Appalachia

Have You Ever Seen A Harrison Mayes Cross?


Have you ever seen an old concrete sign, heart, or cross along the roadside? The ones I’m talking about typically say something like: Get Right With God, Prepare To Meet God, or Jesus Is Coming Soon.


There’s one in Murphy-it’s just as you start down the river road headed to Peachtree. I grew up seeing the cross but I never thought about who put it there.

The river road is the most common route folks use to go to Murphy from the Brasstown area-well at least it was before the new road was built. The new road cuts quite a bit of time off the trip and since they opened it I’ve traveled it to and from Murphy.

One day earlier this year, I decided I’d take the old way home to see if anything had changed since the last time I drove the river road.

And there it was-the old cross. As I noticed the bottom portion was gone I immediately begin to wonder who made the cross and if they might fix it (now truth be told I haven’t a clue how long the cross has been broken it could have been years with my mind’s eye preferring to see it whole and intact instead of realizing it was broken). After I started thinking about the cross I discovered it was put there by a man named Harrison Mayes.

Harrison Mayes was a coal miner who was born in 1898. In 1920 he was injured in the mines. It was an injury he shouldn’t have recovered from, but did. Mayes decided his recovery was a miracle and he aimed to spend the rest of his life spreading the word of God in whatever manner he could as a way of repaying God for allowing him to live.

Until his death in 1986 Mayes kept his promise by placing wooden and concrete signs pointing people towards Salvation throughout 44 different states.

To learn more about Mayes-and see photos of his signs-check out this Flickr Group.

Pap says there used to be one of the concrete crosses on Morgan Hill (another route to town that leads to the Martins Creek Community). He said it was just off the road after one you went through one of the steep curves and that it said Prepare To Meet God.

Have you ever seen one of his concrete crosses? Or maybe one of his other signs?

*UPDATE: A Blind Pig reader found another Harrison Mayes piece in Marble-go here to see it.

Tipper

 

 

 

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43 Comments

  • Reply
    Ron Seals
    June 11, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    When talking about my grand parents, I tell people about all the things Harrison Mayes did. As for his wife Lilly, she was the religious one.

  • Reply
    Jill Ammons
    May 3, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    I have learned so much reading your blog and this post in particular! There are two of these crosses in Hendersonville. One is on HWY 25 just outside of Fletcher by the railroad tracks and another is on Howard Gap road, past where the blinking light was on the right just before you get to Chimney Rock Road. It’s funny because I never noticed them until we moved from Georgia to NC when I was a senior in high school….which is another story all together..lol
    Thank you for your blog and to all those that contribute.
    Jill, yer shapenote friend

  • Reply
    Ronnie Seals
    May 3, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Harrison Mayes was my grandfather. Thanks for this post, the family is always glad to find one still standing. The Museum of Appalachia in Norris Tn. just off I-75 north of Knoxville, has a large display of daddy-Mayes’ (as we call him) work. There are many of his crosses there, including the heart-shaped cross that I was supposed to take to Jupiter, (long story), as well as a display of his shop. My uncle and aunt, Clyde and Catharine Mayes, have written a book about him with many pictures titled, ‘A Coal Miner’s Simple Message.’

  • Reply
    gary cousino
    January 7, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Have always wondered who erected those things. There used to be one in Chatham Co. NC on Highway 64 where it crossed the Haw River, its been long gone due to road building. There is still one in Moncure NC along old us 1 , very hard to see because of trees

  • Reply
    Betty Newman
    August 2, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    I didn’t read all the comments but there is a huge collection of his crosses at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, TN. He even had one made and ready to be sent to Mars…

  • Reply
    Tipper
    April 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Susan
    I don’t know if the crosses made it to Iowa. But I hope they did!
    Thank you for the comment!
    Tipper
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Susan Toomey
    April 8, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Hi! Love this story. I live in Iowa. I saw a map that Mr. Mayes used to track his travels. It looked as if he had been across Iowa. Do you know if any of his signs were/are located in Iowa? Thank you.

  • Reply
    Jim Turner
    April 14, 2014 at 12:27 am

    There are two between Mebane and Efland, NC, on US70 within 100 yards of each other. The heart shaped concrete ones, “Prepare to Meet God”, and “Jesus is Coming Soon”. Woods have grown up so they are hard to see, but I think they are still there. Been seeing them all my life.
    Jim.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    August 27, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Seems like the ACLU would be defending freedom of speech, press, and religion . . . . rights which Harrison Mayes was exercising. . . .

  • Reply
    Dan McCarter
    August 27, 2013 at 7:17 am

    Thanks for pointing me to this article

  • Reply
    Pat Shumway
    August 12, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I believe there’s one on Airport Road between Marble and Andrews. Have driven past it many times but didn’t know about Harrison Mayes until he was mentioned on “American Pickers”. I took photos on Sat. 8/10/13.

