Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reverend Henry Wisner and the Wolves

The page and a half devoted to the Reverend Henry Wisner (1807-1878) in The Wisners in America doesn’t promise much excitement at first. Wisner was born in Camillus, New York, to a family “all noted for their sturdy, moral and religious integrity.” At the age of twelve, Wisner “became the subject of divine grace” and began teaching school. “His great modesty, which was almost a mental disease, long kept him in the background, but in 1830, unsolicited on his part, he received his first license as an exhorter, and the following year his license as a preacher. The same year he was married to Miss Byancy House, a woman worthy to be his companion.” No examples are given of Rev. Wisner’s extraordinary modesty. Two paragraphs later, his eulogy is being read, and he is praised as “a man with an unsullied reputation.” Then comes the good part.

About the same time (November 9, 1878) Mr. DePew wrote a long article in the Yates County Chronicle (New York), giving a thrilling account of how Rev. Henry Wisner spent a night in a tree in the mountains of Pennsylvania in 1835, being trapped by pack of wolves after he had lost the trail in crossing the mountains, one night in his itinerary. To console himself and to pass away the time, while suffering all sorts of discomforts in the tree, he preached a long sermon on that occasion taking as his text, “There shall be no night there.” To prevent freezing, for it was the 12th of November and a sleet storm was raging, he grabbed the branches over his head and lifted himself up as far as he could and then he would suddenly drop to the branch on which his feet rested, a gymnastic exercise, or a species of dance, the music of which came out of the thick walls of darkness in the nature of blood-curdling yells of the blood-thirsty wolves.

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