How We Escaped – By Elmer Shelhamer

Chapter 13

How I Escaped The Chain Gang

I have been arrested and put in jail several times in various cities for preaching the Gospel in the open air, but now I speak of our third arrest in Lakeland, Florida. Here is where the city attorney tried to send me to the chain gang.A Mormon Elder had challenged us for a debate on the public square and I accepted. The street was crowded from side to side and he was so badly beaten that he left town on the midnight train. For the time being we were very popular, men bowing and calling me Dr. Shelhamer. But I have learned that when one is swallowed too soon generally he is thrown up, for there was not enough salt and pepper used.

A year later we returned for a revival, whereupon the chief of police notified me that a new city ordinance had been passed forbidding open-air preaching. Accordingly, I visited the mayor several times and prayed in his office. He conceded that we did much good and thanked me for defeating the Mormon Elder. However, he said that his hands were tied and hence he could not grant us a permit. I inquired what he would do if the Salvation Army applied? He answered that that was their line of work and of course their request should be granted. To this I gently protested, saying that this was class legislation and contrary to our Constitution. Paul, Peter, Wesley, Whitefield, and many others since their day believed in open air preaching in order to reach the masses who do not go to church. Space forbids relating all about our arrest and false trial. Suffice it to say that we won the victory and now have a nice church, parsonage, and a host of friends in that city. If you desire to read the entire account, it can be found in our large book, “Sixty Years of Thorns and Roses.”