With a Rifle in His Saddle and a Bible in His Hand

We will be talking about Zelphia Murrell, oh, yes, we will. Preacher’s wife, maligned as a whore. And the whole Mystic Clan.

I get angry about history sometimes.

This makes me angry:

Before 1820, Jeffery and “Mom Murrell” (as Zelphia was sometimes called) owned an inn near Columbia, Tennessee. When he was at home, Jeffery chided Zelphia to quit “walking the way she did, hips swinging and breasts undulating and long thighs molding themselves against her skirt with each step.” (Jonathan Daniels, The Devil’s Backbone, p. 240). He pleaded with her to stay at home and preach the Gospel.

Instead, in his absence, she converted the inn into a brothel and a den of thieves. She taught her children to steal. After she made a traveler “so weary from the sport she had given him on his bed … that he probably would have slept through an earthquake,” her son, John, or another child would pick the traveler’s pockets and take anything of value (Ibid., p. 240).

This is the story told about her on Find-a-Grave! The woman’s dead and we’d better make sure everyone knew she was a whore. Well, you know, if she was a whore, Daniels writing a hundred years after the fact and all.

And yet, if you start to say, “Wait, they didn’t live exactly near Columbia” or “The place they did live would have made a strange place for an inn” then you are revising history.

Well, sometimes, you do need to revise history, you know?