On the hunt for 'The Faith Healer'

Photo provided

The road sign for Alexander Loop near Pryorsburg directs people to a mystery of a faith healer, Marvin Samuel Alexander, who drew large crowds in the mid-1900s.

"Ever heard of 'The Faith Healer?'" Mike Clark asked me when I dropped by the Messenger the other day.

The healer hailed from near Pryorsburg, but was known nationally, too, added Mike, circulation director and advertising associate.

I confessed that in my writing and research I'd never run across Marvin Samuel Alexander. He was "often called Dr. Alexander, though he was not a physician," Mike explained.

Mike, who lives in Pryorsburg, said some people occasionally ask him about Alexander, who died about 40 years ago. Evidently, he is still the talk of the town around Pryorsburg, at least in some circles.

I enjoy historical detective work, especially sleuthing in the chronicles of Mayfield and Graves County. So I agreed to help Mike.

First, he volunteered what he knew about Alexander: "The story is that while Alexander was out plowing a field, the Lord came to him and told him he would be a healer. I am not sure when he started practicing, but I believe that it was before my dad was born in 1948." (His father is Alexander's nephew by marriage.)

Apparently, people made pilgrimages to the healer's home near Pryorsburg. Mike said Stevie Lynn Tucker "remembers going by his house (on Alexander Loop) and seeing all the different license plates on cars that would be in the driveway, not just from Graves County, or even Kentucky, but from other states."

In the 1960s, Alexander would close up his office, which was in his house, to hunt pheasants in South Dakota. But even there, he'd aid the ailing. Alexander "would hunt Monday through Friday. Then the last two days of his trip, he would see people," according to Mike.

Supposedly, Alexander "would see people all day long. They would line up outside, and he would see them as fast as he could. At the end of the day on Sunday when he would stop seeing people, the line would still be as long as when it started."

Mike said he had "spoken to many people, but I have never found any documentation from newspapers, etc. confirming the stories. I know this to all be true as I grew up in the family, but I would love to see if there is any way to corroborate these stories."

I started hunting for verification with my first-line online go-to sources: Google and Newspapers.com.

Nada.

I tried "Category: Faith healers" on Wikipedia.

Zilch.

I'm not into genealogy. But I've been using Ancestry.com lately to track down soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines for my book on Kentuckians and Pearl Harbor. I struck a little paydirt.

Mike said Alexander was born in 1902. The 1930 Graves County census had him 28-years-old.

I didn't expect "faith healer" listed under "occupation." It wasn't; Alexander was a "farmer," according to Uncle Sam's every 10-year tally.

Alexander also registered for Uncle Sam's draft in World War II. On his 1942 signup card, he said he was 40, still a farmer and married to Mabel Alexander. He also had a tattoo on his left forearm.

Alexander died on July 15, 1981, in Fulton at age 79, according to Ancestry.com.

The rest of my trail has gone cold. So readers, if you know anything, contact Mike.

Berry Craig is a journalist, author and professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. This article is part of a continuing series on the history of Mayfield and Graves County.