George Washington Carver (1860-1943) - page 1


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From the Summer 2013 issue of Knowing & Doing:  


George Washington Carver (1860 -  1943):

"... the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13)

by David B. Calhoun
Professor Emeritus of Church History Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri



n the southwestern corner of the troubled border state of Missouri, Moses Carver and his wife, Susan, farmed 240 acres near the tiny settlement of Diamond Grove. They owned slaves, including a young woman named Mary who had at least two sons, the youngest named George. When George was an infant, probably in 1864, he and his mother were stolen away and resold in a neighboring state. Mary was never seen again, but George, small and frail, was found. Mr. Carver paid for the baby’s return, giving up his finest horse.  
  The Carvers cared for George, and he stayed with them after the war. George was bright and eager to learn. Although black students were not allowed to go to the local public school, he was welcome at the church, where he listened to the sermons of traveling Methodist, Baptist, Campbellite, and Presbyterian preachers, acquiring a nondenominational faith. He memorized and recited Bible verses. He sang hymns and learned to play the church piano. “God just came into my heart one afternoon” when he was eight or nine years old, he wrote years later, “while I was alone in the loft of our big barn, shelling corn to carry to the mill to be ground into meal.”1
  Susan Carver taught George to read. Then, when he was thirteen, the Carvers sent him to a school, eight miles away. There in Neosho he boarded with a devout black couple, Andrew and Mariah Watkins, who took him to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. They gave him a Bible for Christmas, which he carried and read every day for the rest of his life.


  Seeking more schooling and a livelihood, George wandered through the state of Kansas, taking classes and working in various jobs. He opened a laundry in one town and made enough money to buy some real estate, which he sold for a profit. He went to business school and worked as a stenographer. He was accepted at Highland College, in northeastern Kansas, but when he arrived and administrators saw his race, they refused him admittance. As he did in all the disappointments of his life, he “trusted God and pressed on.” He taught Sunday school in a Methodist church in one town, and in another joined the Presbyterian church.2
  In 1886 Carver staked a homesteader claim in western Kansas. On his 160 acres of prairie land, he built a sod house. His neighbors appreciated his articulate and refined manner, his skillful accordion playing, and his love of nature. He developed an interest in writing poetry and in painting. Somewhere along the way, he gave himself a middle name; he was now George Washington Carver. Carver did not stay on his homestead long. In 1888 he set off for further ventures.  

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