  • Reply
    Barbara LeMere
    June 14, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Let’s not forget the message on the crosses. This was not just a past time of this man. He wanted to get the Truth out. He knew it was worth spending his life on. We will each answer to God for the way we lived our lives and if you have broken even one of God’s laws, the Ten Commandments, then the penalty will be spiritual death or Hell…UNLESS YOU HAVE JESUS!
    and except His death on the Cross as payment for your sin. It is as easy as confessing you are a sinner and asking Jesus to come onto your life to be Lord of it.
    Romans 3:23, 6:23, and 10:9-11
    I’m looking forward to meeting this dear man in Heaven.

  • Reply
    Jacob, The Carpetbagger
    October 12, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Hey there! Tracking down Harrison Mayes crosses is one of my hobbies. Please check out the article I wrote about it!
    http://jacobthecarpetbagger.blogspot.com/2012/10/harrison-mayes.html

  • Reply
    Amber
    September 1, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Harrison Mayes was my great grandfather, my dad use to play on these crosses as a boy as he was constructing them. There is a museum in TN with his work on display, Musuem of Appalachia. He also sent out messages in whiskey bottles in the ocean with translated messages on them in case they turned up in other countries.

    • Reply
      Ron Seals
      June 11, 2019 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Amber. Harrison was my grand father. My mother was his daughter, Emma Ruth Mayes. Mind telling me who your father was?

  • Reply
    Bill Farnam
    August 27, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    What an amazing story. I remember one of the concrete crosses near Bryant Ar on highway 5. My Mom had told me that it just appeared overnight.I saw it almost daily and remember it very well after over 40 years. There were changes made in the roadway and now it is gone. I have often wondered what happened to it. Bill 8/27/2012

  • Reply
    Hope Creasman
    June 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I used to live in Unaka with my husband and grandson. We traveled from Unaka to TriCounty to take my grandson to school and we past that cross many times. I was delighted to find the story about why it is there. I loved where we lived and miss it greatly. Thanks for bringing it back to my mind.

  • Reply
    Becky
    June 25, 2011 at 7:00 am

    That is dedication! I can hear God telling him when he entered the pearly gates, “Job well done!”
    I have never seen one of these that I can remember. But I will be on the lookout for them. They do remind me of the three crosses beside the road. The same message by another author I think.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    June 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    I haven’t seen the crosses — there used to be a terrific barn with a big old GET RIGHT WITH GOD sign on it near Marshall. Great post, Tipper!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    June 20, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Wonderful photography! I’ve never seen these crosses, but I have seen the yellow and white ones all over WV & have wondered about them. The Balsam cross is on Mt. Lyn Lowry (named for the girl that died) & I believe they are looking for a new caretaker.

  • Reply
    RB
    June 20, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    If you can find the bottom portion of that marker, I believe it could be fixed with liquid nail. That’s what’s used to fix broken gravestones.
    With love.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Rick Morton
    June 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Great Story riding my motorcyle around I have seen them. Now I can pass the story along to others when riding. Thanks

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Tipper, I’ve seen lots of those crosses but never knew the story till now….thank you.
    When I was a kid my family lived in a lot of different towns in the south east. Since our family roots were in WNC we always traveled back here to see family. We saw those crosses in many different states on our way home. I just assumed that it was churches that put them up to guide people home.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 20, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Tipper,
    Ken I have seen this cross you are speaking of in past years when going back to visit relatives..I didn’t know much of it and had heard about a plane crash, etc..
    I did a little research. The cross is on Mt. Lyn Lowry (mountain renamed) after Lowrys daughter Lyn died of Leukemia at age 15..Erected almost 50 years ago..
    A foundation keeps the cross lit and is now working to restore the lighting due to a electrical malfunction..I think with more research you can find more about the history of the cross..
    I just noticed this past week some crosses I had not seen on a trip to Kentucky..very large..and now this has gotten me interested in trying to find who erected those…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Mary
    June 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve seen a lot of similar signs along highways-done in wood, but probably never one of this man’s concrete work. What a wonderful story about him.

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    June 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t remember ever seeing these here in the Ozarks. And I agree with Benny, it’s a wonder the ACLU hasn’t taken them down. They do give a person something to think about.

  • Reply
    Ken
    June 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Tipper,
    Thanks for this enjoyable read. B.
    Ruth seems to always contribute a
    lot of knowledge to your posts. If
    anyone knows, please share with us
    about a huge lighted Cross you can
    see on the high mountains to the
    left of Balsam, going toward Asheville. I heard the story that
    a plane crashed on that mountain
    and a loving dad put up that Cross
    as a tribute to his daughter…Ken

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    June 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    What a wonderful story, Tipper. The crosses provided that all-important reminder to us as we sped along Life’s highways. Before interstates and super highways, they were a ubiquitous signpost and no long-winded sermon could have been more powerful than a simple “Prepare to Meet God”.
    How good it is that John Rice Irwin saw the significance of saving and preserving as many of these treasures as he could collect and display at The Museum of Appalachia at Norris, Tennessee, just above Knoxville.
    Your website, Mr. Irwin’s museum and the old timey music preservation works at Bristol (Rhythm and Roots Reunion) are valuable connections for me and the world I wish I still could know.

