Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Circuit Rider



This is another Gwynn's Island sunset. Why I can't post Gwynn's Island pictures when the story is about Gwynn's Island is beyond me. I suppose that would be too organized or logical. So, anyway, here is a picture of a Gwynn's Island sunset, and a story that has absolutely nothing to do with Gwynn's Island.

One of my earliest memories of television, besides the marching pigs playing the bass drum and other assorted musical instruments on the Valleydale commercials (and the song those pigs sang), was a television show called The Circuit Rider, which was based on a Mathews County man.

Although I honestly do not recall the content of the show, (and in fact "show" may be an overstatement, it may have been just a very brief clip) I distinctly remember being absolutely fascinated that there was a program on television that highlighted someone from Mathews. It would be unusual even today to see a regularly scheduled show about Mathews on television, and back then it was quite the novelty.

The circuit rider was a preacher man from Cobbs Creek who rode a horse instead of traveling by car. Aside from what I've already said about him having a TV show, you now have every bit as much knowledge as I do about the show and the man. Once again, I know a little about a lot but not a lot about much.

Below is what Wikipedia has to say about circuit riders, and surprisingly little old Cobbs Creek, which is approximately three miles from me, is referenced in the definition:
--------------------------------------------
"A circuit rider is a concept from the history of American Methodism....A circuit (nowadays referred to as a charge) was a geographical area that encompassed two or more local churches....Because of the distance between churches, these preachers would ride on horseback. They were called circuit riders or saddlebag preachers. They traveled with few possessions, carrying only what could fit in their saddlebags. They traveled through wilderness and villages, and they preached every day at any place available (peoples' cabins, courthouses, fields, meeting houses, later even basements and street corners)....
...During the 1970s, WWBT television, an NBC affiliate in Richmond, VA, broadcast the musings of the "Circuit Rider", an elderly preacher appearing on horseback and presenting a brief rural parable, prior to its sign-off message. The history and origin of the man from Cobb's Creek, Virginia, is not well documented."--------------------------------------------

So there you have it. A Mathews man on a horse was featured on television back in the '70's and not just that but this Mathews man is used in the very definition of a circuit rider on the internet.

When I read that last sentence about the history and the origin not being well documented, that only makes me want to know more and document it here. I have a handful of Mathews people reading all this hot air of mine....Do any of you remember the TV show and do any of you know the history/any information on this Circuit Rider?

When I read the word "saddlebags" I start to flinch and remember that I haven't exercised today. Then I can only think of one thing:that Valleydale song and those marching pigs.

42 comments:

Grandma J said...

I watched all the Valleydale commercials. the construction, the band, the pig in a poke etc. So they called hotdogs Honee Weenee? How ironic, I think thats what I called my husband.

I remember the first Howdy Doody show. We walked to our neighbors farm in Rehoboth MA to watch it. We walked in the dark. I was only four.

Angela said...

When I was once in Tennessee, I was allowed to ride on horseback to the post office and get the mail. I thought that was a neat way of travelling!

Angela said...

Oh, that was back in 1965, I forgot to add.

Bear Naked said...

I flinch also when I read the word *saddlebags."
Not as much as the word *celulite* mind you.
or turkey neck
or batwing arms
or
or.
Gack--- stop me someone please.

Bear((( )))

soupisnotafingerfood said...

I am descended from one of those Methodist circuit riders! Or maybe even a couple of them. But I have no recollection of one in the 1970s on TV.

Cool Breeze said...

Oh yes. I do remember "The Circuit Rider", but I had no idea he was from Mathews. I remember the quality of film to be harsh and grainy even back then. It's funny that you wrote about him ... seems to come up at times when I am with old friends for some reason.

big hair envy said...

I can't wait to hear what you find out about this Cobbs Creek Circuit Rider. It's like a little mystery!! You'll have to update Wikipedia once you have more information:)

Now don't YOU feel smart?

"Saddlebags"? **shudder**

Anonymous said...

