John Ernest Jeter
JOHN ERNEST JETER
(Biographical sketch by Hugh P. Jeter)
John Ernest Jeter, son of John Preston Jeter and Sarah Rose Jeter, was born in southern Illinois on Dec. 22, 1881. He had 4 half-sisters and 2 full sisters. Their names: Elizabeth (Lizzy) Cramer, Chillicothe, Missouri.; Minnie Cole, Spokane, Washington; Anna Nash, Washington; Mattie Gibson, Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma; Exie Armstrong, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.; and Ollie Davis, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was the youngest of the family and the only boy.
When he was about 4 years old the family moved from southern Illinois to Heber Springs, Arkansas. His first “miracle” came about when he was about 12 years old. He desperately wanted a shotgun and told the Lord about it. About 2 days later a sow his father had given him months before and which had run away, came home with a whole litter of little pigs! He said it didn’t take long to tum those pigs into a shotgun. He would ask, “You say where is the miracle? The miracle is to make a pig do anything you want it to, and God made that pig come home!”
Dad grew up in Heber Springs. He was in the school band and later in the band with the National Guards. He played a number of wind instruments. He went to Santa Cruz, California, to see his uncle William Thomas Jeter, a banker, lawyer, politician and one time Lt. Governor of the state. He worked in a pharmacy there for about 2 years and then returned to Arkansas. While in California he wrote and published a “popular song”, “By the Sunny San Joaquin.” (Which, by the way, never became very popular!)
Back in Heber Springs he married a girl he had known for years, a school teacher named Callie King. (Her father was Hugh L. King and her mother Anna Watkins.) They moved to Oklahoma City and he worked for some time as a Bond salesman and also a Real Estate salesman. Their first child, Jo Ernestine Jeter, was born there Dec. 12, 1909 and the oldest son, Hugh Preston Jeter on April 5, 1911.
Dad worked as a letter carrier in Oklahoma City for about 2 years and then his eye sight began to fail him. He was told that the glare of the sidewalks had affected the optic nerve and he should try to get to some place in the country where he would not need to use his eyes so much. They moved back to Arkansas and he worked on a farm that belonged to his father-in-law at Pangburn, Arkansas.
While working on the farm the Lord began to deal with him about entering the ministry. He began to tell the Lord all the reasons why he could not consider it. First, he did not have the education that his church (Presbyterian) required of its ministers; Second, he had a wife and 2 children to support; Third, he was deeply in debt; and Fourth, he was almost blind. Still the Lord wouldn’t leave him alone. Finally he told the Lord “If you will make it possible for me to get the training I need, and provide for my family, I’ll do it.”
About 2 days later he received a letter from a man he had worked for in Oklahoma City. He was writing from Chicago saying he needed his services for some bond sales work and sent him a check for his train fare to Chicago. Dad instantly thought of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. His church did accept training received there.
He sent for his family so Mother took Ernestine and me and we went to Chicago by train. Louise was on the way and was born in Chicago on Dec. 30, 1913. The Lord answered prayer and sent just the right lady to help Mother with the children on the long train journey.
Finishing his bond sales work Dad took a job at Marshall Fields and enrolled by faith in night studies at Moody Bible Institute. When he began his work he knew he could go no further without his sight. He told the Lord, “Lord, if you want me to prepare for the ministry you will have to give me my sight.” Divine Healing was not taught in the churches in those days, but there, on the 5th floor of Marshall Fields department store, Chicago, the Lord instantly gave him his sight. When he was 81 he still didn’t wear glasses. He did use a magnifying glass for some reading, but otherwise had good vision.
Leaving, after a short time in St. Louis, Dad went to work for the Sunday School Union. They sent him to the Qzark Mountains in Northwest Arkansas to establish Sunday Schools. He saw the great need for education in the region and, after a time, told my Mother, “I believe the Lord is laying on my heart to establish a school here in these mountains.” (At that time there was not a single High School in a 30 mile radius from their location.) Mother answered, “Well, if He lays it on your heart I guess He’ll lay it on my shoulders!” She was the teacher, a graduate of Arkansas College, Batesville, Ark. with a lifetime teacher’s certificate.
This was the beginning of Mountain Crest Presbyterian High School, Mountain Crest, Arkansas. Building this boarding school was a real struggle and a challenge to faith. It was during the years of World War I and also the great Flu epidemic. At one time Dad was sick with Pneumonia in the southern part of the State and Mother was sick with Pneumonia at Mountain Crest. However, the Lord answered prayer time after time.
Buildings were erected and a good school established. Other members were born into the Jeter family at Mountain Crest. John Clark Jeter was a beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy who lived about 3 1/2 years and then died of what was called Membranous Croup. He was buried there at Mountain Crest.
Then Horace McKinnon Jeter who was born Jan. 15, 1920; David Dean Jeter, Dec. 14, 1923 and Dwight Lewis Jeter, Jan. 30, 1925. After searching the Bible diligently for about two and a half years on the subject of the Holy Spirit, my father came to the conclusion that there was no reason believers today could not receive the same enduement of power the Lord gave His followers on the Day of Pentecost.
He went to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he was told there were people of a similar belief, but he was disappointed with the group and believed them to be fanatic. He had met Bro. P. C. Nelson and had confidence in his ministry so he went to Galesburg, Ill., where Bro. Nelson was holding an evangelistic campaign. He went with the express purpose of receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and after four days of earnest prayer he received a glorious infilling of the Spirit.
