satisfies them that it is unsafe for their doctrines to have it debated. So they say, "We don't believe in debates," etc. and of course, we did not have a debate.

The question of receiving into the Church of Christ people who had some form of denominational baptism had for years been a problem to me. I have learned that to "preach the word," the truth with clearness will help much. On one occasion a lady made the confession and in the same breath told me she had been baptized and was satisfied. She feared I would insist that she allow me to baptize her. She said a few words and sat down. I did not especially address but the entire congregation, thus. "You have heard what the good lady said. She believes, I feel sure she does. She says she is satisfied with her Baptist baptism. I think she is satisfied. But I wonder if it ever dawned upon her intelligent mind if Christ was satisfied with it. I showed (Acts 2:36-42.) that Repentance and Baptism into Christ is For and not Because Of as Baptists' teach. I showed the difference between The Bible and Baptist baptism and urged that she read God's Word; meet with the congregation and learn and do, as God directs. I concluded the service and was talking to the brethren." That sister said to one of the older women present, "Do you think that preacher would baptize me this afternoon?" They said, "Yes," and called me. I went to them. The young lady said, "I never thought of Christ not being satisfied with my baptism, I don't believe he would accept it. Will you baptize me this afternoon?" I said, "Surely, I will if you want to be baptized." She named the time and place most convenient to her. I announced the baptismal service and two hours after she told me she was satisfied. "I baptized her as The Bible directs." That, and many like experiences has taught me that plain, straightforward teaching of God 's Word in a king(sic "kind"SDH) Christ-like spirit will almost universally bring honest sincere souls to obedience of the Gospel.  

For years I have had little trouble with denominational Baptism. Hundreds who have had some sectarian baptism and have come into The Church, holding to that, have demanded baptism at my hands. I try to show that "to changed God's Order," or attempt a substitute, is dangerous, sufficient to cause one to be lost. "Preach the Word" is a fine slogan for any preacher, and "Woe is unto me if I preach not The Gospel." (1 Cor. 9:16.)

I have done quite a lot of preaching since I began the work, more than a quarter (nearly half a century). I have walked, traveled, horseback, in a buggy, on the train, on the bus, through heat and cold, and various methods of conveyance through the kindness of brethren. I have spent many profitable hours in the homes of numbers of brethren and sisters; and have never been (what I consider) mistreated. My wife and children have meant so much to me in my preaching work. Many are the times that I returned home from a preaching tour almost without renumeration to find that my good wife and children had kept the home fires burning by picking cottom(sic), digging potatoes, making sorghum; gathering com, etc. Thus my meager farm by their assistance became a great factor in providing a living. Much of the credit and praise which comes to me as a preacher is really due to my wife and children; because their willingness to sacrifice made it possible for me to go. For instance, years ago, before there was a congregation at New Hope I was in that community holding the meeting which resulted in the building of the New Hope House of Worship. When I returned home, both of my wife's hands and (wrists) had bad boils on both hands at the same time. Dr. Stutts had lanced one hand a few days before. He was there to lance the other when I arrived home. I want to express my thankfulness to Dr. H. L. Stutts for his service then; also to Sister Jennie Liles who stayed with my wife, waiting on her, etc. I knew nothing about my wife's condition until I reached home. I asked, "Why on earth, Martha, did you not let me know that you were thus suffering--crippled in both hands?" She simply replied, "I knew you would close the meeting and come home and I wanted you to hold the meeting." Do you think I am mistaken when I say, ''Much of the credit and praise coming should go to my wife and children." I truly thank God for the helpmeet he gave me.

Many are the funeral services I have conducted. The territory I have been called for funerals reaches from Waterloo, Alabama to Athens, Alabama, East and West, from Phil Campbell, Alabama to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, North and South. Scores of marriage ceremonies have been said by me in different states.

In connection with my preaching work I have only missed making one crop until this 1937. I was in the employ and     under the direction of The Churches of Christ, from April to December of one year. I did not personally attempt farming that year, though my boys did on a small scale. I even had a small cotton crop and plowed gardens while in Rogersville, Alabama.

However, in 1936 my health began to fail. In 1937 from February until December (will be longer) I have not been able to do a day's work and have not preached from June until now December 16, 1937; I have not preached a sermon. The first year in my life that I have been down and almost out.