The Circuit Rider's last name was Liverman. He had a son named Gary. Wish I knew more...

Mathews Mountain Man

Anonymous said...

Oops, I actually do know more...

The Circuit Rider was the minister of the red brick Methodist Church in Blakes. I don't know that he had a "show" per se, but he did perform 2 to 3 minute segments, generally focusing on a brief passage from the bible.

Mathews Mountain Man

Mental P Mama said...

Well I was enjoying my bit of Virginia culture, and then you had to hit me with saddlebags. I have been using my bad cold as an excuse to roll around eating anything I see. Now this. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

William R. LivermOn

I never saw the show (or even knew that it existed, but I did go to school with his grandchildren)

Anonymous Mathews Native

John Lee Callis said...

The Circuit Rider was Rev. William Livermon. He was pastor of Mathews Chapel United Methodist Church and his youngest son, Garry, came to Mathews High School as a junior in 1968 and graduated with me in 1969. He married Becky Robins. Garry is also a Methodist minister, now stationed on the Northern Neck.
His dad retired to Gwynn's Island and is buried in Gwynn's Island cemetery.

Anonymous said...

http://www.vaumc.org/index.cfm/fa/content.view/menuID/1507.htm

The above link is a remembrance of Rev. Livermon from the 1992 Journal of the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

AMN

Anonymous said...

Trying that link again:

William Livermon

http://www.vaumc.org/index.cfm/fa/content.view/menuID/1507.htm

Annie said...

wow..all that info about the circuit rider...now you have the start to your next book, eh?

Annie

ps Here in OZ we call them patrol padres, and my brother in law still fulfils such a role out on the Darling Downs..well maybe a little beyond. Not so much preaching but visiting people on their properties. He also travelled as a patrol padre in South Australia around the Flinders Ranges out from Quorn, and also western Queensland from Charleville. They were actually rescued from their roof in the big floods out there!! Maybe we could write a combined book comparing American Methodist circuit riders and Australian presbyterian patrol padres and their roles. ;-)

cats said...

Cbw, JOhn Lee Callis has got it right. His wife, Becky, is in my husband's family. I used to watch the circuit rider. We called him Rev. Livermon. His son Garry is a really nice man. They have 3 children. They are grown. 2 sons and a daughter, I think. Their daughter, Rachel, has at least one child.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

So. Today I leave Mathews at 6:20 a.m. and it is 9:20 p.m. before I can sit down and comment on my own blog....Have I mentioned how much the paying job gets in the way of my non-paying job which is what I enjoy?

Thank you ALL for commenting and thanks MOST of all to those of you who know/knew of the Circuit Rider and/or his kin. I am thrilled to have more information on this wonderful man.

John Lee - I am so grateful to have you contribute here, and I hope you do so often.

I hope everyone had a great day. - cbw

nativedevil said...

FYI: Rev. Livermon's wife filmed most, if not all, of the television spots, and they still have the camera (8 mm, I guess)

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Native Devil - Thank you so much. I knew you'd know something about him.

Also, thanks so much to NATIVE MATHEWS NATIVE RESIDING IN RICHMOND - THANK YOU FOR THE LINK!
I can't wait to check it out, and also unless blogger.com is blown up, we now have some documentation on the internet that will outlive us all.

Thank y'all so much.

Karen Deborah said...

Well alrighty then you had my mind traveling around on horseback and I was feeling nostalgia about Colombia and so ready to go on mission again, and then WHAMMO---fat butts--exercise and what's up with that?
but I laughed out loud, really I did. You crazy chica!

Bayman said...

Gary and Becky were good friends of mine, back in the day, though I wasn't aware of the TV show. I last saw them at the Seabreeze, at least 10 years ago. Gary was a fine basketball player, we used to shoot hoops at Thomas Hunter in "the old crotchety league." They were active members at the church, good friends with Judy.

Anonymous said...

