|About 1925 the year of her marriage and ordination as a General Baptist minister. (Courtesy MaryMae Brittain Baker).|
Almeda Edwards overcame incredible odds to become a minister. Despite a time of post-war loosening of Victorian morals and gender roles, the ministry was considered the purview of men during the era. She was influenced as a girl by once hearing a sermon by Sister Tosh, an itinerant preacher who wore a long white dress.
Almeda Edwards was born in 1903, the first of 12 children of Josiah and Mary Elizabeth Gloyd Edwards who had a farm in rural Powersite. Almeda wrote in Pioneer Preacher of the Ozarks that in 1910 she and her brother, Remus, attended school at Pleasant Hill when one room school houses and churches were in the same building. It was also a time when large carnivores still roamed the countryside and the children had several miles to walk to school.
“(W)alking those long, weary miles through the woods by ourselves always brought a frightful feeling for my brother and me,” Mrs. Brittain said. “Many times we were so scared we went along holding each other’s hand and whispering, lest some bear or wolf hear us.
“When we finally came within sight of the little white school house, we would breathe a sigh and begin to trot a bit faster. Usually some of our friends would see us coming and run to meet us. If there were time enough, we would get in a game or two, but those usually were saved for noontime and recesses.”
Almeda continued her education at The School of the Ozarks, working summers as a fry cook in the resort community of Rockaway Beach. She was ordained a General Baptist minister in 1925. The following year she married Taney County native Ira Exie “John” Brittain, the son of Milton Harvey and Mary Ann (Meredith) Brittain. Almeda traveled throughout the country, preaching and holding revivals at various churches. John and she were the parents of Mildred (Mrs. Walter) Lasick and Marymae (Mrs. Eddie) Baker.
“Mother and Mildred and I once rode a troop train from Wichita to Sacramento,” youngest daughter Marymae said recently during a telephone conversation from her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “The train stopped for water in the middle of the night in Utah. Not long after, the train stopped again. We knew that was odd. There was an officer sitting beside mother. He got his pistol and he said, ‘I’ll be back;’ he asked Mother to watch his things.
“Some of the guys had mutinied. (It was during the war)… and the men knew they were going to Europe and certain death. When he got back, Mother asked him what he would have done and he said he’d have shot them all. I have no idea how she got us on that train. I was only six; there wasn’t a seat for me and I sat on GI’s laps all the way there.”
John and Almeda made their home in Powersite and following their deaths were buried in the Edwards Cemetery; she in 2000 at the age of 97.