I wish to say a few words about educated preachers. Education is a good and great thing. But I observe that in many cases, those called Bible Colleges are not true to name. The Bible was not taught as the paramount study but made to take a minor place in the curriculum. Higher Criticism and other things are given preeminence.

I once was speaking on The Proper Division of the Word (Old Testament Part) and after dismissing the congregation a man came walking toward me saying, "I suppose you did not know that you were speaking to a man who could speak in seven different languages." I thought he intended criticism; and replied, "No, and I did not care, that I had spake the truth and no man could truthfully deny it." He said, "Yes, it was the truth. I carry a diploma from _________ Bible College, but you have me skinned three city blocks when it comes to knowing and quoting scripture. I have attended the college, taken the course prescribed but was kept so busy with Church History, Athletics, etc. that I had no time scarcely for Bible Study." I fear that is too true today judging by what I hear. I am not boasting; far, far from that. I am too humble for that but. I have not attended school as a pupil since I was twelve years old. But I have been to the school of which Jesus Christ is the Principal, and I find that school has modern tom-foolery on the back shelf, and deals only with those things pertaining to life and godliness. I would like to advise every young man or woman to study God's textbook, The Bible. Use all the dependable help you can get, but rely and depend wholly upon The Bible. Rainy days and long nights can be utilized thus; much better, than going to various school rallies, playing checkers, whittling on good boxes at some country store, or hanging about a public place hearing and telling filthy yarns (lies) thus violating the command, "Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul." (1 Pet. 2:11.) If Paul was correct the "lusts" (works) of the flesh gratified, will cause folks to "not inherit God's Kingdom." (Gal. 5:19-22.) Young friends, for your own sake, and the sake of those near and dear to you, and in the interest of your own soul, leave off this waste of time in wordly(sic "worldly"sdh) affairs. Please devote your time closely to the study of God's Word. Your Knowledge of God will increase rapidly if you carefully and prayerfully study The Bible. I have many times studied—read until tired and sleepy. Then go to bed, sleep, wake again and get up. for another study period. It takes strong determination but one Can accomplish much if he will. Often someone says to me, "I wish I had the memory you have, etc." To which I reply, your memory is good as mine. I trained my mind to retain scripture. I studied while others "wasted time." The sweet Now and Now; (Not by and by) is all the time you can truly claim yours. zu like Christ, "I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work." (Jno. 9:4.) "We pass this way but once, and soon our journey will be done." Please don't waste your time. Use it profitably, by studying, reading God's Word daily, prayerfully and with regularity.

The Bible is the only reliable source on which we may depend concerning the origin of all things. The Bible spans the ages from Eden to The Judgment. The Bible is the "Book of Books."

(1) Because of its Divine authenticity, and superiority of all other books.

(2) Because it is One Book, made up and composed of many books. There are 39 books in The Old Testament and 27 books in The New Testament.

In the latter part of this booklet there is found a brief outline on the "Proper Division of The Bible," God's Word. It will be helpful to carefully study that subject.

-This autobiographical sketch was written in 1937, a short time before brother Behel's death. Many thanks to C. Wayne Kilpatrick for scanning a copy of this wonderful history and providing it for publication here on 06.11.2022.

The Preacher Who Gave His Train Fare On Behalf Of A Sick Boy

America's storied past is filled with true-to-life adventures of outlaws, cutthroats and legendary war heroes. But there is an important link in the fabulous past, which, for the most part, has been overlooked by noted historians.

I speak of none other than the dedicated circuit-riding preacher, he who braved all kinds of weather; and was sometimes shot at while performing the duties of his God. He was a man who let nothing keep him from delivering a fire and brimstone message.

Brother W.M. Behel was one of the best known and most respected of those old fashioned preachers. During his long and totally dedicated career, Behel encountered many problems . . . like baptizing a young lady while her father stood on a bluff with a shotgun, demanding that the girl not be baptized; like walking 35 miles to baptize a lady who was on her death bed, only to discover that her husband would not permit the dying woman to be baptized; like holding services in the middle of a public road when no building was available; like riding a train to preach a sermon, then walking home because the congregation had no money to pay his fare back home.

