James W. Ballard
Sketch On The Life Of J.W. Ballard
J. W. Ballard was truly one of the great pioneer preachers in Oklahoma. He was born at Walton, (Henderson County) Texas on October 24, 1875. Under the preaching of J.A. Hall, who came to Texas from Green County, Ill. in 1845, he obeyed the gospel in 1896 at Cedar Hill, Texas. He joined the great migration that converged on the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho country in 1891 and settled at Port, an inland town in the Southwest part of Washita County. His father had taught him to be a blacksmith and he followed that trade at Port. Before moving to Oklahoma he was married to Mary Ellen Ramsey, of Cedar Hill. To them three sons and a daughter were born. They were Jesse C., who has joined his parents in the "better land," Howard P., Georgia Carr and Bennie.
Of this marriage he writes: "When I was about nineteen years old I was running around quite a bit. My mother had died when I was fourteen and my father married again, so I was just in and out. One day my father said to me: "Son, I want you to find you a good Christian girl, get married, and stop this running around." He asked me if I knew of a good Christian girl that I could get. I told him I thought I did, and he asked me, "Who is she?" I told him, and he knew her family well and said: "If you can get that girl, you go get married and settle down." My father had always taught me not to go with any girl that was not of good family and highly respected." He always said: "If you cannot go with the best, don't go with any, and above all, marry a Christian girl." (Fathers today might profit by this example.
He married Mary Ellen and she walked by his side to the end of life, faithfully carrying more than her part of the load, which is typical of preacher's wives.
At Port Brother Ballard cane in contact with a gospel preacher named John D. Kelley. Brother Kelley was about the only gospel preacher in the area, and he preached in all the usual places in that frontier society. He began taking Brother Ballard with him to his preaching appointments, and almost forced him into the pulpit. His formal education had ended at the sixth grade, and he was keenly aware of this deficiency, hence his reluctance to begin such work. However, Brother Kelley could see things Brother Ballard could not see, and so just wouldn't leave him alone. Naturally, Brother Ballard came to love and respect Brother Kelley, and to him he gives much credit for the great work he did as a gospel preacher.
Like many other men of his time, he was a serious student of the Bible and was by no means, an uneducated man. One of his sons writes of often seeing him study far into the night. At one period in my life I did a daily radio program for ten years from Lawton, Oklahoma, near Apache where Brother Ballard lived. He was a regular listener, and often dropped me a helpful note. This communication always indicated a thorough knowledge of The Book, sound logical reasoning, and complete dedication to The Truth. He was by no means an uneducated man!
Early in life he moved from Port to nearby Sentinel, where I grew up. (But he had moved from Sentinel when we got there.) In Sentinel he preached and operated his blacksmith shop. He was well and favorably remembered by the brethren there, and I remember often hearing older folks tell of going into his shop and find him working on a plow point on one end of his anvil and the Bible propped open on the other end. The partial record of his work his children have shows that he held at least two hundred and twenty eight meetings, and this was in the time when most meetings were at least three Sundays long, and many of them longer. The record shows that he preached in one hundred and forty six communities in twelve states. He was often asked to return where he had held meetings, and held seven meetings in one place. He baptized many people, with as many as sixty five baptisms in one meeting. In addition to his meeting work, he had many debates, and did "local work" at Sentinel, Gould, Cordell, Sulphur, Helena, Wynona, and Apache, all in Oklahoma, and in Shreveport, La.
In his day a preacher literally had to "endure hardness" if he would be a "good soldier of Christ Jesus." He tells of many problems that arose in his life because of inadequate support. He never complained about this, however he did feel that the brethren should not put such hardships upon the preacher's family. Of course he was right about this, and due to the sacrifices of such men as he, those of us who have followed have been better supported. He did sometimes wonder if younger preachers would have so suffered. Of course it is now as it was then; some would pay the price and some wouldn't.