He thought his Presbyterian brethren would be glad to know that the Lord was pouring out His Spirit today like He did on the Day of Pentecost. He soon found out quite differently, and because of this experience he had to leave his church and the school they had established.
In the spring of 1925 the Jeter family left Mountain Crest and moved to a farm about 5 miles from Fayetteville, Ark. W. 0. Jackson, one of the workers at the school farm, who had received the Holy Spirit, went with us. One of my memories of that summer was raising watermelons, putting them in the water of a cold spring that was near the highway and selling them to people who went by. At times we would take a load of melons to town in a wagon and sell them there.
In the fall we moved into Fayetteville. Dad started a City Mission on Dixon St., just a few blocks from the railroad station. We lived above the Mission. It was certainly not a very attractive place to live. I used to look both ways before going in hoping that no one I knew would see me! I held my first job there in Fayetteville at the Western Union.
In the Spring of 1926 we moved to Springfield, Missouri. My Dad was somewhat of a misfit. The Presbyterians didn’t want him because he had spoken in tongues and the Pentecostals didn’t receive him because he still couldn’t see water baptism by immersion. It was a time of testing. He was invited to hold some prayer meetings in homes on the west side of town. Out of this came an evangelistic effort and then the founding of the Light House Assembly, on West Chestnut St.
In 1927 Brother P. C. Nelson invited my Dad and Mother to go to Enid, Oklahoma and help him start a Bible School. We went and my Dad was the principal of the school the first year of its existence. Mother taught English and Ernestine and I were students. We left Southwestern after school was out in 1928 and went back to Springfield for a short time. A close associate of my father’s had gone to Arizona to begin a work in Tucson. He urged my Dad to come and hold a meeting for him. The family of 7 started out in our old Studebaker touring car headed for Arizona. This never-to-be-forgotten trip deserves a separate story! Our faith was tested but God proved Himself faithful.
Returning from Arizona we stopped in New Mexico for a while to pick apples in order to meet expenses. At Oklahoma City Brother Kitchen, pastor of Faith Tabernacle, asked Dad and Mother to stay and help start a day-school at the church. I found work at a grocery store and we stayed several months before returning to Springfield.
Dad had held some meetings in Northwest Kansas and now the folk wanted him to come back for further meetings. Ernestine & I had been helping him in meetings and went to Kansas with him this time. In Kansas City our car broke down and a brother had to come and get us and take us in his Ford touring car. It was a cold, muddy, bouncy ride of several hundred miles but we made it!
We came back through Dodge City and on to Enid. Here my Dad, Ernestine and I were all baptized at the Government Springs Park by Bro. P. C. Nelson. My Father then joined the Assemblies of God. We held a meeting in Afton, Oklahoma, with good results and then my Father was elected pastor of the Assembly of God in Miami, Oklahoma. That fall we attended our first General Council, which was held in Wichita, Kansas. Ernestine and I were able to return to Bible School. The folk were able to help me and the Lord laid it on the heart of a lady in Oklahoma City to help Ernestine.
While still pastor in Miami the church in Enid asked my Dad to hold a meeting for them. He was there 3 weeks and I substituted for him in Miami. He was called to be pastor of the New Bethel Assembly of God in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The family was in Fort Smith when I was married in Dallas and then started for the mission field of Peru, South America. There was a delay in our departure and when we got to Peru my Dad was already pastor at the Enid Gospel Tabernacle.
Some of my Father’s views on prophecy were different from those of the majority and this became a problem. Finally he had to withdraw from the Assemblies of God and started an independent work called “The Lightbearers.” They built a rather large tabernacle in Enid and several groups of believers affiliated with them. This group had a commendable missionary spirit and many people were saved, healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. It lasted for a number of years before finally dissolving.
After this my Father’s moves seemed a bit erratic. For a while he was at a place in Arkansas called Elk Ranch where he wanted to establish an orphanage. He found that the State laws were so strict that he was unable to comply with them and had to give it up. He also tried to start an orphanage in San Juan de Sabinas, near Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, Mexico. They did care for some orphans but had more success establishing new churches than in orphanage work. Later they spent some time in Harlingen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley.
The strain began to tell on my mother. They had moved back to Enid. I was in Cuba and attended the General Council meeting held in Atlanta, Georgia. in 1951. My brother Horace had told me Mother was not well & I should come and see her if at all possible. From Atlanta I rode with U.S. Grant to Kansas City and took a train to Enid. Mother and I had a real good visit and I went back to Cuba. The next day after my arrival I received a cable telling me that Mother had gone to be with the Lord. We did not attempt to go to the funeral. Missionaries seldom did in those days. Really I prefer to remember her as she was on our last visit.
After Mother’s death Dad traveled a lot. He made his home for a while in New York, then in Denver, Colo. and later in Ouray, Colo. He also visited us in Cuba. It was in Ouray where he began to have serious health problems. Horace and David went to Ouray and brought him back to Enid. He passed away in 1963 and was buried in Enid beside my Mother.
Some people did not agree with my Father doctrinally but all who knew him highly respected him for his honest, sincerity and godly life. Although he has passed on, his “works follow him.” Besides the many souls he won in his lifetime, of his direct family there are 2 daughters, 1 son, 4 grandsons, 1 granddaughter and 1 great-grandson who have followed his example as ministers or missionaries.
(Ernestine, with her husband John Doan, were missionaries in Peru and Cuba before her death in 1961.)
This brief biographical sketch was written by Hugh P. Jeter of Waxahachie, Tx. in the year of 1994.
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