Birth, Marriage, Baptism

W.M. Behel was born in Perry County, Pennsylvania, September 10, 1872, the son of William and E.T. Behel.

At the tender age of four he began his education, attending the common county schools. In March of 1884 his family moved to Baily Springs, Alabama, near Florence. Like most kids of that era, young Behel did back-breaking work on his daddy's farm during all the days of his childhood. On February 21, 1892 he married Martha T. Clemmons, an orphan girl who had been reared by extremely strict people who demanded much of her.

Before the couple exchanged vows they were baptized by T.B. Larimore at Mars Hill. Brother Larimore, one of the respected men of the country, encouraged young Behel to start preaching. The following night Larimore's words kept popping up in Behel's thoughts time and time again. Finally he made the decision. He would try to be one of the best informed and most knowledgeable preachers in the south. Since he had very little education, he would be forced to study long hours at night after most people retired. Behel advanced rapidly. Within a few years he was generally recognized as one of the most sought-after preachers in the neighborhood. People from all walks of life and from all denominations were eager to hear him preach the word of the Lord as only Behel could preach it.

It was at this point, though, that frustrations began to creep into the picture.

A Difficult Situation

One of the first and most serious obstacles came on a warm Sunday morning at Tabernacle Methodist Church near Green Hill, Alabama, where he had been scheduled to conduct a meeting.

Brother Behel described the scene in his diary: "Upon arrival at Tabernacle I saw several little squads of folks here and there talking. It was evident they were not in the best humor.

"I hitched my horse and walked to where one of these squads was standing. Think of my surprise when I was told that the preacher in charge had forbidden my using either the building or the lot on which it stood.

"Surprised, and hurt, because several members of that place had repeatedly invited me to hold a meeting, I went to the preacher who was standing in the front door and asked him if we could use the building for this sermon only, since the crowd was already assembled.

"He said, 'No, but don't feel hard at me about it. The decision was made by the General Conference."

"I then realized that if something was not done, trouble would surely develop. As angry a set of folks as you would ever see at a religious meeting was determined to hear me preach.

"I saw that some fighting was likely to take place if something was not done quickly. I jumped upon a stump and announced that preaching would begin in thirty minutes in Mrs. Dial's front yard, a good Methodist who lived about a quarter of a mile away."

Brother Behel led the way. Everybody in the congregation except the preacher, who was left locking the door, followed.

After the services a young man offered brother Behel a place to build and arbor. The ground was located directly across the road from the forbidden grounds.

"I gracefully accepted," Behel said, "and requested the people to meet me Sunday morning for the purpose of building an arbor."

When Sunday morning came Behel arrived on the scene. A man was waiting with a sad message. He was instructed not to build an arbor because the man who offered the land had been told by his wife and daughter he must leave home if he permitted brother Behel to preach on their land.

The hour and congregation arrived. Brother Behel tossed his hat to one side of the Andrew Jackson Highway and exclaimed: "My friend, I guess I own as much of this road as any man in the country.

"Now just make yourselves comfortable on the road bank." He then stepped a few feet forward and began one of his typical sermons. At the close of the road services, a young farmer offered brother Behel the use of a tool shed to conduct services. He happily accepted the offer, and immediately began a two-week meeting, during which time 62 persons obeyed the gospel.

Because of Behel's dedication and determination a new church building was constructed. He named it Shiloh. The building stands to this day as an everlasting monument to his memory.

He Got The Fare

Behel's work was just beginning. He was forever on the move. He once conducted a meeting where the meeting, a saw mill, and a brandy still were going on at the same time. Standing in the pulpit, Behel could see the men at work in both operations.

On another occasion he went to an isolated community to conduct a meeting. After two weeks with no funds in sight, he wrote his wife, asking her to send him money to pay his fare back home.

Then one Sunday he was enroute to Giles County, Tennessee to conduct a series of meetings. Upon arrival at the Tuscumbia depot, a woman who said she wanted to get to Decatur to visit a sick son, was trying to borrow money. A kind man passed the hat around and brother Behel tossed all his money into the had save one thin dime. Having already purchased a ticket to Decatur, he boarded the east-bound train, confident of being able to find some way to get from Decatur to Pulaski.