Gary and Becky Liverman are two of the nicest people I have ever met. I love their children also!
Love,
Baby Sis

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Blog. I hadn't thought about the "Circuit Rider" in nearly 35 years, and for what ever reason, thought of him tonight. I looked on youtube for a clip, but no luck. I remember each episode started off with, "Justice is the name of a grand old horse. Once he paced the racetrack, but tonight he brings a friend with a message...." Strange, eventhough I am jewish, as a young boy in Richmond, I used to enjoy his stories. Thanks for info on his life.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Anonymous - Thank YOU for reminding me of that intro - you are exactly right, and it was the intro that caused me to be spellbound...the words, the picture of the man on the horse, and the fact he was from Mathews.

You have a great memory.

Anonymous said...

I remember the "circuit rider" TV shorts from my days as a graduate student at the University of Virginia. Rough quote that accompanied the opening (?) footage follows ...

"Justice" is the name of an old race horse, but today he carries the circuit rider. The rider brings in his saddle bag a secret from the fascinating heart of nature. Let's see what it is."

At that point the episode itself would begin with a close shot of the circuit rider's hands taking an object from the saddle bag. He would then describe it and relate it to a bible lesson.

Steve Swonk, Quincy, Massachusetts said...

Thank you for your initial blog post and then your readers' remembrances of "The Circuit Rider" of Cobbs Creek. I spent my high school and young adult years in Essex County and am the person who originally added the final paragraph of the Wikipedia article. At the time I had been thinking about those segments, which of course in the mid 1970s meant that soon after nothing but static would be available for the next five hours on any of the three stations available. I could not find anything at all about the gentlemen after multiple searches, except for a newspaper story from an archiving service that only showed a low resolution preview and wanted $20 for the full PDF. That was several months ago. I happened to be looking at my Wikipedia articles list tonight and decided to try searching again. Your blog is now the third item that comes up in a Google search for "circuit rider WWBT". I have updated the Wikipedia article and tip my hat to you and your readers.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Steve - What a small world! Thanks for commenting, sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I certainly appreciate your contribution to our story and remembrances, and am honored you found us.

Thanks again. - CBW

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing the Circuit Rider late at night when I was a child. I'm glad I can fill in some of the blanks now from the comments I've read. I never knew it was locally made. I always assumed it was shown across the country. My grandparents had a house on Gwynn's Island and it's interesting to know he was from that area.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Anonymous, thanks for reading and commenting. The fact that he was from Mathews is just fascinating to me.

Gwynn's Island is one of my favorite parts of the county...it's gorgeous.

Thanks for stopping by.-cbw

Anonymous said...

"Justice is the name of a grand old horse that used to pace the race track. Now he brings an old friend for a visit"

That's how I remember the beginning of the grainy Circuit Rider clips when I watched them from Charlottesville in 1977. Great stuff.

Robert Livermon said...

I am one of the sons of the Circuit Rider. My name is Robert Livermon.rclcvi@earthlink.net My Dad's full name was William Raynor Livermon. He died in 1992 and is buried on Gwynn's Island, VA. My Mother, Thelma, is still alive and shot all the segments of "Justice and the Circuit Rider" on 16mm film. The films were converted to VHS format and recently, we are converting them to a DVD format.There were close to 60 segments produced. Dad began his ministry in 1959 in Patrick County, VA with the Methodist Church. When he was transferred to Mathews County, Cobbs Creek, he began the "Circuit Rider" because of his love of horses, the history of Methodist Circuit Riders, and his gift of GAB. He retired in 1984 from Lynchburg, VA and moved to Gwynn's Island, VA where he served many different churches until he died in 1992 in Gloucester, VA. His son, John Garrett "Garry" Livermon is now a pastor at Susannah Wesley Methodist Church in Gloucester, VA. Dad's Grandfather, Joshua Leigh Garrett, was a Methodist Circuit Rider after the War between the States.

Anonymous said...

I would love to have the DVD of that!

