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Title: PREACHES HIS OWN FUNERAL SERMON
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Large Crowd Hears Warren
County Farmer Give
Unique Service

Surrounded by natural beauty of virgin timberland on his Knoll Cove farm near Williamsport, Lucius F. Bailiff, 80-year old retired school teacher and self-styled infidel preached his own funeral services Sunday to nearly a thousand persons who had come to witness the unusual rites.

All morning cars wound their way through the hill country of Western Indiana into the timber belt where is situated the octogenarian recluse’s little 39-acre farm. They brought old friends, a few relatives, the curious and seekers of the unusual. That the old man recognized this was indicated when he said, in opening his funeral discourse at 11 a. m., “I am greatly pleased at seeing you here today. You have come here for various reasons—some have come here to show respect for me, some through curiousity at what I may have to say, some to get away from the heat and smoke of the cities and others just to have somewhere to go. All these reasons are valid. You do not have to offer an excuse for coming to Knoll Cove. You are here to attend my funeral.”

Uses Rustic Rostrum

In a natural hillside ampitheatre, the aged religious skeptic delivered a discourse lasting over an hour. He stood on a rustic platform he had built himself that morning with hewn logs. The crowd heard him through, commenting afterward on his sprightliness of manner, his feeling for diction, his definite ideas of his creed, the Golden Rule which was laid down nearly 2,500 years ago by the Chinese philosopher, Confusius—“Whatsoever you would not that men should do to you, do you not to them.”

Text of his discourse, which he had originated years ago, was: “To know one’s self is wisdom; to govern that self is strength.”

There is no God but nature, Bailiff told his attentive audience. Proving his appreciation for natural beauty, he said:

“In the morning of life we dance on the green hills in the western sunlight, looking to the west and wondering what is beyond, dreaming what we shall do when we have reached manhood and womanhood.

“At the meridian of life we are involved with business, not with the frivolities of childhood or the peaceful rest of age. But as the shadows lengthen and the splendor of noonday sun is dismissed by a slight haze, we assume a more restful attitude and gradually drift with the current of time. A few of us are privileged to glide on and on in the full course of life, gradually to sink with the setting sun in a halo of gold-lined clouds.

“Then all is darkness and oblivion.

What happens to man after death the aged skeptic does not know nor care. He told those present that he had been much to busy in this life spreading happiness among his fellow men and administering kindly to dumb animals that seek his care and protection to give idle thought to any so-call hereafter.

All the old and bearded retired schoolmaster wants when he dies is a good big pyre—built of logs in some deep woods. He wants someone to wrap his body in a blanket from his couch, place atop the pyre, set it afire and go away without tears or mourning to allow him to reunite with the elements of nature from whence he came. He wants no funeral rites—he took care of that detail himself Sunday to be sure it was conducted as he wished.

Older residents in this part of Indiana who have known him many years said Sunday afternoon that “he is not crazy—he is a brilliant man with a few ideas different than ours but in which he believes very definitely.

Lucius F. Bailiff was born near Vernon, Ind., Jennings County, May 12, 1856. Early education was in a country school at Tea Creek, Ind. Later he attended high school at Greenwood and Indianapolis. Colleges he attended included normal schools at Smith Center, Oswego, Red Cloud and Franklin Academy, all in Nebraska, and University of Illinois. For more than 30 years he taught school in Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas, his first teaching job having been in Fithian, Ill., during the winter of 1877-78. He traces his ancestry back five generations to the first families of Virginia.

After the aged man had completed his discourse he invited the crowd to roam the old Indian trails of his Knoll Cove farm at will. They brought out picnic lunch baskets. The afternoon was devoted to “just visiting”—True to the aged host’s request—a good time was had by all.


[Mike Byers notes: My father, as well as other people I know in the local area, attended Lucius Bailiff’s "funeral", and Knoll Cove farm, later known as "Bailiff's Hollow" is where I live today (2005). I believe I would have liked Lucius Bailiff, and I wish I could have known him. I've reproduced the original spelling and punctuation from the newspaper article; nonetheless, I have to think that the qualities of local journalism (and funeral oratory, for that matter) were better in 1936 than they are today.]

[Bailiff's Hollow, or Knoll Cove Farm, is located on the banks of Possum Run midway between Marshfield and Johnsonville at the southern end of county road 775W. For more information about Lucius Bailiff, see the poem "Mister Bailiff" by Grover C. Williams, self-published in his book "Black Walnut". Williams knew Bailiff and attended the funeral.]

Date: 6/19/1936
Origin: Covington Republican (Covington, Indiana) Volume LX, No. 10
Author:
Record ID: 00000001
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Internet
Date Entered: 1/23/2006
Collection:
Entered By: Mike Byers / Park Hunter

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