"I felt embarrassed," brother Behel penned in his diary, "not knowing how I could get money to pay my way further.

"At Decatur I paced the floor nervously. I was worried sick about being in such an uncomfortable position.

"Approximately 30 minutes before the train was due, I noticed a man eyeing me very carefully. After a few glances at me, he walked up to me saying, 'Did you ever hold a meeting at Rock Creek, Alabama?' I told him, 'Yes, two years ago.'

"A smile boarded the stranger's face. 'I thought I knew you. When you held that meeting I intended to give you a dollar, but found that I did not have it. Here it is. I'm glad I located you . . . . I really meant that you should have that dollar.'"

A grateful brother Behel told the man how nice the money came in, thanked him, then purchased a ticket to Pulaski. Both men went their separate ways, never to see on another again.

A Sad Experience

One of his saddest days came when he walked 35 miles through blistering heat to baptize a woman who was on her death bed. All during the long journey Behel kept thinking he might not arrive in time.

When he arrived at the woman's house, neighbors helped to carry her to the water. But when they reached the creek bank, the lady's husband came to the scene, refusing to let the woman be baptized.

The poor woman died a few days later. She had not been baptized. It is said that her husband always regretted his extreme actions.

More Difficulties

In another community, a young woman had tried to be baptized on three separate occasion. Each time, her husband refused to let her go to the water.

Finally the woman asked brother Behel to baptize her. He said, "Sure I'll be happy to baptize you."

A bystander interrupted: "Sir you are asking for trouble, for her husband is a mean customer. He will never stand for her being baptized."

Brother Behel, in his own quiet way, said: "Now, people, don't say a word, and you will see what happens. I will baptize her. The reason she has not been baptized is because you have been too overbearing about the matter. He probably said you can't baptize her. You probably said, 'We will baptize her,' and he was just bull-headed enough to have his way about it.

"Now, keep quiet, and watch me baptize her this afternoon." Behel then went to the water, where he found the lady waiting. He baptized her with her husband sitting on a log so close to the preacher that he could touch him . . . he never uttered a word in rebuttal.

Brother Behel once baptized a woman who weighed 364 pounds. People had been trying to persuade the lady to be sprinkled, explaining that no living man could baptize her.

Brother Behel baptized her without difficulty. Morrow Massey had gone to the water to help, but he was not needed.

Encounter With A Young Preacher

In 1925 and 1926, Behel enjoyed some of the most happy days of his life, while living in Rogersville and preaching to folks in Lauderdale and Limestone counties.

"I loved these people and the work there. They appreciated me, because I preached the word of the Lord, the truth with clearness, in a plain straight-forward manner."

Once during a meeting, brother Behel apparently stepped on some highly-educated young preacher's toes. After the sermon, the young approached Behel and said:

"Sir, I suppose you did not realize that you were speaking to a man who can speak seven different languages."

Seeing that the young man was bent on an argument, brother Behel said, "No, I did not, and furthermore, I don't care for I spoke nothing but the truth, which no man can truthfully deny."

"Yes sir," said the stranger, "I know that---it was the truth.

"I carry a diploma from a Bible college, but you have me skinned three city blocks when it comes to knowing and quoting scriptures.

"I have attended a college, taking the course prescribed, but was so busy with church history, athletics, etc. that I had little or no time for Bible study.

Brother Behel told the youn man that he had been to school since he was 12 years old, where Christ was the principal.

He learned his lesson well.

His Memory

In the last few years of his life, friends would approach brother Behel and tell him what a wonderful memory he had. The dedicated preacher would always give the same answer:

"Your memory is as good as min. I simply trained my mind to contain scripture. I studied while others wasted time. The sweet now and now (not the sweet by and by) is all the time you can truly claim yours.

"We pass this way but once and soon our journey will be done: please don't waste your time. Use it profitably by studying, reading God's word daily, praying and with regularity."

His Death

In 1936 brother Behel's health began to fail. By early 1937 he was unable to work. One of his last official acts was preaching a dedication sermon at the new Lone Cedar church building near Florence, Alabama. Brother Behel had helped build the meeting house and he was determined to preach at the first services in it.

