Articles & Stories

Uncle Dave And Uncle Ira:
Mighty Preachers Of The Gospel

Two Old Warriors Of The Cross Were Familiar
To Every Community In The Mountains Of Eastern Kentucky

Uncle Dave Maggard and Uncle Ira Combs, pictured front center, were two Old Regular Baptist preachers from Eastern Kentucky. With a combined total of 114 years of preaching, the two never received one penny for that work.
(Photo courtesy of Steve Gross.)

The Hazard-Herald - 1927

Fighting the Devil and his ways for a total of 114 years, Uncle Dave Maggard and Uncle Ira Combs, whose combined ages total 164 years, continue in their old age to preach steadily and with as much fervor and result as in their younger days.
Uncle Dave is a native of Letcher County, but is as well-known in Perry County as his co-partner, Uncle Ira, who was born and reared at Jeff, just a few miles south of Hazard.
These two old warriors of the Cross are familiar to every community in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, in Tennessee, Virginia, and even in Missouri. In their day, long before the coming of the railroad, they covered thousands of miles on horseback or in oxen carts. They baptized so many people in their time that the count has been lost.
While preaching all their lives, they have never received one penny for that work. During their spare time they worked out their own living. Uncle Ira ran a store at Jeff, and was as good a businessman as a preacher, with the result that he is well-to-do today, and is the oldest merchant in Perry County.

Uncle Dave enjoyed the outdoors, and all his spare time was spent in trapping and hunting, from which he derived not only pleasure but a lucrative living.
To have offered these gentlemen pay for preaching would have been but to hurt them. They preached for the love of it, and because they were fired with a zeal which through a half-century has been unquenchable.
Today, Uncle Dave, 88, and Uncle Ira, 84, are hale and hearty, with a twinkle in their eyes, and when they preach, the crowds come from miles around. It is nothing on a Sunday afternoon for these two patriarchs to tell their message to a crowd of four or five thousand people, as many as attend all the churches in Hazard on a Sunday morning.

Elijah Maggard, a son of "Uncle Preacher Dave" Maggard, with his wife, Martha Lewis Maggard, and their children. Front, l-r: Nancy, Martha and Elijah, and Abby. Standing, l-r (not in order): Rena, Hattie, Sarah, Tinsel, Maude, Robert, Hiriam, James, Kermit, and Charlie. (Photo courtesy of Steve Gross.)

They are of the Old Regular Baptist Church. Their preachments are simple and straight from the shoulder, and they preach the same gospel they did 50 years ago, and it is just as effective. Their knowledge of the Scripture is perfect, their philosophy is clear, and their language is of the purest English. On Carr Creek and its fork there is not a hole in which they have not baptized someone. The same may be said of the forks of the Kentucky and the Cumberland and all their tributaries.
Uncle Dave, after 62 years of preaching, is still the active pastor of four churches: Big Cowan in Letcher, Indian Bottom at Blackey, Clover Fork in Harlan, and Oven Fork on the Cumberland. He is also moderator of the Indian Bottom Association of the Regular Baptist Church. He was born in Letcher County near Partridge on the Cumberland.
Uncle Ira was born at Jeff in 1843. He also is still an active pastor of Big Leatherwood Church, Little Dove Church in Knott County, and Little Zion Church in Perry County. Uncle Ira is the father of 16 children and has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Steve Gross, 6449 Decker Road, Franklin, OH 45005, a great-grandson of Uncle Dave, shares this article with our readers.

Readers are invited to share memories and history articles with The Kentucky Explorer. NO FICTION. Mail articles and photos to:

The Kentucky Explorer, P. O. Box 227, Jackson, KY 41339

or email to:

[email protected]