Dead Man Speaks:
When you go to a funeral, you don’t expect the voice of the deceased to be heard. However, that’s exactly what happened on February 14, 1909 when a large crowd gathered in the Bone Gap Methodist Episcopal Church. The funeral was for well known preacher Daniel Leach. Here is the story.
Daniel Leach was born August 10, 1821 in Smithville Flats, New York. His father David Fowler Leach was a preacher. At age 16 came west in 1837 with Ebenezer Gould at age 16 in a two horse open carriage that took 5 weeks to accomplish. He came with the purpose to marry Miss Mary Knowlton, but she had tuberculosis. Maria Lois Root was a nurse to her. Mary Knowlton died January 20, 1940. Daniel had met Miss Root and after a courtship of 1 1/2 hours proposed marriage.
They were planning to be married on Miss Root’s 18th birthday April 26, 1840. However, efforts to obtain a marriage license at the Courthouse in Albion failed. County Clerk Walter Mayo demanded that parental consent be obtained. It took 5 weeks to get that consent from his parents living in New York. When it finally arrived, it came with a $5.00 bill. County Clerk Mayo refused to accept the money believing it to be counterfeit. Young Leach went to a good friend, Joel Churchill in Albion who accepted it giving Leach silver for the bill which included 4 silver quarters. Leach used the quarters to pay Rev. Joseph Butler to perform the wedding on May 19, 1840, the most money the preacher ever received for performing a wedding. Daniel and Maria settled east of Bone Gap in their house where they lived for the remainder of their lives and raised a large family of 12 children.
Daniel often shared the story of his arrival in Bone Gap on December 24, 1837. He was acquainted with Ansel and Philander Gould who had lived in the same town in New York and had come to Bone Gap in 1835. Ansel had built a log cabin and was married. They invited Daniel to have Christmas Dinner with them. They ate on top of a chest Ansel brought to Bone Gap when he came here. The dinner consisted of pork, corn bread eaten without milk or butter, and strong coffee with no cream or sugar. Daniel would tell those who listened to his first Christmas in Bone Gap story by explaining that the country was full of deer and wild turkey. Hogs and sheep had to be shut up each night to protect them from wolves.
The Civil War broke out in April of 1861. Daniel left behind his wife and children to enlist in the Civil War November 1, 1861 as a private in Company H, 126th Illinois Infantry. Promoted to Drummer he was in 50 battles and served as chaplain during this time as well. He was discharged August 2, 1864 and went home to his wife and large family east of Bone Gap. Daniel loved to tell of his many experiences during the War.
Daniel Leach was a well-known preacher. His first sermon was preached at Old Scottsville in Wayne County’s Leech Township in April of 1846. He conducted the funeral for the first person buried in Bone Gap Cemetery. Over the years, Leach preached in Clay City, Albion, Louisville, Phillipstown, New Burnside, Mt. Carmel, Metropolis, and Jonesboro. However, Daniel maintained his membership throughout the years at Bone Gap Methodist Episcopal Church. It was said he had a remarkable voice, able to make himself heard for 3 city blocks. His services and particularly his prayers, were noted for their length, including a prayer at a soldiers' reunion that was an hour in length. Bone Gap resident George Rude said, "On a Sunday evening in the summer the Rude family could sit on their front porch and hear Daniel preaching in the Methodist church, 3/4 of a mile away."
Daniel had preached the Gospel in numerous churches over the years. Traveling from his home east of Bone Gap to the various churches, people looked forward to seeing him coming in his horse and buggy. His services and particularly his prayers were noted for their length. He delivered a prayer at a soldiers' reunion that was an hour in length. Sometimes Mrs. Leach would stand up and say " Danl! You've preached long enough! I got a roast in the oven for dinner, and its gonna burn! Now wrap it up and let's go home!" And Dan would!
Unlike some preachers of today who choose to retire, Daniel intended to keep on preaching the Gospel. The last year or two of his life, old Dan had to preach while sitting down. One might think that a preacher known to preach long sermons would not draw many people to the churches where he came. Not so with Daniel. Newspaper accounts of his services continued to report large turnouts wherever he went.
So what’s this about a dead man speaking at his funeral? Before his death, Daniel recorded his customary benediction on a gramophone. He made it known that this recording was to be played at the conclusion of his funeral. Daniel died February 12, 1909. True to his wishes, that recording was heard by the huge crowd that gathered the next day for his funeral in the Bone Gap Methodist Episcopal Church. They are Jude 24-25 “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” It proved to be a frightening experience for some attending that funeral. A 10 year old granddaughter hearing her grandpas voice booming out from behind his coffin was a bit too much for her. Also sometime during the funeral a tremendous thunderstorm blew up, adding to the rather macabre effect of the dead man offering his own benediction.
Daniel’s body lies in the Bone Gap Cemetery next to his wife Lois and some of his children. Daniel’s customary benediction was also played at the funeral for his wife Lois on June 11, 1912.