  • Reply
    warren
    June 20, 2011 at 11:48 am

    I haven’t seen one of those but we see a lot of the 3-crosses displays around WV. It is one yellow and two white and they are fairly big…they share a similar story…this one originates from a man from WV
    This comment won’t allow me to post a link but google “Three Crosses Along the Highway” for what I am talking about…

  • Reply
    Jerry M.
    June 20, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I can remember seeing one that read “Prepare to Meet God” in Arkansas. A friend of mine was traveling to Little Rock one day when the roads were flooded from recent heavy rains. She saw that sign and it had such an effect on her that she turned around and went back home.

  • Reply
    B.Ruth
    June 20, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Tipper,
    I’ve seen these signs most all my life. A model of his house of crosses as well as some of his concrete signs are in the Museum of Appalachia, as well as the State museum Nashville and the Smithsonian. The Knoxville News Sentinel had a article about him several years ago and that was the first time I knew much detail of his life…but since have been to the museum and learned more about him…
    How many times do people meeting death or death of a loved one make promises to God and keep them that long?…but this man kept his…until he died…and in the beginning on a coal miners salary…
    So many of the signs have been stolen or destroyed…I wish the ones left could be saved and posted with a history marker telling the awesome story of Rev. Mayes…Did you know he didn’t drive a car or truck?
    When a highway was a real “scenic” highway with slow moving automobiles, we would count his signs from our home in Tennessee to Florida, NC
    and Texas when on family vacations. Our parents idea to keep three “antsy” kids from fussing and to remind us to behave in the backseat of the old rattling Ford! ha
    I miss the old roadside concrete picnic tables too…sometimes the crosses wouldn’t be far from one of these old tables..
    Thanks for the memories Tipper,

  • Reply
    Kristina in TN
    June 20, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I have seen several of these crosses over the years, though I don’t remember where anymore. I’m always entertained by these “roadside reminders.” The favorite one in our family was seen a number of years ago while driving from the Cherohala Skyway towards Robbinsville. The sign said “Heaven or Hell? John 3:16.” The road crested a hill and took a sharp turn revealing an abandoned Shell gas station. The S was no longer on the station marquee so all that was left was hell. We still laugh about that one!

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    June 20, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Tipper I’ve seen that cross for as long as I can remember. I have a picture of my daughter standing by it when she was four or five…and it was broken then. I’m glad you took the time to find out who put it there. I never knew.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 20, 2011 at 9:09 am

    This is very interesting. I used to see these frequently when I was younger, but never thought about the fact that SOMEONE had to erect them.
    Thanks for the research, Tipper

  • Reply
    Charline
    June 20, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I grew up seeing those soul-convicting signs along many highways, before interstates. I always thought they were put up by local churches, or perhaps some denomination or group. I never knew they were the work of an individual with a personal passion and mission.
    Thanks for sharing the story, Tipper

  • Reply
    kat
    June 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Can’t ever remember seeing one of these in all the traveling I’ve done. Think it’s a wonderful thing what this man did by putting them up. At least it gives folks something to think about. I beleive this nation needs to put GOD back in every place.

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    June 20, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Tipper: I have seen that cross more times than you could count! We use to travel by wagon down that road from Hayesville to Murphy! Daddy told us often about the man who put the cross up beside the road!
    Murphy was a might big place back then! Daddy would get awful nervous going through those blind curves in our slow moving wagon. Now I get nervous driving on that road and I LOVE THE NEW ROAD!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 20, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Yes, I’ve seen them, they seem to be everywhere. There is something else I’ve seen that must be a more modern version of three crosses just off the road. They’re usually made of metal pipe. (or maybe pcv?) I’ve seen these in several states and not by churches just somewhere to be seen from the roads.

  • Reply
    benny watt terry
    June 20, 2011 at 7:32 am

    Hope you get to Morgan Hill someday and get a picture of that cross. It is good to know all crosses have not been taken down by the ACLU. benny

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    June 20, 2011 at 7:26 am

    What a fascinating and inspiring story!

  • Reply
    Clint
    June 20, 2011 at 7:22 am

    That’s one of those things most people (me) see and don’t even think about how they got there. I remember seeing it when we made the trips from Murphy to Hayesville to see my dad’s family. I’ve never been on the new road. I never minded the old road as a kid ’cause I was never in much of a hurry to get to Hayesville:)

  • Reply
    Rhonda Haslam
    June 20, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Saw them everywhere I turned growing up as he lived in the town just over the mountain (about 5 miles) from where I grew up.

  • Reply
    Sassy
    June 20, 2011 at 6:48 am

    That is awesome and what a testemony!

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