I grew up in Richmond and remember the Circuit Rider very well. I belong to a Methodist church in Florida and would love to share those segments with our youth group!

vickibalint said...

I would love that DVD too! My husband and I both went to the University of Virginia and remember watching the Circuit Rider- we were just trying to explain this old (but not so long ago)TV clip to our kids. They can hardly believe there was such a thing as a "sign off." Please post the info on the DVDs when it becomes available! writing from AZ...and missing VA. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

Anonymous said...

I used to work at the NBC affiliate in Richmond, VA. and remember the Public Service Announcement airing just before the station signed off Saturday night.

I recently found 2 news articles about the Circuit Rider while Googling the opening phrase..."Justice is the name of a grand old horse."

You'll have to copy and paste them into your browser, but check out the 2 articles...

1) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19790716&id=ctUeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AlwEAAAAIBAJ&pg=2672,79772

2) http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1955&dat=19790804&id=URsrAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5qAFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4938,1547998

Robert Livermon, son of the "Circuit Rider" said...

The former television show, "Justice and the Circuit Rider" is now available on a DVD format.


We have located over 60 "Circuit Rider "shows in 16mm motion pictures and are transferring them to the DVD format.


Reverend William Raynor Livermon was the "Circuit Rider" and Justice was a retired race horse. Both are now deceased: however, the "Wife of the Circuit", Thelma W. Livermon is now living in the Richmond, Virginia area in an "assisted living" community. Therefore, should you wish to get DVD copies of the "Justice and the Circuit Rider", we would request that a contribution be given to help with the cost of reproduction, processing, and shipping be sent to:


Thelma W. Livermon

P.O. Box 921

Powhatan, VA 23139

Suzanne said...

I have often wondered who or where the Circuit Rider came from. It was so cool to find this and learn that it came from Mathews.
I live in Richmond. But I come down alone or with friends to kayak at New Point Comfort in summer almost every week. Love, love, love it there.

Anonymous said...

Reverend Livermon was the preacher at the Powhatan Methodist Church when I was a kid. At the end of the service he would call the kids up front and pull something out of a pair of saddlebags to go into a Bible parable. Justice was kept in a pasture next to the church. There was a mare in there with him but I can't remember her name. I'd usually bring them some carrots for after the service. The Circuit Rider religious short came on for a few minutes right before sign-off. He'd ride into the frame and do the same sort of Bible parables. I remember him dressing up like that to ride Justice in Powhatan parades (around 1980, give or take a few years).

Jonji said...

Every once in a while, a memory seems to float to the surface and then, compels me to google it to prove that it even existed. The other day, I thought randomly about The Circuit Rider, and here you are writing about him!!! I lived in Roanoke in 1977 through 1985 and remember how quaint but compelling the little show was (I was from The Big City). I ended up marrying someone with an extremely strong connection to Gloucester, Mathews, and Deltaville, so maybe he was trying to alert me to my future connections. Of course, the Valleydale products (sold at the neighborhood Mick-Or-Mack grocers)were as good as the commercial implied! I especially miss that great Deltaville seafood buffet restaurant - Taylor's? Thanks for validating my memory!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Jonji - Yes, Taylors! I wrote a blog post on that as well. If you google it, it'll likely show up. Thanks for writing!.

There are some fabulous comments on this post, and I'm glad to keep these memories alive. Thanks to all of you for writing and participating with your own memories.

Staunton Cottrell said...

Just as a follow up to this interesting page, William Livermon, the Circuit Rider's son, passed away on October 15, 2011 at age 73, and his wife, Thelma, died the following December at age 95.

Anonymous said...

I am alas late to this conversation by a decade. But I too remember Justice and the Circuit Rider from my childhood. It came back to me today, unbidden, as I sat here at my computer. What an impact, however dim after all these years, these short messages made on so many people!

If any relative or friend of Rev. Livermon should pass this way in the future, please accept my thanks for his touching our lives so meaningfully, so long ago!

- Michael from Richmond