Tracing a journey of 6,000 miles by foot
Published 3:00 am Thursday, November 10, 2016
When Harold and Patricia Redd left Orem, Utah, for Alabama a couple of months ago, they had little knowledge of the place where they were going. All the couple knew about Alabama was what they had read in his grandfather’s journal, penned in the years 1896 to 1898.
Wayne Hardison Redd left Utah on a two-year mission that would take him along footpaths from one corner of Alabama to the other. What the elder Redd knew about Alabama prior to beginning his journey is not known. What he learned along the way was kept in a daily journal that speaks highly of the people and the place.
“My grandfather kept a handwritten journal of his mission that covered nearly 7,000 miles in Alabama, western Mississippi and Georgia,” Harold Redd said. “Nearly 6,000 of those miles were in Alabama.”
As Harold and Pat Redd began to read Wayne Hardison Redd’s journals, they became intrigued by the stories of the people and the places.
“There are six volumes of the journal,” Harold said. “Some of the entries are short and simple. Others are long with much more detailed. There are names of all the towns and villages he visited and of families. Many of the same family names were found all across the state.”
Sometimes the Mormon missionary would be “obliged” a wagon ride but most of his journey was on foot.
“The generosity of the people of Alabama was so amazing,” Pat Redd said. “In all of the time Grandfather was in Alabama, he did not spend one night without a roof over his head. Sometimes he would be given permission to sleep in school buildings, even barns, but much of the time he was invited to sleep in the family’s home.”
Many of the people who showed hospitality to the missionary were extremely poor but were willing to share what they had.
“The families were usually very large and there was often little to eat,” Pat said. “But the families shared what they had with Harold’s grandfather. Often, that was no more than hot fat on bread.”
In the journal, Redd speaks of “feasting on bananas” and the security of having a dime in his pocket.
Wayne Hardison Redd was somewhat of a cowboy missionary. When he was afforded a horse and saddle, his journey was much easier on his feet and moved at a steadier pace.
“My grandfather got by on the goodwill of the people,” Harold said. “He found most people to be welcoming and generous. As he went on his way, women would tie food in a bundle for him to eat along the road.”
Postage stamps were appreciated by the missionary because he had a wife and baby back home. And, too, stamps were useful in mailing tracts with uplifting messages.
While reading the journals of Wayne Hardison Redd, Harold and Pam were intrigued by his journey and the people who were so kind and generous. They began to want to know more about the place called Alabama and its people.
“We decided to come to Alabama and trace the path that my grandfather took,” Harold said. “We had a day-by-day account of where he went. We wanted to follow that same path.”
However, not by foot like his grandfather, Harold said, laughing.
The Redds came to Alabama and found a house to rent near Highland Home, which was home base for their daily journeys.
“We have visited many of the places he went and we have found the people to be just as welcoming to us as they were to Harold’s grandfather,” Pat said. “Many of the family names mentioned in the journals are still prevalent in some of the areas. Of course, there are many new names as well.”
Johnson is one of the names that often appears in the journals. The Redds met a descendant of a member of the “Jones Mill” Johnson family who was baptized by the elder Redd during his missionary journey.
“He was the first Johnson baptized into the church,” Pat said. “The people actually wept at the knowledge of the baptism.”
The Redds said their journey through Alabama has been as rewarding as Wayne Hardison Redd’s must have been.
“We have had a marvelous journey and we have found the people of Alabama to be as kind and thoughtful as those in the journal,” Harold said. “We have been received as graciously as my grandfather surely was. We’ll go back to Utah knowing the goodness of the people of Alabama is just as it was a century ago. It’s been a good journey.”