Reubin Steel
Pioneer Preacher


Reuben Steele
 Pioneer Preacher

     On the road from Wise to Coeburn, once lived perhaps the first Methodist preacher in the present bounds of Wise County, the Rev. Reuben Steele. In Russell County Land Entry Book (oldest records) page 225, Emory Hamilton and Luther Addington found this record: "Reuben Steele, from Joseph Clark, land on top of Guests Mountain, 100 acres on Land Office Exchange Warrant, No. 2617, dated December 29, 1831, to include an old improvement made by Joseph Clark, and the springs near it."
     Clark is believed to be the first settler in the Guest Mountain section, coming there probably around 1795.
     Reuben Steele was the oldest child of Samuel Steele and wife, Jerusha Powers, daughter of Jonas Powers, Jr. and Jerusha Harmon. Reuben was born 29 September 1802, Wythe County, VA. When he was three or four years old, the family moved to Whitley County, KY where Reuben remained until after he had helped settle the affairs after his father's death in October or November 1822.
     Samuel and Jerusha were not Christians while Reuben was growing up, but Samuel was converted on his deathbed and exhorted his family to meet him in heaven. Reuben soon joined the church; also, his mother, and all his brothers and sisters who were old enough.
     Reuben sought the blessing of the Holy Spirit for 18 months before it came with power. He immediately started for his boyhood's wicked associates. When they saw him coming, some ran; other fell down and begged him to pray for them. He had the impression that it was his duty to preach, but he resisted. Eventually, he consented to get a license to exhort, which he did for about six years. When he was 25, he came to Virginia, probably Bland Co. On 7 June 1827, he married his first cousin, Mary Elizabeth Newberry, daughter of Samuel and Eunice Newberry. Around 1830, they came to live on Guest Mountain. They had five children: Samuel, who went to California in the 1849 Gold Rush; and died 1880 in Oregon, while intending to come home; Harvey, lived in Hawkins Co., TN; Jane, married Solomon Osborne; Julia Ann married (1) Martin Anderson (2) M. de Lafayette Willie; and Elizabeth, died in infancy, probably near the time her mother, Elizabeth Newberry Steele, died 1837. The mother's grave was the first in what is now known as the Nash Cemetery.
     During the time Reuben Steele lived here, he was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Virginia Assembly to superintend and direct construction of a road from Pound Gap of Cumberland Mountain on the Kentucky line, to intersect the construction of the Fincastle and Cumberland Gap Road at some suitable point in the County of Russell.
     Reuben Steele was licensed to preach 1836. His first work was on the Kentucky border. In 1872, he left a 6 page letter detailing his life. 
     He was married (2) 9 September 1841 to Elizabeth Forkner, b. 16 June, 1819, Surry Co., NC; daughter of the Rev. Isaac and Sarah Ellis Forkner. They had children: Isaac; George A.; William T.; Robert; Reuben Elbert; Henry; Rev. Charles E.; and Sarah Frances.
     Reuben sold his Guest Mountain property to William Nash and moved to a 1000 acre farm on Clinch River, near Pattonsville, Scott Co., VA. 
     During the Civil, Reuben was Chaplain of the 64th Regiment of the Virginia Mounted Cavalry, of the Confederate Army. After the war he became an outstanding minister in Southwest Virginia, facing hostility and threats with courage. He was instrumental in the conversion of 7,000 and 8,000 joining the church. 
     Reuben Steele died August 20, 1876 and is buried in the Reuben Steele Cemetery, near Pattonsville, Scott Co., VA.  The Rev. John Boring preached the funeral service to more 1200 people.

By Gladys Julian Stallard

Excerpt regarding Rev. Reuben Steel from The Family and Name of Kennedy and Powers by Wade Powers Kennedy, published privately in 1941.

"Jerusha Powers, third daughter of Jonas Powers, married Samuel Steel, who was born in Wythe County, Va. There was born to this union, a son, Reuben, who became one of the most powerful and influential miinsters of the Gospel of this mountain section.  Reuben Steel was reared in Whitley County, Ky.  Returning to Virginia, the now Rev. Reuben Steel, settled in 1830 in Russel County, Va., now Wise County, Va., at what is known as the "Wick Nash Place" on top of Guests Mountain on the road leading from the town of Wise, Va., to the town of Coeburn, Va.  There, near the head of Steel's Fork (a stream named for him, of the Cranes Nest River), his first wife, Elizabeth Newbery, daughter of Samuel II and Eunice Powers Newbery, died in 1837 and was buried in the first grave in the old Nash Cemetery. 
   Licensed at first as an exhorter, in which capacity he served four or five years, Rev. Reuben Steel was licensed to preach in 1836.  His first ministerial work was along the Ky. border where he formed a mission which was served by him from 1836-38.  In 1839, he traveled to the Clinch River Mission.  He was admitted into the Holston Conference in 1841, and was ordained a deacon in Knoxville, Tenn. Oct. 9, 1842, by Bishop Waugh. 
Rev. Reuben Steel was chaplain of the 64th Regiment of Virginia volunteers during the Civil War.  His second wife was Elizabeth Faulkner, daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Faulkner.  He was father of fifteen children: five by his first wife, Elizabeth Newbery, and ten by his second wife, Elizabeth Faulkner.  This lovable man and veteran of the cross died at Pattonsville, Scott County, Va. and was buried Aug. 20, 1776.  His funeral services were conducted by the Rev. John Boring.  Through the great gospel power of the Rev. Reuben Steel, 7,000 mountain souls were converted and 8,000 members added to the church. 

 Rev. Reuben steel was father by his first wife, Elizabeth Newbery, of Henry, Jane, Julia, Harvy, and Samuel.  By his second wife, Elizabeth Faulkner of N.C., Rev. Reuben Steel  was father of Isaac, Alexander, William, Robert, Elbert, Rev. Charles, Sarah, Fannie, Elizabeth, and Henry."

Submitted by Rhonda S. Robertson


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