In 1911 Sister C.R. Nichol wrote of him in her Gospel Preachers Who Blazed The Trail, "He is one of the consecrated faithful preachers of the gospel. To know him is to love him." His son, Howard, recently wrote: "I am proud to be the son of J.W. Ballard." And well he might be: He baptized my own mother into Christ in 1905, the year before I was born, and in our family his name was always an honored one. On May 30, 1959 The Lord called him home.
Mary Ellen continued until October 25, 1962. They both "sleep" in the Apache cemetery where so many of their brethren and friends also await the resurrection. "The lives of great men all remind us...."
-Gospel Preachers Of Yesteryear, Loyd L. Smith, page 18-20, This Article Originally Appeared In The Christian Worker, May, 1975
J.W. Ballard and his son, Benny Ballard, were popular Apache figures for many years. J.W. was born October 24, 1875, at Walton, near Athens in Henderson County, Texas. His father was a blacksmith and taught him the trade, which he followed for years. He obeyed the gospel at Cedar Hill, Texas, in 1896 under the preaching of J.A. Hall. At Cedar Hill he met and married Mary Ellen Ramsey. In 1900 he moved to Port in Washita County where he saw the need for a Church of Christ. There he met a gospel preacher by the name of John D. Kelley. Kelley began to take J.W. with him on his preaching appointments and soon J.W. was filling the pulpit. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Sentinel where J.W. preached and did blacksmith work. Older folks used to tell of going into his shop and finding him working on a plow point on one end of his anvil and the Bible propped upon the other end.
Family records show that J.W. Ballard preached in at least 220 revival meetings, many three weeks long; and in 146 communities in 12 states. He baptized hundreds, with as many as 65 in on meeting. He did local preaching at Sentinel, Gould, Cordell, Sulphur, Helena and Wynona prior to coming to Apache about 1928, where he finally made his home. J.W. Ballard was a frequent writer for the "Firm Foundation" magazine.
Benny was a popular Apache schoolteacher and coach, rock hound and collector of Indian relics. He died in 1964. Georgia (Ballard) Carr resided in Apache until her death in 1995. Another son, Howard, lived past 100 years of age at Helena, Oklahoma. J.W. Ballard died on May 30, 1959, and his wife on October 25, 1962. Bother are buried in the Apache Cemetery.
-Roy B. Young, Entry into the Apache Area Centennial History, 1901-2001: Preserving The History of Our Past For The Families Of The Future, Privately Published book. page 140.
Directions To The Grave Of J.W. Ballard
J.W. Ballard is buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Apache, Oklahoma. Apache is located SW of Oklahoma City, and just north of Lawton on Hwy. 62. Take I-44 (H.E. Bailey Turnpike) to Exit 46 and head north on State Hwy 277/281/62. At Apache go through town to Hwy 19 and turn right. When Hwy. 62 turns north continue on Hwy. 19 to the next entrance to your left, Fairview Cemetery. Enter the cemetery drive until you get into the cemetery proper. Take the second left, and go to the next road and stop. The Ballard grave will be just to your right in the "North" section. Just NE of the J.W. Ballard grave a few rows, in the same section, is the grave of Ballard's son, Benny. The GPS location of the grave is: 34°54'19.0"N 98°20'54.3"W, or. D.d. 34.905279,-98.348408.
Benny W. Ballard Was J.W. Ballard's Son. School Teacher & Coach In Apache, Oklahoma
GPS 34° 54.329 x WO 98° 20.885. Acc. to 16ft. /Grave Faces West
Webmaster's Note: It was my pleasure to visit the grave of J.W. Ballard October 11, 2004. I was traveling with Graham McDonald, Scottish missionary. It was a cold and wet day. We walked all over the cemetery searching, but couldn't find it. We went back into town, and found information at the Crews Funeral Home. We were then able to find and chronicle the information on the gravesite, and one of the sketches above on the life of J.W. Ballard.
Webpage produced 04.07.2016 / updated 07.08.2020
Photos Taken 2004