A very long time ago, the legendary “walking preacher” of the Smokies, Rev. Esau George, died at the age of 88.
He was a Cherokee Indian minister who spent his life walking through the western North Carolina mountains to preach. He died as he lived – quietly and without fanfare.
Word of his death from flu complications took several days to reach the distant places in the mountains where he preached. The elderly man was a familiar sight in Swain, Graham, and Jackson counties, as he trudged with his stick along the highways.
Distance meant nothing to him.
He had been walking the roads and trails seventy years before he heard of the latest fad.
He kept walking until a short time before his death. Sometimes he would walk forty miles or more at a stretch, going all the way from Cherokee to the Santeetlah section of Graham County, near Robbinsville.
Often, he could be seen sitting at the side of the road, resting a little, and reading his Bible, printed in the Cherokee language. He could preach or sing in English, as well as Cherokee, depending on his audience.
The Cherokees, known as Snowbird Indians, lived in the wilds of the Snowbird Mountains.
If Rev. George was needed in the rugged Snowbirds, off he would go early in the morning. By nightfall, he would be there, helping the sick and those believed to be lost.
He was faithful to God in spring or summer days, in autumn time and winter time, by day and night, in rains and snows and dust.
This Indian walking preacher of the mountains surely must have made an impression on the heart of God.
The footsteps of this one solitary man of God outweigh all the footsteps of some conquering armies going forth to war. No doubt, he was the kind of person Christ referred to, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21)1
“It is not fame, but faithfulness, that will win the Lord’s approval.”2
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1.Robert G. Lee, Sourcebook Of 500 Illustrations, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI., Copyright 1964, p. 206.