This he did, even though he had to be carried into the building on a stretcher. There were few dry eyes in the church when brother Behel finished his final sermon.

He died in 1938.

(Editor's note: The bodies of brother and sister Behel are buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery about ten miles north of Florence, Alabama. Many of their relatives live in and around Florence, Alabama. Brother and sister Behel had six children. Two of them are living; Keifer Behel of Old Hickory, Tennessee, and Mrs. Edity Quillen near Florence, Alabama. Brother Behel has a sister who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is Beatrice Garner, and her husband Eugene Garner is an elder of Ridgedale Church of Christ in Chattanooga. The Garners are good friends of min. I cannot recall having met Price Parker, the writer of the foregoing story about Will Behel. He did a good job. Many are indebted to him for this interesting story. -Basil Overton)

-Price Parker, World Evangelist, Vol. 9 No. 1, January, 1981, pages 10,11

W.M. (Will) Behel Scholarship Fund

In 1984 a scholarship fund was established at Heritage Christian University for the training of gospel preacher. This scholarship was constituted by the son and granddaughter of Will and Martha Behel. K.L (Kieffer Larimore) Behel and his sister Martha Ruth Behel Ingram. A write up was produced in the World Evangelist. Note an excerpt as follows:

Brother K. L. Behel and his daughter, Martha Ruth Behel Ingram, desire to establish this scholarship because of the reason explained by brother Behel. He said: "My earliest memories of my father were seeing him as he would leave his mule tied in the hedge row to rest as he looked up Bible scriptures to be used in his next sermon." Will Behel established and encouraged churches in Lauderdale and surrounding counties in such places as Oak Hill, Mt. Zion, Jacksonburg, Stoney Point, Macedonia, Wright or Threet's Cross Roads, Lone Cedar, Shiloh, North Carolina, St. Joseph, Elgin Cross Roads or Center Star and Wisdom Chapel or Salem. A few years ago descendants of the Will Behel family met for a reunion at Lone Cedar, near Florence, Alabama. In that group there were 16 or 17 gospel preachers, 23 elders and 46 deacons represented." -Fuller Article In World Evangelist, by Basil Overton, November, 1984. page 2

Death Claims Mrs. Behel, 83

Services Conducted Today At Lone Cedar Church

Mrs. Martha Jeane Behel, aged 83, wife of the late W.M. Behel, Church of Christ evangelist, died Monday evening at 10 o'clock at her home, Florence, route 5, where she had lived for the past three years. She had been ill for two weeks.

Surviving are two daughters, Mrs. J. Chesley Quillen and Mrs. Hugh Richardson; foru sons, T.E., H.F., K.L. and J.S. Behel, all of Florence, route 5; 23 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

Services were conducted today at 12:30 p.m., at the Lone Cedar Church of Christ with interment in the Mt. Zion cemetery, Spry's in charge. N.E. Gibbs, Church of Christ minister, officiated at the services.

Pallbearers were Andrew, Charlie, Pete, Al, Gran and Ed Behel.

-Obituary taken from a newpaper article - Source and date unknown

William M. Behel, Beloved Mister, Is Laid To Rest

William M. Behel was born September 10, 1872 and departed this life December 26, 1938. Bro. Behel was baptized about the year 1888 at Mars Hill, Alabama, by Bro. T.B. Larimore. Bro. Behel had been a minister of the Gospel of jesus Christ about 39 years. He was married to Martha Jane Clemons, Feb. 21, 1892, and to this union were born nine children, six now living and three dead. Bro. Behel has also five brothers living and one dead, and one sister living and one dead. He had also 22 grandchildren and 2 great grand-children.

The funeral was held at his home church, where he had preached so much. Bro. Behel had planned the entire service, having selected his undertaker, and some years ago planned to have his life long friend, the writer to conduct his funeral. The song service was conducted by Bro. Quillen and his sons, singing the songs that Bro. Behel had already selected for the occasion. Also Bro. Quillen read a poem that Bro. Behel had been saving for the occasion. The prayer was led by Bro. J.M. Gainer, a close friend of Bro. Behel's.

I used the following scriptures in the service, those Bro. Behel and I so often discussed, and agreed upon as full of hope for a Christian servant of the Master. Psalms 23; Job 14:1,2; Rev. 22:4; Rev. 14:13; Jno. 14:1,5; 2 Tim. 4:7; The last one I pointed out as particularly applicable to Bro. Behel's life, and its closing.

The burial was at Mt. Zion Cemetery, where Bro. A.D. Behel, a nephew led the closing prayer. The great floral tribute was touching and a manifestation of the esteem Bro. Behel was held in by many friends. There were flowers from the Rogersville, St. Joseph, Mt. Zion and Lone Cedar congregations; and many individual ones from relatives and friends. The great throng of people both at the funeral service and at the interment showed how much the entire section had appreciated his labor throughout the many years.

Mrs. Behel's labor covered almost the entire north part of Ala., some sections of Miss., parts of Florida, and in Giles, Wayne and Lawrence Counties in Tennessee. Bro. Behel unhesitatingly went to any section where he found an opening for preaching the gospel much of it being done in destitute places. His preaching was fearless, positive, and true to the book; yet with all kindness, meekness and love. His condemnation of sin was plain, yet no sinner could feel that he was not interested in his soul, and that all his teaching was for the purpose of leading him to Christ. He never courted popular favor; And his behavior was such that the visit in any home always brought him invitations to return. Bro. Behel was a constant student of the Bible, his memory most excellent, and he was always careful to be giving the exact teaching of God's word without any opinions of his mixed in.

He was a faithful friend to all preachers, especially young ones, encouraging them in every way, making appointments for them in such places as would develop them, and often giving up work that he had started so that he might get some one else farther along. Bro. Behel did much to stop false teaching in various communities, opposing it in kindness; yet definitely with the Bible; and if he felt that some other brother could do more than he could, off he went for that man to come and take up the labor. He rejoiced in the victories for the truth, regardless of who did the work.

-M.E. Gibbs, Leoma, Tenn.

-Obituary taken from a newpaper article - Source and date unknown

Lone Cedar Church Of Christ
Located In N.E. Lauderdale County
Planted By Will Behel In 1898

Lone Cedar
Church of Christ
Christians first met here in a log building which
also served as a schoolhouse. In 1909 a frame
building was constructed. Because of a single
cedar tree in prominent view, it was given the
name Lone Cedar by Wilbert* M. (Will) Behel.
an early dedicated gospel preacher. In 1938 a
more modern stone building was completed by
these diligent Christians. A larger auditorium
was added in 1977. This early Christian meeting
place soon became a landmark and a vital part
of the Greenhill Community.

Note: *"Wilbert" is a mistake, it should be "William."


Location Of The Grave Of W.M. Behel

William Behel is buried near Florence, Alabama. From Hwy 72 turn right on Cox Creek Parkway (Hwy 133). Go a couple miles and turn right on Old Jackson Hwy (County Rd. 47). Go about two miles and you will come into St. Florien community. In St. Florien bear left on County Road 61 (Butler Creek Rd.) toward Mt. Zion Church of Christ. The church is on the right. Behel is buried in the cemetery behind. The main part of the cemetery is behind and to the right of the church building. Head to the back of the cemetery on the little road. Near to the rear and get out of the car and go into the right (south) and the Behel plot should be easily found. While visiting the cemetery be sure to visit the graves of Charles Coil and Jack Hazelbaker, two other gospel preachers, located over behind the church building, mostly by themselves, and next to one another.

GPS Coordinates
34.922401, -87.628989
Grave Facing East
Accuracy to 19ft

"Blessed Are The Dead Which Die In The Lord"
William M. 1873-1938
Martha J. 1868-1948

*Note: There is a discrepancy among some concerning the middle name of William Behel. Some have reported his middle initial "M" as short for "Milton." Others support the name, "McKinley." For a long time this site recorded his name as Milton. In June, 2016, a correction was offered that his middle name is "McKinley," due to information provided by a great grandson of Uncle Will Behel, Scott White, of Snellville, Georgia. Apparently, an early photo of "Uncle Will" Behel renders the middle name, "McKinley," on the back of the photo. It is highly improbably that he was named for the president of the US, who served as President of the U.S (March, 1897-September, 1901,) long after Behel's birth. Will's father's middle name is Milton

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